Category Archives: Dogs

Doggy quote of the month for August

“Animal lovers are a special breed of humans, generous of spirit, full of empathy, perhaps a little prone to sentimentality, and with hearts as big as a cloudless sky.”

– John Grogan, author of Marley & Me

Leisa & Indy’s NZ Charity Cycleway Journey

Leisa McNaughton and her dog Indy, a Border Collie/Bernese Mountain Dog cross, will commence a 4-month journey on 1st October 2015 to travel the length of New Zealand.

Their journey will begin in Cape Reinga and travel using tracks that are part of Nga Haerenga The New Zealand Cycle Trail and connector routes.

On her Facebook page, Leisa says, “My aim is to encourage others to join me in the sights and sounds of our wonderful country while cycling the length of NZ and fundraising for my 13 chosen charities.”  These charities , all regional, will include:

  • Sport Northland Whangarei
  • Auckland Rescue Helicopter Auckland
  • Cambridge Riding for the Disabled Cambridge
  • Cranford Hospice Hastings
  • The Capital Performing Arts Wellington
  • Marlborough Falcon Conservation Trust Blenheim
  • Menzshed Waimea
  • The Tasman Environmental Trust Richmond, Nelson
  • Westcoast Coastguard Greymouth
  • Canterbury SPCA Christchurch
  • Otago Medical Research Foundation Dunedin
  • Number 10 Invercargill
Indy tests his trailer before the big journey starts (photo by Leisa)

Indy tests his trailer before the big journey starts (photo by Leisa)

Leisa says she and Indy “chose each other” at the SPCA about six years ago.  She attributes her recovery from severe depression and burnout to, in part, Indy’s non-judgmental support and companionship.

Indy will ride in a specially designed trailer during the pair’s journey together.

You can follow Leisa and Indy on their Facebook page.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

Never give up on your dog: Barney’s story

Barney with his "Most Improved Dog" trophy (photo by Vic Barlow)

Barney with his “Most Improved Dog” trophy (photo by Vic Barlow)

I’ve just updated my Facebook page today with thoughts about why it is important to adopt – and when one dog leaves your life, you may not want to wait too long because another dog awaits…

And then this good-news story popped up.  Barney was a challenging dog with difficult behavior – but his owners hung in there with him.  And he won Most Improved Dog at his dog training class.

Read Barney’s tale here

And if you like Barney’s story, you may have missed my story about Kess:

Kess’ Story – Part 1

Kess’ Story – Part 2

The dental therapy dog

Just when you think I’ve run out of ways to report on new ways dogs are working as assistance/therapy dogs…I introduce you to Flossie.

Appropriately named, Flossie is a dental therapy dog.

Lexa and Flossie: (From left) Dr. Alan Golden, Elysia Yriarte and Natalia Caraballo smile for the camera while petting Flossie, a dental therapy dog, and her half-sister Lexa, a dental therapy dog-in-training.  (photo courtesy of American Dental Association)

Lexa and Flossie: (From left) Dr. Alan Golden, Elysia Yriarte and Natalia Caraballo smile for the camera while petting Flossie, a dental therapy dog, and her half-sister Lexa, a dental therapy dog-in-training. (photo courtesy of American Dental Association)

At the 10,000-square-foot Virginia facility, Golden Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics, Flossie is free to run around with one job: to make people comfortable wherever they are. Flossie has been coming to the office since she was 8 weeks old in 2012.

“I would say, ‘Back to work,’ and she goes out and finds a lap to sit on, or sometimes she cuddles with the kids,” Dr. Golden said. “She’s good at it.”

With the success of Flossie, Dr. Golden said he’s been considering creating a resource for dentists who are interested in using therapy dogs in their practice.

Flossie, a Cavachon (Bichon Frise/Cavalier King Charles Spaniel cross), received her therapy dog certification from the Alliance of Therapy Dogs.  New patients are informed that Flossie works at the practice so they are ready for her presence in the office when they arrive.

For patients that are particularly frightened of dogs, or who have severe allergies, Flossie is sent to her official resting area, which is fenced off and has a dog bed.

Dr Golden’s partner in practice is so impressed by what Flossie brings to the practice that he has his own dental therapy dog in training, Lexa.

Source:  American Dental Association

Adjusting stress levels for mellow vs hyper dogs

People aren’t the only ones who perform better on tests or athletic events when they are just a little bit nervous — dogs do too. But in dogs as in people, the right amount of stress depends on disposition.

A new study by researchers at Duke University finds that a little extra stress and stimulation makes hyper dogs crack under pressure but gives mellow dogs an edge.  (These findings will be relevant to any owner who is competing in agility or obedience with their dog.)

