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Smiling Dog: Lizzie

Dog's name and age: Elizabeth (Lizzie), 7 years old

Adoption Story:

After deciding to get a dog, we headed to the local pet store where a rescue group had two puppies, Elizabeth and Isabella (Lizzie and Izzie). My husband took one look at their paws and walked away saying those dogs are going to get really big. Of course, I couldn't walk away without at least holding a puppy. I immediately knew that was the type of connection I wanted to have with a dog. We left that day without Elizabeth and saw dogs from a few other rescue groups but I never got that feeling again. 

Two weeks later we went to an adoption event where Elizabeth, Isabella and their sister Gracie happen to be. My husband (who didn't remember these were the dogs from a few weeks ago) held up each girl. Gracie was terrified, Isabella nipped him on the nose and Elizabeth gave him kisses all over. He looked at me and said "I like this one."  We filled out the adoption papers with the rescue group that day and brought her home about a week later.

Smell You Later
Dogs sniff urine for different lengths of time

The information available in canine urine is astounding. From a proper sniff, dogs can learn about the sex, reproductive status, diet and stress level of dogs who have been there before. Urine is used to communicate about territories, to mask the smell of other dogs, to detect females who are likely to be reproductively receptive and to compete with other individuals. It’s no wonder that our canine friends find urine so compelling that they are irresistibly drawn to it. As anyone who has spent even a little time with dogs knows, urine sniffing is a favorite pastime.

A recent study called “Length of time domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) spend smelling urine of gonadectomised and intact conspecifics” was conducted to investigate whether gonadectomy (being spayed or neutered) affects urine-sniffing behavior. Since gonadectomy has significant impacts on body chemistry, it has long been suggested that it disrupts the flow of information available through urine that dogs have evolved to detect over many generations.

Researchers tested the affects of gonadectomy in urine sniffing by recording how long dogs sniffed urine from intact versus gonadectomized individuals. They found that dogs spent more time sniffing urine from spayed or neutered dogs than from intact ones. One possibility is that the dogs are spending a longer time sniffing such urine because they are trying to figure out the information it contains. Because it may have a combination of chemicals that is different than the range of compounds that the dogs have evolved to understand, it may be harder for them to make sense out of it.

Interestingly, this study contradicts the findings of Lisberg and Snowdon, whose 2009 paper also analyzed the investigation patterns of unfamiliar urine and found that dogs spent more time sniffing urine from intact dogs than from gonadectomized ones. One possible explanation for the difference may be that for the current paper, the dogs were tested indoors, but for the 2009 paper, the study took place outside. (Fewer distractions inside may also explain an average sniff length of nearly 13 seconds in this paper compared with just over 5 seconds in the older study.) Another difference between the results of the two studies is that the recent research found no difference in sniffing time related to what kind of dog was doing the sniffing (male or female, intact or gonadectomized) but Lisberg and Snowdon found that neutered males and intact females both spent more time sniffing urine from intact males than from neutered males.

More research is definitely needed if we want to understand the complicated behavior of urine sniffing, which may involve many interactions between environment and individual traits of the dogs—both those who are the sources of urine and those who sniff if. Research is time intensive and can be costly, which is why I’m so impressed by this particular study. It was conducted in a single home in which the 12 dogs recruited to be sniffers all live, there was no funding source for the study and all of the urine in the study came from out of state to insure that the urine came from unfamiliar dogs. Kudos to the authors for taking the initiative to conduct a cool and clever experiment!

The Benefits of Fresh Dog Food
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If there's one thing we can all agree on, it's that our dogs are members of our family—and your veterinarian thinks you should feed them like one. How? With a fresh diet made from whole, real foods that are good enough for any member of the family. When it comes to good nutrition, our dogs are just like us; the better they eat the better off they are. By giving your best friend the best food, you can ensure that they have a longer, healthier life.

"Fresh diets for dogs have a variety of benefits," says Dr. Justin Shmalberg, DVM, board certified veterinary nutritionist and clinical associate professor at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, "It's nutrition you can see. Going forward, we all need to be looking for ways to provide fresh diets to our pets." Dog food company NomNomNow is finally making it easy for every owner to do so.

Fresh dog foods have traditionally been challenging to feed, as they require expensive formulation from a veterinary nutritionist. However, NomNomNow makes it easy to purchase fresh dog food, so your pet can receive the best nutrition possible. It's formulated by a veterinary nutritionist, cooked fresh to order, and delivered free to your door. And best of all? Not only is this fresh diet healthier and easier to feed than any other dog food, but customers are amazed at how affordable such a high-quality diet can be. NomNomNow's introductory offer of 50% off your first two shipments makes it even more of a no-brainer to try.

Pet parents who have made the switch to fresh say that it's about better health, and getting more time with our four-legged best friends. NomNomNow customer Vida K. says, "A healthy lifestyle is important for our dogs. As they get older, we realize that time is short and we want to squeeze as much time out of them as we can...With a healthy diet, we are literally adding years to their life."

