Dog's Life: Lifestyle
It influences their orientation during elimination
A new study called Dogs are sensitive to small variations of the Earth’s magnetic field published in the Journal Frontiers in Zoology has demonstrated that dogs can sense and respond to magnetic fields. It is the first time that this has been shown in this species. Researchers found a measurable change in behavior based on the conditions of the magnetic field.
Specifically, they found that under certain conditions, dogs choose to pee and poop with their bodies aligned along the north-south axis and avoided orientation along the east-west axis. They studied 70 dogs from 37 different breeds over a two-year period, observing 1893 defecations and 5582 urinations. Observations were all made while the dogs were off leash and in open fields so that they were not influenced by walls, fences, fire hydrants or other objects.
The researchers collected data on dog directionality (and hopefully all the poop, too) and found that the way dogs face is not just a matter of chance. They ruled out such factors as time of day, angle of the sun and wind conditions. Their analysis found that the Earth’s magnetic field explained dogs’ orientation when doing their business. Interestingly, the pattern only emerged when the magnetic field was stable, which was only about 30 percent of the time. The Earth’s magnetic field can become unstable due to such factors as the variation in solar winds and the sun’s magnetic field. During such periods of instability, dogs did not show a preference for aligning themselves along the north-south axis and oriented randomly.
This research has been written about extensively in the media, possibly because any scientific research that involves potty talk is inherently amusing to journalists. Though the behavior that the researchers studied was elimination, to focus on that is to miss what’s really important about the study.
What I think is so fascinating is the revelation that dogs are able to sense the Earth’s magnetic field and that their behavior is influenced by it. It has been known for a long time that dog senses, particularly the sense of smell, mean that they are responsive to stimuli that we humans aren’t aware of, but the fact that dogs can act, in some manner, as though they have an internal compass is just as fascinating.
Previous studies have found that cattle, deer and foxes sometimes align their bodies with respect to the magnetic field. Sensitivity to the Earth’s magnetic field has previously been demonstrated in species that migrate such as birds and whales, and also in honey bees, whose navigational abilities are legendary.
Of course, people have long asserted that dogs can find their way exceptionally well, and I’ve even known people who said that it was like their dogs had internal compasses. Finding out that dogs can in fact sense the Earth’s magnetic field, just as compasses can, makes their navigational abilities perhaps more understandable, but no less extraordinary. It was in part dogs’ remarkable homing abilities that made the researchers suspect that dogs might be sensitive to the Earth’s magnetic field in the first place.
Why dogs are choosing to orient themselves in this way is the big question, and hopefully future research will pursue it. I look forward to seeing research on that subject as well as experiments investigating other canine behaviors that may be influenced by the Earth’s magnetic field.
News: Guest Posts
It’s 3:00 a.m. and time for our daily ritual. I’m on the sofa scarfing down a bowl of Raisin Bran, with a purr monster in my lap, a spotted pillow beside me, and a brindle guard at my feet. Having soothed the mid-morning hunger pains, the baby stops kicking and settles down, content among the pack.
After years of training humans to train dogs, and raising a personal petting zoo of dogs and cats, I’m being schooled by a fetus.
The day I announced we were expecting a baby (via Facebook, of course), it became clear that my friends are in one of two camps: pet parents or human parents. All were shocked. My husband, Brian, and I have been married for 15 years, we’re both in our 40s, and we share our home with four dogs and two cats whom we collectively refer to as the Lane Petting Zoo.
How they chose to respond to the news was telling. Understandably, my dog friends misinterpreted the ultrasound photo I posted:
“Ooh, a puppy! What kind are you getting?”
“Who is the breeder?”
After all, I had spent years with them at agility competitions and at my training facility obsessing over canines. When I clarified that we were expecting a human baby and that Brian and I were the breeders, only one person had the guts to ask what surely many others were thinking:
“Did you mean to do that?”
I suppose anyone else would’ve been offended. Not me. How could I, considering the company I kept? Many of our dog friends made it plain that they did not want children. If they did have kids, they were grown and gone, often accusing their dog-obsessed moms of playing furry favorites.
Human parents, on the other hand, enthusiastically welcomed me to their world.
“Your life is going to change completely!”
