Home
interviews
Good Dog: Studies & Research
Great Thinkers on Dogs
Six leading canine researchers talk about their work.
Adám Miklósi & Patricia B. McConnell

I think you would have fun playing Mad Libs with your dog’s life, filling in the blanks to match Siena or Diego’s unique personality and interests. After all, your intimate knowledge of your dog is unparalleled. You know what he thinks of the neighbor’s dog, and whether he prefers balls to sticks or carrots to apples. But our canine experts also know your dog, albeit in a different way. Scholars who focus on canine behavior, cognition and wellbeing, they collectively have more than a century of experience in the fields of veterinary medicine, animal behavior, animal welfare, zoology, anthrozoology and psychology under their belts. Read on to find out what they think about dogs, and what they want you to know.

What common misconceptions do people have about dogs?

McConnell: Often it seems that we get things backwards with dogs. Sometimes it seems like people think of dogs as furry people, when they’re not. The flip side is that there are similarities between dogs and humans, and people need to be compassionate and understanding of what a dog is going through; those are often the times people dismiss the similarities.

For example, dogs need social contact and social approval, and a lot of what they do is motivated by fear. These are all very human ways of being, and I think people forget to extend these attributions to dogs; instead, they ascribe other motivations, like wanting to be dominant or trying to beat the system. On the other hand, dogs can be less like us than people tend to think. We use hugging to communicate love, approval and maybe support, whereas dogs often see that as threatening.

Otto: That dogs are perfectly happy to sit on a couch all the time. I think they learn to adjust to that, but are they reaching their potential? And is the relationship reaching its potential? I love teaching tricks because you can spend five minutes a day with a dog or a cat and do things that stretch their brains and change your relationship. I think that is such an important piece of the relationship, and it’s something we’re not routinely giving our dogs.

McGreevy: That dogs want to please humans—almost as though dogs are hard-wired to makes us happy. This beguiling notion paradoxically excuses all sorts of abuse when people interpret training failures as willful disobedience. Dogs want to have fun with us, for sure, but that doesn’t mean they get their kicks from being slaves to our needs, wants, desires and foibles.

Horowitz: That dogs understand right away what’s going on in a household. In other words, if you say something once, it’s somehow clear to them how they are supposed to behave, what you’d like them to do and how the day is going to go. Dogs are pretty flexible, and they adapt fairly well, but a lot of what we call misbehavior is just lack of mutual understanding: ours of the dog’s needs and abilities and theirs of what we expect of them. I find that a bit disheartening.

Another misconception is the alpha dog concept. For some reason, the concept of the hierarchy of the pack was a compelling idea that stuck and was popularized. It’s not only really damaging and simplifying, it’s wrong by analogy.

Miklósi: That the dog is a wolf and also that the dog is a child. I like to say that dogs are dogs, and that’s the most difficult way to try and conceptualize dogs!

Bradshaw: That dogs are reconstructed wolves. I keep coming across journalists who interview me and still believe the old stuff about keeping a dog in its place—that the dog wants to dominate you and take over your house. They’ve read this stuff, taken it in and believe it to be true. Ultimately, it’s bad for dogs. When I speak with people, they seem interested to learn that the UK military trains dogs, whether patrol or sniffer dogs, with play as the reward; punishment-based training has been phased out. When people hear that marines know they can train a dog better by playing a game than by hitting, they take note.

What’s your framework for thinking about the dog?

Horowitz: My consideration of the dog is for his umwelt—his perspective. I’m interested in the way the story of domestication and selective breeding combines with the dog’s particular sensory and cognitive abilities to produce the behaviors we see. I’m particularly interested in how we easily interpret those behaviors from an anthropocentric standpoint. Behaviors almost always look different when interpreted from an evolutionary and cognitive standpoint.

Miklósi: When thinking about any species other than ourselves—whether dog, fish or mice—we always have a third-person view. With this in mind, we view the animal based on how it fits into its niche. In our case, the dog’s niche isn’t a rain forest or an ocean but rather, the environment offered by humans. Even if dogs are feral, they are not in the middle of the forest; dogs remain close to humans.

From there, we think about how dogs achieve and maintain relationships with humans. I think this is what makes dogs unique compared to other animals—their relationship with humans is very special.

Bradshaw: I first think about the dog as an emotional animal for whom the primary motivation is to attach to humans. Somehow, through the course of domestication, we have built this into the vast majority of dogs.

The second framework is the dog’s olfactory sense, which we make use of and often take for granted. Dogs’ subjective world is defined, to a large extent, by smell rather than by what something looks like, which is how we define our world. Everybody knows that there are so many uses for the dog’s nose—that when you put your luggage on the conveyer belt in the airport, a dog might sniff it before it’s loaded on the plane—but we don’t readily incorporate their olfaction into our everyday lives with them.

McGreevy: I think of the normal dog as a social athlete and a fun-loving opportunist.

McConnell: Instead of talking about the dog, I find myself wanting to talk about a dog. Dogs are enormously variable, and I see so much frustration and so much suffering because people expect their dog to be one way and the dog behaves in another way.

Just as people are individuals, dogs are individuals. I think it’s critical we understand that we’re not looking at a Golden Retriever or a Border Collie— although I don’t want to dismiss breedrelated traits—but that we’re looking at Frank or Willie or Spot or Martha.

What contributions to the field of dog science are you most proud of?

Bradshaw: When my colleagues and I at Bristol first started exploring separation disorders in dogs, they were thought to be rare—some kind of pathology. All the work we’ve done finds that separation disorders in dogs are not pathologies; they can be a reflection of something normal in dog behavior, which is attachment to people.

Also, my colleagues and I have done a lot of work for sniffer-dog welfare, improving not only the way that detection dogs operate in the field but also the way they are looked after, so they are not just efficient dogs but are happy dogs as well.

McGreevy: My contributions primarily relate to my team’s discoveries in dog behavior, physiology and welfare. We’ve shown how left- and righthandedness in dogs affect a dog’s ability to guide the visually impaired, how dogs’ retinae and brains depend on their skull shapes, and how many breeds’ body shapes predispose them to hip dysplasia. We’ve also developed and validated a scoring system for doggy dementia. On an international level, I helped tackle inherited disorders in dogs—the most preventable form of cruelty—by establishing national surveillance systems, such as VetCompass in the UK and Australia, for veterinarians to report inherited disorders.

