News: JoAnna Lou
Bomb sniffing pups are at a premium these days.
As terrorist attacks sadly become increasingly common, more countries are incorporating detection dogs into their national security plan. Since 9/11, the number of canines deployed to the nation's transportation hubs has surged 400 percent. And with recent events, these pups are often called on to patrol other places, like malls and other popular tourist areas.
Earlier this month, Cynthia Otto, Executive Director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, testified at a Congressional hearing on homeland security canines that the demand for detection pups has increased to the point where the quality of dogs has suffered and the price has increased dramatically.
No agency outside of the United States military employs more bomb-sniffing canines than the Transportation Security Administration. This year, more than $120 million is budgeted for the TSA to place nearly a thousand bomb-sniffing dogs at airports, train stations, and other transportation spots, however they are having a hard time meeting that target since they don't have enough qualified pups. The TSA must replace 100 or more dogs per year because of retirement, health problems, or declining performance. For the first time since 9/11, the agency is seeking to purchase privately trained dogs. Previously all TSA pups were trained by federal employees at their dedicated facility at the Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas (you may remember an article we wrote back in November about this center's adoption program to find homes for dogs that didn't graduate from the program).
Sue Kjellsen of K2 Solutions, a company that supplies and trains IED detection pups for the military says that the demand for high quality Labradors has forced them to start looking abroad for pups. Eastern Europe has been a popular source because dogs there have been historically bred for police and other detection work. In America, dogs tend to be bred for companionship and show, which eliminates many breeders.
According to Sue, the dogs from K2 can search about 200 people per minute. Even technology can't replace these talented canines. TSA explosives detection handler Doug Timerlake says that no machine can detect the presence of explosive materials a way a dog can. While machines can confirm the presence of explosive substances, they can't reason and problem solve to find the source. Dogs can also work off leash to monitor open spaces and large areas more easily.
Most people don't believe going overseas for dogs is a good long term solution. There have been many alternatives proposed, such as expanding the breeds considered for detection work and creating a national breeding program, but it's still a dilemma being worked through.
These dogs play an important and unique role in our security. I just hope these programs don't forget that they're not merely looking at numbers that can be adjusted to find the most cost effective solution. They are living, breathing animals that deserve the best care and decision making around their future in this country.
News: Karen B. London
It’s not about the breed!
Not a week goes by that I don’t get asked what I think are the most dangerous kinds of dogs. If what I do for a living comes up, this question often does, too. And when people say “kind” they are typically talking about breed. When I answer that the breed doesn’t have anything to do with it, people are usually skeptical, but there is consensus in the field of canine behavior about this.
Recently, I read a blog post called “The Five Most Dangerous Types of Dogs in the World” that sheds light on what types of dogs are dangerous. It makes clear that we need to pay attention to individual dogs and specific circumstances rather than the dog’s breed. According to this post, the five most dangerous types of dogs are:
Untrained dogs. If a dog has no boundaries, and has never been taught how to behave, he is more likely to injure someone, perhaps by accident.
Fearful dogs. Dogs who are scared or nervous may panic and act aggressively in order to protect themselves. Being afraid is at the root of more canine aggression than any other factor.
Unpredictable dogs. If a dog’s behavior is confusing and does not follow any obvious pattern, it’s easy to be taken off guard by their actions or inadvertently do something that upsets him.
Tired or sick dogs. Just like people, dogs are not at their best when they don’t feel well and most would prefer not to be bothered. Dogs don’t have many ways to let us know they want to be left alone. They sometimes resort to a growl, snap or bite, especially if they’ve already tried to walk away and go off by themselves, and that didn’t get the message across.
Unfamiliar dogs. Not all dogs consider everyone a friend immediately. Lots of dogs need time to warm up to new people and don’t like to be treated as a long lost friend within five seconds of being introduced.. Treating an unfamiliar dog like your best friend can be off-putting to some and lead to aggressive behavior. If you adore all dogs, it’s hard to remember that the feeling of love at first sight may not always be mutual.
There are plenty of dogs in each of these categories that are not dangerous in the slightest, but it makes sense to consider these potential risk factors and act accordingly.
An Encore Performance by Crypton and William Wegman
Randy Rubin, co-founder of Crypton, launched the company’s first line of pet products back in 2004 in an inspired collaboration with artist William Wegman. A dozen years later, Rubin and Wegman are at it again with a brand new line of canine home products by Crypton.
