Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Service pups walks in a Michigan high school's graduation
At Freedom Christian High School in Hudsonville, Michigan, 35 students walked for graduation this year, joined by one very special service dog.
High school senior Desi has cerebral palsy and was home schooled until she got Walton, four years ago. The Golden Retriever's main job is to help Desi walk and steady her if he senses she's about to fall. Desi doesn't know how she functioned before Walton, but he now gives her the independence that other kids take for granted.
Desi gives Walton all the credit for helping her get through high school and wanted to honor him with his own cap and gown. During the graduation ceremony, both of their names were called and Walton even carried Desi's diploma in his mouth.
“I think it was a great thing for everybody else to see that he really is part of me and my accomplishments are essentially his,” says Desi. After all, he did attend all of the required classes!
Desi hasn't decided on post-graduation plans, but would love to work at an animal shelter or rescue organization. I wish this wonderful team much luck in whatever Desi decides to pursue next!
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
This quiz sees me differently than I see myself
While wasting time on Facebook yesterday—I’m not proud, but it’s been known to happen—I came across a link to a quiz that an unusually high number of my friends had shared, which piqued my interest. The question this quiz asks is, “What kind of dog were you in a past life?”
I’ve taken a lot of quizzes over the years about what type of dog would best suit me as a pet, but I have yet to look into this mechanism for finding out about my inner self. In a way, that’s surprising, as I have previously described my own children by considering the dog breeds that share their traits. (My oldest is a Greyhound and my youngest is a Vizsla/Irish Setter Mix.) I often try to understand other people by thinking of characteristics that they have in common with various dog breeds, but I had yet to do this with myself.
Therefore, I was eager to see what insights were in store for me. I took the quiz twice because I didn’t feel confident about my answers to all of the questions. It is my opinion that the quiz was not spot on for me in declaring that I was either a Dachshund or an English Bulldog in a past life. On the other hand, what would be the point of such an exercise if it simply churned out an answer I was expecting, such as a Bearded Collie or perhaps some kind of retriever?
What sort of dog do you identify with, and does this quiz view you the same way?
News: Guest Posts
The danger of foxtails grows
The season of ripgut and painful vet bills is here. Foxtails, a longtime scourge in the West, can now be a problem in every state. And climate change may add a twist. Studies find that weeds grow faster under elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide; will migrate northward and are less sensitive to herbicides. A botanist who researched their effects on dogs also warns about a deadly disease.
Sporting dog owners may know it best since field dogs routinely charge into thick brush, where they easily inhale or swallow foxtails, and spend hours in grassy hotspots. But dogs playing in the park or yard, hiking, at a roadside stop; any dog, wherever foxtails live, can develop grass awn migration disease.
It begins with a jagged seed. Of the many kinds of foxtails, both native and non-native, only some have harmful barbs. Among them: foxtail barley, found nationwide except in the South Atlantic and Gulf Coast states, according to the U.S. Forest Service; cheatgrass; giant foxtail, and ripgut brome, named for its effects on livestock. The spring through fall season often starts in May, when the green, bushy awns turn brown and seeds disperse. Their spikes help them burrow into soil or be spread by animals. They can also dig down in fur and puncture skin. The foxtail, which carries bacteria, may then keep tunneling into tissue, carving the dangerous path of infection that marks grass awn disease.
The disease is very difficult to diagnose, says University of Wyoming botanist William K. Lauenroth, who studied its occurrence in ten Midwestern states, where field dog owners believe there’s been a sharp rise in cases. One reason it’s hard to pinpoint is that the infection occurs behind the migrating seed.
Many infections show up as an acute illness, according to the findings of Wisconsin resident Cathy Lewis, whose website meanseeds.com provides case histories and information about foxtails and grass awn disease. In 2013, her Springer Spaniel “XL” developed a mysterious respiratory ailment that required draining fluid from his lungs. It began during an outing in January; not the time of year when foxtails come to mind. But the website of Atascadero Pet Hospital in California says they’ve seen pets with “a recurrent abscess that is ongoing for 2 years and once the foxtail is removed the abscess goes away.”
