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News: JoAnna Lou
Dogs Understanding Robots
Study looks at canine and robotic behavior
Several studies have shown that dogs can understand human gestures better than other primates, thought to be the result of evolving alongside people for so long.  But what if it were a robot doing the pointing?

Researchers at the Hungarian Academy of Science and Eötvös Loránd University set out to see how dogs would react to robots that exhibited social behavior, but didn't look like a human.

The dogs were divided into two groups to individually observe a set of interactions. One was between two humans (a researcher and a member of their family) and the second was between their human family member and a robot. One group used a robot exhibiting social behavior (such as talking) and the other used an asocial robot.  

These interactions were followed by a food session in which either their person or the robot pointed out the location of a hidden snack.

Not surprisingly, it was difficult for the dogs to find the food when the robot pointed it out. But interestingly, the dogs were were better at understanding the gesture if the social robot pointed it out, as opposed to the asocial robot. Researchers believe that seeing people interact with the robots influenced how the dogs saw the electronic creature.

This reminds me of research done last year on social referencing and canines. That study found that dogs will mirror the behavior of their handlers, particularly when it comes to something they're not sure about.  In this case, the robots would be the strange, novel experience.  

As more canine cognition research is completed, it's very cool to see how the findings tie together. Studies like this make me really think about how the things I do (consciously and unconsciously) affect my dogs' behavior! 

News: JoAnna Lou
Mobile Gaming to Feed Homeless Pups
App developers create a game to raise money for animal shelters
Mobile app games are addicting, but what if you could help homeless pets while feeding your guilty pleasure? Two brothers are hoping to do just that with their company Bugbyte.

The mobile app company was started in 2012 by Allan and Aksel Junkkila, two Finnish brothers with a passion for gaming and a love of animals. Last year they released their first game, Daredogs, which donates 10-20 percent of the profits to pet rescue organizations all over the world.

Allan and Aksel are now setting out to create Ace Tales, a more sophisticated game that lets people play towards charity challenges that will ultimately lead to donations. The main objective is to collect dog biscuits, which are found floating around in the game and earned after missions are accomplished. The biscuits can then be donated to a pool that is connected to fulfilling charity challenges collectively with other players.

Ace Tales will be available as a free app for Apple and Android phones. The donations will be funded by in-app purchases and advertisements, so you can help animals by simply playing the game.  

To create Ace Tales, Allan and Aksel are using the crowd sourcing web site indiegogo to raise the money needed to bring the more complex game to the market. Perks for donations include an interactive toy by Nina Ottosson (one of the project's partners) and having your name (or dog's name) appear on one of the game's ships or planes.  

Obviously it would be nice if Ace Tale's donation were higher than 10-20 percent, but this is a great way to combine the fun of mobile games with helping a good cause. And if this app is successful, 10-20 percent of profits will make for a nice sized donation!

News: Editors
No More Homeless Pets Conference Leads the Way
Cameron Woo
No More Homless Pets

For nearly 30 years, Best Friends has helped pioneer the no-kill movement. Perhaps, best known for operating the nation’s largest sanctuary for abused and abandoned animals, over the years they have branched out to include a diverse program of outreach and education that ranges from a popular television show to Strut Your Mutt events, and one of their most valuable projects—the No More Homeless Pets® conference. Each fall, Best Friends brings together experts in the no-kill movement, experts in animal care and behavior, marketing and fundraising, animal welfare professionals, rescue groups and volunteers to share knowledge, strategize and work together to save animals. This year’s conference is October 10–13 in Jacksonville, Florida. The Bark spoke to Barbara Williamson, Best Friends media relations manager, about this important event.

How did the No More Homeless Pets Conference come about? It’s a collaborative approach to a big problem … which is great to see.
Best Friends started the conference to help groups become more effective in addressing the issues related to decreasing the number of animals killed in shelters, reducing the breeding of community cats, increasing adoptions and helping families keep their pets. Plus, to help organizations be more effective, the No More Homeless Pets Conference offers opportunities to engage with leaders in the animal welfare movement and shares information on how to successfully apply for grants.

