Dog's Life: Lifestyle
It’s counterproductive and unfair
When I tell people that I work with dogs with serious behavior problems including aggression, the response is often something like, “Isn’t it the people’s fault? I mean, don’t you find that the dogs are acting that way because the people haven’t trained or raised them right?”
I always disagree, saying as gently as I can, “No, most of the dogs I see are really challenging dogs who would have problematic behavior in any situation. And most of the families I work with have had other dogs with perfectly lovely behavior.” It’s true—the dogs are the ones with the problem in my experience, not the guardians.
Many clients blame themselves, too, probably because the idea that anyone can make any dog behave in any way they desire is so prevalent in our culture. This can lead to guilt and shame that prevents people from seeking help as well as making them feel terrible. Most of the clients I see have dogs with aggression, and the vast majority of the people have had many dogs over the years without such problems. It makes no sense to assume that the dog has gone bad because of mistakes by the people or their inadequacies when they have raised other dogs who did not turn out the same way. People are seeking help and accusing them of being at fault is both unfair and counterproductive.
Many dogs who are aggressive or have other equally serious behavioral problems are naturally wired to struggle with social issues. Some are ill or in pain, while others have a past that is unknown but may involve limited exposure to the world (inadequate socialization) or some ordeal in the past that affected them and their behavior profoundly.
I find myself explaining over and over to clients and people I meet socially that I object to blaming guardians for the serious behavior problems of their dogs. Sure, the behavior of some rowdy dogs may be a result of inadequate training or inconsistencies by the guardians, but slightly rude or out of control dogs are very different than dogs with much deeper issues. When it comes to dogs whose behavior problems represent abnormal (as opposed to just boisterous) behavior, it’s important to realize that the people didn’t cause the problem.
Do you find that people are being blamed for dogs’ serious behavior problems? What’s your take on this?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
They are treasures
The elderly woman was taking each step ever so carefully, with one hand gripping her cane and the other hand gently holding a leash. At the other end of that leash was a terrier mix who was taking baby steps and clearly making an effort to avoid tripping his guardian. He was going more slowly than most dogs ever do, and he kept glancing up at her in such a way that I couldn’t help but think that he was checking on her. (“Yep, we’re still moving. I just wanted to be sure!”)
The dog was going at a pace I associate with arthritic or injured dogs and those who are older than most dogs ever become, but this was a young adult rather than a geriatric dog. I watched them walk laboriously halfway down the block and then turn around. The dog never put a bit of pressure on the leash and remained at a slight distance from the woman, which meant that he was never an impediment to her balance or movement. I was impressed with this dog’s behavior.
Part of the reason I was so impressed is that I knew this dog was not always calm and slow. I had just seen how he acted when out on a walk with a man in his 20s and it was hilarious. He jumped and bounced and spun and generally acted like joy was exploding out of him. He twisted his leash around the man, pulled towards a tree that he then put his front paws on and barked at. When they moved past the tree, the dog danced along, going very fast and showing suitable canine enthusiasm for the outing. It was all quite endearing, and though the dog was energetic, he was never completely out of control.
However, the control he displayed when his leash was handed over to the elderly woman was extraordinary. He acted like he understood her frailty. It reminded me of service dogs I have seen who romp and frolic like any dog when allowed, but go into a steady, calm work mode when that is what is required. I sat on my park bench completely entranced by the entire sequence of events with this terrier mix. I was so interested that I went over to ask the young man about it.
He told me that his grandmother is the dog’s guardian. For almost a year, the grandson has come over each day to exercise the dog, who is 4 years old. His grandmother insists on walking him daily herself even though her health has declined to the point where she spends 10 minutes just walking past a few houses before making the return trip. Sometimes she takes her walk before the dog has had his exercise with the grandson and sometimes after. Either way, he goes at her pace, never pulling, never leaping, and never paying attention to the squirrels, cats or other dogs that are usually so arresting.
When I asked if they had trained the dog specifically to be gentle with his elderly guardian, he said no. This is just one of those dogs who is socially astute enough to respond beautifully to the specific needs of the lady in his life. The grandson’s behavior—coming over daily to help his grandmother—is also commendable.
Have you known a dog who was similarly lovely around an older person and was just as much a treasure as the dog I observed?
