Perhaps the next step will be finding common ground
There were many responses to Patricia B. McConnell, Ph.D.’s review of Let Dogs Be Dogs: Understanding Canine Nature and Mastering the Art of Living with Your Dog, which was written by one of the Monks of New Skete (Brother Christopher) and a dog trainer (Marc Goldberg). In McConnell’s review, she pointed out some serious concerns she has with the methods in the book.
Mostly, her review was well received, but there were a few detractors. When people disagree over methods in dog training, there can be angry words and discord, which is less productive than debating the methods. It’s disheartening, especially when attacks become personal, but I’m always hopeful that disagreements will be overshadowed by discussions and that we can find some common ground.
McConnell points out that a big point of contention concerns the concept of “leadership”, a term that has been causing angst and intense disagreement within the field of dog training for decades. The term has so much baggage that few people use it now for fear of being misunderstood. However, that doesn’t change the fact that in social species, some individuals are followed or looked to for reassurance and guidance more than other individuals are.
In her review, McConnell wrote, “Dogs do need to know that we have their backs, that they can count on us when they need protection. Dogs do look to us–to protect them, to feed and water them and to provide nurturing and social acceptance. One can indeed argue that dogs are attracted to people that some would call “natural leaders” in the best sense of the word. However, (and I want to say this in capital letters, but would rather not yell), this has nothing to do with leash pops or “strong verbal no’s”. It has everything to do with being around someone who is comfortable in his or her own skin.”
There is a need for a thoughtful discussion about what our dogs need from us, especially when they are troubled or need reassurance. However, any such discussion seems destined to get bogged down because any suggestion that people are taking care of things or that they are in charge gets into the term leadership. The term is so loaded that emotions often take over, the war of words continues and it’s hard to have a useful exchange of ideas.
Encouragingly, McConnell is interested in initiating a productive discussion about how we can be there for our dogs in meaningful ways. In a blog responding to the feedback of her review, she wrote, “The book talks about leadership, a word that has become polluted with so much baggage that it is almost worthless (or worse) now in many circles. But buried in that concept is the fact that dogs need to feel safe and secure, and it is our job to help them feel that way. . .There is no doubt that some training methods can undermine a dog’s sense of safety, but this is not so much an argument for or against any method, but more a question of how to we provide that “secure base of attachment” that social creatures like people and dogs seem to need?”
She continues with, “Could this be the issue that finds common ground between the two “camps”? I think this concept is important, but like much of the rest of the world, dog training has become so polarized that it’s difficult to have a discussion about it. But I’ll put it out there now, in hopes that we can continue the discussion in a thoughtful, positive way. I’m going to reach out to the Brother Christopher to see if he and I could at least talk about it. I’ll keep you posted.”
Let’s hope that the result is a frank discussion of methods and ideas that ends up improving the way we interact with and train our dogs as well as our relationship with them, to the benefit of both species.
Dog's name and age: Huck, 7 years
How you named your dog?
Huckleberry Finn was named after Mark Twain's character. He was an orphan pup who seemed like he was ready for a life of adventure as my little wing man.
Huck was dumped in a high-kill shelter when he was eight weeks old as a "street stray." A volunteer realized his thigh was broken so the woman contacted a rescue organization and begged them to take him. He was so tiny that he was put in with the cats. The rescue gave him a leg cast and placed him with a fabulous foster family.
When I visited the Huck in foster care we had instant chemistry. After finalizing the adoption the next day, he was being held by his foster mom, took one look at me as if to say, "There you are. I've been waiting for you." And we've never looked back. We have an amazing bond. He is my universe. We are a family.
National Park Service overrules restrictive dog policy
We just got the great news that affects not only dog lovers in the SF Bay Area but those who might be planning dog-friendly trips here. After a long drawn out battle with the National Park Service that we have covered in detail, the NPS has decided to drop their onerous and ill-conceived “rulemaking process” for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and go back to their 1979 pet policy, one that is a much more welcoming to us and our dogs.
What the GGNRA and some of their supporters were trying to do was nothing short of turning a national recreation area into a more restrictive national park. They aren’t the same thing. The GGNRA is surely a national treasure but it is also parkland that serves the citizens of the Bay Area long before it became the GGNRA. Created by Congress in 1972, back then it was made up of a mix of land in San Francisco and Marin Counties, to “concentrate on serving the outdoor recreation needs of the people of the metropolitan area.” It was part of a Nixon administration’s farsighted campaign to “bring parks to the people” and increase outdoor recreation in urban areas. San Francisco also gave Ocean Beach to the National Park Service (NPS) for inclusion in the GGNRA. What is important to note, is that when they did that, they required that the NPS promise to protect and preserve the land’s traditional recreational uses, inclouding off-leash dog walking.