“You don’t know how much you can love someone until you hold that baby in your arms.”
Each time I told a human parent that I was expecting, I felt an instant connection, the way I feel toward people who embrace dogs as family members. When we learned we were having a boy, I felt drawn to mothers of sons, the way I’m drawn to fellow Dalmatian owners.
On my journey to becoming a mom, I spend less time at familiar places like PetsMart and agility trials and more time at Babies R Us and baby showers. I feel like a foreigner at times, stumbling my way through a new culture full of people who speak a language I don’t yet understand. Sleep sacks? Nasal aspirators? So a Pack ‘n’ Play is like an X-pen? Can I clicker train the baby?
My due date is February 23, 2014. I don’t want the birth of my son to mark the end of one era, saying goodbye to my dog friends and quality time with my zoo. I hope that our new addition will allow me to bridge these two worlds of pet and human parents, and create a new kind of family.
Welcome, my little Zoo Baby.
We want to send special congratulations to one of our biggest fans—Kaley Cuoco. The “Big Bang Theory” star tied the knot with tennis pro, Ryan Sweeting on New Year’s Eve. No word yet if Kaley’s three dogs were in attendance but it wouldn’t surprise us if they were. The other great love of her life are dogs. Cuoco is a longtime animal advocate who tirelessly promotes rescue and adoption. Her rescued Pitbulls Norman, Loretta and Shirley aid in her efforts to rehabilitate the breed’s bad rap. A few years back, Kaley appeared in Men’s Health and was asked to list “4 Things I Want to See You Reading at the Beach”—she replied (for number 3) The Bark: I’m a huge dog lover—I have three—and I love this magazine. It has everything you need to know. I’m also big on rescuing dogs, so if you have a rescued dog sitting beside you while you’re reading The Bark , oh, forget it—I'll marry you right there!
Perhaps, Mr. Sweeting is a Bark reader too?! Best wishes Kaley and Ryan!
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Medical alert dog plays an important role during a girl's surgery
Kaelyn "KK" Krawczyk has had a severe form of mastocytosis since she was two months old. The rare disease can trigger an abnormal accumulation of mast cells on vital organs, which leads to allergic inflammation. For the 7-year old Apex, N.C. girl, these allergic reactions can quickly become fatal. And the worse part is that the triggers are hard to predict and can stem from simple, everyday things, such as temperature changes, exercise, or medication.
For most of her life, KK had to be monitored all night long since even hot blankets could cause a dangerous reaction. As a result, doctors warned the family that KK may not even be able to attend school.
18 months ago, a medical alert dog named JJ changed all that. The talented terrier can smell cell changes before a reaction becomes serious, warn her parents (by barking and tugging at their clothes), and fetch her medical kit. JJ played a special role recently, working in the operating room at Duke University Medical Center to alert doctors to KK's bad reactions to anesthesia in her exploratory kidney surgery (the first dog I've heard of that was allowed in the operating room!).
KK's mother, Michelle, says that JJ alerts hospital staff before their "fancy equipment" and has "made believers out of those who didn't believe."
JJ was trained in scent detection by Deb Cunningham, the program director at Eyes Ears Nose and Paws, a nonprofit service dog agency in Chapel Hill.
As if JJ's story isn't amazing enough, the little pup was rescued from an animal shelter. Deb has never trained a terrier before and doesn't usually work with shelter dogs, but had a chance encounter when she was working with Golden Retrievers at the local animal rescue.
Deb was training JJ to be a diabetic alert dog when the Krawczyk family contacted her about a pup for KK. Just one month into specialized training with KK, JJ responded during one of the girl's worst reactions.
Deb says that JJ has surpassed her expectations for what an alert dog can do. Not only has she likely saved KK's life many times, she even "diagnosed" a family friend who didn't know she had diabetes.
JJ has given KK the chance to enjoy a more normal childhood and has given her parents a little peace of mind. What an incredible pup!
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
It’s more than just a cute trick
Years ago I taught my dog Bugsy to “back up” with the intention of adding it to his trick repertoire. It means just what it sounds like—to move away by taking steps backwards. My dog already knew how to crawl, wave, high-five, spin, shake, rollover, bow, and sit pretty, but I was searching for something new to teach him. I remembered seeing horses do this on cue and finding it adorable. I decided it would be Bugsy’s next trick, but I never imagined how useful it would be.
