Good Dog: Studies & Research
Humans’ empathy, personality and experience play a role
People understand and react to the facial expressions of dogs in ways that are similar to their responses to people’s expressions. Dogs can distinguish positive human expressions from negative ones, showing that they perceive the emotional content of human expressions. Our mutual understanding of one another is astounding considering that we’re not all that closely related, and yet few humans are surprised by it. We feel a kinship with our canine companions that goes beyond what we share with members of any other species except our own. The biological miracle of our relationship with dogs deserves the attention of scientists, and happily, that is happening more now than ever.
One recent study investigated the role of empathy, personality and experience on people’s ratings of facial expressions. People were asked to rate the expressions (in pictures) of people and dogs showing neutral, threatening or pleasant expressions with regard to each of the basic emotions of happiness, sadness, anger/aggressiveness, surprise, disgust or fear. They also rated how negative or positive the expression was. The study, “Human Empathy, Personality and Experience Affect the Emotion Ratings of Dog and Human Facial Expressions” found that many factors affect how people perceive the expressions of others.
People’s experience plays a smaller role in interpreting facial expressions of dogs than their personality and ability to be empathetic. This suggests that people have a natural, inherent ability to understand the facial expressions of dogs. Perhaps this is because we have co-evolved with dogs over thousands of years, but it may also simply be a result of the similarity of many facial expressions between humans and dogs. We share many of the same muscles and movements as dogs, as do many other mammals, an idea that was made popular in Charles Darwin’s classic work “The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals” which was published in 1872. In that book, Darwin made the case that similar behavior in humans and other animals indicated similar internal emotional states, including emotions such as anger, fear, surprise, happiness, disappointment and love. He presented photographic evidence that humans and other animals reveal their emotions through similar facial expressions and behaviors.
Though the role of experience is minimal, it still has an effect on people’s interpretations of canine facial expression. People who were involved in dog-related hobbies such as agility, obedience or hunting, rated happy faces of dogs as “more happy” than people who lack such experience. Experienced people were also more likely to rate neutral expressions as happy, perhaps indicating the subtly of relaxed, content expressions in dogs, or a more positive views of dogs among people who have a lot of experience with them.
Empathy—the ability to understand the emotions and experiences of others—played an especially strong role in the way that people perceived canine expressions. People who are particularly empathetic interpreted the facial expression of dogs more intensely and more quickly than people who are less empathetic. Researchers point out that it is not known whether empathetic people are any more accurate in their assessments of canine expressions.
Personality traits such as being extroverted or being neurotic influenced people’s interpretation of facial expressions. Extroversion influenced ratings of human expressions, but not canine expressions. Neuroticism scores were correlated with lower rankings of anger/aggression in neutral expressions of both species.
The results of this study show that there are many facets to interpreting the emotional expressions of both dogs and humans, and that psychological factors in the observer have an influence. Reading dogs’ facial expressions is a talent and a skill—both natural ability and experience influence people’s reactions to them.
Dog's Life: Humane
It just got much harder to know what's going on in U.S. animal research labs.
The field of human-animal studies is growing rapidly, as is public interest and awareness about animal welfare and animal abuse. My email inbox has been "ringing" constantly for the past few hours about an unprecedented and reprehensible move toward censorship, specifically because animal welfare reports and animal abuse data have been wiped from the United States Department of Agriculture website.
Below are some updates from major science journals, global media, prestigious organizations, and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. It's not only animal welfare or animal rights organizations that are incredibly upset. Indeed, people around the world are extremely put off and deeply concerned about this reprehensible censorship. You can find many more reports and outcries here. And, the number is rapidly growing.
US government takes animal-welfare data offline: Nature News & Comment
USDA removes public access to animal welfare data
The Government Purged Animal Welfare Data. Now the Humane Society Is Threatening to Sue
Animal Welfare Reports and Abuse Data Wiped From USDA Website
It Just Got Much Harder To Know What's Going On In US Animal Research Labs
USDA blacks out animal welfare information
USDA abruptly purges animal welfare information from its website
USDA Shuts Down Portal to Records on Animal Abuse
It Just Got Much Harder To Know What’s Going On In US Animal Research Labs
USDA removes animal welfare reports from its website
Animal Welfare Act Data Suddenly Removed From USDA Website
Nation’s Best Zoos and Aquariums Disagree With Decision to Remove Online Access to USDA Inspection Reports
Information on animal welfare disappears from USDA website
USDA Scrubs Public Animal Welfare Records From Website
USDA removes online database that included animal abuse; activists cry foul
I can say no more other than please contact members of congress now. And, please sign this petition.