Renowned for his whimsical photographic portraits of Weimaraners, Mr. Wegman is also famous for his work in a variety of media—photography, video, painting and as an author. For decades, while Wegman was creating art in New York, Crypton was at work in the heartland, revolutionizing commercial fabric with the introduction of a patented process that produces a virtually indestructible, stain and odor-resistant material appropriately named Crypton Super Fabric. They’ve also launched soft, luscious Crypton Home Fabric, using a new performance technology especially for residential interiors, offered by major furniture and home fabric brands in stores and showrooms from coast to coast.
Wegman provides the art and Crypton supplies the science with their permanent stain resistance properties—ensuring neither microbes or odors penetrate these dog beds. Crypton founder Randy Rubin (right).
The creative collaboration between the textile innovator and the downtown visual artist has proven hugely successful, with a visual style that is once recognizable and inspired. Combining the ultimate in function and aesthetics, the resulting beds, pillows and throws (christened Throvers) are elegant, bold and sturdy...fulfilling the must-have checklist for stylish dog lovers. The line is offered exclusively at crypton.com.
News: JoAnna Lou
The train line has been developing a program to include pets on trips.
A year ago, the White House and House of Representatives passed a bill to continue government funding for Amtrak. It also required the train line become pet friendly. While both political sides didn't fully agree, it was thought that the pet-related part of the bill won over many representatives for the bi-partisan vote. The provision was included in the bill by California Representative Jeff Denham who had been advocating for pet friendly trains since he realized several years ago that he couldn't ride Amtrak with his French Bulldog, Lily.
When the bill was passed, Amtrak had already been testing a small pilot program in Illinois, but this legislation gave the train line a year to figure out the parameters of an official program.
They took the time to expand the pilot program to include the popular Northeast Regional and Downeaster routes (from Norfolk, Va. to Brunswick, Me.), which was a success. Animal lovers were thrilled and the $25 pet fee made Amtrak nearly $500,000 in extra revenue. During the October to March pilot period, 4,600 passengers traveled with pets. In that time, Amtrak didn't receive a single piece of negative feedback from customers who shared cars with a furry passenger. Instead passengers wanted Amtrak to include other pets (currently only cats and dogs are allowed) and to increase the current 20-pound limit.
Last month Amtrak announced that the Northeast Regional and Downeaster routes would become permanent pet routes and expanded the program to include longer trips up to seven hours in length (that means the Auto Train from Virginia to Florida wouldn't be included). They also announced a new pilot program on the Acela Express that will run into June.
Because the program limits five pet reservations per car, Amtrak recommends booking pet spots early. Dogs and cats must be at least 8 weeks old and fit in a carrier that can go under the seat (19" x 14" x 10.5" or smaller). For safety reasons, animals must be able to sit and lie down comfortably without touching the sides of the carrier. While riders may not be asked for it, passengers are required to have their pets' vaccination records on hand. Quiet and cafe cars remain humans only.
As Amtrak is phasing in the pet program, they're still working through challenges. For instance, in some regions, passengers may be transported between train stations on buses that aren't pet friendly. Also Amtrak will sometimes arrange lodging for delayed passengers, and finding a pet friendly hotel adds an extra complication. However, Amtrak is committed to expanding the program.
It's always great to have another pet friendly travel option. I hope that Amtrak not only expands the program to other regions and routes, but also finds a way to include larger dogs as well. Pups that don't fit under a passenger seat (by train or by air) are forced to travel essentially as plane cargo. Hpoefully Amtrak can one day provide an alternative.
News: Karen B. London
What makes your dog’s beauty show?
Marley was in his element, taking a walk in one of his favorite spots with the nearby mountains showing off the last of their spring snow. The sunshine highlighted the reddish tones of his coat, and his face was radiant with happiness. I took a picture because my thought at the time was, “Everything about this moment shows off how magnificent this animal is.”
All dogs look especially attractive to me when they are happy, but it takes more than that to bring out the very best look in any dog. There’s often a perfect combination of factors that allows a dog’s beauty to show. It may have to do with their behavior at that moment, or the situation, or the specific facial expression. It’s rarely about how naturally nice-looking the dog is, because that’s not what’s important.