It began as a trick, which are behaviors I ask dogs to do on cue just for fun, but I began to use it functionally in an ever-increasing number of contexts. Bugsy already had a solid “stay” and knew how to “wait” (pause and refrain from going forward until given permission) when asked. Still, there were many situations in which telling him to “back up” was more helpful.
Dogs can sometimes get in the way, and asking them to “back up” solves the problem. I’m thinking of situations such as when I’m trying to open the front door, the pantry or the fridge and there are many pounds of lovable canine filing the space I need.
Being able to tell a dog to back away from a trash can, the dishwasher, another dog’s food bowl, a toy, or anything found on a walk that looks gross or even dangerous is so useful. It’s true that the cue “leave it” will also work in those contexts. However, having a dogs create physical distance between themselves and the forbidden object sometimes helps them resist temptation. “Leave it” only tells most dogs that they may not grab something, but it gives them no help deciding what to do instead. The cue to “back up” instructs them with a specific incompatible behavior to perform. (A dog cannot simultaneously approach the dishes in the dishwasher and back away from them.)
There’s really no end to the situations in which asking your dog to “back up” is useful. I’ve used it when I need a dog to move away from a child or a person who does not love dogs, out of a crowded kitchen, out of my way as I carry a large pile of blankets that prevents me from seeing where I am stepping, away from a freshly painted fence, away from a swinging door, a swing or a car door, and away from an intersection with skateboarders flying by too close for comfort. I’ve asked dogs who were carrying large sticks to back away from people just for safety’s sake, and I’ve used this cue to tell a dog to increase the distance between himself and another dog if I see trouble brewing. It is endlessly practical, and I soon found myself using it way more often than wait or stay.
In addition to its great practicality, “back up” has the appeal of being relatively easy to teach. Start with your dog standing in front of you and attending to you. Move toward your dog calmly. When he takes a step backward, reinforce immediately with a click/treat or a treat. For some dogs, a couple of steps in their direction work best but for other dogs, a slight lean is most effective.
Continue to reinforce your dog for taking a step backward until he is doing it reliably. Then, continue moving toward your dog until he has taken more than one step backwards. Reinforce him for multiple steps. Once he understands that backing up is a way to earn treats, say the cue “back up” before moving toward him, and reinforce him for responding appropriately. With practice you can phase out the motion towards him so that he is backing up in response to the cue alone. You can use a visual cue such as extending your arm towards him instead of the verbal cue or in addition to it.
I use the verbal cue “back up” for this behavior, but other trainers use different ones. A few common cues for this same behavior are “back out”, “get back” and “beep beep.” Any of these cues will work equally well, so choose the one that you like best, keeping in mind that it’s best to avoid using a cue that sounds similar to any cues that your dog already knows for any other behaviors.
Some dogs will respond to your motion towards them by sitting down or by turning around. If your dog is a sitter during this training, try holding a treat a few inches over his head and moving it towards his back end slowly. This causes most dogs to step back rather than sit, and you can then reinforce the behavior. If your dog’s tendency is to turn, try to train him in a narrow hallway or between two large pieces of furniture so that there’s not enough room for him to turn around. Presented with such an obstacle, most dogs will try to back up as an alternative, providing you with an opportunity to reinforce the behavior you are looking for.
Does your dog have a cue that means to back up, and if so, when do you use it?
