News: Guest Posts
Stray attends Vienna Chamber Orchestra concert
Music lovers in Turkey were already enjoying an outdoor performance by the Vienna Chamber Orchestra when a stray dog came onstage and made the concert even more entertaining. The dog calmly wandered into view and stood right in front of the first violin, which could certainly have been a random selection. However, I’m intrigued by the idea that the dog was able to pick up on subtle cues that this was the person worth attending to out of all the members of the orchestra.
The dog did not appear to be too upset by the delighted laughter of the crowd, though he does yawn and give a tongue flick—signs of mild anxiety—at the very end of the video. He settled himself in his position by the concertmaster, lying down and looking out peacefully at those in attendance. His efforts were rewarded with hearty applause.
Every bit as captivating as this dear dog was the delight of the musicians. Though typically serious while playing, many of the violin players near the dog were clearly amused by their new fan. Quite a few seemed in danger of laughing out loud, but as professionals, they were able to keep their focus on the music.
While I was watching the dog in this video for the first time, my husband looked up from his work and cheerfully commented that the piece sounds like Mendelssohn. (And indeed it is.) Apparently both canines and humans are destined to be happy when hearing Mendelssohn’s Symphony #4 (commonly known as The Italian). This would probably please the composer, who described it in a letter to his sister as “the jolliest piece I have ever done”.
Does your dog appreciate orchestral music in general, and this composition in particular?
News: Guest Posts
Dog's name and age: Roosevelt, 1 year
We lost our 12-year-old Lab mix, Betsy, in December and our other dog, Hannah, seemed out-of-sorts and lonely without another dog in the house. I applied with the Pixel Fund Rescue (out of Florida and Maine) to be on their list of potential adopters. During the approval process, I saw Rosy's picture on their website (his name was Magoo at the time). What really drew me to him was the fact that he is blind. Hannah is blind and deaf, so I felt like it was meant to be that he would be her little brother. After talking to Rosy's foster mom several times, we decided that he would be a good match for our family.
On Dogs with Disabilities:
Both dogs are able to challenge peoples' assumptions about what a dog with a disability can do. We had no experience when we adopted Hannah, but she has shown us that she's 100% a dog first, and she does everything a typical dog does, in her own way. Roosevelt is the same; he's not very good at fetching a ball, but he certainly has other ways to play!
Good Dog: Studies & Research
Adults don’t always understand dogs’ behavior around kids
Supervising children and dogs when they are together is an important part of preventing dog bites as well as of protecting the well-being of both kids and canines. However, even carefully monitoring the interactions will do little to prevent trouble if the adults watching aren’t knowledgeable about dog behavior. Research has shown that adults often underestimate the risks of dog bites to children, and that children tend to engage in riskier behavior around dogs when an adult is present.
According to a study called "Adults' Ability to Interpret Canine Body Language during a Dog-Child Interaction", misinterpreting the body language of dogs during interactions with children is quite common. Three videos of young children and dogs interacting were used in this study to assess adults’ ability to understand canine body language. A panel of behavior experts considered the dogs in all three videos to be fearful and anxious, emotionally conflicted, and lacking in confidence. However, approximately two-thirds of the subjects in the study considered the dogs to be relaxed and a similar percentage thought their behavior indicated confidence.
The subjects of the study came from four different groups: 1. People with dogs and with children, 2. People with dogs but no children, 3. People with children but no dogs, and 4. People without dogs or children. Interestingly, people without dogs were more successful at interpreting the emotional states of dogs than people who are dog guardians. Dog guardians were more likely to think the dogs were relaxed than people without dogs and less likely to label their emotional state as conflicted. Parents and non-parents did not differ in their ability to interpret the emotional states of the dogs in the video, to determine the dogs’ response to the situation, or to categorize the predominant behavior of the dog (e.g. play, friendly behavior).
Previous work has yielded conflicting results about whether people with dogs are better or worse at interpreting canine body language and emotional expressions. This study suggests that experience with dogs without any theoretical knowledge of dog behavior may not enhance people’s ability to recognize signs of trouble in interactions between young children and dogs. Perhaps people with dogs are more likely to give dogs the benefit of the doubt and assume they are friendly. Similarly, people without dogs may be more cautious when observing dogs, especially around young children, and may therefore be more receptive to the possibility of danger.
