UTI Detection Pups
Study trains dogs to sniff out bacteria from urine samples.

What if service dogs could do double duty, helping people with limited mobility, while monitoring them for possible infection? Many people with assistance dogs have injuries that make them especially prone to frequent and complicated urinary tract infections (UTIs). These infections aren't just uncomfortable, they can spread quickly to the kidney and blood stream, causing sepsis that can result in death. Early detection is important, but difficult for this population. So Assistance Dogs of Hawaii teamed up with Pine Street Foundation and the Kapiolani Medical Canter of Women and Children to explore how their talented pups could help.

In their study, five Labrador and Golden Retrievers were clicker trained to identify urine samples that were culture-positive for bacteria, including E. coli. They had no previous scent training. After eight weeks, their new skills were put to the test with 687 new urine samples. 456 were from subjects with negative urine cultures (the control group) and 231 were from subjects with positive urine cultures for bacteria.

The dogs detected positive samples with a 90 to 94 percent accuracy. Also, sensitivity was not affected when E.coli urine was diluted with distilled water. The study showed that canine scent detection is a feasible method for the detection of bacteria. The scientists hope that future research can teach dogs to identify other infections, such as MRSA and C-Diff, or distinguish between bacterial and viral infections. At the moment they're conducting research in hospitals, where UTIs are the most common acquired infection in all patients.

A month after the study was completed, one of the dogs spontaneously alerted the staff to a person visiting the training center. They had been feeling ill, but hadn't suspected a UTI. Afterwards the person went to the doctor who made a UTI diagnosis.

There is really no limit to what our amazing dogs can do!

When a Child’s Pet Dies
New research explores how kids respond

The dogs of childhood are important beyond imagination. Kids describe them as their best friends and as their siblings. Many children view themselves as the primary recipient of their pets’ affections. Often, young people see little difference between the close connections they have with the human members of their family and those they share with the non-human ones. Because of most animals’ shorter lifespans, though, many kids must face the death of a dog, cat, or other pet. Their emotional response to the loss of a pet and what they say about the experience is the subject of the dissertation research and further study by Joshua J. Russell, PhD.

According to Russell’s research, children’s responses to the death of a pet are predictable in some ways. Kids had a much easier time dealing with the death of a pet if the animal reached an age where death was expected. Early deaths, especially unexpected ones, made it much harder for children to come to terms with the loss. Russell points out that kids have a strong sense of fairness related to whether their animals lives as long as they were “supposed to” or whether they died before that. Acceptance was easier for kids whose pets lived far into the normal lifespan for the species. Generally, kids understood that hamsters and fish don’t live very long, but many struggled to understand that our dogs, cats and rabbits will often die before we do. When a death happened because of an accident, it was especially difficult for kids to cope.

Many children who Russell interviewed felt that euthanasia was the right thing to do if a pet was suffering. Kids were split in their views about getting another pet after the death of another. Some felt that it was disloyal to the previous pets and their relationships with them. Others felt certain that they would feel better if they got a new pet and that the new relationship didn’t have anything to do with the old one.

It’s always difficult to deal with the grief of losing dogs, and it hurts my heart (a lot) to consider the pain that it causes children. It’s no fun to think about the way it feels for children to lose a pet because we can empathize all too well, no matter how old we are.

What do you remember about what is was like when a dog from your childhood died?


Ultramarathon Pup Finally Comes Home
Competitive runner befriends a stray dog who sticks with him for 80 miles in the desert.

This summer, Australian ultramarathoner Dion Leonard was running through China's infamous Gobi desert when a stray pup started following him. The scruffy little dog turned out to be one tough cookie, joining Dion for four of the six day-long stages of the race, an astonishing 80 miles! Dion named the dog Gobi and they became inseparable. The pair slept together in camp and Dion started carrying Gobi over river crossings. They even won the third stage together, beating many top athletes.

After the race was over, Dion knew that this special dog could not be left behind. He made plans to bring Gobi back home to Edinburgh, Scotland, but just before she was due to travel to Beijing to enter quarantine, Gobi slipped out of the home she was staying at in Urumqi.  Dion flew back to China where volunteers helped him search for Gobi from dawn to midnight. They put up posters, asked taxi drivers and fruit vendors, and visited parks and animal shelters. The local television station interviewed Dion and residents even stopped him in the street to say they too were keeping an eye open.

However, Dion was afraid the search was wouldn't be successful, it was like looking for a needle in a haystack. There was a good chance that Gobi may have run back to the countryside.

“I needed to come and do it, just to be sure in my own mind I had done it," said Dion. “But realistically, I was dreading having to go back home next week without her.”

Then a man called saying he and his son had brought a stray dog home from the park and thought she might be Gobi. Dion was skeptical after a few false alarms, but when he walked into the man's house, Gobi immediately recognized Dion. She ran over, jumping on Dion and squealing with joy. Gobi has barely left Dion's side since.

Dion says that losing Gobi was one of the worst days of his life, but that being reunited with her was one of the best.

"It was just mind-blowing to think that we had found her," said Dion, "It was a miracle."

There are not many people or dogs that can run 80 miles, which makes it even more amazing that these two found each other!


