Good Dog: Studies & Research
Have you ever noticed your dog taking interest in something you are watching on the television? If so, you may have wondered what they might be thinking, or if they are even seeing the same things that we are, or in the same way that we are.
As it turns out, dogs do in fact notice and understand pictures that they see on the television screen, as well as the sounds that accompany them. These days, with the evolution of television and more high-resolution and digital broadcasting, dogs literally see a brand new picture, with much more clarity than before. There are even scientific studies in which the results show us how they see and process images, why they are attracted in the first place, and whether or not they understand what they are watching.Is There Any Proof?
A 2013 study shows that dogs can pick out pictures of other dogs apart from humans, and group them into categories using only visual clues. It is a known fact that like-species gather for social interactions and dogs recognized and were drawn to their own species on the television screen more readily than images of anything else. Possibly an evolutionary measure based on breeding needs, it is an important facet of a dog’s life.
There is even a channel especially for dogs on HDTV called DogTV. The channel has more frames per second than regular television and is specifically colored for a dog’s specific sight. Since dogs can process visual information faster than humans, what they see is quite different from what we see.
Herding dogs, in particular, are motivated by moving objects (think flocks of sheep). They watch the television much more intently that other breeds for this reason.Depth Perception
Human depth perception is the ability to distinguish a 3-dimensional worldview from the 2-dimensional images from the retina. This comes about from the human cognitive ability to reason and formulate similarities of experiences. For dogs, the term could more readily be described as depth sensation as their means of locating objects that they have seen.
The evolutionary adaptation known as binocular vision allows the eyes of some mammals to move in simultaneous directions, also known as "vergence". When something is view close up, ocular convergence is promoted. Seeing objects in the distance, on the other hand, promotes ocular divergence. Both canine eyes then work together in a state known as fixation where two different images come together to create depth sensation, which is promoted by binocular overlap.
This comes into play while dogs watch television in that they realize the objects are not actually with them, but on some other plane all together. It doesn’t thwart their curiosity, however, and often leads to complete fixation on the images on the television screen.Field of View
The term "field of view" describes how different parts are seen at any given point in time along the visual plane. Dogs who are predators have a very narrow field of view and depend more on binocular overlap to, or depth sensation, to visually locate and isolate prey. Their maximum field of view is about 240 degrees, while animals of prey have a nearly 360-degree field of view, for protection reasons.
This field of view possessed by dogs may immediately attract some breeds to a moving picture, but once they determine that there’s nothing really happening, they may quickly lose interest.Detecting Motion
Humans have many more cones in their eyes than dogs do, therefore human eyesight is very sensitive to movement of bright lights. A dog’s retina’s, which have far fewer cones, are much more sensitive to lower light situations. They are also much more capable of noticing a moving target and can hone in on moving objects at further distances than stationary objects that are quite near them.
This ability to monitor movement is another reason dogs are capable of seeing and paying attention to television. They may not have a good idea of what is going on within the program, but they can see that action is taking place. When their curiosity is satisfactorily peaked, they will pay more attention.Dogs and Television
Old style American televisions that work from tube technology have a frame rate of 60Hz, meaning that the frame refreshes sixty times per second. Newer television, models known as HDTV, refresh at a much faster rate. Many images on the television screen appear stationary to humans, as their rate of vision is slower than that of the television. At about 50Hz, images would appear, to the human, to look like images from a flipbook. Dogs, on the other hand, get the flipbook imaging up to 75Hz, so the images have to have a higher refresh rate to appear fluid to a dog.
To dogs, the older televisions reflect images that they perceive as simple flickers of movement or light, however, the newer televisions present more fluidity and make images appear more realistic to the canine eye’s abilities.
Some dogs even use face-tracking as a means of identifying and relating to information they see on the television screen. However, as a study has shown, face-recognition in dog’s is a trained behavior that can cause dogs to focus on the images that they see on the television screen, effectively overshadowing their natural abilities and responses in this scenario.
Dogs are initially attracted to the television because of certain sounds that they hear. Once the noise has their attention, and they then find out where the sound is coming from, they begin to focus on the images and, depending on the breed of dog and the way their eyes function, interact with the stimulus or not. It was found that some of the sounds that elicited the most response from dogs was other dogs barking or whining, the sound of the human voice giving friendly commands or praise and the sounds of squeaky toys.
Dog's Life: Travel
Camping in style
RUSTIC + LUXE + DOGS
Glamping is for those who prefer to take their outdoor experiences with a side of luxury. Like the name—a mash-up of glamour and camping— suggests, it’s a world of tricked-out cabins, yurts, trailers and treehouses that offer appealing creature comforts, including hot water, an indoor bathroom and protection from the elements. Recently, Glampinghub.com, a leading purveyor of rustic-luxury accommodations, introduced a special service for dog-friendly destinations, both here and abroad. Prices range from $138 per night for a yurt in upstate New York to just under $1,700 per night for four tented cabins on a Montana ranch. It’s a new way to experience the call of the wild.
Dog's Life: Work of Dogs
Devyn Pereira Fighting for Independence
Update: On Wednesday, February 22, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with Ehlena Fry, the disabled Michigan girl whose school refused to let her bring her service dog Wonder to class. The decision, am 8–0 ruling by the justices, makes it easier for students with special needs to seek redress for discrimination in federal court. The justices sent the case back to a lower appeals court to determine whether Ehlena’s complaint involves the impermissible denial of a proper special education. Learn more about Ehlena and Wonder in the article below.