Otto: I’m most proud of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center and the research to come. The center evolved out of my work following the health and behavior of the dogs who assisted after 9/11. It’s quite a landmark study; we are now in the 12th year of monitoring and evaluating the health and behavior of these dogs, and we are also working with a human psychologist to explore the ongoing relationship between the dogs and their handlers. This is the foundation for so much more research in the future.

Horowitz: I think that through our research, and the ideas that I developed in Inside of a Dog, I reminded people of the huge interest in understanding the dog’s point of view. In other words, looking at dog behavior from the dog’s side as opposed to from an owner’s perspective or the perspective of a comparative psychologist, who is interested primarily in mapping nonhuman animals to human animals.

So I think for many people, I helped re-spark the interest in the dog qua dog, and I’m very pleased and happy about that.

McConnell: I would say it’s my focus on the natural history of both humans as primates and dogs as canines, and using these evolutionary heritages to explain and enhance our interactions. My two favorite species have always been people and dogs, and I’m as fascinated by our own behavior as I am of canine behavior.

What needs more research or remains unresolved about the dog?

Otto: I have a sense that working dogs, dogs with a purpose and dogs who have things to do live longer and happier lives. Many pet dogs are frustrated, bored, inactive and fat; it kind of amazes me that a lot of dogs’ lives don’t even meet the environmental- stimulation standards required for rodents living in research labs. We need to think about how stimulation, or the lack thereof, affects dogs’ quality of life.

Miklósi: A better understanding of what makes for good social relationships between dogs and humans, particularly cooperation. For example, “working together” might be quite selfish for dogs in that they are working for a reward, like play or food. Alternatively, research could investigate whether cooperation can be organized such that dogs are cooperating for the sake it.

McGreevy: What I call “dogmanship”— the science of how the best dog folk interact with their dogs. I’m also interested in understanding how our behavior frustrates and confuses our dogs.

McConnell: We still need lots of research on communication: how dogs interpret our behavior, how we interpret their behavior and how accurate our perceptions and interpretations really are. I think that’s most important for companion dogs. Nutrition, diet, physiology and behavior need to be researched as well. I think there is so much in these areas that we haven’t explored yet and need to. Also, research could look specifically at aggression and investigate precipitating factors, putting it all on the table: nature, nurture, genetics, physiology and diet, experience, and learning.

Bradshaw: The whole area of the dog’s olfactory abilities is waiting to be properly understood. We use those abilities, but I don’t think we fully understand them. We know very little about the dog’s vomeronasal organ, and we don’t even agree as scientists on when dogs are using it. I don’t know what the implications of this knowledge would be for companion dogs, but sometimes the most exciting findings arise when doing research for the sake of it; practical value is a byproduct.

What do you wish the average dog owner knew about dogs?

Miklósi: You get out what you put in. If you want a dog as a social partner, that doesn’t mean lying in bed together and watching TV, but going out together actively. That could include learning, teaching, talking or solving problems together. I wish people understood that if they do this, they both would have happier lives.

A great example is olfaction. People think that dogs have fantastic abilities when it comes to smell, but that’s an oversimplification. Dogs have a fantastic potential for smelling, but if the dog spends its whole life in an apartment and never uses its nose, then I would assume that dog would have poor smelling abilities.

The same goes for social interactions. If the dog has no experience meeting other dogs or people, or has never had a task, then that dog will not function properly. And I think this is also a welfare issue. In some cases, street dogs who are rescued and taken to Western countries are worse off because they are alone, have no experiences and sleep all day.

Otto: Dogs are smart and their brains need exercise as much as their bodies. People get that they need to take their dog for a walk, but they don’t always think about needing to exercise the dog’s brain.

McGreevy: Most dogs are better communicators than most people. They are our guides; if we want to master dogmanship, we need to know how to read them. Horowitz: The dog deserves a lot more attention and scrutiny by owners and researchers alike. Particularly, attention to what life is like for this animal who has so cooperatively waltzed into our homes. McConnell: As social animals, one of the things we share with dogs is the duality of wanting to be connected to a group and also wanting to be individuals who can pursue their own desires and wishes as best they can. I think the more we can see dogs in this light, the more respectful we will be of dogs— and they of us. I think we’d get along better, and we’d see fewer behavior problems.

Culture: DogPatch
Neuroscientist Gregory Berns Reveals What Dogs Are Thinking
Neuroscientist Gregory Berns adopted Callie, a two-year-old mixed-breed, from a shelter at nine months and trained her to lie still in the scanner and wear ear protection.

We recently had the opportunity to talk with neuroscientist, Gregory Berns, lead researcher in the MRI-based Dog Project at Emory University, and author of the must-read book, How Dogs Love Us. He explains the significance of this research and its importance to dog lovers. His findings have convinced him that dogs are people too and deserving of more rights than what society gives them now. See his reasoning behind this conviction, and how it might change the status of all dogs.

 

 

I am curious about the much-popularized “pack leader” thesis and why your study findings point to it being a mistake. Why is that?
The pack leader idea originated from misunderstanding wolf behavior. Modern wolf research has revealed that the social dynamics of a pack revolve around the parents and that there is not truly an alpha-dog. Of course, dogs are not wolves, and humans aren’t alphas, so the analogy to wolf packs breaks down on several levels. What we are finding in our research is neurobiological evidence of the great social intelligence of dogs– especially their interspecies social intelligence–which is not based on a dominance hierarchy. I think the better analogy is for humans to be like the manager of a team (especially if you live with more than one dog!)

Dogs have great observational skills when it comes to watching us. And there are some who believe that dogs have perfected this when it comes to food, and actually go so far as to contend that dogs “love” us for the food we provide. As Stephen Budiansky says, “they are great con artists.” I take it that you disagree with this, but can you tell us why your research proves otherwise?
This is the primary reason why we are doing MRIs. People can project whatever intentions they want onto a dog, but since dogs can’t speak, it remains a philosophical argument. But with MRI, we can see how specific parts of the dog’s brain responds to things like food and social reward. By comparing the relative amounts of activity, we can deduce how much of the dog’s motivation is due to food and how much is due to the social interaction with a human. We’re finding strong evidence that it is not just about food.