Why Some Dogs Are Not Adept At Leash Untangling
Does your dog untangle himself from a leash?

I was walking two dogs this week and noticed that they react very differently when they step over the leash or get tangled in it. Marley has a “let it be” approach to having the leash drop under or go around a leg, but Saylor consistently steps back over a leash that is not as it should be.

Some dogs never learn to untangle themselves when the leash goes under one or more legs, even with efforts to teach them how to do this. Other dogs step out of what my son refers to as “Leash Twister” without any instruction whatsoever. I’ve often wondered what it is about dogs that divides them into these two categories. Obviously, intelligence in the problem-solving area can play a role in which path a dog takes. (Saylor is obviously smart, so her ability to deal with a messed-up leash is no surprise. It’s harder to judge Marley’s intelligence. He’s easy to train, but there’s a charming simplicity in his take-it-as-it-comes, easy going approach to everything in life.) I’m convinced it’s far more complex than a simple question of brain power, with other factors being important, too.

One big predictor of which dogs learn to extricate themselves when the leash has gone between their legs or wrapped around them is whether it makes them uncomfortable to have the leash there. Some dogs don’t seem to care if the leash is partially wrapped around a leg or if it touches their belly, so a twisted leash does not represent a problem. If it’s not a problem to a dog to have the leash out of place, then there is nothing to be solved. So, even if those dog have great problem solving skills, you won’t see evidence of those abilities.

Some dogs are too interested in other things to focus on a tangled leash. If they are attending to the smells or sights on a walk, any issues with the leash may not be top priority. Paying attention to other things may account for the dogs who sometimes choose to step over a leash purposefully and sometimes don’t bother; it depends on how exciting the walk is at the moment. Other dogs are always too intent on the sensory experiences during the walk to fuss over where the leash is.

There are two reasons that I care whether a dog is helpful about keeping the leash properly organized during a walk or leaves that task entirely to me. Though I’m interested in what it might tell me about the dog (emotionally and cognitively), safety is the main cause for concern. It can be dangerous if the leash wraps completely around a leg, and a leash that is out of place can cause a dog to be off balance. I like to keep dogs free of leash issues during a walk, and it’s convenient if the dog can help. However, for dogs who need assistance extracting themselves from a tangled leash, I’m happy to do it for them.

Does your dog untangle himself from a leash that he has stepped over or gotten twisted in? If not, why do you think that is?


Metabolic Research Associates Abnormalities with Hyperactivity in Dogs
Three organizations in Finland team up to understand root causes of dog behavioral issues.

A research group from the University of Helsinki and the Folkhälsan Research Centre recently teamed up with the LC-MS Metabolomics Centre of Biocentre Kuopio to study the blood count of hyperactive and impulsive dogs--another successful collaboration between canine and human scientists. The three organizations decided to embark on this study to understand the most common behavioral problems in dogs--fearfulness, sensitivity to noise, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. Since these issues can have a negative impact on the wellbeing of both canines and humans, the scientists wanted to uncover root causes. Part of their work is also helping to test a new metabolomics technology which could speed up future genetic research, particularly as it relates to behavioral research.

"Behavior and behavioral disorders often develop as a combination of hereditary and environmental factors, which makes studying them challenging," explains lead scientist Hannes Lohi. "Metabolomics, or the study of the metabolism, provides us with new clues on the biological issues underpinning behavioral disorders while promoting genetic research. At the moment, metabolomics research in dogs is rare, and the purpose of this pilot study was to examine new approaches and attain information on any metabolic abnormalities associated with hyperactivity in dogs."

Looking at blood metabolites showed a significant link between hyperactivity and lower blood phospholipid levels. It wasn't surprising because several studies in humans have shown lower blood lipid and fatty acid levels in ADHD patients. This also tied in with their earlier research that showed blood count differences between fearful and fearless pups.

Another interesting finding was the negative correlation between hyperactive behavior and the levels of metabolites of tryptophan, an amino acid that's produced in the gut when intestinal bacteria processes food. This difference in the gut bacteria of hyperactive and normally behaved dogs supports previous research in humans that found a connection between the intestines and the creation of neurotransmitters that regulate mood and behavior in the brain. It was also found to work in the opposite way. A stress reaction in the brain can have an adverse effect on the gut microbiota.

However, the causal relationship for these findings isn't clear, so more research is needed. The hope is that this work could eventually better our understanding of these behavioral issues in both dogs and people.

Anyone who has worked with an extremely fearful dog knows how painful and frustrating it can be to both the animal and the people who love them. So I'm excited to see research that might help improve the lives of those affected. However, I hope that people won't think these biological findings mean they should give up on a solid training plan. While the cause of these fearful or hyperactive behaviors may be somewhat innate, we can still help dogs cope and even thrive with training. No doubt it takes a lot of dedication and patience, but I hope that this research will only help us make gains with these affected pups. 

A Push for Stricter Rules for Service Pets on Airplanes
Pretending to be Service Dog to Travel First Class

Are the rules governing service animals on airplanes about to change? The US Department of Transportation’s advisory committee on accessible air transportation met recently to consider refining the presents rules for Emotional Service Animals. Ever since 2003 when the DOT revised its policy on service animals to include emotional-support animals, there have been no restrictions for these animals and no real definition of a service dog. As Jenine Stanley, who serves on the committee and is with the Guide Dog Foundation, has noted there are no real rules as to what is a legitimate service or support animal.