Devyn Pereira and Hannah, her service dog, move through their day as one. Clipped to Hannah’s harness, the nine-year-old is both safe and as independent as possible. If Devyn tries to roam, the 110-pound, white Bouvier des Flandres sits down, stopping the child with the weight of her body.
Before Hannah came into her life five years ago, the little girl had to be carried or transported by wheelchair to the school bus loop. Now, she walks beside Hannah. The dog is also trained to detect seizures and alert adults so medication can be administered.
Devyn was born with Angelman Syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that affects speech and mobility, and causes developmental delays, autism and seizures. The Gates Chili Central School District, located in a suburb of Rochester, N.Y., permits Hannah to accompany Devyn to school, as long as her mother pays for a dog handler. Heather Pereira’s position is that her daughter is Hannah’s handler, and she only needs minimal assistance from school staff (a one-on-one school aide and a nurse are also with Devyn daily).
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) agreed, and in September 2015, sued the school district for violating Devyn’s civil rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). School officials refused to comply. On August 7, U.S. District Court Judge Charles J. Siragusa dismissed the school district’s motion for a summary judgment (a method for promptly disposing of legal actions that are without merit). This means the case will go forward.
“People ask me all the time, why do you think the school is doing this? Why do you think that they are making this so difficult?” says Pereira. “When Gates disregarded what the DOJ said, it became clear this isn’t a matter of ignorance, it is blatant defiance … Devyn’s school is using her disability against her. Her level of delay does not erase her rights. It does not make her less worthy of the compassion and respect all parents want for their children.”
Most children are able to bring their service dogs to school without a hitch, according to Ron Hager, senior staff attorney with the Washington, D.C.- based National Disability Rights Network. But families who face prolonged resistance from school districts find themselves spending enormous amounts of time and, in some cases, money trying to convince school administrators to allow these service animals in their classrooms.
The number of legal disputes between families and school districts over this issue has increased in the last five years, says Hager. In the fall, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case involving Ehlena Fry, a 12-year-old Jackson, Mich., girl with cerebral palsy who was banned from bringing her Goldendoodle service dog, Wonder, to class.
“Our case is specifically about whether people bringing disability cases have to jump through a lot of administrative hoops first,” says Michael J. Steinberg, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, which brought the suit with the Frys. Steinberg says he is confident about the outcome of the Supreme Court case, noting that a child with a disability should not have to choose between her education and her independence. “Give Ehlena her day in court and we will prove that the district violated the ADA,” he says.
In some instances, school officials have prohibited a service dog on the basis that the district was already meeting all of the student’s educational needs. However, preventing children from bringing their service dogs to school disrupts the special bond between handler and animal, says Tiffany Denyer, founder of Wilderwood Service Dogs in Maryville, Tenn. “It doesn’t work unless you send the dogs to work.”
When Fairfax County School District in Virginia refused to allow Andrew Stevens, who has severe epilepsy and is developmentally delayed, to take his German Shepherd service dog, Alaya, to school in 2010, his family reached out to the national media, even appearing on The Today Show. When interviewed by the media, Kim Dockery, Fairfax County Public Schools assistant superintendent, said she was concerned about keeping Andrew and the other students safe. The district ultimately allowed Alaya to accompany Andrew. “I think they’re afraid of new things they don’t understand,” says Angelo Stevens, Andrew’s dad.
Heather Pereira began advocating for her daughter’s right to take her service dog to school six years ago. When she talks about the ongoing conflict with Gates Chili school officials, you can hear the weariness in her voice, but the determination is still there, too. In 2011, the district allowed Hannah to accompany the preschooler to school; then, that summer, Pereira was informed that in order for the service dog to continue to be permitted in school, she would have to pay for a dog handler. Pereira complied, but she also hired a disability rights attorney and ultimately filed a complaint with the DOJ’s civil rights division.
In September 2013, two investigators traveled to Rochester to interview Pereira, school administrators and classroom staff. Nearly two years later, the DOJ found that the district was in violation of ADA requirements and ordered it to reverse its policy and pay more than $25,000 in damages. The New York State Education Department also found in Pereira’s favor.
This battle could prove pricey for the upstate New York school district. From October 2013 to May 2015, Gates Chili incurred more than $34,000 in legal expenses related to the case, according to documents obtained by the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle newspaper through a Freedom of Information Act request.
A detailed report revealed how the DOJ reached its finding:
“Since D.P. began working with her service dog, she has learned to communicate with the dog through hand gestures and signals. Her service dog interrupts certain behaviors caused by her autism (such as meltdowns, wandering and repeated body movements). Her service dog also alerts adults to oncoming seizures so they can take precautions before the seizure occurs. In short, with the help of her service dog, D.P. is both safer and more independent at school.”
The federal agency also found that requiring staff members to unhook Devyn from the dog from time to time and to occasionally remind her to issue a command were “minimal and reasonable accommodations.”
Two weeks later, the school district challenged the ruling and filed an appeal.
“It’s extremely rare for a school district to fight the federal government. To actually litigate—I’ve never seen it,” says Ron Hager, who has been a disability rights attorney for decades. Gates Chili Superintendent of Schools Kimberle Ward declined a request for comment, saying that she could not speak on a pending matter.
