Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Shelter nearly didn't reunite a family and their pup.
A Maryland shelter missed two opportunities to reunite a family with their pup, nearly resulting in the dog being euthanized. Last month, the Turner family was devastated when their dog, Shayla, escaped from their Owings Mills, Maryland backyard and search efforts and calls to local animal shelters were unsuccessful.
Determined to find Shayla, Helen Turner, made a last ditch effort and posted a picture of Shayla on Facebook. She asked friends to spread the word and just one day later, someone contacted Helen with a photo of a dog that looked like Shayla at the Baltimore County shelter--one of the facilities she called several times.
Helen immediately went to the shelter with the picture from Facebook, but was told the dog wasn't there. Fortunately Helen decided to check for herself, and found Shayla within minutes of entering the kennel area. When signing Shayla's release papers, Helen noticed that Shayla would've been euthanized in four days if they hadn't found her.
Shayla is microchipped and has a spay tattoo from another local shelter, so besides the near miss during Helen's visit, the family should have been contacted when the microchip was scanned.
According to the Baltimore County Health Department, which oversees the shelter, their process is to scan all dogs once in the field, and then again during the veterinary exam. But sometimes microchips are missed.
Thank goodness Helen found Shayla before this story could have taken a tragic turn. The reality is, city shelters are swamped and microchips fail. Shayla's story is an important reminder to be as persistent as possible if your pet is lost. Put up posters, call local veterinarians, and visit shelters in person to double check for yourself. So happy that Shayla is now back at home, safe and sound!
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Reuniting a lost dog with her family
There are a huge variety of reasons why pets end up in animal shelters. People lose their homes, pass away, can no longer afford their pets or become too ill to care for them. Many animals come in as strays and the owners are never found. Recently a stray dog came into our local shelter with a microchip listing her name as Sophie. The chip traced to a woman in southern California but the phone numbers were disconnected. The shelter then sent a letter to the address.
Soon a woman named Dee Dee called the shelter in response to the letter. She explained that she had previously been so seriously ill that she had been unable to care for Sophie. Dee Dee had been forced to find another home for her and had lost touch with the new owner. She had no idea how Sophie ended up 400 miles away and unclaimed in our shelter. She explained that she had now recovered from her illness and would love to have Sophie back but had no way to get to Northern California to pick her up. One of our dedicated shelter volunteers, Joanna, heard about the dilemma and offered to drive Sophie all the way home to Southern California, an 8 hour drive.
There was an air of celebration around the shelter when word of the trip was announced. Staff came out to watch when Joanna and Sophie headed out. Updates and photos came in from Joanna every few hours and when Sophie was finally returned to her original family there was a joyous reunion. Sophie immediately recognized her people and has settled back in very well.
Coincidentally, at the same time as Sophie was heading south, another dog in an overcrowded shelter in Southern California was looking for a ride north to a rescue. The parties coordinated and Joanna picked up that dog, a German Shepherd, and brought him back to a foster home waiting here. The Shepherd now has an adoption pending. It took the efforts of multiple dedicated and hardworking people to save two dogs in need, but the biggest thank you goes to Joanna, for spending her week-end making a difference.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Campaign aims to save shelter animals on June 11
Dog trainers always talk about breaking down new behaviors into small steps. After all, you wouldn't expect a dog to stop barking at strangers overnight. This goes for humans too! So that's why I love Just One Day's approach to reducing euthanasia in America.
The Just One Day campaign is trying to change the United States into a "no kill" nation, starting with today, June 11. They are asking animal shelters across the country to take a pledge not to kill any savable animals for one day. Instead workers will focus on posting photos of available animals online, reaching out to rescue groups, and hosting adoption events. The No Kill Advocacy Center, Animal Ark, and Animal Wise Radio are teaming up to offer support and marking tools. Just One Day estimates that 10,000 pets could be saved today.
I found out about Just One Day because the Animal Care and Control of New York City is participating. Even one day will make a big difference for a shelter that euthanized almost 5,000 pets in 2013--a number that was already 30 percent lower than in previous years.
Outright eliminating euthanasia is sadly unrealistic in today's world, but this campaign is a great way to encourage shelters to think creatively about how to increase adoptions and to promote overall awareness of the overpopulation problem, even if it's only for one day.