“Once you board your plane with your animal and you say ‘I am coming with a service animal,’ i.e. an animal that is trained to medicate my disability, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether it’s true or not,” she said. Which is why the U.S. DOT wants to change the rules.

There have been numerous complaints from fellow travelers about the wide assortment of species, from miniature horses, pigs, boas, cats, and of course, dogs, that have been accorded the status of ESA and who usually have scant training about how to behave on an airplane. Some of the complaints have also been generated by people who have highly trained and skilled service dogs, such as seeing-eye dogs. Many of the ESA pets on planes can also distract (to put it mildly) a service dog from doing her job.

One key issue the committtee looked at was: Should specific species be defined? If so, what are they? The group suggested only dogs be listed as service animals, and dogs, cats and rabbits qualify as emotional support animals.

Another complication surrounding ESAs are the legal ramifications to the mental health professionals who are providing certifications. The University of Missouri recently conducted a study about the possible conflicts this presents to psychologists. Cassie Boness, a graduate student in clinical psychology, says these requests for certification for emotional support animals present several potential conflicts for mental health professionals.

“There are no standards for evaluating the need for an emotional support animal, whereas there are concrete rules to determine if someone is eligible for a service animal. These emotional support animal letters are formal certifications of psychological disability, and the psychotherapist is stating, by writing such a letter, that the person needing the emotional support animal has such a disability and that the presence of the animal addresses that disability.” Jeffrey Younggren, professor of clinical and forensic psychology, believes that the evaluation process should address the specific psychological issues that are going to be improved, and not just that the owner wants to be with their pet. They also noted that the lack of scientific guidelines regarding emotional support animals would make it difficult for the psychologist to defend this certification letter in court.

Younggren noted that "the study recommended was two fold: First, that these letters not be written by treating therapists for ethical issues but that they should be written by forensic evaluators/psychologists who do not have a dual role with the client. Second, we stated that, since these are disability determinations, there needs to be some type of comprehensive psychological assessment of that disability and that assessment should directly assess how the presence of the animal ameliorates the disability."

The working group committee members include representatives from American Airlines, Psychiatric Service Dog Partners, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind and America’s VetDogs. Key issues about service animals can be found here.

Stanley said she expects the new rules to be out for public comment within the year and to be set within three years.

Genome of Sardinian Sheepdog Provides Insight into Human Migration Patterns
Photo by Stefano Marelli

The discovery of one of the last pure landrace dog breeds, the Sardinian Sheepdog (Cane Fonnese, Fonne's Dog) was celebrated by scientists in the October 11, 2016 issue of the journal Genetics.

The study revealed that the large flock guardian dog travelled the same ancient migration routes as the Sardinian people. And like their people the dog's genetic signature remains distinctly isolated.

A landrace is a regional type of domestic animal that over a long period of time has adapted to its purpose and environment through unregulated selection for behavior. Landrace dogs were common up through the early 1800s, but most disappeared as a consequence of cross breeding with dogs introduced by travelers.

The Sardinian Sheepdog is a breed because it's been created within an isolated population of animals. Sardinian shepherds allowed only their best working dogs to reproduce.

What's appealing to scientists is that the dog remains uncontaminated by modern artificial breeding practices, resulting in a robust genome. Sardinian dogs don't all look the same, but all have in common a high drive to guard sheep.

Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, just south of Corsica. The island was populated in multiple waves of people as far back as the upper paleolithic.

The study also revealed that the Sardinain Sheepdog originated from sight hounds developed in the near and middle east as well as large mastiff-like sheep guarding dogs from an area around Hungary.

Their genomic map mirrors human migration. Just like their dogs, the people of Sardinia derive from Hungary and the middle east.

Science Daily offers a reader-friendly description of the significance of the study: "Just as Sardinian people have long provided a wealth of genetic insights to scientists, the canine natives are an example of an isolated population that could prove a powerful resource for finding genes that influence health and behavior."

Read more about Cane Fonnese, landrace animals, and Sardinia.

Alternative Methods for Making Yogurt for Your Dog
DIY: How To Make Yogurt at Home
Home-made yogurt

Crock Pot Yogurt Method

This is a very easy method to make yogurt. All you need is a slow cooker, milk, a live-active yogurt starter (either from a previous batch, or a store bought plain yogurt), and, a cooking thermometer (that is optional).


1. Pour one to two quarts of milk (low fat or whole) into a slow cooker, cover the pot. Turn the heat on medium or high. Heat the milk slowly, it needs to get to reach at least 180 degrees (30 mins. to an hour or longer). Stir a few times while it is heating, make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot and that it doesn’t boil.

2. Turn the slow cooker off, uncover and unplug it and let the milk cool down to 110 degrees, this too can take 30 mins. to an hour or even longer.

3. While the heated milk is cooling off, take the starter out of the refrigerator. If you are using a quart of milk use a tablespoon of the starter, if you are using two quarts, use 2 tablespoons.

