Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Happy 1st Birthday!
Malachi just turned a year old. I didn’t want a hairy wild wolfdog, least of all a feral one. I’ve seen so many wolfdogs on my job as an Animal Control Officer. Wolfdogs that people run out and buy as puppies thinking it would be cool and then fast realize are way too strong, escape prone, destructive or whatever. Although I think he’s beautiful, and I love him, Malachi is not a dog I would have gone out and chosen even if he wasn’t feral, but sometimes we end up with the one who needs us most.
Born in what has been described as a wolfdog puppy mill, Malachi was born with some genetic wildness and then likely received little or no human contact for his first critical months of life. He was basically feral when he was purchased at 3 months of age by a person who was completely unprepared and unable to handle him. Within a few months he escaped from his home and ran wild in the rural countryside for some time. The owner moved away without ever being able to touch him again. I heard about him through our animal control department but was working a different area and he was too wild and too intelligent to be trapped or cornered.
We continued to get reports of Malachi running loose on busy roads and near livestock where he could be shot. Worried for his safety, I finally went on my day off and using every trick at my disposal and with the help of neighbors and my sweet flirty female dog, was able to capture him. I took him home with the idea that we would find a suitable wolfdog rescue or sanctuary for him. We found a fabulous wolfdog-experienced home to take him but he was returned within days and no rescues or sanctuaries had room for him. Of the 500 or so dogs and puppies we have fostered over the last 30 years, he’s the most challenging. He flees from any human approach and the slightest stress has him voiding his bladder and bowels.
We used targeting and positive reinforcement to help shape Malachi’s behavior while we continued to look for a place for him. Sadly there are many wolfdogs in need and very few rescues with the resources to handle them and we’ve been unable to find a home for him. Malachi has made progress in his months here but it is still impossible to walk up and touch him. He allows, and at times enjoys, some limited contact but it is strictly on his terms.
Our other dogs have been instrumental in helping Malachi learn the ropes. He watches them and imitates some of their behavior but he often acts like a wild animal and his fear of humans is still very strong in many situations. Overall he’s finally become happy and playful with us. He bounces into the house with the other dogs and is comfortable hanging out as long as we don’t initiate contact and with occasional exceptions he avoids human touch. We had him neutered, vaccinated, wormed, microchipped, heartworm tested and treated for fleas but even that involved extensive planning and sedation to ensure that all went smoothly.
We love Malachi and want him to be happy but we run a small non-profit rescue with the goal of rescuing and rehoming dogs in need. We fix them up and find them wonderful homes and that makes room for the next one. We have to be careful how much we take on, with time, space and finances being limiting factors. We do keep a small number of sanctuary animals here. Animals that due to age, health or temperament, are not considered adoptable and who can live out their lives here. Taking on a large, feral wolfdog who has the potential to live 10-15 years or more and cannot be handled like a normal dog is a huge commitment and expense and not to be taken lightly. But after much thought and discussion and with very few other options, we have decided Malachi will stay here with us. We continue to learn from each other and work hard to give him the best life we can.
Readers can follow his progress on Facebook at The Secret Life of Dog Catchers.
Happy Birthday Malachi. You’ve been given the one thing you need the most. A home.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
New sport encourages people and their pups to jump, run, and crawl.
In recent years we've had a surge in new dog sports, such as rally obedience and nosework. It's great to have so many different ways to spend quality time with your pup. Now there's another activity to try!
You may have seen videos online of people doing parkour, a sport typically practiced in urban areas that involves negotiating a complex environment as efficiently as possible. Originally developed as obstacle course training for the French military, parkour includes running, climbing, vaulting, jumping, and rolling.
When Ohio dog trainer Karin Coyne and veterinarian Abigail Curtis picked up parkour as a hobby in 2011, they realized their dogs would love doing this too! Soon they started training their pups to leap onto surfaces, run around obstacles, and crawl under spaces, and eventually began teaching classes. The duo had a diverse mix of students showing that anyone could participate from puppies to older pups. Many fearful dogs even gained confidence through canine parkour.
People from around the world started contacting Karin and Abigail asking about canine parkour, So they founded the International Dog Parkour Association to build the sport. The organization allows people and their pups to earn titles to commemorate new skills no matter where they live. It's up to individuals to teach the behaviors, practice, and then take a video of their dog confidently and safely navigating the obstacles. For example, at the novice level, dogs have to perform three different skills on a given obstacle.
What's cool about canine parkour is that it encourages people and their dogs to interact with the environment. You can practice and build skill almost anywhere!
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Does it reflect something about you?