A mother dog with pups who is lovingly caring for them may highlight her most lovely self. Some dogs look the most appealing when they are engaged in a joyful game of fetch along the ocean shore. Eye-catching good looks can be seen in the happiness of a dog greeting someone after a long absence or in the peaceful sleep after a full day of strenuous exercise.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and every individual is different, so there are an infinite number of ways for dogs to display their appeal. What factors best bring out your dog’s beauty?
News: JoAnna Lou
Californian pup survives five weeks after falling off of a fishing boat.
Last month, Nick Haworth was chartering a small fishing boat two miles off the coast of Southern California when his canine crew member, Luna, fell overboard and disappeared. Nick immediately called for help and started a search for the 1.5 year old German Shepherd/Husky mix. Even Navy crews from nearby San Clemente Island helped by looking for Luna from land and air. Sadly after two days of searching, Luna was still nowhere to be found. Nick was heartbroken.
But five weeks later, Luna miraculously showed up near a naval facility on the island. Crew members found her sitting by the main road, ready to be rescued. As soon as they opened the door and whistled, Luna jumped right in.
Navy wildlife biologist Melissa Booker surmised that Luna was hard to spot because her tan and black coloring blended in with the island's vegetation. They think Luna swam to shore not long after falling from the boat, and survived on her own on the island for over a month. When they found her, she was a bit malnourished, but otherwise healthy. There was evidence that Luna survived by eating small rodents.
Domestic animals are not usually allowed on San Clemente Island, so the Navy members had fun with her during her stay. Naval Air Base Commander Stephen Barnett bestowed a special dog tag on the survivor which read, "For Luna, keep the faith."
Nick was overjoyed to learn that Luna had been found, but her resilience didn't surprise her. "I always knew she was a warrior."
News: JoAnna Lou
New research suggests that canines may have a similar sense to migratory birds.
On the surface, dogs and birds don't seem like they have much in common. But a group of scientists in Germany may have uncovered an interesting similarity.
Many animals use the Earth's magnetic field for orientation and navigation. The most famous are probably migratory birds, which have been studied extensively, but others with this ability include select insects, fish, reptiles, and mammals.
Scientists attribute birds' magnetic sense to cryptochomes, light-sensitive molecules. Cryptochromes are a class of flavroproteins that are sensitive to blue light. They're involved in the circadian rhythms of plants and animals, and for some species, in the sensing of magnetic fields. Birds have cryptochrome 1a in their eyes' photoreceptors, which are activated by light to react to the magnetic field. But could our pups have this same ability?
Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research have recently detected cryptochrome 1 (the mammal equivalent to the birds' cryptochrome 1a) in the photoreceptors of several mammal species, making it possible that these animals may also have a magnetic sense that is linked to their visual system. Out of 90 mammal species that they looked at, they only found cryptochrome in a few species from the carnivore and primate groups. This included dog-like carnivores, such as dogs, wolves, bears, foxes, and badgers, but not cat-like carnivores, such as cats, lions, and tigers.
It's possible that the cryptochrome could control other functions, like circadian rhythms or help with color perception, but because of their location the researchers believe that this is unlikely. The cryptochrome is located in the blue- to UV-sensitive cone photoreceptors, just like the birds.
There is other evidence that dogs and other similar species can perceive the Earth's magnetic field. For example, foxes are more successful at catching mice when they pounce on them in a north-east direction.
However, this is not to say that the cryptochrome is the only indicator of sensitivity to the Earth's magnetic field. Rodents and bats react to magnetic fields, but don't contain active cryptochrome.
The scientists hope to further explore this finding and discover if dogs do have the ability to sense the Earth's magnetic field.
News: Karen B. London
They prevent hassles, too
Equipment can and does fail from time to time. Collars break, leashes slip out of hands and gates fly open. I’m a very responsible person prone to excessive checking and re-checking, yet I have had every one of these things happen to me at some point. It’s part of my general nature to have back-up plans, and these little misfortunes have only made me more aware of their importance.
A good recall, a solid stay and a reliable wait are helpful cues that I use as back-ups in case of an error or simple bad luck. It takes a lot of training for them to work in emergencies, which is when they are needed most. A back-up strategy that works even with no training is a welcome addition to any safety plan, which is the reason I’m a fan of the carabiner.
