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News: Guest Posts
Orcas Frighten Diver and Dog
Biologist suggests whales were more curious than killer

My heart was in my throat while watching this video clip in which a diver and dog narrowly escape a pod of Orcas in New Zealand. The videographer, Deonette De Jongh, had been diving for crayfish with the man who we see scramble to safety onto rocks. According to an eyewitness, the Labrador retriever's owner continued to throw sticks for his dog, even though he knew the whales were there, just to "see what would happen." If that had been my dog out there, you can be sure I would have screamed for my dog to return to shore, and fast! Despite sensational news headlines to the contrary, Orca biologist Dr. Ingrid Visser assures viewers that these wild Orcas were merely curious.

News: Guest Posts
Rescued Bait Dog Receives National Honor
From dog fighting ring to show ring in less than one year

Like many young Staffordshire Terrier mixes around the country, Vivian Peyton didn’t have the best chance of finding a loving home. She was used as a bait dog for a dog fighting ring before ending up at a Philadelphia shelter. Wounded, emaciated and understandably wary of people, Vivian was not considered adoptable.

 

Thanks to New Leash on Life, a nonprofit prison dog-training program, Vivian Peyton learned to trust, earned her Canine Good Citizen certification and was adopted by Michele Pich, a Veterinary Grief Counselor at PennVet. Together, they comfort grieving pet lovers and visit children at Ronald McDonald House.

 

Her extraordinary journey and service has not gone unnoticed. Vivian Peyton will be honored as a Purina Therapy Dog Ambassadors at the National Dog Show at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center on Saturday, November 17 and Sunday, November 18.

 

“Vivian Peyton's honor as Therapy Dog Ambassador at Purina's National Dog Show this year is such an amazing honor,” says proud owner Pich. “For such a sweet beautiful little girl that almost didn't make it out of the shelter alive to go on in a year's time to be part of New Leash on Life's prison-dog program, to have the honor of being a therapy dog through Penn Vet's VetPets program - putting smiles on sick children's faces, and to help grieving pet lovers - and now to be given this special title is incredible.

 

“I have loved her since the second I met her, and could see that she was destined for greatness,” adds Pich. “I just had no idea that the rest of the world would see it too. She is gentle yet rambunctious when she should be, she's goofy yet dainty. She has a loving demeanor and she just seems to know what people need to feel better. I feel so fortunate to be her mom and to be with her through this amazing privilege of being part of the Therapy Dog ambassador team.”

   

New Leash on Life USA is a new generation prison dog-training program that saves the lives of shelter dogs by training and socializing them to enhance their adoptability while helping inmates learn to train and care for dogs. With New Leash on Life USA, dogs live in the cells with their inmate trainers 24/7, making New Leash dogs highly desirable for adoption and ensuring the long-term success for both humans and canines. For more information on New Leash on Life USA visit www.newleashonlife-usa.org.

 

“We are incredibly proud of Vivian Peyton for showing the resiliency of animals and what can be accomplished with love and care,” said Marian V. Marchese, the founder of New Leash on Life. “She will always be New Leash on Life’s ambassador dog.”

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Influencing Pit Bull Perceptions
Study finds that photos can influence how personality is perceived

It’s no secret that Pit Bulls are cast in a negative light, causing them to be passed over time and time again at the animal shelter.  Now with the popularity of online adoption web sites, like Petfinder, a good picture can make all the difference in whether a dog gets adopted or not.  I’ve seen great ways of boosting a pet’s chances, from using professional photographers (many who generously donate their time to shelters) to having dogs wear cute holiday-themed bandannas.  But no matter how Pit Bulls are presented, people often click to the next dog as soon as they see the bully breed appear on the screen.

A recent study set out to see how shelters might increase Pit Bull adoptions by being strategic in photographing the dogs.  Lisa Gunter's experiment specifically looked at how different people pictured alongside a Pit Bull would affect perceptions of the dog’s temperament in six categories—approachability, aggressiveness, intelligence, friendliness, trainability, and finally, adoptability.

In pictures where a Pit Bull was featured with a person, no matter who it was, they scored higher in perceived intelligence as opposed to photos where the Pit Bull was pictured alone.  When a Pit Bull was featured next to an elderly woman or a young boy, the scores increased for friendliness and adoptability, while the numbers for aggressiveness decreased.  On the other end of the spectrum, picturing a Pit Bull next to a rough looking man caused scores for friendliness to decrease.