4. Once the milk has cooled to 110 degrees, ladle a small amount (1/3 of a cup or so) into a small bowl or measuring cup with the starter, then stir or whisk. Make sure you incorporate all of it, and then slowly add that mixture back into the crock pot, stirring thoroughly.

5. With the crock pot turned off, replace the lid, and wrap the pot with two or more towels. Make sure you do NOT disturb the pot; yogurt prefers a very still environment to go through the fermentation process. The low heat that was generated in Step 1, is sufficient for this process. This process can take 6 to 8 hours.

6. If you are making Greek style yogurt, carefully transfer or pour the yogurt into the EuroCuisine strainer (or use cheesecloth) and refrigerate at least 4 hours. If you are making regular style yogurt, you can put the yogurt in mason/glass jars, and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. If you are making Greek style yogurt, you will place the “finished” yogurt in glass jars, preserving the whey.

Dehydrator Yogurt Method

Yet another sure fire way to make yogurt is using a dehydrator. Following the same cooking steps in the “heating pad” method of heating the milk, cooling it, and inoculating it with a yogurt starter, the next step is to pour the milk into glass jars, cover each with a lid (the plastic mason jar lids work well) and place them on the bottom shelf of a dehydrator, first removing the other shelves. Many dehydrators have a temperature setting for yogurt. Place the cover back on the dehydrator and incubate for 8 to 10 hours at 115 degrees (or following the setting on your dehydrator). Similar to the other methods, after the yogurt has set, refrigerate at least 4 hours. You will be amazed at how different (thicker) the yogurt becomes after it has been refrigerated.

If you are making Greek style yogurt, strained it either using cheese cloth in a strainer or the Euro Cuisine GY50 Greek Yogurt Maker method, first in the refrigerator, and then putting it into jars. Yogurt keeps for about a week.

What is Whey?

Whey is the by-product of the yogurt making process, especially when you strain yogurt to produce a thicker, i.e. Greek style product. Whey protein is considered a complete protein and contains all 9 essential amino acids and is low in lactose content, so do not throw this precious liquid away! If you do not use it within a week or so, you can freeze it for later use.

Here are some of the endless ideas for using whey protein:

• For making smoothies (2 g of protein in one cup)

• In baking muffins, pancakes, breads, dog treats.

• Soaking beans or lentils (great to add to your dog’s meals)

• Use as a “topping” for your dog’s food. *

• As a substitute for buttermilk in recipes.

• Use in salad dressings (it is as acidic as a citric juice).

• Protein Shake

Making A Super Protein Shake For Dogs

One of my favorite uses for whey is to make a super protein “shake” for the dogs, that I mix into their meals or as a mid afternoon “slurp” snack. I was recently introduced to “nutrient extraction” super-blender appliances, such Nutribullet and Ninja. They make blending delicious and nutritious drinks and sauces so easy. For the dogs’ nutri-blasts, I use a handful of whatever leafy green vegetable, kale, spinach or chard, we have on hand, a few blueberries, a mix of goji berries, hemp and chia seeds, whey, and, for extra thickness, a tablespoon or so of yogurt—you can also add pulverized egg shells for more calcium. The Nutribullet grinds and mixes all these ingredients up in less than a couple of minutes. The dogs simply love it. If I have some cooked sweet potato, I add that too. The ingredient mixes are endless, plus it makes digesting vegetables easier for a dog’s digestive tract too.

For more information about the other possible health benefits of whey protein, see dogcancer.net.au

Making Yogurt for You and Your Dog
Instructions: DIY Making yogurt at home with heating pad method

Yogurt is a wonder food, packed with probiotics, protein, calcium, B-12, and other nutrients, and oh so easy to make yourself. Being an ardent yogurt consumer (I like mine plain, thick and very sour), I had recently become dissatisfied with the batches I made using a standard yogurt maker that incubates the yogurt in little individual jars. So I went back to the drawing board (aka the Internet), and much to my amazement, there are at least three other methods (slow-cooker, dehydrator and heating pad) that produce perfect yogurt easily, each and every time. The one that I use is the heating pad method. So for that method you’ll need a heating pad, a large two-quart size glass vessel (with lid), a digital kitchen thermometer, a wooden spoon, whisk, spatula—a couple of large bathroom towels—and then the secret to making flawless Greek-style yogurt, a Greek-yogurt strainer from Euro-Cuisine (see below). That inexpensive utensil has become indispensable in my kitchen, so it’s hard not gush about it—also excellent for making homemade ricotta and other soft cheeses like quark.

Just follow these simple steps:

1. Heat ½ gallon of pasteurized milk (I typically use 2% but you can use whole milk as well) in a heavy pot slowly until it reaches around 185 ˚ on low to med-low heat. Be careful that you do not burn the bottom of the pot, stir occasionally but when it gets close to 165˚, stir more often. (Cooking time depends on the type of pot but can take at least 30 mins.)

2. Remove the pot from the stove and then cool the milk to 110˚. It is extremely important that it is cooled down, any higher temperature can kill the yogurt starter. This also can take at least 30 mins.