In fact, no plant material was found to confirm XL’s condition. But Lewis has had several other dogs with grass awn infections and recognized the signs, however vague. Today XL is “doing fine,” Lewis says. “He’s back to running field trials, and placing.” That may be due to how quickly she acted on his symptoms: labored breathing, high temperature and lethargy.
Vets say the dog’s body can’t break down the plant material. Sometimes, a foxtail lodges and causes a localized infection. But when it migrates, its barbs keep it moving on a one-way journey to almost anywhere, even the brain. Organs can be pierced, fungal infection can arise, and bacteria pack an extra punch deep inside the body. Head shaking or muscle movement propels it onward. Breathing can draw it further into nasal passages. Inhaled foxtails can travel from the nasal cavity to the lungs; a common site in working field dogs.
But what about the urban hound or beach bum pup? One study of grass awn migration found the most common site in all dogs was the external ear canal. Others were feet, eyes, nose, lumbar area, and thoracic cavity. Warning signs, if any, include extreme sneezing, head-shaking; coughing; excessive licking of a skin puncture, and a high temperature.
According to Dr. Jeffrey Horn’s veterinary blog, “foxtails are very hard to find due to their small size and because they’re covered with infection and scar tissue, and are completely invisible on X-Rays.”
Sporting dog owners hope to make it easier to diagnose and treat grass awn. Lauenroth, who trains retrievers, pursued the matter with a grant from the AKC and sporting dog groups. They suspect barbed grasses, especially Canada wild rye, planted in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Program have caused more cases. The grasses occur on lands where field dogs train and trial. The program pays farmers to let idle cropland provide ecological services, such as erosion control and wildlife habitat. The farmers plant approved native grasses and comply with mowing restrictions.
Lauenroth found that plenty of Canada wild rye has been planted in the Midwest, and its sharp awn makes it dangerous for dogs. Canada wild rye is also common along the east coast, he says. But the study dried up due to a dearth of definitive diagnoses to draw on. For vets, finding a foxtail seed in a dog is like searching for a needle in a haystack. Lauenroth says he was unable to extract numbers of cases over the past 20 years from the records of veterinary hospitals.
What he found were many “foreign body” cases without resolution. Many of those may have been grass awn disease. A study in 1983 found that grass awn migration in dogs and cats accounted for 61 percent of all foreign body-related cases. Most involved dogs.
To make foxtails more visible, vets often suggest giving dogs a close shave called a foxtail haircut. Others swear by headgear that is truly a pup tent: foxtail hoodies, designed to keep mean seeds out of eyes, ears and mouths.
Lauenroth’s advice is to thoroughly brush and comb after outings. The seeds don’t instantly disappear into the body. Also, get to know the few dangerous grass plants in your area.
In foxtail zones like California, it can also mean getting to know other dog owners: many outings at park and beach end with a festive foxtail-pulling party.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
A new parvo treatment comes from an unlikely source
Canine parvovirus is not only costly to treat, but it's also difficult to keep outbreaks at bay. Though parvo has a high survival rate if treated early, many shelters end up euthanizing pups with the disease because of these challenges. The highly contagious virus is a nightmare for shelters because it spreads so easily and can live on surfaces for months. Thankfully, a lower cost treatment may be on the way, thanks to a most unlikely source.
It all began about a decade ago when a mysterious disease--later identified as the West Nile virus--was killing large goose populations at the South Dakota-based Schiltz Goose Farm. A group of researchers, led by Dr. David Bradley, executive director of the Center of Research Excellence for Avian Therapeutics for Infectious Diseases at the University of North Dakota, discovered antibodies in the yolks of goose eggs that they could purify and put back into other birds as a successful treatment. The Mayo Clinic called their find "game changing."