The findings from Lisa's study could easily be applied to shelter dogs to increase adoptability.  For those of you in the rescue field, what strategies have you tried to put Pit Bulls in a more favorable light?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Blind Dog Paints for Charity
A Dachshund looses her eyesight but continues to create artwork

When Seattle artist, DeeDee Murray, taught her dog Hallie to paint, she had no idea that the activity would become so important to the both of them. Ten years after adopting Hallie, the tiny pup unexpectedly went blind in a matter of days. DeeDee then found out that Hallie had Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome (SARDS), an autoimmune disease that attacks the retina.

Hallie was depressed for several weeks, as she adjusted to her new condition, but eventually her spirit returned and the resilient pup even started to paint again. DeeDee says that Hallie picked up a brush out of the paint cup just like she used to, perhaps using muscle memory. Sometimes Hallie reaches her paw out, as if she's "looking" for her canvas, but usually DeeDee has to tap the paper so that Hallie knows where to place the brush.

Hallie loves painting so much that DeeDee has to stop her before she overdoes it. But the prolific canine's work is going to good use. DeeDee sells Hallie's paintings on a web site and donates the proceeds to Purple Heart Dog Rescue.

Hallie is truly an inspiration and continues to show that loss of vision will not stop her. Recently DeeDee and Hallie took up the sport of K9 Nose Work and the determined pup passed her first Odor Recognition Test, finding the "hide" in a minute flat!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
The Importance of Eating Breakfast
Study finds dogs perform better after a full belly

At my training club, we always tell people to come with a hungry pup. particularly those in our beginner classes who haven’t developed a solid working relationship yet. The thinking is that a dog on an empty stomach will be more motivated to stay focused for a reward. But it turns out that the opposite may be true.

It's well known that humans perform better after we eat breakfast. So two scientists at the University of Kentucky set out to see if this holds true in dogs. Dr. Holly Miller and Charlotte Bender looked at canine test subjects and their ability to find hidden food. Some pups were given a morning meal first and others had to work on an empty stomach. You'd think that the hungriest ones would be the first to find the food, but the study found the dogs who ate breakfast were able to find the hidden food more accurately.

Dr. Miller believes that diet may explain why domesticated dogs experience this phenomenon, but wolves don’t. When animals eat a carbohydrate rich diet (such as most commercial dog food), their brains are more dependent on glucose and are more affected by fluctuations in glucose levels. But with a diet of hunted meat, where carbohydrate levels are low and fat content is high, the brain switches to a secondary fuel source of ketone bodies, meaning their neural processes don't fluctuate as much.  

This research definitely changes how I think about training. Usually I work with my dogs before breakfast and after their morning walk, but this study is something to consider when I’m doing something that requires a lot of focus or self-control. And maybe we’ll reconsider telling people to show up to class with a super hungry dog!

News: Guest Posts
What Hurricane Sandy Victims Really Need
Something that dog lovers understand

The physical and emotional devastation of Hurricane Sandy hits too close to home. Seven years ago, Hurricane Katrina flooded our New Orleans neighborhood and changed my family’s life forever.

 

I can relate to the shock and the pain and the fear that Sandy’s victims are feeling right now. I can also tell you that a donation to the Red Cross or any other charity, while helpful, is not as powerful as making an individual, human connection. If you’re an animal lover, you already understand what I’m about to say. 

 

When we were finally allowed to enter our house nearly one month after Katrina, part of me didn’t want to go. Maybe if we didn’t look with our own eyes, all those images on TV would remain abstract. Our pink and white raised bungalow would look exactly the way we left it – dry and safe. Our dogs would greet us at the door, tails wagging. The cats would blink sleepy hellos from their warm perches.

 

Instead, our beautiful home had been submerged in up to eight feet of brackish water for three weeks. Elderly neighbors were found drowned. Friends had evacuated to destinations unknown. Our four dogs and two cats were temporarily living with my parents in a Chicago suburb. Life had become strange and tenuous.

 

Upon realizing that our evacuation had changed into long-term refuge, my mother-in-law said, “ Good thing you don’t have any kids.” I knew what she meant. Being a practical person, she was thinking in terms of finding housing, transportation, schools and babysitters while juggling insurance and FEMA phone calls, not to mention work if you still had a job. What a nightmare for any parent.

