Study finds that some kids confide in their dogs more than their human siblings.
Anyone who grew up with animals knows that you develop a special relationship with your pets. For me, my cat was a willing (although sometimes not so willing!) playmate in all my games of make believe. But the child-animal bond may be even more significant than we realized. A new study out of the University of Cambridge found that, not only do these relationships have an impact on positive interpersonal behaviors, but for some kids, they are stronger than the bond they have with their siblings.
These findings are a result of PhD student Matt Cassels' analysis of data from the Toddlers Up Project, a ten year longitudinal study of children's social and emotional development, led by Professor Claire Hughes. The original research included a section on children's relationships with their pets, as well as a broad range of other data from the children, their parents, teachers, and siblings.
This made the data set unique because, while there are many studies on our relationship with pets, few used the same tool to compare children's relationships with pets with other human relationships, let alone over such a long period of time.
Matt hypothesized that strong pet relationships would make for happier children, but he found that animals create more than just smiles. The kids with solid animal bonds had a higher level of prosocial behavior, such as helping and sharing, than their peers. A subsection of the group, particularly girls and those whose pet was a dog, were even often more likely to confide in their pet than in their sibling.
Matt also found that children who had suffered adversity in their lives, such as bereavement, divorce, illness, or were from disadvantaged backgrounds, were more likely to have a stronger relationships with their pets than their peers, though they did less well academically and suffered more mental health problems.
Thanks to Professor Hughes' decision to include data points on pets in her study, there's a lot of interesting areas of research that can be done from the Toddlers Up Project. One area that Matt is interested in looking at next is the impact of pet deaths on children. I hope to see a lot more insights into the childhood side of the human-canine bond come out of this research!
I know they’re in there, but how do I find them?
Televisions and computers can be confusing for dogs. It’s not easy for our canine friends to figure out that videos are merely recordings of life, and that what they see is not really present. In this video, a Westie is confronted with a laptop showing a video of another Westie and a couple of puppies.
He seems to be searching for these other dogs, which he can so clearly see, and attempts to find them by walking around the computer and sniffing it. He’s making use of several senses, apparently listening, looking and smelling in order to track them down. The dog’s name is “Radar” so you’ve got to think it’s likely that this dog can usually locate what he’s looking for.
Radar is able to handle with ease a situation that might cause frustration in other dogs. He remains calm and methodical where many dogs would become upset. There’s another aspect of Radar’s behavior that is of great interest to me. He’s clearly confused, and he does a couple of things I interpret as attempts to get more information. He repeatedly cocks his head, which dogs may do to better localize a sound. Additionally, he repeatedly looks at the camera, where there is presumably a person filming the scene. We know that dogs often look to people for information when they are struggling to solve a problem, and it’s easy to imagine that Radar is seeking help with this challenging task.
How has your dog reacted when faced with a similar situation?
The difference between loving and threatening
There has recently been a lot of interest in people and dogs gazing into each other’s eyes and how this creates feelings of love. The evidence is compelling that this interactive behavior does enhance the bonding between us. I have no objection to this assertion, but it does make me concerned that these new findings will cause a problem.
It’s one thing to gaze softly into the eyes of your dog. It’s another thing entirely to stare at that dog or at any other dog. In fact, it’s potentially hazardous because staring is often considered a threat by dogs. So, I hope nobody goes around trying to bond with new and unknown dogs by looking them right in the eye. It’s a reminder that subtle differences in behavior can have vastly different meanings.
One of the first things I learned when I began to work with aggressive dogs is to pay attention to eye contact. This was especially important for me because I have big dark eyes and I tend to open them wide when expressing interest or surprise. It would be all too easy for me to scare the dogs I’m trying to help with my frog eyes. It has become second nature for me now to turn off my wide-eyed actions when I am around dogs. I take care not to look directly at them without squinting just a little until they are comfortable around me.
