News: Guest Posts
Study finds these elective surgeries influence perceptions of dog personality
Just when you think you know a thing or two about dogs, there I was in Italy a few weeks ago after the Canine Science Forum, looking at a dog on the street and exclaiming, “Who the heck is that!”
“A Doberman!” offered my good friend and Do You Believe in Dog? colleague, Mia Cobb.
“Really?” I said in disbelief. Because it was true. I’d never seen a dog that looked like that. Every Doberman I’ve seen has looked like this:
Dog with docked tail and cropped ears. Credit: Figure 2. Mills et al (2016)
Not like this:
Same dog, but natural. Credit: Figure 2. Mills et al (2016)
The bottom image, of course, is the Doberman in her natural form. A dog born from two Dobermans will grow up to look like the bottom image. But the Dobermans I’ve seen have had two post-birth surgeries; their tails are shortened or docked, and the floppy part of each ear is cut, followed by the ears being taped to a hard surface forcing them to stand upright in a way they normally would not.
These cosmetic surgeries (also referred to by veterinarians as elective surgeries) are built into breed standards — see an example from theAmerican Kennel Club. Which is to say that a Doberman puppy born from two Doberman parents does not meet his or her own breed standard.
In some countries, dog surgical procedures for cosmetic purposes are restricted or banned, but in others, the practices are rampant. For example, cosmetic tail-docking is banned throughout Australia and in numerous parts of Europe, which is why I saw my first natural Doberman in Italy. In North America, things look a bit different. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) oppose these procedures, with the AVMA stating that these procedures "are not medically indicated nor of benefit to the patient," and "these procedures cause pain and distress, and, as with all surgical procedures, are accompanied by inherent risks of anesthesia, blood loss, and infection." Even so, restrictions are rare. As of 2014, only two states, Maryland and Pennsylvania, have any restrictions on tail-docking, focusing on the dog’s age at the time of surgery and the use of anesthesia. Only nine states regulate ear cropping.
In addition to welfare concerns associated with docking and cropping, the surgeries could affect dog social communication. Numerous studies find that tails are (gasp) useful and meaningful in dog-dog communication (more formally known as intraspecific communication, or communication between members of the same species). Even Charles Darwin recognized that tail up has a different meaning than tail down, and dogs attend to long tails better than short ones. The side of the body that a tail wags can even be informative to another dog: a dog seen wagging more to his right-side would be perceived more positively than a dog wagging more to his left. A stump is less informative.
The communicative function of dog tails has received oodles of attention (see additional readings at the end of the post), and I’m going to focus on a new issue raised last month by Marina von Keyserlingk and colleagues at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. Their open access article in PLoS One finds that these appearance-altering procedures are not meaningless; they affect how dogs are perceived, independent of the dog's actual behavior or personality.
Study participants, United States residents participating via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk (MTurk), saw images of four dog breeds that commonly have their tails docked and ears cropped: the Doberman Pincher, Miniature Schnauzer, Boxer, and Brussels Griffon. The first three are in the top 20 of registered breeds, and the Brussels Griffon, while not as popular, was selected to include a small breed in the study.
Participants saw two different images of the same dog breed, one in the natural state (long tail and unaltered ears) and one modified (docked tail and cropped ears). They were told that the dogs were siblings and asked to explain why the ears and tails looked different.
Fifty-eight percent of participants correctly identified that “some dog breeds have part of their ears and tails surgically removed after they are born.” Dog owners were more likely to answer correctly than non-owners.
On the other hand, 40% did not know that these dogs are not born with their ears cropped and tails docked. Instead, these participants thought these traits resulted from genetic variation, agreeing with the statement, “individual dogs of the same breed vary in appearance, meaning some will have tails and ears of different shapes and sizes.” Sorry y’all. Not so for the dogs in this study! The tails and ears on the ‘modified’ dog are all us.
But what’s the effect? Another experiment in the study found that these cosmetic surgeries are not meaningless to dogs or people; in fact, these procedures affect how participants perceived dog personality traits. Generally speaking, surgically altered dogs were seen as more aggressive toward people and dogs than natural dogs, and natural dogs were seen as more playful and attractive than their altered counterparts.
But when looking at the four breeds individually, something odd popped out about attractiveness. For the Boxer, Doberman Pinscher, and Miniature Schnauzer, neither the natural or surgically altered dog was considered more attractive. Take the tail off, leave it on, crop those ears, whatever. For those breeds, people were indifferent — one appearance was not viewed as more attractive than the other. Only for the Brussels Griffon was the natural dog considered more attractive than its surgically altered counterpart.
If not all people know that the cropped/docked look is surgically created and don't find these dogs less attractive than their natural counterparts, what incentive is there to reduce these cosmetic surgeries in the companion dog population? Since 2008, the American Veterinary Medical Association has encouraged “the elimination of ear cropping and tail docking from breed standards.” Who is going to stand with them?
