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News: Guest Posts
Smiling Dogs: Bear and Moose

Dog's name and age? Bear and Moose, 8 years old

Can you tell us how you named your dogs?

Bear's name is self-explanatory, but she also harvests the qualities of a bear: powerful, yet sensitive and intelligent. And Moose, well if you give a moose a muffin...he'll ask for some jam to go with.

Adoption Story:

After breaking my hand, I was going to be out of work for 2 weeks. I wanted a dog to bond with, keep me company, and go explore with so I went to the rescue during my down time. The shelter was filled with Chihuahuas... it was loud and chaotic! But I witnessed the sweetest, fluffiest dog, sitting quietly and patiently at the front of her cage. Bear. The calm in the chaos. I knew she was meant to be.

News: Guest Posts
Media-Based Dog Breed Choices
Pick the dog that’s right for you, not the dog that is popular right now!

The canine actors that people see in the media affect which dogs they choose to purchase or adopt. It’s been well documented that certain type of dogs become popular when they are featured in the movies or on TV. The most famous example is the mad rush for Dalmatians after the movie 101 Dalmatians came out, but it has happened with many breeds over the years.
 

All too often, the breed du jour is far too active or intense to suit many families. There are exceptions, both with families who are a good match for such dogs or with an individual dog who is not typical of the breed. However, choosing a dog based on what you see in the media, even if you do it subconsciously, can so often lead to trouble.

In a recent heartfelt, if slightly over-the-top, essay by Julia Hubbel, the writer begs readers not to rush out to get an Australian Cattle Dog just because the breed has been featured in a commercial with NFL star Aaron Rodgers.

(FYI, the dog in the commercial does not actually belong to Aaron Rodgers though he has two dogs named Frankie and Chance. Chance is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Frankie’s background is unknown. Both were adopted by Rodgers and his then-girlfriend, actress Olivia Munn, who is a strong proponent of “Adopt, don’t shop”.)

As a behaviorist and trainer, I have seen the trendy dog have an influence on many families, especially those with kids who beg for a certain breed after falling in love with one on screen. Sadly, the effects are rarely positive as choosing a dog because it looks like one who is a star is not the ideal way to choose the right dog for yourself and your family. It breaks my heart when I consult with a family in a tough spot with a dog who is not the best match for them, and they are in this predicament because of a canine actor. These families love their dogs but struggle to make the relationship work due to compatibility issues.

Right now, a lot of Huskies are being relinquished to shelters and rescues (or simply abandoned). Many blame the popularity of Game of Thrones, which features Huskies and similar canines on the show. Gorgeous animals they are, but that does not make them right for all of the people who now want one.

Have you seen an increase in certain types of dogs following their appearance in the media?

Dog's Life: Humane
Hurricane Irma: Helping Small Local Dog Rescue Groups
Highlands County, Florida Humane Society

Small rescue groups tend to be overlooked by larger rescue groups when it comes to disaster relief.  After the Florida Keys, Highlands County was hit the hardest by Hurricane Irma and declared a Disaster Zone. Our staff is exhausted, our dogs are traumatized, we just got water and air-conditioning but at least our little St. Francis statue is still standing!

We are working at full capacity (75 dogs and 50 cats) and cannot intake anymore animals. Our biggest wish is to get these dogs to forever homes.

When a dog enters the shelter, our challenge is to remind them that they are good dogs and did nothing wrong. The shock of Irma hurt, and without our regular volunteers it’s difficult to tend to their emotional needs. Our solution?  We have enlisted the puppies to work with the older dogs and they are doing an excellent job. Who can’t be cheered up by a wee one?

What we did not count on were the hoarders. Just last week we found a home with over a hundred cats. We did not expect the intakes from the flooded puppy mills hidden in the back roads. We are finding cages of dogs stuck in the mud. Some of these dogs had been purposely blinded so they could not run away.  We worked with the Sherriff’s Office to locate the people who runs these operations and can now shut them down.

We have also found dogs tied to fences and cars, their backs and legs broken from the storm.  Many people panicked could not take their animals with them and tied them up instead of letting them take their chances. 

We are performing emergency triage on many animals, working hard to rescue dogs in need and find forever homes for the pets in our shelter but we can’t do it alone.

How can you help?

1. We have created an Amazon Wishlist for Highlands Animal Control:  This will help all the shelters in the area. 

2. There is also a Go-Fund-Me that will be used to deliver food to local residents. 

News: Guest Posts
MY AUSTIN, TX
Dogs are welcome at a host of dining and drinking establishments throughout Austin, including Banger’s Sausage House and Beer Garden.