The 1979 rules allowed people to walk dogs, including off-leash dogs, at San Francisco’s Ocean Beach, Fort Funston, Marin’s Muir and Rodeo Beaches, and on miles of trails in the Marin Headlands—somewhat less than 1 percent of the total holdings. Those were the rules that the “rulemaking” process were attempting to abrogate. But it took a long, concerted, multiyear effort from thousands of dog lovers, their attorneys, many elected officials (including notably, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, whose district includes a portion of the GGNRA) and many others to stop this takeover.
So we all are celebrating here. We often go to Crissy Field with our three dogs, where all of us, humans and dogs alike marvel at the long expanse of pristine beach with its vistas of the Golden Gate and how well all the users get along. Dogs fetch, fisherpeople fish, joggers run, couples stroll, SUPers row, tots dig, recreation at its finest. Why try to change that?
Below is the release from the NPS:
Dog reminds us that athleticism is not size specific
I can never get enough of dog commercials, and this one with a Dachshund as an enthusiastic fetcher is lots of fun. The Journey song, “Don’t Stop Believin’” is a great soundtrack for the optimism and teamwork that contribute to this dog’s successful catch. The dog’s leap at about 18 seconds is the best part.
Sometimes small dogs or those with short legs are denied the opportunities to be their true canine selves just because they don’t fit someone’s image of a dog who loves to play or be highly physical in other ways. Luckily, that attitude is not as prevalent as it once was. All you have to do to see how far we’ve come is to attend an agility class and notice the diversity of forms participating.
This commercial, besides being entertaining, is a great reminder that most dogs have an inner athlete. There is likely some sport or playful activity that gives each dog joy and should be celebrated.
California became the first state to ban the sale of commercially bred dogs, cats and rabbits from pet stores. This law, introduced in February by Assemblyperson Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach), was signed by Governor Jerry Brown on Friday, Oct. 13 and celebrated by animal protection organizations and animal lovers throughout the nation.
California Assembly Bill 485 amends the state’s Food and Agricultural Code and Health and Safety Code relating to public health. Beginning on January 1, 2019, pet store operators will be prohibited from selling any live dog, cat or rabbit in a pet store unless the animal was obtained from a public animal control agency or shelter, society for the prevention of cruelty to animal’s shelter, humane society shelter, or rescue group. Pet stores will be required to maintain records that document the source of each animal it sells for at least one year, and to post on the cage or enclosure of each animal, a sign that lists the name of the entity from which each animal was obtained. Public animal control agencies and shelters will be authorized to periodically review those records. Pet store operators who violate the bill’s provisions will be subject to a civil penalty of $500.
When O’Donnell introduced the bill he explained that the bill’s main intent “is to promote adoption.” And noted that he already saved a couple of puppies. “Two members of my family, a German Shepherd and a Shih Tzu, were adopted from shelters and rescue groups.” It was his belief that the law in prohibiting stores from selling puppies from puppy/kitten mills and encouraging them to only sell pets obtained from shelters and rescue groups, would also promote partnerships advocating for the adoption of homeless pets.
Best Friends for Animals , noted in their press release, that California, as a state, now joins more than 230 cities, towns and counties across that country that have passed pet store ordinances to take a stand against allowing cruelly-bred animals to be sold in their communities. Those animals are generally kept in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions without adequate veterinary care, food, water or socialization. AB 485 should help break the supply chain so that “mill” operations are unable to profit from their abusive practices.
Chris DeRose, president and founder of Last Chance for Animals (LCA), one of a large coalition of humane organizations supporting this bill’s passage, noted that, “the California legislature’s passage of Assembly Bill 485 is a landmark victory and one that we have championed for decades. We are elated that our home state is leading the way on this important issue. Requiring pet stores to sell only rescue and shelter animals is a bold venture— but one that will help rehome some of the six million unwanted animals that enter shelters each year.”
Dr. Jennifer Scarlett, President of the San Francisco SPCA, said that “Right here in California, each year we have thousands of animals who are in need of new homes. By signing this important legislation, Governor Brown can help stop pet mill cruelty, while giving rescued animals the second chance they deserve.”
Matt Bershadker, president and CEO of the ASPCA added that, “This landmark law breaks the puppy mill supply chain that pushes puppies into California pet stores and has allowed unscrupulous breeders to profit from abusive practices. We thank the California legislature and Governor Brown for sending the clear message that industries supporting animal cruelty will not be tolerated in our society.”