How do you know that dogs, such as your Callie, regard human family members differently from other humans?
Because we are presenting different types of stimuli to them while they are in the MRI. We have measured how their reward systems respond to the smell of different humans and different dogs. We have even measured how their brains respond to pictures of humans and dogs they know. Their brain responses show that they can tell the difference and that they have different emotional responses to these stimuli.

Is there any way to convince other researchers who are employing fMRIs with dogs to only do in the approach you have taken? Do you think it is necessary in science at all to have dogs who have been bred simply for this purpose?
We have raised the bar for treating the dogs as sentient individuals with free will. There are still over 50,000 dogs used in research every year, so it is an uphill battle. Most of these dogs are either bred as “laboratory-dogs” – usually beagles – or are acquired from shelters. I hope that our research will show that dogs have many of the same emotions that we do, and that it will become harder to justify using them as research subjects. An exception, however, is the need for dogs in veterinary research to benefit dogs health – like developing new treatments for canine cancer. It is a complex ethical issue to weigh the potential benefits against the suffering of another dog. Perhaps we should apply the same ethical standards we use in human medical research.

You cast a big vote for the personhood of dogs, can you explain how your research shows that dogs deserve this status?
Dogs are considered property under the law. The MRI data makes it harder to deny that dogs have feelings very much like we do and that they deserve a consideration under the law that treats them as more than a piece of furniture. Some people disagree that experiencing emotions is sufficient, and that they would need some sort of moral compass. I disagree.

Why did you decide to only use positive training techniques with Callie and the other dogs?
Because it is the right thing to do. Besides, if we used aversive techniques, all we would have gotten were fearful dogs in the scanner. Fear trumps all other emotions and cognition.

Where is the Dog Project now? What more do you hope to achieve with it?
It continues to grow. We have 25 community dog-human teams in the project. Half of the dogs are “MRI-certified” and have done several cognitive experiments in the scanner. In addition to smell, we’ve been studying the relative reward-response to owner versus an unfamiliar human versus an inanimate object giving signals, like a computer. This will tell us more precisely how socially attuned the dogs are. We’re also studying the differences between the dogs – why some have greater responses than others. We have several service/therapy dogs on the team, and it is beginning to look like their brains react differently than the other dogs. We also hope to study separation anxiety. So many questions!

If there is only one “take away” readers can take from your work, what would you hope that to be?
Dogs’ brains react in many of the same ways that humans’ brains do. We like many of the same things, and dogs value social bonds just like us. Dogs’ superior social intelligence is what makes them dogs!

Culture: DogPatch
Profile of Jeffrey Levy, DVM
Manhattan’s Vet On the Go.
This NYC vet not only makes house calls and rides the A train, he also rocks out for pets.

Jeffrey Levy, a Manhattan-based DVM and Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist, is one of only a handful of veterinarians who makes house calls in New York City. And, as the lead singer and founder of Pet Rox, an animalcentric band, he’s also one of the more unusual. A specialist in canine rehabilitation, Dr. Jeff (as he likes to be called) offers both conventional and alternative medical treatments, including acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Reiki. Plus, he can sing.

Bark: We’ve noticed a rising trend in the number of house-call veterinary services available in the United States. Why did you choose to specialize in this approach rather than a more traditional office setting?
Jeffrey Levy: I am drawn to the special way I can practice my medical craft. The animals and their people are relaxed, and I get to observe all the nuances that constitute the special relationship that exists between the pets, their people and the household environment. This allows me to glean the insights I need to truly be a holistic practitioner.

BK: What kind of canine patients do you typically see?
JL: My most frequent calls are for elderly or debilitated animals who cannot leave their homes. For example, I might see a dog with an orthopedic problem who has trouble walking. Sometimes I get calls for post-operative animals who are being cage-rested, or an elderly dog who is too fragile to travel.

BK: I should point out here for our readers that travel in New York City is never easy; a lot of people walk their dogs to the vet or hire a car service. Many taxi drivers will not even stop if they see that you have a dog with you. So it can be challenging. And expensive.
JL: Exactly. That’s why I also get a lot of calls to visit households with multiple pets. The idea of schlepping the whole herd off to the animal hospital—well, it’s time-consuming and costly. It’s so much easier for the owners if my assistant and I come to them and treat all the animals in one visit.

BK: How do you get to your house calls?
JL: I take the subway. I see as many as 12 patients in a day throughout the city and can get to them a lot quicker by taking the A-Train rather than a cab. There’s a lot of walking involved as well.

BK: What’s in your medical bag?
JL: I spend a considerable amount of time on the phone with my clients beforehand to discuss their needs. I’ll also have medical records from the referring vet. This gives me a clearer sense of what to bring, which might range from a package of acupuncture needles to medical equipment (to draw blood, for example), depending on what the case requires. There are days when I carry three medical bags for different needs.

I should point out that some things are not appropriate for house calls: Broken bones require an X-ray machine. A breathing problem might necessitate an oxygen cage. This is why I spend time on phone consultations.

BK: I understand that you also work with a lot of cancer patients.
JL: While I don’t treat cancer per se, there are many things I can do to facilitate well-being. For instance, acupuncture can make an animal more comfortable by stimulating points that help release endorphins or improve appetite.

This leads to another category of patients: nervous or aggressive pets. They’re not going to enjoy trips to the vet’s office; they’re much more cooperative and comfortable on their own turf. Another advantage of seeing an animal at home is that it’s a more healing environment. With acupuncture patients, I get a much better sense of what we call in Chinese medicine their “constitution.” That helps with TCM diagnoses.

Home visits also help me develop a relationship with the animals. Dogs especially like routine, so I try to keep my appointments consistent in terms of days and times. I also remain consistent with treatment location. A dog might have a special bed or blanket that we use just for acupuncture treatments. Pretty soon, when I walk in the door, the dog will walk over to that bed and lie down. Ultimately, I let the dogs choose their environment. If they want to get upside down on the couch to receive their acupuncture treatment, I’ll get upside down on the couch with them. They know what to do. Most of them fall asleep as soon as I put the needles in.