Set in the green and rolling Texas hill country, Austin is known for its eclectic cultural events—think Austin City Limits and SXSW—Lady Bird Johnson’s bluebonnets in the spring and the bats of the Congress Avenue Bridge. It’s also a pretty dog-crazy place, as noted by Beth Bellanti Pander of Austin’s own Tito’s Handmade Vodka, where she’s the company’s Program Manager of Vodka for Dog People. Here are some of her hot spots …


Boating on Lady Bird Lake.

PLAY

Ahh … the water, the trees, the squirrel sightings: Red Bud Isle and Emma Long Metropolitan Park’s Turkey Creek Trail are great places for a leash-free dog to unwind. Dogs can go also off-leash at Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park, 293 acres of trails (which, FYI, they share with cyclists), hills and creeks. For a more contained experience in the central city, give Norwood Dog Park a try; it’s fully fenced and has a large, shaded main section and a separate area for small dogs. For time on the water rather than in it, stop by Zilker Park Boat Rental, where your dog’s welcome to join you in a canoe (bring his life jacket, as the rental company doesn’t provide them for dogs). Finally, if you and the pooch are in the mood for a movie, look into Austin’s “Movies in the Park” series, which runs through November in parks across the city; the pup will need a leash, but you’ll both enjoy being entertained under the beautiful Austin night sky.


Doxie races at the annual Dogtoberfest.

AUTUMN EVENTS

During the upcoming Austin City Limits Music Festival held at Zilker Park, Tito’s Handmade Vodka is partnering with the nonprofit Emancipet to make veterinary care accessible to all pet owners. Throughout this weekend and next (Oct. 6–8, 10–13), festival attendees will have the opportunity to give back by taking and sharing photos in front of a special mural which will prompt donations (up to $10,000) from Tito’s to Emancipet.

Then on October 21, the 10th Annual Dogtoberfest celebration-fundraiser will be held. It will feature a 1K walk and an outdoor event that includes a costume contest, dog demonstrations and silent auction—all raising money for local dog rescue organizations.

Also on that day, the 4th Annual Dog Beard and Moustache Competition will be presented at The Mohawk, benefitting The Schrodi Memorial Training Fund which helps owners who can't afford top-dollar training be able to train and keep their dogs.

Barkitecture 2017, the custom doghouse design show, is set for Nov. 4. The fundraiser is hosted by Animal Lovers of Austin, and showcases the creations of city’s brightest architects, interior designers and builders.

STAY

Consider taking the HomeAway route; at press time, the online booking site had 157 pet-friendly listings in Austin—which, coincidentally, is its home base.


Fetching along Turkey Creek Trail.

EAT/DRINK

Dog-friendly eateries are thick on the ground in Austin. Jo’s Coffee not only welcomes dogs, it also sponsors the annual Lyndon Lambert Easter Memorial & Pet Parade. Perla’s serves some of Austin’s tastiest seafood, which can be indulged in on the patio in the company of your dog. Likewise, Mozart’s Coffee Roasters has patio seating (in this case, fronting Lake Austin) as well as—you guessed it—fine coffee drinks and a decadent selection of desserts. Three venues go the extra mile when it comes to kicking back with canines. Banger’s Sausage House and Beer Garden not only provides a leash-free area, it also makes a sausage just for dogs. At Dog House Drinkery, dogs are welcome to congregate with their people in the bar area or run off some energy in one of the Drinkery’s fenced OLAs. Wet your whistle under a shady tree at the Yard Bar’s off-leash dog park while your dog goes nuts on the agility course; the bar’s full-meal menu includes two “Dog Food” entries: Bones and Co sliders and house-made ice cream.

Beth notes that on Amplify Austin day, Tito’s Handmade Vodka does its part to raise money for local charities by creating a special cocktail served at participating watering holes.

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Dog Ball Skills
Canine love affair with these toys is revealing

There are dogs who will play to the point of exhaustion with just about any kind of ball. Understanding dogs’ relationship with these toys tells you quite a bit about who they are. Even in a 25-second video of a dog playing with a soccer ball, you can see a lot about what makes them tick.

It’s amazing how much fun dogs can have by interacting with anything that’s round and that rolls. So many dogs live for the chase, and without a live squirrel in their toy box, balls have a tendency to become priority one. There is great joy to be had by following a ball, even by many dogs who don’t like to fetch.

Dogs are fast. This is not exactly stop-the-presses news, but I still often find myself saying, “Wow!” The speed of dogs makes them fun to watch, though it’s this speed that can make many backyards too small for them to truly make use of this talent. Whenever I see a dog running at high speed, I am reminded again how amazingly fast they are, and what a kindness it is to find spaces for them to really turn on the jets.

Dogs can maintain amazing focus if something interests them. Many dogs show moderate interest in various objects, but when they have access to something that really excites them, their focus can be intense. It’s worth finding out what your dog’s true passion is, because the opportunity to pursue it (sometimes quite literally!) may be a source of great satisfaction.