Recent studies have shown that the preventive power of vegetables can actually be life-saving for our pups:

In a 2005 study at Purdue University, researchers found that by simply adding fresh vegetables to dog's kibble diets, cancer cell growth was prevented and decelerated by 70- 90%. Given that half of dogs over the age of 10 succumb to cancer (the leading cause of death for dogs of this age), we can't afford not to feed our dogs vegetables.

Fresh feeders and veterinarians also report a host of other immediately visible health benefits. Because dogs can better optimize the nutritional value of the food they're eating, results show up in several ways.

"Fresh foods are indeed more bioavailable than those made with highly processed ingredients," says Dr. Catherine Lane, DMV. This translates to the vital long-term health benefits a fresh food provides, plus a range of short term benefits to the pet and owner as well.

 

 

Pet parents say that within weeks of feeding NomNomNow, they begin to notice results. "Ever since switching to NomNomNow, Taya has been completely full of energy, looks very fit/healthy, and has a constant shiny coat," says Travis D. of San Francisco, who has been feeding NomNomNow for over a year. "People even comment on her when we walk down the street!"

Dr. Shmalberg confirms that most of his patients report these benefits shortly after switching to fresh dog food, in addition to continued immune system maintenance and better overall health.

The rich vitamins that come from fresh vegetables (Vitamin A, C) and freshly-cooked meats (zinc) play an important role in immune system maintenance, which not only helps your dog feel better every day, but also means fewer trips to the vet. "The impact of fresh dog food on Bella has been significant," says pet parent Bennet M. of San Francisco, a NomNomNow feeder for a year and a half now, "She's shown many overall health improvements, and in turn reduced our vet bills. Her veterinarians say she is one of the healthiest bulldogs they have seen."

For pet parents considering making the switch, current fresh feeders all agree: NomNomNow is the best and easiest way to provide the best diet possible. Better food and better health mean more years with our four-legged best friends—and isn't that what we all want?

To try fresh dog food and see real health benefits, start your dog's profile today and enjoy 50% off your first two deliveries of fresh dog food (free shipping included).

Say hello to real food you can feel good about feeding, and more years with your best friend.

7 Homemade Dog Treat Ideas in Under 30 Minutes
Easy-to-Make DIY Dog Treats

Dogs are cuddly, cute and best of all, loyal! The only thing they love more than their owner is treats. But not all store-bought treats are good for them. 

Personal Creations sent over 7 homemade dog treat ideas for your beloved best friend. They all contain fruit, veggies or a good source of vitamin D and protein. The next time you see a tail wag, hand over some pupcakes or doogie donuts and let them know how much you love them!

If (and When) It's OK to Invite Your Pup to the Party
Emily Post’s great-great-granddaughter gives advice on having dogs at parties
Is it OK to let a dog roam around a party?

Question: Is it OK to let a dog roam around a party?

Answer: A dog may be man’s best friend, but, let’s be honest, not all humans like dogs and not all dogs like all humans. For most party hosts, this isn’t a big issue: They know their dog and will put it in a crate, the yard (weather permitting) or an area of the house where the pet will be comfortable. 

Or they will let the dog wander about, knowing that it is calm and not a food thief or constantly underfoot. Most hosts also know the guests who are coming over, and most guests will know that the host has a dog. They may have already met the dog and are expecting it to be present.

Problems arise when the dog has characteristics or tendencies that distract guests or make them uncomfortable, or when a guest has fears or allergies. 

I suggest that you always warn new guests that you have a dog (or other pets). That way, if they have fears or allergies, they are aware of the situation ahead of time. 

I also suggest that if you have fears or allergies, it’s OK to make them known. “Sarah, I would love to come on Friday! I have a true phobia of dogs, so I have to ask: Do you and Kevin have a dog?” The conversation can then evolve into what the host and guest feel comfortable with in regard to the dog and visit.

If you haven’t talked with your host about your fear or allergy and show up to the party to find Fido free-roaming, it’s OK to speak up to your host. 

Just remember that how you say something is just as important as what you say. A calm tone (as calm as you can muster if your fears are kicking in) and offering a suggestion rather than a demand will be better received.

“Beth, thank you so much for having us. I’m terribly sorry, but I didn’t realize that you have a dog. I have a very real fear of them. Would it be possible to keep him separate from the party?” 

Most hosts will be accommodating. Also, you can choose to suggest that you leave the party. Not that I think it’s the best solution, but stating that your allergy or phobia is severe enough for you to have to excuse yourself is certainly an option. “Beth, I’m so sorry — I forgot to tell you that I have a very severe dog allergy, and I’m afraid I won’t be able to stay for the party. I would love to get together another time.”

Either way, you should feel confident in your communication, and if you aren’t able to stay for the party, suggest another time or place to get together.