News: Guest Posts
Why we need research and how you can help
I was asked by health researcher, Jessica Chubak, PhD, to post this notice of the work that she is doing on the effects of pet visitation programs on children with cancer. To me, her study—which she is trying to raise crowd funding for— seems to be very worthwhile, so thought you would be interested in learning about it too. —Claudia Kawczynska, Editor
Animal-assisted activities for kids with cancer: why we need research and how you can help
Can pet visits help kids with cancer? Ask children with cancer who get to see and touch therapy dogs. Ask parents, doctors, nurses and animal-assisted activities volunteers. The answer is unequivocally: yes, pet visits help.
I’m an animal lover and have been since I was a kid. I’m also a scientist who is trying to prevent cancer and make life better for people who have it. I’m planning a study on pet visits for kids with cancer. You might reasonably ask: Don't we already know those visits help? Do we really need more research?
Here’s why we do:
1) We need to know about the safety of pet visits for kids with cancer. I've talked with pediatric oncology clinics around the country. Many cancer programs don’t allow animal-assisted activities, primarily because of safety worries, specifically infections, in this vulnerable group of kids. They want hard evidence (see #3).
2) We have to learn exactly how animal visits can help. Visits from pets won’t make everything better for kids with cancer. Pet visits might reduce anxiety but not pain. Or they might relieve pain but not fatigue. If we know what parts of pediatric cancer treatment are easier with pet visits, we’ll know how to make effective animal-assisted activities programs for kids with cancer. If we identify areas where pet visits don't help, we know where to focus our attention on developing other interventions.
3) It’s all about medical evidence. Doctors, nurses, and parents of pediatric cancer patients want to see solid support from careful studies before starting animal assisted activity programs. It’s important to have evidence for any treatment, including supportive care. And even when research gives us expected answers, it often provides additional information. We might not be surprised if a study shows that visits from pets relieve stress in kids with cancer. But we also want to know if group or private visits work best, and when and where visits are most helpful, in the waiting room or after a procedure? How often should visits happen and how long should they last? We need answers to help design effective animal-assisted activities for young cancer patients.
My research focuses on developing safe and effective animal-assisted activities for kids with cancer, based on ideas, concerns, and solutions from the kids, their families, and their health care providers. My crowdfunding campaign will help fund this research. I hope you'll support this project, maybe with a donation (even a small amount), but especially by spreading the word to others.
I’ve thought about this study a lot and I think it is important to do. If you are interested in sharing your ideas on why you think it's important—or why it isn't—please leave a comment. Thank you.
More about Jessica Chubak
I am a faculty member at Group Health Research Institute, where my research focus is improving cancer screening, care, and survivorship. My new project is inspired, in part, by my volunteer work after college. I helped in the pediatric ward of a hospital. Working with children and families I saw how play distracted them from the stress of being in the hospital. As a lover of pets, I find animals to be incredible companions. After learning about the Pet Partners program and promising preliminary work in Canada, I decided to include animal-assisted activities for children with cancer in my research program.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Canine facial expressions reveal a range of emotions
When I get home, there's no question in my mind that my pups are excited to see me. And they each have their own way of expressing that joy. Scuttle runs in circles and wiggles her whole body uncontrollably, while Nemo barks and wags his tail. While these behaviors are often thought of as the sign of a happy dog, a new study shows that canine emotions may be more universally expressed through their eyebrows and ears. Researchers at Japan's Azabu University used high-speed cameras to track dogs' facial movements in response to different stimuli. They found that dogs tended to move their eyebrows up, particularly on the left side, when seeing a human family member and moved their left ear back when meeting a new person. If the pups were shown an object they had a bad association with, like a pair of nail clippers, the dogs moved their right ear instead. One of the scientists, Dr. Miho Nagasawa, hypothesizes that the ear movement in response to unfamiliar or negative things may stem from its use to convey emotional expression. Eyebrow movement may reflect the movement to look at someone that they have an established relationship with. After reading about this study, I tried watching my dogs when I came home yesterday. As you can imagine, excited pups move way too quickly to see eyebrow movement! However, I am really curious about the range of facial expressions to different people. For instance, Scuttle loves people and when we meet a stranger, she can barely control her excitement. Would her facial expression be radically different with me versus with another person? I would really like to see more research done on the canine facial expressions associated with established human relationships. What are your dog's happy signals?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Pups stolen under the pretense of board and train