Can you talk about the kinds of people and organizations that attend, and what kind of impact this shared knowledge is having?
Many of the nation’s leaders in the animal welfare movement will be attending the conference and sharing their innovative programs and no-kill solutions with attendees. Every year extraordinary connections are made. At last year’s conference Linda Gage, one of Best Friends’ No More Homeless Pets Network specialists introduced Denise Bitz of Brother Wolf Animal Rescue (BWAR) in Asheville, North Carolina, to Emma Dawley of Friends of Homeless Animals (FOHA) in Providence, Rhode Island. Their meeting would turn out to be fortuitous for dogs in need.

Denise, founder of BWAR, has been involved in animal rescue for years. She’s been to three No More Homeless Pets Conferences and intends to be at the conference in Jacksonville. What she hadn’t planned on at last year’s conference was meeting the person whose organization would help her move 25 dogs, many of them seniors, out of the South up North, where forever homes have been waiting in the wings. “It’s been amazing working with Emma and Friends of Homeless Animals,” shares Denise. “We’re saving so many more dogs. FOHA really takes the time to match the dogs with the right adopters, and they start to promote them before they even get on the road. FOHA also shares the amazing updates from their new adoptive families, which continue to inspire our volunteers.”

FOHA is able to take so many dogs, in part, because they are helping the market meet the supply and demand. While they regularly pull from local shelters and accept owner-surrendered animals, they have found that those dogs alone do not fill the need for smaller dogs in their region.

Both groups are looking forward to attending No More Homeless Pets Conference in Jacksonville. As Denise puts it, “I think the conference is an invaluable resource for anyone in animal rescue, from volunteers to staff that share the Best Friends mission, and this conference has so many opportunities to network and really grow your organization.”

If there is a major trend that is shaping animal rescue and sheltering what would it be? 
This fall Best Friends is unveiling the call-to-action “Save Them All™.” In many ways this program crystallizes what Best Friends has believed all along and was a strong impetus for the No More Homeless Pets Conference in the first place: Alone you can save many, but together, we can Save Them All. More than 9,000 animals are killed every day in America’s shelters—that’s about 4 million a year. It doesn’t have to happen. We know that by increasing the number of people who adopt animals, and implementing more spay/neuter programs to reduce the number of animals who enter shelters, we can SAVE THEM ALL.

What speakers, topics or workshops are you most excited about this year?
All of our speakers are amazing! We’re featuring 7 communities that have reached, or are in the process of, getting to no-kill using varying approaches. The conference features our in-depth, three-hour animal behavior sessions, professional development sessions, Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program track, Technology track and much more.

Can your share some good news with our readers about the impact that the No Kill Movement is having?  
More and more communities have reached no-kill status or are getting close to achieving it—from Austin to Kansas City to Jacksonville. It’s a movement that’s picked up incredible momentum and we’re seeing communities all over the country embracing the notion that it’s unacceptable to kill pets in shelters when viable solutions exist to save them. We are on track to take Los Angeles, the second biggest city in the country, to no-kill by 2017 with our NKLA (No Kill Los Angeles) initiative. The energy and the momentum is undeniable, together we will Save Them All.

For more information on the No More Homeless Pets National Conference go to:
 conference.bestfriends.org

News: Shirley Zindler
Dogs and Kids

As a child I was surrounded by dogs and was always fascinated by them. When I was 5 years old I walked up to a neighbor’s dog as it was chewing a bone. I reached to pet him and received a minor bite to the hand for my inattention. As I recall, my parents sternly reminded me not to bother dogs, especially if they were eating, sleeping, or chewing a bone. Lesson learned. It was the only bite I ever received as a child and to this day I consider dogs to be one of the greatest gifts in life.

When I was six my parents divorced and I went through a long period without a dog. I missed having a dog so much that I ended up moving to my dad’s house because I could have one there. My first dog that was all my own was a little shaggy mutt that followed me everywhere and slept in my bed at night. That dog was my constant companion through several moves, childhood traumas and a few teenage heartbreaks. His presence in my life is something I still feel the effects of today.

Kids and dogs can be one of the most wonderful or one of the most tragic pairings of childhood. As an animal control officer, I investigate dog bites almost daily. Most are minor, a few are severe, and many of them are to children. I have seen nice dogs euthanized for the most minor of bites and children scarred and traumatized for life by the more severe ones.  In almost every case they could have been prevented.