The school district just doesn’t get it, says Kristin Small of the Empire Justice Center in Rochester, one of Pereira’s lawyers. “It does not get to choose how Devyn Pereira, as a person with a disability, travels through this world. That is Devyn’s choice alone, or her mother’s, as long as she is a minor,” she says. “Just as it would not be permitted to tell a person in a wheelchair, ‘I know you prefer to use the wheelchair, but … just try crutches instead,’ it is not appropriate to say to this child’s mother, ‘I know you would like her to bring the dog, but we think she can do fine at school without it.’ The fact that Devyn’s use of a service animal is an inconvenience to the school district is irrelevant. If the school can reasonably accommodate that choice, it must do so.”
Waiting for Justice
Hannah was trained at Tiffany Denyer’s Wilderwood Service Dogs, which specializes in providing service dogs for people with neurological diseases, including autism, psychiatric disorders, dementia, PTSD and brain injuries. According to Denyer, “About half the dogs are rescues; the rest come from breeders we have relationships with.” She looks for dogs who enjoy work, are calm and easily adapt to change.
In 11 years, she has placed about 200 service dogs. Each undergoes roughly 18 months of training; the first six months focus on general tasks; the rest is geared to meet the individual handler’s needs. The dogs learn about 50 commands and are taught to be low maintenance; Hannah goes the entire school day without food, water or having to relieve herself.
Hannah cost $16,000, but some trainers charge $25,000 or more per service dog. Many families, including the Pereiras, fundraise for months in order to purchase a dog. Denyer estimates that 10 to 20 percent of the families she works with have encountered problems getting schools to fully accept their service dogs.
Heather Pereira calls Hannah a “gentle giant.” “She has such a calm, graceful presence, even when Devyn gets ramped up about something,” she says. “Devyn never asks to be untethered from Hannah. That says a lot for their connection.”
This fall, Devyn will enter a fourthgrade special education class. Pereira says she is amazed at the growth she has seen in her daughter, attributing much of it to her connection with Hannah.
“Devyn is doing things with Hannah we never thought she’d be able to do. If Hannah is lying down, she’ll tug on the harness to make her get up. She taps the ground so that Hannah will lie down. Before, Hannah guided Devyn all the time; now, Devyn is the one guiding Hannah.”
As fall approaches, the Pereiras and the Frys wait for justice.
“We hope that the school district realizes they don’t have a strong case and negotiates a settlement,” Pereira says. “The pressure to make this better for Devyn and all who follow is real. Every parent knows they will not be around forever and so we work to create a world that not only accepts our child’s differences, but more importantly, embraces them.”
Ehlena and her dog Wonder win in the U.S. Supreme Court. From Reuters:
The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday sided with a disabled Michigan girl whose school refused to let her bring her service dog to class, making it easier for students like her to seek redress for discrimination in federal court.
The justices ruled 8-0 that Ehlena Fry, 13, and her parents may not be obligated to go through time-consuming administrative appeals with the local school board before suing for damages for the emotional distress she said she suffered by being denied the assistance of her dog, a goldendoodle named Wonder.
Read more about their victory here.
Good Dog: Activities & Sports
Man and dog ride the waves together.
Brazilian Ivan Moreira remembers the first time his father took him surfing. He was five years old, and they set off from a Rio de Janeiro beach. From that point on, surfing played a major role in his life, just as it did in his father’s.
An only child, Ivan often wished he had a brother with whom to share the joy and excitement of surfing. The longed-for brother never did show up, but years later, Ivan found the companionship he craved in a chocolate Lab.
Bono, named for an Oreo-like chocolate cookie, was a birthday gift for Ivan’s then-wife in 2010. He was, of course, adorable: blue puppy eyes, fluffy ears and a desire to destroy the furniture if given an opportunity. From the first, Ivan took Bono to the beach with him; Ivan spent hours on the surfboard and Bono hung out in the company of Ivan’s friends.
When Bono was three, Ivan decided to trade in his traditional board for a much larger stand-up paddleboard (SUP). That was when Bono took matters into his own paws: he trotted behind Ivan and hopped on board for what would be the first wave ride of many to come. For the dog, the days of watching from shore were over.
In the beginning, the two were frequently knocked down and swept under by the waves. “At first,” says Ivan, “I didn’t really have a plan for how to train Bono to get his balance on the stand-up board. I had heard of dogs doing SUP but never thought that my dog would be one.” Time and persistence helped the pair learn how to synchronize their movements so they could stay upright.
A new era started for Ivan and Bono when Ivan switched back to a large surfboard and invested time and energy in a different type of training. Being able to pop up (jumping from a lying-down position to an upright position) with Bono already onboard was a major challenge, but the two built their confidence as a pair and learned how to recognize and predict one another’s moves.
In a few months, Ivan and Bono were catching waves like pros. After attracting the attention of video producers and potential sponsors, they entered the 2014 Surf Dog Competition in Huntington Beach, Calif., competing in the tandem category.
“I never expected a competition of that magnitude. I was expecting to see just a few dogs having fun on the beach,” Ivan recalls. There are no surf dog competitions in Brazil, which probably explains his notion of what the event involved.
Bono and Ivan won first place. The following year, they returned to Huntington Beach, where they repeated the feat. Once back in Brazil, they were welcomed as heroes, and Bono became the most popular dog in the country; his smiling face appeared on TV shows and in newspapers and ads. Companies were eager to sponsor Bono by providing his food, his baths and his vet care. Recently, a new Brazilian pet accessory and toy brand bought the right to use Bono’s image to promote all its pet gear, including a swimming vest specially developed for him.
