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Censored: Animal Welfare and Animal Abuse Data Taken Offline
It just got much harder to know what's going on in U.S. animal research labs.
Government Hides Animal & Dog Abuse Data

The field of human-animal studies is growing rapidly, as is public interest and awareness about animal welfare and animal abuse. My email inbox has been "ringing" constantly for the past few hours about an unprecedented and reprehensible move toward censorship, specifically because animal welfare reports and animal abuse data have been wiped from the United States Department of Agriculture website.

Below are some updates from major science journals, global media, prestigious organizations, and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. It's not only animal welfare or animal rights organizations that are incredibly upset. Indeed, people around the world are extremely put off and deeply concerned about this reprehensible censorship. You can find many more reports and outcries here. And, the number is rapidly growing. 

US government takes animal-welfare data offline: Nature News & Comment

USDA removes public access to animal welfare data

The Government Purged Animal Welfare Data. Now the Humane Society Is Threatening to Sue

Animal Welfare Reports and Abuse Data Wiped From USDA Website

It Just Got Much Harder To Know What's Going On In US Animal Research Labs  

USDA blacks out animal welfare information

USDA abruptly purges animal welfare information from its website

USDA Shuts Down Portal to Records on Animal Abuse

It Just Got Much Harder To Know What’s Going On In US Animal Research Labs

USDA removes animal welfare reports from its website

Animal Welfare Act Data Suddenly Removed From USDA Website

Nation’s Best Zoos and Aquariums Disagree With Decision to Remove Online Access to USDA Inspection Reports

Information on animal welfare disappears from USDA website

USDA Scrubs Public Animal Welfare Records From Website 

USDA removes online database that included animal abuse; activists cry foul 

I can say no more other than please contact members of congress now. And, please sign this petition

The animals need all the help they can get. 

How To Get Your Dog’s Attention

Having your dog’s attention is one of the most important and underrated aspects of positive dog training. It’s obvious when you think about it – how can you train your dog, if your dog doesn’t pay attention to you? Luckily, we’ve come up with three simple and fun exercises designed to help get your dog’s attention, making training your dog a little easier.

 

TEACHING YOUR DOG TO BE A GOOD STUDENT

Training your dog to pay attention teaches them to be a good student, ensuring that they will sit quietly and wait for instructions – once these foundations are in place, training your dog will become a great deal easier. Later on, we will cover two of the best attention exercises available, which are centred on being a good student, paying attention and awaiting instructions.

Although it is often underemphasised by dog training experts, ensuring your dog is capable of paying attention is one of the core principles in positive reinforcement training, and an absolutely necessity if you are to ensure your training is a success. This post aims to rectify this issue, by providing you with the mind-set and training exercises required to train your dog to be pay attention – eventually leaving you with a happy, well-trained and trusting member of the family! 

 

HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU HAVE YOUR DOG’S ATTENTION?

The easiest way to see if your dog is paying attention to you is to observe whether or not he is looking at you and following everything you do closely. Once you have an attentive dog, this will be very obvious, especially to other family members or friends, who will note that your dog seems to follow you around and work for your attention – particularly at feeding time!

However, it is worth remembering that some dogs are discrete – they might not seem interested in where you are or what you’re up to, but the moment you disappear, they’ll appear right next to you – my dog can even be upstairs while I’m working downstairs, but the moment he can no longer hear the sound of me typing on my computer, he’ll come down to check that I haven’t nipped out without him. This is attention in a nutshell - when your dog is aware of your movements and what you are doing at any time of day.

 

IS HAVING YOUR DOG’S ATTENTION REALLY NECESSARY?

You might wonder if all this talk about attention is overrated – this outlook is typical of more traditional or ‘old school’ trainers, who believe you can get better results by forcing your dog to pay attention when you demand it. In my experience, though, this approach doesn’t work anywhere near as well – there’s a notable difference between a dog who focuses on you because he has to, and one who focuses on you because he wants to please you. The goal of this post is to help you reach a point where your dog is focused on pleasing you, as this is the easiest way of training him successfully.

 

 

DON'T TAKE YOUR DOG'S ATTENTION FOR GRANTED

In my experience, dog owners take a lot of things for granted – too many, in fact. When a dog first comes into the home, he relies on us completely, and we have his full attention at all times. After a few weeks, however, your dog will relax into the environment and encounter new, fresh and exciting experiences which are more interesting than you – and that’s not good news for your relationship, particularly where training is concerned. By remaining at the centre of your dog’s world, you’ll not only enjoy a stronger bond with your dog, but stand a much better chance of being able to train him successfully.

So how do we accomplish this? With consistent training – every day, all year. By making training a habit, you’ll make it second nature for both you and your dog, ensuring you’ll have the basics – sit, come here, down etc. - covered quickly and efficiently, allowing you to move onto more complicated routines.

Now that we understand what it means to have your dog’s attention and why having your dog’s attention is so important, we can move onto the frameworks we use for teaching attention, along with a few simple exercises you can undertake to ensure your dog is always paying attention to you.

