A Video Pick of the Week
I was rereading John Pilley’s Chaser, a must-read book about his dog, Chaser, the Border Collie who learned to distinguish over 1000 words. One of the aspects of the book I really enjoyed was his appreciation for Border Collie lore, with a nod to others, like Arthur Allen, the “grandfather of Border Collies,” who wrote the seminal Border Collies in America and went on to “star” in a 1955 Disney movie, Arizona Sheepdog. Pilley mentioned that it’s now available on YouTube, so I just watched it and want to recommend it to every dog lover. It’s my video “pick” of the week!
Granted it is a “staged” Disney film but what Nick and Rock, Allen’s dogs do on this film cannot be directed. It was stunning to see how Nick herds a Navajo child’s pet chipmunk and then goes on to rescue sheep that have fallen into a fast moving river. These are amazing dogs who demonstrate that not only can they problem solve without supervision but they also work cooperatively with each other. This short film is a testament to Allen who has said, “I like a dog that is an individualist; one who thinks for himself and will act without orders.” As the film narrator says, Allen had no doubt that Nick would do his job and bring the sheep back to their flock. That is what they expected he would do and he did it. See it for yourself and let me know what you think.
News: Karen B. London
Unexpected help with cultural adjustment
I am so grateful for the help a couple of dogs recently gave me in the middle of a period of cultural adjustment. This week, my family traveled to Costa Rica, where we will spend the next four months. I love this country, having spent close to a year here over the course of five previous trips. I speak Spanish, but it does not feel at all like using my native language of English, which is effortless and easy. (Hopefully no editors who have ever worked with me will be surprised to read that I consider myself so proficient in English, but that’s a whole different issue.) After 36 hours of speaking Spanish and translating for my husband and kids who are learning Spanish but remain less comfortable with the language, I was exhausted.
We were outside speaking with our neighbor Eduardo when I realized my bilingual brain needed a break. Just then, a couple of dogs from the neighborhood started to play together, and we all paused to watch them. They are small dogs of about 15 pounds, very peppy and extremely playful. They were leaping on one another, playing chase, taking turns in their roles, pausing frequently, performing plenty of play bows and using other play signals, all while maintaining a low and constant level of arousal. It was the kind of beautifully appropriate play session that anyone who has ever taught a puppy class would be ecstatic to observe.
When the dogs came over to me, I was able to interact with them just as I do with dogs anywhere. They responded to the way my body leaned, the tone of my voice, my posture, my energy level, and the direction I moved. The familiarity and lack of uncertainty were exhilarating. I always enjoy meeting friendly new dogs, but in this case, there was an extra perk. I understood what was going on and it was easy to observe and react appropriately. My brain was not translating, and I was not guessing or using context to fill in gaps. I was simply interacting with some new friends.
I’m fond of saying that I understand dogs, but that “canine” is definitely not my first language, which simply means that I’m aware that only dogs can understand dogs as native speakers. And yet, in that moment, I felt more comfortable with the ease of communication with canines than with people in a language other than English. It was such a joy to be with dogs, with whom I am so comfortable and so familiar. It was a surprising gift that these dogs gave to me as I adjust to life in a foreign country. I often find that when I am tired, I am only truly able to converse with ease in my native language, but dog “language” is apparently an exception. Hallelujah for that!
Sometimes we know when dogs will help us feel better and we even expect it: When we are heartbroken but we know that they still love us. When we have a bad day at work and we get to come home to them. When we head out to walk them because it’s the right thing to do, but being out does us every bit as much good. Yet the unexpected times that dogs give us a little lift are some of the best simply because they blindside us. How have dogs unexpectedly helped make you feel better?
News: JoAnna Lou
LAX unleashes a program to destress passengers with canine kisses
San Diego International Airport may have a spiffy new canine bathroom, but Los Angeles World Airport (LAX) has a brand new therapy program. While researching the pet relief area in San Diego, I discovered a really cool program at another California airport--Pets Unstressing Passengers (PUPs) in Los Angeles. The program launched in April, around the same as San Diego's potty area, with a team of thirty therapy dogs tasked with making airport visits more pleasant.