This story was originally published by Scientific American. Reprinted with permission.
Be sure to tune into and visit “Clear the Shelters” this Saturday, July 23. It is the largest adoption initiative in the nation with over 400 animal shelters and rescue organizations, holding street fairs and opening their doors to people interested in bringing a new family member home with them. The event is sponsored by NBC Owned Television Stations and the Telemundo Station Group. The animals will be ready for their new homes and come spayed or neutered, microchipped. Many shelters are also waiving adoption fees, plus offering benefits like free training lessons, dog food, coupons for toys and other products. Clear the Shelters helps to address the overcrowding issues that local animal shelters typically experience in the summer months because of spring litters. Last year some shelters actually were so successful that they were emptied of their animals, so let’s make this year’s event even bigger and better. Even if you can’t adopt a dog just now, it still is a good time to come out and attend a local event, to talk with shelter personnel, or local rescuers to understand the importance of adopting your next pet from a shelter. See for yourself how many wonderful animals need new homes. Check out this map for an event in your area. And let us know if you adopt a dog on July 23, and if send us a photo of you with your new dog we’ll give you a free subscription to The Bark. Send us your photo submission here.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Cunard cruise line's Queen Mary 2 gets a pet friendly renovation.
When Bark writer Michaele Fitzpatrick moved to Germany, she wrote about taking her pup Captain on an adventure aboard Cunard cruise line's Queen Mary 2. That ship, the only long-distance passenger vessel to carry pets, just became even more luxurious for traveling cats and dogs. The ship just underwent a $132 million renovation that includes new accommodations for the four-legged passengers.
The Queen Mary 2 doubled the onboard pet capacity to 24 kennels and created expanded play and walk areas. The canine and feline lodging is extremely popular and books months in advance at $800-1,000 per kennel. The first sailing on the newly renovated ship will be a seven-day trans-Atlantic crossing from New York City to Southampton, England.
Kennel master Oliver Cruz is in charge of caring for the pets onboard, walking, feeding, and playing with them. Their human families can visit, but can't take them back to their cabins. Oliver says that it's always hard to say goodbye to the pets on the last day because he gets very attached to them. When you're providing round-the-clock care, it's easy to form a bond in a short period of time!
Cunard ships have a history of welcoming pets, including dogs belonging to Elizabeth Taylor and the Duke of Windsor. With more people traveling with their furry family members, it's always nice to have more alternatives to flying with dogs that are too big to ride in an airplane cabin.
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
This dog running company is great business idea
Like many runners who have lived in Flagstaff, Ariz. Adam Vess is a professional runner. Adam is also, like many people in Flagstaff, a dog person. He found that if he runs 4-6 miles with his dogs Alex and Macy before going to work, they are happier and easier to live with. His business began with the thought, “Could other people use this, too?”
The answer was yes, and Flagstaff Dog Running was born. Now that Vess has moved back to the east coast, there is not anyone in our area offering this service. Vess spent many hours taking dogs out to run on the trails or fire roads around town to keep their joints and the rest of them safe from the dangers of the streets. Dogs were always on leash, and were with him for up to two hours. He ran them long enough that they’re fatigued, but not anywhere near exhaustion. Most dogs are happily tired out in 30-40 minutes, though some dogs need well over an hour to reach that point.
The charge was $25 a session, and $40 for two dogs. They never ran more than two dogs at a time because of safety concerns, and 10-12 miles is the maximum distance he took any dog. That was only for fit dogs who have gradually and safely built up to running such distances.
Adam originally planned to expand his business to exercising dogs at boarding kennels. People boarding their dogs would have been able to request and pay for the running as a special service. The exercise and the opportunity to go on an adventure as well as to have some company would all have enhanced their kennel experience.
If you lived in a town with a dog person who was a professional runner, would you consider hiring that person to exercise your dog? Does anyone in your area offer this service?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Shelter encourages people to borrow a homeless pup while they play the popular game.
By now you've probably heard of the Pokemon Go phenomenon, or are even playing the game yourself. This app is getting people walking around outside in record numbers, hunting for virtual Pokemon to "capture" with their smartphones. Many have been taking their pets along too, who are no doubt enjoying some extra active time, even if it may not be the best quality time. The dog walking while playing has inspired some viral Public Service Announcements about paying attention to where you're walking for the sake of you and your pups. But there is also a lot of good coming out of the app as well. One animal shelter in Indiana has taken advantage of the latest craze to help their dogs.