The general conclusions of the study are that people have great difficulty interpreting the signs of fear and anxiety in dogs who are interacting with young children and that it is important to educate people about dog body language in order to minimize problems when dogs are interacting with young children.
Dog's Life: Work of Dogs
These canines instantly detect what takes a crime lab months to identify.
From sniffing out cancer and drugs, dogs support us in so many ways with their incredible noses. So it's no surprise that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives found a valuable ally in their arson dogs. One of their newer canine ATF agents, Oscar, began his training with a federal prison inmate in Ohio through Puppies Behind Bars. Soon after graduation, ATF evaluated Oscar and decided the Black Labrador would be a good candidate for their program.
Oscar went on to complete an intense 12-week training program at the ATF National Canine Center in Virginia to become one of only 53 ATF accelerant detection dogs in the country. ATF really believed in Oscar's potential, having invested about $50,000 in his training.
Oscar now works with Utah Deputy Fire Marshal Troy Mills, investigating about 30-40 fires per year to determine a fire's cause and origin.
“He’s incredible in a fire scene,” says Troy. “He can pinpoint the location of accelerants--if somebody uses gasoline or diesel fuel, kerosene, charcoal fluid, anything like that to ignite a fire, he can pinpoint the location of where they poured it.”
Oscar is trained to recognize several products that have been divided within six different categories of accelerant. When Oscar recognizes an odor, he alerts Troy by pointing to it with his nose and then sitting. Oscar's nose is so powerful, that in training Troy can put a drop of gasoline on a golf tee in the middle of a grassy lawn and Oscar will find it.
Because there are so few accelerant detection dogs, Troy and Oscar are sent all over the state to investigate fires. At the scene, Oscar can immediately determine whether an accelerant was used. Without his powerful nose, investigators would have to send samples from the scene to a crime lab and wait months for the results.
It's amazing how the canine nose can solve problems better or faster than our best technology!
News: Guest Posts
Pit Bull triumphs over Australian Shepherd and Border Collie
The new mayor of Rabbit Hash, Kentucky is a three-year old Pit Bull named Brynneth Pawltro who goes by Brynn. It’s natural to wonder how the town feels about having a canine mayor, and the answer is that they must like it. Brynn is the fourth dog in a row to be elected mayor there. Perhaps it’s no surprise that the position is largely ceremonial.
Rabbit Hash is a small town (population 315) known for having the best known and best-preserved general store in the state of Kentucky. The Rabbit Hash General Store was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989, but unfortunately, it burned down in 2016. Rebuilding it is a shared goal within the town, and money brought in by the mayoral election is an important source of funds for the project. Each vote costs a dollar, with this year’s election bringing in over $7300 for the Rabbit Hash Historical Society.
The election is less a typical exercise in democracy and more a source of community pride, good fun and fundraising. The first election for mayor took place in 1998, when a dog named Goofy Borneman-Calhoun won. He died in office at the age of 16 in 2001, and the office of mayor remained empty until 2004 when Junior Cochran, a Black Labrador Retriever, assumed office. Junior Cochran died in office in 2008, and a few months later, a special election was held to fill the position. It was at that time that the town elected its first female mayor, a Border Collie named Lucy Lou.
After Brynn won the most recent election, the Rabbit Hash Historical Society decided to make the first and second runners up Ambassadors to Rabbit Hash. If Brynn is unavailable for an event, Bourbon the Australian Shepherd or Lady Stone the Border Collie will appear in her place.
Researchers have come up with another reason why we are attracted to irresistible photos of puppies and kittens, and another reason that we can never get our fill of these adorable photos.
Psychological scientists from Florida State University, led by James K. McNulty, are using cute animal photos to rekindle marriages that might be in the doldrums. These researchers were tasked by the Department of Defense to come up with a strategy “to help married couples cope with the stress of separation and deployment.” McNulty and his team set out “to develop a procedure that could help soldiers and other people in situations that are challenging for relationships.”
Using techniques developed by none other than Pavlov, they employed a positive feedback mechanism called evaluative conditioning. They would show images of a spouse that were repeatedly paired with very positive words or images (like puppies, kittens and bunnies). In theory, the positive feelings elicited by the positive images and words would become automatically associated with images of the spouse after practice.