 

YOUR DOG KNOW WHEN YOU'RE NOT PAYING ATTENTION

First things first - when training your dog to pay attention to you, you have to really be present with your dog, not just physically but mentally; remember, your dog can feel you! He knows when you’re sad and when you’re happy, and certainly knows when you are lying and when you are not. By taking an active role in training your dog, you can make the framework very simple, rewarding your dog not only with treats but praise and happiness. Here are three of my favourite ways to train your dog to pay attention to you:

 

DOG ATTENTION EXERCISE #1 – EYE CONTACT

The first exercise is based around eye contact, and is the exercise that teaches your dog to sit quietly and pay attention to the teacher. Grab some treats and then sit beside your dog, waiting for them to look at you. This requires a bit of patience the first time you train this, but hang in there – it’s worth the wait! Once your dog lifts its eyes to meet yours, praise them warmly (or use your clicker) and reward your dog with his favorite treat. Then simply keep still and wait for them to meet your gaze again - keep doing this until your dog understands that he will be rewarded for looking into your eyes, and he will be more than happy to do it whenever necessary.

 

 DOG ATTENTION EXERCISE #2 – HAND TARGETING

Sometimes, you’ll need get your dog’s attention in order to protect them from something that might harm, scare or upset them. Occasionally dogs will become fearful and, naturally, will look to either run away or attack – neither of which are desirable outcomes. However, it is possible to interrupt this natural response by training your dog to keep attention on you even in stressful situations. Try putting your hand in front of your dog’s face, the palm of your hand right in front his nose. Say nothing, as it is important that your dog learns to make these associations for himself. Once your dog touches the palm of your hand, give him a reward in the form of praise or a treat. Repeat this exercise, and eventually your dog will come to understand that when your hand is down, he can receive a reward by touching it – and while he’s focused on you, he will be unable to focus on whatever might be scaring him, allowing you to avoid conflict with others and protecting him from harm!

See the below video for an example of how to do this.

 

DOG ATTENTION EXERCISE #3 – IMPULSE CONTROL

This exercise is called impulse control, and is really more of a concept that an exercise, because there are so many variations to work with.

Once your dog knows that he should be looking at you (see exercise #1) you can use this when training him. For example, you can ‘drop’ something from the kitchen table and if your dog tries to grab it, simply cover it with your foot. When your dog then sits and eventually looks at you, make sure to praise him and then allow him to eat the dropped food. Once more, your dog will learn to associate looking at you with praise and a reward – and over time will begin to realise that everything he wants can be channelled through you. As far as your dog is concerned, you are the origin of everything that is good in life. Clever, right?  See the following video for more information.

 

As you can see from the video above, treats are often used as a reward for behaviour we wish to encourage. With this in mind, I usually retain around half of my dog’s rations, which I distribute throughout the day during training sessions. If treats are not withheld, your dog will either lose motivation to be rewarded or simply end up overweight – by rationing them and associating them with good behaviour, you can ensure your dog is healthy and well-behaved.

In summary, the most important, fundamental principle of dog training is attention – both your dog’s and your own. This element of training is sadly underutilised by most dog training experts, so make sure you don’t make the same mistake – ensure your dog associates paying you attention with rewards and praise, and you can ensure your training exercises are easy and successful. Good luck with your training!

Smiling Dogs: Addie the Workday Companion

Meet Addie, a pup who loves to help her owner on the job. It’s not all work; Addie has plenty of fun.

 Addie

Pet at a Glance
Pet: Addie, an American cocker spaniel
Age: 2
Location: Apple Valley, Minnesota
Owner: Tiffani Sluppick, interior designer for Ethan Allen

On the job: Addie’s owner works from home and out of the Ethan Allen showroom, so her day looks different depending on what’s on Sluppick’s schedule. At home, Addie sits right next to her owner as she works on floor plans or emails clients. She’s also known for getting into fabric samples from time to time. At the showroom, Addie gravitates toward all the new faces. She likes to walk right up to clients, tail wagging. She loves clients, Sluppick says, and the clients love her back. A few have even brought Addie treats, toys and a doggy Christmas ornament.

Favorite part of the workday: Before each workday begins, Addie likes to join her owner as she has her morning coffee. 

 Addie
 

Break time: When Sluppick needs a mental break, she takes Addie on a walk in the neighborhood. Addie also enjoys watching the squirrels run around outside, Sluppick says.

Payment method: Treats! If Sluppick is on the road, Addie loves when they stop by Dairy Queen for a Pup Cup.

From her owner: “Having Addie around on calm days or busy days makes for a better day overall. She loves to always be in the action and where I am. She’s a ‘momma’s girl,’ and I love it.”

SHARE YOUR SMILING DOG!
We LOVE them and we WANT yours! We pick 40 favorites to appear in each issue of The Bark magazine. 

How to Keep Pets Comfortable at Home
Comfy rooms for dogs

There’s a briskness in the air. That means it’s time to cozy up your home for the pets. Sure, the human household members are important, but we can’t deny our furry housemates those same creature comforts we enjoy. Here are some ideas for getting your pets’ hangouts and bedding ready for the cooler temperatures in ways that are attractive to humans.

Build them their own nook. Cutouts like this circular one make the pet part of the decor. While cats may split from the family fun, dogs usually prefer to lie right in the heart of it. Encourage Buddy to not be a tripping hazard, especially in the kitchen, where it can be a serious hazard. Instead, give him a safer hangout all his own from which he can monitor the action. Wherever you find the space for such a pet nook, fill it with plush materials that can be washed easily and often.

 

Naples

 

Create a cave. Dogs generally crave a cave-like bed (when they aren't sprawled out in everyone's way). This undercounter crate provides that same atmosphere. A fitted cozy inside offers added warmth on frigid nights.

