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."
Reunion with a soldier and the dog who loves him
This is one of the best reunion videos of all time. A soldier returning home after six months, greeted by so much love. I wonder what people who don't believe dogs have emotions would say watching this! My dogs joined in when they heard her whimper, seeming to express their empathy. There is something so tender about this shared love and happiness.
My friend who showed it to me said she thought the dog was saying at the end, “Don't ever do that again! Promise!” What do you think? How did your dogs reaction when they heard it?
The video can be viewed here.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
I recently wrote about Take Your Dog to Work Day and how I enjoy having my dogs along with me on the job. Often they help me coax insecure stray dogs in so that they can be safely reunited with their owners or adopted out. I recently had the unique experience of having one of my dogs help me rescue a cat in distress.
I usually have Sundays off but a fellow officer, Justin, called me on a Sunday afternoon to ask for help with a call. He had a report of a cat with a jar on its head and when he arrived, the panicked animal ran into a culvert. It was too small for him to climb into and he knew that if he tried to push her out from one end she would run out the other and be lost. He was wondering if I could bring one of my dogs and help him? Of course I would. This is so much more than a job to me and I have always told my co-workers to call me anytime. I loaded up Hula the Golden Retriever and Breeze the Doberman and headed out. Half an hour later we pulled up behind Justin’s truck and he showed me the culvert. My flashlight beam found the unfortunate cat smack in the middle of the pipe, plastic jug still firmly attached.
With Justin situated on one end of the pipe and ready with a net, I took Hula to the other end. Hula is as mellow and easygoing as they come and she’s also gung ho for any adventure. I showed her the pipe and told her to “go get the kitty.” Hula isn’t very tall and the narrow pipe was a tight fit but in she went. Justin called to her from the other end as she made her way through. The kitty didn’t see her at first due to her jug and Hula walked right up and sniffed her before the cat realized it and went bonking down the pipe with her burden. Hula followed her as she darted right into the net and was safe.
I put Hula on a sit-stay as we dealt with the cat who acted quiet feral. She appeared healthy and had a tipped ear (meaning that she had been trapped and spayed) so we planned to just remove the jar and release her but I asked Justin to scan her first. To our surprise she had a microchip so we took her back to the shelter.
Once there we carefully removed the jug and settled her in while waiting to hear back about the chip. Soon the couple who had trapped her and had her spayed and chipped came for her. The cat was truly feral but had kind people to care for her and it was great to see her returned home safely.
I would love to hear how our reader’s dogs have helped another animal.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
It matters more than brightness
One of the most persistent errors about dogs is the claim that they are colorblind. It has been known for decades that dogs can see colors, but research into the details of how they use their color vision can still reveal new information. In a recent study called “Colour cues proved to be more informative for dogs than brightness”, researchers asked the simple question, “Do dogs attend to color or brightness when learning the cues that indicate the presence of food?
In the experiment, researchers trained dogs to make a choice between boxes concealing food. The boxes were each marked with a colored paper, and the dog had to learn which one indicated a piece of meat was inside. Dogs were trained to discriminate between either light yellow and dark blue or between dark yellow and light blue. Then the dogs were tested to see if the cue they used to make correct choices was the color of the paper or the brightness of the paper.
For example, a dog who had learned to choose the box marked by a dark yellow piece of paper was tested with a choice between a box marked by light yellow or a box marked by dark blue. The experimenters were asking whether the dog had learned that “dark” indicates the presence of meat or whether “yellow” does. They found that dogs were making choices based on color, not brightness, in the majority of cases. It was a small sample size of only 8 dogs, but it suggests that dogs not only see color, which has long been known, but that they pay attention to it more than to the depth of color.
It is not surprising that if dogs have the ability to see color that they would use that color functionally in various situations. Asking whether dogs distinguish dark from light when the opportunity to distinguish by color is also present may be an important preliminary step in understanding what dogs attend to. However, I would be even more interested to know whether dogs favor color over shape, color over size or even color over various sounds to make their choices, as all of these seem more biologically relevant to dogs seeking food than brightness does.