BK: I’ve witnessed that myself. My dog receives regular acupuncture treatments for arthritis and takes Chinese herbs to help heal an ACL injury. While I can’t say she loves the needles, she seems to know it’s good for her. She falls asleep within minutes.
JL: Acupuncture is really good for arthritis. A lot of my clients choose acupuncture because they don’t want to add medication to the mix, which can tax the kidneys and the liver. Acupuncture provides a non-invasive, non-chemical means to treat arthritis and manage pain.

BK: How do you suggest your clients prepare for a home visit?
JL: Preparing for a visit is easy. All you need to do is select a secure area where your pet will be comfortable and is less likely to play hide-and-seek under a bed or behind a couch. You also need to provide enough light for the exam.

BK: I understand that you’re involved with a band called Pet Rox, a familyfriendly musical group dedicated to animal welfare. Tell us about that.
JL: I founded the band about 15 years ago as a charity effort to help animals in need. All of our songs are about animal issues, and they’re meant to appeal to both children and adults. It started out as a joke, but now we’re playing at benefits such as the American Cancer Society’s “Bark for Life” celebration, the ASPCA’s 140th anniversary celebration, Brooklyn’s Prospect Park Zoo. Recently, we raised more than $1,000 for the Humane Society.

BK: Who else is in the band?
JL: It’s a rotating group, but everyone is from the animal-welfare community. We’ve had behaviorists, pet psychics, sea-lion trainers, dog walkers, cat rescuers—and vets, of course.

BK: You’re the force behind “Just Sniffing Around,” a Pet Rox CD. Do any animals sing on it?
JL: No, but the cover features a very special pooch. Rumor has it he’s an adoption success story.

Culture: DogPatch
Q&A with Cat Warren
A conversation with Cat Warren, author of the new book, What the Dogs Knows.

In the fall issue of The Bark, I gave a very positive review to Warren’s book, a story of “how she discovered what the canine worldview really is, and how she and her dog, Solo, learned to navigate it.” The following is a conversation with her and interviewer, Whitney Peeling.

—Claudia Kawcznka

Whitney Peeling: On the way to pick up your new German Shepherd puppy, you envisioned obedience rings and calm companionship, but this changed quickly.
Cat Warren: Solo, my third German Shepherd, spent his first evening with us in a frenzy, biting my arms, trying to hump our female Irish Setter—running roughshod over my fantasies of a calm, mature, gentle Shepherd who would lie under my desk as I worked. His first night with us, when he was nine weeks old, he tried to chew his way out of his crate, growling the whole time. I cried in my husband’s arms. David consoled me by saying we could just return him. I cried harder.

You’re a professor, but you also do some rather unusual work outside of the university.  
We didn’t return Solo to his breeder. She advised me over e-mail. I stopped whining and started working with him. He became a cadaver dog. I occasionally get a call when someone is missing and most likely dead. For Solo, it’s a complex game. Find the scent of death he’s been trained to recognize, tell me about it, and get a reward: playing tug of war. For me, the last nine years of learning how to work with him has opened a world beyond the university. It’s a fascinating one: filled with mystery, sometimes with sadness, but also with the challenges and satisfaction that comes from learning a new discipline—working alongside dogs, working with law enforcement, and exploring the natural and sometimes unnatural landscapes of North Carolina. In the process, I’ve learned a lot of scent science, dog history, K9 law, and even more about dogs and people. And about myself, of course.

What made you take such a different route with Solo, training him to be a cadaver dog?
Serendipity is sometimes driven by desperation. Solo was a singleton puppy—he didn’t know how to play well with other dogs. That’s an understatement. He hated most other dogs. Yet, he had qualities that working dog trainers love: energy, toughness, intelligence, and a good nose. I had no idea how to deal with him, though. When he was five months old, I took him to a wonderful K9 trainer who looked at him misbehaving, then at me, and said, “He’s just a jackass. What do you want to do with him?” That simple question was the beginning of my odyssey into the world of scent dogs.

Some of your time with Solo is spent with others in the working dog world, including other handlers, trainers, breeders and police units.  How have these relationships been important to you?
My epiphany in working with Solo wasn’t that working dogs are miraculous, but that their success is inextricably linked to the quality of their handlers, their trainers, and their breeders. I’m still a relative beginner. I make training and handling mistakes. Everyone does, of course, but it makes me appreciate the talent that I’ve been able to witness both while working with Solo and in researching this book. It takes imagination, deep knowledge and constant practice to train and handle dogs who use their noses for a living. It also takes careful, imaginative, competent work to use dogs effectively in criminal cases and on disaster scenes. I’ve grown to love not just working dogs, but many working dog people, and the forensic and police investigators who devote their careers to this difficult work.

Death is an inescapable part of your work, and you address it matter-of-factly, yet with great respect. But is it sometimes difficult when your search leads to a body?
If we are out looking for someone, it’s because law enforcement is almost certain that person is dead. So finding a body isn’t a nightmare. It represents success. Certainly for Solo, for the investigators, and for me. Usually for family and friends, although not always. But nine of ten times when we go for a search, we don’t find anything. Investigators are following vague leads, unreliable witnesses, or the need to simply rule out areas where a body might be. That’s their job, and at the best of times, it’s difficult work. Clearing areas—being able to say, “We don’t think the missing person is here”—matters, as well. The cases where we don’t find someone are the ones that keep me up at night.

A handler and a working dog’s training is ongoing. What are you and Solo working on now?
Solo is an experienced cadaver dog now, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t need to practice. And training is the fun part of this work. He’s also getting older (he’ll be ten in March), so I’m slowly trying to train him to work on water, a skill that will still challenge his nose but not require quite as much stamina as covering fifty acres of dense woods in the summer. David and I have a new German hepherd pup as well, Coda, who has kept me awake at night stewing about brand-new training challenges. It feels as though I’m starting all over from the beginning with her. There’s a term for it, of course: “second-dog syndrome.” Each dog is different. As one of my mentors said, gently reminding me of my early training: “Solo’s on automatic pilot now.” Dogs make you live in the present, and forget what came before. Coda, the new pup, has an amazing nose and loves the game of search, but has an independent streak. That’s working dog-training shorthand for not entirely caring about what I think. In the long run, that independence will be an advantage. If she realizes we are a team. If I learn to communicate with her. Right now, she’s busting my chops daily. When I’m utterly frustrated with myself and with her, I look over at Solo, lying calmly, looking at me with devotion. He’s now the good one. We might get there yet with her.