 

carey - wenham, ma

 

Instead of trying to hide the kennel, turn it into furniture. This dog's kennel acts as a table base that sits smack dab between his esteemed pack leaders' chairs.

 

Living Room, Historic Townhouse, Brooklyn, New York

 

Give them matching furniture. Not into showing off the kennel? Create an elegant bed that resembles the rest of the room's decor. Find pet furniture or pillows that share similar properties with other facets of the room, such as color, finish, shape or texture. This dog bed blends in nicely with the living room, thanks to its library-like qualities.

 

Ferry Rd

 

This little Brussels Griffon gets to make himself at home on a loveseat under his portrait when he's not hanging out in his own room. With something like this, just make sure guests know not to sit in the no-human zone. If there is no delineation between pet and people furniture, lining furniture with stylish throws offers extra cush to cushions while keeping fur off them. Just make sure your throws (and any nearby pillows) are as washable as they are attractive.

 

a+b kasha

 

Keeping Things Clean and Other Considerations Washability.

Washability is an important factor for any fabric that your pet sleeps on, especially during the rainy season, when muddy paws are a constant.

This guy's easy; he doesn't need his own bed. He'd much rather sleep in between his human companions. Good thing the comforter washes well.

Time apart at night. Just because your pets want to sleep next to you doesn't mean there's room for everybody. If you enjoy having your love bugs close to you at night, consider offering them a bench at the foot of the bed as their own. This way they can still see and hear you without sandbagging your feet.

Style. For larger breeds or multiple pets who enjoy one another's company at night, choose a bed that complements your own. There are no rules about what a pet's bed should look like. As long as the bed is comfortable for the animal, take liberties to make its design work with your room.

 

Minnesota Private Residence

 

Color. It's believed that animals can't see color like we humans can. But that doesn't mean their bedding can't offer color in abundance to please our tastes. Pet pillows and upholstered cushions can be opportunities to add shots of seasonal color or pull from the existing room palette.

 

Barkitecture 2011

 

Outdoor shelter. Not all pets are allowed — or wish — to sleep indoors. It's especially important to make sure they're sheltered from the elements. This customized wine barrel is a stylish covered bed that doubles as a planter box.

Study Finds BPA in Canned Dog Food—and Dogs
Endocrine-disrupting chemical raises red flags

A study by researchers at the University of Missouri finds that eating canned dog food may increase a pet’s exposure to the endocrine-disrupting chemical, Bisphenol A (BPA).

While the study was short-term, the results were “very revealing,” says investigator Dr. Cheryl Rosenfeld, an associate professor of biomedical sciences in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine. Fourteen healthy pets were switched from their usual diet of kibble to canned food. Could a two-week menu change raise the dogs’ BPA levels?

It did, three-fold, and that could really be an issue for dogs that eat the same diet every day.

Over 300 studies have linked BPA to health problems from reproductive disorders to cancer, and now research is shedding light on how people and animals are exposed to the plastic-hardening chemical. While the FDA has reviewed the studies, they still consider BPA “safe at the current levels occurring in foods.”

By measuring BPA’s escape from packaging, scientists are narrowing the focus. One study settled the debate over whether BPA—banned in baby bottles but used in many other items—seeps from metal can linings and taints human foods. (It does). 

And in August, a long-term study in the UK found a sharp decline in canine fertility associated with exposure to other endocrine-disrupting chemicals. The researchers considered food packaging a possible source, finding the chemicals in a range of dry and wet foods.

Some plastic dog toys have also been found to leach the chemical. A study at Texas Tech by environmental toxicologists Phil Smith and Kimberly Wooten found that BPA and phthalates leached from plastic bumpers into dishes filled with artificial dog saliva.

Wooten, who wasn’t involved in the present study, says that while it isn’t clear if dog health is being harmed long-term, “it’s still important information to have since there’s so little data on canine exposure to these types of chemicals.” She knows of no other studies that have looked at the effects of a specific BPA source on the concentrations in the blood.

“I’d say a 3-fold increase suggests that for dogs that eat canned food, their diet is the most important contributor to their total BPA levels.”  

The current study highlights another concern; with the pet food industry being held by about five companies, it seems commercial foods aren’t as diverse as packaging suggests. Of the two (unnamed) brands in the study, one was declared “BPA-free” by the manufacturer.

So, skip the can and spare your dog? It turned out, the dogs already had a small amount of BPA circulating in their blood, shown by initial baseline samples. The researchers then analyzed both the cans and the food for BPA. They also checked for any disturbances in gut bacteria and metabolic changes.

Although one of the diets was presumed to be BPA-free, feeding either brand for two weeks resulted in a three-fold increase of BPA levels in the animals. At the same time, the dogs showed gut microbiome and metabolic changes, with potential health consequences. Increased BPA may also reduce one bacterium known to metabolize BPA and related environmental chemicals, according to the study.

Bagged kibble might also contain BPA, since the dogs had some BPA in their blood before the study, possibly from their dry diets.

“This is the point that it is not clear,” Rosenfeld says. “It could be that the food already contains BPA. However, we saw minimal levels when the dogs were on kibble.” In some cases, very low amounts can lead to equally if not greater harmful effects as high doses, she says. The greatest concerns may be at the low and high doses.