It’s because dogs are afraid of big eyes, especially when they are aimed directly at them, that many dogs react to cameras with big interchangeable lenses. It’s likely that our canine subjects perceive these lenses as giant scary eyes staring at them. Many dogs who are not particularly fearful or nervous freak out when faced with a new camera and a person enthusiastically pointing it at them often and for long periods of time. If a dog’s tendency when alarmed is to look away, cower or hide, that’s what may happen in the face of a big camera. If a dog is more likely to bark, growl and lunge when scared, then that may be the reaction you see when a camera is pointed towards that dog.
Has your dogs reacted fearfully to someone staring or to a camera?
A dog's actions inspires a change of heart in Michigan.
Back in March, Jamie Kraczkowski was being attacked by her drunk ex-boyfriend when her Pit Bull, Isis, took a bite and scared him away. The man was charged with domestic violence, and ordered to stay away from Jamie, but Isis didn't get any thanks for her actions. See Jamie and Isis live in the town of Hazel Park, Michigan, which instated a Pit Bull breed ban two years ago. When word of Isis' heroic actions reached local officials, they ordered Jamie to move out with her pup.
Michigan's Political Action Committee for Animals worked on convincing city official to repeal the Pit Bull ban, but in the meantime Jamie ended up raising money to move out of Hazel Park. Protecting Isis was her top priority, so she didn't want to take any chances.
However, Isis' story eventually did inspire local officials to have a change of heart. Hazel Park has now decided to lift the Pit Bull ban. City Manager Edward Klobucher explained that the 2013 ban originally went into effect because they couldn't "ban stupid owners." But now residents in the city will be able to keep their Pit Bulls as long as they keep them licensed, up-to-date with shots, inside of fenced yards, and maintain homeowner's or renter's insurance.
Thanks to Isis, a Michigan town has realized that they can't punish an entire breed based on irresponsible dog owners or stereotypes. Hopefully this will inspire more cities to think carefully about their breed bans as well!
N.Y. state is one step closer to legalizing outdoor dining with pets.
One thing that I love about summer is being able to dine with my pups at restaurants with outdoor seating. There's something fun about enjoying the good weather, sharing food, and people watching with your canine crew. In Manhattan, almost every restaurant with sidewalk dining has as least one or two dogs sitting underneath the tables during the warmer months. While it's not technically legal in New York, that may soon change.
On Wednesday, the New York State Senate approved a bill 60-0 that will let food service establishments welcome dogs in outdoor eating areas. Of course there are a few restrictions. Pets would have to be on leash and kept away from food preparation areas. The outdoor seating area would also have to be accessible without needing to enter the restaurant building. One of the more unusual specifications is that there can't be any communal water bowls. Single-use disposable containers must be used.
The law doesn't mean that dogs will be automatically welcome at any business with outdoor seating as individual restaurants will still be able to set their own policy. The legislation will serve to protect pet friendly restaurants that follow health standards and local ordinances.
The bill will now go to the State Assembly, where the bill's sponsor, Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal, is hopeful that it will pass. If the legislation does become a law, New York will join California, which passed a similar state law last year.
Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal made an interesting comment when talking about her bill. She said that pet lovers are some of her most vocal constituencies, frequently writing and calling to express their opinion. I think that's because dog people have a greater sense of community than the average person. We're constantly walking the neighborhood, talking to people, and watching what's going on. With this bill passing in the Senate 60-0, it's clear that we can have a significant impact!
Understanding dogs makes all the difference
“Our dog bit our son completely out of the blue! There is no way we could have seen it coming.” I hear this sentiment from parents all the time, as do all other behaviorists and trainers, but we know it’s not true. Dogs rarely, if ever, bite without warnings, and sometimes those signs of trouble have been going on for months or even years before the bite happens.
The problem isn’t unpredictable dogs. It’s misunderstood dogs. Dogs are often trying hard to communicate that they are uncomfortable or that they don’t like what kids are doing to them. If nobody understands those messages, the dogs continue to be in situations that make them unhappy, and some of those dogs may end up biting.