Children are most likely to be bitten by their families own dog and yet for many children, the dog is their most precious friend and confidant. The value of dogs in many children’s lives is so precious that it should not be missed but children and dogs must both be kept safe.

Many breeders, shelters and rescues have hard and fast rules about what age the children must be for the family to adopt a dog. In my many years of fostering, I am often faced with the decision of deciding whether a family with young kids is suitable for a dog that I am caring for. There are so many variables that I find it impossible to pick an age and take each family on a case by case basis. The most important factor is the parents. Many parents want a dog that the children “can do anything to.” They tell me of some dog they know of that just lets the kids bounce on their backs, dress them in doll clothes and drag them around all day. I have seen dogs like that but I think it’s shocking that the parents allow the child to treat the long-suffering dog that way. And what happens when the dog gets arthritic or painful or just reaches a breaking point? Or when a child visits a friend whose dog is not so tolerant? When I see parents that understand a dogs needs, and teach them to their children, I know it’s a good start.

The second most important factor is the dog itself. Some dogs have a natural affinity for children while others don’t care for them. Unless a dog is truly dangerous, even grumpy dogs can succeed in households with children if the parents are diligent and the children respectful. Of course choosing a dog that is tolerant, easy-going and enjoys children is your best bet. It’s up to the parents to provide boundaries. In the case of children too young to follow directions adults need to be diligent and not put the dog in a situation where he feels the need to defend himself. Dogs try very hard to communicate with us but often we ignore their attempts to express their discomfort until it’s too late. A dog isn’t able to tell us in words that the child is hurting him, bothering him or invading his space. Careful observation of body language is critical, as is teaching respectful behavior toward dogs and separating them from kids if they aren’t enjoying the interaction.

I would love to hear about readers experiences with dogs and kids. Even negative situations can be a learning experience for us all and the positives between dogs and kids are truly priceless.

News: Karen B. London
Coat Type Preferences
Different strokes for different folks

The dog had a lush coat and I couldn’t keep my hands off of it. Touching his fur felt so good and I couldn’t stop petting him and luxuriating in his glorious coat. It is my favorite sort of fur—thick, healthy and soft. He’s a mix that is not possible to identify with certainty, and his coat was all the better for it.

I’m not picky when it comes to petting dogs and loving it—corded, wiry, heavy, double, smooth, wavy, curly, or a combination. I love the feel of canine fur and like to spend a lot of time in contact with it. (My dry cleaner can confirm this.) Yet, certain coats appeal to me most.

I especially like the dogs whose coats are between the double coats of the northern breeds like Huskies or Akitas and the combination coats of Border Collies or Tibetan Spaniels. I like the thickness of the double coat combined with the silkier texture of the combination coat.

There is tremendous variation in coat preference among people. I have friends and colleagues who are drawn to wire-haired dogs or who love any dog with a curly coat or who always choose short-haired dogs. I suppose some of the preference is about what we were exposed to as children. Another piece of it may be about a special dog we met quite by chance, and whose coat type becomes our standard of perfection. Many of the preferences may be random personal choices that are no more explicable than why one person might choose blueberries over raspberries or prefer the color blue to the color green.

Do you have a favorite coat type, and if so, do you have any guesses about the origin of your preference?

News: Editors
Dog Rescuer Wins Big Award

It is inspiring and moving to hear stories about people performing wonderful things for their communities. A new campaign, 5-hour ENERGY® Helps Amazing People, is putting the spotlight on these unsung champions by recognizing outstanding people who, despite their own challenges, also give their time and energy to make the lives of others better. Every week one these “local heroes” has been awarded $50,000—think of it as a MacArthur award for everyday people doing good work.

The idea came from Manoj Bhargava, 5-hour Energy Drink’s founder, who posed the question to his marketing department: “Why only pay celebrities or athletes? Why not give to the real heroes?” 

One of the recent honorees is Kristina Rinaldi, the Development Associate and volunteer coordinator for Detroit Dogs Rescue (DDR), an organization founded in 2010 to help the plight of the dogs in Detroit—both the thousands of homeless dogs who roam the streets, and those living with people in need of support.