While most dogs at the airport are looking for suspicious packages, these pups, which range from a long-haired Dalmatian to an Irish Wolfhound, are there to ease the stress of travel. The dogs at LAX have to go through an application and certification process to make sure they have good manners and are comfortable in a crowded, hectic environment. The handlers receive training to be mindful of people who may have fears or allergies.
I've never met an airport therapy pup, but apparently it's not a new concept. Mineta San Jose International Airport first introduced a non-official therapy dog in the days after September 11, 2001 when flights were grounded and passengers were stranded (California clearly loves their dogs!). After seeing how stressed and anxious people were, the volunteer airport chaplain got permission to bring his dog, Orion, to work. Orion made such a positive impact that the airport formalized the program and now has nine official therapy pups.
Miami International Airport also has a therapy Golden Retriever named Casey. She has a web site, receives fan mail, and even stars on the reality show Airport 24/7: Miami.
Handlers have found that the therapy dogs instantly put a smile on people's faces and cause stress levels to drop. The pups even help build human connections, encouraging strangers to start talking to each other over a common love of dogs.
I hope I'll meet one of these pups during my next trip to L.A.!
Iams and Eukanuba Brands are affecte
Editors note: Make sure you do not feed your dogs the food on the recall list and also make sure that the store you shop it pulls it from their shelves!
CINCINNATI–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The Procter & Gamble Company (P&G) has voluntarily recalled specific lots of dry pet food because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella. These lots were distributed in the United States and represent roughly one-tenth of one percent (0.1%) of annual production. No Salmonella-related illnesses have been reported to date in association with these product lots.
Salmonella can affect animals eating the products and there is risk to humans from handling contaminated pet products, especially if they have not thoroughly washed their hands after having contact with the products or any surfaces exposed to these products.
Healthy people infected with Salmonella should monitor themselves for some or all of the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping and fever. Rarely, Salmonella can result in more serious ailments, including arterial infections, endocarditis, arthritis, muscle pain, eye irritation, and urinary tract symptoms. Consumers exhibiting these signs after having contact with this product should contact their healthcare providers.
Pets with Salmonella infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. Some pets will have only decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain. Infected but otherwise healthy pets can be carriers and infect other animals or humans. If your pet has consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, please contact your veterinarian.
This issue is limited to the specific dry pet food lot codes listed below. This affects roughly one-tenth of one percent (0.1%) of total annual production. The affected product was distributed to select retailers across the United States. These products were made during a 10-day window at a single manufacturing site. P&G’s routine testing determined that some products made during this timeframe have the potential for Salmonella contamination. As a precautionary measure, P&G is recalling the potentially impacted products made during this timeframe. No other dry dog food, dry cat food, dog or cat canned wet food, biscuits/treats or supplements are affected by this announcement.
P&G is retrieving these products as a precautionary measure. Consumers who purchased a product listed below should stop using the product and discard it and contact P&G toll-free at 800-208-0172 (Monday – Friday, 9 AM to 6 PM ET), or via website at www.iams.com or www.eukanuba.com.
Media Contact: Jason Taylor, 513-622-1111.
Products affected by this announcement:
Procter & Gamble
Link to Eukanuba Recall notification: http://www.eukanuba.com/en-US/SpecialAnnouncement.pdf
Link to Iams Dog Food Recall notification: http://www.iams.com/en_us/data_root/_pdf/8-14-13%20Iams%20Product%20Information%20Dog.pdf
Link to Iams Cat Food Recall notification: http://www.iams.com/en_us/data_root/_pdf/8-14-13%20Iams%20Product%20Information%20Cat.pdf
Pup Found Swimming in the SF Bay by Windsurfers
This is a lost pup story for the record books. On Monday evening a black Lab-Pit mix was found swimming in choppy, chilly waters of the San Francisco Bay about 2 miles from the shore. Windsurfers had spotted her and were trying to get help to bring her to shore, when a Berkeley man, Adam Cohen, came to rescue. Seems that Cohen has a nonconventional commute vehicle, he uses a motorized rubber boat to take him to his office at the Presidio in San Francisco from his home in North Berkeley.
