Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Dogs & Emotions

Almost every dog owner has found out that when they are really sad, their dog acts differently toward them. A dog may approach its disturbed owner with a concerned look and, quite out of character, hunker down next to them as if to provide some emotional support. It is as if they are saying, I know there is something wrong, I do not know what it is but I am here for you, anyway.

Are there other explanations? Of course, there are, but none make as much sense. You could argue that the dog observes your posture and appearance as submissive and, almost reflexively, approaches to investigate or respond to the new situation. Perhaps, seeing you in a submissive posture, the dog feels it has to grovel to remain below you in rank.

All dog owners like to think that their pet can sense their mood and emotions. Although researchers now accept that dogs, and other non-human animals, can experience primary emotions such as anxiety, fear, and anger, they still do not accept that "animals" have a sense of self and are capable of sophisticated secondary emotions. Instead, the scientists believe that non-human animals are incapable of understanding the feelings of others around them. Without a sense of self, they say, secondary emotions are impossible.

This is a complicated argument, and not everyone agrees with the scientists. I think animals should be given the benefit of the doubt. Let's assume that higher animals, like dogs, are sensitive creatures with feelings and emotions that can and do project beyond the blatantly obvious.

How about the time you came home to find your dog destroyed something? Did you find the guilty party hiding, or perhaps with a hangdog look? Many believe their dog is feeling guilty about what he has done. If you accept the guilt explanation, you must also accept that the dog is able to project about your feelings of disappointment or anger. Hard line behaviorists disagree with this interpretation, preferring to believe that the dog simply associates his owner, the damage, and his own presence with past punishment and acts submissively. But, what about the first time this happens? Maybe the dog "read" their owner's disappointment from their expression, because they sure were not responding to punishment.

Examples of dogs seemingly picking up on our emotions are endless but still the scientific proof is not there. I suppose it would be very difficult for some folks to accept that dogs, or any animals, might have minds that work in ways similar to our own. I suppose the believers still have a long way to go to convince the skeptics.

From an evolutionary point of view, it would be very strange if dogs did not have the ability to sense mood. It does not make sense to have a pack animal like a dog unequipped to realize when he was getting into trouble with another dog or when his behavior was having the desired effect. If dogs feel what we feel, they should be happy when we are happy, sad when we are sad, and hiding or hangdog when we are angry. All of the above does occur, on an almost daily basis, in our homes.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

What's in a Name?

You have adopted a new dog, but the name just feels wrong.

Should you give your new friend a new name?

Why not? Dogs can learn to respond happily to any new sound that is associated with good things.

Other reasons to rename a dog include:

1. The dog does not connect with its current name. Sometimes at animal shelters or with rescue groups the dog has only had that name as long as it has been there and not very connected with the name.

2. The dog has a negative association with its current name. If the dog was treated badly in its prior home, or if the dog thinks he may be punished when he hears his name, it is better to give the dog a new name that has a positive association.

3. You just do not like the dog's current name. If that is so, then the name the dog came with will not be said in a very loving manner.......so change it!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

PTSD in Dogs

Military dogs have served on the front lines, sniffing out explosives, tracking down enemy fighters, and parachuting out of helicopters. They have become invaluable on military missions.

Now, like the soldiers they assist, military dogs are developing post-traumatic stress disorder. According to a December story published in the New Your Times, about 5 percent of the 650 canines deployed by American troops suffer from canine PTSD. Of those, about half will likely not recover enough to return to service, says Walter Burghardt Jr., D.V.M., chief of behavioral medicine for the Holland Military Working Dog Hospital at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.

Symptoms of canine PTSD include dramatic temperament changes such as sudden aggression toward the handler, increased timidity or neediness, or an unwillingness to work.

Since dogs cannot articulate the cause of their distress, canine PTSD can be difficult to treat especially since it is a relatively new concept among military veterinarians. Sometimes a break from duty is enough to get a dog to snap back. Other times the dog needs desensitization to the stimulus that causes a reaction...similar to treatment for humans. Veterinarians sometimes prescribe anti-anxiety drugs such as Xanax as well.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


Did you know that there is a canine sport called Earthdog?

Yes. It is for those terriers who love to chase little animals.

Terriers' ancestors chased an animal to its den, then dug and tunneled in to dispatch it, also known as "going to ground." At Earthdog events, tunnels are pre-built and the rat at the end is in a protective cage, but the challenge still remains.

To get started, it is recommended to have a good working relationship with your dog so that it is under control.

For practice, you can use cardboard tubes which are secured not to roll. Use a favorite toy to tempt your dog through the tube. When your dog confidently works its way through the tubes, you are ready for an Introduction to Quarry test.

Events are often hosted by regional breed-specific terrier or Dachshund clubs. Look for a local Earthdog club by using a search engine or visiting the American Kennel Club website. Earthdog is an AKC trial event.

It is fun to watch your dog doing what it is bread to do, and they have so much fun doing it.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Dogs Assist Shy Children

Does your quiet child need to build more confidence?

A dog might be helpful.

A dog is a natural icebreaker. People come over to interact with a dog which can help a child gain comfort in interacting in such situations.

Bring your dog along when picking up your child from school or other activities. Dogs always attract positive attention and your child will be the proud owner.

Other ways your dog can help a child:

1. Let your dog stand in as a peer and rehearse social situations that make your child anxious.

2. Give your child simple, dog-related chores which will help to build self-esteem.

3. Have your dog as the subject of school essays or projects to help your child feel more comfortable talking with the class.