Soon a company called Avianax was formed to explore whether the treatment could be used beyond geese. They found promising links between the goose antibodies and treatments for other diseases, including rabies, dengue fever, avian flu, and some cancers. Their first focus was on the parvo virus and initial trials on their ParvoONE treatment resulted in a stunning 90 percent cure rate in as little as two days.
Avianax will be running more trials on ParvoONE through November, but if the U.S. Department of Agriculture gives the go-ahead, Avianax plans on selling the treatment next spring for $75 per dose. Avianax is also starting to work on a human application of the antibody treatment for other diseases.
The Bark had a chance to speak with Ken Ramirez about his experience with clicker training and what the future holds for him in his new role as Executive Vice President and Chief Training Officer for KPCT.
The Bark: Why is it important that people successfully train their companion dogs?
Ken Ramirez: There are so many reasons that training is important. It is a critical part of good animal care, just like veterinary care, nutrition and a safe environment. You cannot give animals all they need unless it includes a training program. Good training helps teach animals how to live successfully in our world, and helps to build a strong lasting relationship between people and their pets.
Bark: Tell us about your professional experience with operant conditioning or clicker training.
Ramirez: I began my training career working with guide dogs in a very traditional training environment. However, right out of college I had the opportunity to work with a variety of marine mammals, birds, and big cats in several zoological facilities. That is where I was introduced to the world of positive reinforcement and marker-based training. That experience changed my life as I experienced how powerful this type of training is. Not only is it force-free and fun for the animals, but it assists in developing strong relationships with each animal partner. I went back and re-read all my animal behavior text books, made contact with my professors, and began trying to understand why this type of training was not more wide-spread, except perhaps in the world of marine mammal training. My quest for knowledge exposed me to Karen Pryor and some of her early works. I read every positive reinforcement training article I could find, sought out conferences and training organizations that could forward my knowledge and understanding of effective positive reinforcement training. I had the good fortune to travel to many corners of the world and work with a wide variety of species of animals, and discovered just how universal this technology really is. In 1989 I was hired by the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago to oversee the development of their animal training program. Since joining Shedd, I have had the good fortune to oversee the care and training of more than 32,000 animals representing over 1500 species. I continued to consult with many zoo and aquarium programs worldwide. Then, in 1997, Western Illinois University asked me to develop a graduate course on animal training, which I still teach today. In 1998, I returned to dog training as a consultant to several search and rescue dog teams, which led to my involvement in many other working dog programs including service dogs, law enforcement, and a return to guide dog work. When Karen Pryor decided to start ClickerExpo, she chose Chicago as her inaugural location. She invited me to that Expo as a guest speaker, which led to an invitation to join the faculty the following year, and I have been on the faculty ever since.
Bark: What has been the biggest revelation about this method of training animals?
Ramirez: The biggest revelation for me every time I train an animal is how much they enjoy the process and how it assists in relationship building. Additionally, as someone who began my career more than 35 years ago using more traditional training methods, I always marvel at how well positive reinforcement works and how much stronger and precise behavior is trained in a fun force-free environment.
Bark: Is it your experience that most animals enjoy learning and training exercises?
Ramirez: Absolutely. That’s what makes positive reinforcement so effective—the animal is a willing partner in the process and it is so much fun for them.
Bark: What has you most excited about working with Karen Pryor's clicker training programs?
Ramirez: I am excited about everything that Karen Pryor Clicker Training represents. Karen was an inspiration to me personally as I was seeking good information about the use of positive reinforcement training during the early stages of my career. I am passionate about educating people about the power of positive reinforcement and the beneficial impacts it has on the welfare of the animals in our lives. Each program, whether it be the ClickerExpos, the Karen Pryor Academy, or the production of positive reinforcement books and training tools furthers the education of the public about marker-based positive reinforcement training. I am excited about helping to continue and further the amazing body of work that Karen has produced over the years.