Considering that in Brazil there is not a single beach where dogs are officially allowed, Bono’s accomplishment may lead to changes in the way dogs are seen and treated in the country.
This year, Ivan decided to undertake a new challenge and realize an old ambition: to have his name, along with Bono’s, entered in the Guinness Book of World Records by breaking the record for the Longest Stand Up Paddleboard Ride on a River Bore by a Human/Dog Pair. They set the new record in March, when the two traveled 1.05 miles down the Mearim River, on Brazil’s northern coast. “After three minutes on the paddleboard, I started feeling my knees burning, but then I looked back and saw Bono’s face so happy and joyful. I forced myself to persist, no matter what,” says Ivan.
Besides surfing dogs, the use of dogs to cheer up patients in hospitals in Brazil is another new project that Bono is launching in the country, as Ivan and Bono also pay constant visits to kids undergoing cancer treatment, through Casa Ronald MacDonald in Rio de Janeiro. “The kids’ mothers always tell me that when Bono arrives the kids are filled with renovated energy and joy and that they forget about their cancer and treatment side effects,” says Ivan, teary-eyed.
With almost 40,000 followers on Instagram, Ivan hopes to close a deal for a TV series that will highlight his and Bono’s adventures, lifestyle and special bond. He also has been approached about a documentary focusing on his two passions: surfing and his surfing buddy, a five-year-old chocolate Lab named Bono.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dog Days Are Forever
The first rule in handling: Always keep your dog on your left side.
Handling is dominated by the left. Your number, rubber-banded to your left arm, will be checked by the ring steward, who stands to the left of the entrance to the conformation ring, regulating the order and spacing of the competitors. The ring itself is in the shape of a square, marked off with thin white ropes looped through copper posts staked into the grass. When it is your turn to enter the ring, you must keep the leash in your left hand and the dog on your left side. You walk around the ring counterclockwise, turning smoothly to the left at each corner. Once you complete a lap, you stop and stand your dog, taking care to ensure she is stacked nicely and on alert.
One by one, each dog is examined by the judge. When it is your turn, you walk your dog to the center of the ring, where the judge will be kneeling on his/her left knee. The judge will be looking to see how well your dog maps to breed standards: inspecting her bite, spanning her chest, comparing leg flexibility, and running a hand through her coat, creating Mohawk-like ridges in the fur along her spine. After the judge finishes the physical examination of your dog, he/she will often have you walk your dog in a straight line out and back, or perhaps in a triangle, or maybe even a figure eight.
Once the judge has seen every dog, each handler-dog pair takes another lap, after which the judge lines up the dogs in the order of their placement. First place goes to the far left, sixth place goes to the far right. If there’s a tie, there will be a walk-off.
By this point, the judge will already have an opinion on the physicality of the dogs. What makes a difference now is how well the dog moves. The judge looks at the dog’s grace, power, and rhythm, and everything else fades away. Your heart pounds, blood roars in your ears and you don’t even notice the whispers of the crowd, or the heads turned in your direction. All that matters is your dog, and the sound of her paws swishing through the grass in a two-count cadence. Where you stand—on the left or the right—depends on this final walk.
Handling rule number two: When doing the walk-out, always keep your dog between you and the judge.
My parents got Deegan as a wedding present. He was predominantly white, like all Jack Russells, with chestnut-brown ears and matching spots above his tail. Deegan was my parents’ first child, and they took him everywhere: to work; on weekend hikes; and once, even into the movie theater. On a whim, they brought him to a dog show in Suffolk County and loved it so much that within six months, they were members of the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America (JRTCA).
Mom, Dad and Deegan were a little family of three for several years, until three more additions came along: Annie and Duffy, a mother-son Jack Russell duo, and me. Deegan took to his role as big brother like a fish to water. He allowed Annie and Duffy to share his chew toys, he never snapped at them when they stole his treats, and he taught them the best way to jump onto the counter. He allowed me to dress him up in doll clothes, he never snapped when I tugged too hard on his leash, and he slept at the foot of my bed every night from the day I was born to the day he died.
Deegan was my protector and my playmate, but even his patience had its limits. One day, I was eating dinner, my plate filled with carrots, applesauce and dinosaur (aka chicken) nuggets. Deegan was at my feet and I was under strict instructions never to feed him from the table. But I was a bored and curious three-year-old, so I decided to see what would happen if I pretended to give him part of my meal. I picked up a chicken nugget and moved it up and down, side to side, near Deegan’s face; his eyes followed the nugget’s every move. Then I got more daring in my movements, adding zig-zags, stars and figure-eights to my repertoire. I was able to react fast enough to save the nugget from two close calls, but then my luck ran out. On Deegan’s third attempt, he captured the chicken nugget as well as part of my finger. My shrieks pierced the air as I stared at the bright red blood bubbling from the puncture marks, staining my skin and swirling down my finger.
Handling rule number three: Never bait your dog.
In the terrier group, when the judge examines your dog, he/she will consider a variety of aspects related to how fit your dog is to hunt, which is what Jack Russells were originally bred to do. Is your dog’s chest small and flexible enough to go underground? Does she have a scissor bite? How are her legs—are they parallel?
