Good Dog: Behavior & Training
It’s good for them, as it is for many species
It’s easy to feel sorry for this Bulldog when it looks like he falls and rolls down a grassy hill. Within 30 seconds, though, he has twice gone back up the hill and rolled down again. Clearly, he is playing, and having a great time at it.
Many animals engage in play seemingly just for fun, and dogs are arguably the champions, spending huge amounts of time engaged in play. The playful activities that dogs do for the sake of a good time include wrestling, chasing, fetching, tugging, rolling, leaping and pouncing.
To do something “just for fun”, scientifically speaking, is a bit weird because it takes away from the limited time and energy animals have for essential activities such as acquiring food, finding and courting mates, drinking, growing bigger than their rivals and fighting them. Play is costly in other ways, too. Injury is an inherent risk due to the physical, thrill-seeking nature of play. There’s also the danger of being attacked by predators while too absorbed in play to be on the lookout. Play must be highly valuable to offset its considerable costs, and in fact, it is. Generally speaking, playful behavior makes animals more competitive in the game of life. It increases their success by helping them to survive and reproduce more than less playful individuals.
Scientists have discovered a number of highly specific benefits of play in different animal species. Ground squirrels who engage in play frequently are more coordinated and rear more young than those who play less. The most playful feral horses are more likely to live until their first birthday than their less playful peers. More playful bears have a greater chance of surviving until they are independent of their moms than less playful cubs. Rats who are deprived of opportunities to play lack social skills as adults. Compared to rats who are able to play, they are more likely to behave badly in tough social situations, either running away and shaking, or having the equivalent of a rat temper tantrum. One study found that the more rats played, the bigger their brains grew.
Though canine survival and reproduction is heavily influenced by humans in many areas of the word, that does not mean that dogs are free of the evolutionary influences that made play such a valuable activity. Play still helps them develop a variety of social and cognitive as well as physical skills. Dogs who lack opportunities to play as puppies often have impulse control issues, poor bite inhibition and lack the social skills to interact properly with other dogs as adults.
Although scientists agree that play is valuable, there is still significant debate about the specific purpose of play, which may vary among species. Perhaps it allows animals a safe way to practice important behavior, such as predation or combat with members of their own species. The purpose of play may be to get physical exercise or to improve dexterity, agility, reaction time, or cognitive skills. Developing creativity or problem-solving skills could make play beneficial. Perhaps the opportunity to practice handling the unexpected is important, so that during life-or-death-situations, animals are capable of responding effectively to the danger. Socialization or relieving anxiety may also be important factors that favor play in animals.
Whether it is swans surfing on ocean waves, dogs treating a river bank like a luge course, dolphins playing underwater catch with seaweed, either by themselves or with other dolphins, many animals love to have fun by playing. Though playful fun is costly in terms of time and energy and imposes serious risks, it is worth it. The fun is just nature’s way of making sure that animals engage in the highly valuable activity of play. That is good news for dog guardians, many of whom view canine play as nothing more and nothing less than one of the great joys in life.
News: Guest Posts
Stray attends Vienna Chamber Orchestra concert
Music lovers in Turkey were already enjoying an outdoor performance by the Vienna Chamber Orchestra when a stray dog came onstage and made the concert even more entertaining. The dog calmly wandered into view and stood right in front of the first violin, which could certainly have been a random selection. However, I’m intrigued by the idea that the dog was able to pick up on subtle cues that this was the person worth attending to out of all the members of the orchestra.
The dog did not appear to be too upset by the delighted laughter of the crowd, though he does yawn and give a tongue flick—signs of mild anxiety—at the very end of the video. He settled himself in his position by the concertmaster, lying down and looking out peacefully at those in attendance. His efforts were rewarded with hearty applause.
Every bit as captivating as this dear dog was the delight of the musicians. Though typically serious while playing, many of the violin players near the dog were clearly amused by their new fan. Quite a few seemed in danger of laughing out loud, but as professionals, they were able to keep their focus on the music.
While I was watching the dog in this video for the first time, my husband looked up from his work and cheerfully commented that the piece sounds like Mendelssohn. (And indeed it is.) Apparently both canines and humans are destined to be happy when hearing Mendelssohn’s Symphony #4 (commonly known as The Italian). This would probably please the composer, who described it in a letter to his sister as “the jolliest piece I have ever done”.