Though few dogs wear actual clothes or costumes, a great many of them wear collars, and they are often chosen with great care. The individuality of a dog’s collar is likely to express something about the guardian. It may reflect a particular hobby or interest or may simply be a style choice. The majority of collars mean something to the people who choose them.
What it means may be very simple. For example, my favorite color is red, and I gravitate towards red collars. One of my best friends uses green collars for the same reason. Many people put far more thought into the collars with which they adorn their pets. Practical choices for collars include ones with the dog’s name and guardian’s phone number embroidered on them or ones that are reflective for extra safety at night.
I have a client whose dog’s collar is by Harley Davidson, which means that the dog matches most of the client’s clothes. Other dogs may wear collars that express support for a professional sports team or a college program. I’ve seen collars that express support for political candidates, breast cancer awareness or say, “Happy Birthday!”
If style is the major consideration, there are plenty of options. Collars can be pink with sparkly gemstones, made of black leather with spikes, or anything in between. There are patriotic collars with flags on them, tartan plaid styles, and those that have flowers or ladybugs on them. Some people change their dog’s collars seasonally with Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Spring, Fourth of July, Halloween and Thanksgiving collars making up an extensive wardrobe.
If your dog has a decorative collar, what made you choose the one he wears?
Capturing the Essence of Shelter Dogs in Pictures
Lisa Prince Fishler is an artist who has always connected deeply with animals. A professional photographer who lives in the Hudson Valley, N.Y., Lisa was inspired to volunteer her services by her rescue dog Iggy whom she calls her “soul dog.” Iggy introduced Lisa to the plight of medium and large shelter dogs, especially those labeled “Pit Bull,” who are sometimes overlooked or passed by due to tragic amounts of misinformation and mythology.
One of the first organizations Lisa volunteered with was the Animal Farm Foundation, a group dedicated to securing equal opportunity for Pit Bull dogs in New York. Lisa was tasked with photographing dogs up for adoption—capturing their personalities, their individualism and endearing qualities in a single portrait. The challenge was to catch the eye (and heart) of potential adopters as they clicked through online galleries or caught sight of adoptable dogs in flyers or ads. Few shelters have the time, resources or talent pool to capture their animals to best effect.
It was through this work that Lisa discovered a clear way to combine her passions—animals, art and activism—to offer a solution. A natural collaborator, she wanted to cultivate a united community of artists who could shine a light on pets in need and be a voice for animals all over the world. Lisa soon discovered many people with the same passion, and thus, HeARTs Speak was born.
Today, HeARTs Speak is home to nearly 600 professional artist members in 47 states and 19 countries, all providing their services pro bono to animal welfare organizations. In addition, HeARTs Speak is expanding the reach of its network to more shelters around the country via the Perfect Exposure Project, a comprehensive, 2-day photography and marketing workshop. The project equips shelter staff and volunteers with fresh marketing knowledge and creative inspiration, covering everything from photography techniques to bio writing and social media.
HeARTs Speak’s mission is to harness the power of creativity and collaboration in order to increase the number of animals saved through adoption. Lisa and her fellow artists are working hard to capture homeless animals in the best possible light and show the world the beauty, loyalty and unconditional love that exists in shelters across the globe.
For some tips on taking good shelter dog photographs, click here.
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Short and sweet if given the choice
I recently attended one of my favorite annual events—the Interdisciplinary Forum on Applied Animal Behavior (IFAAB) conference. This is a small gathering of 30 Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists, Veterinary Behaviorists, Academics and Trainers who get together each year for a discussion of all kinds of topics related to Applied Animal Behavior. Every attendee gives a talk, and we discuss everything with enthusiasm from the first talk to the concluding remarks.
This year, fittingly, the first talk was about greetings. Camille Ward, PhD, CAAB, started things off with a talk called “What’s Up? Dog-to-Dog Greetings.” Greetings are a fascinating area of behavior because so much can happen in such a short time, and there are so many possible functions of greetings. Greeting between members of the same species serve a variety of functions from reducing uncertainty, fear and arousal to gathering information. Greetings can involve the signaling of status, increasing tolerance for being close to one another and may play a role in conflict management and reconciliation, which are important areas of behavior in social species though they have been primarily studied in primates.
Ward videotaped greetings between pairs of dogs at a local dog park in Ann Arbor, Michigan and analyzed the behavior that she observed. When she watched the behavior in the greetings, she collected data on a large number of behavioral details. (Videotaping is a common tool in behavioral research that allows scientists to gather more data than is possible when doing it live, and also takes so much time that it prevents scientists from taking over the world or even having a life because it keeps them too busy for such undertakings.)
