Good Dog: Studies & Research
Seeing eye to eye
February 22 2016
How better to spend a chilly winter afternoon than gazing into a pair of warm canine eyes? As it turns out, there’s a perfectly rational reason to do so, one that also suggests how dogs became our “truest companions.”
In a 2015 study reported in Science (“Oxytocin-gaze Positive Loop and the Coevolution of Human-Dog Bonds”), a team of Japanese researchers led by Miho Nagasawa studied the role oxytocin plays in the ancient relationship between people and dogs. Popularly called the “love” or “cuddle” hormone, oxytocin enhances the attachment between human mothers and infants; the longer the two gaze into one another’s eyes, the greater their levels of oxytocin. The practical effect of this feel-good neurological chemical is to stimulate contact. For mother and child, the shared gaze creates a seamless loop of affection and bonding.
Since both dogs and humans use gaze to communicate, the team hypothesized that this same loop might come into play between our two species. It could also help explain how dogs came to take their place in our lives—or, in science-speak, to suggest a reason for our unique “interspecies affiliation.”
The study’s results seem to confirm the hypothesis. In a series of experimental situations, dogs’ “gazing behavior” increased oxytocin levels in their owners, and when the owners gazed back, the dogs’ oxytocin levels went up as well. And, as with human mothers and infants, the amount of time owners talked to and touched their dogs also increased, thus deepening the bond between them.
So, the next time you find yourself engaged in a mutual-admiration session with your co-pilot, remember: it’s not just a pleasant way to pass the time, it’s also part of nature’s grand plan!
February 22 2016
Welcome to our 85th issue, with the winsome Abby as our cover girl. A German Wirehaired Pointer and hardworking SoCal ranch hand, she’s the second GWP to grace our cover. (Our own rescue GWP, Lola, was the first.) There’s something so compelling about their laser-focused gaze, and Abby’s cream-flecked facial “furnishings” (as they’re called) give her an almost human look, don’t you think?
Much as I admire this breed, I need to add a word of caution: they are extremely high energy with intense drive, and require more exercise and running space than most people are able to provide.
Another member of the Sporting Group shows up in our review of a fascinating book, No Better Friend, by Robert Weintraub. The story focuses on a remarkable English Pointer, Judy, the only dog ever to be an official prisoner of war. The time was WWII, the place was Sumatra in Southeast Asia. You won’t believe what this heroic dog was able to do, from saving the lives of her fellow (human) prisoners to inspiring many of them to survive the horrors of that war.
We have three excellent training-related articles. Karen London profiles researcher Claudia Fugazza and her “Do As I Do” method, which taps into a dog’s imitative talents. Grisha Stewart provides us with an overview of the Behavior Adjustment Training (BAT) program that empowers dogs to use behavior to control their safety. And Tracy Krulik reports on what the future of dog training might be as increasing numbers of trainers use digital communication tools to get the job done.
On the wellness front, pain expert Michael Petty, DVM, describes how to perform simple stretching exercises on our dogs at home, and we talk with him about his new book, Dr. Petty’s Pain Relief for Dogs (where we learned a lot, including that a dog’s dewclaw has a function!). Behaviorist Suzanne Hetts, PhD, covers the importance of an annual behavior wellness examination as a complement to the annual vet visit.
We have an excerpt from Kim Kavin’s engrossing new book, The Dog Merchants—the section that considers the ways shelters can “repackage and rebrand” to inspire more effective adoption rates. (Wait until you see Berlin’s state-of-the-art animal shelter.) Shelia Pell examines pet meds, from supplements to compounded drugs, investigating the possibility that we’re playing pharmaceutical roulette with our dogs. And be sure to read the lovely personal essay by Michael McGuill, “Mutts, Mothers and Mercies,” about a youthful folly and how it led him to a career that saves animal lives.
And there’s more including a look at the recent wolfdog craze, the unforgettable story of artist Thomas Hart Benton’s son’s dog and seasonal safety tips. As an extra special treat we have a series of strips from cartoonist Patrick McDonnell from his heart-warming and inspiring “Shelter” series that appeared in his Mutts feature. We also have a guest editorial that will shock you with its hard truths, offset by much that will inspire you and, as always, a selection of remarkable artwork.
Thank you for your support during these past Bark-filled 19 years. Now, we’re looking forward to reaching our 20th anniversary milestone, carried there by your enthusiasm for what we do.
Features & Essays
It’s a Dog’s Life
Dog's Life: Humane
Initiative calls for inspiring stories
February 18 2016
When it comes to supporting charities, many people believe there are “people causes” and there are “animal causes.” Of the $358 billion given to charities in the U.S. in 2014, less than 1% was given to animal-related causes. Mutual Rescue™ is an initiative to change the national conversation from “people OR animals” to “people AND animals.” When you connect millions of animals with millions of people, you help build a foundation that enriches entire communities across the country.