He was at the evening leg of his commute when he had noticed a group of windsurfers clustered together, with their sails down. He was concerned that something was wrong and went closer to see if he could help. What he found was that one of the surfers had pulled a pup from the water, unto his board, and was trying to get help from the coast guard by calling from a two-way radio. Cohen maneuvered his boat in closer and, after phoning his wife, took the dog with him. The surfer said, “She was way out there. It looked like she was trying to swim to Angel Island.” Cohen noted that “the dog was shaking and seemed disoriented.” He then took her home, put her on a pad and wrapped her in a blanket. A couple of hours later, she seemed to be recovering, Cohen said. She looked healthy, was wearing a collar but was not microchipped.
Cohen’s wife, Lisa Grodin, picks up the rest of the story in this report from the Berkeley Patch:
“She just has the nicest, sweetest personality. She follows me everywhere.”
The couple is hoping to locate the dog’s owner but it they don’t “Grodin said she would like to adopt the puppy, though her husband thinks that having one dog is probably enough. They already live with a Lab mix named Zephyr, who seems disposed to peaceful co-existence with the new visitor ‘as long as she doesn’t get near his food bowl.”
So, if the dog's owner isn’t found, they will likely adopt her out “if we can find an adoption home that can be as loving as we would be,” Grodin said.
In the meantime, what do they call their new house guest?
“We’ve been calling her ‘Richard Parker,’ from The Life of Pi,” Grodin said, referring to the film about a boy stranded in a small boat at sea with a tiger named Richard Parker.
A remarkable story filled with a fleet of good Samaritans. Let’s hope the Cohen-Grodin family expand by one well-traveled new member. If not, I’m sure that all the publicity that this story has gathered will come up with the perfect home for her.
More news: This story keeps gettting better, we picked up this report about the windsurfers who valiantly rescued the dog:
This morning I had the opportunity to read the news story you wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle. As one of the windsurfers that came to the aid of the labrador yesterday off of Treasure Island, I thought I would share some of the facts, and to identify to you the person that I believe to be the “true hero” in all of this.
He is one of windsurfing community, and a incredibly compassionate man. He is Ed Coyne, of San Rafael, CA.
Ed and I were windsurfing together about a mile north of Treasure Island when Ed noticed the labrador (mix) swimming aimlessly in the bay. As is evident in the photograph, the winds were up in the bay and there were substantial waves which were breaking periodically over the head of the dog.
Ed was determined to come to the aid of the dog, and to do everything possible to ensure that the dog would not drown.. He sailed near the dog and tried to garner her attention with commands of “Come here”. Nevertheless, the dog kept swimming towards Alcatraz. Ed sailed out ahead of the dog to get in her path and then single handedly Ed secured her by the nape of her neck to place the dog on his windsurfing board. Ed hailed other windsurfers who then joined him to assist.
As most of us carry VHF radios, I hailed the Coast Guard to report the situation and to request Coast Guard assistance. Shortly after placing the distress call on Channel 16 to the Coast Guard, Mr. Cohen and his friend were motoring back towards the East Bay and the flotilla of windsurfers then assembled to assist Ed Coyne and the dog waived their arms to indicate that assistance was needed. At that point, Ed Coyne coordinated the transfer of the dog to Mr. Cohen’s boat with a request that he take the dog to the Berkeley Humane Society to attempt to find its rightful owner.
This is a wonderful story with a happy ending.
News: Karen B. London
Many dogs love the morning
It’s typical to suffer some sleep deprivation when living with a puppy, but it’s not only young dogs who encourage people to start the day earlier than we might like. A lot of dogs wake up early, ready to begin the day’s adventures at first light.
Puppies, and some of the older dogs, too, simply need to relieve themselves, but others are peppy and ready to go without any such bathroom urgency. Of course, many of these dogs have ample time in their schedules for daily naps, so there are well rested and refreshed when many people would still prefer some extra Zs.
With training, lots of dogs learn that they will not be going outside at dawn and must amuse themselves or simply wait until the humans have arisen on their own, or at least with the help of their alarm clock. A few pester people by jumping on the bed, licking faces, barking, whining, or otherwise failing to allow the people to sleep in.
