Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Sometimes toys aren’t fun
I woke up in the middle of the night with every intention of quietly having a drink of water. Unfortunately, I landed on a particularly loud squeaky toy and managed to disturb everyone’s sleep. A few days before that, I got out of bed and stepped on a dog toy that is not designed for the underside of delicate human feet. I woke everybody up that time, too, and not because the toy was noisy. No, it was me that made the racket as I uttered the sorts of phrases that make films lose their PG ratings.
Ahh, dog toys. I love them except when I don’t, and then I hate them. Obviously, it would be wise to clean them up at night, and we usually do. We are a work in progress, and improving all the time. We’re just not improving fast enough to stop me from causing trouble.
And it’s not just at night that dog toys can be a problem. I am perfectly capable of nearly spraining my ankle on a toy or sliding across the room on one during daylight hours. (I’m just gifted that way.) I don’t know why dogs don’t seem to have this problem. In my experience, when they pounce on toys or make noise with them, they meant to do so.
I’m seeking sympathy. Who else has had an accident with a dog toy?
Here’s an innovative idea from The Lost Dogs’ Home shelter in Australia. In their “Human Walking Program” campaign they are putting a spin on who is adopting whom in the dog+human equation. So at this event it was the dog who is “walking” the human, in this case office workers, in Melbourne’s business district. The campaign was aimed at getting desk-bound people out at a park away from their computers, and out being walked by lovely, adoptable dogs. The shelter was hoping to change the public’s perception of shelter dogs! Very effective campaign, don’t you think?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Axel helped Jason Haag reclaim his life and family
When Purple Heart recipient Captain Jason Haag came home after three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, he faced a much tougher battle at home--post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Jason suffered from nightmares, panic attacks, and thoughts of suicide. He spent a year and a half locked up in his basement with the windows blacked out, turning to a heavy use of alcohol and two dozen types of medication. The worse part was the way the 34 year old pushed away his family, screaming at his kids and even once choking his wife.
After Jason's wife threatened to leave, he was desperate for a solution that would help him regain his life. Jason then discovered K9s for Warriors, a Florida group that trains shelter pups to serve veterans with PTSD. Jason traveled to their headquarters to meet his new canine partner, Axel, and participate in a three-week training program. Afterwards, Jason was able to reconcile with his family and reclaim some sense of normalcy.
"There's no doubt in my mind that if it wasn't for Axel, I'd be six feet underground now," said Jason, "I'd have become a PTSD statistic."
PTSD affects an estimated 30 percent of America's war veterans, with one committing suicide almost every hour, a startling number.
Shari Duval started K9s for Warriors after her son, Brett Simon, a bomb-dog handler, returned from Iraq with PTSD. The dogs are trained to carry out specific tasks to lessen symptoms. For instance, the dogs can perform “block and center” moves to provide a sense of protection the veterans in public. The pups can also recognize panic and anxiety attacks. Donors fund all expenses related to the program except travel costs to and from Florida, and the ongoing care for the dogs once they go home.
To date K9s for Warriors has graduated 127 teams with a 95 percent success rate. The program's dogs have helped veterans reconnect with their families and with society, facilitated returning to the workforce, and reduced the reliance on medication by as much as 80 percent.
Jason's life was so transformed by Axel that he now serves on the board of K9s for Warriors to help spread the word about PTSD and the benefit of service dogs.
"I think I'll be in recovery for the rest of my life," said Jason. "But my goal now is just to save as many veterans' lives by spreading the word about service dogs and providing hope that there's a chance of recovery."
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
During one of my morning walks through the shelter kennel, I noticed a swelling in the belly of a little stray dog. I stepped closer and she growled and showed her teeth. “It’s ok doll,” I soothed, offering a treat. She continued to growl and I opened the kennel and came in and sat on the floor. She retreated to the far side of the kennel while I sat quietly for a few minutes, hoping to gain her trust. No such luck. She flicked her lips up to show me her teeth every time I so much as glanced her way. From my vantage point on the kennel floor I could see the definite signs of pregnancy. The enlarged mammary glands and distended belly suggested that she was within a week or two of delivery. Poor thing must have been terrified.