3. As the milk is cooling, remove 2 to 3 tablespoons of yogurt from the fridge (either from your previous batch, or store bought, but be sure to use plain yogurt with active bacteria, with no fillers) to get it to room temperature.

4. Using a ladle, pour about a cup of milk into a bowl or measuring cup and stir in the yogurt you’ll be using for your “starter”. Whisk to totally get it blended, add the rest of the milk and whisk again.

5. Place the container(s) on top of a pre-heated heating pad set to Medium. If you are using a pad that has a 2-hour automatic shut off (as many do), you will need to shut it back on at least 3 times during this incubation period. Or purchase a pad that does not have that shut-off feature (that type is actually less expensive). Put a top on the container, and then cover it with two thick bathroom towels, tucking the towels around the whole thing so it keeps to a reliable temperature.

Now sit back and relax, yogurt making should take 7 hours, do NOT disturb it during this time. But at the end of 7 hours, give a peak (but not before) and see if it looks like it has thickened, if it hasn’t just cover it back up and wait another hour or so.

6. For Greek style yogurt, carefully pour the thickened milk into the strainer (as explained above) or use cheese cloth placed inside of a colander or strainer and refrigerate for at least three hours. If you like a thinner style yogurt you can also just transfer it directly into pint Mason jars (with lids), but you will also need to refrigerate that for at least 3 hours to let it set.

The longer you keep the yogurt in the strainer, the more whey is produced and the thicker the yogurt will be. I typically let it strain overnight, or 8 hours or longer, but that also produces a more “sour” yogurt. You can always add some of the whey back into the yogurt if you want to thin in down. Depending on the length of straining time, it will produce at least 4 cups of thick yogurt (right) and an equal portion of whey (left). Do not throw out the nutritious whey! There are numerous uses for whey, including baking with it (substituting any recipe that calls for buttermilk, such as muffins, pancakes and waffles). Good to pour a little on your dog’s food too. 

* You can halve this recipe using only a quart of milk, but use the same amount of starter, 2 to 3 tbsps.

See here for more recipes and directions on different preparation methods including using a slow cooker or dehydrator.

Studying Our Relationships with Dogs
How to approach future research

“Yes, that’s just how it is with my dog, too!”

“Everybody knew that before reading about it.”

“I figured I wasn’t the only one who felt that way about my dog.”


These are common responses to stories about the many research papers investigating the relationship between people and dogs. Most of us read the latest scientific findings with a great sense of happiness and validation. Our relationship with dogs is very much like our relationship with our children? Yep. Our dogs consider their guardians to be extra special and emotionally important? Whew, thought so. Our attachment to our dogs provides us with many benefits? Duh. Being a helicopter parent does not cause the damage to fur kids that it can to human kids? Yay!  Gazing into our dog’s eyes can enhance the feelings of true love between us? Awww.

It’s exciting that there has now been enough research into attachment between people and dogs and the bonds they have for one another to prompt a review paper to suggest where to go from here. The recently published “Measuring dog-owner relationships: Crossing boundaries between animal behaviour and human psychology ” summarizes what we know and discusses what should be studied next as well as how. That means we can all happily anticipate more revelations that will further confirm the many details about what we know: Humans and dogs are close in wonderful ways that benefit us both. In the introduction to the paper, the authors say, “In this review, we propose that the next step in anthrozoology [study of interactions between humans and other animals] research is to use all the potential information within attachment theory, to reveal whether or not different types of relationship styles exist among different dog-owner dyads and how they might be identified. Furthermore, we give suggestions for which factors may contribute to the development of different attachment styles in dogs, hence deserving more attention in future studies of the dog- human relationship.” What this means is that there is a wealth of information about relationships between humans and the styles of connection that people have with one another that can be used to inform future research on the ways that dogs and people forms bonds to one another.

Some suggestions that these authors have are to focus on both dogs and people simultaneously rather than just one side of the relationship. They also recommend investigating physiological as well as behavioral responses to situations (such as separation and reunions) that are often the focus of attachment studies. They encourage addressing both the attachment style of individual dogs and the caregiving style of individual people to help pairs avoid any conflicts that have plagued them in the past and to help them form the best, most positive relationships in the future.

What are you most interested in knowing about the science of your relationship with your dog?

Saving Pennies for a Service Dog
A Vermont boy gets help in his quest for a diabetes pup.
When Aiden Heath was diagnosed with type one diabetes four years ago, the eight-year old learned that dogs could be trained to help monitor glucose levels. While the canine nose isn't going to replace a blood meter entirely, these amazing animals can sense problems 20 to 30 minutes before the electronic tool. But at $15,000, a service dog wasn't in the Heath's budget. So Aiden's mother, Jenni, encouraged him to start saving, one penny at a time.

And the Waitsfield, Vermont boy did just that, collecting coins that he stored in a little red wagon he called "Brinks." Aiden slowly accumulated $6,000 when news coverage of his effort went viral in April. Almost overnight, donations came in from across the country, helping Aiden raise more than $20,000. Finally Jenni and Aiden were able to put a deposit on a Chocolate Labrador named Angel from Nevada. Aiden waited patiently while the pup was trained, following her progress through videos and photos.

This week Aiden finally got to meet Angel, and is learning to work together with the help of a trainer.

