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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!

News: Editors
Seizure-Alert Dog Walks in Place of Graduate

This is a touching story of a seizure-alert dog’s participation at a graduation ceremony at Idaho State University. This Pit Bull’s person, Joshua Kelly who was suffering from epilepsy recently completed his degree, but sadly had died in February. To honor his memory, Terrell Kelly, Joshua’s father, brought Cletus to walk the “stage” with him to pick up his son’s diploma, this gesture was met with cheers from all—a very moving moment indeed.

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Learning Dog Social Skills

Dogs have so much to learn from other dogs. Having worked in animal shelters for more than 25 years, I’ve seen so many dogs who were isolated and have no social skills with other dogs or people. When I bring these dogs home and introduce them to my pack, they are often terrified, aggressive or shut down. In almost every case, my smooth, easy going dogs have the newcomer feeling comfortable fairly quickly. In the case of orphaned pups, it’s even more critical as they aren’t learning any dog skills from mom.

I recently had the pleasure of fostering 12 puppies from several litters that had been abandoned in an apartment. They were mostly small mixed breeds and needed a place to hang out while they were vaccinated, spayed or neutered and awaited new homes. They were in pretty good shape but seemed to have had little exposure to people or new dogs. I wanted to give them positive interactions with as many people and dogs as possible before they were adopted. My own dogs are wonderful with puppies but my Great Dane, Doberman, Golden Retriever and Pit Bull are so big that they were at risk of stepping on these little guys, even as gentle as they are. My small dog is a Chihuahua/Pug mix but he’s 15 years old and too frail to have to put up with puppy shenanigans.

A dear friend of mine has a wonderful 3-year- old mixed- breed dog who’s about 20 pounds and adores puppies so we put Clifford in with them. Clifford worked his way through the whole litter with a softly wagging tail and sweet welcoming body language. The scared little shut-down pups loved him on sight. In moments they were following him everywhere and taking his cues on approaching people and exploring new things.

As soon as pups start feeling confident, they can become bratty. Relentless demands to play, chewing tails and ears and overall in-your-face behavior can put them at risk with cranky dogs. It’s important for them to learn appropriate interactions with other dogs without having them injured by harsh corrections. Cliff isn’t much of a disciplinarian but he will give a growl and a snap if the puppy is over the top pushy. It’s so valuable to watch the pups become more respectful of their elders when they get corrected and may even prevent them from being injured by another dog in the future.

 Each day until they were adopted, the puppies got a dose of Clifford therapy and soon they were becoming the affectionate, confident pups they were meant to be. All have been adopted into new homes and Clifford eagerly awaits the next group of fosters.

News: Guest Posts
Drop Outs and Bloopers: Behind the Scenes of Canine Science

I judge dogs when I meet them, but not in the way you might expect. You see, every dog and owner I meet gets filtered through a lens called “Potential Canine Science Study Participants.”

The growing field of canine behavior and cognition research is not built on the backs of lab beagles. Instead, research depends on the kindness and interest of dog owners who sign up their dogs to join any of the canine studies around the globe.

So whenever I meet a dog in NYC, I’m thinking, “Would your human companion be interested in signing you up for a study at the Horowitz Dog Cognition Lab?” And, just as important, “Would you, Mr. or Ms. Dog, be interested in participating in a study?” Nine out of ten times (not an exact science) the answer is yes.**

But dog participation doesn’t always go as planned. Which leads to one of the most interesting yet overlooked sections of research papers — the section that reports the dogs who didn’t make it into the final results. A blooper reel of sorts. These nuggets hidden in dense research papers offer little windows into the world of dogs and canine research methodologies. Why did a dog not perform according to plan? Was the dog not interested in playing along with the tasks required by the study? Or maybe the owner or experimenter goofed up the execution. Let’s take a look:

A 2010 study by Kundey et al. dropped six subjects:
– One dog was excluded due to “interference from a squirrel.” Let’s all take a moment and imagine what that could look like.
– Another dog was excluded for “excessive activity.” Which could be code for this.
– Another dog was excluded for food aggressiveness. Obviously not helpful in a study that involved food.
– Other dogs were excluded for experimenter or owner error.