For me, finding the right trainer, dog walker, or veterinarian is complex process. I want to make sure we agree on training and health care philosophies, that they have enough experience and knowledge, that they genuinely care about their clients, and that others are happy with the service they've received. After all, you're putting a great deal of trust in these people to help you raise part of your family. Several people on the East Coast had that trust broken when the man they paid to board and train their dogs disappeared with their pups, leaving them heartbroken. Investigators identified a man named James Randel Whitten as the one responsible, but he's still missing. The scam has been run in multiple states, including North and South Carolina and Delaware. James advertises his "business" on websites like Craigslist and convinces people to board their pets with him. He then takes the money and dogs and disappears. James was last seen in Tarboro, N.Car. and has gone by multiple aliases. Not only is he kidnapping animals, but he's also neglecting them. Before James left Tarboro, he left a Pit Bull and French Mastiff without shelter, food, or water. Fortunately both pups are safe and back with their families, but there are countless dogs still missing. For more information, the affected families started a Facebook page and web site to help get the word out. They're hoping to find the remaining dogs and prevent other families from being scammed. This case does highlight the importance of choosing a reputable dog trainer, especially if it's a board and train situation (I much prefer situations where the trainer teaches people to train their dogs). A good starting point is to ask friends or local veterinarians for recommendations. Verify trainers by searching online for reviews and asking them for a few clients that you can contact for references. The Association of Pet Dog Trainers has more tips on their web site for choosing a trainer. Hopefully James will be caught before he moves on to other states and the remaining pets will be reunited with their families.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Conflict among scientists who study it
Research about canine genetics and the domestication of dogs is an exciting area of study with many players, so it should surprise nobody that there is disagreement within the field. Multiple groups of researchers from around the world have compared the genomes of dogs and wolves. While they generally agree about the genetic changes that have produced differences between dogs and wolves, their conclusions about the domestication of dogs vary wildly.
The disagreement concerns fundamental aspects of the evolution of dogs such as where, when and why dogs evolved from wolves. So, the location, the timing, and the reason for domestication that various groups propose are not even close.
One group suggests domestication occurred around 10,000 years ago in the Middle East and that it was the development of agriculture around that time that was the catalyst for domestication. Another group claims that it happened around 32,000 years ago in the south of China and related to scavenging alongside the people living there. A third group narrows the time frame for domestication to between 16,000 and 11,000 years ago, and believes that the wolf population from which dogs arose is extinct, making it hard to determine the location of domestication. This third group believes that dogs became domesticated near hunter-gatherers rather than in the presence of an agrarian society.
Much has been made about the discord among scientists studying the domestication of dogs, but it’s hardly surprising. The cutting edge of science is always marked by strongly held opposing views. In the best situations, the intense disagreement among people working in the same field is a crucial part of making progress. Competing hypotheses are critical for the advancement of science. As people challenge each other’s views, all are spurred to study the subject more deeply and design experiments to investigate that which has been called into question. From the ongoing work, the conflicts are eventually resolved as some ideas fall by the wayside and others gain increased support from new data and discoveries.
Sometimes the conflict is cordial and in other cases, it can be very bitter. At this point, the scientists studying dog domestication say that though there is a certain amount of rivalry, they get along and enjoy talking with each other. That may be harder to maintain as people move to the next phase of research into dog domestication and seek to sequence DNA samples from ancient dogs and wolves. The availability of archaeological bone samples is extremely limited so there will be a lot of competition among scientists for both funding to conduct the research and access to the material necessary to do so.
In other words, we can expect a lot of fights over bones in the near future.
Today we received notice that Dogswell "voluntarily" withdrew select jerky treat from the market. This is rather ironic because just a couple days ago we visited the Dogswell's booth at Superzoo, a huge pet trade show in Las Vegas, and asked them about their new marketing campaign "Live Free." When asked what that means, a salesperson told us that not only does it refer to their ingredients (i.e. the chickens are supposedly raised cage-free, even though they source the meat from China!), but also that their products are free of corn, soy and fillers, etc. Plus, it means dogs can live free of harmful, unnatural ingredients! Oh my. Obviously this "voluntary" (a misnomer if there ever was one) withdrawal belies that assertion. Note this is the same "antibiotic residue" problem that happened with the Chinese jerky that we reported on here.
