Category Archives: dog ownership

Run, Spot, Run – book review

Run, Spot, Run -The Ethics of Keeping Pets by Jessica Pierce takes its name from the black and white puppy of the Dick and Jane early reader books that were used from the 1930s until the 1970s.

Spot is a stand-in for all the animals that are kept as pets; this is not just cats and dogs but also exotics and other animals.

Run Spot Run by Jessica Pierce

The scope of this book is a mixture of information which is enlightening, challenging and thought-provoking.

Pierce, a bioethicist, aims to answer the fundamental question, “Is it ethical to keep pets?”  And the issue isn’t nearly as black and white as Spot the dog was.

She covers the implication of care needs such as spay/neuter, enrichment and feeding, for example.  The feeding chapters canvas the issues of what we choose to feed, and how these feeds are sourced – powerful stuff that is often missed in the ever-present “raw vs kibble” debate.  Food for thought, definitely.

Cruelty and neglect are also covered, as are the hard-hitting facts of other animal abuse such as sexual abuse of animals (this chapter comes with a warning about offensive and disturbing content).   Exotic pets and their plight are also discussed.

This book is not a light read; but for any true pet lover, you owe it to yourself to look at the wider ethical issues around pet care and responsibility.  Pierce’s final words are a fitting closure to this book:

“I leave you with a call to action.  Change starts with awareness.”

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Dogs – a driving force behind the home buying market

A major reason I bought my first home was to adopt a dog; I couldn’t confidently bring a dog into my home when I was renting.

I see that I was a woman ahead of my time (Gen X – not Millennial).  A study by SunTrust Mortgages from the USA reveals some interesting trends for first-time home buyers:

Harris Poll on behalf of SunTrust Mortgage Infographic

That’s right – not children or marriage, but dogs were one of the top 3 motivators for buying a home.

“Millennials have strong bonds with their dogs, so it makes sense that their furry family members are driving home-buying decisions,” said Dorinda Smith, SunTrust Mortgage President and CEO. “For those with dogs, renting can be more expensive and a hassle; home ownership takes some of the stress off by providing a better living situation.”

Among millennials who have never purchased a home, 42 percent say that their dog – or the desire to have one – is a key factor in their desire to buy a home in the future, suggesting dogs will also influence purchase decisions of potential first-time homebuyers.

What does this mean if you are selling a home (or are a real estate sales agent)?  Make sure you strongly advertise a securely-fenced section, local parks and dog-friendly facilities such as dog parks or cafes.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Source:  PR Newswire

 

 

 

Netflix and Woof

When it comes to watching TV, most people — 58 percent — find pets to be the best binge partner, a new survey released by Netflix reveals.

One in three respondents, meanwhile, said they’ve turned to their furry friends for comfort during a sad or scary scene. And 22 percent have talked to their pet about the show or movie they were watching.

dog watching tv on the couch

Additional stats:

  • 37 percent have moved where they were sitting so their pet would be more comfortable.
  • 22 percent have bribed them with treats to watch longer.
  • 12 percent have turned off a show because their pet didn’t appear to like it.

Dog owners are more likely to choose action like Narcos and Marvel’s Daredevil, the survey found. Cat owners prefer sci-fi series like Black Mirror and Star Trek Discovery. And bird lovers like comedies such as Orange is the New Black.
The one show that brings all streaming species together: Stranger Things.

The survey was conducted Jan. 9-25 by SurveyMonkey and based on more than 50,000 responses. The sample is representative of an adult online population who watch Netflix with their pets in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, the U.S. and the United Kingdom.

Source:  Pets Plus

The importance of “Dog Speak”

Scientists at the University of York have shown that using ‘dog-speak’ to communicate with dogs is important in relationship-building between pet and owner, similar to the way that ‘baby-talk’ is to bonding between a baby and an adult.

dogspeak

Dogs paid more attention to people that used ‘dog-speak’ (photo courtesy of University of York)

Speech interaction experiments between adult dogs and humans showed that this particular type of speech improves dog attention and may help humans to socially bond with their pets.