Another study by Range et al. (2009) required dog subjects to “give a paw” to an experimenter numerous times. A number of subjects didn’t make it into the final results:
– A pair of dogs “was excluded because one of them (a border collie) tried to herd the partner dog instead of concentrating on the task.”
– Two subjects were excluded because they “refused to cooperate with the experimenter to give the paw 30 times in the assessment session.” I’ll give a high five to the dogs who cooperated. They must be expert patty-cake players (but in all seriousness, raising a paw is often considered a submissive behavior, not a game of patty-cake).
– Another dog “had to be excluded because the owner decided to stop the experiment after her first dog was tested.”
– And finally, “one died because of old age before the assessment session could be conducted.”

 

So when working with dogs, not everything is going to work for every dog, and things don’t always go as planned. After all, do other areas of science have to worry about a squirrel mucking up their study?

 

**This participation rate is high because, like most canine behavior research, our work incorporates a variety of methodologies that are a good fit for dogs with different personalities: some studies include food and treats while others don’t, some include the presence of other dogs, others don’t, some include the direct participation of owners, other don’t … some include nuts, Mounds don’t … you get the picture. Owners complete a short online questionnaire and bam! They’re added to our database of “People interested in participating in canine science studies at the Horowitz Dog Cognition Lab.” They’ll then be contacted about our future studies. And, for a somewhat comprehensive list of canine behavior and cognition groups around the globe, check out my website. Other canine research groups are looking for study participants too!

Images: Flicker Creative Commons: dogs and squirrel.

References
Kundey et al. 2010. Domesticated dogs (Canis familiaris) react to what others can and cannot hear. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 126, 45–50.
Lorenz, K. 1954. Man meets dog. London: Methuen.
Range et al. 2008. The absence of reward induces inequity aversion in dogs.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 106, 340–345.

 

This story was originally published on Dog Spies, Scientific American. Reprinted with permission

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Behavioral Predictors of Adoption
What dogs do influences potential adopters

We know that millions of shelter pets are available for adoption each year, but that many are never selected. Most previous research into the choices that people make about which dog to adopt has focused on what the dog looks like and the dog’s behavior in the kennel.

The recent study “Adopter-dog interactions at the shelter: Behavioral and contextual predictors of adoption” investigated whether dogs’ behavior during an interaction outside of the kennel had any impact on the likelihood of adoption. (Potential adopters chose which dog or dogs they wanted to spend time with in a session out of the kennel.)

There were only two behaviors that influenced adoption: 1) Dogs who ignored people’s attempts to initiate play were far less likely to be adopted than those dogs who played when people attempted to initiate play with them, and 2) Dogs who spent more time lying down close to potential adopters were fourteen times more likely to be adopted than those who spent less time lying down near the people. Dogs who were adopted spent half as much time ignoring people’s attempts to play and twice as much time lying down near potential adopters than dogs who were not selected for adoption.

This research suggests that even in a short interaction—the average in this study was 8 minutes and did not differ between people who chose to adopt the dog and those who did not adopt the dog—people were making choices based on dogs’ behavior. Specifically, they chose dogs who played with them and who spent time lying down near them. This study suggests that people are selecting dogs who act in certain ways and that training dogs to behave in these ways has the potential to increase their chances of being adopted.

News: Editors
Ikea Showcasing Shelter Dogs
Ikea promotes shelter dogs

Now here’s an innovative idea! Ikea and DDB Singapore (an advertising agency) teamed up with animal shelters in Singapore, Save Our Dogs (SOSD) and Animal Lovers League (ALL), to promote animal adoptions. Two IKEA stores feature 26 life-size cardboard cutouts of dogs available for adoption, and they are placed in prominent positions in their furniture showrooms. Each dog has a unique QR code, which will lead interested adopters directly to the adoption site.

 

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