Working dog training appears to be very much “a man's world.” What was it like for you, starting to train in that world?
It was hard at first. The vast majority of handlers and trainers in law enforcement are men. The same is true for sworn officers generally. In the first months, I found my heart pounding when I showed up for K9 training with a police unit, though I tried to hide it. A couple of years after I started, one handler admiringly noted my “zen calm.” I had to laugh and admit it was closer to “frozen fear.”

As the years go by, it’s less difficult. The handlers and trainers like Solo. I try to be true to who I am: I'm a woman who likes working dogs and likes to train. I don’t want to be a law enforcement dog handler. It’s not a job I could do. And while I have some close professional relationships and real mentors in that world, boundaries are still important. I work hard to stay out of the way during aggression training, to not get in the middle of work conversations. If it’s a regular training and not a seminar, I don’t follow handlers to lunch or dinner break. Their world is unrelentingly 24/7.

Any group—whether it’s K9 handlers, or cops, or college faculty, or AKC confirmation breeders—is going to have its rituals and its special language. It’s going to have people who welcome you in and mentor you, and those who prefer to keep you at a distance, or even eye you with suspicion. I understand all those reactions, and I feel incredibly lucky that I’ve had several great mentors in law enforcement K9. It’s more work, no matter what, to have an outsider around when you are training law enforcement dogs. It can be challenging work, especially if you are doing it right, and really working the handlers and dogs so they are learning new skills. It doesn’t even matter whether that person is from another agency or a volunteer female handler like me. I have the same reaction when someone sits in on a class I’m teaching. I have to think more about what I’m doing.

Now, I have two K9 law enforcement units that I train with regularly. I’m fortunate. They are very different from each other, and I learn different things from each of them. It’s been more than seven years now since I started training regularly with law enforcement teams and watching at seminars. But it always feels new. I still get a thrill from watching the joy of a new handler who realizes for the first time what his dog’s nose can do.

News: Editors
No More Homeless Pets Conference Leads the Way
Cameron Woo
No More Homless Pets

For nearly 30 years, Best Friends has helped pioneer the no-kill movement. Perhaps, best known for operating the nation’s largest sanctuary for abused and abandoned animals, over the years they have branched out to include a diverse program of outreach and education that ranges from a popular television show to Strut Your Mutt events, and one of their most valuable projects—the No More Homeless Pets® conference. Each fall, Best Friends brings together experts in the no-kill movement, experts in animal care and behavior, marketing and fundraising, animal welfare professionals, rescue groups and volunteers to share knowledge, strategize and work together to save animals. This year’s conference is October 10–13 in Jacksonville, Florida. The Bark spoke to Barbara Williamson, Best Friends media relations manager, about this important event.

How did the No More Homeless Pets Conference come about? It’s a collaborative approach to a big problem … which is great to see.
Best Friends started the conference to help groups become more effective in addressing the issues related to decreasing the number of animals killed in shelters, reducing the breeding of community cats, increasing adoptions and helping families keep their pets. Plus, to help organizations be more effective, the No More Homeless Pets Conference offers opportunities to engage with leaders in the animal welfare movement and shares information on how to successfully apply for grants.

Can you talk about the kinds of people and organizations that attend, and what kind of impact this shared knowledge is having?
Many of the nation’s leaders in the animal welfare movement will be attending the conference and sharing their innovative programs and no-kill solutions with attendees. Every year extraordinary connections are made. At last year’s conference Linda Gage, one of Best Friends’ No More Homeless Pets Network specialists introduced Denise Bitz of Brother Wolf Animal Rescue (BWAR) in Asheville, North Carolina, to Emma Dawley of Friends of Homeless Animals (FOHA) in Providence, Rhode Island. Their meeting would turn out to be fortuitous for dogs in need.

Denise, founder of BWAR, has been involved in animal rescue for years. She’s been to three No More Homeless Pets Conferences and intends to be at the conference in Jacksonville. What she hadn’t planned on at last year’s conference was meeting the person whose organization would help her move 25 dogs, many of them seniors, out of the South up North, where forever homes have been waiting in the wings. “It’s been amazing working with Emma and Friends of Homeless Animals,” shares Denise. “We’re saving so many more dogs. FOHA really takes the time to match the dogs with the right adopters, and they start to promote them before they even get on the road. FOHA also shares the amazing updates from their new adoptive families, which continue to inspire our volunteers.”

FOHA is able to take so many dogs, in part, because they are helping the market meet the supply and demand. While they regularly pull from local shelters and accept owner-surrendered animals, they have found that those dogs alone do not fill the need for smaller dogs in their region.

Both groups are looking forward to attending No More Homeless Pets Conference in Jacksonville. As Denise puts it, “I think the conference is an invaluable resource for anyone in animal rescue, from volunteers to staff that share the Best Friends mission, and this conference has so many opportunities to network and really grow your organization.”

If there is a major trend that is shaping animal rescue and sheltering what would it be? 
This fall Best Friends is unveiling the call-to-action “Save Them All™.” In many ways this program crystallizes what Best Friends has believed all along and was a strong impetus for the No More Homeless Pets Conference in the first place: Alone you can save many, but together, we can Save Them All. More than 9,000 animals are killed every day in America’s shelters—that’s about 4 million a year. It doesn’t have to happen. We know that by increasing the number of people who adopt animals, and implementing more spay/neuter programs to reduce the number of animals who enter shelters, we can SAVE THEM ALL.

What speakers, topics or workshops are you most excited about this year?
All of our speakers are amazing! We’re featuring 7 communities that have reached, or are in the process of, getting to no-kill using varying approaches. The conference features our in-depth, three-hour animal behavior sessions, professional development sessions, Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program track, Technology track and much more.