I’ve only ever had one dog who was not naturally an early riser. When I woke up to go to work or out for a run, he was dragging. As I got ready to take him out, he would yawn, stretch, and look at me pathetically as he lumbered over to the door. It required encouragement to get him going on the days I was up early, but it was delightful on the days I slept in. It was such a pleasure to sleep late knowing that my dog was not waiting eagerly for the day to begin or crossing his paws in desperation as I snoozed. On weekend mornings, we both happily began the day in a leisurely way. He was rare in that way. I appreciated that trait then, and remember it fondly now.
How early does your dog wake up to greet you and greet the day, and what tactics are used to convince you to haul yourself out of bed prematurely?
News: JoAnna Lou
San Diego International debuts a new canine bathroom
Most airlines treat animals as an afterthought, which makes flying with pets a real hassle. Airports are required to have relief areas for service dogs, but the facilities provided usually require passengers and pups to leave the terminal and go back through security when they're finished.
Now pets going through San Diego International Airport have a new, and much more convenient, option for taking a pre-flight bathroom break. In April, an indoor pet relief area opened next to the human bathrooms between Gates 46 and 47. The amenities include fake grass, a red fire hydrant, poop bags, and even sinks for the humans to wash their hands. Maintenance workers clean the canine restroom twice a day.
San Diego has four other doggie bathrooms, but like most other airports, they're located outside the terminals. Also, good news for pups not flying in and out of San Diego. The design firm that worked on the relief area is now offering the plans to other airport clients, so hopefully we'll see more of these in the future!
A good way to start the week with an adorable pup doing downward-facing dog and so much more. Stretch along with this charming duo!
Monster Milers Saves Shelter dogs' Lives
Philly's First 5k for Animal Rescue Coming this September
We were asked to post this notice of an upcoming event/race to help a remarkable organization in Philadelphia, Monster Milers. Hope you can come out to show your support, or get inspired to start a "chapter" in your city.
Editor, The Bark
Philadelphia, PA — Fill up water bottle. Lace up running shoes. Fix the leash and martingale on their running buddy.
This is the pre-running routine for Monster Milers volunteers, whose primary mission is to connect Philadelphia runners with homeless dogs as running companions. Over 330 “Milers” or volunteers take out pre-screened dogs from PAWS Wellness Clinic in Grays Ferry, the PAWS Adoption Center in Old City and the Street Tails Animal Rescue shelter in Northern Liberties on runs throughout the city and nearby parks.
Dogs grow anxious, bored, depressed and stressed after spending the majority of their days in small, confined spaces. When they receive a visit from a potential adopter, they either give off the impression of being depressed and aloof or wild with excitement. To take the edge off, “Milers” take dogs on daily runs, anywhere from a half mile to eight miles depending on the dog.
In addition to giving dogs much needed exercise, dogs gain basic training, social skills and exposure to thousands of potential adopters during runs and adopt-a-running-buddy events at area races. Calmer shelter dogs result in quicker adoptions and more room for the 30,000 animals that flood Philadelphia’s shelters each year.
"We are an all-volunteer organization and this race is going to be our first big kick-off fundraiser. Specifically, the funds will be used to keep this all moving. Let's be frank— it's going to cover not-so-glamorous stuff like liability insurance and our volunteer management software,” said Carrie Maria, Monster Milers’ CEO and Founder.
“On a more exciting front, we'd love to set up a fostering arm of The Monster Milers in which we'd pull animals directly out of the city shelter, but we can't do so without a stable funding base. This race will help move the Milers into our next phase of development. We want to go beyond adoption advocacy and actually start placing vulnerable animals into loving homes."
Monster Milers will host The Rescue Run, Philadelphia's first 5k to promote adoption and rescue on Sunday, September 29 at 10 a.m. at the Navy Yard. During the post-race Rescue Rally, hundreds of runners and spectators will greet adoptable dogs, enjoy favorite foods from area food trucks, and meet local vendors and rescue organizations. Early bird registration is $25 until July 31st, $30 after August 1st and will increase to $35 on race day.