Summer Dog Exercise: Six Ways to Keep Fido Cool and Happy
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The best time of year is late summer –  the weather is its warmest and the days are long. Even though fall is around the corner, many states experience hot weather well into autumn. Take advantage of the gorgeous outdoors now and be active, especially with your dog! While exercise is crucial to your and your pet’s health, it’s important to remember that the soaring temperatures can be harmful and easily lead to overexertion. Your dog doesn’t need as much exercise in hot weather and should be eased into any activity during the summer. Use the Poof Pet Activity Tracker to monitor your dog’s activities and keep your dog smiling and comfortable.

Read on for six tips to keep your furry friend safe, happy, and exercised this year!

1. Become an early bird – or a night owl

If you normally go on your daily walks during the day, it might be time to set your clock back or push it forward to stroll safely. Whether you choose to get up early or stay up late, Fido will appreciate the cooler temperatures when the sun isn’t high overhead.

2. Swim in the lake…or in the kiddie pool!

It may seem like a no-brainer, but water is the perfect solution to hot weather dog exercise. Whether you live by the beach, a gentle river is a walk away, or a lake is within driving distance, getting your pup into cool water is perfect for summer. Simply do an Internet search for dog friendly beaches, lakes, or rivers in your area and get moving!

If a natural water escape isn’t nearby, try setting up a kiddie pool in your yard! This is also a great alternative for dogs who are afraid of deep or shifting water. Ramp up the fun by including water toys like floating frisbees, splash balls, and decoy ducks. Some dogs will even dive for their toys! The Poof Pet Activity Tracker is waterproof do you don’t have to worry about your furry friend jumping in the water.

3. Take to the trees for a shady forest hike

Hiking is a great source of exercise for you and for your pup. If you have any forest trails nearby, the shade can provide a perfect respite from the hot summer sun. Plus, the dirt trails stay cool and ensure that your buddy’s paws won’t get scorched!

4. Wet pup’s belly and paws to keep him cool

If your only option is to exercise when it’s hot, bring a wet, frozen cloth or a bottle of water along. The belly and paws are great areas to dampen and are more effective at keeping your dog cool than his back. Bring along extra water for drinking and a small, collapsible bowl. Remember: if you need a water break, so does your furry family member.

5. Keep an eye out for signs of heat exhaustion

During summertime exercise, one of the most important things to watch for is heat exhaustion in your pet. Excessive panting, lethargy, confusion, and bright red gums and/or tongue are all signs of heat stroke. Additionally, if Spot lies down and refuses to get up, he needs water and a break. Never force a dog to keep going if he exhibits these signs; get him to a shady, cool place to rest and recover.

Bonus: Remember that dogs can get sunburned too! Sunscreen is crucial for dogs with sparse, light colored hair. Baby sunscreen doesn’t contain toxic chemicals and is safe to use on your pets. Just keep away from sunscreen with zinc oxide, as it is deadly to dogs if ingested. 

6. Use the Poof Pet Activity Tracker

Make sure your pup stays on a path to good health by using  Poof Pet Activity Tracker. Use this light weight device to easily monitor your dog’s everyday activity and sleep 24/7. Track your morning (or evening) walks this summer with your pup and see how many calories they burned. Keeping your pet fit and well rested is the best way to ensue your dog is happy and healthy.  Plus share your dog’s activity and photos of your adventures with other Poof Pet Parents.

Bark Readers: Save 40% off the The Poof Pet Activity Tracker with the offer code BARK40.

Summer Dog Exercise: Six Ways to Keep Fido Cool and Happy
SPONSORED

The best time of year is late summer –  the weather is its warmest and the days are long. Even though fall is around the corner, many states experience hot weather well into autumn. Take advantage of the gorgeous outdoors now and be active, especially with your dog! While exercise is crucial to your and your pet’s health, it’s important to remember that the soaring temperatures can be harmful and easily lead to overexertion. Your dog doesn’t need as much exercise in hot weather and should be eased into any activity during the summer. Use the Poof Pet Activity Tracker to monitor your dog’s activities and keep your dog smiling and comfortable.

Read on for six tips to keep your furry friend safe, happy, and exercised this year!

1. Become an early bird – or a night owl

If you normally go on your daily walks during the day, it might be time to set your clock back or push it forward to stroll safely. Whether you choose to get up early or stay up late, Fido will appreciate the cooler temperatures when the sun isn’t high overhead.

2. Swim in the lake…or in the kiddie pool!

It may seem like a no-brainer, but water is the perfect solution to hot weather dog exercise. Whether you live by the beach, a gentle river is a walk away, or a lake is within driving distance, getting your pup into cool water is perfect for summer. Simply do an Internet search for dog friendly beaches, lakes, or rivers in your area and get moving!

If a natural water escape isn’t nearby, try setting up a kiddie pool in your yard! This is also a great alternative for dogs who are afraid of deep or shifting water. Ramp up the fun by including water toys like floating frisbees, splash balls, and decoy ducks. Some dogs will even dive for their toys! The Poof Pet Activity Tracker is waterproof do you don’t have to worry about your furry friend jumping in the water.

3. Take to the trees for a shady forest hike

Hiking is a great source of exercise for you and for your pup. If you have any forest trails nearby, the shade can provide a perfect respite from the hot summer sun. Plus, the dirt trails stay cool and ensure that your buddy’s paws won’t get scorched!