“The doses we found in the dogs after being on canned food though were comparable to what has been linked to health problems in humans and rodents,” a list that includes diabetes and obesity, among others.

If the dogs continued to eat the canned food, would BPA keep building up in their bodies?

“We did not see what would happen if we took the dogs off the canned food or kept them on it longer,” Rosenfeld says. “These are definite follow-up studies.” Ideally, based on the results of this one, she says they would pursue long term studies to test BPA concentrations after long term feeding of canned food, examining the dogs for metabolic disorders—such as obesity and diabetes—and neurological ones, using MRI and behavioral testing.

In a previous rodent study, they did find that the longer mice were on a diet containing BPA, even though it was being metabolized, it would start accumulating in their system so that greater amounts would persist over time, she says.

In humans and primates, BPA is excreted through urine. “It is not clear how it is cleared in dogs.”

While BPA affects the reproductive system, Rosenfeld says they did not find any gender differences in this initial study—“but we would need to test more dogs to confirm.”

The main concern about the gut microbiome changes is that they have been linked with various diseases, including neurological, metabolic, immunological, gastrointestinal, and possibly even cancer, she says. “Thus, by affecting the gut microbiome, BPA could induce such secondary effects.”

Unfortunately, a supposedly safe substitute for BPA, BPS, didn’t fulfill its goal. Rosenfeld says that in rodents and fish, BPS has already been shown to lead to similar health concerns as BPA. Their study didn’t test BPS in the cans. “It is not clear if some dog foods are using this substitute,” she says.

“By feeding fresh food, dry food, and minimizing canned food, it will reduce exposure to BPA and BPS.”

 

Barking at Squirrels

He died a day ago. There is a sand-fire up North. White flakes of ash fall from the sky like snow. And yet, this is not what alarms me. I stare at our yard. For almost 12 years, Bowie would appear, from the brush, often with a fully blackened snout from digging in fresh fluffy soil, from fitting his favorite stuffed animals for their graves or burying bones that were just too good to be enjoyed all at once.

The next day, at 10am on the dot, I open his doggy door, as that was usually when he was due for a pee. I look out at our yard again. He is still not there, of course. It is windy now, the leaves are starting to fall, and pine needles are raining down like daggers. He would hate this. He used to bark at everything, even the wind. We thought it was something he would outgrow. He never did.

In his absence, the squirrels have become bolder. They dig in the grass, they eat the apples from the apple tree. They get way too close to our house, practically touching our back french doors. I will sprinkle the dog’s ashes all over the yard in hopes the squirrels will smell him and show some damn respect. One day, I bark at them, emulating Bowie’s howling beagle arooo. The squirrels just look at me, confused. So I run at them while howling. It works. For a moment, I am proud. I’m continuing to fight the good fight.

“I’ve been barking at squirrels,” I confess to my husband a few nights later. I feel someone needs to know this information, as I am starting to worry about myself. (Though I’m equal parts terrified he will have me committed.)

“I get it,” my husband says, surprising me. “I still open a can of dog food every morning. Habit, I guess.” Then he starts to cry, resting his head on the pillow between us that the dog claimed over a decade ago in his Oedipal battle for my love.

I don’t tell him that I also sit perched on Bo’s downstairs dog bed waiting for the takeout guy to show up with food. Or that I stalked a raccoon near our garbage cans yesterday. And I chased the mailwoman (because she forgot to pick up my letters for mailing).

Is it possible that in all of my grief, I am becoming a dog? Or have I always been one, deep down? Trans-Species: is that a thing?

I took our daughters to a combination pumpkin patch/ petting zoo yesterday. As they fed chickens, I knelt down and pressed my nose against a goat’s nose and pet the blaze of fur between its eyes, the way I used to with Bo. If I had closed my eyes, it would have felt just like him. But I didn’t, as I quickly became aware of how this looked, a woman paying no attention to her human children running around, instead sitting forehead to forehead with a goat. Eventually my kids came over and pet the goat. Before leaving the parking lot, I texted my husband: “our next dog might be a goat.”

Bo’s favorite delivery man came today, with a package for us and two crunchy bones that he always gave to Bo. I explained to him that our dog was gone, had died, and then I watched as this big burly man’s face crumpled into tears. “It’s okay,” I said feebly, while looking away. He still handed me the bones.

Time heals all wounds, the other humans in my life have been saying. I hope that’s true. For now, I’ll bury his bones in the yard and keep barking at squirrels.

Dogs Remember More Than You Think
A new study shows dogs display episodic memory supporting what many already knew
Dogs remember more than you might think

Dogs are "in." Hardly a week goes by that a research paper and numerous popular accounts don't appear in the news. This week is no different. First, on the "down" side, we've learned that researchers in some laboratories in the United States often secretively do whatever they want to dogs "in the name of science" in "wasteful, bizarre and deadly experiments" with little to no transparency. Basically, they get away with murder, using taxpayer's money, and no one does anything about it. 