The Rescue Run 5k will be chip-timed and all runners who register online will receive a race tech-tee. Running isn't the only way to get involved in the Rescue Run: Monster Milers is looking for day-of volunteers, 501(c)(3) rescue organizations to participate in the Rescue Rally and race sponsors.
To learn more about Monster Milers: call 267-282-1270, email email@example.com or visiting their website or facebook. Since Monster Milers hit the ground running in 2010, they’ve helped hundreds of dogs find their forever homes, one step at a time.
News: Guest Posts
AFTER A LONG DAY of being a dog, no dog in existence has ever curled up on a comfy couch to settle in with a good book. Dogs just don’t roll like that. But that shouldn’t imply that human words don’t or can’t have meaning for dogs.
Chaser, a Border Collie from South Carolina, first entered the news in 2011 when a Behavioral Processes paper reported she had learned and retained the distinct names of over 1,000 objects. But that’s not all. When tested on the ability to associate a novel word with an unfamiliar item, she could do that, too. She also learned that different objects fell into different categories: certain things are general “toys,” while others are the more specific “Frisbees” and, of course, there are many, many exciting “balls.” She differentiates between object labels and action commands, interpreting “fetch sock” as two separate words, not as the single phrase “fetchsock.”
Fast forward two years. Chaser and her owner and trainer Dr. John Pilley, an emeritus professor of psychology at Wofford College, appeared again in a scientific journal. This time, the study highlighted Chaser’s attention to the syntactical relationships between words, for example, differentiating “to ball take Frisbee” from “to Frisbee take ball.”
I’ve been keeping an eye on Chaser, and I’ve been keeping an eye on Rico, Sofia, Bailey, Paddy and Betsy, all companion dogs whose way with human language has been reported in scientific journals. Most media reports tend to focus on outcomes: what these dogs can — or can’t — do with our words. But I think these reports are missing the point. Learning the names of over 1,000 words doesn’t just happen overnight. What does the behind-the-scenes learning and training look like? How did Chaser develop this intimate relationship with human language?
Recently, I had the pleasure of making Chaser and John Pilley’s acquaintance when they visited New York City for their forthcoming book, Chaser: Unlocking the Genius of the Dog Who Knows a Thousand Words, out 10.29.13 (Facebook/Twitter). I sat down with Pilley to discuss Chaser’s initial training and learning and to pose questions offered up by readers of Dog Spies (Twitter /Facebook) and Do You Believe in Dog? (Twitter /Facebook). Pilley did most of the talking, and Chaser contributed too, periodically bringing me a Frisbee and sticks of various sizes to throw. As Pilley says, “Learning builds on learning,” so here’s what I learned from our conversation about the early building blocks of Chaser’s education:
Chaser is known for her extensive vocabulary. Can you walk us through how she came to learn the names of over 1,000 different objects?
Because learning depends upon learning, it helped to have her first learn certain simple behaviors, most of which were obedience behaviors like sit, stand, stay, and drop. She also learned herding commands like ‘way to me,’ ‘come by,‘ ‘there,’ ‘freeze,’ ‘walk,’ ‘go out,’ and ‘crawl’ among others. I used positive reinforcement, and in the beginning, I used food when she came to me. I gradually phased out the food.
When I started teaching the name of objects, I said, ‘Watch Pop Pop’ and would show her the object and say, ‘This is Frisbee,’ and I would hide the object just two feet away, so at that point, it wasn’t really hidden. When she went looking for it, I would keep saying, ‘Find Frisbee, find Frisbee,’ and when she mouthed it I would say, ‘Good dog! Good dog!’ Then we made it more difficult, and I would really hide it out of her sight.
That was the procedure. A couple of times a day, I would play with her with that object for five minutes or so. No other objects would be on the floor, and we would play with that object, and I would profusely repeat the name of that object between 20-40 times in each session. ‘Find Santa Claus, Find Santa Claus,’ and then, ‘Good dog! Good dog!’ when she mouthed it. That was the first step in teaching her the names of proper nouns.
After the first object was taught, it was set aside, and we worked on another one. She always learned one object at a time, a successive method of teaching. Before Chaser, we had tried a simultaneous method of teaching with other dogs [presenting two objects at a time], and that didn’t work.