4. Wet pup’s belly and paws to keep him cool

If your only option is to exercise when it’s hot, bring a wet, frozen cloth or a bottle of water along. The belly and paws are great areas to dampen and are more effective at keeping your dog cool than his back. Bring along extra water for drinking and a small, collapsible bowl. Remember: if you need a water break, so does your furry family member.

5. Keep an eye out for signs of heat exhaustion

During summertime exercise, one of the most important things to watch for is heat exhaustion in your pet. Excessive panting, lethargy, confusion, and bright red gums and/or tongue are all signs of heat stroke. Additionally, if Spot lies down and refuses to get up, he needs water and a break. Never force a dog to keep going if he exhibits these signs; get him to a shady, cool place to rest and recover.

Bonus: Remember that dogs can get sunburned too! Sunscreen is crucial for dogs with sparse, light colored hair. Baby sunscreen doesn’t contain toxic chemicals and is safe to use on your pets. Just keep away from sunscreen with zinc oxide, as it is deadly to dogs if ingested. 

6. Use the Poof Pet Activity Tracker

Make sure your pup stays on a path to good health by using  Poof Pet Activity Tracker. Use this light weight device to easily monitor your dog’s everyday activity and sleep 24/7. Track your morning (or evening) walks this summer with your pup and see how many calories they burned. Keeping your pet fit and well rested is the best way to ensue your dog is happy and healthy.  Plus share your dog’s activity and photos of your adventures with other Poof Pet Parents.

Bark Readers: Save 40% off the The Poof Pet Activity Tracker with the offer code BARK40.

Smiling Dog: Khaleesi

Dog's name and age: Khaleesi, 3 years

Adoption Story:

Khaleesi was adopted after her fur-brother, Dmitri, had trouble with separation anxiety. He began tearing up the house any time his family was away. After consulting their vet and trying many things nothing would work to calm his nerves, that is until Khaleesi. They adopted this sweet girl as a comfort companion for Dmitri and it worked! Dmitri and Khaleesi are now inseparable.

More on Khaleesi:

Khaleesi loves going on walks, going to the dog park, swimming in the river, or just sunbathing in the backyard. She is a happy girl with a lot of personality. She loves to chase squirrels, birds and her brother Dmitri. Her favorite toy is a soccer ball and she has a blast playing soccer with her daddy.

Smiling Dog: Gabriel

Dog's name and age: Gabriel, 5 years

Adoption Story:

Gabriel was adopted two months after the previous family "Argus" dog died of cancer. His family enrolled Gabriel in the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study which is a study that aims to determine what causes cancer in Golden Retrievers.

Gabriel's Activities:

Gabriel is one busy pup, in addition to being a therapy dog with Intermountain Therapy Animals he is also a R.E.A.D. dog. Being a R.E.A.D. dog means he gets to go to elementary schools where the children (usually first and second grades) read to him. He also attends Paws-to-De-stress at Montana State University during finals week to help college kids relieve stress. When he's not volunteering, he loves playing with people and his fur friends during a good game of fetch.

Moms Affect Guide Dog Success
Intense mothering associated with puppy failure

We all know human mothers who dote excessively on their kids, depriving them of the opportunity to learn how to handle life’s challenges on their own. New research suggests that canine moms who are overly attentive may be causing the same harm to their puppies.

In a study of 98 puppies at a New Jersey facility that breeds, raises and trains guide dogs for the visually impaired, researchers found that high levels of maternal care were associated with failure. About 30 percent of puppies don’t make the cut, and too much mothering may be part of the problem. Puppies whose mothers were excessively attentive were more likely to fail out of the guide dog program.

Attentiveness involved many behaviors, such as the amount of time spent in contact with the puppies, time spent licking the puppies and time in the box with the puppies. Additionally, the mothers’ postures when nursing their puppies may have influenced their development. Some mothers lie on their sides while nursing, which gives puppies easy access to milk. Other moms remain standing, a posture that requires puppies to work harder for the milk. Puppies whose mothers stood during nursing were more likely to succeed as guide dogs.

The scientists who conducted the study assert that facing and overcoming minor obstacles—such as difficulties acquiring milk from Mom—may be important for developing independence and key life skills. The opportunity to succeed despite facing challenges may allow puppies to develop confidence, self-reliance, frustration tolerance or other qualities that made success as a guide dog more likely.

Interestingly, this study’s conclusion that excessive mothering is problematic contradicts the results found in a previous study of the effects of maternal care on working dogs. In that study, higher levels of maternal care were associated with success in a program for raising working dogs for the Swedish Armed Forces. It may be that different mothering styles are best for raising working dogs of different types—guide dogs versus military dogs. Another possibility is that we’ve got a Goldilocks situation in which some dogs mother too much and some dogs mother too little, but others provide the amount that is just right.