Check out the web site to see if your local shelter is participating today.
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
New evidence from archaeological sites
Archaeological sites with hundreds of dead mammoths posed a puzzle to scientists: How could humans kill so many of these massive animals with the weapons available at the time? The answer is that one of the “weapons” used was not made of stone like the other tools of the time, but was made of flesh and blood. It was the domestic dog.
According to new research by Pat Shipman at Penn State University, humans may have been cooperating with some of the earliest domesticated dogs, which improved their mammoth hunting success considerably. The dogs could have contributed in a number of ways. They may have helped people find prey more quickly and more often. It’s possible that they held prey by charging and growling until the humans moved in to make the kill. After the mammoths died, dogs’ role in the hunt may have continued in the form of guarding the meat from scavengers or helping to carry it home.
Shipman developed several testable hypotheses about these new ideas. Based on analyses of what types of bones were present at the site (both dogs and wolves) as well as the cause of death of the mammoths, the idea that dogs were important in mammoth hunts about 45,000 to 15,000 years ago was supported. It is interesting that it was only during this time period that such large groups of hunted mammoths have been found, as humans (and their ancestors and extinct close relatives) began hunting mammoths over a million years ago.
A further piece of evidence that dogs were involved in mammoth hunting is the finding of a dog skull with a large bone, likely from a mammoth, that had been put in its mouth not long after it died. (That skull is shown in the photograph.) The find suggests that there were special rituals to acknowledge the dog’s role in mammoth hunting.
Knowing that modern dogs can suffer catastrophic injuries when hunting bears and wolves, I wonder how often dogs were wounded or killed in mammoth hunts.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Service pups walks in a Michigan high school's graduation
At Freedom Christian High School in Hudsonville, Michigan, 35 students walked for graduation this year, joined by one very special service dog.
High school senior Desi has cerebral palsy and was home schooled until she got Walton, four years ago. The Golden Retriever's main job is to help Desi walk and steady her if he senses she's about to fall. Desi doesn't know how she functioned before Walton, but he now gives her the independence that other kids take for granted.
Desi gives Walton all the credit for helping her get through high school and wanted to honor him with his own cap and gown. During the graduation ceremony, both of their names were called and Walton even carried Desi's diploma in his mouth.
“I think it was a great thing for everybody else to see that he really is part of me and my accomplishments are essentially his,” says Desi. After all, he did attend all of the required classes!
Desi hasn't decided on post-graduation plans, but would love to work at an animal shelter or rescue organization. I wish this wonderful team much luck in whatever Desi decides to pursue next!
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
This quiz sees me differently than I see myself
While wasting time on Facebook yesterday—I’m not proud, but it’s been known to happen—I came across a link to a quiz that an unusually high number of my friends had shared, which piqued my interest. The question this quiz asks is, “What kind of dog were you in a past life?”
I’ve taken a lot of quizzes over the years about what type of dog would best suit me as a pet, but I have yet to look into this mechanism for finding out about my inner self. In a way, that’s surprising, as I have previously described my own children by considering the dog breeds that share their traits. (My oldest is a Greyhound and my youngest is a Vizsla/Irish Setter Mix.) I often try to understand other people by thinking of characteristics that they have in common with various dog breeds, but I had yet to do this with myself.
Therefore, I was eager to see what insights were in store for me. I took the quiz twice because I didn’t feel confident about my answers to all of the questions. It is my opinion that the quiz was not spot on for me in declaring that I was either a Dachshund or an English Bulldog in a past life. On the other hand, what would be the point of such an exercise if it simply churned out an answer I was expecting, such as a Bearded Collie or perhaps some kind of retriever?
What sort of dog do you identify with, and does this quiz view you the same way?
News: Guest Posts
The danger of foxtails grows
The season of ripgut and painful vet bills is here. Foxtails, a longtime scourge in the West, can now be a problem in every state. And climate change may add a twist. Studies find that weeds grow faster under elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide; will migrate northward and are less sensitive to herbicides. A botanist who researched their effects on dogs also warns about a deadly disease.
Sporting dog owners may know it best since field dogs routinely charge into thick brush, where they easily inhale or swallow foxtails, and spend hours in grassy hotspots. But dogs playing in the park or yard, hiking, at a roadside stop; any dog, wherever foxtails live, can develop grass awn migration disease.