Jenni says that Aiden is "over the moon" about finally having Angel at home and gaining some independence. And he won't be the only one to benefit. Angel will give Jenni peace of mind, especially at night, when it comes to testing Aiden's sugar levels.

"We have been so amazed by the outpouring of support," Jenni said. "Aiden is feeling the love. There are no words."

Do Dogs Ignore Bad Advice?
A study investigating this question is problematic

Dogs are inclined to follow our lead in many ways, but they don’t go overboard if it does not serve their interests, say the authors of a new study. If people give dogs bad advice, they figure out that it is worth ignoring, according to a new study in the journal Developmental Science. Let’s look into how they arrived at this claim, which I don’t think is supported by the data.

The researchers were investigating whether dogs (and dingoes) would imitate the way people showed them how to get food out of a puzzle box even when there was an easier way to do it. Only one step was required to reach the food, and that was lifting the lid to a box. As part of the experiment, humans added an extra, unnecessary action to the process by pulling a lever that did nothing, and then lifting the lid of the box.

Both the dogs and the dingoes quickly learned to skip the step with the useless lever and just open the box to get to the treat inside. In other words, it looked like they ignored the useless instructions from the humans. This behavior differs from human children, who tend to perform all the steps they have been shown even when some of them are unnecessary. That behavior is called “overimitation” and the uncritical copying of the behavior they observe may allow kids to minimize the amount of trial-and-error learning they must do.

The dogs and the dingoes observed humans opening the box, and were then repeatedly given the opportunity to open the puzzle box. Over time, as they gained experience with it, they were less likely to use the lever. The experimenters consider this evidence that both species learned that pulling the lever was an unnecessary step for opening the box, even though they saw humans doing it. I agree that the data support the idea that they learned that the lever is irrelevant. I just don’t think that observing the humans pull the lever made any difference, and that’s because this study does not find any evidence that dogs imitated the humans at all.

In addition to the experiment in which subjects observed humans pulling the irrelevant lever, there were also a series of trials (with a different set of dogs and dingoes) in which they were presented with the puzzle box without any opportunity to observe a human opening it. In that experiment, the dogs and dingoes were solving the puzzle without having seen anyone else open it, so they were doing it completely on their own. The authors write that, “dogs were equally likely to use the irrelevant lever, regardless of whether they witnessed a demonstration (in Experiment 1) or not (in Experiment 2).

They point out that there was no evidence that dogs were more likely to copy the humans’ actions than the dingoes were, but what’s just as important is that there was no evidence that the dogs were copying humans at all. Therefore, I don’t think that their conclusions about dogs and overimitation hold water. They would first need to show that dogs copy any human behavior, which they do not do, in order to then test whether dogs copy irrelevant human behavior.

There was one interesting conclusion from this study, though it has nothing to do with imitation, social learning, or human influence on dogs’ actions. Evidence from this study, as well as previous research, indicate that dingoes solve problems more quickly and with greater success than dogs. In Experiment 3 in this research paper, a different puzzle box was used. Pulling the lever was an essential step in opening this particular puzzle box. In this experiment, both dogs and dingoes did pull the lever in order to access the treat inside. When compared to the rates of pulling the lever when it was pointless, dingoes showed a greater change in their behavior. That is, they were more likely than dogs to pull the lever only when it was relevant, unlike dogs, who pulled it quite often even when it was not an essential part of the box-opening task.

Questions about the possibility of overimitation in dogs are extremely interesting, and I want very much to know more about this behavior, which I don’t think was adequately addressed by this study.

Paying it Forward
It doesn't cost a lot to make a big difference in someone's life.

Living in New York, I see a lot of homeless people on the streets with their pets. These animals play an important role in the lives of these marginalized men and women, providing a nonjudgemental relationship in a lonely world. You can imagine how devastating it would be to lose that bond. But that's exactly what happened to a man in Huntsville, Texas, who was fortunate to meet a woman willing to go the extra mile to help.

Patrick had fallen on hard times, but was lucky to have his pup Franklin by his side. They didn't have a lot of anything, but Patrick would always make sure Franklin got food first when meals were in short supply. However things took a turn of the worse when Patrick was caught trespassing and landed in jail for two days. During that time, Franklin was brought to the local animal shelter. When Patrick was released, he found out it would cost $120 to get Franklin back.

In desperation, Patrick sat in a nearby Walmart parking lot with a cardboard sign that said "Dog in Pound Need Help." Fortunately Wilma Price was out running errands and spotted Patrick and his sign. It left an impression.

"I've seen every sign in the world except that one," said Wilma. "I've seen 'I need a beer,' "lost my job," 'need help," I could go on forever, but never this sign."

Wilma wasn't in the best financial situation herself, in fact she only had eight dollars to her name, but she was determined to do something.

First Wilma called the shelter to verify Patrick's story, which was true. The $120 included the impoundment fee, as well as a rabies shot, heartworm test, and flea prevention. Wilma didn't have the funds, but called a friend to sponsor the money. When Wilma went to the shelter with Patrick, he was incredibly thankful and overwhelmed by Wilma's generosity. Patrick and Franklin were overjoyed to be reunited. Patrick's eyes teared up and Franklin was wiggling with joy. Patrick tried to give Wilma the small amount of money he had collected before, but she refused.