Each day I tried to make friends with the little dog. So many of these little dogs calm right down once they see that they aren’t hurt. Not this girl, she was only about 8 pounds but if she couldn’t get at me she grabbed her blanket with all the ferocity of a rabid grizzly and shook it till I thought her little eyes would bug out of her head. Within a week she delivered 5 puppies so I decided to foster the litter thinking mama would come around away from the shelter. At home I settled her into a cozy kennel in my garage. It’s got a dog door to a small private yard so she didn’t have to deal with my dogs or the people in the household. I named her Amber, for her golden coat and big amber colored eyes and each day I hand fed her canned food, in hopes of bringing her around. She gave me a hostile stare while gobbling the food but then as soon as it was gone she would try to bite. I sat with her for hours, tried every possible delicious treat I could think of, cooked for her etc. Nothing. Not one iota of improvement. “You’re a tough little nut aren’t you,” I said softly as she glared at me.
As the weeks went by, I was fascinated and disturbed by her behavior. Even a completely feral dog I had once rescued grew to trust me after a few days. The feral dog never ever wanted to be touched but she took food cheerfully and followed me around with a wagging tail and a big doggy smile. I left Amber’s puppies alone as much as possible, hoping to avoid stressing her out even more but every few days I would cover my hand with a towel and reach in and pick up each baby for a moment and examine them to make sure they were healthy and gaining weight. Amber would grab the towel in her teeth and shake it violently, snarling horribly the whole time.
After 5 weeks of Amber being a terror I approached her kennel one morning and got the surprise of my life. I stood in stunned silence for a moment as Amber wiggled and wagged and greeted me happily. I felt a strange sense of the surreal. I opened the kennel door and reached in and picked her up. It was obvious that I was perfectly safe as she licked my face and wiggled happily in my arms. I’ve had dogs that came around really quickly in the past, some even going from snarls to cuddles in minutes but never one who spent 5 weeks trying to sever my jugular and then decide I’m their best friend the next day. With a sense of amazement, I cuddled her for a few more minutes before leaving her with her babies and heading to work.
Not all dogs come around but once Amber made the switch, I probably could have done anything to her without being bitten. Her puppies were all adopted quickly but Amber was more of a challenge as she was still a terror with some new people. It took a while but I finally found an amazing home with my friend Luann, who is a dog trainer. Amazingly, Luann started agility with Amber and she turned into a total dynamo, racking up agility titles right and left. Amber now lives the life of a beloved and adored companion, sleeping on the bed and cuddling with Luann when she’s not doing agility.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
More airlines will be required to track injuries, losses, and deaths.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) recently passed a new rule that will require more airlines to report incidents involving animals. Although all airlines must report when a pet is hurt, gets lost, or dies on a U.S. flight, the law only applies to animals kept in a family household.
Currently only 14 airlines are required to report incidents involving any animal, but as of January 1, 2015, that number will increase to 27. The new legislation also covers animals in commercial shipments, which means the DOT will collect data on dogs shipped by breeders.
Last year, the DOT reported a total of 42 incidents involving animals, down from 58 in 2012. However, because airlines seem to underreport pet incidents, it's hard to have confidence in those numbers.
While the system is far from perfect, reporting more of this information can only be beneficial to traveling animals. I always assumed the law tracking pets included all animals and was shocked to learn that an injury, loss, or death could go unreported. I hope that the stricter requirements will encourage airlines to develop safer ways to transport animals.
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Avoiding aggression can look silly
At first glance, these dogs seem comical as they bark and display at each other through the fence. It’s obvious that they could move over just a few inches and actually reach their opponent. Yet both of them determinedly stay where there’s a fence between them and display rather than move over and fight in the open.
Their behavior shows a lot of self-control and a disinclination to fight. Dogs often choose not to be aggressive when they have another option. It reminds me of the importance of avoiding situations in which dogs have no way out. The fence gives these dogs an out—a way to avoid being aggressive.
Neither of these dogs wants to fight. They are both showing a common sign of fearfulness—the fear grimace, which is when they pull back the corners of their mouths. The fear grimace is a facial expression that allows us to see many of the dogs’ teeth, which is why it looks so menacing to us, but it is a behavior that indicates fear. In addition, the dog on the left approaches with its weight back and continues to lean back rather than charge forward. That is also a sign of a dog who is afraid rather than confident in the situation.
I have seen this type of fence fighting behavior before, and have had many people share stories with me of similar situations. Once, I even saw two dogs run along opposite sides of a fence barking, and then, when they unexpectedly come to a break in the fence, head back to the fence and continue fence fighting, all in a charmingly synchronized way.
