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News: Guest Posts
You are Invited to a Canine Science Conference
with free live streaming

If you think I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, Thank You!

That means you stopped by Dog Spies in May 2013 and read a post with the same title. But that was #SPARCS2013, and this is #SPARCS2014; same concept, different location, topics and speakers. During this year’s 3-day event, June 20-22 2014, leading canine researchers will cover three general areas of research that get at the core of what it’s like to be a dog:

Topics that many dogs are sometimes better acquainted with than their humans:

SPARCS is a unique venture organized by Prescott Breeden of The Pawsitive Packleader, Seattle Dog Training and Arizona State University Canine Science Collaboratory. From June 20-22, 2014, anyone in the world can see some of the leading canine science researchers in action — either in-person in Newport, RI, or via free Live Stream to your living room (or bathroom, if that’s where you prefer to take your canine science).

SPARCS is short for the Society for the Promotion of Applied Research in Canine Science, which aptly summarizes the conference goals: (1) to promote research and education in canine science, and (2) to provide a platform for leading minds in canine science to present, discuss and debate modern behavior science. It is an international initiative to discuss what is known (and not known) about dog behavior, biology and cognition. No hooey included.

As a new addition to #SPARCS2014, Do You Believe in Dog? — featuring myself and fellow canine researcher Mia Cobb — will moderate. In conferences, I find that all the great info being discussed moves very fast. A question pops into your mind and you need clarification, but the speaker is already on the next topic.

At #SPARCS2014, Do You Believe in Dog? will act as your pause button, fielding questions and expanding on speaker content. We’ll monitor questions and comments on social media, moderate the daily panel at the end of each day (posing your pressing questions and diving into hot-button topics), and we’ll hold post-talk interviews with each speaker (of course, speakers should be prepared to field questions on Ryan Gosling and his dog). We’re putting a large emphasis on engaging both the live and online audiences, so follow along at @DoUBelieveInDog and #SPARCS2014.

Here are the #SPARCS2014 featured speakers along with their respective talks topics. Visit the conference webpage for talk abstracts and learning goals:

Ray Coppinger, PhD
Aggression: Not a unitary behavior.

Why do breeds of dogs behave differently? –> Julie comment: No simple answer here!

Simon Gadbois, PhD
The neuroscience, ethology and semiotics of social behaviour: Get your ethograms and semiograms ready! –> Julie comment: If you know what an ethogram is (without googling it!) I’ll give you a gold star! Here’s a brief introduction to ethograms at Do You Believe in Dog?

Applied canine olfactory processing: What trainers need to know beyond learning theory.

It is not what you like, but what you want that counts: The neurochemistry of behaviour and motivation.
 

Sam Gosling, PhD

Overview of research on temperament and personality of dogs.
 

Kathryn Lord, PhD

Barking and conflict.
 

Patricia McConnell, PhD

 I see what you’re saying: Translating conflict-related visual signals.

Coyotes, Koalas and Kangaroos: What the behavior of other animals can teach you about your dog –> Julie comment: I haven’t seen a talk with this scope before!

James Serpell, PhD

 Individual and breed differences in aggression

What the C-BARQ can tell us about human temperament –> Julie comment: C-BARQ stands for Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire. Get acquainted with it here.

The influence of owner/handler personality on the behavior of dogs
 

Monique Udell, PhD

Integrating ethology, learning theory & cognition in animal training
 

Clive Wynne, PhD

Does the name Pavlov ring a bell? –> Julie comment: I’m sure trainers and owners want to know, “Do some approaches to dog behavior have more of a basis in learning theory than others?”

Prescott Breeden, BM, CCS

The phenotype of molecules: Why nature vs. nurture is the wrong question  –> Julie comment: And the right question is…

#SPARCS2014 also features short presentations from emerging researchers. Check out the SPARCS Facebook page for speakers and topics.

Each year, the SPARCS conference and initiative is made possible by you. “Donations are absolutely optional however graciously appreciated.” Check out donation and membership opportunities.

Stay in touch with the SPARCS initiative on Facebook and Twitter.

Did you catch #SPARCS2013? Maybe you watched the Free Livestream or even attended in person. What was it like? And what are you looking forward to at #SPARCS2014?

This article first appeared on Dog Spies, Scientific American. Used with permission.

 

News: Editors
Are There Differences Between Dog and Cat People?