News: Guest Posts
Bark Readers input needed – animal shelter adoptors, shelter volunteers, shelter leaders & employees –www.surveymonkey.com/s/animalshelteringstudy
As 2013 comes to a close, my husband and I, along with our new dog, Cuddles, are enjoying a week at the beach. Tybee Island, Georgia, is our favorite get-away with plenty of pet-friendly shops, restaurants and dog walking lanes but our vacation this year is bittersweet. We always take our Chihuahua, LeStatt staying in a pet-friendly cottage on the beach but this year is different. We lost our little boy to heart disease several months ago and considered cancelling our plans because it was so difficult to go without him. Then a lost dog wandered into our yard and though we managed to find her owner, Joe and I came home with a Pomeranian named Cuddles. Our vacation experience has been so much more special because we are sharing it with our new dog. I’m sure many Bark readers feel the same way about their companion animals but sadly, many homeless dogs and cats aren’t as lucky. For healthy homeless cats and dogs in shelters across the U.S., the number one cause of death is euthanasia and to help address this problem, I have focused my graduate sociological research on companion animals held in shelters. My current research focuses on gender and leadership in animal sheltering and the impact it has on euthanasia rates. Here is the part where YOU can help me gather data nationwide. I'm looking for animal shelter directors, employees, volunteers and people who have adopted a shelter pet to complete an online survey. If you have a few minutes, read through the information below and click (or copy and paste) the link which will take you to a survey where you can help build this important database!
Leadership in Animal Sheltering Organizations
Be part of an important animal sheltering research study
If you answered YES to these questions, you may be eligible to participate in an online survey on animal sheltering research study. You may also consent to take part in an in-depth interview beyond the survey if you so decide.
The survey will take approximately 15-20 minutes to complete. No names or organizational names are requested unless you wish to be contacted for an individual telephone or internet interview. The purpose of this research study is to examine leadership in animal sheltering organizations and the impact on policies in the sheltering organizations.
This study is being conducted at University of Louisville, Department of Sociology, Louisville, KY 40299. Please call Jennifer Blevins Sinski at 1-502-852-8046 for further information or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Bark Magazine understands the importance of research and data and provided me with the wonderful opportunity to learn more in my capacity as an intern this semester. They work hard to bring their readers the most recent, important research on our canine family members (and our feline friends as well).
What a wonderfully busy and productive semester this has been! The highlight of my experience was attending Best Friends Shelter’s “No More Homeless Pets” conference held in Jacksonville, Florida in October. I'm happy to say that I'm not the only data nerd out there. Judging by the number of sessions held during the NMHP conference that focused on improving data collection for animal sheltering organizations, animal welfare groups understand that data can make or break efforts to “Save Them All.” Granting agencies want to see strong programs that are mission lead, well organized and able to prove effectiveness by data-driven measurement. Organizations like Maddie's Fund, PetSmart Charities and others are working to develop common measurements, assessment and quantitative analysis that can be used throughout the animal welfare community. Community wide collaborative efforts which marry public and non-profit private organizations require a shared data language that can allow all agencies involved to clearly measure effectiveness.
In my own home of Louisville, Kentucky, Louisville Metro Animal Services joined forces with the Kentucky Humane Society and Alley Cat Advocates to develop shared efforts to significantly reduce euthanasia rates of companion animals. This shared data language allowed the community partners to successfully write and fund a major grant awarded by the ASPCA. Now the agencies work together, sharing data and adjusting programming to help move Louisville towards the goal of 90% live release rate.
Learning data speak isn't easy and when saving them all takes most of our time, sometimes data collection isn’t the first thing on our to-do list. But conferences like Best Friends Society's No More Homeless Pets provide opportunities to demonstrate ways to become data guru's and who better to learn from than an organization that truly understands the importance of data speak.
My passion about animal sheltering data was ignited after a truly eye opening experience I had last summer. As part of my research, I submitted open records requests to each of the 120 counties in Kentucky asking for the data that they were mandated to keep by a 2004 law passed in Kentucky. While I found that some counties worked hard to maintain current, accurate records, others struggled to accomplish this. Not because they didn't care but because they hadn't learned the how-to's of data collection. Conferences like 2013 NMHP provide a wonderful opportunity to learn from others in the field; a chance to make connections with organizations that will help develop an industry wide set of "best practices" for data collection. While data isn't as cute and fuzzy as kittens or smell as sweet as puppy breath, it will help to save the lives of puppies and kittens daily.
Thank you for your help with my research!
Jennifer Sinski email: email@example.com
For those of you searching for an antidote to excessive holiday cheer or one New Year’s toast too many— we bring you “hair of the dog” or a drink to combat the hangover. This “dog” takes many forms, most commonly a variation of a Bloody Mary but may also include concoctions of gin, whiskey, tequila or beer. But what is the origin of this curiously named tonic? It can be traced back to medieval times and an abbreviation of the longer phrase “the hair of the dog that bit you.” It is based on the ancient folk treatment for a rabid dog bite of putting a burnt hair of the dog on the wound.