The animals need all the help they can get.
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Having your dog’s attention is one of the most important and underrated aspects of positive dog training. It’s obvious when you think about it – how can you train your dog, if your dog doesn’t pay attention to you? Luckily, we’ve come up with three simple and fun exercises designed to help get your dog’s attention, making training your dog a little easier.
TEACHING YOUR DOG TO BE A GOOD STUDENT
Training your dog to pay attention teaches them to be a good student, ensuring that they will sit quietly and wait for instructions – once these foundations are in place, training your dog will become a great deal easier. Later on, we will cover two of the best attention exercises available, which are centred on being a good student, paying attention and awaiting instructions.
Although it is often underemphasised by dog training experts, ensuring your dog is capable of paying attention is one of the core principles in positive reinforcement training, and an absolutely necessity if you are to ensure your training is a success. This post aims to rectify this issue, by providing you with the mind-set and training exercises required to train your dog to be pay attention – eventually leaving you with a happy, well-trained and trusting member of the family!
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU HAVE YOUR DOG’S ATTENTION?
The easiest way to see if your dog is paying attention to you is to observe whether or not he is looking at you and following everything you do closely. Once you have an attentive dog, this will be very obvious, especially to other family members or friends, who will note that your dog seems to follow you around and work for your attention – particularly at feeding time!
However, it is worth remembering that some dogs are discrete – they might not seem interested in where you are or what you’re up to, but the moment you disappear, they’ll appear right next to you – my dog can even be upstairs while I’m working downstairs, but the moment he can no longer hear the sound of me typing on my computer, he’ll come down to check that I haven’t nipped out without him. This is attention in a nutshell - when your dog is aware of your movements and what you are doing at any time of day.
IS HAVING YOUR DOG’S ATTENTION REALLY NECESSARY?
You might wonder if all this talk about attention is overrated – this outlook is typical of more traditional or ‘old school’ trainers, who believe you can get better results by forcing your dog to pay attention when you demand it. In my experience, though, this approach doesn’t work anywhere near as well – there’s a notable difference between a dog who focuses on you because he has to, and one who focuses on you because he wants to please you. The goal of this post is to help you reach a point where your dog is focused on pleasing you, as this is the easiest way of training him successfully.
DON'T TAKE YOUR DOG'S ATTENTION FOR GRANTED
In my experience, dog owners take a lot of things for granted – too many, in fact. When a dog first comes into the home, he relies on us completely, and we have his full attention at all times. After a few weeks, however, your dog will relax into the environment and encounter new, fresh and exciting experiences which are more interesting than you – and that’s not good news for your relationship, particularly where training is concerned. By remaining at the centre of your dog’s world, you’ll not only enjoy a stronger bond with your dog, but stand a much better chance of being able to train him successfully.
So how do we accomplish this? With consistent training – every day, all year. By making training a habit, you’ll make it second nature for both you and your dog, ensuring you’ll have the basics – sit, come here, down etc. - covered quickly and efficiently, allowing you to move onto more complicated routines.
Now that we understand what it means to have your dog’s attention and why having your dog’s attention is so important, we can move onto the frameworks we use for teaching attention, along with a few simple exercises you can undertake to ensure your dog is always paying attention to you.
YOUR DOG KNOW WHEN YOU'RE NOT PAYING ATTENTION
First things first - when training your dog to pay attention to you, you have to really be present with your dog, not just physically but mentally; remember, your dog can feel you! He knows when you’re sad and when you’re happy, and certainly knows when you are lying and when you are not. By taking an active role in training your dog, you can make the framework very simple, rewarding your dog not only with treats but praise and happiness. Here are three of my favourite ways to train your dog to pay attention to you:
DOG ATTENTION EXERCISE #1 – EYE CONTACT
The first exercise is based around eye contact, and is the exercise that teaches your dog to sit quietly and pay attention to the teacher. Grab some treats and then sit beside your dog, waiting for them to look at you. This requires a bit of patience the first time you train this, but hang in there – it’s worth the wait! Once your dog lifts its eyes to meet yours, praise them warmly (or use your clicker) and reward your dog with his favorite treat. Then simply keep still and wait for them to meet your gaze again - keep doing this until your dog understands that he will be rewarded for looking into your eyes, and he will be more than happy to do it whenever necessary.