On the "up" side of things, I was so pleased to learn about a study by Claudia Fugazza, Ákos Pogány, and Ádám Miklósi, who work in the Department of Ethology at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary, that was just published in Current Biology. This new and very significant essay is titled, "Recall of Others’ Actions after Incidental Encoding Reveals Episodic-like Memory in Dogs." Needless to say, this study received broad global coverage in mass media. People really do want to know what dogs know. And, here is a video of how the research was conducted

Their summary of the important research essay that's available online reads:

The existence of episodic memory in non-human animals is a debated topic that has been investigated using different methodologies that reflect diverse theoretical approaches to its definition. A fundamental feature of episodic memory is recalling after incidental encoding, which can be assessed if the recall test is unexpected [1]. We used a modified version of the “Do as I Do” method [2], relying on dogs’ ability to imitate human actions, to test whether dogs can rely on episodic memory when recalling others’ actions from the past. Dogs were first trained to imitate human actions on command. Next, they were trained to perform a simple training exercise (lying down), irrespective of the previously demonstrated action. This way, we substituted their expectation to be required to imitate with the expectation to be required to lie down. We then tested whether dogs recalled the demonstrated actions by unexpectedly giving them the command to imitate, instead of lying down. Dogs were tested with a short (1 min) and a long (1 hr) retention interval. They were able to recall the demonstrated actions after both intervals; however, their performance declined more with time compared to conditions in which imitation was expected. These findings show that dogs recall past events as complex as human actions even if they do not expect the memory test, providing evidence for episodic-like memory. Dogs offer an ideal model to study episodic memory in non-human species, and this methodological approach allows investigating memory of complex, context-rich events.

Didn't we already know dogs had great memories?: A brief interview with Dr. Ádám Miklósi

Many animals spend a lot of time resting, often peering around at their surroundings and taking in the sights, sounds, and smells. Dogs surely do this. I often smiled as I watched the dogs with whom I shared my home just hanging out and looking around at their dog and human friends and their environs. When I've done field work on a number of different animals, I also noted that they spent a lot of time just hanging out and looking around as they rested. I was convinced that they were picking up a lot of information from just looking around, and that what they learned they could use in their social encounters with others. 

In response to this new study I received a number of emails asking something like, "Didn't we already know that dogs had great memories?" Yes, we did, and a good deal of "citizen science" shows this to be so. But, I wanted to know more, so I sent dog expert Dr. Ádám Miklósi, founder of the Family dog Project who was involved in the study, two questions to which he responded immediately. They were, "Why did you do this study?" and "How does it extend what we know from (i) other formal studies and (ii) what people know from watching their dog at home or at a dog park?"

Dr. Miklósi answered the first question quite easily: "Claudia [lead author of the study, Claudia Fugazza] went to a conference on memory, and then she suggested that maybe the 'Do as I Do' method offers a way to provide some evidence for this."

Dr. Miklósi's answer to the second question, "How does it extend what we know from (i) other formal studies and (ii) what people know from watching their dog at home or at a dog park?" was: "As usual this is something that dog people may have assumed the dog is capable of doing. But most of them did not think about the possibility that dogs remember specific events happening around them. This study shows now that dogs (and probably many other animals) are able to do this. So they not only remember (spontaneously) what they have done (there are studies on chimps, rats, dolphins along this lines), but also what their owner did. For example, they may watch the owner cut the roses in the garden one day, and then when they see those flowers again, this memory could pop up in their mind. This could happen without showing any change in behavior, because this is just a spontaneous 'thought,' although in some other cases such thoughts may actually become causes of (spontaneous) behaviour."

In one interview I did about this study, I noted, "Dogs have great memories of a lot of events and this study shows that we’re still learning just how good their memory really is ... Dogs need to be able to learn and remember what their human wants them to do, and there won’t always be an immediate association of the events in time ... So, it is not surprising to me that dogs can remember the ‘Do it’ request after a period of time even if they weren’t expecting to be asked to do something.”

A few of the dogs with whom I lived acted like "know-it-alls": Dogs remember yesterday and much more

This new research reminded me that many of the dogs with whom I lived acted like "know-it-alls." They seemed to have a sense of knowing what I was going to do or what I wanted them to do, although I'd never explicitly taught them to make these associations. I felt the same about some of the wild coyotes I studied for years. They just seemed to know what others were thinking, feeling, and wanted them to do. I'm sure the dogs and coyotes (and many other animals) had some sort of "theory of mind." (See "Theory of Mind and Play: Ape Exceptionalism Is Too Narrow.")

As I read through this new research paper I remembered an essay I wrote last year called "Dogs Don't Remember Yesterday, Claims Psychologist," about the seemingly ludicrous claim that "dogs don't remember what happened yesterday and don't plan for tomorrow." The author claimed that dogs are stuck in an "eternal present." 

In my essay I wrote, "There are many examples of dogs and other animals 'remembering yesterday.' Think of dogs and other animals who have been severely abused and who suffer from severe fear or depression for years on end, and also, for example, think of dogs who remember where they and others peed and pooped, dogs who remember where their friends and foes live, dogs who change their behavior based on what they learned in various sorts of learning experiments, and dogs who remember where they're fed and where they've cached food and other objects. The list goes on and on."

I also wrote, "From an evolutionary point of view it would be somewhat odd and exceptional if mammals such as dogs and many other animals didn't remember yesterday and plan accordingly." Along these lines, the authors of the present study write, "This is the first evidence of episodic-like memory of others’ actions in a non-human species, and it is the first report of this type of memory in dogs. We suggest that dogs might provide a new non-human animal model to study the complexity of incidental encoding of context-rich events, especially because of their evolutionary and developmental advantage to live in human social groups."