The opponents to the bill was spearheaded by the American Kennel Club (AKC), and variety of industry trade organizations, like Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC), breeders and retailer groups. They put up a concerted campaign claiming that this bill would “block all of California’s pet lovers from having access to professional, licensed, and ethical breeders,” as was promulgated by Sheila Goffe, vice president of government relations for the AKC. Obviously this bill does no such thing, it only covers the sale of animals at pet stores, and does not in any way affect responsible breeders from selling their dogs face-to-face to the public. As long as puppy mills can sell their puppies with AKC-sanctioned papers—that provide financial incentives to that organization—the AKC will stand behind them and take on anyone who opposes puppy mills. Some breeders had posted petitions on change.org that used “fake news” arguments and scare tactics such as that this bill “would requires pet stores to sell unwanted strays, not only from Mexico, but some from more distant countries like Egypt and Korea, where dreaded diseases and parasites are commonplace.”
Luckily for California, the legislators saw beyond those specious arguments and enacted a law that has two straightforward goals: to cut down on financial support of large-scale breeding facilities and to promote the adoption of homeless pets. That definitely is something to cheer about!
I love it when clients ask and answer this question
It’s a great joy to me when a client tells me, “So I just thought, ‘How would Karen handle this?’” and I heartily agree with the way they answered this question. Not only am I excited to hear that a critical training moment went well, but I’m thrilled to realize that the person is thinking like a trainer.
Here are some examples of situations in which clients have reported that they did what they thought I would have done. . . and they were right!
Shadow grabbed her wallet off the counter. My client knelt down cheerfully at a distance and she came over and willingly traded it for a toy.
Bono bolted through the door and the person remained composed enough to call him to come in happy voice, then ran in the opposite direction (away from the dog). Once Bono reached him, he reinforced that beautiful recall with a stuffed Kong pulled from the freezer.
Riley did something adorable—crossing his paws while lying down—and his guardian thought to click and treat to capture that behavior.
Willow resisted getting into the car, so the man made it easier for her by putting a blanket that she loves inside the car and by getting into the car first as an additional way to make it more appealing.
Benford was at risk of being taken by surprise by another dog on a walk. His guardian noticed that dog first thanks to his constant vigilance. He avoided the situation entirely and protected his dog by heading the other way and hiding behind a car until the other dog had passed by.
I often advise my clients about strategies for responding to unexpected situations, including being prepared, but in the moment, they still have to make decisions in real time and then carry out the plan. I love it when it works out for dogs and people alike!
With Halloween just around the corner, you may have been thinking about creative costume ideas for both you and your dog. Why not try out these sweet DIY strawberry costumes from Shari’s Berries for a matching look that you can make all on your own?
Your heart will melt when you see your pup all decked out in comfy red felt and ready for a walk around the neighborhood. The best part about these tutorials is that they are simple to make, easy to customize for different sized dogs and don’t have any parts that will drag, get in your dog’s eyes or cause a hazard.
So, get your sewing machine and get ready to make an unforgettable ensemble for everyone in the family!
The great thing about this pattern is that it’s easy to adapt to dogs of all shapes and sizes and is a great starting point if you’re trying to make your dog a costume.
Length: Measure your dog’s length from neck to tail. Multiply this by two. This will be the length of your fabric.
Width: Measure the distance around your dog’s widest point (typically their stomach). Divide the distance around their widest point by two and add four inches. This will be the width of the fabric.
Place the costume on your dog and mark where excess fabric should be cut. Cut the excess fabric off the bottom and top, tapering the costume into a strawberry shape.
Step 1: Cut head opening.
Measure the distance around the dog’s head or neck (whichever is larger). Find the circumference by dividing this distance by 3.14, then add one inch to this measurement to make sure it fits over the dog’s head. You will use this number to determine how large the head opening needs to be. Fold the fabric in half lengthwise. On the closed end, mark the length of the circumference with tailor’s chalk in the center of the fabric. Cut a semicircle from the two anchor points.
Step 2: Try on and pin where darts should be added.
Try the costume on your dog. To avoid the fabric sticking out at the shoulders, you can add darts at the shoulders. Fold where the darts should be added and pin.
Step 3: Pin where the Velcro™ should be added.
Hold the top and bottom pieces together at the sides and pin where you’d like them to be connected with Velcro™. We used two pieces on each side, but you can use more for extra stability or use one long piece that runs the length of the side.
Step 4: Remove costume and sew darts.
Right sides facing in, sew an angled line downwards based on how much fabric you pinned. This will keep the fabric from bunching at the shoulders.
Step 5: Sew on Velcro™.
Sew Velcro™ where the pins are placed. We used the boy side on the top piece of the costume and sewed it to the wrong side (side facing the dog). We used the girl side on the bottom piece of the costume and sewed it to the side facing away from the dog.
Step 6: Add leaves and seeds.
Cut leaves out of green fabric and seeds out of black fabric. Sew or glue onto the costume.