4. If your child worries, let your dog be an example of a more carefree outlook on life. Dogs live for the moment.

5. Patience and support along with your dog helper will assist your child with social confidence.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Boredom in Dogs

What does a bored dog look like?

The dog might be pacing or panting, or they might even be drooling or whining. But more often than not, you do not know that your dog is bored until you have left him alone for awhile. That is when you come home to all kinds of things like shredded toilet paper, gnawed shoes, or savaging in cupboards.

Bored dogs often use their energy in less than desirable ways. Providing your dog with toys is a valuable way to keep them happy and stimulated. When dogs are presented with a challenge or a puzzle, they are often less likely to bark or chew inappropriately. We can all use some help with behavioral problems, right?!

Ways you can challenge your dog:

1. Play more often. When you tire your dog out they will have less extra energy to burn. It sounds simple, but if your schedule does not include daily playtime for your dog, try adding it in.

2. Find a game your dog loves. Dogs are like humans in that they have their own favorites, likes, and dislikes. Not all dogs like the same games and toys. Try experimenting to see what gets your dog excited and playing.

3. Challenge your dog with a toy. If regular balls and bones are not enough to keep your dog out of trouble, consider giving them a puzzle toy. While many toys are great for keeping dogs busy, sometimes your dog needs a little more stimulation or challenge. Now-a-days, there are many puzzle toys to choose from.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Adopting a Dog?

If you are considering adopting a dog from an animal shelter or rescue organization, here are some screening test questions you may be asked to help ensure dogs are matched with responsible, lifelong homes.

1. Why do you want to adopt a dog?

Your answer will help rescuers determine whether you want a dog for the right reasons, along with which of their adoptees might match your lifestyle.

2. Do you have a veterinarian we can contact?

Many rescues want to verify that your are provided regular veterinary care for pets past and present.

3. Do you have children, and if so, how old are they?

Some rescues refuse to place dogs with families with young children for safety reasons. Plus, not all dogs mesh well with children.

4. Do other pets live with you, and if so, what kind?

Likewise, not every dog can live in harmony with other canines, cats, or small furry creatures.

5. Where will your dog spend the night and day?

No rescue wants to see a dog kept in 24/7 backyard banishment.

Did you pass the test?

Thank you for choosing a rescue dog.

"Dogs are not our whole life,

but they make our lives whole."

-Robert Caras-

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Doggie Love Story

I came across this clever Valentine video of dogs in love.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Dog Art Exhibit

The William Second Gallery in New York City offers an exhibition and sale of more than 150 dog and animal-related works of art from Dodge's personal collection.

February 11 through March 24th

Portrait of Geraldine Rockefeller in 1906
by Friedrich von Kaulbach
Dodge Room in the Morris Museum

Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge came from a life of incredible wealth, but what is not as well known is that she lived her days immersed in the company of dogs.

"An Artistic Legacy: The Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge Collection" includes 19th century paintings; bronzes; silver dog show trophies; and over 40 watercolors of Dodge's dogs by British artist R. Ward Binks; other dog artists work include those of the late George Earl, Gustav Muss-Arnolt, and Percival Rosseau.

Geraldine founded the prestigious Morris and Essex Kennel Club, wrote books that helped establish the English Cocker, Spaniel, and German Shepherd Dog in the U.S., bred and owned some of the most influential show dogs of her day, and was the first woman to judge Best in Show at Westminster without the input of male colleagues.

Proceeds benefit St. Hubert's Animal Welfare Center in Madison, New Jersey, which Dodge founded in 1939.

Friday, February 3, 2012


Skijor is dog-assisted cross-country skiing, or in other words, where you are on cross-country skis and tethered to your dog.

Before you start skijoring, it is best to at least be comfortable on cross-country skis. Your dog should be healthy and in reasonably good shape. You will need a properly fitted skijoring harness for your dog, a skijoring lead, and a skijoring belt for you.

Teaching your dog the basic commands is helpful before putting on skis. It is suggested that you practice the commands with your dog for 10 minutes at a time with a regular leash or on the skijoring lead.

The commands include: Hike which means go; Whoa, meaning stop; Gee, meaning turn right; Haw, meaning turn left; and On By, meaning keep going or pass.

The easiest way to learn is to take a class. Search online to find local skijoring clubs. Also, be sure to check if the cross-country trail is open to dogs.

Skijor USA promotes the sport.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Smart Dogs

Dogs are very smart animals.

Some scientists estimate that the average dog is as smart as a 3-year-old child. That means he is smart enough to understand more than 150 words, smart enough to count to five - and smart enough to outsmart humans! (You have probably already learned that lesson.)

Some breeds are smarter than others.

Psychologist Stanley Coren, a leading canine researcher and widely published author from the University of British Columbia, studied data from 208 dog obedience judges in the USA and Canada to determine which breeds are the smartest.

Check out the results below to see if your dog made the list:

1. Border collies
2. Poodles
3. German shepherds
4. Golden retrievers
5. Dobermans
6. Shetland sheepdogs
7. Labrador retrievers

So how do you improve your dog's IQ?

A good smart toy can actually boost your dog's IQ!

Veterinarians recommend puzzle toys (also called "smart toys") because they provide dogs with the fun mental challenges they need to keep their minds sharp, while keeping them active and happy. These toys require your dog to use his problem solving skills to "win" the game. A good smart toy is worth its weight in gold, because it will entertain your dog for hours.