John Heywood, in his 1546 compendium, A dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the Englishe tongue, uses the phrase with a clear reference to drinking:
I pray thee let me and my fellow have
The remedy works with the belief that a small amount of whatever caused the ailment, is also the best cure. While hair of the dog is now dismissed as an effective treatment for rabies, the taking of additional alcohol to cure a hangover has some scientific basis. The symptoms of hangover are partly induced by a withdrawal from alcohol poisoning. A small measure of alcohol may be some temporary relief. Many experience drinkers swear by it, and one can make a case that it does work .. but only for a short time and then you're back to the hangover, only worse. Your body contains an enzyme, alcohol dehydrogenase. It breaks ethanol down into the other chemicals that are making you ill. Adding more alcohol (ethanol) makes your body stop and concentrate on the new alcohol coming in so you do get a brief reprieve, but as soon as that added alcohol gets processed, you're back where you started but with even more toxic chemicals floating around. Unless you intend to keep drinking forever, hair of the dog is a temporary remedy at best. Instead, may we suggest a nice cuddle with your dog for what ails you …?!
Dog's Life: Humane
As we welcome the New Year, I’m still recovering from the holiday season. Along with the usual craziness, animal control officers see more dog bites, more lost dogs, and more owners who pass away and leave pets behind. New Year’s fireworks cause panicked dogs to bolt and holiday celebrations result in more arrests and accidents with dogs needing to be picked up.
I was trying to think of some New Year’s resolutions relating to my own dogs but frankly, they already get lots of attention and exercise and have it pretty darn good. I’m sure they would like to go to the off- leash beach every day instead of every week or two but I have to go to work to buy kibbles so that’s not gonna happen.
Having worked in shelters for 25 plus years, I do have some New Years wishes. On my fantasy wish list is that every dog would have a wonderful home. On my more realistic wish list are some things that even good dog owners can do to improve their dog’s lives and safety. I have also included some things that people can do to help dogs in need in their communities.
If your dog is overweight, now’s a great time to help them reach a healthy weight. Even just being a little chubby reduces a dog’s life span and quality of life. Dogs are just as happy to have a tiny treat as a big one. Substitute healthy treats for fatty ones and cut back on their rations while increasing exercise and stimulation. Check with your vet first and then get those dogs out for a daily walk or better yet, two or more. You’ll improve your own health too. Try agility or join a dog-friendly hiking group. You’ll both feel better. Exercise is a great stress reducer and often improves behavior issues as well.
Even the most beloved of dogs often have behavior problems that could be improved on with good management and training. A well behaved dog is a joy to have around and can be included in more activities. Dogs that pull the leash or are reactive with other dogs are no fun to walk. Work with a trainer or read up on techniques to work on.
An ID tag is a lost dog’s first chance to get home. I will usually return a dog with no fees if they are wearing a tag. Check and see if your dog’s tags have current information and are in good condition. I find that they tend to wear through and drop off every few years. Even people whose dogs never run loose should keep tags on. Accidents happen, doors get left open, fences blow down and dogs get lost.
I would also love to see all dogs microchipped. I have seen some miraculous returns that never would have happened without microchips, including pets that were found years later and returned to owners all because of a microchip.
Consider adopting or fostering a dog in need. It may be one of the most rewarding things you ever do. I am endlessly amazed at all of the wonderful dogs in shelters. Some are near perfection while others are diamonds in the rough that just need a little polishing to really shine. Volunteering for a shelter or rescue is another way to help. Sure it’s hard sometimes, but you can really make a difference for a unwanted dog. If you have grooming or training skills you can make a shelter dog more adoptable. Donating to a spay/neuter program is great bang for your buck as it saves lives by preventing overpopulation. Shelters and rescues can always use donations of blankets, food, money etc. Check with your local shelter to see what their greatest needs are and thank you for making a difference.
New Years Day will find me at our annual walk at a local off-leash beach. Lots of friends come with dogs of every size and shape and everyone has a blast. I hope you have lots of fun things planned as well and that 2014 is the best yet for you and your dogs.