 

Even so, my pets are family. They had basic needs, too, such as being fed, sheltered, feeling safe and loved. Family and friends had donated clothing and personal items to us, but dog lovers in particular understood that our animals’ needs outweighed our own. One incredibly generous woman insisted we meet her at PetsMart and she bought our pets $250 worth of food, treats, collars, leashes, bowls, and toys.

 

During our many salvage trips back to New Orleans, a team of volunteers I had met online helped walk and exercise the dogs since my parents were limited physically. Clean Run, an agility magazine, mailed us a care package filled with treats, toys, and training items, plus shirts and coats for the humans. Therapy Dogs International sent us a check in honor of our Therapy Dog Desoto’s service.

 

The animal lovers totally got it. Our pets’ well being affected our own mental health. Desoto, Shelby, Darby, Jolie, Cricket and Bruiser did not understand why their lives had changed in every possible way, but thanks to human kindness, they were well cared for and loved. The people who helped us most were the ones who recognized that it was the little things that mattered, like taking our dogs for a walk. Or the stranger who found me crying on the porch steps of my rotted house, feeling so alone, and gave me a strong hug.

 

Dog lovers, you of all people understand the value of physical touch and the power of connecting with another being. Please reach out to an individual Hurricane Sandy victim and give them something to hold onto.  

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Surviving Hurricane Sandy
Reflections on the storm and where to donate to help affected pets

In the 30 years I've lived in New York, I've never seen anything like the widespread destruction that Hurricane Sandy left behind. I was very fortunate that my family made it safely out of the storm. During the the hurricane I realized that us dog people are in a unique situation. While many of my friends stayed holed up in their homes, I had to venture outside, no matter what the weather, to walk the dogs--especially my puppy who has to go out several times a day.

During the peak of the storm, I was terrified that a tree would fall on us. Fortunately my puppy goes almost immediately, but there were several times where the wind was so noisy, I ran straight back inside before she even had a chance to potty. Trees claimed many lives in my area, including two people walking their dog.  My pups and I were so, so lucky. I think next storm I might build an indoor potty area in my garage as an extra precaution.  

Times have certainly changed from Hurricane Katrina. I was impressed that New York City made all evacuation shelters pet friendly and lifted animal restrictions on subways, taxis, and trains. However, not all made it through the storm unscathed.  Local animal shelters were damaged and some still don't have electricity. Despite the pet friendly evacuation shelters, many animals were left behind, scared dogs ran away and are now missing, and still others are safe, but have no home to go back to.  

No matter where you live, there are ways to help out. The ASPCA is rescuing pets, providing veterinary care, and bringing supplies to animal shelters and families in the hardest hit areas. Visit their web site to donate money to the rescue efforts.

Best Friends Animal Society is coordinating and delivering donations, transporting animals to non-affected areas, and manning the pet portion of the Sussex County, N.J. evacuation shelter. If you're local, contact the NYC Volunteer Coordinator at tammyh@bestfriends.org to contribute supplies (everything from pet supplies to gas gift cards) or to help out. Shelters impacted by the storm can apply for a micro-grant through the Best Friends web site.

Also, a Facebook group was created to reunite lost pets with their families. Even if you're not in the North East, you can share alerts on your Facebook news feed to reach friends who may be in the area.

Pet lovers are a tight community and I've already seen people banding together to donate supplies, lend generators, and organize fundraisers. I know we will help each other through this difficult time.

 

News: Guest Posts
Dog Training for Life
A six-week obedience class isn't enough
dog, training, sit, stay, obedience

When I started teaching agility and obedience classes, it became clear early on whether someone was training their dog for life or not. Students who asked questions, practiced homework and came to every single class were hooked. If they’d had a tail, it would’ve been wagging!

The time they invested in their dog lead to quicker progress and more successes. Many of those "lifers" are still training with me today, five years later. They go to fun matches and shows together, and socialize outside of class.

At the other extreme (and yes, I do believe that those of us who compete in dog sports are extreme), the occasional student acted like he didn’t want to be there. Some were downright rude and disruptive, as if they thought they had signed up for a private lesson, not a group class.

One couple told me they preferred a different training philosophy, but I was the only one nearby who offered puppy classes. Despite my best efforts to engage them, they spent the six weeks ignoring my suggestions, and paying more attention to fellow students than their puppy. Sadly, it came as no surprise that I never saw them again.  