DOG ATTENTION EXERCISE #2 – HAND TARGETING
Sometimes, you’ll need get your dog’s attention in order to protect them from something that might harm, scare or upset them. Occasionally dogs will become fearful and, naturally, will look to either run away or attack – neither of which are desirable outcomes. However, it is possible to interrupt this natural response by training your dog to keep attention on you even in stressful situations. Try putting your hand in front of your dog’s face, the palm of your hand right in front his nose. Say nothing, as it is important that your dog learns to make these associations for himself. Once your dog touches the palm of your hand, give him a reward in the form of praise or a treat. Repeat this exercise, and eventually your dog will come to understand that when your hand is down, he can receive a reward by touching it – and while he’s focused on you, he will be unable to focus on whatever might be scaring him, allowing you to avoid conflict with others and protecting him from harm!
See the below video for an example of how to do this.
DOG ATTENTION EXERCISE #3 – IMPULSE CONTROL
This exercise is called impulse control, and is really more of a concept that an exercise, because there are so many variations to work with.
Once your dog knows that he should be looking at you (see exercise #1) you can use this when training him. For example, you can ‘drop’ something from the kitchen table and if your dog tries to grab it, simply cover it with your foot. When your dog then sits and eventually looks at you, make sure to praise him and then allow him to eat the dropped food. Once more, your dog will learn to associate looking at you with praise and a reward – and over time will begin to realise that everything he wants can be channelled through you. As far as your dog is concerned, you are the origin of everything that is good in life. Clever, right? See the following video for more information.
As you can see from the video above, treats are often used as a reward for behaviour we wish to encourage. With this in mind, I usually retain around half of my dog’s rations, which I distribute throughout the day during training sessions. If treats are not withheld, your dog will either lose motivation to be rewarded or simply end up overweight – by rationing them and associating them with good behaviour, you can ensure your dog is healthy and well-behaved.
In summary, the most important, fundamental principle of dog training is attention – both your dog’s and your own. This element of training is sadly underutilised by most dog training experts, so make sure you don’t make the same mistake – ensure your dog associates paying you attention with rewards and praise, and you can ensure your training exercises are easy and successful. Good luck with your training!
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
After two months on the run, a young girl is the only one to earn a dog's trust.
Last year a Shepherd mix named Daisy was adopted from a Northern California animal shelter, but escaped from their backyard just two days later. Members of the Hollister Animal Lost and Found Facebook group recorded sightings and organized searches, but Daisy was in "fight or flight mode" and no one could capture her. Local animal rescuer Deanna Barth compared Daisy's skill at eluding capture with that of a coyote.
After two months without success, Deanna knew they needed a different strategy and decided they needed to find someone that Daisy trusted. Deanna found out that that prior to her adoption, Daisy was with a foster family and had become attached to a little girl there. Deanna managed to track the family down and enlisted the help of six year old Meghan Topping.
Meghan may be six, but she has a lot of experience fostering and training dogs. In fact, 75 homeless pups passed through her family's home in the last year alone.
So in December, Meghan and her mom drove to one of Daisy's usual spots, an empty field. From there, Meghan says that Daisy told her what to do.
"She told me, because you can talk to dogs in your brain, if Mom stayed in the truck she would come to me and I believed it," recalls Meghan.
Meghan got out of the truck, walked to the middle of the field, and sat down patiently. She also got on her tummy in an army crawl. This made Daisy curious and she eventually crept closer to Meghan and began wagging her tail. Daisy finally let Meghan pet her and clip on a leash.
"I used all my experience with dogs," explained Meghan. "We earn their trust--play with them, trust, love."
The adults were all left in awe. You can hear Meghan's mom, Karen, in the background of the video saying how proud she is of her daughter.
Meghan and Daisy's bond is apparent, but the Toppings didn't end up adopting the Daisy. Instead they wanted to continue their focus on helping the thousands of other dogs in need of fostering and training. However, Daisy is in great hands.
She's been adopted by the nearby Craft family. Their daughter Ava missed the therapy dogs she encountered while spending time in the hospital several years ago, and Daisy was the perfect fit. Now Ava wants to train Daisy to become a therapy dog and help other kids.Watch the video to see Meghan work her magic!
News: Guest Posts
What is Oratene Brushless Oral Care?
Oratene was created by the developer of Biotene, the #1 dentist recommended product for people with Dry Mouth. Oratene has been formulated specially for pets and based on the same 35+ year enzyme technology. Formerly known at Biotene Veterinarian Brushless Oral Care, Oratene features patented, dual enzyme systems which offer superior brushless oral care to help eliminate odor-causing bacteria and plaque biofilm.
Who will benefit most from Oratene?