The agility of dogs is incredible. There’s nothing like a little ball play to allow dogs to show off their athleticism. The ability of the dog in the video to accelerate, decelerate, turn and run, all while controlling a ball, is impressive, and yet many dogs have skills this good or even better.

The love affair that many dogs have with balls is extraordinary. Balls make many dogs deliriously happy, and a side benefit is the fun we can have watching a dog experience such rapture. Are you blessed with a dog who loves to play with balls?

Good Dog: Studies & Research
Hormonal Influences on Canine Aggression
Vasopressin and Oxytocin Affect this Behavior

Many hormones influence canine aggression, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Arizona titled, “Endogenous Oxytocin, Vasopressin, and Aggression in Domestic Dogs”. This is no surprise given that the hormones testosterone and serotonin have a huge influence on aggressive behavior, but this study provides evidence that high vasopressin levels are associated with aggression, and that high levels of oxytocin are associated with the absence of aggression in dogs. Previous work has shown that oxytocin levels in dogs are elevated by positive interactions with people. (In humans, oxytocin is important in both childbirth and in breastfeeding, and is also known to facilitate social bonding. Vasopressin is also influential in people, with previous research indicating that people with long standing aggression problems have high levels of this hormone.)

Dogs with a history of behaving aggressively to other dogs were recruited for this study, and for every dog recruited, a non-aggressive dog of the same age, sex and breed was also recruited. In one experiment, dogs were on leash and exposed to a recorded sound of a barking dog behind a curtain. then the curtain was pulled back, revealing a realistic dog model with a person. Dogs were also tested with videos showing dogs exhibiting various non-aggressive behaviors. (In control trials, they were also exposed to random sound effects everyday objects such as a box or a yoga ball. No dogs reacted with aggression to these objects.)

In all trials, the dogs’ hormone levels were recorded before and after the exposure to what was behind the curtain. Many of the aggressive dogs did react to the model dog with barking, lunging and growling, but there were almost no reactions to the controls or the videos. The dogs who reacted aggressively had higher levels of vasopressin than dogs who did not react, but no differences in their oxytocin levels were found.

Another experiment in this study compared hormone levels of dogs in an assistance guide dog training program  to those of the pet dogs in the study. Researchers found that these assistance dogs had higher levels of oxytocin than pet dogs, but did not find differences in vasopressin levels between these two groups of dogs.

The assistance dogs are from a population of dogs who have been bred for over 40 years for traits such as friendliness, calm temperaments and the lack of aggressive behavior. At the physiological level, they showed a difference in oxytocin levels when compared to pet dogs, suggesting that the selective breeding of these dogs may have been acting on oxytocin levels, and that changes in the levels of that hormone may also influence the likelihood of aggressive behavior.

There is a never ending quest for ways to help dogs overcome aggressive behavior. This study indicates that there may be value in pursuing treatments based on targeting both vasopressin and oxytocin.

News: Guest Posts
Smiling Dog: Sherman

Dog's name and age: Sherman, 18 years old

Adoption Story: Sherman came into our lives as a "therapy" puppy; I had recently lost my younger sister and he provided an enornmous amount of unconditional love. He was our first pet as a newly married couple and gave us so much love for 18 years. As a young pug, Sherman loved to play with toys and was always the perfect companion. He went everywhere with us and truly was our "kid"!

This picture was taken last year (2016), one week before he peacefully passed away at home. Sherman was truly a gift and holds a big part of our hearts. As he grew older, he was definitely a Southern gentlemen who loved everyone and everyone loved him!

News: Editors
Art or Abuse?
Art works cited as cruel pulled from Guggenheim Museum show

The recent controversy involving the Guggenheim Museum’s decision to pull three art works from an upcoming exhibition has the art world and animal rights advocates abuzz. The art pieces in question were scheduled to appear as part of a much anticipated exhibition “Art and China After 1989: Theater of the World” slated to open October 6. The three works are intended to symbolize oppression in China. One 7-minute video titled “Dogs That Cannot Touch Each Other” by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, shows four pairs of Pitbull dogs on non-motorized treadmills, struggling to make contact and seemingly fight. Another video, “A Case Study of Transference,” shows two pigs mating in front of an audience. The third work removed is an installation, “Theater of the World,” which features hundreds of live lizards, snakes, crickets and other insects and reptiles on display under an overhead lamp. Protesters in favor of removing the works ranged from the ASPCA to PETA and the AKC, plus a host of vocal animal rights activists. An online petition demanding the museum remove the works garnered more than 600,000 signatures over five days, contending that the three works depict animal cruelty.

An initial response to the protests drew this comment from the museum: “Reflecting the artistic and political context of its time and place, Dogs That Cannot Touch Each Other is an intentionally challenging and provocative artwork that seeks to examine and critique systems of power and control,” the Guggenheim said in a statement. “We recognize that the work may be upsetting. The curators of the exhibition hope that viewers will consider why the artists produced it and what they may be saying about the social conditions of globalization and the complex nature of the world we share.”