As Chaser learned the names of different objects, how did you test what Chaser was learning? Did you have a way to assess her initial and long-term memory?
After a few weeks, it was time to test Chaser. The criteria for learning was that she had to successfully select a particular object out of 8 other objects. My criteria was not just that one test. We replicated it at least 8 times, and the items surrounding the object of interest would be different from what she had seen in earlier presentations. She had to be successful in each of those independent sessions 8 times in a row. If she was successful on the first 6 but missed on the 7th, I stopped the testing and put the object aside and worked with it some more.Then I would start the testing some more.
In addition to testing her initial learning of objects, each month we tested her memory on all of the objects that she had learned up to that point. We did it in sets of 20. I put 20 objects on the floor, using only objects which she had shown initial learning, and we asked Chaser to retrieve each of the 20 objects. Over the course of 3 years of teaching, Chaser was successful in retrieving 90% of the objects correctly. Most of the time she retrieved 100% of the objects and other times 95%, but it never got below 90%. If she was not successful, I put that object aside for additional training. The reason we tested her each month was we wanted to make sure that she was not learning new objects to replace an old object. We wanted to be sure that there was complete retention in the long term.
How about grammar? What were the general training and testing procedures?
Chaser initially learned actions independent of specific objects. I might be holding a piece of food, and I would say, ‘Take.’ Over time, she learned the three commands, ‘take,’ ‘paw,’ and ‘nose’ and they were later applied to different objects. The first step in grammar is two elements like, ‘Take Lamb,’ and Chaser demonstrated that each word had an independent meaning. I like to say that learning builds on learning. Not until she learned the two elements should she learn three elements. When she heard the phrase, ‘Take ball to Frisbee,’ she was successful three fourths of the time. But she seemed to act on the last thing she heard, so we changed the expression to ‘To ball take Frisbee.’ We also tested the inverse, ‘To Frisbee take ball.’ This work tests her syntax, her understanding of the rule. When we invert it, we’re demonstrating semantics, that she actually understands each of those components of the sentence and the different meanings of the words.
Can you talk about the use of play in Chaser’s learning and training?
Tension, fear and anxiety inhibit creative learning, and play and tension are incompatible. During play, creative learning can take place. If you are going for complex learning, you are not going to get any learning with tension and anxiety; I’ve learned that in over 30 years of teaching. One of the things that runs throughout the entire book, Chaser: Unlocking the Genius of the Dog Who Knows a Thousand Words, is that play is one of the secrets of Chaser’s learning.
Most people don’t explicitly teach their dog words, yet they think that the dog understands many words. Do you think this assumption could ever be problematic?
As long as this doesn’t result in some kind of negative response like criticism or punishing the dog, it could be innocuous. It could have a negative impact on the dog if someone thinks a dog should know a word or phrase and holds it against the dog if he doesn’t seem to be performing. The best and simplest assumption is that if a dog is not emitting a behavior, then the dog might not understand.
Does knowing words and syntax help Chaser have a “happier” life with humans?
I think when you have more understanding, there is better communication and thereby more happiness.
What do you hope people take away from Chaser’s story?
The big thing is that Chaser is not special, and that anybody’s dog is smarter than he or she thinks. I’m hoping people will work with their dogs, of course teaching them words, but also getting to know their dogs. Find out what makes your dog happy, and give your dog opportunities to explore its interests.
Hecht, J. 2012. Say What? Do Dogs Understand Our Words? The Bark Magazine
Goldman, J. Monday Pets: How Do Dogs Learn New Words? Scientific American. May 10, 2010
Pilley, J.W. with Hilary Hinzmann. Chaser: Unlocking the Genius of the Dog Who Knows a Thousand Words. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. October 2013 Release
Pilley, J.W., and A.K. Reid. 2011. Border collie comprehends object names as verbal referents. Behavioural Processes 86: 184–195.
Pilley, J.W. 2013. Border collie comprehends sentences containing a prepositional object, verb and direct object. Learning and Motivation. Published online May 13, 2013.
This story was originally published by Scientific American. Reprinted with permission.
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