In this study, 52 dogs were recorded, in 26 greetings. Each dog was only observed in a single greeting. Ward recorded whatever greetings happened to occur at the dog park, although she specifically avoided greetings when a dog first entered the park. She was interested in pairs of dogs greeting and when a dog first arrives, he is often mobbed by other dogs. Pairs of interacting animals are called “dyads” in the animal behavior literature, and the dyad was the unit of study in this project.
For each dyad, Ward noted which dog initiated the greeting or if it was a mutual approach. She noted the relative sizes of the dogs and whether play or aggression followed the greeting. Other data included whether each dog’s overall body posture was high, neutral or low both at the beginning and the end of the greeting, and if both dogs participated in the greeting by sniffing the other dog.
One of the most interesting and practical results from this study was how short the greetings were. When dogs are off leash and free to choose, they don’t hang around interacting for a long time. The greetings Ward observed were typically in the six to eight second range, which is very brief. It’s certainly a lot less time than we spend talking with our human friends when we run into them on dog walks. When that happens and our dogs also greet, they are forced to be in close proximity to the other dog when that is not what would happen if they were doing things their own way. Greetings are naturally short—far shorter than just about all of us experts at this conference would have predicted! We should keep this in mind if we have dogs greet on leash and not allow the interaction to extend beyond that time frame unless the dogs progress into play.
Based on Ward’s study, play is not a highly likely outcome of many greetings. Only six of the 52 greetings (twelve percent) she recorded resulted in play. Perhaps we should consider that many dogs want to meet and greet one another, but don’t want to engage in play as often as many of us expect. None resulted in aggression, which is encouraging, but that rate might be higher in a population of dogs that are not at the dog park as some people wisely choose not to take dogs prone to aggression to the dog park.
Greeting were either reciprocated or unreciprocated. In a reciprocated greeting, both dogs were involved in the interaction and showed similar behavior—e.g., both dogs sniffed each other. With an unreciprocated greeting, only one of the dogs sniffed or investigated. The other dog ignored or showed little attention to the greeter.
Large weight differences usually involved the heavier dog initiating the greeting. When weights were closer between the two dogs, involvement by both dogs was more common. Over 80 percent of the greetings were initiated by only one of the dogs. This pattern suggests that dogs are using greetings as a way to assess other dogs.
If you have observed your own dog greeting other dogs, does his behavior match up with what Camille Ward documented in her study?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Vets are seeing an increase in fractured carnassial teeth.
My dogs love antler chews. When my Border Collie, Scuttle, was a puppy, it was the only way I could get her to chill while I got chores done around the house (besides using her crate). But recently a friend's pup fractured a tooth on an antler, prompting me to do a little research on these beloved treats. According to United Kingdom based DentalVets, veterinarians have been seeing an increase in fractured carnassial teeth from hard chews, some resulting in surgical extraction or root canal therapy. While fractured teeth aren't uncommon, damage to the carnassial teeth at the back of the mouth is.
This shift has caused some shops to stop stocking hard chews, like antlers and bull horns. Three years ago a group of concerned veterinarians and nurses wrote to the Veterinary Times to spread the word about the potential danger. This sparked a multi-year study on the effect of various types of chews on dog teeth, research that has recently concluded and will be submitted for publication soon.
While many dogs use these chews without problems, if you do give your pups these products, it's important to monitor your dogs' teeth and take them to the veterinarian for their annual checkups. Most pets with tooth fractures don't show any signs of pain, so we have to pay close attention to how our pups use these chews. The American Animal Hospital Association has a helpful article on canine tooth fractures.
According to oral veterinary surgeon, Rachel Perry, many people assume bones and antlers are beneficial because dogs in the wild eat these chews. But we shouldn't assume what animals do in the wild is necessarily safe. Rachel cites a study that looked at the skulls of Wild African Dogs. The scientists found that 41 percent had periodontal disease and 48 percent had broken teeth. So we may not want to follow exactly what these pups are doing!
Rachel recommends two simple tests to determine if a chew is too hard. If you can dig your fingernail in it and make an impression, it's safe. If you can whack your knee with it, and it doesn't hurt, it's okay.
If your dog has suffered dental injury from a chew, DentalVets advocates getting a vet report and reporting the damage to the pet store that you bought the product from. This will create greater awareness
Do your pups like antlers and other hard chews?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
The Diamondbacks up the ante with its Dog Days of Summer promotion.