Rinaldi has helped or rescued more than 1,500 dogs and in many ways, she relates to the dogs she helps. She spent most of her childhood and teenage years in and out of foster homes or sleeping on couches of friends and relatives. At age 13 she was working for drug dealers helping throw Rave parties and by age 15 she was rapping in the hip-hop scene. There she became friends with Daniel “Hush” Carlisle, a rapper who founded DDR and who became her mentor. After putting herself through college and getting a job at a hospital, Kristina joined DDR to follow her passion of helping dogs.

Now Rinaldi coordinates volunteers to help rescue and foster many dogs who would otherwise be put down. She also does community outreach and brings dog food and even doghouses (made by local Eagle Scouts and other youth groups) to pet owners who won’t surrender their dogs but need extra help taking care of them.

And it was a total surprise when she was handed the $50,000 award. When we spoke with her recently, she acknowledged that she had no idea that she was going to win any money and “was completely blown away by it.”

I asked her why they don’t have more help with this horrible situation. As she describes it, “Detroit looks like a looks like a Third World country. There are dogs everywhere living in abandoned buildings, fending for themselves.” It is estimated that there might be as many as 50,000 living like this—in a major U.S. city! And adds that she wonders why the “National Guard isn’t coming to help us.” A question that we certainly want to ask as well.

But DDR is now has plans to build the first no-kill shelter in Detroit. And while they are trying to raise money for that project, they still provide vaccination and spay and neutering clinics. They also  “do a lot of community outreach. There are many people who lost their jobs in the auto industry and who have dogs, but now they have to choose between feeding their dogs and feeding their families. Hush will go out to them and give them six months of dog food to help them to get back on their feet,” Renaldi added.

As for those doghouses, Kristina admits that she just “loves Eagle Scouts, they are fabulous and they also tap into at-risk youth, combining the building of the houses with a shop class. We are always try to keep the youth involved.”

I asked why helping dogs is so important to her and she replied that, “A dog has always helped me, helped me through whatever. No matter how you unfamiliar and lost you feel, that a dog will make you feel at home and that they are your best friend. I’ve always had a passion for dogs.” So it is fine with her that, as she says, she and her colleagues “have turned our lives over to the dogs, this is all we do. It consumes our lives.”

It is great that 5-hour ENERGY® Helps has chosen Kristina Rinaldi, and her work with the DDR, as a recipient of one of their awards, but DDR still needs our help. See how you can help.

 

 

News: Editors
Listen to Alexandra Horowitz

For your listening pleasure—tune into Alexandra Horowitz, author of the bestselling, “must read” book, Inside of a Dog, being interviewed on the “Person Place Thing” radio program by Randy Cohen. You can listen at any time.

As their site notes about Alexandra:

A professor of psychology at Barnard, Alexandra Horowitz is the director of that school’s Dog Cognition Lab. What we particularly admire about her: she is one of a very few scientists who can write about current ideas in her field in a way that a lay audience finds not only comprehensible – dayanu – but intriguing, which she did to great effect in her book “Inside of a Dog: What dogs see, smell and know,” and more recently in “On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes.”

Listen now

News: Editors
Companions for Eternity
Humans and Pets can be buried together, in NY state

Good news for dog-lovers in New York state, pet cemeteries will be allowed to accept the cremated remains of humans and bury them alongside those of their pets. This change resolves a two-year-old dispute that began when the state refused to allow the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery—the oldest pet cemetery in the nation—to accept the ashes of a former NYPD officer, Thomas Ryan, who requested that he be buried with his three deceased Maltese pups. The officer’s niece, Taylor York, an attorney petitioned the state to change the rule that had forbidden this. 

“People do get a sense of comfort from knowing they can lie for eternity with their beloved pet, that they can be loved and protected in the afterlife just as faithfully as when they were alive,” York said. The 117-year-old Hartsdale Pet cemetery, had been interring cremated human remains since the 1920s and had already buried the remains of Ryan’s wife, Bunny, beside the couples three Maltese dogs, DJ 1, DJ 2 and DJ 3.

“They didn’t have any children,” York said. “Each (Maltese), was their pride and joy.”

And even though his wife’s remains were already buried there, the state balked when it came to complying with Ryan’s wishes.