Muncie Animal Shelter Superintendent Phil Peckinpaugh noticed droves of people walking and playing Pokemon Go. He thought to himself how awesome it would be if they each had a dog. So the shelter started encouraging Pokemon gamers to visit and borrow a dog to take on their next walk. All you have to do is show up at the shelter, sign a waiver, and they'll match you up with a pup. So many people came during the first weekend that the shelter ran out of leashes.
But if you don't live near Indiana, you can still help. Many people have been promoting the use of WoofTrax's Walk for a Dog or the ResQWalk fundraising apps during their quests. Both apps are free and allow you raise money for animal rescue organizations by logging your steps. This way you can run the apps while hatching eggs and searching for critters on Pokemon Go, earning money for homeless pets with little extra effort.
As long as people are careful and sensible with the dogs they're caring for, it seems like a win-win to me!
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
How many dogs are in your bed?
A three dog night refers to weather so cold that three dogs had to be called into bed to keep a person from freezing to death. We don’t know whether this expression originated in the Australian outback, or far north in either the Americas or in Europe. What we do know is that for many of us who sleep comfortably indoors in houses with central heat, having only three dogs in the bed is for amateurs. There are a lot of dog lovers out there with four, five or even more dogs sharing a pretty limited sleeping space.
My cousin Leslie posted this picture of her husband with four of their dogs sharing the bed with him. (It’s not obvious where my cousin sleeps, but she jokingly claims to have rights to the other corner of the bed.) These four dogs are small, but anyone who has settled in for the night only to have 16 additional feet and their attached bodies climb aboard knows that crowding is a hazard. Dogs of any size can steal the covers, cause you to overheat and wake you up multiple times.
They also keep you cozy while making you feel safe, secure and very loved. It’s a wonderful feeling to have dogs snuggle up at night, or even during a nap. Many people sheepishly admit that their dogs sleep with them, only to find out that the person receiving this confession also has canine bed buddies. There’s so much love and joy when we share the bed with our best friends, so I’m happy that judgment about it is less common that it used to be.
In some families, there are dogs with bed privileges and dogs who are given their own comfy bed or a spot on the rug. It may be the dog’s choice, but more often, the guardians make this important decision. Sometimes size influences a dog’s sleeping position, with extra large dogs interfering too much with sleep. In other cases, it’s dogs’ behavior that determines whether or not they are welcome on the bed. Dogs who settle down and sleep calmly all night are welcome in the big bed while dogs who spend the night walking around or who mistake the comforter for a tug toy are more likely to find themselves sleeping on the floor.
I know of many couples who must compromise because one person wants the dogs in the bed but the other person wants the bed to be for people only. In those cases, often just one dog is allowed up. It may be the same dog every night, or they may rotate so each gets a turn.
How many dogs share your bed and how is that working out for you?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
K9 Medals of Courage were awarded last week at Capitol Hill.
Last week four incredible dogs were honored at Capitol Hill for the K9 Medal of Courage, the nation's highest honor for military dogs. The award, given for extraordinary valor and service to America, were created by philanthropist and veterans advocate Lois Pope along with the American Humane Society.
“It is important to recognize and honor the remarkable accomplishments and valor of these courageous canines,” said Rep. Gus Bilirakis, co-chair of the Congressional Humane Bond Caucus, which hosted the event. “By helping locate enemy positions, engage the enemy, and sniff out deadly IEDs and hidden weapons, military dogs have saved countless lives in the fight for freedom.”
These are the four pups that were honored, all of which are still playing valuable roles back home.
While on one combat patrol, Isky's right leg was injured in six places, leaving the German Shepherd with so much trauma and nerve damage that it had to be amputated. But even on three legs, Isky continues to serve alongside Wess. Isky is now Wess' PTSD service dog. Wess says that there isn't a moment when he doesn't feel safe with Isky by his side.
Hats off to these amazing pups!
News: Guest Posts
Most dog professional feel crates are a necessity when sharing your life with a dog. Crates can be a great management tool. They are helpful with a new puppy’s house-training routine. They can be a wonderful place for your dog to safely go and relax when there are too many visitors in the home or small children are at risk of bothering him. They are often recommended to safely transport dogs in a vehicle, and they can be a nice, comfy place for your dog to take his afternoon nap.
Having said all that, you may be surprised to hear that I don’t always recommend using a crate. The reason is, as a certified separation anxiety trainer, I spend much of my time working with dogs who suffer from separation anxiety and isolation distress. These dogs’ brains process things a bit differently, and confining them to a small space can often heighten their anxiety and stress levels. Think of it like being trapped in an elevator full of people, or in a traffic jam in an underground tunnel. Even those of us without anxiety issues may become a bit nervous or uncomfortable. Now add in an actual anxiety disorder and bam!, you have a full blown panic attack.