This is a very exciting time for the comparative study of animal minds

I'm very pleased to share the results of the present study with you. Yes, many of us already "knew" from "citizen science" that dogs often know more than we give them credit for, but it's also nice to know that science backs us up. I've learned an incredible amount from people writing to me and talking with me about their dogs, and I've often noted that when the serious science is done, results rarely conflict with what many others already knew.

This is a very exciting time for the comparative study of animal minds, a branch of science called cognitive ethology. Please stay tuned for more on the fascinating and "surprising" cognitive lives of dogs and other animals. 

Marc Bekoff’s latest books are Jasper’s Story: Saving Moon Bears (with Jill Robinson), Ignoring Nature No More: The Case for Compassionate ConservationWhy Dogs Hump and Bees Get Depressed: The Fascinating Science of Animal Intelligence, Emotions, Friendship, and ConservationRewilding Our Hearts: Building Pathways of Compassion and Coexistence, and The Jane Effect: Celebrating Jane Goodall (edited with Dale Peterson). The Animals’ Agenda: Freedom, Compassion, and Coexistence in the Human Age (with Jessica Pierce) will be published in early 2017.

This story was originally published by psychologytoday.com. Reprinted with permission.

How to Keep Your Pets Safe During the Holidays
To avoid an unwanted trip to the vet, be aware of these holiday-related hazards for dogs
Delicate Creatures, original photo on Houzz

If you’re a pet owner, you’re probably aware of the things you need to do to keep your pets safe around your home. But as the holidays approach, you may have to step up your game a bit to make sure your celebrations aren’t interrupted by a pet-related crisis. A big problem is pets eating something they shouldn’t. Another concern is that in the confusion of guests and celebrating, pets can easily get out and get lost. Candles and holiday decorations can be dangerous temptations for a pet too. So while you’re celebrating, watch out for the following to ensure that your good times are also good for your dogs and cats.

Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season for most people in the United States. For pet owners it marks the start of the season when extra vigilance is required, especially when it comes to dogs and food. 

Houzzers have stories galore about dogs eating the turkey (bones and all), the foil and string it was wrapped in, and even the oil it was fried in. Side dishes and desserts are equally tempting. The happy confusion of a holiday meal with family and friends creates plentiful opportunities for a dog or cat to snag some human food. So keeping pets and food separated is always a good idea. 

Even if your pets are normally well behaved, the noise and confusion of the holiday may be difficult them, and they could seek to escape if given an opportunity. Finding a quiet and secure place for pets away from festivities is a good idea.

 

Holiday Style Workshop 2013

 

Christmas comes with a long list of possible problems. Ornaments can get broken, creating a danger of cuts, or can be swallowed. The hooks they hang on can also cause problems if swallowed, as can tinsel. Bubbling lights and fire salts may contain toxic chemicals, while the spun glass that constitutes angel hair can irritate skin and eyes and is dangerous if eaten.

Other dangers are typical holiday plants, such as mistletoe, lilies, holly and Christmas rose, which can cause gastrointestinal distress at the very least. Candles and open fireplaces can harm pets if they get too close to the flames and ashes or, in the case of candles, overturn them. Even the tree water, which can be stagnant or contain preservatives, can cause upset stomachs and worse. And you shouldn’t use a ribbon as a collar; pets can easily get them caught on something and choke.

 

Wilderstein Holiday Tour

 

Of course, this means your holiday decorating may need some adjustments, such as placing the tree and cherished family heirlooms out of reach. 

My family has done just that. For the past three Christmases, we’ve encircled our Christmas tree with a dog fence, keeping the tree, ornaments and wrapped presents safe until the holiday. Since it looks like this may be a continuing issue, I’m already exploring ideas for tastefully and safely decorating the fencing next December.

 

Home for Chanukah

 

When it comes to Hanukkah, keep an eye on any small gift objects or toys and the chocolate coins, which can tempt pets and create problems for them.

Ringing out the old year and ringing in the new is a happy tradition for many on New Year’s Eve, but a skittish cat or dog may be overwhelmed by the noise and confusion. And while balloons and confetti add to the festivities, they can cause internal problems if your dog or cat eats them.

 

Dining room & birthday

 

The same general rules apply to other holidays and other celebrations, especially birthday parties. 

Chocolate and xylitol-sweetened gum are harmful or toxic to pets, and other candies aren’t good for them. Candles can be a problem, as pets can knock them over or can be burned by them, while dangling decorations and balloons can be tempting to play with or try to eat. Small trinkets, fake grass and many popular plants given as gifts, including tulips, daffodils and lilies, should also be kept out of your pet’s reach. 

Fireworks can be a major problem for pets on the Fourth of July. Some animals do fine; others are freaked out by the noise. If your pets are nervous, ask your vet for antianxiety medications designed for animals. You may need to start some ahead of time. 

Remember that pets can become overexcited and act out or run away when things are chaotic, such as during a party or on the Fourth of July or Halloween. You might want to find them a safe and quiet spot indoors and away from the activities, even if they normally live or spend time outside.

For the Love of a Ball: Dogs as Conservation Biologists
Source: With permission of Pete Coppolillio

The more I read about how dogs have been very helpful for answering all sorts of questions in the field of conservation biology, the more interested I got in learning more about this exciting and growing field. Thus, I was extremely happy that Pete Coppolillio, the Executive Director of Working Dogs for Conservation, was able to take the time to answer a few questions about just what these amazing beings—the dogs and the humans—do. Their banner reads: We train the world's best conservation detection dogs & put them to work protecting wildlife and wild places. We do it to save the world. They do it for the love of a ball.