Each spouse was asked to individually view a brief stream of images once every 3 days for 6 weeks. Embedded in this stream were pictures of their partner. Those in the experimental group always saw the partner’s face paired with positive stimuli (e.g., an image of a puppy or the word “wonderful”) while those in the control condition saw their partner’s face matched to neutral stimuli (e.g., an image of a button). Couples also completed measures of automatic partner attitudes and explicit marital satisfaction at baseline and once every two weeks for 8 weeks
The study concluded that “spouses who viewed their partners paired with positive stimuli demonstrated more-positive automatic partner attitudes than did control spouses, and these attitudes predicted increased self-reported marital satisfaction over time.”
As McNulty noted that the positive completion of the study:
“I was actually a little surprised that it worked,” McNulty explained. “All the theory I reviewed on evaluative conditioning suggested it should, but existing theories of relationships, and just the idea that something so simple and unrelated to marriage could affect how people feel about their marriage, made me skeptical.”
News: Guest Posts
Surprising legislation about our best friends
There are some crazy laws related to dogs throughout the United States. In most cases, it is not clear how they are enforced or why people believed there was a need for such a law. It is obvious, however, that dogs play a large enough role in our communities to warrant a lot of legislation about them.
In Illinois, it is against the law to give a dog whiskey. It is also a violation of the law to give a dog a lighted cigar. There is nothing on the books about whether the dog may light the cigar on his own.
International Falls, Minnesota passed a law making it illegal for a cat to chase a dog up a telephone pole. Hopefully, there is no victim blaming if a dog does get chased up a pole by a cat.
For a dog to mate in a legal manner in Ventura, California, a permit is required. Presumably, there are many violations of this law, as is often the case with forbidden behavior.
If you’d like to hold hands or display any other forms of public affection while walking a dog on a leash, you can’t do it in New Castle, Delaware without violating the law. I suppose this protects a dog from getting tangled up in a weird love triangle?
Dogs and cats in Barber, North Carolina are not allowed to fight. It certainly seems wise, but why is it illegal for these fights between species to occur? It’s possible that the motivation was preventing an underground world of fighting along the lines of cockfighting and dogfighting.
Animals in California, including dogs, are not allowed to mate within 500 yards of a church or a school. Apparently, these sexual escapades are something that we need to prevent those at church or at school from witnessing.
In Little Rock, Arkansas, dogs who bark after 6 pm are violating the law. Enforcing this one seems absurdly challenging!
In Galesburg, Illinois, there is a statute stating that no person may keep a smelly dog. There is quite a spectrum for canine odor, so it’s hard to imagine an exact legal definition of “smelly” for dogs.
If you have a French Poodle who you want to take to the opera, you will have to do so someplace other than in Chicago, because there is a law on the books prohibiting that. Apparently, someone opposes exposing these dogs to that particular cultural experience.
When I think of laws relating to dogs, my mind goes to basic issues like having them on leash or requirements such as buying a dog license. Apparently, I am not nearly as creative as many lawmakers when it comes to dog legislation.
News: Guest Posts
Dog's name and age: Scout, 10 years old
I first spotted Scout and his brother on a bike ride in South Texas; they were puppies abandoned in a ditch on the side of the road. I went back to look for them in my car after my ride and spotted Scout bravely exploring his surroundings while his brother was laying low. I figured I'd just drop them off at the local shelter. When I saw the condition they were in up close, I knew they wouldn't have a chance in the city shelter due to severe overcrowding our area was facing. I decided get them checked by a vet, get them healthy and find homes for them myself. Scout never made it out of my house. The name Scout just seemed like the right name for a bold puppy!
More on Scout:
Scout loves attention, chasing and barking at birds, being chased by his sister Gracie (a Great Pyr mix who is 11) and belly rubs. Scout has many tricks, but the best thing he does is come get me when Gracie doing something she's not supposed to!
What are Scouts's nicknames?
Bubba, Bubba Boy, Scooter, Barky Bark, and best of all, Sweet Pea because that's what he is.
News: Guest Posts
New York's JFK airport unveils comprehensive veterinary services on the tarmac.