“I am not sure what prompted it,” said Hartsdale owner Ed Martin. “The whole thing, as far as I was concerned was a silly matter.”

Martin said the pet cemetery gets about five or six requests a year from pet owners to have their ashes buried with their dogs, cats, birds or other companions.

He estimates the ashes of about 700 people were already under the soil in the cemetery when the state stepped in.

Luckily now with this new ruling, people in, at least that state, will be allowed to spend all of eternity alongside their beloved pets.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/pets-pet-owners-allowed-buried-article-1.1455809#ixzz2esUpe63b

 

 

 

 

News: Editors
Hero Dog Better Than Nanny Cam

While a nanny cam might be a good idea to keep track of both a child and a caregiver, even better idea might to trust in your dog’s instincts. A couple in Charleston, S.C., learned about this the hard way. It was their dog Killian who alerted them to an abusive nanny they had hired for their young son, Finn.

Benjamin and Hope Jordan did a background check before they hired the babysitter for their 7-month-old son, Finn, last year. So they hired 22-year-old Alexis Khan, who seemed to be an attentive and loving sitter in her first five months at work. But the Jordans were concerned when their trusted calm, family dog, Killian, started acting strangely toward Khan.

“…we started to notice that our dog was very defensive of our son when she would come in the door,” Benjamin Jordan told the local TV WCSC TV’s Live 5. “He was very aggressive towards her and a few times we actually had to physically restrain our dog from going towards her.” Their dog had never reacted this way towards anyone before.

The parents were concerned and suspicious and decided to put an iPhone under the couch to record what was happening while they were at work.

“It started with cussing,” Jordan said. “Then you hear slap noises and his crying changes from a distress cry to a pain cry. I just wanted to reach through the audio tape, go back in time and just grab him up.

“To know that five months I had handed my child to a monster, not knowing what was going on in my house for that day…”

The Jordans called the police and Khan was taken into custody. Last Monday, she pleaded guilty for assault and battery in Charleston County Circuit Court. Khan will spend one to three years in prison and will be placed on a child abuse registry.

“That is fantastic news to us. To know that maybe Finn’s ordeal has possibly saved another child’s life in the future,” Mr. Jordan told Live 5. “Had our dog not alerted us to the trouble, had my wife’s instincts not said we need to make something happen, it could have been Finn that was killed by the babysitter. You never know.”

Don’t you think that this shows that every family with a babysitter also needs a doggy cam? Good work Killian!

 

News: JoAnna Lou
Dogs Learning to Fly
Airport movie set doubles as a training ground for jet setting pups

Flying isn't a fun activity for most people, so you can only imagine how an animal feels who has no idea what's going on. After seeing a stressed dog go through airport security, Talaat Captan, owner of Air Hollywood, decided to use his aviation themed movie studio to help dogs become comfortable flying. In addition to film work, Air Hollywood also offers training for people with a fear of flying. Helping dogs seemed like a natural next step.

The sets at Air Hollywood have been used in movies and television shows such as Bridesmaids, Kill Bill, and NCIS. For the K9 Flight School, the scenes are transformed to train dogs. Famous actors are replaced with extras hired to simulate a crowded, chaotic terminal complete with TSA security checkpoints, rolling luggage carts, and loud departure announcements.  

After navigating the terminal, dogs board an airplane set that simulates takeoff, turbulence, and landing motions and noises. Every detail is recreated down to the shutting of overhead luggage bins and the dimming of cabin lights. The class focuses on small pups or service dogs that are allowed in the cabin. Unfortunately for the big dogs, the course doesn't address traveling in cargo.

The curriculum, created by a dog trainer, was tested on 60 puppies from Guide Dogs for the Blind. Rick Wilcox, who oversees puppy-training in Southern California, said the simulations were so realistic that some of the handlers who don't like to fly became nervous.

The only way I know about acclimating animals to planes is by training dogs to jump in a kennel resting on inflatable exercise discs (to simulate movement) while playing an airplane sounds CD. Air Hollywood's K9 Flight School is an amazing way to introduce a dog to flying. Los Angeles is lucky to have an aviation themed movie set that can be used for this purpose. I don't think I'll be seeing this kind of class in New York any time soon!

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