Can your share some good news with our readers about the impact that the No Kill Movement is having?  
More and more communities have reached no-kill status or are getting close to achieving it—from Austin to Kansas City to Jacksonville. It’s a movement that’s picked up incredible momentum and we’re seeing communities all over the country embracing the notion that it’s unacceptable to kill pets in shelters when viable solutions exist to save them. We are on track to take Los Angeles, the second biggest city in the country, to no-kill by 2017 with our NKLA (No Kill Los Angeles) initiative. The energy and the momentum is undeniable, together we will Save Them All.

For more information on the No More Homeless Pets National Conference go to:
 conference.bestfriends.org

Culture: DogPatch
Talking Dog with David Rosenfelt
Author of Dogtripping
dogtripping rosenfelt

Mystery-lovers know David Rosenfelt for his “Andy Carpenter” series. The fictional Andy is an exceedingly reluctant attorney whose real passion is dog rescue, particularly Golden Retriever rescue. He’s most likely to be persuaded to take a case if a dog’s somehow involved.

What his readers may not know is that Rosenfelt is himself dedicated to dogs. He and his wife—whom he credits as the real force behind their dog-welfare work—started out volunteering in the LA shelter system and in short order, found themselves running a home-based rescue and placement group. At times, they had as many as 40 dogs, some of them unadoptable due to age or infirmity.

His recent book, Dogtripping: 25 Rescues, 11 Volunteers, and 3 RVs on Our Canine Cross-Country Adventure, is nonfiction, the story of relocating the pack from the West Coast to the East—an improbable and wildly complicated exercise made possible, he says, by the extraordinary help and generosity of friends and fans.

While on a Dogtripping book tour earlier this year, Rosenfelt gave a reading at a local Berkeley bookstore that benefited a northern California rescue group, and The Bark took advantage of the opportunity to talk to him in person. Following are the edited highlights of that conversation, which took place in our office and included an inordinate amount of laughter (which we didn’t transcribe).

Q: Why did you choose Maine?
A: My wife and I are both originally from the East Coast, and we wanted to have real weather. Also, we have grown kids and two grandkids in NYC. We chose Maine after my son, who went to law school with a guy who lived there, went to his wedding and said we should take a look at it. We did, and we liked it.

Q: In Dogtripping, you suggest that the move happened in spite of you. Would you do it again, and would you do anything differently?
A: I wouldn’t do it again. What would I do differently? I don’t think anything. We had a great group of volunteers. If everybody else had their option, they would’ve done much the same, just left me at home. They literally say it was one of the greatest adventures of their lives. It was just terrible, but everyone else loved it.

Q: How did the dogs take to RV travel?
A: They all found their favorite resting places; it turns out that there are many places for dogs to sleep in an RV. They were fine, really—no trouble.

Q: What’s a typical day like at casa Rosenfelt?
A: The dogs wake us up at 5:15 every morning. I go downstairs and they get quiet. (The first day I was gone [on the book tour], they let my wife sleep until seven. She woke them up.) Around 6:30, I feed, I clean up the outside after that, which is quite a job. We have a doggie door that’s like the Lincoln Tunnel, they go through that, and there’s a 60-by-60-foot fenced-in concrete area, because we didn’t want them to bring mud inside. Then we decided that’s not good enough. Last year, we put in a gate that gives them access to about an acre of forest to run around if they want, and now we’re adding another acre to that (all fenced). But they want to be inside.
Then I give the medicine, which is a major production. That’s it, unless I go to the vet, which happens with alarming frequency—I go there three times a week at least, and it’s a 40-minute drive. Around 4:30 or so, I feed again. It’s not really that hard. A day only becomes a hassle if someone’s coming over; then you have to prepare.

Q: Over the years that you and your wife operated the Tara Foundation, you must’ve become quite an expert on dogs.
A: I’m much more of a dog lunatic than an expert. You’d be amazed how little I know about dogs, and certainly nothing about breeds.

Q: Do you work with behaviorists?
A: We’ve never worked with behaviorists for our dogs at home. They’d tell us we couldn’t do what we do. For the foundation, we had a trainer who did temperament testing.

Q: You mentioned that you’re particular about vets. What are your criteria—what do you look for?
A: Everything with us is magnified, so a vet has to “get” us—he or she has to understand us. A vet also has to be responsive. I want to know things; I want information to be quantified. We flew east to interview vets before we moved and decided on one who turned out to be not as great as we initially thought. Then we found a vet in the phone book and he turned out to be fantastic. He understands me. He talks to me like I know what I’m talking about. Quality of life is his key concern. He really knows what he’s doing.

Q: You take in older dogs and dogs with health problems. How do you deal emotionally with the loss of a dog?
A: We take in dogs who are doomed if we don’t take them. You just have to adjust your mindset. It’s all about the dog’s quality of life. You have to focus on the fact that for whatever time you had them, they were happy and safe and loved. It’s very sad, but there’s something peaceful about it, too.

Q: Are you involved in rescue now that you’re living in Maine?
A: There’s no need for us to function as a placement group, but we do still take in dogs. We just got two seven-year-old Great Pyrenees—sisters—who are just fantastic. Sometimes we’ve gotten dogs who came as a pair but once they were in our house, they never saw each other again. These two are bonded at the hip; wherever one is, so is the other.

Q: How would you compare living in Maine to living in California?
A: It’s night and day. There are no pretentions in Maine. If you see a pickup truck, you can bet there’s a dog in it, always. In California, people would come into our house—workmen—and they were like deer caught in the headlights when our dogs mobbed them. In Maine, it’s business as usual.
Someone said to my wife recently that in LA, they ask what kind of car you drive, and in the South, what church you belong to. In Maine, they ask what kind of dog you have.

Discover more at davidrosenfelt.com.

Wellness: Food & Nutrition
Henrietta Morrison Talks with The Bark about her home cook secrets
Q&A with the founder of Lily’s Kitchen
henrietta_morrison_cooking

Henrietta Morrison is the founder of Lily’s Kitchen, voted the UK #1 pet food company for the last four years. Now she has a great new recipe book, Dinner for Dogs, written to inspire dog-loving home cooks everywhere. The book has 50 easy to make, delicious and nutritious recipes for your dog. We had a chance to chat with Henrietta recently.