This month the first-ever full-service airport veterinary hospital opened at New York City's JFK airport. AirHeart Pet Hospital, inspired by aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart, is part of another first--The ARK, the world's first privately owned, 24-hour animal terminal and airport quarantine center. The ARK’s 65 million dollar facility is located right on the tarmac at JFK, spanning 14 acres.
The hospital will provide veterinary services for travelers, military personnel, employees of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, JFK airport employees, and area residents. At the moment AirHeart provides primary and urgent care, with plans to add 24-hour emergency care.
As many as 15,000 animals, including 4,000 horses, pass through JFK each year. There also are about 2,000 working canines with the military and government agencies who may also need care.
“Because of our location, we will face some of the most interesting medical challenges," explains AirHeart veterinarian Lauren Jordon. "So we have ensured our state-of-the-art facility and the professional staff are fully equipped to meet any issue that comes our way.”
Dr. Linda D. Mittel, a senior extension associate at the Animal Health Diagnostics Center at Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine, believes AirHeart will also play an important role in curbing the spread of animal and avian-borne diseases.
Animals are quarantined for three to 30 days depending on where they originated and their physical condition and vaccination records. AirHeart staff will be ever-vigilant for rare and contagious diseases and will be working closely with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
The quarantine center at The ARK features 48 climate-controlled stalls for horses, which have state-of-the-art biosecurity designs to prevent disease. There's also an aviary that has three rooms for staff to feed, clean and care for birds under supervision of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
As more people travel with their pets, this hospital is going to be a much needed service at the busy JFK airport. Being at such a busy crossroads, I also hope the AirHeart veterinarians will have the opportunity to collect unique data that might be useful in future research.
Good Dog: Studies & Research
Puppy mill dogs have more behavioral problems
“We found that across all behaviour categories, including trainability, dogs from less responsible breeders had significantly less favourable behaviour and temperament scores than puppies from responsible breeders.”
The above statement by researcher Catherine Douglas sums up the study “Do puppies from ‘puppy farms’ [puppy mills] show more temperament and behavioural problems than if acquired from other sources?” More extensive results were presented at the annual conference of the British Society of Animal Science.
It was the first study in the UK on the behavior and temperament of adult dogs who came from puppy farms, which we call puppy mills on this side of the Atlantic. Dogs were divided into two categories. One set came from puppy farms or other commercial breeding facilities that did not follow the good practice standards of the RSPCA or the Animal Welfare Foundation’s Puppy Contract (less responsible breeders). The other group in the study was made up of dogs who came from responsible breeders who put a priority on the welfare of the breeding dogs as well as of the puppies (responsible breeders).
Dog guardians filled out surveys about the conditions of the facility the dog came from to determine whether the dog came from a puppy farm (or similar) or from a responsible breeder. They were asked such questions as “Were the puppies raised in a home environment? Did you see the mother? At what age did you get your puppy?” They also filled out a standard survey (the CBARQ, or Canine Behavioral Assessment & Research Questionnaire) to evaluate their dog’s behavior. The breeds studied were the Pug, the Jack Russell Terrier and the Chihuahua.
Though there have been many studies about the physical health of dogs from puppy farms, there is far less research about the adult behavior of these dogs. The results of this study overwhelmingly support the common advice NOT to buy a dog from such a place. In every category, the dogs from less responsible breeders were found to have less desirable behavior than dogs from responsible breeders. Specifically, they were more likely to be aggressive to members of the household, more likely to be aggressive to strangers, more likely to be aggressive to dogs, more likely to be fearful of new objects, more likely to have noise phobias, more likely to suffer from separation anxiety, and less likely to be rated high in trainability.
It’s not clear what factors contribute to these extensive differences in temperament and behavior, but there are many possibilities. Stress during pregnancy can contribute to anxiety in puppies and affect their ability to learn in training. Being separated from the mother while very young can also have detrimental effects on adult behavior. There could also be genetic factors that account for some of the differences between the two groups of dogs.
Though the results of this study are not surprising, they do confirm that where we get our dogs matters. Acquiring dogs from puppy farms supports an industry that lacks proper safeguards for animal welfare and also makes it less likely that your best friend will be the ideal companion and family member that we all want.
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