This week the museum relented to pressure and withdrew the controversial works, citing “concern for the safety of its staff, visitors and participating artists.” They now face criticism from the art community for bowing to public pressure in dictating what is acceptable art and what is not. This dilemma challenges those, like myself, who are both staunch supporters of artistic expression and advocates for animal rights. I have not seen the video featuring the dogs but the written description is sufficient to sicken me at the act of subjecting the animals to unnecessary violence, stress and harm. There is no intellectual argument for allowing this that I can accept. For now, knowing that it is wrong will have to suffice.

Others, such as Sarah Cohen, an art historian at the University at Albany whose research examines the artistic representations of animals, have wisely articulated the reasoning behind the emotions. She cited a perceived failing by the museum curators thus:

The curators themselves do not appear to have considered very deeply the problem of humans forcing certain behaviors in animals,” she said in an email. “Nor did they apparently stop to consider that using pigs as performers to ‘inform’ human spectators about their cultural hangups is a shopworn strategy—as old as dancing bears and the circus.”

“In my opinion,” she added, “the exploitation of animals to make artistic points is, well, bad art.”

News: Guest Posts
Adopt-A-Pet Helps Owners Rehome Pets

When I ran a German Shepherd rescue more than 15 years ago, one of the biggest challenges was emotional blackmail. A dog owner would call me out of desperation or exasperation or they were just done. If I didn’t take the dog right now, he’d end up in the shelter or worse.

Social media didn’t yet exist and online pet adoption websites were brand new. Early on, I felt my only option was to take the dog. The longer I did rescue, I was less inclined to do so. I finally had the experience to know the rescue didn’t have the money or the foster home for it. Squeezing in another dog would affect our ability to care for and advertise the dogs we already had. But it was a horrible feeling, knowing that the owner had come to us as a last resort and we couldn’t offer another option other than the shelter.

Finally, there is a humane alternative: Adopt-A-Pet.com, a nonprofit pet adoption website, just introduced a new, free service for owners who need to rehome their pets. The owner creates an online pet profile that will be viewed by the public. Adopt-A-Pet then guides the owner through a screening process that includes adoption applications, meet and greets, and an adoption contract. The adoption fee can be submitted online and go to the rescue or shelter of the owner’s choice. 

This idea is so brilliant it’s a wonder no one thought of it sooner. Perhaps the only negative is that pet owners who don’t care who gets their pet – they just want him out of the house as soon as possible – will not take the time to create an online profile. It was always heartbreaking when an owner would call me and when I asked for a photo, they said they didn’t have any. Clearly, the dog was going to be better off without them.

My hope is that services such as Adopt-A-Pet’s new rehome program will help pet owners take steps well before desperation sets in.

For more info, go to: rehome.adoptapet.com

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Dog Pays for Treats
She was taught to trade money for food

Dogs want food treats so much that they will generally do whatever it takes to get us to hand them over. Different dogs learn different strategies to accomplish this same goal. Some dogs learn to sit, other dogs figure out that making their cutest wide-eyed face works best and there are dogs who have been taught that begging at the table is effective.

One dog named Holly learned that the best way to get treats is to pay for them. As a puppy, she loved to take things from bags or purses in the house, and that included dollar bills. Rather than chase her around or try to wrestle her new treasures away from her, her guardians wisely opted to make trades. Holly would surrender the money to receive a treat. It wasn’t hard for her to figure out that if she had money, she could use it to “buy” treats. In dog training parlance, she had been reinforced (with treats) for having money in her mouth and letting her guardians take it away, so she began to do it more often.

In fact, she learned to search for money so that she could trade it for treats. Her guardians can tell her to go get a dollar if she wants a treat, and Holly will go find one. This family finds it amusing and allows her to have a stash of cash that she can use to “buy” treats. When she runs out, they replenish her supply. (She will often bring a dollar without being asked and put it on one of their laps to let them know she wants to exchange it for a treat.)

When it comes to getting treats, dogs do what works for them. As trainers and guardians, we can use that to our advantage by making a behavior that we like be one that works for them. So, if you want your dog to drop things, make that a strategy that will result in treats for them.

It is possible for this to go awry if what your dog learns to drop for treats is something you don’t want him to have in the first place such as your phone or your glasses case. It’s more fun (and less irksome) if you can teach your dog to drop things you want him to bring to you, such as the newspaper or your slippers. If there is something your dog is always taking that you would prefer not be in his mouth, make it inaccessible while you encourage him to take something else instead. Once he has established a new habit of bringing you the “right” objects, he will be more likely to leave those other things alone.

Has your dog learned that certain objects can be traded for treats?

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