They also note: 

Our work with canine programs in Africa prevents poaching and reduces illegal trafficking in ivory and rhino horn.

Partnerships with 50 conservation groups have taken us to
5 continents to collect data on over 30 plant and animal species.

Thousands of high-energy dogs are stuck
in shelters, waiting for homes. We're helping them get what they really need: jobs.  

How and why did you get interested in this project?

I was doing “traditional” or what you might call mainstream conservation, and we wanted to use dogs to learn about African wild dogs, because at that time, handling them was not allowed in Tanzania. As I continued working, I kept running into species that were either too difficult to capture, or situations where we were unwilling to capture them because it was too dangerous or too expensive. After being in the field a few times with dogs I got very enthusiastic about the possibilities they offer, and started pestering the founders of the organization with questions like, “Have you ever thought about using dogs to track or stop aquatic invasive species?” or, “What about disease? You think they could tell the scats of a diseased animal from a healthy one?”  All those questions and a little bit of enthusiasm earned me a spot on the Board of Directors, and then when the organization got big enough to have someone direct traffic and chase money full-time, so I said I would love to be the Executive Director… and here I am. The photo above is of Ngaio Richards and Lily taking a break from Cross River Gorilla surveys to meet with school children in Cameroon.

What are the benefits for conservation?

There are so many really significant ways that dogs can push conservation forward. One of the earliest benefits we saw, and one of the most obvious, is simply how sensitive and effective they are at finding rare species. Some nice work was done in the northeastern US and they demonstrated that, at very low densities—in that case just one individual animal in particular a landscape—dogs were 39 times more efficient detecting that animal than camera traps or hair snares.  

We have also demonstrated that dogs can do things that simply weren’t possible before. For example, they can detect the microscopic larvae of zebra and quagga mussels.  No matter how hard we look visually, we can't see them so that's a game changer for stopping the spread of those two invasive species, which cost us billions and billions of dollars every year. Another surprising benefit of having the dogs working on stopping invasive species was how quickly they work. It can take a human inspector over an hour to do a thorough job looking for mussels hitchhiking on a boat from contaminated waters, but a dog can inspect that same boat in about three and a half minutes. That's a big deal because many states’ check stations are voluntary, and if there's more than one or two boats in line people will simply keep driving by, or the officers themselves will wave them on so that they don't delay them. The photo above is Alice Whitelaw, during Diesel's training in Montana. Diesel now works with the Alberta Ministry of Environment to keep exotic zebra and quagga mussels out of Alberta's lakes and streams.

Source: With permission of Pete Coppolillio

The final thing I'll mention is our dogs’ impacts for anti-poaching and anti-trafficking. In some areas, Africa has lost around 60 percent of its elephants in the last 10 years. Our dogs not only make it virtually impossible to smuggle significant quantities ivory in a vehicle or container, but they can also intervene and prevent elephants from being killed in the first place. One of our dogs, Ruger, who is a lab shepherd mix rescued from the Blackfeet Reservation in northern Montana, detected and his handlers seized 13 guns in his first two months in the field. On the face of it, that's an enormous impact, but when you take into consideration that a single gun is often shared by seven, eight, or even more than 10 different poachers, Ruger becomes a one dog force for conservation in Zambia.

Are there any downsides?

I think one of the most important things we've learned—and that's the collective “we” of the organization and the whole conservation detection dog field—is that there are times and places where dogs are the best option, and there are others where the traditional methods still make a lot more sense. Collecting scat and detecting species non-invasively is really valuable and important, but it's very difficult to get mortality data, and by that I mean to figure out what's killing a species, without being able to follow individual animals, and that generally means having to capture and collar them. It's also a little bit uncomfortable when we consider that these dogs are in the middle of very serious and high-level law enforcement. Unfortunately, the people who traffic wildlife are also the same nasty characters who traffic in narcotics, guns and even humans, so this work is not without risks to the people who do it and the dogs to help them. Africa in particular, is also a hard place to be a dog. Trypanosomiasis, or sleeping sickness, can be really serious for dogs and we have had to figure out ways to protect them from it.

What do you say to people who feel that you're using dogs against their will? Do you think this is so?

When I watch a working dog in the field, I wish that for just a few seconds I could lose myself in my work or my passions as completely as a dog does. I think anybody who sees that happen recognizes that these are very lucky dogs who truly love what they're doing. The days of coercive and dominance-based “training” are really over for serious dog trainers. Positive or reward based training is simply much more effective, and of course it's more ethical, so I can say without a doubt that all of our dogs not only want to work; they love to work. Our dogs also live with their handlers. That’s preferable from a technical standpoint because they really know each other well, so the handler can see when a dog struggles or is even just having a bad day, but it’s also nice because the dogs and handlers are partners for their whole lives, not just for their work.

Are there any other organizations that are doing similar work?

Yes, a little over 20 years, ago Megan Parker, one of our founders, started a collaboration with a woman named Barb Davenport, who is the lead trainer for the Washington Department of Corrections, and Sam Wasser, who is a conservation biologist at the University of Washington. Meg and three other women who are all biologists started our organization, Working Dogs for Conservation, and Sam and Barb have started their own organizations as well, and these three are the oldest and most established organizations in the country and the world. We have each grown to occupy slightly different niches now, but we all do similar work. Nowadays, there are lots of conservation detection dogs working in this country, and Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and increasingly in Asia and Africa. In 10 years time I believe that every university, every state wildlife agency, and just about anyone doing serious wildlife work will have or use dog teams. They will be as common as camera traps and radio collars for wildlife research, management, and conservation.