This notice is from the Dogswell site.
Dear Fellow Pet Parent:
At Dogswell, our number one priority is the safety of our products and the health of our canine and feline customers. We strive to make and sell only the highest quality treats and food with added vitamins that provide great taste and functional benefits such as improved hip health, skin and coat health, and other benefits.
During routine testing of our products, the New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets (NYSDAM) discovered that a sample of our Dogswell Happy Hips Chicken Breast Jerky contained trace amounts of an antibiotic residue that has not been approved for use in the United States. It is important to note that this antibiotic is accepted for use in other countries (including the European Union), and there is no evidence that products containing trace amounts of this antibiotic pose a health risk for pets or humans. Since we were notified by the NYSDAM the week of July 22nd, we have made the decision to voluntarily withdraw Chicken Breast and Duck Breast jerky under the Breathies, Happy Heart, Happy Hips, Mellow Mut, Shape Up, Veggie Life, Vitality, and Vitakitty brands that are labeled with a “Best Before” date of January 28th, 2015 or any earlier date. The vast majority of these products were distributed before March 1st of this year. No other products are affected.
Since January, we have been using state-of-the-art testing procedures to ensure that our chicken and duck products do not contain these or other unapproved antibiotics. All chicken and duck breast jerky products with a “Best Before” date of January 29, 2015 and later have been fully tested for and do not contain these antibiotics.
It is important that you know that all Dogswell and Catswell products remaining on the market are safe to feed as directed.
We have issued a press release to make our consumers like you aware of the situation. We also identified the stores that received the product, and contacted them to destroy any affected products in their possession (if any).
We are doing everything we can to resolve this situation quickly and ensure that our consumers like you can feel confident feeding Dogswell and Catswell products to their companions, as we do here.
To learn more about the affected product, we invite you to read our “frequently asked questions” below. If you would like to speak with someone live, you can call us at 1-888-559-8833 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If we are unable to get to your call or it is after hours, please leave us a message and we will get back to you as quickly as possible.
We thank you, our valued customers, for your understanding, and we hope to be able to regain your trust.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why are Dogswell and Catswell withdrawing these treats?
Have there been any reports of pets getting sick from eating treats that contain this antibiotic?
How can I tell if I have a product that is affected by the withdrawal?
If your package does say Chicken Breast or Duck Breast, you should turn the package over. In the bottom right hand corner of the package printed in black ink on the seam, you should find the words “Best Before”. After “Best Before” is a series of eight numbers, such as:
07262015 or 07/26/2015
This number would be translated to the date July 26, 2015 (07 for July, 26 for the day of the month, and 2015 for the year). The products affected by this withdrawal are for “Best Before” dates of January 28th, 2015 or any earlier date (which would read as 01282015 or 01/28/2015). Any product with a “Best Before” date after that time has been tested for unapproved antibiotics and has been cleared.
If you find that you have a product that is affected, please call us for a full refund at 1-888-559-8833.
If you are having trouble determining if you have the product that was affected, or if you would like to speak with us directly about a full refund, please contact us directly at 1-888-559-8833 or email us at email@example.com.
I just went to the store and saw your products there. Why is there so much Dogswell product on the shelf there if it has been withdrawn?
Call us directly if you have any concerns or questions about DOGSWELL® products. We're here until 5:00 PM PST Mon-Fri 888-559-8833.
What does DOGSWELL do to make sure its products are safe?
Where are your products manufactured?
Why are the jerky treats made in China?
How do you test your products?
How do you prevent salmonella from contaminating your jerky products?
What is the Cage-Free Difference?
To view our Quality Assurance Brochure, please click here
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dogs who adore their water frozen
When an extra piece of ice fell from the freezer and onto the floor, the dog acted like I had just dropped a steak. He startled, gazed at it longingly, and looked up at me as if asking for permission. He was wagging from the shoulders back and drooling a little. It was news to me, but it could not have been more obvious that he liked ice.