It begins with a jagged seed. Of the many kinds of foxtails, both native and non-native, only some have harmful barbs. Among them: foxtail barley, found nationwide except in the South Atlantic and Gulf Coast states, according to the U.S. Forest Service; cheatgrass; giant foxtail, and ripgut brome, named for its effects on livestock. The spring through fall season often starts in May, when the green, bushy awns turn brown and seeds disperse. Their spikes help them burrow into soil or be spread by animals. They can also dig down in fur and puncture skin. The foxtail, which carries bacteria, may then keep tunneling into tissue, carving the dangerous path of infection that marks grass awn disease.
The disease is very difficult to diagnose, says University of Wyoming botanist William K. Lauenroth, who studied its occurrence in ten Midwestern states, where field dog owners believe there’s been a sharp rise in cases. One reason it’s hard to pinpoint is that the infection occurs behind the migrating seed.
Many infections show up as an acute illness, according to the findings of Wisconsin resident Cathy Lewis, whose website meanseeds.com provides case histories and information about foxtails and grass awn disease. In 2013, her Springer Spaniel “XL” developed a mysterious respiratory ailment that required draining fluid from his lungs. It began during an outing in January; not the time of year when foxtails come to mind. But the website of Atascadero Pet Hospital in California says they’ve seen pets with “a recurrent abscess that is ongoing for 2 years and once the foxtail is removed the abscess goes away.”
In fact, no plant material was found to confirm XL’s condition. But Lewis has had several other dogs with grass awn infections and recognized the signs, however vague. Today XL is “doing fine,” Lewis says. “He’s back to running field trials, and placing.” That may be due to how quickly she acted on his symptoms: labored breathing, high temperature and lethargy.
Vets say the dog’s body can’t break down the plant material. Sometimes, a foxtail lodges and causes a localized infection. But when it migrates, its barbs keep it moving on a one-way journey to almost anywhere, even the brain. Organs can be pierced, fungal infection can arise, and bacteria pack an extra punch deep inside the body. Head shaking or muscle movement propels it onward. Breathing can draw it further into nasal passages. Inhaled foxtails can travel from the nasal cavity to the lungs; a common site in working field dogs.
But what about the urban hound or beach bum pup? One study of grass awn migration found the most common site in all dogs was the external ear canal. Others were feet, eyes, nose, lumbar area, and thoracic cavity. Warning signs, if any, include extreme sneezing, head-shaking; coughing; excessive licking of a skin puncture, and a high temperature.
According to Dr. Jeffrey Horn’s veterinary blog, “foxtails are very hard to find due to their small size and because they’re covered with infection and scar tissue, and are completely invisible on X-Rays.”
Sporting dog owners hope to make it easier to diagnose and treat grass awn. Lauenroth, who trains retrievers, pursued the matter with a grant from the AKC and sporting dog groups. They suspect barbed grasses, especially Canada wild rye, planted in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Program have caused more cases. The grasses occur on lands where field dogs train and trial. The program pays farmers to let idle cropland provide ecological services, such as erosion control and wildlife habitat. The farmers plant approved native grasses and comply with mowing restrictions.
Lauenroth found that plenty of Canada wild rye has been planted in the Midwest, and its sharp awn makes it dangerous for dogs. Canada wild rye is also common along the east coast, he says. But the study dried up due to a dearth of definitive diagnoses to draw on. For vets, finding a foxtail seed in a dog is like searching for a needle in a haystack. Lauenroth says he was unable to extract numbers of cases over the past 20 years from the records of veterinary hospitals.
What he found were many “foreign body” cases without resolution. Many of those may have been grass awn disease. A study in 1983 found that grass awn migration in dogs and cats accounted for 61 percent of all foreign body-related cases. Most involved dogs.
To make foxtails more visible, vets often suggest giving dogs a close shave called a foxtail haircut. Others swear by headgear that is truly a pup tent: foxtail hoodies, designed to keep mean seeds out of eyes, ears and mouths.
Lauenroth’s advice is to thoroughly brush and comb after outings. The seeds don’t instantly disappear into the body. Also, get to know the few dangerous grass plants in your area.