Only once did I have to ask someone not to return; she was a family member of a student and argued with me so vehemently that I was concerned she might get physical. I rightly guessed her behavior had nothing to do with dog training and everything to do with a personal issue at home.

She called a few days later to apologize and explain. While I empathized with her, it was not fair to the other students and their dogs to share class time with someone who was not committed to making the most of it.

The people I couldn’t figure out were the ones who seemed to enjoy class with their dog. Perhaps they weren’t as passionate as the lifers, but they were good students. They might even complete a few sessions before dropping out.

In some cases, finances were an issue, and I would offer options to make classes more affordable. Some said work or family obligations made it impossible to attend regularly. Again, I would do my best to accommodate them, by offering a drop in option, private lessons or organizing the class of their choice on a day that best fit their schedule.

Others told me they accomplished their goals and were happy. Their dog no longer needed training. This answer floored me; how could you not want to continue? Your dog could do any number of activities or sports, from agility to nose work to rally. Would you and your dog really be more satisfied just going for walks and lounging on the couch?

This is when I would get “the look,” a reminder that I am extreme when it comes to dog training. For perspective, I asked my mom – who loves dogs, but doesn’t have one of her own - why people would successfully complete a six-week obedience course, thank me for being a good teacher, then never step foot in the classroom again.

She gave it a lot of thought and said that for her, once her dog successfully completed the class, she had done her part as a responsible dog owner.

I find this perspective so difficult to understand. Dog training is not a color by numbers exercise. It’s fluent, dynamic and creative. To me, a graduation diploma is a sign of what’s to come, not what’s done.

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Dog-themed Dreams and Dog Sitting
Violations of trust by caregivers

Our dreams tend to show what’s on our mind. Case in point: Last week we were dog sitting for our good buddy Marley. Another big thing in our life was planning our son’s dragon-themed birthday party.

We had been joking that it would be easier if we could just have a REAL dragon at the party since we’d had such fun with real snakes at last year’s snake party. Clearly, I couldn’t let this thought go as I slept because in my dream, I used magic to turn Marley into a dragon for the party, which all the kids loved.

The dream continued with a little glitch. I was unable to turn Marley back into a dog completely. His face was a dragon-dog mix, though still very attractive. He had spikes on his back, a forked tail and was over twice his normal size. He was also burping fire, which I suspect would have been a hit with the kids at the party, though I will acknowledge that this trait has drawbacks.

His guardian came to pick him up and was distressed to find Marley in this state. (Go figure.) In real life, I am incredibly conscientious about keeping dogs in my care safe and well. However, in my dream, I failed to see why she was upset and felt as though she were being completely unreasonable. I kept telling her how cool he was now, and was totally flummoxed by her negative reaction to this turn of events. I explained the advantages of his new form and also tried to convince her that they were really inconsequential. I kept saying, “He’s still Marley, after all!” yet she continued to act as though this was a big deal for some reason. She was still trying to convince me that I needed to complete his transformation when I awoke.

Hopefully, it goes without saying that once I was fully conscious, I agreed with Marley’s guardian completely about this imaginary situation. Apparently, I am the one who is unreasonable in my dreams.

I’m assuming that nobody has ever turned your dog into a dragon, but have you ever left your dog in someone’s care and had them do something that you objected to such as cutting nails, trimming hair, feeding them food you object to etc.?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Grants for Pet Friendly Women’s Shelters
AKC supports domestic violence services that welcome dogs

Nearly 50 percent of female domestic violence victims delay entering a women’s shelter because of concerns for leaving a pet behind. Not only does this prevent people from getting help, it also means animals remain in danger as well. 85 percent of women entering shelters talk about pet abuse in their family. Some shelters allow animals, making it easier for women to make the emotional decision to leave home, but many do not.

The AKC aims to support women’s shelters that welcome pets and encourage those who don’t to reconsider. In honor of October’s National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the AKC Humane Fund awarded grants to eleven different pet friendly women’s shelters across the country in Safford, Arizona; Cabot, Arkansas; Crescent City and Susanville, California; Fort Collins, Colorado; Alpharetta, Georgia; Aurora, Indiana; Spruce Pine and Whiteville, North Carolina; Spearfish, South Dakota and Spokane, Washington.

These women’s shelters allow victims to bring pets with them to a safe space. Not only does this encourage people to leave dangerous living situations, but it also means that the women can have their pets by their side during a difficult time.  

To donate or apply for a grant, visit the AKC Humane Fund web site.

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