Does your dog appreciate orchestral music in general, and this composition in particular?
News: Guest Posts
People on live TV forced to roll with it
Dogs occasionally end up on the air during live newscasts and the people on screen have to make the best of it. In this Russian broadcast, it does not appear as though the anchorwoman is too thrilled. She sounds alarmed but tries to make the best of it, even petting the dog. However, she looks startled when he jumps up on the news desk and messes with her notes. According to the description of the video, she says, “This is why I like cats.”
The weatherman in the next video acts more like a dog lover, responding in a generally relaxed and dog savvy way to sharing the screen with a canine. This man easily throws the toy with both his left hand and his right, and knows that the fake throw is a good move when the dog fails to see the actual toss. He adjusts well to simultaneously playing fetch with the dog who joined him and continuing with the weather forecast, even making a joke about men not usually being able to multi-task.
In this last video, the weatherman purposely had the dog on air with him, but he definitely should have heeded the common advice to avoid screen time with children or dogs. The risk of them stealing the scene is ever-present! In this case, the dog was a visitor from a local humane society, and a high energy, mouthy adolescent more skilled at play than basic manners. In the first 30 seconds of the clip, the dog chewed through his leash, leapt up on the man four times, and engaged in a vigorous game of tug with what was left of the leash. This poor man was completely distracted, and looked a bit foolish as the dog got the better of him. To be fair, he didn’t let it get him down. He was laughing—apparently enjoying the dog and his antics.
There’s a certain spirit of adventure when it comes to live TV, and these dogs are proof that you never know what is going to happen!
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Does this song describe your life?
This song captures elements of the experience of dog guardianship, and is striking a cord with women who identify as Dog Moms. The chorus of this new anthem goes like this:
If you’re a dog mom, put your hands up, this song’s for all the ladies who provide for their pup
When you’re a dog mom, it’s just what you do, ‘Cuz they say you’re not my baby, but I know it ain’t true
It’s hard to choose the best lines, but here are my top contenders:
Never leave the house without a lint roller, Hell yeah I got a geriatric pug in this stroller
Fall asleep to the sound of you licking your parts, But you wake us both up ‘cuz you’re scared of your farts
His Instagram is poppin’, I don’t mean maybe, He gets more likes than my sister’s baby
Not everyone is comfortable with the term “Dog Mom” but a lot of women wear it with pride. They consider this video hilarious and hilariously accurate. Do you?
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Diesel the Chihuahua steals everything
To say that Diesel is one of those dogs who is toy motivated is an understatement, as is saying that he is interested in all sorts of objects around the house. Since he was a puppy, this Chihuahua has been taking things from the other members of the household and stashing them where they can’t find or reach them. His guardians call him a hoarder, and that is one way to describe his behavior, which involves taking toys, soda bottles, holiday decorations, socks and underwear, bills, credit cards, flip flops, towels, plastic bowls and gardening shears.
I’m more fascinated by the people in this video than the dog. Yes, this dog is at the high end of the spectrum for dogs who steal and stash “treasures”, but I’ve met quite a few dogs over the years who are similar in that way, and some of those were also quite aggressive over their possessions. In all cases, the people were exhausted by the endless hassles of living with a dog who constantly took everybody’s stuff and were desperate to change the dog’s behavior.
Neither of Diesel’s guardians believe that anyone could change Diesel, and they are fine with that. His mischievous ways amuse them, and they appreciate the excitement he adds to their lives. Though they both recognize that his stealing is bad behavior, they consider him a wonderful dog. He makes them laugh and they enjoy him. They love Diesel for who he is, and don’t want to change him. That’s pretty remarkable because living with a dog like Diesel can be a real headache.
Besides the general irritation of having your stuff regularly go missing (including your towel when you need it after a shower!), there is the concern that Diesel will take something that could harm him. Anything sharp, breakable or toxic could cause serious trouble, and it’s a real worry with dogs who constantly pilfer items that are not theirs. Another cause for worry is the quality of life of the other two dogs in the house. They are mugged by Diesel with such regularity that I imagine they are rarely able to enjoy a toy or something to chew on for more than a few moments.
If you’ve ever lived with a dog who regularly helped himself to whatever he wanted, how accepting of the situation were you compared to Diesel’s family?