All of the theorizing on the differences between dog lovers and cat lovers has some new research to fuel the rivalry. A new study led by Denise Guastello, an associate professor of psychology at Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin, suggests that “dog people” and “cat people” are quite distinct in their personalities.

People who said they were dog lovers in the study tended to be more lively—meaning they were more energetic and outgoing. They also tended to follow rules closely. Cat lovers, on the other hand, were more introverted, more open-minded and more sensitive than dog lovers. Cat people also tended to be non-conformists, preferring to be question rather than follow the rules. All within reasonable assumptions, but here’s the kicker … the study shows cat owners scoring higher on intelligence than dog lovers.

Study researcher Guastello attributes some of these personality differences to the types of environments cat or dog people prefer. “It makes sense that a dog person is going to be more lively, because they’re going to want to be out there, outside, talking to people, bringing their dog,” Guastello said. “Whereas, if you’re more introverted, and sensitive, maybe you're more at home reading a book, and your cat doesn’t need to go outside for a walk.”

The researchers surveyed 600 college students, asking whether they would identify themselves as dog lovers or cat lovers, and what qualities they found most attractive in their pets. Participants also answered a slew of questions to assess their personality.

More people said they were dog lovers than cat lovers: About 60 percent of participants identified themselves as dog people, compared with 11 percent who said they were cat people. (The rest said they liked both animals, or neither animal.)

Dog lovers found companionship to be the most attractive quality in their pet dogs, whole cat people liked the affection from their cats. Because the study involved college students, it’s not known whether the results apply to other age groups, Guastello said. But previous studies have had similar findings. A 2010 study of more than 4,500 people found that dog lovers tend to be more extroverted (or outgoing), and conscientious (or rule-following).

It is to be noted that we could not find out just how the intelligence differential was measured, but it seems highly suspect considering all the factors that would need to be accounted for to get an accurate IQ assessment.

News: Guest Posts
Southern Dog Rescues

J. Courtney Sullivan writes a lot of great things in her New York Times op-ed “Adopt a Dog With a Southern Drawl.” In fact, she covers a lot of the same ground that I detailed in my award-winning 2012 book Little Boy Blue: A Puppy’s Rescue from Death Row and His Owner’s Journey for Truth. Like Sullivan’s beloved pooch Landon, my boy Blue, too, was an adorable puppy with mere hours to live in a Southern facility before a rescue group scooped him up and transported him to the safety of my adoptive home in New Jersey. I traced Blue’s path to very spot where he once was caged a few steps from a gas chamber, and I know the sense of relief all too well that Sullivan describes—and that is felt daily by the many thousands of us who have opened our hearts and homes to these wonderful dogs.

There is, however, one word in Sullivan’s op-ed with which I must take issue. She writes: “Three years ago, at 8 weeks old, he was hours from being euthanized in an animal control facility in Tennessee.” The word euthanized is inaccurate, and its pervasive use in news coverage only shades the reality of what is happening daily with easy-to-adopt dogs and puppies like Landon and Blue.

Euthanize means to end a life as a means of ending incurable pain or suffering. Giving a dog a lethal injection when he’s 16 years old and stricken with bone cancer may qualify as euthanasia, but killing a friendly, healthy puppy like Landon or Blue most certainly does not. The reason South-to-North rescue transports have exploded in number since about 2008 is that what’s going on in some animal control facilities is pure and simple killing for convenience. Calling this killing euthanasia is an act of ignorance. Euthanasia is a polite word for a horrific reality when it comes to what is happening to these dogs and puppies.

I can’t speak for Landon, but in Blue’s case, the taxpayer-funded facility (please don’t call it a shelter) where he was dumped had a year-after-year kill rate of about 95 percent—an adoption rate of just 5 or 6 percent each year—unless private rescue groups were able to intervene. More than 500 communities across America are now showing every day that the reverse of those figures is possible, that homes can be found for more than 90 percent of the dogs who enter such facilities. Having sky-high kill rates has nothing to do with euthanasia. It also, in some cases, has nothing to do with a lack of resources other than human will. In Blue’s case, as his expiration date approached, he was sitting in a $562,954 kennel addition less than a decade old.

So while I congratulate Sullivan on her op-ed and agree with its content, and while I praise the New York Times for running it to raise awareness, I would ask that all of us writing about this situation strike the word euthanasia from our vocabulary. How we tell this story affects the way readers understand it, and sugar-coating reality doesn’t do anybody any good, especially the dogs still in the cages who will never experience the wonderful lives that Langdon and Blue enjoy.