By the time I was old enough to show in Child Handler, Deegan was 10 and no longer had the energy needed to be a show dog for a five-year-old girl. So instead, I showed North Country Clementine. Clemmie, with her brown ears bordering on orange, came to live with us after Nonie, our close family friend, passed away. For the first few months we had her, Clemmie hardly ate and she never wagged her tail; all she did was sit by the door, howling and scratching at the screen, waiting for Nonie to come back for her.
After a few months, Clemmie finally adjusted to her new life with us, which is when we realized that she was actually quite the rebel. If Deegan was my big brother, Clemmie was my wild little sister. She never came when called; she jumped up on the kitchen counter and ate our dinner at least twice a week; and she always escaped our yard, which was especially awkward when she ran to our neighbors’ house.
Our neighbors owned one of the largest garbage companies on Long Island, and they were extremely wealthy. Their house had the only gated driveway on the entire street, and they tended to keep to themselves, choosing to skip block parties and other community events. Although they seemed nice enough, we were fairly certain that they were in the Mob.
Early one Saturday morning, Clemmie went pelting out of our yard, through the hedgerow and over to the neighbor’s house. My dad, sprinting as fast as he could, arrived just in time to see Clemmie and the neighbor’s dog barking at a raccoon. The neighbor dashed out of his back door, took one look at the scene, then reached into the pocket of his bathrobe and pulled out a handgun. He shot the raccoon dead in the eye. Needless to say, after this incident, we tried even harder to keep our distance.
Handling rule number four: If something doesn’t look right, it probably isn’t.
You can show in child handler from ages 5 to 10, after which you move up to the Youth Division. While Child Handler involves only Conformation, Youth Handler also includes agility, go-to-ground and obedience. Clemmie was my Youth dog for nearly my entire career, from my first Child Handler class at five years old to my last regular season Youth Handler class at 15, and these 10 years of showing together resulted in an incredible partnership. We became so familiar with one another’s movements and so aware of each other’s presence that I never tripped over her leash in the Conformation ring and I never had to worry about her running off during agility, even when she went off-lead.
I was the one who crawled through tunnels to teach her how to do agility. I was the one who dug her out of a go-toground tunnel to save her from a skunk. And I was the one who helped her whelp her first litter of puppies after she went into labor when my parents were away. In return, Clemmie was with me as well. She was the one who memorized the agility course on the first run-through and picked up the slack when I forgot which element came next. She was the one who was with me when I won and when I lost. And she was the one who comforted me when Deegan died, curling up next to me on the couch with her head in my lap and offering silent companionship to replace the one I had lost.
The week before the 2010 U.S. National Trial, I got a text from my parents during school; they asked me to call Millie, our good family friend, to see if I could borrow her dog Intensity to show the following week. I didn’t bother responding. They thought Clemmie was too old and had been nagging me for weeks about finding another dog to show in Youth, but I wouldn’t hear of it. I had always shown Clemmie, and that was that.
Six days later, I became the Youth High Score National Champion, something Clemmie and I had worked for throughout our entire career.
But I didn’t win it with Clemmie.
The same day I received the text message from my parents, I found my dad waiting for me at the door when I got home from school—a rare thing, as he normally worked late into the evening. He told me to go into the living room because he needed to talk to me about something important.
My dad, a veterinarian, told me that not only had Clemmie thrown up her breakfast that morning, she had also thrown up blood. He was pretty sure she had Lyme disease, and thought there also could be an obstruction in her small intestine, so he took her into the vet hospital to pull bloods and get an X-ray. On the way, Clemmie had a seizure, but seemed to recover after my dad dosed her with phenobarbital and put her on fluids. However, a few hours later, she had another seizure.
This time, she didn’t make it.
Handling rule number five: If something out of the ordinary happens, prepare yourself for all possible outcomes.
I announced my retirement from the Youth Division a few weeks after the 2010 National Trial. I still had a few years of eligibility left, but wanted to end my career on a high note, and knew that my experience wouldn’t be the same without Clemmie. Finally winning the title I had worked so hard for was an incredible moment, but no matter how sweet the victory, nothing could offset the fact that Clemmie wasn’t there with me. Nothing, that is, except for a new dog.
That’s right. My parents got me a dog.
Ginny is unlike every other dog in our house, not only because she is the only brown-furred Border Terrier, but also because she is the only Terrier we’ve ever had who is solely a pet. We don’t show Ginny, nor will we ever. She goes on walks not because we need to leash-train her, but because we want to take her out, sometimes for a swim in the pond. She is groomed on a regular basis not to keep her coat in top shape, but because her fur grows so fast that it gets in her eyes. She is on a diet not because we want her to look fit in front of a judge, but because it’s in the best interest of her health, especially with all the treats I sneak her when my mom’s back is turned. She is much calmer than our Jack Russells, choosing to sit behind me when I’m cooking rather than bark at the stove.
Deegan was my childhood, Clemmie was my adolescence and Ginny is my now. She’ll never be with me in the Conformation ring nor in the agility tunnels, not even at a go-to-ground, but she will be there when I graduate from Villanova, when I get my first job, when I move out on my own. She has never known the handling part of my life, and never will, but she knows me today, she will know me tomorrow and she will know me for all of her days that follow. Ginny is not my Youth dog, but I no longer need one. I’m growing up, and Ginny will be there as I do it.
The last rule in handling: Always stand by your dog— after all, your dog will always stand by you.
News: Guest Posts
On September 8th the vein on my forehead started throbbing. Garmin had posted a video ad on Facebook for its new Delta Smart smartphone-based dog activity tracker that includes an electronic shock feature.