All pets will benefit from Oratene but is especially beneficial to pets on medications.
What's the medication connection?
Just like people, pets can develop a condition called Dry Mouth (Xerostomia) due to their medications. Medications can alter the protective benefits of saliva by affecting the quantity or more importantly, the quality. Dry Mouth can lead to bacterial overgrowth, periodontal diseases, inflamed gums and even tooth loss.
What types of medications can contribute to Dry Mouth?
Some of the most common classifications are: Anti-hypertensive/diuretic/cardiac, behavior/anti-anxiety, incontinence, NSAIDs/Pain, anticonvulsants.
What is an indicator a pet may have Dry Mouth?
Halitosis and plaque are the most common; however, there are many others such as thick saliva, inflamed gums, periodontal disease and tooth loss.
Can both dogs and cats use it? Is there an age restriction?
Oratene is formulated to be safe for dogs and cats of any age. Does not contain Xylitol, alcohol, chlorine or toothstaining chlorhexidine so it is safe and recommended for everyday use.
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Good Dog: Studies & Research
More satisfaction, less conflict characterize relationship
Long before people began to consider dogs members of the family, many kids were wishing that instead of brothers and sisters, they could just have more dogs. Dogs (and other pets) fulfill all of the roles that researchers consider important in an attachment figure. Kids find them enjoyable, comforting, they miss them when they are not around and they seek them out when they are upset. That may make them especially important for adolescents, who are learning to rely less on their parents and more on relationships with other individuals. The non-judgmental feeling people experience with their dogs may contribute to enhancing young people’s self-esteem.
We know that pets are important to kids, but scientific studies quantifying the value of their relationships are sparse. The recent study “One of the family? Measuring young adolescents' relationships with pets and siblings” demonstrates the true value that kids place on their pets. The research involved surveys of 77 people who were 12 years old. It made some interesting, if hardly surprising conclusions:
If many adults consider their relationships with dogs to be like those they share with children, it’s no wonder that many kids relate to their dogs much like they relate to their brothers and sisters—only better!
News: Guest Posts
Meet Addie, a pup who loves to help her owner on the job. It’s not all work; Addie has plenty of fun.
Pet at a Glance
On the job: Addie’s owner works from home and out of the Ethan Allen showroom, so her day looks different depending on what’s on Sluppick’s schedule. At home, Addie sits right next to her owner as she works on floor plans or emails clients. She’s also known for getting into fabric samples from time to time. At the showroom, Addie gravitates toward all the new faces. She likes to walk right up to clients, tail wagging. She loves clients, Sluppick says, and the clients love her back. A few have even brought Addie treats, toys and a doggy Christmas ornament.
Favorite part of the workday: Before each workday begins, Addie likes to join her owner as she has her morning coffee.
Break time: When Sluppick needs a mental break, she takes Addie on a walk in the neighborhood. Addie also enjoys watching the squirrels run around outside, Sluppick says.
Payment method: Treats! If Sluppick is on the road, Addie loves when they stop by Dairy Queen for a Pup Cup.
From her owner: “Having Addie around on calm days or busy days makes for a better day overall. She loves to always be in the action and where I am. She’s a ‘momma’s girl,’ and I love it.”
SHARE YOUR SMILING DOG!
Good Dog: Activities & Sports
This year’s canine event will include a diverse group of dogs.
For those of us who don’t care about football, there’s another event we look forward to on Super Bowl Sunday—the Puppy Bowl. This year, 78 young dogs will be “competing,” representing 34 rescue organizations across 22 states. Animal Planet will be organizing this event for the 13th time this year and this Sunday’s “game” features the largest representation of dogs with disabilities to date. Among the canine players will be Lucky, an amputee, Doobert, a deaf pup, and Winston a visually and hearing impaired double merle Australian Shepherd.
15-week old Lucky was found on the side of the road with her brother, Ricky, and had to have her right front leg amputated after it was slammed in a crate door. Because of her past, Lucky has a little more anxiety than the other dogs, but was able to participate comfortably with her brother running on the field alongside her.
“We would've liked to have seen a little more action, maybe for her to score touchdowns or get involved in some plays,” said Puppy Bowl referee Dan Schachner during a film break, ”but just the fact that Lucky was on the field was a success.”
Doobert came to the Puppy Bowl filming with his new family, Tom and Dianne Ireton, who adopted him from Green Dogs Unleashed in Troy, Virginia. Since Doobert is deaf, the Iretons are in the process of training him to understand hand signals around the house.