In foxtail zones like California, it can also mean getting to know other dog owners: many outings at park and beach end with a festive foxtail-pulling party.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
A new parvo treatment comes from an unlikely source
Canine parvovirus is not only costly to treat, but it's also difficult to keep outbreaks at bay. Though parvo has a high survival rate if treated early, many shelters end up euthanizing pups with the disease because of these challenges. The highly contagious virus is a nightmare for shelters because it spreads so easily and can live on surfaces for months. Thankfully, a lower cost treatment may be on the way, thanks to a most unlikely source.
It all began about a decade ago when a mysterious disease--later identified as the West Nile virus--was killing large goose populations at the South Dakota-based Schiltz Goose Farm. A group of researchers, led by Dr. David Bradley, executive director of the Center of Research Excellence for Avian Therapeutics for Infectious Diseases at the University of North Dakota, discovered antibodies in the yolks of goose eggs that they could purify and put back into other birds as a successful treatment. The Mayo Clinic called their find "game changing."
Soon a company called Avianax was formed to explore whether the treatment could be used beyond geese. They found promising links between the goose antibodies and treatments for other diseases, including rabies, dengue fever, avian flu, and some cancers. Their first focus was on the parvo virus and initial trials on their ParvoONE treatment resulted in a stunning 90 percent cure rate in as little as two days.
Avianax will be running more trials on ParvoONE through November, but if the U.S. Department of Agriculture gives the go-ahead, Avianax plans on selling the treatment next spring for $75 per dose. Avianax is also starting to work on a human application of the antibody treatment for other diseases.
The Bark had a chance to speak with Ken Ramirez about his experience with clicker training and what the future holds for him in his new role as Executive Vice President and Chief Training Officer for KPCT.
The Bark: Why is it important that people successfully train their companion dogs?
Ken Ramirez: There are so many reasons that training is important. It is a critical part of good animal care, just like veterinary care, nutrition and a safe environment. You cannot give animals all they need unless it includes a training program. Good training helps teach animals how to live successfully in our world, and helps to build a strong lasting relationship between people and their pets.
Bark: Tell us about your professional experience with operant conditioning or clicker training.
Ramirez: I began my training career working with guide dogs in a very traditional training environment. However, right out of college I had the opportunity to work with a variety of marine mammals, birds, and big cats in several zoological facilities. That is where I was introduced to the world of positive reinforcement and marker-based training. That experience changed my life as I experienced how powerful this type of training is. Not only is it force-free and fun for the animals, but it assists in developing strong relationships with each animal partner. I went back and re-read all my animal behavior text books, made contact with my professors, and began trying to understand why this type of training was not more wide-spread, except perhaps in the world of marine mammal training. My quest for knowledge exposed me to Karen Pryor and some of her early works. I read every positive reinforcement training article I could find, sought out conferences and training organizations that could forward my knowledge and understanding of effective positive reinforcement training. I had the good fortune to travel to many corners of the world and work with a wide variety of species of animals, and discovered just how universal this technology really is. In 1989 I was hired by the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago to oversee the development of their animal training program. Since joining Shedd, I have had the good fortune to oversee the care and training of more than 32,000 animals representing over 1500 species. I continued to consult with many zoo and aquarium programs worldwide. Then, in 1997, Western Illinois University asked me to develop a graduate course on animal training, which I still teach today. In 1998, I returned to dog training as a consultant to several search and rescue dog teams, which led to my involvement in many other working dog programs including service dogs, law enforcement, and a return to guide dog work. When Karen Pryor decided to start ClickerExpo, she chose Chicago as her inaugural location. She invited me to that Expo as a guest speaker, which led to an invitation to join the faculty the following year, and I have been on the faculty ever since.
Bark: What has been the biggest revelation about this method of training animals?
Ramirez: The biggest revelation for me every time I train an animal is how much they enjoy the process and how it assists in relationship building. Additionally, as someone who began my career more than 35 years ago using more traditional training methods, I always marvel at how well positive reinforcement works and how much stronger and precise behavior is trained in a fun force-free environment.
Bark: Is it your experience that most animals enjoy learning and training exercises?
Ramirez: Absolutely. That’s what makes positive reinforcement so effective—the animal is a willing partner in the process and it is so much fun for them.
Bark: What has you most excited about working with Karen Pryor's clicker training programs?