Bark: Do you currently have a dog, cat or other pet?
Ramirez: I have had dogs my entire life. Sadly, my 12-year-old Spaniel that I adopted from a shelter after my first Clicker Expo 11 years ago, recently passed away. I will probably look for my next dog at one of the local Chicago shelters sometime later in the year. However, I established a dog training program with dogs adopted from local shelters at the Shedd Aquarium several years ago, and I consider the four dogs in that program close companions and training partners. These four dogs include a Pit Bull, an Airedale, a Shepherd, and a Lab.
Ken Ramirez is a regular consultant for zoos, oceanariums, and parks around the world. He has held top leadership positions in most of the profession’s associations, including as past president of IMATA (International Marine Animal Trainer’s Association). As part of his leadership, Ken has been involved in the creation of a certification process for animal trainers in zoological settings. He has been featured on television and in the media numerous times, including as host of a popular Australian television series Talk to the Animals. Ken has been on the faculty of KPCT’s ClickerExpo conference since 2005; he also teaches graduate-level courses at Western Illinois University.
Ken began his training career working with guide dogs for the visually impaired and has maintained a close connection to dog training ever since. At the Shedd Aquarium, Ken spearheaded the development of a program to rescue dogs from animal shelters and to train and care for them in order to show the public the transformative power of marker-based positive-reinforcement training. Outside of Shedd, Ken’s canine work includes training for search and rescue, guide and service work, scent detection, animal husbandry, and more.
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Adopting dogs that are unlike what we’re used to
“We’ve always had little lap dogs, but this one is probably part mastiff and part Great Dane. I never thought I’d have a dog bigger than I am!” My neighbor was so enthusiastic about their new dog Thor that she came over specifically to introduce him to me. He is delightful, and the family is so happy. Part of the fun is that this dog is so completely different than every other dog they have ever had. In fact, this dog’s head is about the size of their other dogs.
I’ve met many people who have always had big dogs and then at some point adopted a small one. The reverse situation of my neighbor—a departure from little dogs to acquire a large one—is a little less common, but still not unusual. And many people adopt dogs that are completely different from all their other dogs in ways that go beyond size.
A friend of mine grew up with terriers and continued with them into adulthood. Then, she had a dream about a doing herding trials with a dog. She adopted a Border Collie not long after. I’m not advocating acting on every dog-related dream to guide important life decisions, but in this case, it worked out beautifully. She now has a variety of terriers and herders in her house and it’s a happy home.
Perhaps one of the biggest transitions is to go from quiet dogs who occasionally let out a single half-hearted “woof” to a dog who is a champion barker. If your dogs have previously been of the former variety it can be a shock when you welcome a dog with the vocalization tendencies of breeds like the American Eskimo or the Great Pyrenees. As with so many variations among dogs, personal preferences are all over the place. Some people love to have a dog who alerts then to everything, while other people prefer more peace and quiet.
The energy level of different dogs is another area where transitions can be a shock. If you’ve always had high-energy dogs and now you find yourself living with a couch potato, you may struggle to adjust. However, that is unlikely to be anywhere near as big an issue as the one facing people who have always had dogs who are content to lie around much of the day and now have one who wants to run 20 miles before breakfast.
If your dogs have usually been of the wash-and-go type, with the washing happening no more than a couple of times a year, a dog with high grooming demands will be a big change. Many years ago I met a family who had only had short-haired dogs until they adopted a Bearded Collie who they paid to have groomed about once a month. It can be hard to transition from a no-brushing-required dog to a send-your-groomer-to-Europe dog, but it’s nice that you can hire a professional if you know in your heart that you’re not up to the constant care needed.
Have you ever adopted a dog who was completely different than your usual canine companions?
News: Guest Posts
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
Why do breeds of dogs behave differently? –> Julie comment: No simple answer here!
Simon Gadbois, PhD
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.
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
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
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!
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