What does seem clear from both studies is that there are strong effects of early experiences on adult behavior in dogs. Impulse control, aggression, neophobia, motivation and anxiety and a host of emotional and cognitive traits are influenced by the type and amount of maternal care they receive in the first few weeks of life. Any program would likely benefit by considering this factor when deciding which individuals to breed.

There is much to be gained by understanding which factors are predictive of a successful working dog. As the authors of this recent research wrote, one element involves the “enduring benefits of maternal care—in moderation”.

dOGUMENTA: America’s First Art Exhibit For Dogs
http://www.dogumenta.org/

America’s first art exhibition for dogs, dOGUMENTA, opens at Brookfield Place New York this Friday, August 11! Not by or about dogs, dOGUMENTA is a curated art show for dogs. The exhibition invites artists to create work addressing the canine sensibility through a variety of media—from sound and sculpture to kibble and squeaky toys.

The concept for dOGUMENTA was born during art critic Jessica Dawson’s New York gallery walks with her rescue dog, Rocky. It was clear that Rocky saw art differently than humans, ignoring New York Times reviews and artist resumes and engaging directly with the work. Dawson realized that Rocky had something to teach human art lovers, and that he and his friends deserved an exhibition of art all their own. dOGUMENTA offers an unprecedented opportunity for the creative community to engage with a new breed of art lover and to consider its new points of view.

dOGUMENTA’s curatorial team is commissioning ten new artworks by established and emerging New York City artists. Artworks will align with the artists’ established practice and also take into account canine experience and perception. Four-legged exhibition-goers will encounter work in a range of media that address formal, conceptual and experiential elements such as color, sound, scent and touch.

 

PARTICIPATING ARTISTS

Eleanna Anagnos

Graham Caldwell

Kathryn Cornelius

Merav Ezer

Eric Hibit

Margarita Korol

Tibi Tibi Neuspiel

Noah Scalin

Dana Sherwood

Paul Vinet

 

A radical, pioneering exhibition, dOGUMENTA takes its name from Documenta, the major art survey that takes place every five years in Kassel, Germany. Considered the gold standard of exhibitions of contemporary art, Documenta, like dOGUMENTA, is energizing, exciting and unexpected.

Click here to register. Walk-ons will be accommodated based on availability. 


ADOPTION DAY: Saturday, August 12

On Saturday, August 12 from 10 am – 1 pm, the pet welfare organization Bideawee will be visiting dOGUMENTA with adorable dogs and puppies available for adoption. Bideawee experts will be on-site to help find you the right pet to match your lifestyle.

True Love: The Bond with Our Dogs
We know it when we see it

The way we love our dogs varies. For some people, a dog is the proverbial best friend. To others, dogs are simply a family member, whether that means the dog is like a brother, a sister, a child or need not be defined beyond being a dog who is adored. No matter how we identify the complex relationship between ourselves and our dogs, nobody who has shared such a connection can deny that it is True Love.

True Love is hard to explain, but it’s easy to see in pictures. In the above picture, our friend Greg and his dog Espave (pronounced ESS-paw-vay) gaze at one another in a way that conveys that sentiment. In fact, I refer to this picture, which I took while visiting an ecological reserve in Panama that Greg manages, as “The True Love Photo”. Greg frequently travels internationally as well as in Panama for his work, and when I asked him what he misses most when he is away, he immediately answered, “Espave”. It is clear from the dog’s behavior that she is every bit as attached to Greg as he is to her.

Though it might be hard to explain how deeply one can care for a dog, the concept is completely straightforward to many of us. We love our dogs, and they love us. Dogs make our lives complete with the joy and companionship they add to every shared moment. It pains us to be away from them, and it’s always a pleasure to be reunited, whether at the end of each day or after a long trip. Our love for dogs reminds us that the strength of our emotions and connections to others cannot be contained within the boundary of our own species.

I know you and your dog share a bond of love that all dog people understand, but do you have a picture that you think shows it?

Reporting Pet Food Concerns

Susan Thixton of Truthaboutpetfood.com has a very interesting post today about the increase in complaints stemming from the popular Taste of the Wild dog food. She reports that many of the complaints can be found on ConsumerAffairs.com, and 27 complaints were posted in July alone. She also notes that many consumers also went to the parent company’s Facebook page to post their complaints on Diamond Pet Food. The company (that has been involved in a few recalls in the past) denied that the food had any negative affect on the animals. Wisely, Thixton explains that the best strategy for reporting concerns about a pet food that might be the cause of an illness, is the following:

1.  File a report with the FDA.

2.  File a report with your state’s Department of Agriculture. You can find info for your state's animal feed authorities here.

3.  Call/write the pet food manufacturer.

Make sure you save all the information from the pet food packaging, including the labels. Save the rest of the food (if there is any left) in an airtight container, store in the freezer. Thixton also cautions that filling out forms might be a little time consuming, but it is definitely worth the effort. This is the only way that the food can be investigated, so others won’t eat it.

Smiling Dog: Molly

Dog's name and age: Molly, 4 years old.