“Your dog wasn’t born with manners,” Garmin wrote. The video showed pictures of a “mail carrier alarmist” Schnauzer, a “blinds shredder” Whippet, and a “counter shark” Border Collie, to set up the point that, with their new device, consumers will be able to use electric shocks to teach their dogs to behave. The video has since received hundreds of scathing comments and has been shared more than 2,000 times.
Though Garmin has been selling e-collars for years, the Delta Smart system has caused a community of dog lovers to speak out in protest. In fact, I created a Change.org petition on Friday to ask Garmin to remove the electric shock feature from the device. As of this morning, the petition has garnered more than 5,000 signatures from across the globe. (I have not received a response from Garmin yet.)
Perhaps it was the Facebook ad that called attention to this controversial topic—it was the first time I had heard that the company sold e-collars. But it might also be because the Delta Smart system pairs electric shocks with an exciting new GPS technology for dogs. Dog guardians without training will have the ability to send electric shocks to their dogs’ necks by a mere tap on their smartphone screen. They may not be aware of the fact that using such collars can have serious repercussions.
Organizations including the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, the Pet Professional Guild and the UK Kennel Club have all spoken out against the use of shock collars, and countries including Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and Austria have banned the use entirely.
“Countless evidence indicates that, rather than speeding up the learning process,” wrote Susan Nilson, Niki Tudge and Angelica Steinker on behalf of the Pet Professional Guild, “electronic stimulation devices slow it down, place great stress on the animal, can result in both short-term and long-term psychology damage, and lead to fearful, anxious and/or aggressive behavior.”The IAABC (International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants) also has just issued a position statement coming out, strongly, against this device, remarking that: “We believe this device has the potential to cause harm to dogs and should not be recommended by behavior consultants, trainers, or used by members of the public. This is because both Bluetooth and smartphones have the potential to introduce excessive latency. Latency is the delay between inputting something into a system, and the system’s output.” See the full IAABC statement here..
Will Garmin remove the shock feature from its new product? I’m not so naïve to think that will be an easy sell, but whether it happens or not, at least people are talking about the dangers of shock collars. With each signature to my petition, my forehead vein throbs a little less.
Learn more at on the change.org petition.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dog parks have come a really long way in the past 20 years. Once deemed a mild curiosity (and perhaps an irritant) by most city and county park departments, they are now at the top of the list of community “must-haves.” Since 2007, their numbers have grown by 80 percent, according to a recent report from the Trust for Public Lands, which surveyed the nation’s 100 largest city park systems.
As noted in their report, 2016 City Park Facts, “Nearly every big city now has at least one dedicated dog park, often with a name that reflects the creativity and exuberance of the movement. Fort Worth pups play at Fort Woof, Memphis pets frolic at Overton Bark, Dallas dogs run at My Best Friend’s Park and Atlanta pooches scamper at Freedom Barkway.”
As we all know, we’re hooked on dogs and love our outdoor R&R time with them, watching them make new friends as we share the latest with other dog folks. Park planners and advocates are catching on; as Peter Harnik, who led the study noted, “Americans love dogs, and parks increasingly reflect that fact as people want places to get outside and take their dogs with them.”
According to the report, the top five dog-park cities are Henderson, Nev.; Portland, Ore.; Norfolk, Va.; Las Vegas, Nev.; and Madison, Wisc.
We have to hand it to all those “exuberant” dog park advocates: our hard work has paid off.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
1. TOY STORY West Paw Design has a new toy in its collection. The Zogoflex Air Wox is a crazybouncing, three-legged tug; there’s always a place to grab, and its squishy texture is soft on teeth (and hands). Plus, it’s guaranteed against dog damage. What more could you ask?
2. TRAVEL TIDY Take to the hills, the beach, the park or the trail with your dog and Dublin Dog’s Multi-Purpose Field Bag. It opens like a suitcase, has lots of compartments for your training gear, and comes with a dry cinch bag that holds several days’ worth of kibble or treats.
3. POO BE GONE We all do it—walk briskly holding our dog’s leash in one hand and a full poop bag in the other. The Leash Pod, which also dispenses bags, allows us to skip the indignity. Put a full bag in the hidden bin, and when you spy a garbage can, release the bag into it.
4. HANDS-FREE FUN If you love to run with your dog and would also love to have a little more control, Iron Doggy’s Runner’s Choice bungee leash is for you. It attaches to a lightweight belt by a sliding snap buckle and has a series of knots and handles that help you keep the pup on track.
5. RETRO CHIC Your dog doesn’t care what her dish looks like as long as it’s full, but you’ll appreciate Waggo’s Too Hot vintage ceramic dog bowls, which echo casserole dishes of days gone by. They come in four colors and two sizes—two- and four-cup capacity—and are dishwasher and microwave safe. waggo.com
6. TASTY TOPPER Honest Kitchen calls their Functional Liquid Treat a “treat with benefits.” The tasty instant bone broth also has turmeric, the potent kind, and can be used as a between-meal drink or to enhance your dog’s regular meals. It may also tempt picky or reluctant eaters. (Good for cats, too.)