Worth tuning in
A friend of The Bark’s just told me about BBC Radio 4’s marvelous series called Dog Days. You have only a few days left to listen to them. Each runs around 15 minutes, and discusses various aspects of dogs behavior and dog culture. Interviews with researcher, John Bradshaw, and other British dog aficionados. From My Dog Tulip and Flush to current research on dog love. As the programs’ presenter, Robert Hanks (along with his Whippet Timmy), describes it, “When we tell stories about our dogs, we are also telling stories about ourselves.” Give a listen.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Sizzling pavement or sand can burn pads
At the moment New York is in the middle of a miserable heat wave. With humid temperatures soaring into the high 90's, I've been limiting the dogs' outside time to quick bathroom breaks in the backyard. However, when it came time to go to agility class on Wednesday, Scuttle took one step onto our driveway and jumped back onto the grass. Horrified, I touched the pavement and it was sizzling hot. It's easy to forget about protecting paw pads since we wear shoes and aren't aware of the ground temperature.Urban dogs are better prepared to deal with hot pavement, since their paw pads have been toughened by walking on the rough city streets. But during a heat wave, even the most hardened paws must be monitored. I was surprised to learn that swimming can soften a dog's pads and make them susceptible to burning on surfaces that they'd be normally okay on. In general it's a good idea to avoid walking your pups on pavement, metal surfaces, or sand during extremely hot weather. But that's not always possible. Look out for signs of burned pads, which include limping, refusing to walk, blisters or redness, loose flaps of skin, changes in pad color, and licking or chewing at the feet. If your dog's pads are sensitive, carry them over hot surfaces or have them wear booties to protect their feet. For minor burns, you can clean the pads and cover their paw with a loose bandage. For more serious burns, get your pup to the vet immediately.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Study finds similar dynamics in our relationships with dogs and infants
Many people, myself included, consider our dogs to be children. We feed them the best food, take them to (obedience) school, and even bring them with us on vacation. I often get a lot of slack for treating my pups like kids, but a new study seems to back up the relationship that we have. Scientists at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna set out to explore the bond between dogs and their human "parents." Interestingly, and perhaps no surprise to us dog lovers, they found striking similarities to human parent-child relationships.There's a term called the "secure base effect" which is used to describe infants using their caregivers as a sort of "safety net" when interacting with the environment. The researchers wanted to see if this behavior was present between people and their pets. The lead scientist, Lisa Horn, set up a situation where dogs could earn a food reward by playing with an interactive toy. She watched for their reaction under three different conditions: "absent owner," "silent owner," and "encouraging owner." Lisa's team found that the dogs were much less likely to work for the food when their person wasn't present. Staying silent or encouraging the pups had little influence on the animals' motivation level. The really interesting part came in the follow-up experiment where researchers put the dogs in a room with a stranger. They found that the dogs' motivation to play with the toy did not change whether the stranger was in the room or not. Since the increased interaction only occurred when their "human parent" was present, the scientists concluded that this was key in getting the dogs to behave in a confident manner. This study is the first to find the "secure base effect" in dog-caregiver relationships. To build on this research, Lisa's team plans to do direct comparative studies on dogs and children next--very cool!
Brilliant UK Ad Campaign
The UK mobile phone network O2 has lauched a new £10million campaign that encourages viewers to "embrace their inner dog" and shun their more cynical 'cat-like' side. Be sure to look this video, and otheres are their site, and create your own "dog bomb" like this one or this one
Gary Booker, O2 marketing and consumer director, told the Guardian: "We're living in one of the most exciting eras as far as technology goes... but somehow we've got a little jaded by it all.
"'Be more dog' is all about encouraging Britain to embrace the new, have a go with the unknown and dabble in innovation.