There could be several reasons a dog is not comfortable in a crate and it’s not always due to separation anxiety. If you have rescued a dog from a shelter, he probably spent many hours confined to a small wire kennel. It’s very possible that he has a negative association with this type of enclosure and won’t find an even smaller crate a comfortable place. This can sometimes be easily overcome by using positive reinforcement training and fun games to help your new dog build a positive association with his crate. Crate Games by Susan Garrett is one example.
When working with dogs who suffer from anxiety when left home alone, confining them to a crate or other small area is often recommended by well-meaning professionals. They might suggest using an exercise pen (also known as an X-pen), a baby gate, or closing the dog in one small room. The reasoning behind these suggestions is usually to prevent potty accidents on the rug and/or destruction to the home while the human is gone. The irony is that many dogs with separation anxiety manage to cause even greater destruction or self-injury while in their confinement area or crate. This can be seen in the form of torn up bedding, bent crate wires, broken teeth or bloody gums and/or nails. Not to mention, their anxiety typically worsens now that there is a combination of “home alone” and “confined to a small area.”
I have found that many of my clients’ dogs with separation anxiety also suffer from confinement anxiety. Therefore, they actually begin to relax and show more progress when allowed to be free in all or a large portion of the home. Once we eliminate this confinement, they no longer have that feeling of being trapped, or as if the walls are closing in on them. This allows us to introduce our behavior modification program with one less hurdle in front of us. My clients are very relieved once they see their dogs begin to relax and lie down on their comfy dog bed.
Our individualized protocol keeps the dog below their stress threshold during the desensitization process, which means they are not pushed to the point of destruction or self-mutilation. This allows the dog to move about and explore their environment calmly while their guardians’ know they won’t return to a mess. Humans are usually fine forgoing the crate once they realize how calm their dog is becoming.
Please don’t get me wrong. I still believe a crate can be a wonderful thing for a dog. In fact, some dogs I work with will seek out their crate and willingly go in it several times a day. I just think it’s important for all of us, including trainers and veterinarians, to consider that this is not a “one size fits all” solution. We must be willing to consider what’s best for each individual dog and honor those needs. This should include performing a proper and safe assessment to determine if a dog is comfortable in a crate, especially when left home alone. Some dogs need us to think outside the box before placing them in one.
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Sometimes people miss the dog the most
I remember a college friend commenting that he considered himself lucky to have gotten out of a bad relationship but also mentioning how much he missed his ex’s dog. He probably would have been completely happy about the break-up if it hadn’t been for Peaches. Most people discuss the person that they have broken up with, but in this case, our entire social circle heard about the dog, not the ex-girlfriend.
It’s common for people to ache from the pain of missing the children of their ex, so it’s no surprise that there is great sadness when people no longer get to live with or even see the dog they’ve come to love. When members of a couple adopt a dog together, there are sometimes visitation rights discussed during a break-up or written into a divorce agreement. If, however, you were with someone who had a dog before you were in the picture, you are unlikely to have any legal recourse. You will be allowed to see the dog if your ex lets you, but otherwise you are simply out of luck.
Sometimes people take the high road and allow their former partner to see the dog either because they recognize that it is good for the dog, or out of a loving kindness to the person with whom they just split. Sadly, denying access to a dog after a break-up is often done as retaliation, just to be mean and spiteful. (The same thing happens with children, which is extremely troubling.)
Were you allowed visits or some time with your ex’s dog after a break-up or a divorce?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
New Jersey seeks to ban retail pet sales.
According to the ASPCA, every year approximately 3.9 million dogs enter animal shelters and 1.2 million are euthanized. Meanwhile, thousands of puppy mills sell pets to stores that encourage impulse buying, which too often results in these dogs ending up at the local shelter.
New Jersey Senator Raymond Lesniak has been looking to break that cycle by prohibiting new pet stores in his state from selling dogs and cats from breeders. Senator Raymond feels strongly about stopping puppy mills, which put profit ahead of the humane treatment of their animals, creating health and behavioral problems.
Last week, his bill was passed in the state Senate by a 27-8 vote and is now in the hands of the Assembly. If put into law, the restriction would apply to any pet store licensed after January 12. Existing stores would not be affected.
The pet industry of course opposes the bill, claiming the legislation would make it difficult for new pet stores to open and would weaken a pet protection law that has been a model for the rest of the country. The bill revises the New Jersey Pet Protection Act and includes other additions, such as prohibiting shelters from purchasing dogs or cats from breeders or brokers, and requiring rescue organizations to be licensed in the town in which they are located.
Other cities, such as Richmond, British Columbia, West Hollywood, California, and South Lake Tahoe, Nevada, have already banned pet store dog and cat sales, but if Senator Raymond's bill passes, it would be the first statewide mandate.
While the law would not stop all stores from selling dogs and cats, it's certainly a step in the right direction.
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