Ramirez: I am excited about everything that Karen Pryor Clicker Training represents. Karen was an inspiration to me personally as I was seeking good information about the use of positive reinforcement training during the early stages of my career. I am passionate about educating people about the power of positive reinforcement and the beneficial impacts it has on the welfare of the animals in our lives. Each program, whether it be the ClickerExpos, the Karen Pryor Academy, or the production of positive reinforcement books and training tools furthers the education of the public about marker-based positive reinforcement training. I am excited about helping to continue and further the amazing body of work that Karen has produced over the years.
Bark: Do you currently have a dog, cat or other pet?
Ramirez: I have had dogs my entire life. Sadly, my 12-year-old Spaniel that I adopted from a shelter after my first Clicker Expo 11 years ago, recently passed away. I will probably look for my next dog at one of the local Chicago shelters sometime later in the year. However, I established a dog training program with dogs adopted from local shelters at the Shedd Aquarium several years ago, and I consider the four dogs in that program close companions and training partners. These four dogs include a Pit Bull, an Airedale, a Shepherd, and a Lab.
Ken Ramirez is a regular consultant for zoos, oceanariums, and parks around the world. He has held top leadership positions in most of the profession’s associations, including as past president of IMATA (International Marine Animal Trainer’s Association). As part of his leadership, Ken has been involved in the creation of a certification process for animal trainers in zoological settings. He has been featured on television and in the media numerous times, including as host of a popular Australian television series Talk to the Animals. Ken has been on the faculty of KPCT’s ClickerExpo conference since 2005; he also teaches graduate-level courses at Western Illinois University.
Ken began his training career working with guide dogs for the visually impaired and has maintained a close connection to dog training ever since. At the Shedd Aquarium, Ken spearheaded the development of a program to rescue dogs from animal shelters and to train and care for them in order to show the public the transformative power of marker-based positive-reinforcement training. Outside of Shedd, Ken’s canine work includes training for search and rescue, guide and service work, scent detection, animal husbandry, and more.
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Adopting dogs that are unlike what we’re used to
“We’ve always had little lap dogs, but this one is probably part mastiff and part Great Dane. I never thought I’d have a dog bigger than I am!” My neighbor was so enthusiastic about their new dog Thor that she came over specifically to introduce him to me. He is delightful, and the family is so happy. Part of the fun is that this dog is so completely different than every other dog they have ever had. In fact, this dog’s head is about the size of their other dogs.
I’ve met many people who have always had big dogs and then at some point adopted a small one. The reverse situation of my neighbor—a departure from little dogs to acquire a large one—is a little less common, but still not unusual. And many people adopt dogs that are completely different from all their other dogs in ways that go beyond size.
A friend of mine grew up with terriers and continued with them into adulthood. Then, she had a dream about a doing herding trials with a dog. She adopted a Border Collie not long after. I’m not advocating acting on every dog-related dream to guide important life decisions, but in this case, it worked out beautifully. She now has a variety of terriers and herders in her house and it’s a happy home.
Perhaps one of the biggest transitions is to go from quiet dogs who occasionally let out a single half-hearted “woof” to a dog who is a champion barker. If your dogs have previously been of the former variety it can be a shock when you welcome a dog with the vocalization tendencies of breeds like the American Eskimo or the Great Pyrenees. As with so many variations among dogs, personal preferences are all over the place. Some people love to have a dog who alerts then to everything, while other people prefer more peace and quiet.
The energy level of different dogs is another area where transitions can be a shock. If you’ve always had high-energy dogs and now you find yourself living with a couch potato, you may struggle to adjust. However, that is unlikely to be anywhere near as big an issue as the one facing people who have always had dogs who are content to lie around much of the day and now have one who wants to run 20 miles before breakfast.
If your dogs have usually been of the wash-and-go type, with the washing happening no more than a couple of times a year, a dog with high grooming demands will be a big change. Many years ago I met a family who had only had short-haired dogs until they adopted a Bearded Collie who they paid to have groomed about once a month. It can be hard to transition from a no-brushing-required dog to a send-your-groomer-to-Europe dog, but it’s nice that you can hire a professional if you know in your heart that you’re not up to the constant care needed.
Have you ever adopted a dog who was completely different than your usual canine companions?
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