What are you going to do to make life sweeter for your own dogs or dogs in need in the next year?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Mexico to roll out pet food tax in January
Starting January 1st, Mexicans will face a 16 percent sales tax on pet food. Previously commercial animal diets were not taxed, along with fresh human foods. Now the Mexican government is desperate to raise money and has declared pet food a luxury item (food for horses and other livestock animals will be excluded from the tax). Protesters have been rallying outside of the Finance Ministry, but the tax is unlikely to be overturned.
Pet food sales average $2.2 billion a year in Mexico, meaning the government stands to profit tremendously from the new tax. Mexico is the world's 10th biggest pet food market, with the U.S. in the top spot, spending more than $20 million annually to feed our dogs and cats.
It's estimated that half of Mexico's pet families use commercial foods, while the rest make their own, typically a mixture of chicken, rice, and tortillas. The new tax will hit low income households the hardest and may cause more people to rely on table scraps for pet food, or even abandon their animals altogether. Some fear that the tax will also create a reluctance to adopt animals, putting an even greater strain on shelters who will already be feeling the financial effects of the food tax.
I understand that the government has to raise money somehow (proposals for taxes on real estate sales and private school tuition were not passed), but I wouldn't consider pet food a luxury item. I could see taxes on the purchase of a pet (versus adopting) or even professional grooming (a tax proposed years ago in Chicago), since they're not essential.
What's your take on the luxury pet food tax?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dog-related plans for 2014
Years ago, my sister’s New Year’s resolution was to give up New Year’s resolutions, and she was one of the few people who stuck to her plan. (Success rates are generally less than 10%.) Her secret was resolving to do something that she wanted to do anyway. If your resolutions for 2014 are dog-related, make success more likely by choosing to focus on one or a few things that are of real interest to you.
Simple ideas for dog-related resolutions are plentiful. Here are 10 possibilities.
1. Leave that cell phone in your pocket on walks so that you are truly present and spending time with your dog. It’s the time you spend together that builds the relationship, and this is one of the easiest ways to enjoy each other’s company.
2. Try a new activity with your dog. Classes in agility, tracking, fly ball are common in many areas. Hiking, weight pulling, dock jumping, herding, lure coursing and canine freestyle are just a few of the other possibilities.
3. Provide better nutrition for your dog. This is a big task for most of us, but even a few simple steps can make a difference. Try a higher quality dog food, add fresh vegetables to your dog’s diet or vow to measure your dog’s food for every meal so there’s no risk of overfeeding.
4. Give back to the canine community. There are so many ways to help out such as walking an elderly neighbor’s dog, volunteering at a shelter or rescue, fostering a dog, or giving money to an organization that improves the lives of animals.
5. Teach your dog something new. Practical training skills such as walking nicely on a leash, waiting at the door or a solid stay all pay big dividends. Other possibilities are to teach your dog a new game so you can play together more. Fetch, tug, find it, hide and seek, and chase games are all options, though depending on your dog, not every game may be a good fit.
6. Make plans for your dog in the event that you die first. Financial planning so you can provide for your dog when you are no longer here as well as making arrangements for someone to be the guardian for your dog are two important steps.
7. Give your dog more exercise. This can be daunting so plan to make one small improvement to start. Perhaps add 10 minutes to a weekend walk or set up a play date with a dog buddy a couple of times a month. When it comes to increasing activity, every little bit helps, so taking one step in the right direction is a wonderful goal at this, or any, time of year.
8. Take better care of your dog’s teeth. Consult with your veterinarian about a dental cleaning or about brushing at home. Dental care helps improve overall health and can make your dog’s breath more pleasant, too.
9. Make plans in case of a medical emergency. Whether it is putting aside a little in savings each month or investigating pet insurance, the peace of mind that you’ve got it covered in the event of an emergency is worth a lot.
10. Go new places with your pet. Novelty is great fun for most dogs, so try to go a few new places this year. Perhaps a new pet store or a new hiking trail will provide your dog with an experience that is really enjoyable.
Love them or hate them, New Year’s resolutions are common this time of year. Do your plans for 2014 include any dog-oriented New Year’s resolutions?
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