"We're also gearing up for our 4G launch later this summer, so it's the perfect time to get the nation trying more and being a little bit more dog."
The campaign, which features the slogan "Life's a stick - go chase it", has been developed by ad agency VCCP.
Being an unequivocal dog person, it’s sometimes difficult to understand the opposing sentiment—that not everybody loves dogs. But this point of view was made abundantly clear this past week as I caught up to the growing opposition to dogs in the San Francisco Bay Area, fueled by rants produced in local media. These claims suggest that the societal scales have tipped too far in favor of dogs and their human companions, and that dogs are pampered and over-indulged. Last week, the very popular call-in public radio show KQED’s “Forum” asked the question “Is the Bay Area Too Dog Friendly?”—the program description didn’t mince words: The Bay Area is known for being a dog-loving region, but has our canine adoration reached an unhealthy level? Dogs now accompany us into grocery stores, cafes, and even offices, but some argue that we’re excessively spoiling our dogs at the expense of others. We discuss whether our region really has a dog-coddling problem. The hour-long program can be heard online.
The show featured a local dog rights and off-leash activist; a representative from the SF Department of Health; and a tech writer from Slate.com whose recent article “No, I Do Not Want to Pet Your Dog” (with the tagline “It’s time to take America back”) inspired the program and blasts the untenable overindulgence of San Francisco dogs and their owners. Many examples of irresponsibility and misbehaving committed by dogs and people were cited—dogs damaging city parks, knocking over joggers while their owners remained unaware and unresponsive; attacking horses on trails, thoughtless, selfish dog owners who mislabel their pets as service dogs to gain unfettered access everywhere, aggressive dogs, untrained dogs, and unwanted invitations “to pet my dog.” The activist on the panel, and many of the dog-loving callers, also tried to add a more reasoned and balanced voice and pointed out all the enormous benefits that dogs bring to the community and individuals but recognized that a “few” bad apples do tend to spoil it for the many. The tech author of the Slate article, Farhad Manjoo, a father of a two-year-old boy and an avowed nondog person—argued that parents like himself “rein in” their children far more often than do dog owners. He fueled the heated discussion that veered to the “dogs are worse than children” comparison, and a debate on which Bay Area parent (canine or human) was more irresponsible. He goes on to lament:
But dog owners? They seem to suffer few qualms about their animals’ behavior. That’s why there are so many dogs running around at the park, jumping up on the bench beside you while you’re trying to read a book, the owner never asking if it’s OK with you. That’s why, when you’re at a café, the dog at the neighboring table feels free to curl up under your seat. That’s why there’s a dog at your office right at this moment and you’re having to pretend that he’s just the cutest.
Read the full article here.
It would be easy to dismiss these claims as the grumbling of a small but vocal anti-dog contingent, but to do so would be ignoring the fact that there do exist some serious issues with dogs in our community, such as uncontrollable dogs and their clueless guardians at parks, and dog walkers with far too many dogs, for examples. These public debates tend to exaggerate but who of us have not seen or been the victim of some incorrigible dog guardian’s behavior. Or witnessed the unsupervised “play” at parks that can cause harm to both dogs and people? As a community that has fought and lobbied to expand our rights and those of our dogs to have access to public and private space—it falls upon dog people to listen to these grievances, reach across the divide and understand the real problems that exist, and do our best to tone down the rancor and to find solutions. Wouldn’t it be a shame to backslide into the “old days” when dogs where an uncommon and unwelcome sight?
The Bay Area has always prided itself on being at the forefront of the “dog-friendly” trend, and, so, perhaps it is among the first communities to suffer the backlash of being “overly-permissive” to dogs. Reading the comments on Forum and Slate, it’s clear that dogs are not every person’s best friend. In fact, popular sentiment that dogs are out of control was running 3 to 1—not an encouraging sign. Is this a concern that is creeping into your community? Do you sense that dogs have worn out their welcome? What can dog people do to stem this outcry?
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