Why do you think that people are reluctant to cook for their dogs?

Pet owners can be quite nervous about cooking for their dogs—I had lots of concerns when I started to cook for Lily. Initially, I was worried that what I was cooking for her might not be nutritionally complete, I was also concerned that she may love my home cooked food too much and never eat shop bought pet food again!

You started cooking for Lily because of skin allergies, but what inspired you to expand this into your very successful pet food business (in the UK)?

When I first started to cook for Lily it was really out of desperation. I had tried almost all pet foods on the market and she would either refuse to eat them or they just exacerbated her itchy skin. Cooking for her was a real eye opener—the first recipes were very much based on the kinds of food I love. I would say I’m a pretty healthy eater and have always been on the look out for interesting ingredients and alternatives—e.g. oat flour instead of wheat flour etc. I would use really healthy ingredients such as blueberries and squash as well as grind down herbs like rosehips. Lily just loved it! Not only that, but her skin finally made a radical improvement and the itchiness disappeared within a couple of weeks. I was delighted but also furious! I could not believe that I had been feeding her ready made pet food that was actually making her itchiness worse rather than providing her with the nutrition she needed. I was determined to do something about this and produce a pet food that would be perfect for Lily and help other dogs with similar issues.

What are the 5 common misconceptions people have about canine nutrition?

  • Well, we are all guilty of believing the marketing hype on pet food labels and not being picky enough about what exactly is going into our dogs’ stomachs.
  • Feeding kibble all day, every day is not always the healthiest choice—most kibble is pretty laden with fat in order to make it palatable to dogs. I often think it must be pretty boring to have the same meal every day too! Pet parents are often worried about feeding wet food because of concerns that the poop will be too soft. A really good quality wet food will be made with digestible ingredients so your dog poops a smaller amount and they are easy to pick up too!
  • That kibble will keep your dogs teeth clean. Nothing beats brushing I’m afraid!
  • Check the treats you feed you dog! You may be feeding a great diet, then treating your dog with snacks and treats that are full of preservatives, sugars and tons of fat. It’s very simple to make healthy treats you can keep in a jar—and cheaper than buying them.
  • If your dog has a greasy smelling coat and bad breath it is a lot to do with their diet. This is something that we don’t seem to connect.
  • What is Lily’s all time favorite recipe?

    Tricky question! Lily used to be a very fussy dog and turn up her nose at most things. Now she adores everything I make. I guess one of her favorites is the Wonderful One Pot from my recipe book—it has lentils, chicken, salmon and lots of other yummy ingredients.

    Were you involved in food/cooking before you started cooking for Lily?

    Yes, I have always been a very keen cook and I am a very keen gardener so I always have a glut of fruits and vegetables that need to be turned into recipes.

    Did you work with veterinarian nutritionists to formulate your recipes?

    Yes, I spent a long time collaborating with a number of veterinarians from different fields—holistic, herbalist and conventional. My brother is a veterinarian so he has also been very helpful as an adviser.

    How important is it to use locally sourced ingredients? (I couldn’t find info on where your pet food ingredients are sourced.) I ask this because one of the pet food recalls that happened in the US happened because of organic basil from Egypt.

    In an ideal situation you would always use locally grown ingredients. However it is not always possible to do this as it can depend on the crop outcome in a given year —for example for us last year it was very hard to source apples locally as the crop yield was extremely low in the UK, so we had to bring them in from other parts of Europe. What is critical is to have stringent food safety procedures in place wherever the ingredients come from and always ensure you are sourcing the best quality you can.

    Who oversees pet food and the regulations and recalls in the UK or in Europe? Have there been many large-scale recalls like there have been here? I am thinking of the recent one that impacted most Natura brands.

    In the UK we have the Pet Food Manufacturers Association as well as a variety of government bodies that put together regulations as well as carry out testing. At Lily’s Kitchen we carry out very regular testing on all our foods which get sent off to the government lab for testing—although there is not the onus on companies to do this. But I like to be extra vigilant as my dog’s name is on the label!

    Culture: DogPatch
    Zuke’s—Living What They Believe
    Finding a balance of work and play

    Zuke’s began over a decade ago, when Patrick Meiering was hiking in the Colorado Mountains with his energetic dog, Zuke. Noticing that Zuke had become exhausted, Patrick broke off a piece of his energy bar and tossed it to him—Zuke perked right up. The idea that pets need healthy, all-natural treats was born at that moment. Today, Zuke’s offers a host of treats that are formulated with only natural ingredients providing the specific nutrients needed by dog and cats. The company embraces a healthy lifestyle of work and play, including a dog-friendly workplace—making them the perfect partner to sponsor The Bark’s Best Places to Work contest in 2013.

    Tell us about Zuke’s office environment and an average day on the job …
    Zuke’s offices went to the dogs a long time ago. In fact, they have really always belonged to the dogs. Zuke, a chocolate Lab who had the honor of being the company’s inspiration, namesake and mascot, was the first employee, setting the stage for over a decade of canine-inhabited cubicles and offices furnished with as many dog beds as chairs. Now, on any given day there are as many dogs as humans at work. They are welcome everywhere by everyone. During work hours, they are our taste testers, quality control experts, de-stressing specialists and relaxation authorities. On their breaks, which are frequent throughout the day, there is a beautiful creek that runs through the property with trees, grass and toys for the pups to enjoy. They are an integral part of our team, the reason we come to work each day and our reminder that life with dogs is the only way to live.

    Is there an official dog policy in place?
    Although there is no official policy in place, there is wide latitude given to all of Zuke’s canine employees. They can come to work whenever they want to, their humans can take a break at any time to feed, walk, play or care for them, and they are permitted to sleep on the job.

    What is ownership/management’s view of allowing dogs in the workplace?
    Living our lives with our dogs in tow is the Zuke’s lifestyle. From the top down, Zuke’s is guided by our passion for pets and our desire to show them our devotion. The management at Zuke’s honors this passion and upholds the values that make us a unique company. While having your loyal companion at your heels all day, everyday may be overwhelming to some, for us it’s a way to give back some of the unconditional love our dogs show us.