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
They have different styles
Daisy and Cooper are both ice cream-loving dogs. When their guardian takes them through the drive thru of a fast food restaurant, they share an ice cream cone. Just for laughs, watch the way each dog eats. They definitely have different styles!
The first time I watched this, I felt sympathy for Cooper as he watched Daisy lick the ice cream while he had to wait. Waiting helps dogs practice dealing with frustration and developing self-control is good for them, so I wasn’t opposed to requiring him to be patient. I just felt for Cooper watching another dog eat what he so clearly wanted. After watching it, I was impressed with everyone in the car. The guardian controlled the situation so that each dog was able to enjoy a treat. Daisy was remarkably calm considering that she must have known that she was right next to a dog who could swallow the entire cone in less than a second. Cooper admirably waited his turn despite his eagerness to eat the ice cream.
Could your dogs share a single cone, and if so, how would you make sure they each got some?
News: Guest Posts
Both have prosthetic legs
They lost their legs under very different circumstances, but the shared experience brought them together. Maja Kazazic suffered serious injuries as a teenager when a bomb exploded near her, killing five friends in her home country of Bosnia during the war. Rosie lost her leg when her dog mom accidently stepped on her, causing an injury that became infected and required her leg to be amputated. The breeder originally planned to euthanize her, but Maja rescued her, just as a stranger once rescued Maja.
When Maja met Rosie, she knew she was the perfect dog for her, and they bonded quickly. Maja says she knew right away that they were a good match, thinking “This is my dog. I don’t know what this dog is, but any dog who wears a prosthetic is my dog.” Maja is adept at helping attach Rosie’s prosthetic leg each morning, as she has done for herself for many years. Both of those legs were made by the Hanger Clinic, which is the company that made the tail for Winter the dolphin (best known from the movie Dolphin Tale). That company received a call from a veterinarian who wanted to know if they could help Rosie by making a leg for her, to which they replied, “Absolutely!” The Hanger Clinic also contacted Maja and told her that they had a dog who would be perfect for her, in part because Maja had always wanted a Great Dane.
There is a lot more to Maja and Rosie’s relationship, though, than lost legs. They are happy together, and both love to be active, whether that involves running, agility, golf or being in the water. Maja is now a trained service dog and Maja is a motivational speaker.
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Dog makes the most of opportunity
Coming when called and ignoring anything interesting along the way is a challenge for dogs. Two dogs in this video succeed, running right to their guardians even though there are so many exciting distractions. The third dog? Well, he has a glorious time even if he doesn’t do what his guardian wanted.
It’s fair to say that he needs more training to fully master the task. Dogs who succeed with this much temptation have likely had extensive training in similar situations, although the occasional dog is so gifted at recalls that this task is not as challenging as for the rest of the dogs on the planet. For the sweet dog in this video who is clearly not one of those “gifted at recalls” dogs, the incident in the video is a huge training setback. Potentially, it was an opportunity to learn that ignoring all the goodies and going directly to his guardian is the way to “win” because he gets to play or receive something of great value. Instead, he learned that there is a lot of great stuff to be had along the route and that being a “stop and smell the roses” kind of guy is a great strategy for getting the most out of life.
I find it endearing that nobody becomes upset with the dog. His guardian simply goes closer to him with a toy to influence his behavior so that he does (eventually) come to her. Everyone remains cheerful despite the dog’s epic failure, and nobody is more delighted than the dog.
Good Dog: Activities & Sports
Dogs who play fetch solo
The world is filled with dogs who love playing fetch more than life itself, but most of them only get to play when a person is also on board. Sadly, there aren’t many people who want to play fetch every waking minute, as some dogs would prefer. For a few clever dogs, that doesn’t matter because they have figured out how to play fetch all by themselves.
Do you have a dog who plays fetch alone? If so, did you teach your dog to do that or was it something he figured out on his own?
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Watch just for laughs
This video of “Dog Fails” by FailArmy is filled with moments that show dogs being just like us at our worst—a little uncoordinated, confused or just plain silly. It even shows dogs acting unlike dogs by loving the vacuum cleaner or disliking meat. There are a few clips included that are a little scary either because of the risk of injury or because a dog seems scared. The rest are pure entertainment.
Can you describe an all-time favorite goofy moment featuring your own dog?
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