"We’ve all been in a bad situation in our life," explains Wilma. "So always remember to pay it forward. You never know who that person might be that you help, but I know for a fact that Patrick loves his dog. I wouldn’t accept his money because maybe he can have some dinner tonight. His dog eats before he does. Wow, that sounds like me too."

Anyone who'd like to support Patrick should visit Mr. K's Pet Shelter's web site and address donations to “Patrick and Franklin.” Wilma is planning to further help Patrick by driving him to Dallas in hopes of finding more resources to help him rebuild his life.

Getting Unsolicited Advice About Your Dog
When people try to be helpful but aren’t

Advice is wonderful (really it is!) but only when you want it and are ready for it. It’s certainly nothing close to wonderful when people are condescendingly presenting it to you like a gracious gift with the attitude that they are brilliant and you are ignorant. Dogs are well loved by so many people who are knowledgeable about them, which is a good thing. However, what is NOT a good thing is when that leads to unsolicited advice with the assumption that the receiver knows nothing about dogs.

Over the years, a great many people who don’t even know me have volunteered their opinion on what I should or shouldn’t do regarding the dog I am holding, walking, training or playing with. I’m not sure why it’s so common to feel confident that after observing a dog for 30 seconds, they have all the answers, but that’s often the case. I have been told I needed to be tougher with the dog and show him who’s boss more times than I can count. People have informed me that the breed of the dog I am with is dangerous or vicious. Some unsolicited advice has involved letting me know that the dog will never be properly trained if I use treats to teach him what to do.

Here are some other examples of unsolicited dog advice that has come my way:

  • He really needs x, y, or z supplement.
  • You should feed your dog a different type of food.
  • He really shouldn’t run so much with you. Ask your vet and you’ll see.
  • It’s time to put that old dog down—look at him!
  • He needs a new dog around—you should definitely get another one.
  • You should condition his coat with such-and-such product.
  • He’s too heavy—he needs to lose a few pounds./She’s too thin. You’re not feeding her enough.

I generally respond with a cheerful, “That’s certainly something to think about.” It usually gets the person to leave me alone and it is completely non-committal. Best of all, it leaves me free to think that the advice was unwelcome, unhelpful and wrong without having been dishonest. I know other trainers and behaviorists who refuse to respond to a person giving unsolicited advice or actually say, “Shut up!” but neither of those suit my style.

What unsolicited advice about your dog could you just as well have done without and how did you respond?

Montreal Suspends Pit Bull Ban
The Canadian city puts their breed specific legislation on hold amid a lawsuit.
Last week Montreal's City Council passed a ban on Pit Bulls that was quickly met with public outcry... and a lawsuit. The Montreal SPCA is arguing that the law is so vaguely worded that it puts any large-headed dog at risk. As a result the ban only lasted a few hours before Justice Louis Gouin of Quebec Superior Court temporarily suspended it while reviewing the Montreal SPCA's lawsuit against the city. Yesterday it was decided that the law should be put on hold for the duration of the legal challenge. The opposition is supported by the Quebec Order of Veterinarians, United States-based Pit Bull advocates, and even celebrities like Pamela Anderson and Cyndi Lauper.

The law bans new Pit Bulls and requires existing Pit Bulls to be licensed by the end of the year. Additionally, the dogs would have to be neutered, microchipped, and vaccinated by March 31, 2017, muzzled in public, and their owners would have to undergo a criminal background check.

The push for this law came after a fatal mauling that happened in a Montreal suburb during the summer. As it turns out, the dog responsible for the killing may not have even been a Pit Bull. Montreal police are still waiting on a DNA test to confirm the breed.

The outcome of the lawsuit could shape the treatment of bully breeds beyond Montreal since Quebec is currently considering a province-wide ban. Unfortunately breed specific bans aren't new to Canada. The city of Winnipeg implemented a similar restriction in 1990 and the whole province of Ontario in 2005.

But breed specific legislation is deeply problematic. It's a band-aid that tries to prevent dog attacks by making a sweeping generalization about a single breed. The statistics seem to back up the misplaced blame. According to Liz White of the Animal Alliance of Canada, dog bites in Toronto increased 24 percent between 2014 and 2015, despite the decade long ban there.

I hope that the Montreal SPCA is successful in defeating the law and helps the city put better practices in place, like education and training resources. Responsible dog owners can prevent dog bites and attacks, not breed specific legislation. 


The Fine Print in Pet Insurance Policies
Does yours exclude normal dog behavior?

Pet insurance, like most forms of insurance, definitely qualifies as a “Buyer Beware” purchase. Jamie Richardson found that out the hard way when her seven-year old dog Muddy tore a ligament in his leg and her insurance company Petsecure refused to cover his veterinary care. One reason for denying the claim was that Muddy was running when he hurt himself. Specifically, he was happily running through the woods, which can also be described as “being a dog”.