Most dog bites to kids come from the child’s own dog or the dog of a friend. In fact, this is true 77 percent of the time. Check out this video by the family dog about how dogs and kids can have such different views of their experience together.
Several other videos by the same organization are really helpful when teaching kids (and adults!) things they need to know to stay safe. I love how these videos are targeted at different ages. This video is for kids in elementary school.
This video is for kids of preschool age.
The goal of keeping kids safe around dogs involves education so that people of all ages understand dogs better. It’s important that kids know how to act around dogs and that everyone in the family can distinguish happy, relaxed dogs from dogs who are nervous or uncomfortable. “Stop the 77” is the movement to prevent dog bites to kids, most of which come from dogs they know well.
(even if it’s only 7% of our lives)
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average American spends 87% of their life indoors with another 6% spent in automobiles for a total of 93% habitating in enclosed spaces. That leaves only 7% of one’s entire life to spend outdoors. Translated to daily life, we average only about 100 minutes of our day outside. For many, that’s time spent walking the dog or hanging out at the dog park. My outside quotient averages closer to 120 minutes per day—what with a morning and an evening walk, plus a daily noontime stroll. The revelation is that thanks to our dogs, I spend more time outside than the average American! Another reason why dogs make us healthier, happier and closer to nature by getting us outdoors …
Ga. man is arrested for breaking into a hot car to rescue a Yorkie mix.
Last weekend a group of people at an Athens, Georgia shopping center noticed a Yorkie mix panting in a hot car. The police were called, but Army veteran Michael Hammons couldn't wait while the small pup was in distress. He grabbed his wife's wheelchair leg and smashed the car's window, giving the trapped dog some fresh air.
When the dog's owner returned to her vehicle, she was furious. Although the police didn't want to press charges, the woman insisted. She claimed that she only left for a few minutes, but witnesses said it was much longer.
The woman was given a citation for leaving a dog in a hot car, which could result in a $250 fine and community service hours, while Michael was arrested and charged with criminal trespassing. He could face up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine if convicted.
However Michael has no regrets. He knew there could be consequences and didn't want the dog to be hurt if he could prevent it.
16 states have statues that prohibit leaving animals in cars when their safety is compromised, but Georgia is not one of them. And most of those states only allow law enforcement or humane officers to perform the rescue. In general, a member of the public, like Michael, would not be protected if they entered a car.
The high temperature in Athens on Saturday was 86 degrees. On a day like that, a car can heat up to over 120 degrees in just a few minutes. It's a shame that the woman didn't realize what she did was dangerous and that someone who potentially saved her dog is now being punished. At a minimum, I hope that this story will create more awareness around the dangers of hot cars and pets.
It's common for people to think that they're just going to run a quick errand or that cracking a window will be sufficient, but temperatures can quickly become fatal. Even on a 60-70 degree day, temperatures inside the car can reach well into the 90's and beyond.
What would you do in this situation?
His post-elimination running still makes us laugh
Our dog Bugsy must really have enjoyed a good poop. I say that because he seemed to celebrate each one with a good run afterwards. He ran at top speed in a big circle with a gleeful look on his face around the yard or in the woods. He became the quintessentially happy dog—sporting a big grin, ears flopping, running fast enough that his fur waved in the breeze. (If he was on leash, he modified his actions and just did a few spins in place looking moderately cheerful.)
My husband mentioned Bugsy’s post-elimination antics last night and we laughed remembering this particular behavior of a dog who died over a decade ago. It was absolutely predictable for Bugsy to do this after eliminating, and I used to look forward to watching him. My favorite part was the way it looked as though his back end was running faster than the front of him, causing his behind to be tucked down. In other contexts, he had a smoother gait and his body looked more organized.
It’s not that there is actually anything so special about a dog running around after pooping, as that is relatively common. We find this memory endearing because he looked so happy and because the precise posture and motions were distinctively his. I would have been able to spot him in a group of hundreds of dogs making wide arcs if he were running in this particular way because I’ve never seen another dog assume quite the same form when running.