Why do you think it took so long for people to recognize how dogs can help us along and not suffer by doing it?

It's a great question. We've spent decades trying to figure out what wild carnivores are doing, as they run around the landscape leaving little messages for each other in the form of scat, or urine, or scrapes, and it took us until the mid 90s to look down at our own dogs and realize they could read the messages themselves, and even more importantly, they’re keen to tell us about it. It's hard to imagine, given that we've lived with these guys for 30 or 40,000 years, but maybe that's why we've taken them for granted.

What have other conservation biologists said about your project?

People love to see what dogs can do, and when we talk with biologists or land or wildlife managers the conversation almost always leads to new ideas and new ways that dogs can help. It's great fun. Dogs are also a great tool for outreach because people love to see what they can do. We often work on projects where biologists have been studying or working to protect an animal for years or sometimes even decades, and they laugh because the first time a dog comes to help them do their work, the press is there, and they want to hear about the project. This is also a pretty good job to have when you go to cocktail parties. A friend of mine recently introduced me as her friend “the environmental conversationalist”, which isn't far from the truth these days, I suppose.

What projects are planned for the future?

This is an exciting time for us. We've grown a lot, and we've moved from being a service provider who sits back and waits for people to ask for our help, to a real driver in our field. We are now able to try new things, develop new methods, and work in places and focus on issues that we think are important for conservation and the health and wellbeing of wildlife. We're going to continue to grow in two important ways. First, we're shifting towards building capacity. That's just a fancy way of saying that we're going to teach others how to do this work, rather than try to do it all ourselves. We believe that conservation dogs need to stop the illicit wildlife trade by being as ubiquitous and effective as narcotic detection dogs.  That's a huge, daunting undertaking. Think of all the borders, airports, post offices, shipping terminals, rail stations, and everywhere else that dogs would need to be. By creating model programs and sharing how we do the work we do, we hope to make it as risky to trade and wildlife as it is to traffic drugs.

The second, and maybe even more exciting, growth area for us is through innovation. Every new laboratory technique opens a door for us, by increasing what we can learn from scat. Just last year some of our collaborators made it possible to detect pharmaceuticals, flame retardants, and heavy metals in mink and otter scats, so we’ve combined these techniques with dogs’ ability to find those scats, to create a new way to monitor the health of aquatic ecosystems. We also started another related program looking at the ways in which poisons, specifically rodenticides, move through terrestrial food webs. The results can be a little bit alarming, because we find contaminants and poisons in places we thought were pristine, but the information is invaluable in documenting the problem and figuring out how to prevent it.

Is there anything else you'd like to share with readers?

No matter how much I do this work, I continue to be amazed at how effective the dogs are, and how tirelessly and enthusiastically they do their work. We really are only limited by the crazy things we can dream up and ask the dogs to do. As more people know about us and see the possibilities that dogs offer, they support our work, either financially, through donations and grants, or by collaborating with or hiring us to try new things and expand the possibilities. It's really amazing how many different issues or problems are limited by what we can detect, so it's great fun and really gratifying to have a bunch of partners who run around with the world’s best chemical sensors on the front of their faces!  

Many thanks, Pete. I really appreciate your taking the time to answer these questions. This is fascinating work and I look forward to learning more about your future projects and successes. I imagine there are a lot of dogs who would love working with you. You can contact Working Dogs for Conservation here

Marc Bekoff’s latest books are Jasper’s Story: Saving Moon Bears (with Jill Robinson), Ignoring Nature No More: The Case for Compassionate Conservation, Why Dogs Hump and Bees Get Depressed: The Fascinating Science of Animal Intelligence, Emotions, Friendship, and Conservation, Rewilding Our Hearts: Building Pathways of Compassion and Coexistence, and The Jane Effect: Celebrating Jane Goodall (edited with Dale Peterson). The Animals’ Agenda: Freedom, Compassion, and Coexistence in the Human Age (with Jessica Pierce) will be published in early 2017.

This story was originally published by psychologytoday.com. Reprinted with permission.

Welcoming Meadow

Arriving home at 4am with the ghost
weight of my dog gone flaccid in my arms
after I said Yes to the needle, ending twelve hours
of seizure, eleven years of companionship,
just as I had said Yes to the nurse who removed
the lone breathing tube keeping my mother alive,
I drank myself to sleep, dreamed my dog crossed
a meadow, smooth grassy stalks swaying lightly,
seed heads anointing the ridge line of her back.
In the sparkle of dawn, vague gray forms,
her pack, rustled the underbrush around her.
She raised her head, mouth parted in dog-smile,
tongue flopping, turned from my gaze to bound off
through the swishing wildflowers.

This is what I need – belief that everyone
I have betrayed still runs gracefully
through a wilderness kinder than the one
I offered, that the pulse of love is released
into a welcoming meadow. When the wren chirps
my name, both syllables, and the morning dove soothes
its blue coo through my bedroom screen, I want to believe
there is something beyond grief over where I failed
to save the ones I loved in my life.

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