With this mission in mind, Humane Society Silicon Valley (HSSV) is excited to announce a call for Mutual Rescue™ Stories, a national program celebrating the extraordinary transformation of animals and people through adoption and rescue. From February 14 through April 30, animal lovers across the country can help change the dialogue regarding animal welfare and philanthropy by sharing their Mutual Rescue™ stories—how they rescued their animal and how he or she rescued them in return. “Every day, we witness the transformative and profound impact of connecting an animal with a person,” says HSSV President Carol Novello.
Mutual Rescue™ aims to change the way people see animal welfare. By sharing stories about connecting a person with an animal, Mutual Rescue™ hopes to demonstrate that when you support your local animal shelter, you’re not just enhancing an animal’s life—you’re also transforming a person’s life as well. The stories shared by everyday people through Mutual Rescue™ are testaments to the incredible impact that an animal and a person have on each other, and that “rescuing” isn’t in just one direction
Visitors to www.mutualrescue.org are encouraged to submit a story in which they can become the subjects of short films produced by an award-winning agency. A celebrity panel of judges, like actor Maggie Lawson and Animal Care Specialist Jude McVay from The Tiger Frances Foundation, will select the best stories to be filmed. These films will be shared with the world during a Fall 2016 virtual event. Watch the heartfelt sample film, “Eric & Peety” at www.mutualrescue.org.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Get bright smiles with one of these image-rich treasures.
February 17 2016
In Bread and a Dog, Japanese food stylist Natsuko Kuwahara combines delightful photographs of enticing morning fare (the bread) with the internal ponderings of Kipple (the dog). Delectable recipes are included, including a few for traditional Japanese breakfast dishes. (Phaidon, $14.95)
Pete Thorne’s Old Faithful captures the essence of the beauty and serenity of dogs of “a certain age.” With personal stories of each of the 75 dogs profiled. (Harper Design, $19.99)
Brazil-based Rafael Mantesso’s whimsical drawings of his Bull Terrier Jimmy Choo are one Instagram sensation that actually merits the attention. Now, with A Dog Named Jimmy, which includes 100 images, Mantesso and Jimmy’s fame will surely spread. (Avery, $19.95)
British designer Fenella Smith teams up with her brothers Greg and Myles McLeod to create Breeds: A Canine Compendium, lending their delightful and humorous touch to a guide to more than 100 different breeds. (Flatiron, $16.99)
Good Dog: Studies & Research
Superior Senses: Hearing
February 15 2016
Floppy, folded, small, large—dogs’ ears come in many shapes, but they all serve the same purpose: as funnels for sound. Did you know that at least 18 muscles work to tilt, raise and rotate these furry appendages, helping the dog identify and capture sounds from different directions? Here are a few fast facts about canine ears and hearing.
Sources: Alexandra Horowitz, Inside of a Dog; Bruce Fogle, Dogs; DVM360.com; hypertextbook.com; aspcabehavior.org
Valentine’s Day 2016
February 12 2016
Roses are red, Violets are blue. Write an ode to your dog—we’ve got prizes for you!
We know you love your dog, and what better way to express that love than in verse? Enter The Bark's 6th Annual Puppy Love Poetry Contest. Finish the classic doggerel, “Roses are red, Violets are blue,” with a few lines about your canine Valentine or write your own poem as a comment on our Facebook page or comment below. We’ll have a prize for our favorite, including a selection of treats and goodies and they'll appear in Bark's summer issue!
Multiple entries—and wild creativity—are welcome. The contest ends February 14th 2016 at 11:59 PM PST, so start channeling your inner Shakespeare!
Irresistibly amusing portraits of wet dogs
January 29 2016
On our cover is Coffee Bean, whose portrait was taken by Sophie Gamand, a photographer who sees dogs differently. For an example of Gamand’s unique viewpoint, consider her series Flower Power: Pit Bulls of the Revolution. Her pictures of smiling, solemn and saucy Pit Bulls, their heads adorned with colorful crowns of flowers, suggest that we reconsider what we think we know about these sturdy dogs. An award-winning French photographer who has become well known as an animal advocate in her adopted hometown of New York City, Gamand will be celebrating the release of her first book, Wet Dog, this fall. Recently, she shared some of her observations and experiences with us.
BARK: Are dog-rescue groups active in France?