Learn more about “Little Boy Blue” at www.little-boy-blue.info.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Humble Shelter Funded Online
A nine year old boy starts a rescue organization in the Philippines
Only nine years old, Ken has wanted to start an animal shelter for as long as he can remember to help the many stray dogs and cats in the Philippines. Ken talked about his dream so much that he was really starting to get on his dad's nerves. His father told him that only grown ups could raise enough money and that it would take 20 years to do so. Boy did Ken prove his dad wrong!

Ken started feeding the stray animals around his home and in February, pictures of his humble efforts were passed around on the internet. Soon donations started pouring in from all over the world. Ken used the funds to build a temporary shelter in his family's garage, purchase kibble, and pay for veterinary care. He named the makeshift shelter The Happy Animals Club. Two months later the three dogs he took in, Blackie, Brownie, and White Puppy, are healthy and learning to trust people. They will be up for adoption soon.

Now the Happy Animals Club will be able to help every more dogs and cats. Earlier this month, Ken used donations totaling 66,000 pesos ($1,500) to lease a 10,000 square foot lot for one year. 

  Now that a larger space has been secured, Ken's has set two goals for The Happy Animals Club. The main focus will be to rescue dogs from the city pound and to increase adoption rates. A local official recently said that most dogs there are euthanized because only 20-30 percent of the animals are claimed most people in the Philippines want pure bred pups.

Ken sounds like a mature and ambitious nine year old. I have no doubt that there are big things in store for Ken and can't wait to see the future of The Happy Animals Club develop!

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Quite a Catch!
Beagle looks ready for the big leagues

Seeing a dog catch balls is common, but seeing one do it with her paws is not. Purin is a Beagle who has the ability to trap a ball like she’s wearing a baseball glove. Her dexterity and balance are both impressive, and it’s fun to watch what she can do.

Interestingly, though her body seems relaxed, and she seems happy most of the time, she follows roughly half of the 13 catches in this video with a tongue flick, which can be a sign of low level stress.

I’m not sure why Purin is tongue-flicking, because she does seem to be generally enjoying the game of catch, and does not show any signs of serious distress. She leaps up joyfully towards the trainer after most catches and generally seems at ease while waiting for the ball to be thrown to her.

Do you think she is having a good time or not?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Should a Biter Be Rehabilitated?
Calls come in to rescue an internet sensation
Tara the cat body slamming the attacking dog.
Earlier this month Tara the cat became an internet sensation after a video of her body slamming a child biting dog went viral. The kitty has been famous ever since and was even invited to "throw" the first pitch at a minor league ballgame. But Tara wasn't the only one who garnered attention from the security camera footage.

The Labrador-Chow mix that bit the 4-year old boy was put down this weekend, but not before a rush of concerned animal lovers expressed interest in saving the pup. An online petition and several web sites popped up advocating to get the dog off death row. The shelter was also flooded with calls from potential adopters and rescue organizations pledging to reform the dog's behavior.

Julie Johnson, the Director of the Bakersfield Animal Care Control, was concerned that the shelter fielded so many calls for one dog when they have 200 other homeless pups that haven't bit anyone.

I do believe it is possible to change aggressive behavior, but spending resources on this dog means less time and money for several other animals, without behavioral challenges. In a perfect world, we'd rehabilitate the Labrador-Chow mix, but the reality is that we have limited space in our shelters, coupled with an overpopulation problem.

Although it feels wrong to make decisions on which dogs should be given a second chance, it seems only responsible to prioritize the strategy that will save the most animals.

What's your take?

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Home Away From Home
Creating a familiar kennel environment

The goal of having dogs be in a home away from home when we travel without them is a common goal. In the case of this Norwegian family, the man surprised his wife and kids as well as his Bulldog Igor, by literally building a home away from home.

It’s hard to say how big a difference this replica of their home made for Igor. There’s no doubt he can tell the difference between his home and his kennel. One of the best aspects of home is that his human family is there, and they were absent from the kennel. On the other hand, the familiarity of the objects and furniture in the new place were certainly likely to make him feel more at home, at ease and less stressed by the change.

The benefit to the human family members was also huge. Often the stress of leaving a dog at a kennel is more pronounced in the human family members than in the dog. When this man’s wife and kids saw that Igor was going to be in a place so much like home, they probably felt better about the whole situation.