“Doobert is very visually focused, always looking to us and the other dogs for cues," said Dianne. "We just want to give Dobbert the best opportunities that we can, because he deserves it. Other than not hearing, everything else is normal.”
Winston has learned to live with both a visual and hearing impairment. He traveled to the Puppy Bowl from a sanctuary for special needs dogs called Double J Dog Ranch in Hauser Lake, Idaho and requires special monitoring by handlers due to his dual disability. According to Double J founder Christine Justus, Winston gets around very well even though he mainly relies on his nose. She believes he will smell the toys and score many touchdowns during the Puppy Bowl.
To see these three amazing and adorable puppies, tune into Animal Planet this Sunday, February 5th at 2 p.m. ET.
News: Guest Posts
Aggie Innovation Space finds a way to enable a canine cancer survivor to run again.
Last year, when 17-year old Kita lost her right hind leg to bone cancer, he adjusted quickly to getting around on three legs. But relying on one less limb meant Kita got tired more easily and wasn’t able to complete the long walks he always enjoyed. Unfortunately, standard pet wheelchairs didn’t work for Kita.
His owner, Michelle Lebsock, was determined to find a solution. She found lots of ideas online about using 3-D printers to create custom dog wheelchairs, but had no experience in this area. So Michelle contacted the Aggie Innovation Space (AIS) lab at New Mexico State University for advice on how to embark on the do-it-yourself project.
When she first spoke to engineering students Natalie Perez, Abdiel Jimenez, and Arturo Dominguez, they were not only eager help Michelle, but wanted to take on the project as their own. It became a semester long project that far surpassed Michelle’s ideas of what was possible.
“The students worked all semester to create a functional and ergonomic device that was custom-built for Kita,” recalls Michelle. “Even though the idea of 3-D printing brought me to the lab, the final product used traditional materials, and the students worked tirelessly to make sure each piece was exactly right."
Throughout the fall, Natalie, Abdiel, and Arturo met with Kita and Michelle many times to determine the correct height, comfort, and restraint requirements of the device. They also wanted to make the wheelchair was easy to put together so it would be portable and user friendly.
One of the challenges was in adjusting the device while making sure it was still supportive and comfortable.
“As we adjusted the saddle mechanism in the device,” explained Arturo, “we had to be sure not to pinch or irritate the underbelly and other sensitive areas of the dog."
As you can imagine, it took many versions to get to the perfect wheelchair.
The team’s first design allowed Kita to move around freely, but the students wanted to further adjust the wheelchair to make it even more comfortable and functional. With each version they would study and evaluate Kita’s movement in the wheelchair to make changes.
During the final test, Kita was able to run for the first time since her surgery and move much more naturally. That made their months of hard work worth it.
"This project reminded us how engineers can enhance quality of life and made us realize that our duty as engineers is not just for people and the environment, but for our furry friends that make our lives happier,” said Natalie.
This project allowed the students to apply their engineering skills to a real life project that directly benefited a dog and her family. What an amazing win-win!
Good Dog: Studies & Research
Familiar dogs prompt generosity more than unknown dogs
Dogs will give food to other dogs. Okay, maybe your dogs don’t show this tendency at home enough for you to believe it, but in laboratory settings, it happens. (It happens in other species, too, especially in various primates and in rats.) A recent study of this behavior found that the details of the experimental situation influence whether dogs choose to give food to other dogs or not.
“Task Differences and Prosociality; Investigating Pet Dogs’ Prosocial Preferences in a Token Choice Paradigm” investigated prosocial behavior—voluntary behavior that benefits others. In the study, dogs were trained to touch a token with their nose to deliver food to another dog who was in an enclosure, or touch another token that resulted in nothing happening. This is a different experimental design than has previously been used in which a dog could pull a shelf with food on it so that the food reached a dog in another enclosure, or pull an empty shelf.
In the experiment with the tokens, sometimes the dog in the enclosure was one that the “giving” dog lives with, sometimes it was an unfamiliar dog and sometimes the enclosure was empty. In some trials, there was a dog next to them when they were choosing whether to touch the token to give food away. Sometimes they were alone when making their choice.
The study found that 1) Dogs were more likely to give food to dogs who they live with than to dogs who are strangers. 2) Having another dog with them made them more generous, meaning that they were more likely to give food when they were with another dog rather than when they were alone.
To be fair, the dogs were not literally sharing the food out of their own bowl. They were choosing to act so that food would be given to another dog, but they didn’t lose out on any food by giving to the other dog. Still, it’s nice to know that dogs can share food, even if what we most appreciate about them is their ability to share love!
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