Gamand: Absolutely. Abandonment is somewhat less of an issue there than it is in the U.S., though. I once calculated that the ratio in France is about one dog per 660 inhabitants will be abandoned each year, whereas in the U.S., it’s one dog per 82 inhabitants. Thanks to my Wet Dog book, I was able to help the SPA (Société Protectrice des Animaux), the largest and oldest animal welfare and rescue organization in France. They fell in love with my wet dog photos and asked if they could use them for their nationwide adoption campaign this October. I was so proud to be able to help animals in my home country! (I even photographed wet cats for them, which was quite an experience!) The campaign ran in France, in the Paris subway stations and in SPA’s 60 shelters. I was told by their team that their adoption event was hugely successful, thanks in part to the campaign, which touched thousands and thousands of hearts.
In Wet Dog, you write that one of first things that happens to a dog at a shelter is a bath, and that marks the beginning of the dog’s new life. Is this why you decided to do the wonderful Wet Dog book?
My “Wet Dog” series was born out of a happy accident. I was at a groomer’s, working on a personal project about grooming and the hair-cutting process. Then the groomer started bathing the dogs, and I could not take my eyes off them! I’m not sure why I felt that intense connection with wet dogs. They make me laugh, but most importantly, they make me feel guilt, compassion and immense empathy.
Suddenly it hit me. That was exactly how I felt when bathing rescue dogs. It was interesting to explore those memories and feelings, and to realize how important bathing had been for me and for my relationship to rescues. I really believe that for the dogs, the bath is an initiation process, almost a form of baptism. They enter a new life, the abuse and the neglect and the suffering they experienced are washed away, and they become new. It’s a poignant and beautiful moment to share with a rescue.
You have volunteered a great deal of time taking portraits of shelter dogs. How important do you feel it is that their personalities are captured through good photography—does it make them more adoptable?
It is absolutely essential! Good photography helps in so many ways: It gives more exposure to the dogs on social media, and by extension, it gives more exposure to the shelters as well. It also brings more adopters to the shelters and creates more connections between people and shelter dogs.
I want my photos to be amazing, beautiful, exciting, fun, touching. I want people to see beyond the “shelter dog” aspect. I want them to witness the personality and uniqueness of these dogs. The photos, like the baths, are also a rite of passage. I want to give the dogs their dignity back. My photographs have been responsible for many direct and indirect adoptions— for people falling in love with a particular dog, or feeling more confident about getting a shelter dog. The photos remind us that these dogs could be our best friends. Their happy faces are so inviting.
How did you come to work with the Sato Project, and why do you say it was life-changing for you?
I met Chrissy Beckles, the project’s founder, in 2011. At the time, I was looking into volunteering with a shelter or a rescue group, but found many closed doors. Chrissy welcomed me and let me do my thing. Over the course of two years, I traveled extensively with her, documenting her work in Puerto Rico—specifically on Dead Dog Beach, an infamous dumping ground.
The work I did with the Sato Project profoundly changed me, personally, professionally and artistically. The first time I stepped foot on the island, Chrissy and I picked up a dying dog. He was beautiful and heartbreaking and in such a horrible shape. He died in Chrissy’s arms, and I was there with my camera, taking the photos and videos that would help Chrissy spread the message about her important work.
I called the dog Angel, and I captured his last breath with my camera. I still remember the way he looked at me; for a split second, I thought he was smiling, and then he expired. He was loved so much during the last few seconds of his life. This horrible experience bonded me with Chrissy and her organization in ways I can’t explain. It also bonded me with rescues and shelter dogs across the world. In many ways, we created dogs, and we are responsible for them. Teaching compassion toward all beings is such an important part of our humanity.
What do you hope people come away with from your Wet Dog book?
Wet Dog is meant to be a fun book. I want to celebrate the unique relationship we have with our dogs. I also hope to use it to spread simple messages, such as #AdoptDontShop, which is dear to my heart. People need to stop buying puppies in stores or off the Internet. One out of three of these puppies will end up in a shelter within their first year.
I also want to encourage people to look at shelters and help in small ways. For example, did you know that shelters are always in dire need of gently used towels and linens? It’s a great way to help, and to make shelter dogs’ lives a little more comfortable while they wait for their forever homes. Bathe your doggie, then wash the towels and donate them to your local shelter! Wet dogs uniting for shelter dogs: I like that idea.
January 20 2016
Behind every rescued animal there stands a group of unsung heroes. Those people who make dog and cat adoptions possible — a team of shelter workers, trainers, foster parents and volunteers who shepherd each animal from their first day to, hopefully, a forever home. With dedication, hope, expertise and above all, hard work … they persevere, believing that every animal deserves a second chance at happiness and love. We salute their commitment, and strive to bring their stories to light.
The Bark has partnered with Halo to proudly present SHELTER HEROES — a program that recognizes outstanding individuals helping homeless animals find their forever homes. For the next several months, The Bark will be shining the spotlight on these shelter heroes, as well as publishing the best practices and recipes for successful animal adoptions. Together, we can make a difference.