Adoption Story:

Molly was dumped in a rural area next to a busy highway in Tulare, CA. After being rescued they found she had double ear infections and she needed DPLO surgery in order to repair her torn ACL. A very generous friend sponsored her surgery and Molly had a 12-week long recovery. Once her leg was mended, she was adopted by her foster mom's long time friends. They had met her a few times at the foster home during her recovery and fell in love. Her foster mom had also fallen in love with her but since they wanted to continue fostering dogs, it was wonderful that her best friends were able to adopt Molly.

Molly is just so sweet despite all she has experienced in life. She just wants love and she gives a whole of it too. She is a goofy girl!

Is There a Puppy There?
A man’s baby talk heard through the fence

I was hanging my laundry near our backyard fence, which borders the sidewalk, when I heard the dog tags. Soon after, I could make out the shape of a Boxer through the small gaps between the slats. The dog was clearly aware of my presence, based on his level of excitement and his intense sniffing of the fence. The man walking him spoke with that baby voice so commonly used to address dogs, saying, “Do you hear a new friend? Is there a puppy in there?”

“No, just a person,” I replied, and I could feel the mortification across the fence. The man laughed sheepishly, said, “Hello,” and hurried on by with his dog. As he walked away, he spoke in what I think was a purposely deep voice, saying, “Let’s go, Bailey. We’ve got more walking to do.”

I felt terrible about making him feel awkward or foolish. What he doesn’t know is that rather than think less of him for using such sweet talk with his dog, it makes me respect him more. I find it charming when a man loves his dog, and there is nothing wrong with a little baby talk between a fella and his dog. Still, I can understand how he might have felt embarrassed. He got caught in what he thought was a private (no other humans around) moment until I spoke up. In retrospect, I should have kept silent. For one thing, I would have avoided making this kind man feel silly, and I also might have had the opportunity to observe more of his interaction with his dog.

Have you been caught in what you thought was a private moment between you and your dog?

Dog Temperament Testing Doesn’t Earn a Passing Grade

An article today in The New York Times takes aim at temperament testing in animal shelters hopefully this article will get the attention it deserves from the shelter community. The effectiveness of these kinds of tests, that can result in a dog being swiftly killed if she doesn’t score a passing grade, has long been under examination by humane advocates. Back in 2003, our article, Dog Is In the Details, by Barbara Robertson, looked at this very issue. And more recently Jessica Hekman, DVM, wrote an indepth piece about more recent studies that, “could be interpreted to mean that the two most widely used behavioral assessments in the United States are not doing even a passable job of predicting aggression, and that shelters are not doing much more than flipping a coin when they use an assessment to decide whether a dog will be put on the adoption floor or, potentially, euthanized.”

All these articles noted that testing an animal in a shelter setting is fraught with problems. Even the most modern of shelters can be a place for many dogs, as Dr. Sara Bennett, a vet behaviorist, detailed in the Times piece:

“Dogs thrive on routine and social interaction. The transition to a shelter can be traumatizing, with its cacophony of howls and barking, smells and isolating steel cages. A dog afflicted with kennel stress can swiftly deteriorate: spinning; pacing; jumping like a pogo stick; drooling; and showing a loss of appetite. It may charge barriers, appearing aggressive.”

But there are more and more studies, such as the one done co-authored by Dr. Gary Patronek, adjunct professor at the veterinary medicine school at Tufts, and Janis Bradley of the National Canine Research Council suggesting that shelters should instead devote limited resources to “to spent the time in maximizing opportunities to interact with dogs in normal and enjoyable ways that mirror what they are expected to do once adopted (e.g., walking, socializing with people, playgroups with other dogs, games, training).”

“The tests are artificial and contrived,” said Patronek, who roiled the shelter world last summer when he published an analysis concluding that the tests have no more positive predictive value for aggression than a coin toss.

“During the most stressful time of a dog’s life, you’re exposing it to deliberate attempts to provoke a reaction,” he said. “And then the dog does something it wouldn’t do in a family situation. So you euthanize it?”

Plus in many of the overcrowded shelters, the assessments are left up to staff members, who aren’t well trained, and who certainly aren’t behaviorists, to make the final say. “Interpreting dogs, with their diverse dialects and complex body language — wiggling butts, lip-licking, semaphoric ears and tails — often becomes subjective.” As Dr. Hekman noted, she had “observed a behavioral assessment in which a dog was repeatedly harassed with a fake hand because the shelter staff had a suspicion that he would bite. As the tester continued to provoke him long after this sub-test would normally have ended, the dog froze, then growled, then finally bit the hand, but not hard enough to damage it. Despite his restraint in the face of persistent harassment, he was labeled as aggressive by the shelter staff and was euthanized.” 

So when space is such a limiting factor, as it is in many shelters, those dogs that attack a fake hand, just make space available for another dog.