    Can you give some specific examples of how the dogs add to the work environment in a positive way ....
    Whether we are putting in long hours of overtime to develop the newest treat recipe or debating the best name for a new product line, our dogs help to diffuse the stress, lighten the mood, increase collaboration and restore our energy. Although, some of us go running with our dogs or play in the backyard during break times, it is really more about having a dog stroll through a meeting and rest his head on your lap for a quick pet or curl up under your desk as a sleepy sidekick. Their quiet (and sometimes not so quiet) presence is ingrained in the culture at Zuke’s and a great reminder of why we do what we do.

    What are some of the tips and pointers you can offer a company who is looking to start a dog-friendly work policy?
    We believe a dog-friendly workplace works best if it is embraced and promoted by management and human resources. Rules should be put in place to ensure the safety of the people and pets in the office and there must be a high level of respect and patience shown to the pets, their owners, and the non-pet-owners in the office. There will be the occasional accident and barking will become part of the background noise, but as long as all of the dogs are well-trained, confident, dog-friendly canines, it will be a fun place to work.

    Though we are a pet products company and are thus unfairly biased, we believe that the positives outweigh the negatives for workplaces considering dogs. Aside from having a ready and willing taste test team on hand at all times, our management and employees universally believe that there are huge benefits to having canine coworkers.    

    Culture: DogPatch
    Interview Elizabeth Marshall Thomas
    Dogdom's Grande Dame
    Elizabeth Marshall Thomas

    The 80-plus-year-old writer Elizabeth Marshall Thomas has a new book, A Million Years with You: A Memoir of Life Observed. We had the opportunity to ask her a few questions about her amazing life and her observations of the natural world.

    Bark: What first drew you to dogs?
    Elizabeth Marshall Thomas: Our family always had dogs. I grew up with dogs, and one of them, a Newfoundland named Mishka, was our nanny.

    Bark: In this book, you write that the Bushmen regarded and respected lions, and were rarely attacked by them, unlike their pastoralist neighbors, who attacked lions and, in turn, were attacked by them. Do you think the same dynamic may have existed between early humans and wolves (and protodogs)?
    Thomas: A study was done in the 1970s that found no attacks on people by wild wolves except for a man who dressed himself as a bear cub and rolled around on the ground as if he were injured or ill. Wolves attacked him, but that should come as no surprise —they thought he was an injured bear cub. I [once] spent a summer alone in a small cave on Baffin Island next to a pack of denning wolves. They could have had me for lunch, but they never as much as threatened me. They did tear up my [anti-mosquito] head-net and a sweater, but I had carelessly left these at my lookout post on top of a hill. Those wolves worked very hard to find enough to eat, and I would have been easy prey if they had decided to attack me. Now and then, they would come to my cave to look things over, but always when I was asleep. I felt no fear of them whatever. They, on the other hand, felt cautious of me but tolerated my presence very well. If they were worried about me, they would have taken their pups and moved to another den. But no, they stayed. I don’t think it’s known why wolves seldom, if ever, attack people.

    Bark: The Hidden Life of Dogs was perhaps the first best-selling dog book; have you been surprised by how many have followed? And do you still believe that dogs “want” other dogs?
    Thomas: I don’t have an answer for the popularity of dog books, but I do think that dogs enjoy the company of other dogs because, like wolves, they are highly social animals. We, their owners, could almost be called surrogate dogs, usually in the role of pack leaders, but not always.

    Bark: What do you think inspires our ongoing fascination with dogs?
    Thomas: One reason might be that dogs represent something “other.” They are perfectly comfortable with people, but they are not people. Dogs fascinate me because they are windows to the natural world—they have thoughts, dreams and emotions; they make plans just as we do. What this tells us is that human beings are not the only creatures to have such abilities and do such things. To a great extent, dogs show us the “one-ness” of the animal kingdom.

    Culture: DogPatch
    Q&A with Wilfred
    TV’s baddest dog gets philosophical

    The dog days of summer officially begin June 20 with the third season premier of Wilfred, television's cult hit on FX. Aussie Jason Gann is the show’s originator/writer/lead actor who embodies Wilfred, a cantankerous lug in a dog suit who drinks beer, smokes pot and humps a giant teddy bear. The show ran for 16 episodes in Australia before jumping stateside. We spoke to Wilfred’s alter ego between takes recently.

    How are you?
    I’m good thanks. We’re three days into shooting the new season. I can’t say much plot-wise but we’re trying to get just the right mix of psychological and strange darkness.

    Have a dog?
    I don’t currently have a dog, I felt that it would be disloyal to Wilfred, but it might be time. I’ve always enjoyed their … humanness.

    Is it tough getting into character?
    I think it’s the power of suggestion … simply putting on the dog suit and nose does the trick.

    Where’d the idea for Wilfred come from?
    I was staying with a friend of mine, and he was telling me about coming home with a girl on a date, to her place and her dog looked at him like … what are you going to do to my missus? I just started to improvise on a conversation. A week later we made a short film, it became a hit on the festival circuit, including Sundance. The Australian television series followed, and now our current U.S. show.

    Surprised by the show’s success?
    What surprises me is how much we’ve gotten away with—loads more than we thought possible! Wilfred is both angel and demon. His character has that dark edge where he can do doggy, base destructive things that a human character couldn’t get away with on TV.

    Do you have many doggy encounters?
    We were filming and I was outside on the steps in front of the house, and this guy goes past walking his dog, and I turned around and when his dog saw me, he literally pissed himself, couldn’t believe what he was seeing … dog-man-god, he’s still having flashbacks, and telling all his mates. Or, I’ll be at the counter at the store, and somebody’s dog will be going crazy, jumping on me and stuff … and people say to the dog “what are you doing? You’re never like this …” I go “No, it’s OK, I’m Wilfred …”

    How would you sum up Wilfred’s philosophy on life?
    Act first, think later. Basically, trust your instincts.

    Look for the new season of Wilfred on FX June 20.

    Pages