Do You Know a Shelter Hero? Do you know an animal shelter worker or volunteer who stands out for their dedication, innovation and hard work? Somebody who is making a special impact in your community? We want to hear about them and tell their story to inspire others. We want to recognize their efforts and share their success. Go to our online entry and help us find the real shelter heroes in your community.
One special hero will be selected to be profiled in The Bark and the shelter they represent will be provided with 10,000 bowls of Halo dog food, courtesy of Freekibble.com. Other notable heroes will be featured on thebark.com. For rules and eligibility, click here.
December 30 2015
As the year comes to a close, we look back at some of the ideas in dogdom that caught our attention. The world is forever changing with new health and science discoveries, advances in technology, and evolving ideas that impact our communities and relationship with animals. One thing remains constant though, the comforting companionship of our dogs and the bond we share … thankfully, some things never change.
Considering the big themes that had us talking (and writing) about in 2015, two topics rose to the top and suggest important shifts in thinking. The first combines new findings that tie together nutrition, health and science—nutrigenomics or the study of how foods affect our genes and how individual genetic differences can affect the way we respond to nutrients. Canine nutrigenomics is further evidence that good nutrition matters, and our conversation with leading researcher and author W. Jean Dodds, DVM, explains why. Dodds and Diana Leverdure also explored the importance of “brain food” or good nutrition for senior dogs. The microbiome ecology found in our dogs’ gut may prove the pathway to better health (and behavior). Bark contributing editor Jane Brackman, PhD, investigated these microscopic worlds with fascinating results. Scientific research and popular theory (gutbliss) are creating a new awareness of the importance a healthy gut to a dog’s well-being.
As dog lovers, we’ve always known that dogs enrich our lives in countless ways. New research continues to build that case empirically, none more important than a special report from Harvard Medical School. Get Healthy, Get a Dog is the first publication to compile hundreds of research studies from around the world that document the physical and psychological benefits of dog ownership. Taken together, these studies provide the most complete picture yet of the many ways in which dogs enrich human life: from lower cholesterol and improved cardiovascular health to weight loss, companionship, defense against depression and longer lifespans. Twig Mowatt delved into this landmark report and its importance.
The second big idea gleaned from 2015: If dogs are proving good for us, they can be particularly beneficial to children. A recent study reports that kids who live with a dog are less likely to be anxious than their peers living in homes without dogs. Other studies show that children with dogs at home were healthier overall, had fewer infectious respiratory problems, fewer ear infections and were less likely to require antibiotics. Researchers considered these results supportive of the theory that children who live with dogs during their early years have better resistance throughout childhood. Innovative education programs like Mutt-i-grees curriculum are testing the many ways in which dogs can aid in learning.
Space does not allow us to list every worthy book, film and exhibit from the past year (and there were many), but we would like to note these special, memorable works:
George the Dog, John the Artist: A Rescue Story by John Dolan
The Shepherd’s Life by James Rebanks
Heart of a Dog, a film by Laurie Anderson
Rescue Road by Peter Zheutlin
December 30 2015
Laurie Anderson is a visionary artist and a pioneer in electronic music as well as a marvelous storyteller. She employs her voice, with its songlike phrasing (as in her 1981 hit single “O Superman”), along with instruments—some of which she invented—video and other acoustic props to weave her tales.
In her new film, Heart of a Dog, her beloved Rat Terrier, Lolabelle, takes center stage in an imaginative, lyrical, confessional narrative. As Anderson describes it, “It’s a series of short stories about telling stories.” Quoting David Foster Wallace, she adds, “Every love story is a ghost story.”
Over the course of this absorbing 75-minute film, she considers the deaths of her mother; her dear Lolabelle, whom she “co-parented” with husband Lou Reed; her friend Gordon Matta-Clark; and finally, Reed himself in 2013. Times critic A.O. Scott praised it as a “philosophically astute, emotionally charged meditation on death, love, art and dogs.” It’s also about learning to “how to feel sad without actually being sad,” as her Buddhist teacher instructed.
While the film offers a visual representation, it’s really Anderson’s Zen-calm narrative that conveys its message. Both film and score open with her recounting a dream in which she gives birth to Lolabelle. She then uses the dog as a springboard, digressing to a variety of other topics but always circling back to the dog. One of our favorite segments, “Piano Lessons,” is about how Anderson and Reed set up keyboards on the floor for their old dog (who was going blind), and used a clicker to train her to make music. As Anderson wryly observes, the dog’s playing “was … pretty good.”
The movie, which has a limited run, will be aired on HBO in 2016. Luckily for dog lovers and Anderson fans, Nonesuch just released its critically acclaimed soundtrack.
Copyright © 1997-2016 The Bark, Inc. Dog Is My Co-Pilot® is a registered trademark of The Bark, Inc