It looks funny, but I think they both deserve gold stars rather than laughter for their behavior. Good for them for avoiding violence and handling the situation with some visual and vocal displays instead. I wish people chose this route more often. Dogs who choose fence fighting over actual fighting deserve our admiration, not our disdain, though I must admit I always have to fight the urge to laugh anyway.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Vienna Scientists are applying immunotherapy to canines
The last time my Sheltie, Nemo, needed a complicated surgery, I was in awe of the advancements in veterinary technology. Our pets benefit from many life saving procedures brought over from human medicine, but cancer immunotherapy has never been one of them. This treatment has been used successfully in people for about 20 years and uses antibodies to inhibit tumor growth and even trigger the destruction of cancer cells. Now the technology is finally being applied to dogs.
For the first time, scientists at the Messerli Research Institute of the Vetmeduni Vienna and the University of Vienna have developed antibodies to treat cancer in dogs. The lead researchers, Josef Singer and Judith Fazekas, discovered that a receptor frequently found on human tumor cells (epidermal growth factor receptor or EGFR) is nearly 100 percent identical with the EGF receptor in dogs.
Still, the human antibody had to be trimmed to "dog" in the laboratory to ensure the best possible binding of the antibody to canine cancer cells. The process is called "humanization," named when the original mouse antibody was adjusted for human use. The initial experiments showed that the customization was successful and the next step will be to conduct clinical studies to treat affected dogs. The antibody used in this study is primarily used for human bowel cancer and will be used for mammary ridge cancer in dogs.
Immunotherapy also has the ability to aid in diagnosis, making this technology even more valuable. Antibodies can be coupled with signal molecules to make tumors and metastases visible to doctors. The doctors also hope that exploring canine therapy will lead to improvements in human medicine too.
It's great to see successful collaborations between human and canine doctors. Hopefully these joint efforts will one day lead to a treatment for all cancers.
This is another amazing rescue video from Hope For Paws and Eldad Hagar, one of its founders. In this one an exhausted dog, who had been living on the streets in LA and who had avoided other rescue attempts, was simply too tired this time. And while he was definitely stressed by the net, soon after, as you will see on this video, the adorable pup was basking in the love and attention given to him by his rescuers. Kudos to Hope For Paws once again.
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Tournament locations inspire one coach
We all like to remember our successes, and one World Cup soccer coach chose his dogs’ names accordingly. Born in Argentina, José Pékerman was chosen to coach the under-20 Argentine national team in the FIFA World Youth Championship. The appointment was a surprise to many, but criticism stopped after the team won the championship three times. They won in Qatar (1995), in Malaysia (1997), and in Argentina (2001).
The coach’s dogs are named in honor of these three victories. Qatar, Malaysia and Argentina are loved by their guardian, who no doubt enjoys saying their names and remembering those championships.
Pékerman is now a citizen of Colombia and the coach of the Colombian national team. They made it to the quarterfinals in the FIFA 2014 World Cup in Brazil before being eliminated last week. That is the country’s best showing ever, so the tournament was a success. I doubt it was enough of a success for Coach Pékerman to name a new dog Brazil after the country hosting the World Cup though, since it was the Brazilian team that defeated them and sent them home.
AB 1810 signed into law by California Gov. Brown
California—An important new bill has passed protecting abandoned animals has been signed into law in the state of California. AB 1810 removes a state mandate to euthanize any animal abandoned at an animal care facility, including veterinary offices, spay/neuter clinics, animal hospitals, and grooming facilities, if a new home is not found within 24 days. Additionally, AB 1810 provides more flexibility to achieve positive outcomes for these animals by permitting animal care facilities to turn the animals over to a local shelter—an option that is strictly prohibited under current law. Sponsored by Assemblyman Brian Maienschein (R-San Diego), AB 1810 was passed unanimously by both houses of the California Legislature and was recently signed by Gov. Brown. “Abandonment should not be a death sentence for animals,” Kevin O'Neill, senior state director of ASPCA Government Relations for the Western region, said. “Dogs and cats at spay/neuter clinics, veterinary offices, or any of California's many other care facilities should not face certain death simply because their owner fails to pick them up. It is imperative that we do all we can to ensure positive outcomes for these animals, and AB 1810 will do just that.”
Copyright © 1997-2017 The Bark, Inc. Dog Is My Co-Pilot® is a registered trademark of The Bark, Inc