We have many wonderful memories of Bugsy, and this just happens to be the one that struck a chord last night. Anything a dog does that is joyful and distinctive is likely to be remembered with love. That’s true even if it’s something that doesn’t seem typically sentimental, such as the way the dog runs after eliminating.
What behavior of a dog from your past brings you joy when you think back on it?
Study finds that girl pups are more likely to interact with people.
Many people believe that male dogs are mamma's boys and that female pups are more independent. This is of course a big generalization, but I have found that to be somewhat true of the pups I've had over the years, even if it was just a conincidence! So I was surprised to hear the results of a study coming out of Sweden's Linkoping University that suggested the opposite.
In the experiment, researchers gave 400 Beagles a puzzle that could not be completely solved. Three boxes with clear lids had biscuits inside, but one had its lid stuck shut, making it impossible to eat the treat. Researchers looked to see how the dogs reacted to the frustrating task. What they found was that the females scored significantly higher on social interactions and physical contact. The girls were more likely to look to the human assistant for help, making eye contact or putting their paw up on the person.
The scientists don't know why the females were more social towards humans, but made a hypothesis that it could be a side-effect of their nurturing instincts, making them better at cooperation. Lead researcher, Professor Per Jensen, acknowledges that we should avoid making any assumptions based on the results, particularly since the experiment was done on a group of closely related dogs of the same breed. The study will have to be repeated with a mix of breeds.
Professor Per Jensen is also interested in taking the work in a completely different direction. He would like to explore whether dogs could be important models for understanding the genetic basis of autism in humans, since reduced eye contact and communication have been important aspects of the disorder. That would be a really interesting way to apply this research!
What do you think about the social tendancies of your canine crew?
Portland photographer creates lasting memories for grieving animal lovers.
Letting go of a beloved pet is one of the hardest things to do. For those of us who have time to say goodbye, we'll never get enough of those last moments together. Portland, Oregon photographer, Kristin Zabawa, wanted to be able to help grieving pet lovers hold on to those memories and created Soul Sessions, which provides free photo shoots for people with pets in their final stages of life.
It's not easy work, nor is it an easy decision for people to contact Kristin. When they do, it's usually because they have accepted that the end is near.
The goals of her work is to capture the essence of a pet and honor the life the pet had together with their family. Every session is unique, which Kristin approaches with no judgement or expectations.
But Soul Sessions is so much more than just a photo shoot, it becomes part of the grieving process. The pet's family always shares stories and memories with Kristin, filling the time with both laughter and tears. It's therapeutic to talk about their pet, how they met, funny things that happened, and how they helped them through hard times. Being able to capture that relationship is the greatest reward for Kristin.
Next Kristin would like to turn Soul Sessions into a nonprofit so that more pet families can benefit from her work. Currently she has a Indiegogo fundraiser open to help achieve that goal.
SPONSORED BY MUFFIN TOP
Unlike humans, it’s not always easy to tell if your dog is overweight. The variety of dog breeds, variations within each breed, and mixed breed dogs make it difficult to establish an ‘ideal weight’ for your dog. There are certainly some dogs who are obviously pudgy, but there are also many who are just a tad chubby, and often the owner may not even realize it.
So, how can you tell if your dog is fat?
Body Condition Score
As the methods may be somewhat subjective, using a combination of the 3 methods will help you to be able to better monitor your dog’s body and health.
Fat to Fit
Exercise does not have to mean long runs or agility training. Simply walking faster, walking for a few minutes longer each day, and increasing playtime could all be beneficial for your dog. Small steps go a long way.
“Is My Dog Fat” app is available for download from the iTunes store. The app will help you to assess your dog’s body condition score, monitor weight trends, and now comes with an Apple Watch app to keep track of your daily activity with your dogs. Track up to 5 dogs.