Unfortunately for Richardson, “being a dog” is essentially excluded in her accident policy. The fine print states that any injury sustained while the dog is “jumping, running, slipping, tripping or playing” is not covered. Additionally, any accident that the guardian does not witness is not covered. In Muddy’s case, even if he had torn his ligament in full view of Richardson while he was, say, eating his dinner, none of the $4,200 in veterinary costs would have been reimbursed by the insurance company due to a “pre-existing condition” clause that relates to arthritis or degenerative joint issues.

Though X-rays at the time of surgery showed no signs of arthritis, the fact that the presence of bone spurs had been noted in Muddy’s medical records allows the insurance company to deny the claim. That’s true even though the surgeon said that the accident was not caused by arthritis and the veterinarian pointed out that those bones spurs are normal for seven-year old dogs, and minor to boot. Two vets saying no pre-existing conditions are present does not prevent the insurance company from denying the claim based on the “pre-existing condition” clause.

Richardson has cancelled her policy, since it did her no good at all. She borrowed money to pay her bills, and is now saving a little each month just in case Muddy has another accident or an illness that requires expensive veterinary care. She continues to let him be a dog, though, and he still runs through the woods near her home in Yukon.

Self-Entertaining Dogs
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.

Dogs playing fetch are endearing, and especially when they are doing it all on their own. Whether they are taking advantage of the stairs, a grassy hill, the power of a river or a contraption built by people to facilitate their solo endeavor, these dogs can have fun playing with a tennis ball even without a person.

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?

The Importance of 'Drop It'
A Colorado woman is inadvertently slashed by her knife wielding dog.
"Drop it" is one of the basic behaviors I think every dog should know. Along with a reliable recall, relinquishing an object on cue is important for safety. While it's useful for getting your favorite pair of shoes back from your dog's mouth, it's also critical if your pup has picked up something dangerous or toxic. The "drop it" cue would've been really helpful for Celinda Haynes who learned the hard way that bribery doesn't always work.

Last month Celinda's Labrador Retriever, Mia managed to steal a sharp paring knife from the kitchen counter. Celinda tried to entice Mia with a treat to drop the knife, but ended up getting sliced by the blade.

"When Mia went over to eat the treat, she ran the knife across my arm and cut a big old gash about four inches long," Celinda explained.

But when Celinda went to Platte Valley Medical Center in Colorado to have the wound treated, the staff didn't believe her story. Deputy Zach Johnson was sent to investigate the case as possible domestic violence, but concluded that it really was the family dog, Mia.

"I've been in law enforcement a long time," Zach said. "You just can't make this stuff up."

Mia is a very energetic puppy, and at the young age of one, Celinda will have plenty of time to teach her some new tricks. If you're looking to train a "drop it" cue, check out this page from Victoria Stillwell. 


Changing Burial Laws
New York becomes the latest state to allow people and pets to be buried alongside each other.
To dog lovers, our pups are our family. So it's no surprise that a growing number of people want to be close to their pets after they pass away. Most states don't make it easy, but New York just joined the growing trend to accommodate pet lovers by revisiting burial laws.

Earlier this week, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law allowing New Yorkers to be buried with the cremated remains of their pet. Cemeteries can still opt out since some would be prohibited to do so for religious reasons.

"This legislation will roll back unnecessary regulation and give cemeteries the option to honor the last wishes of pet lovers across New York," said the Governor.

Before this new law, New Yorkers could have their ashes buried with their pups in a pet cemetery. But even that was threatened in 2011 when the state's Division of Cemeteries banned the practice. However they reversed the decision months later after a public outcry and potential lawsuit. At Hartsdale Pet Cemetery in Westchester County, New York, there are over 500 people's ashes buried alongside their pets, clearly demonstrating the need for a change in the law.

Now that pets have been becoming an established part of the family, more states are changing their laws. In 2014, Virginia passed legislation that permits pets and people to be buried side by side, as long as they're not in the same grave or coffin. And last year, Massachusetts introduced a bill that would allow the state's cemeteries to designate land for people and pets to be buried alongside each other. Other states with existing pet-human burial laws include Pennsylvania and Florida.

Admittedly I haven't given much thought to my own burial plans, but I do think the trend in these laws is a good thing. Burials are important to many people for cultural, spiritual, or religious reasons. It only makes sense that in a country where we're so close to our pets, we are allowed to be buried together.



Describing Your Dog
Can you do it with a simple phrase?

Sometimes, people tell me who their dogs are with such concise and clever accuracy that their explanations stay with me forever. Describing complex individuals of any species takes insight and skill, but to capture the essence of someone with just one phrase is particularly challenging. Most of the time, the phrases people use are positive, but a few may seem derogatory. Let me assure that even the ones that aren’t obviously complimentary were expressed with such love that I know the guardians meant them in the nicest possible way. Perhaps you’ve had or met a dog who matches one my favorite explanations of who a dog truly is.

  • The little general
  • Mindlessly happy
  • A wise old man
  • If chasing tennis balls were a job, she’d be a workaholic
  • Wheeeee!
  • His trust is absolute
  • She was a bitch but I loved her
  • She has never met a stranger
  • This dog is an acquired taste
  •  “Oh boy oh boy oh boy, what are we going to do today?”
  • All heart, no brain

How would you describe the essence of your dog’s personality in a single phrase?

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