The findings appear online in the journal Animal Cognition.

According to an idea in psychology called the Yerkes-Dodson law, a little stress can be a good thing, but only up to a point.

A task that isn’t demanding or challenging enough can make it hard to stay engaged and perform at one’s peak. But when the pressure becomes too much to handle, performance is likely to suffer again.

The idea is the relationship between stress and performance follows a Goldilocks model:  Both people and animals function best when the level of stress is not too much, nor too little, but just right.

When you’re taking a test, for example, it helps to be a little bit anxious so you don’t just blow it off,” said study co-author Emily Bray, who was an undergraduate at Duke at the time of the study. “But if you’re too nervous, even if you study and you really know the material, you aren’t going to perform at your best.”

Researchers first observed this pattern more than a hundred years ago in lab rats, but it has since been demonstrated in chickens, cats and humans. In a new study, a Duke team consisting of Bray and evolutionary anthropologists Evan MacLean and Brian Hare of Duke’s Canine Cognition Center wanted to find out if the conditions that enable certain animals to do their best also depend on the animal’s underlying temperament.

In a series of experiments, the researchers challenged dogs to retrieve a meat jerky treat from a person standing behind a clear plastic barrier that was six feet wide and three feet tall. To get it right, the dogs had to resist the impulse to try to take the shortest path to reach the treat — which would only cause them to whack into the barrier and bump their heads against the plastic — and instead walk around the barrier to one of the open sides.

In one set of trials, an experimenter stood behind the barrier holding a treat and called the dog’s name in a calm, flat voice. In another set of trials, the experimenter enthusiastically waved the treat in the air and used an urgent, excited voice. (See YouTube video at https://youtu.be/j6bfo5IlCEY – the video has been protected and so I’m unable to link it directly to this blog post).

The researchers tested 30 pet dogs, ranging in age from an eight-month-old Jack Russell terrier named Enzo to an 11-year-old Vizsla named Sienna. They also tested 76 assistance dogs at Canine Companions for Independence in Santa Rosa, California, a non-profit organization that breeds and trains assistance dogs for people with disabilities.

The researchers studied video recordings of each dog and estimated their baseline temperament in terms of tail wags per minute. “The service dogs were generally more cool in the face of stress or distraction, whereas the pet dogs tended to be more excitable and high-strung,” Bray said.

Both groups of dogs were able to solve the puzzle. But the optimal amount of stress and stimulation depended on each dog’s disposition.

For the dogs that were naturally calm and laid-back — measured by how quickly they tended to wag their tails — increasing the level of excitement and urgency boosted their ability to stay on task and get the treat.

But for excitable dogs the pattern was reversed. Increasing the level of stimulation only made them take longer.

In one high-arousal trial, a two-year-old spaniel named Charlie Brown lost it and shut down, barking and zipping around crazily until she almost ran out of time.

“In the first five trials she did fine and solved the puzzle quickly with no problems,” Bray said. “Then when the high-arousal trials started she choked. She just couldn’t figure it out.”

“Adding more excitement pushed the pet dogs over the edge and impaired their ability to perform at their peak,” Bray said.

The results will help researchers develop better tests to determine which dogs are likely to graduate from service dog training programs, for example.

Source:  Duke University media release

Zoomies

It’s been feeling a little warmer over the last couple of days; the clear days with sun make me think that spring isn’t far off.

Izzy is feeling it, too.  On Sunday, she got so warm after chasing her tennis balls at the dog park that she sat down in mud puddle to cool off (she wasn’t so keen on the bath that followed).

Yesterday, she did ‘zoomies’ in the back yard; something she hasn’t done for over a month since it has been so cold…

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

The Ark at JFK

Under construction at New York’s JFK International Airport is the world’s first all-animal airport terminal.

The facility, which will measure 178,000 square feet and cost $48 million, will be called The Ark at JFK.  Its developer, ARK Development, says the facility “has been conceived as the world’s only privately owned animal terminal and USDA-approved, full-service, 24-hour,  airport quarantine facility for import and export of horses, pets, birds and livestock.”

The terminal will be home to a 24-hour Paradise 4 Paws pet resort featuring a bone-shaped dog pool, pet suites with a flat-screen TV option, massage therapy and a jungle gym for cats.

What the bone-shaped swimming pool will look like at The Ark (courtesy of CNN)

What the bone-shaped swimming pool will look like at The Ark (courtesy of CNN)

For dogs and other pets on long-haul journeys, this facility promises to offer the highest standard in care.  Can’t wait to see it – it should be open in 2016.

Source:  CNN