War is hell, the saying goes, and not just for soldiers. The highly trained military dogs at their side pay an equally severe price. Sculptor James Mellick has memorialized these dogs— and through them, the soldiers with whom they served—in a series of seven life-sized works. The Doberman missing a foreleg, a German Shepherd with a prosthetic paw, a Belgian Malinois with a metal plate: as hard as they are to contemplate, these dogs seem undaunted, a testimony to Mellick’s sensitivity and dogs’ innate, in-the-moment nature. Carved from cherry, poplar, sycamore, walnut and cedar, the sculptures came to life through a long process of designing, laminating, carving and finishing. Fine details—the bone structure under the fur; the curve of a leg; expressions conveyed by the eyes, brows and ears—are informed by Mellick’s lifetime with dogs as well as his current canine housemates, a Weimaraner and a rescued Lab/Weimaraner mix.
In his sculptural work, he says, his intent is to “reach a unity of shape and content, so that the secondary forms and shapes within the body of the dog not only serve as symbols of the meaning, but are also important design elements in the composition.”
This isn’t Mellick’s first dog-related artistic foray; he’s been investigating and experimenting with dogs as metaphors for more than 30 years. His first was Stacking Dogs (1985), a 12-foot tower of dogs ranging from an Irish Wolfhound to a Chihuahua, a comment on human arrogance, he says. His Canine Allegory Series (1997) also reflects his belief in dogs as talismans. “I see the dog as a totem animal of humans, a parallel self, if you will, who has the goods on us. Think about the dog’s unconditional love, trust, vulnerability, and the therapy and healing they offer. Look into their eyes and they are either saying ‘I love you’ or ‘What the hell are you doing?’”
He displayed three of the dogs—two German Shepherds and a Malinois—at the 2015 Vietnam Dog Handler Association reunion in Nashville. The veteran dogmen were drawn to them, Mellick says. “The dogs were a big hit, with the guys taking selfies with them, and many, many conversations took place around them. Men were wiping tears away. They released many emotions that had been locked up.” Their reactions aren’t hard to understand. Military dog-team jobs have always been dangerous: detecting explosives, scouting the enemy and taking part in search-and-rescue missions. Many don’t survive, and those who do tend to be deeply affected by the experience.
Mellick feels strongly about our nation’s ambivalent response to the men and women who serve in the military. As he told an interviewer earlier this year, “It’s one thing to be against war, but things really go south when people turn against the soldiers who serve. Young people today put themselves in harm’s way not because they were drafted but because they’ve volunteered. And because there is no draft, many of us don’t see the cost and we don’t feel the pain.”
In Wounded Warrior Dogs, Mellick makes us look straight at things we’d probably prefer to avert our eyes from—he makes us feel the pain and see the cost, both to the war dogs and their battlefield partners.
Wounded Warrior Dogs:
This exhibit has no connection to or association with the Wounded Warrior Project charity.
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
In her new book, Pit Bull, Bronwen Dickey thoughtfully examines the history, stereotypes, fiction and societal worries surrounding a breed that was once thought to be an American icon. In this excerpt, she scrutinizes the science behind a misunderstood and complicated behavior.
The Victorian dog-show mania of the mid-nineteenth century not only created hundreds of new breeds, but also created two possible categories of bloodlines within many of them: working bloodlines, in which behaviors were most important, and conformation or show bloodlines, which prioritized appearance over behavior. The “washouts” from the conformation lines usually went on to pet homes. The dramatic increase in the number of breeders also allowed for more physical and behavioral variation within each breed, with the most popular dogs also being the most varied. Today, Labradors from American show lines are much shorter and fatter than they were even twenty years ago, while Labradors from British field lines are leaner and leggier. Dogs from these two strains may not only look different, they may also have drastically different behavioral profiles.
When breeders stop pushing, the car rolls back down the hill, and canine behavior drifts back to the middle. Exaggerated traits that are not selected for and not adaptive will mellow out and disappear over time, which is what appears to be happening in both the American and European dog populations. The overwhelming majority of modern dogs live as pets, rather than workers. Great Danes are no longer used for boar hunting. Siberian huskies do not pull sleds. Rhodesian ridgebacks do not bay lions, and most dachshunds will never see a badger, let alone kill one. Rather, these animals are physical reminders of the way the world once was. As the historian Scottie Westfall says, “Dogs are artifacts.” Though it is common to attribute a dog’s behavior to the task it was historically “bred for,” many of us fail to consider that most of today’s dogs are “bred for” the work of being companions, and have been for many generations.
In 2005, Kenth Svartberg, a zoologist from Stockholm University, collected data from more than thirteen thousand dogs from thirty-one breeds that had been subjected to a standardized behavior test and sorted them according to behavioral traits such as “playfulness,” “curiosity/fearlessness,” and “sociability.” After analyzing the data, Svartberg and his colleagues found that there was “no relationship . . . between the breeds’ typical behavior and function in the breeds’ origin.” He did, however, find that dogs from working lines (not breeds, but lines) retained more of their historical working traits than dogs from show lines, leading him to conclude that “basic dimensions of dog behavior can be changed when selection pressure changes, and . . . the domestication of the dog is still in progress.”
Pit bull breeds are not exempt from this trend. Unlike pointing or retrieving, both of which increase a dog’s ability to feed itself and its offspring by hunting, fighting isn’t one behavior but a complex series of behaviors that put the animal at tremendous risk. As highly social creatures that negotiate and renegotiate their relationships over time, most dogs depend on shared resources for their survival. If removed from human society, a dog that indiscriminately attacks or kills its own kind doesn’t live very long. While it’s certainly possible to breed for certain types of aggression (toward humans or other animals), it’s much harder to breed dogs that match the profile that fighters say they want: an animal that is indiscriminately accepting of humans, selectively reactive around other dogs in a specific environment—the pit— but tolerant of dogs outside of it, one that “doesn’t signal its intentions,” and also “doesn’t feel fear or pain.” They may as well be describing the American unicorn terrier, because these are all genetic dead ends.