A world gone mad
The photographs of dog shadows by Thomas Roma capture the form and motion of dogs in a way that pictures of their actual bodies don’t. Roma went to a local dog park in Brooklyn almost daily for years to photograph shadows of dogs. By shooting from a different perspective (quite literally, as his camera was mounted on a seven-foot pole) he revealed something quite different. These dogs have a beauty that comes from the simplicity of their forms.
In Roma’s photos, the shadows both look like the dogs who cast them and appear very different. They are distorted and yet reveal the true essence of the dog form, too. It’s unlikely that anyone would view these photos and not think of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, in which people trapped in a cave mistake shadows projected onto the wall of the cave for reality because they are unable to see anything but these shadows.
The photographer himself has said that the shadows and their photographs remind him of cave paintings. He loved the dusty pebbled ground and the way it was fresh and new each day. He continued to photograph dogs at the park until the city renovated it and changed the surface.
Roma calls his dog shadow photographs “Mondo Cane” which is Italian for “Dog World” but is also an idiomatic expression meaning “A World Gone Mad.” These photographs have been exhibited in New York, Rome and Tokyo and sold all around the globe.
Who’s inspired to turn their own lens to the shadows of our dogs?
Pawsitive Partners Prison Program
Seven years ago, in May of 2008, Monty’s Home in Southeastern North Carolina, received state approval to start its first Pawsitive Partners Prison Program (PPPP), in conjunction with the Pender Correctional Institution, in nearby Burgaw, NC. President and co-founder Barbara Rabb was on an educational mission to use her dog training skills to shelter dogs to make them more adoptable. Bringing her organizational skills to the task, she enlisted the services of other dog trainers and convinced the local correction facility to establish a prison pup program to provide basic companion dog training for pet dogs. Monty’s Home’s volunteers help train the inmate-trainers, and they select dogs who had met basic temperament evaluations from local shelters; they also assume costs such as vet bills, grooming supplies, food, toys, bedding, etc, all expenses associated with proper canine care and training.
The dogs are then spayed/neutered and brought up to date on vaccinations before entering the Pawsitive Partners Prison Program. They live at the facility with their specially screened inmate-trainers, the dogs go through an eight weeks training course. Inmates, under the guidance of Monty’s Home volunteer trainers, train the dogs in basic obedience and household manners. After graduation, the wonderfulness starts again for more shelter dogs! This is such a wonderful program, making it possible for thousands of wonderful dogs to find their forever homes. And when a Monty's Home dog joins his/her forever home, she knows basic commands, household manners, is microchipped and comes complete with own bed, crate, toys, leash, collar, a weeks’ supply of food and treats, and a training DVD for new owners. How perfect is that! Watch the video to see a graduation ceremony learn more and see what a positive affect this has on the inmate trainers and the new adopters as well.
What do you want to know about dogs?
What’s hot on the research frontier can change quickly. Years ago in the environmental world, acid rain was all the rage, then it was mercury pollution and now big bucks are going to fund issues related to climate change. In the animal behavior world, copious studies on foraging behavior gave way to the popularity of parasitism, followed by a fascination with sexual selection and mating strategies.
Right now, studies of domestic animals, including dogs, are big, and a variety of topics are hot within the canine research community. I would love to see the funding that supports this research continue, and I think that will happen if people continue to see the value of the research. We’re learning about our best friends at a faster rate than ever, and it’s an exciting time to be interested in dogs.
Canine cognition research is a hugely popular area of study right now, as is the role of oxytocin in a variety of canine social behaviors. Interactions with people and the way dogs’ brains respond to various stimuli have also both been studied a lot lately. Play behavior has been popular for quite a long time, though we are perhaps past the main peak of the wave of studies on this topic for now. Receiving far less attention are some other areas of dog behavior. It’s currently far less common to study courtship and mating behavior, communication, aggression or feeding strategies.
Where would you like to see the studies of dogs go next? That is, what questions do you want answered in order to understand dogs better?
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