The Times pointed out that one of the tests that is most disputed is the one involving the food test. Research has shown that shelter dogs who guard their food bowls, do not necessarily do so at home. And even Emily Weiss, the A.S.P.C.A. researcher whose SAFER behavior assessment is one of the best-known has stepped away from food-bowl tests, saying that 2016 research showed that programs that omit them “do not experience an increase in bites in the shelter or in adoptive homes.” And is study of this study, showed a stunning revelation: of 96 dogs who had tested positive for food aggression in the shelter, only six displayed it in their new homes. This raised more interesting questions: Is it possible that dogs are showing food aggression in the shelter due to stress? Is food-aggression testing completely useless?

Tests that try to assess dog-on-dog aggression using a “fake” dog also have been shown to be less that ideal, a 2015 study showed that shelter dogs responded more aggressively to a fake dog than a real one.

Good news is that the A.S.P.C.A is reporting that annual adoption rates have risen nearly 20 percent since 2011. Euthanasia rates are down, although they still say 670,000 dogs are put to death each year. Some veterinary schools, like the University of California, Davis, Tufts University and Cornell University (that was the first one to offer such a program) are offering shelter-medicine specializations. And more and more shelters are employing more humane, and effective methods such as programs like Aimee Sadler’s Dogs Playing for Life that matches dogs for outside playgroups.

As Natalie DiGiacomo, shelter director of the HSUS has noted: “There is a reform movement underway to improve the quality of life for animals in shelters, and playgroups are pivotal to this effort. Play enriches dogs’ lives and reduces stress so their true personalities show.”

What is important is to get the word out to your local shelters about the unreliability of behavior testing, it is surprising how many still employ them, including the Sue Sternberg’s “assess-a-pet” and the food bowl test. And while the Times piece is valuable because of the large audience it will receive, it did feature a behaviorist who used the fake-hand and food bowl test, but at least accompanied by a more thoughtful examination about the overall behavior of the dog. That dog was saved, but many who fail that test, in most other situations, without the benefit of expert opinion, would not have been. This is a complex situation that no one approach can truly fix. But it is important to heed the findings from Patronek, "Nothing in the prevalence estimates we reviewed suggest that overall, dogs who come to spend time in a shelter (and are not screened out based on history or behavior at intake or shortly thereafter) are dramatically more or less inclined toward problematic warning or biting behavior than are pet dogs in general."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If I Judged Canine Charm Contests
Winners would have one ear up and one ear down

There are as many ways to be adorable as there are dogs in the world, but for my money, the dogs with one ear up and one ear down are the crème de la crème of cuteness. There is something so charming—and disarming—about a dog who is asymmetrical in this way, especially if it is combined with a head cock to further the effect. The ears-askew look can make even the roughest, toughest, most intimidating-looking dog appear totally harmless, and for dogs who already appear to pose no threat, it makes them even more lovable.

So, why do so many dogs have one ear up and one ear down? In some cases, it is a young dog whose ears are part of the way through the process of growing into an erect posture. They have not done it evenly so one ear is further along than the other. The cartilage in the ears is soft, but usually grows strong enough to support the ear as the puppy develops. Some dogs permanently remain in the one-ear-up, one-ear-down phase of life.

Many dogs only have one ear up and one ear down temporarily. It may just happen briefly when the dog has moved the ears in different ways. There are dogs who only have one ear up and one ear down when they are in certain emotional states. Other, naturally flop-eared dogs, show this look only when they are actively pricking their ears because they are especially alert, but only one ear fully extends. Some dogs only do it when they are tired, especially at the end of the day.

Many people worry about dogs whose ears are not a matched set, and it is certainly reasonable to discuss it with your veterinarian to rule out any medical issues. That’s especially true if both of your dog’s ears are typically erect and one suddenly changes positions. Sometimes, a hematoma or an infection can add weight to the ear and cause it to flop, for example. People who are showing their dogs in conformation consider it a problem because many breed standards require a dog to have erect ears. For the rest of us, there are no requirements about what dogs look like, and many consider this particular look a bonus in the cuteness department

Do you have a dog whose good looks are made even more endearing by asymmetrical ears?

Smiling Dog: Trumper

Dog's name and age: Trumper Flash Avogadro, 6 years old

Adoption Story:

My previous dog had terminal end-stage cancer that came on very quickly. Before he passed, I began volunteering at the local animal shelter because I knew I had to have dogs in my life to stay sane following his upcoming passing. After a few months of volunteering, I helped my sweet friend of twelve years peacefully enter the next realm. It was the worst experience ever—I knew I did the right thing, but oh, how I missed him!

One day while volunteering several months later I met Trumper at the shelter. Even I surprised myself but something just felt right, we had an immediate bond. He joined our family and has been unabashedly a mama's boy ever since.

Trumper's Name:

Trumper was his shelter name! He is such a spastic dork and would "trump" about that I just had to keep it. Flash just for "cool points", and Avogadro to fulfill my inner geek. Trumper's sister, Madame Curie, who was adopted last November also shows off his family's geekiness.

Dogs Chasing Laser Pointers
Oh, how I hate this habit!
dogs playing with laser pointers

Check out YouTube and you can find an alarming number of videos of dogs chasing the light from a laser pointer, often while people laugh in the background. The reason I use the word “alarming” is that laser pointer chasing can lead to serious behavioral issues. Watching people laugh at a situation that is often distressing to dogs is distressing to me.