The love of this man for his dog and the rest of the family is striking. I’m happy for Igor that he is in this family. The fact that such an effort was made on his behalf when they took a vacation suggests that this dog is never wanting for love, affection and thoughtfulness.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dogs Reduce E. Coli on Beaches
Study looks at the role of Border Collies in disease prevention.
Border Collie Photo by Tambako The Jaguar

Every year high E. coli levels shut down hundreds of beaches around the world. The bacteria is the leading cause of shore closures. While the prevalence of the microorganism is largely due to rainwater runoff and sewage, seagull droppings have been found to be responsible not only for high E. coli levels, but for spreading multi-drug resistant bacteria in multiple countries including Sweden, France, Portugal, Siberia, Greenland, and the United States. Researchers have found that resistance factors identified in seagull feces match those that cause highly resistant infections in humans.

Scientists have been looking for a way to keep curb seaside E. coli levels and Border Collies may just be the answer. A study led by Dr. Elizabeth Alm from Central Michigan University assigned the herding dogs, normally charged with keeping sheep in line, to chasing seagulls on the shores of Lake Michigan. Ring-Billed gull numbers have increased by 10 percent each year since the 1970's, creating all kinds of microorganism related problems.

Throughout the summers of 2012 and 2013, the dogs were trained to keep the gulls from landing on the beach while researchers tested water and sand samples for E. coli. The team found that bacterial counts were significantly lower on the beaches where the dogs were working. They also learned that timing is crucial. Dr. Alm found that if the dogs didn't curb the seagulls in the beginning of the season, E. coli would establish and could not be reduced.

It sounds like there's a lot more research to be done, but the Border Collies seem to be a humane solution for keeping beaches open and people healthy. 

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Emergency Shelter Doesn’t Accept Dogs
Local humane association offers free pet care
We're headed to the same place, right?

People in Arizona who have to evacuate on short notice because of the Slide Fire in Oak Creek Canyon between Sedona and Flagstaff are not able to bring their pets to the Red Cross shelter at Sinagua Middle School. Luckily, the Coconino Humane Association about a block away will care for pets whose guardians have evacuated. Dogs will be housed in kennel runs, be provided a blanket, food and water and have time in the yard. (Cats are also being accepted and provided with the care that they need.) The service is completely free.

When shelters do not accept pets, people may resist evacuation. Luckily, in this case, there is a contingency plan for families with four-legged members. Obviously, being able to remain together would be preferable, but at least families have an option other than refusing to evacuate or sleeping in their car.

Ideally, shelters would be equipped to care for people AND their pets in emergency situations. As a society, we have a long way to go in this area, but things are better than they were even a decade ago. Aid organizations have learned that failure to provide for pets prevents people from leaving a potential hazardous situation. (Let us never forget Hurricane Katrina!)

Have you ever been faced with an evacuation situation that required you to choose between doing what was safest for yourself and doing what you needed to do for your dog?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Rescued Service Dog Dials 9-1-1
Pit bull/Lab mix saves a Ohio veteran by summoning the police.
Terry McGlade relies on his service dog, Major, to life a fully independent life. The Pit Bull/Lab mix warns him about oncoming seizures and helps with everyday tasks (Major can even check to make sure all the doors in the house are locked!).

Unfortunately Terry's story is all too common. He has suffered from PTSD and memory loss ever since being wounded by a roadside bomb during his third military tour in the Middle East. But he's fortunate to have Major who has saved Terry's life not once, but twice, most recently with a miraculous act of loyalty.

Terry was getting ready to take Major for a walk when he experienced a seizure in their backyard. After he collapsed on the ground, Major flew into action removing Terry's cell phone from his pocket and placing his paws on the screen. A function was turned on that dials 9-1-1 when the screen is held down for a period of time. After calling the emergency line several times and hanging up, the police were able to track their location in Zanesville, Ohio. When the police arrived, Major was waiting at the front of the house and directed them to where McGlade was still seizing.

Terry credits Major with saving his life and says it's not the first time. Dealing with PTSD has been a struggle and if it wasn't for the companionship and help from Major, Terry feels that he could have easily become another veteran suicide statistic.

Even more impressive, Major is a shelter pup! He came from Stiggy's Dogs, a group that specializes in training rescue dogs to place with veterans. What a cool organization that facilitated this incredible match!

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