Once you’ve made your strawberry costume, it’s time to craft the headpiece to tie it all together! Add green leaves and a stem to either elastic or a headband to complete your strawberry outfit. For instructions on the DIY Strawberry Headband go here. Plus get instructions on how to make a strawberry costume for a toddlers and adults too.
Reposted with permission from berries.com.
Dog's name and age: Lily, 6 years old
Share similar personalities?
What are Lily's favorite tricks?
Go Night Night: Lily will lie down on her side and stretch her legs out until I say, "Wake Up" then she hops up with a big smile.
Hop Sit: From a down position, Lily will hop about two feet in the air and land in a sit. It’s super cute!
It was three heavenly days of dog talks!
This past weekend was the first ever North American Canine Science Conference. It was open to people from all over the world studying any aspect of any canine species. A similar event called the Canine Science Forum has been happening every other year in Europe since 2008, and this gathering was modeled after it. The goal was to maintain the high scientific standards and keep the friendly atmosphere, and both goals were met. Although there were a number of talks about wolves, foxes and dingoes, the majority of the presentations were about our best friends, the domestic dog.
The range of topics was extraordinary with talks on evolution and domestication, behavioral genetics, play behavior, the social relationship between humans and dogs, stress, problem behavior in shelter dogs, detection dogs, food preferences, guide dogs, therapy dogs, hormones, clicker training, behavioral evaluations in shelters, helping extremely fearful dogs, attachment styles in dogs, hearing and vision impaired dogs, dogs’ problem solving abilities, and the social effects of synchronized behavior between people and dogs.
The biggest problem while attending the conference was deciding which talk to attend when there were concurrent sessions. The good news is that I never made a bad choice—perhaps it was not possible to do so. Like all 130 attendees, I spent the weekend reveling in the knowledge that was all around us, and in the knowledge that there are now so many people actively engaged in scientific research about canines that a conference such as this is possible. The word on the street is that many Europeans doubted that this conference would be possible much less a success because they were under the impression that there was not enough interest or research on this side of the pond for it to work.
The conference organizers hope to host another Canine Science Conference in two years. It’s a new and fantastic development that the amount of research in this area is substantial enough for an entire conference to focus on it.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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 …
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.”
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
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?
It’s easier to give medicine to them than to cats
I’m quite fond of cats, though dogs top my list of true loves. I recently had a reminder about one quality I prefer about dogs: It is so much easier to give them their medicine. The typical dog doesn’t care for the taste, but there are plenty of workarounds. Cheese, peanut butter, steak, chicken and just about any other tasty food can be wrapped around the pill.
The result, for a large number of dogs, is that you can easily pop a pill in a dog’s mouth. Due to canine enthusiasm for the delicious smell of the tasty wrapping, it is likely to be swallowed. In fact, it seems that a typical dog’s thought process goes something like this:
“Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, that smells so yummy! I hope I get to eat it, I hope, I hope, I hope! Yay, it’s coming towards me, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. [chomp] Hmm, that was mostly good, but it tasted a little funny at the end.” Then, the next day, with the same delicious presentation, the same internal dialogue may as well happen again, because most dogs will once again become excited about the cheese, steak or chicken wrapped around a pill, eat it again, perhaps notice a funny taste, and basically not care at all after that moment.
A few dogs will be hesitant about that particular food in the future or even reject it outright, but it’s not that common. To minimize the chances of having a problem, it is wise to give dogs these special foods without the pill sometimes so that they do not develop a distrust of them. Many dogs never have such issues anyway, but pill-free treats provide some extra insurance.
A large percentage of cats, on the other hand, tend to take more of a, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me” approach to being fed a pill wrapped in tuna, chicken or in another delicious food treat. Sure, you may be able to trick a cat into downing the pill one time, but good luck ever doing it again with any treat even remotely similarly to what you used.
During a recent cat-sitting stint for my neighbor, I needed to give each of her two cats medicine every day. The instructions said to put their medication, which was powdered, into their food. To be certain that each cat received a full does of the medicine and did not get any of the other cat’s share, I needed to stay and watch them eat. That usually took anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. One day, neither cat would touch the food at all, possibly because they did not enjoy the previous night’s dinner. At breakfast, they were even hesitant to eat the medicine-free food unless it was different in flavor than what had been served at any meal with the medicine. Salmon cat food as well as tuna fish (high quality feline cuisine!) were happily eaten until they had been used to serve up the medication, after which point they were avoided. Pill pockets, which are so useful with dogs who object to taking their medicine, were not successful, although they do work for some cats.
Meanwhile, in the hour or so I spent each evening with these sweet cats, I could probably have dosed dozens of dogs with whatever medication they required just by wrapping the medicine in anything I happened to have on hand. The point of reporting this is not to pick on the marvelous creatures we call cats. My purpose is simply to add to the never ending list of reasons to be grateful for dogs.
What has made you grateful to your dog lately?
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