No researcher has yet located an “aggression gene” or a set of aggression genes, despite years of genomic analysis. While conducting his research at Bar Harbor, John Paul Scott considered aggression “a poor scientific term [that] chiefly functions as a convenient handle to relate phenomena described in more objective terms to practical human problems.” At best, today’s scientists can only make educated guesses about certain components of canine reactivity, like the startle reflex (which multiple studies indicate is heritable) and individual pieces of the agonistic repertoire (freezing, fleeing, defensive postures, vocalizations, etc.). But this requires that researchers clearly define and isolate the behaviors they are observing, which is always a challenge. It’s possible, for example, that what was once called “rage syndrome” in certain lines of the English springer spaniel and English cocker spaniel is not one condition but several that were mistakenly grouped into one category. A few studies in mice and dogs have shown that disruption of the 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) receptors in the brain, which regulate the neurotransmitter serotonin, may be linked to specific types of impulsive aggression, but in both animals and humans, the 5-HT receptors can be damaged by stress and trauma that occur both in utero and after birth. Yet even these possible neurological links have been observed only in dogs from tightly closed gene pools. They are not widely passed from dog to dog in an open breeding system, like the passing of a disease.
“Let’s assume that you and I are working to breed the most dangerous aggressive fighting dog in the world,” Kris Irizarry, the geneticist at Western University, told me. “And we want this dog to turn and attack any human being, child, or any other animal relentlessly and never stop until it dies, 100 percent of the time. That’s our goal, okay? Now, let’s make the crazy assumption that we achieve that goal, and we produce, I don’t know, fifty dogs, a hundred dogs, even a thousand dogs that all have the same amount of this supernatural trait. For our purposes, we’ll call them ‘Crazy Dogs.’”
As he previously pointed out, “The moment our dog mates with any other type of dog, half of that genetic material is lost, so now you have a litter that’s only 50 percent Crazy Dog. If that litter reproduces, then their offspring are only 25 percent Crazy Dog. Then it goes down to 12.5 percent, 6.25 percent, et cetera. Within only seven generations, you’re at 1 percent Crazy Dog, and that’s assuming you were 100 percent successful at the beginning, which we know isn’t true of any breeder or any type of dog. Especially when you’re talking about complex behaviors like fighting, it just doesn’t work that way. There are probably constellations of genes, maybe even hundreds or thousands of genes that are contributing to that behavior. You have to get the right neuron shape, the appropriate amount of neurotransmitters, all these things.
“So,” he continued, “the idea that any dog that has an ancestor—however many generations back—that had a head shape that cast a shadow against a wall that looked like the shape of a dog that bit someone in the pants . . . the idea that this dog is now going to be biting people is absolutely ludicrous! Americans watch too many zombie movies.”
A number of other studies have confirmed that dogs lash out most frequently from fear and anxiety, not “rage.” Not every dog that displays these behaviors has been abused, neglected, or formally trained, but overwhelmingly, the factors most highly correlated with dog aggression, such as the dog’s early development, its level of socialization with people and other dogs, how it is contained, and which training methods the owner uses, are completely within the owner’s control. Research indicates that these factors are far more important than the physical shape of the dog in determining its behavior.
Our own perceptions and expectations of the animals we encounter play a role in this, as well. “Dog breeds develop reputations,” writes the biologist Ray Coppinger, “and those reputations color people’s interactions with them.”
The fearful responses of people to a perceived aggressive breed “teaches” the shepherds or pit bulls to be aggressive with people. As the dog walks the streets, some people, almost imperceptibly, will take a step back or away from the dog. In two weeks the dog can become aggressive toward people. If people treated a golden retriever the same way, in theory one would get the same results.
Are shepherds genetically aggressive? Yes! Where are the genes for aggression? In their coat color and shape. It is a feedback system, where each time a person steps back from the shepherd because of its coloring and shape, the dog becomes more responsive to the move, and the people react more demonstratively to its movement, and so on. Can you train the dog not to be aggressive once it has learned to be? Probably not satisfactorily.
Okay, then can you breed people-aggressiveness out of shepherds? Of course! I’d start by breeding shepherds to have yellow coats and floppy ears. “Gameness,” however one defines that elusive quality, has never been studied in the laboratory with other variables held constant. Nor is it defined with any consistency. That’s not to say it doesn’t exist—there’s much anecdotal evidence that it does—but we have no way of measuring it. And, as we know, not all pit bulls come from fighting stock, anyway. The Stafford and AmStaff are show breeds, as is the American bully. Most APBTs come from conformation/ pet lines as well. So, the selective pressure for “gameness” was relaxed for most pit bulls between 80 and 150 years ago. As a result, many have retained their looks but not their historical working drives.
If we want to own dogs, their teeth come along. It is up to us to learn how and when dogs use them and to keep our dogs out of situations where they feel they need to. Aside from that, we must also accept that sometimes accidents and misunderstandings, even tragedies, can happen. As much as we may want them, there are no simple answers.
Excerpted from Pit Bull by Bronwen Dickey. Copyright © 2016 by Random House. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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