As a New York Mets fan, I distinctly remember how excited I was when they announced their first ever Dog Day at Shea Stadium in 2005. It was a relatively new concept at the time, a night where you could bring your pup to watch the baseball game. Even better, part of the profits went to a local animal shelter. Soon it became a regular promotion at ballparks across the country. Last year, 22 of the 33 Major League Baseball teams had at least one game where they welcomed canine fans. The Pittsburgh Pirates were extremely pet friendly, hosting ten Pup Nights.
But this season the Arizona Diamondbacks are taking the concept to a new level. They just announced that they're teaming up with PetSmart to open all 13 of their Sunday home games to fans and their dogs. Dog Days of Summer will feature a specially created area near left center field with tiered seating to accommodate families and dogs of all kinds and an outdoor/indoor dog park for the pups to explore and run around. The outside portion will be themed with a baseball diamond and grassy outfield and the indoor portion will be air conditioned for relief on hot summer days. This customized area is the first of its kind at a ballpark. Special concessions will also be available, such as canine ice cream topped with kibble, and local shelters will be showcasing dogs for adoption.
Not all dogs will enjoy attending a baseball game with its loud noises, crowds, and stadium seating, but for those who do, it's a great way to spend a night sharing a favorite pastime with your pup.
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
How does the idea of leaving your dog behind matter?
Traveling with dogs has become much more common in recent years, but there is no doubt that it’s a challenge to include our best friends on all excursions. Whether there are restrictions at hotels, restaurants or spas, or if the transportation on trains, buses or planes is the deal breaker, there are issues related to traveling with our dogs. Sometimes it’s as simple as them not being welcome at the friend or family member’s house where you will stay. Perhaps there’s a wedding that is a human only event or another person is bringing a dog who is not compatible with yours. There are countless reasons that can prevent us from bringing a dog along on our travel adventures.
Sometimes, the issues that come up if you must leave your dog behind are compelling enough reasons NOT to make the trip at all:
Many people take their dogs on most of their vacations, perhaps limiting themselves to trips that involve driving instead of flying. Other people don’t travel much or at all because that would require them to leave their dogs back home. Does having to leave your dog behind inhibit your travel or prevent you from taking certain types of trips?
We just read a wonderful story about another inventive and humane way to save shelter dogs and to showcase their many charms and talents. This story is from the Brazil Open tennis tournament being held in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Shelter dogs Frida, Costela, Mel and Isabelle, all sporting orange bandannas, wowed the onlookers by their ball “handling” abilities. In their previous life these four ball-dogs were street dogs in Brazil largest city. But now, as trained by Andrea Beckert, from the Association of Animal Wellbeing, they are retrieving the out-of-bounds tennis balls, and bringing them back, joyfully, to their trainer and, at times, to the players.
As Beckert noted—she trained them for months before this appearance—they were hoping to make the animals more confident and playful to “win” attention and hopefully new homes. “These are dogs that were mistreated. We have to make them adapt, feel the environment, the court, the noise of the balls and the noise of the people. Some are doing well, others are still a little scared,” she related. The basic commands that the dogs learned were ‘pick the ball,’ ‘let it go,’ ‘stay’ and ‘come.’”
All four still live in the shelter, said Marli Scaramella, the organizer of the ball-dog program, “The idea is to show people that a well-fed and well-treated animal can be very happy. We have more than 1,000 dogs in our care,” she said. Let’s hope this worked and will inspire other sporting events in other countries.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Kids gain reading skills while timid dogs acclimatize to people.
When my Sheltie, Nemo, participated in our local library's reading program, you could see how the kids really opened up in front of the pups. The parents would tell me how these visits helped their children overcome shyness and even fear of dogs. The reading program made the library one of their favorite places!
In December, the Humane Society of Missouri did their own twist on the library programs to help homeless pets. The Shelter Buddies Reading Program lets kids practice reading in a non-judgmental environment, while helping to acclimatize timid or anxious shelter dogs to people.
The program also has an educational aspect. The kids, ages six through 15, go through a training program that teaches them to understand the perspective of pets in a shelter environment and how to read canine body language. The children are then assigned to a dog who they read to and reinforce desired behavior, like giving a treat for coming to the front of the kennel. The kids can bring a book from home or choose one from the shelter's library.
The Humane Society came up with the idea for the program because they wanted to find a way to comfort anxious dogs, while incorporating the many animal loving kids who were looking to volunteer.
Besides making the pups more comfortable, the program has the potential to shorten shelter stays. According to JoEllyn Klepacki, the assistant director of education, dogs that come to the front of the kennel when people walk by are more likely to be adopted. The program has only been in place for two months, but JoEllyn says that the impact has been amazing. Dogs that used to cower in the back of the kennel come up to the front by the end of their reading sessions.
I hope more shelters around the world will implement this mutually beneficial program!
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