Though it’s common for people to be amused by the behavior of a frantic dog pouncing on a moving dot of light, it’s not funny for dogs. Their experience in that situation is often seriously unpleasant and very tense. The movement of the light stimulates dogs to chase, but there is nothing to catch, and that is why the game is bad for dogs. The constant chasing without ever being successful at catching the moving object can frustrate dogs beyond anything they should have to tolerate.

Working dogs who are trained to find things like explosive or drugs become upset if they never have a “find”. These dogs need regular successes, but their work may not provide them. That’s why it is standard practice to set up simulated missions in which working dogs are guaranteed to discover what they have been taught to find. Successful searches keep their skills sharp and prevent psychological problems.

A lot of dogs become obsessive about the light from laser pointers, and there are many cases of dogs who were diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder after (and perhaps partly as a result of) this activity. Dogs become preoccupied with the light, then transfer that interest to similar stimuli, sometimes developing a behavior problem in which they chase lights and shadows. It may look fun and entertaining to people, but it’s usually anything but fun for dogs.

No matter how much dogs respond to them, I recommend against the use of laser pointers. It’s just too likely that the game will negatively affect the dog. If someone is unable to follow this advice, there is a way to minimize the risk of a dog developing behavioral problems and of experiencing psychological damage. The laser light can be used as a decoy that allows the dog to find treats or a new toy. Though the dog does not ever succeed at catching the light, there is the success of discovering other items. Using the light in this way lowers the risk of trouble slightly, but it does not eliminate the danger. I only recommend this as a last resort for clients who are unwilling to stop engaging their dog with the laser light.

Teach Your Dog to Feel at Home Anywhere
Have Blanket, Will Travel
Stella, a service dog in training, on her blanket during her first visit to the mall

Security blankets have great value—just ask Linus Van Pelt of Peanuts cartoon fame. His blanket gave him enough confidence to handle whatever life threw at him, especially out in the great big, wide world.

A blanket can help your dog handle adventures away from home, too. If your dog learns that a certain blanket is his, and often lies on it no matter where it is placed around the house, he will likely be more comfortable away from home if the blanket goes, too. It provides many of the advantages of bringing his crate with you wherever you go, but it is more portable. Blankets are lighter, easier to carry and can be taken lots of places that a crate can’t go.

If your dog is used to a particular blanket, it is so much easier to help him feel comfortable in a new place. You can bring it with you to friends’ houses, when you travel, to the park, to the vet, or anywhere else your dog goes. Just place it on the floor where you want your dog to lie down, and it will let your dog know that he has a spot to call his own. That helps your dog relax, and also indicates to him where you want him to go.

Blankets are commonly used in this way with service dogs. Service dogs are regularly asked to lie down and stay in a particular spot, both at home and when out and about. Blankets provide an easy way to show a service dog where you want him to lie down, whether it’s at a restaurant, in an airplane, in a meeting at work, at a conference, on a bus or at any social gathering.

Blanket Training Tips

The first step in training a dog to happily lie down and stay on a blanket no matter where you put it is to teach the dog to associate good things with the blanket. Put the blanket on the floor at home, put treats on it and encourage your dog to go get the treats. (Most dogs will need no encouragement.) Move the blanket around to new places in your house and repeat. Once your dog happily goes to the blanket, start asking him to sit and then to lie down on it, frequently moving it to new places in your home and giving lots of treats when he does what you want him to do.

The next step is to ask your dog to do some stays on the blanket, and reinforce that behavior with treats. Again, make sure to move the blanket around to various places so that your dog is learning to stay on the blanket rather than on one particular spot on the floor.

Once your dog is comfortable doing stays on the blanket at home and has learned that his blanket is the place to be, work on teaching him to do the same behavior when he is elsewhere. In a new place, start by tossing treats on the blanket, then ask for sits and downs, and finally stays. Some dogs transfer their knowledge of staying on the blanket easily to new places. Other dogs may seem to be starting over in the learning process when you are away from home.

Always help your dog to succeed by not asking him to do more than he is capable of doing. It may seem odd that your dog sees the blanket at home and immediately heads over to it, but becomes utterly confused about what you want him to do with the blanket at someone else’s house. Some dogs are nervous in a new environment, which affects their performance, and other dogs simply don’t understand that the task is the same even though it’s in a new place. It’s common for dogs to progress through the steps of the process faster in each new place than they did at home when they were first learning about the blanket, no matter how confused they seem the first time you take the blanket on the road.

Once a dogs has been to multiple places and happily goes to lie down and stay on his blanket, it’s typical to be able to put that blanket anywhere and have him feel comfortable. Most dogs who are used to lying down on a particular blanket will immediately feel quite relaxed on it no matter where you are and where on the floor you place it. That’s really the great value of a security blanket for dogs—being able to help your dog feel at home anywhere.

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