A lot of dogs love ice and seem to consider it a high quality treat. There are a lot of great things about ice for dogs. It provides hydration without any gulping, it’s fun for the dog, it’s relatively easy to clean up (at least compared to gooey treats like pig’s ears and peanut butter), it’s a no calorie way for a dog to engage in chewing and that can be important for dogs who are watching their figures, and it can help cool a dog down.
Of course, ice has its down side, too. There is a choking risk, and dogs can damage their teeth on ice. Though it doesn’t likely leave as big a mess as the water bowl can, it’s portable, so there’s no telling where a puddle may form if the dog leaves it unfinished and lying around.
What do you consider the positives and negatives about having an ice-loving dog?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
The House passes legislation allowing rescue workers to break into hot vehicles
Earlier this summer I wrote about a veterinarian's experiment to bring awareness to the dangers of leaving pets in hot vehicles. It's well known that cars can heat up to dangerous temperatures in a matter of minutes, yet these deaths continue to happen--even to those who should know better. In June, Worthy, a dog in training with a North Carolina service animal organization, died after one of the program's managers left him in a hot car. These deaths are extra tragic because they are so easily preventable. North Carolina has since moved towards signing a law that could help dogs in Worthy's position. Last week the House passed legislation that would give rescue workers permission to break into cars to remove animals at risk because of heat, cold, inadequate ventilation, or other circumstances. Some local ordinances already let police officers break into locked cars to save animals, but this amendment would make that action legal statewide. It would also extend permission to animal control officers, firefighters, and other rescue workers. If the law is passed, North Carolina would join 11 states in passing this type of legislation. Representative Pricey Harrison, who sponsored the amendment, was hoping for a stronger law but ended up drafting the current version when the initial legislation failed. 14 states have laws that specifically prohibit leaving an animal in a car that would endanger their safety. The penalties range from a $25 fine to a felony for repeat offenders (go New Hampshire!). Although North Carolina's amendment will not specifically prohibit leaving dogs in hot vehicles, people who do so can still be changed under the existing animal cruelty statutes. The woman who left Worthy in the car was charged last week with misdemeanor animal cruelty. While the car laws are certainly important, ultimately we have to spread the word on the dangers of hot cars so that dogs aren't put into these situations in the first place. Education is key to prevention.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Unfavorable behavior compared to other puppies
In a study of over 6000 puppies, researchers found that the behavior of puppies purchased from pet stores was less desirable than the behavior of puppies obtained form noncommercial breeders. Specifically, there were 12 areas in which pet store puppies’ behavior was unfavorable compared with puppies from noncommercial breeders and two areas in which their behavior was similar. There were no behavioral areas in which the pet store puppies’ behavior was preferable to the comparison group.
In a recent study called “Differences in behavioral characteristics between dogs obtained as puppies from pet stores and those obtained from noncommerical breeders" used guardian observations of their dogs to compare the behavior between the two study populations. Observations were quantified using the Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire, which uses ordinal scales to rate either the intensity or frequency of the dogs’ behavior
The biggest differences between the two groups of dogs related to aggression with dogs from pet stores being far more likely to be aggressive towards their guardians, to other dogs in the household, to strangers, and to unfamiliar dogs. Among their other unfavorable comparisons with dogs from noncommercial breeders were that they were more likely to have house soiling issues, to be fearful, to have touch sensitivity problems, to be harder to train, and to have issues with excitability.
As a person who has long opposed the selling of puppies in pet stores for humane reasons as well as behavioral, it is with open arms that I welcome this objective study about the undesirability of this practice. It’s heartbreaking for me to think of all the people I have seen professionally over the years who have been emotionally devastated by the serious behavioral issues they have faced with a dog from a pet store. Of course, there are people who have lucked out and obtained a wonderful dog from a pet store, and I am very happy for such dogs and their people. However, it’s important to remember that overall, buying a dog from a pet store does not put the odds in your favor.
The authors of this study sum their research up with this important point: “Obtaining dogs from pet stores versus noncommercial breeders represented a significant risk factor for the development of a wide range of undesirable behavioral characteristics. Until the causes of the unfavorable differences detected in this group of dogs can be specifically identified and remedied, the authors cannot recommend that puppies be obtained from pet stores."
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