A carabiner is a metal loop with a spring-loaded gate that can be used to connect components together quickly and easily in a reversible way. Carabiners are used by rock climbers and by other adventure-sport enthusiasts. Sometimes, like it or not, working with dogs, especially the aggressive ones that are my specialty, is an adventure. Paying attention to safety in the way so inherent to successful rock-climbing just makes good sense. With dogs, we often need to attach things, but not in a permanent way, which is why I regularly use carabiners in two ways.
I use them on gates. Even when latched, gates can blow open in high winds. Where I live, we regularly get wind gusts over 50 miles per hour in the spring, and many dogs are accidentally released from their yards during that season. Not only do carabiners prevent latched gates from failing in this way, they also provide an extra safety against a gate being left unlatched. It’s easy for a latch not to fully catch, even if you think you’ve closed it, but if you’re taking the extra step of securing it with a carabiner, you know your gate is closed.
I also use them with leashes, harnesses and collars. By attaching any equipment such as a harness or head collar to your dog’s flat collar, you protect yourself from the failure of any one piece of equipment. Even if your dog slips out of one, it is still attached by the carabiner to something else on your dog’s body. It may not be functioning as it does when it is properly in place, but at least your dog is not free in a situation in which that would be dangerous. The leash can be attached to you with a carabiner by wrapping it around your waist for a hands-free walking experience (only if your dog won’t be trying to pull you over!) or to your backpack or other sturdy accessory.
Make sure that the carabiner you are using is a true weight-bearing and locking carabiner, and not one simply designed to be used as a keychain or to hold something little like a mesh bag to a backpack. Many carabiners are great for casual use with light objects, but are not sufficient for the uses I’ve described here.
Have you used carabiners to help keep your dogs safe?
Spring Tips and Green Ideas
Spring and spring cleaning days are upon us, plus March 20th also marks the start of National Poison Prevention Week. An informative notice from Dr. Denise Petryk, on-staff veterinarian at Trupanion (pet insurance), provides insights into the most common pet poisons and other tips to help protect dogs and keep them out of harm’s way:
· Household cleaning products: Soaps, bleach, detergents, specialized cleaners and even sponges can harm a pet by irritating the skin or eyes, as well as damaging and blocking the gastrointestinal system. See better alternatives to these cleaning products.
· Plants: Tulips, Daffodils, Foxglove and Azaleas are all plants that can cause symptoms such as vomiting, drooling and even kidney damage when ingested by pets. Lilies are especially toxic to cats—and popular around Easter time—and can cause kidney problems, while the Sago Palm plant causes health problems such as vomiting, diarrhea and liver failure in dogs.
· Fertilizers: The nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, iron, zinc and herbicides that supplement plant growth can cause severe symptoms in pets, such as difficulty breathing, vomiting, diarrhea and intestinal blockage. Be very careful about fertilizing lawn areas where many dogs like to spend time.
· Yard tools: Rakes, shrub sheers and even shovels can be deadly for curious pets if they’re not stored properly.
· Pest control substances: Rodenticides and other poisons such as slug bait are toxic to all animals, so owners should take special care to keep their pet away.
For more green ideas and safety tips see our dog-friendly prepping for spring checklist.
News: Karen B. London
What puts your dog’s tail in motion?
When I taught training classes, we often had contests on the last day of a session. Dogs (and their guardians) could win prizes for the most charming trick, the best stay, the slowest heel and other categories. My favorite contest was always the most enthusiastic tail wag. I would tell my students to do whatever they would do to get their dog to wag his tail if someone told them that they could won a million dollars for the best tail wag. (In reality, the prize was a dog toy, a package of dog treats or perhaps a gift certificate to a local pet store.)
Over the years, I saw a range of ways to prompt tail wags. People would praise their dogs, “Who’s my good girl? You’re my good girl!” play with them, show them a ball, or pull out the leash and say, “Do you want to go for a walk?” People told their dogs that dinner was ready or said, “Daddy’s home!” In one memorable instance, a guy left for a minute and then came back so his dog could give him a welcome home greeting. (He won by a wide margin!) Other students fed their dogs handfuls of treats, said, “Do you want to go for a ride?” or headed out the door saying, “You get to go!”
If you were in this contest, what would you do to get your dog to show off his best tail wag?
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