Previous studies on communicating with dogs had suggested that talking in a high-pitch voice with exaggerated emotion, just as adults do with babies, improved engagement with puppies but made little difference with adult dogs.

Researchers at York tested this theory with new experiments designed to understand more about why humans talk to dogs like this and if it is useful to the dogs in some way or whether humans do this simply because they like to treat dogs in the same way as babies.

Speech register

Dr Katie Slocombe from the University of York’s Department of Psychology, said: “A special speech register, known as infant-directed speech, is thought to aid language acquisition and improve the way a human baby bonds with an adult.  This form of speech is known to share some similarities with the way in which humans talk to their pet dogs, known as dog-directed speech.

“This high-pitched rhythmic speech is common in human interactions with dogs in western cultures, but there isn’t a great deal known about whether it benefits a dog in the same way that it does a baby.

“We wanted to look at this question and see whether social bonding between animals and humans was influenced by the type and content of the communication.”

Unlike previous experiments, the research team positioned real humans in the same room as the dog, rather than broadcasting speech over a loud speaker without a human present.  This made the set-up more naturalistic for the dogs and helped the team test whether dogs not only paid more attention to ‘dog speak’, but were motivated to spend more time with the person who had spoken to them in that way.

Dog-related content

Researchers did a series of speech tests with adult dogs, where they were given the chance to listen to one person using dog-directed speech containing phrases such as ‘you’re a good dog’, and ‘shall we go for a walk?’, and then another person using adult-directed speech with no dog-related content, such as ‘I went to the cinema last night.’.

Attention during the speech was measured, and following the speech, the dogs were allowed to choose which speaker they wanted to physically interact with.

The speakers then mixed dog-directed speech with non-dog-related words and adult-directed speech with dog-related words, to allow the researchers to understand whether it was the high-pitched emotional tone of the speech that dogs were attracted to or the words themselves.

Preferences

Alex Benjamin, PhD student from the University’s Department of Psychology, said: “We found that adult dogs were more likely to want to interact and spend time with the speaker that used dog-directed speech with dog-related content, than they did those that used adult-directed speech with no dog-related content.

“When we mixed-up the two types of speech and content, the dogs showed no preference for one speaker over the other.  This suggests that adult dogs need to hear dog-relevant words spoken in a high-pitched emotional voice in order to find it relevant.

“We hope this research will be useful for pet owners interacting with their dogs, and also for veterinary professionals and rescue workers.”

The research paper, ‘’Who’s a good boy?!’ Dogs prefer naturalistic dog-directed speech, is published in the journal Animal Cognition.

Source:   University of York media release

Finances and financial sacrifices

When you make a commitment to a dog, you make it for life – or at least you should (although from many of the listings I see in Facebook groups and on Trade Me, it is clear that others don’t believe in the lifetime commitment).  With that lifetime commitment comes a fairly significant financial commitment.

That’s why I applaud the recent survey undertaken by the American Institute of Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA) concerning the cost of pet ownership.  Although this survey was done in the USA, I would expect the findings to be broadly transferable to New Zealand – certainly the recommendations are!

The overall findings were:

  • On average, American pet owners spend $1,560 per year on their pets
  • One-in-four say their pets cost more than they expected
  • More than 3-in-4 Americans would make financial sacrifices for their pets

And the survey even asked how these pet owners would make financial sacrifices, if they had to, to fund emergency pet care expenses which is illustrated in the graphic below:

The Financial Impact of Fido by the American Institute of CPAs

To help Americans fully understand the financial commitment that comes with bringing a pet into their home, the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission has the following tips:

  • Be honest with yourself financially – If you are struggling to pay off your student loans and have credit debt piling up, does it really make financial sense to get a pet?  Pets are great but they are meant to help relieve stress, not add to it due to financial difficulties.
  • Do your research – Though the cost of routine care may be predictable, it varies widely from animal to animal, and even from breed to breed, across the full spectrum of family pets. Know ahead of time the probable cost of care that will come with your companion.
  • Make a budget: “pre-pet” & “post-pet” — Include all related expenses, i.e. food, treats, leash, crates – including tank for fish, lizards, etc.—toys, vet visits, grooming and other services such as boarding and day care. If your pet will require a habitat powered by electricity, be sure to factor in the impact it will have on your utilities bill.
  • Be prepared – If you’re worried about unforeseen costs, use an emergency savings calculator to help you regularly set aside funds, or consider getting pet insurance.
  • Buy in Bulk – Items such as food, treats and preventive medicine can be purchased in bulk, reducing the overall cost per unit.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Puppies are not presents

The RSPCA has issued a new advert for 2017 to illustrate the message that puppies are not Christmas presents – they are a lifetime commitment that a family should knowingly make.

Follow the story of Woody, the pup given as a Christmas gift who ends up neglected, abandoned and in the care of the RSPCA.

Kindness goes a long way and animal welfare agencies work 24/7 – throughout the holiday season – taking care of unwanted animals.

If you are considering adding a pet to your home, do your homework and be prepared for the unconditional love that an animal brings to your home – but with responsibilities.

Adopt, don’t shop.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

A dog’s life in families with children

Note from DoggyMom:

This research reinforces my advice to families with young children and dogs:  understand your dog’s non-verbal and verbal cues so you can pick up when they are stressed, going over threshold, and need time away from the children.

I have several clients on my books currently who are expecting their first child in 2018; this is a subject that we discuss on a regular basis.


Millions of families know how rewarding and enjoyable dog ownership can be – but now a new study has for the first time examined the quality of life for a pet dog owned by a family with children.

happy dog

Photo courtesy of University of Lincoln

There is now extensive scientific research showing the many benefits that pet dogs bring to families, including improved family functioning and wellbeing for those with children with neuro-developmental disorders such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and ADHD. For all children, dogs can provide valuable companionship, encourage exercise and family activities, and teach them about responsibilities.

Until now, little attention has been paid to how living with children affects quality of life for pet dogs (those not trained as assistance dogs). Funded by Dogs Trust – the UK’s largest dog welfare charity – a team of animal behaviour and welfare specialists from the University of Lincoln’s School of Life Sciences are examining this question.

Published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, their latest research involved interviewing parents who own a dog – half with typically developing children and half with children with Autism or ADHD, with all children aged between four and 10 years old.

The research revealed that the child-dog relationship has a number of beneficial aspects for the dog, including a sense of routine, more time for fun and play, and companionship.

Dr Sophie Hall, a Research Fellow specialising in human-animal interactions at the University of Lincoln’s School of Life Sciences, said: “Our study involved 36 dog-owning families, who all highlighted some key benefits that their pet dogs receive from living with young children.

“For example children provide close companionship for pets as well as imposing a sense of predictable and consistent routine in the home, in terms of feed and walk times, which we know is extremely important for a dog’s wellbeing. Of course, children also play regularly with their pet dogs and activities such as throwing a ball and doing assault courses represent really valuable opportunities for exercise and positive mental stimulation.

“The study also highlighted some potentially negative impacts on the pet, which it is important for parents to be aware of when bringing a dog into a home with children.”

The negative impact could be brought on by children having tantrums, with parents observing their dogs running away, shaking or hiding on some of these occasions. Parents also observed a change in their dog’s behaviour if it became ‘over stimulated’ – such as barking, becoming agitated, or seeking a place to escape – when their children were very noisy.

Other events that could cause potential distress for dogs in homes with children could include rough play or accidents such as collisions with toys or pulling the dog’s tail.

The study suggests that in a home with small children, it is important for dogs to have a ‘safe haven’ to escape to if needed, and for parents to understand both the obvious and more subtle signs of distress in their pets and to teach their family about these signs. For example, pet dogs often have wide eyes or lick their lips when they are mildly stressed.

Dr Hall added: “The positive and negative aspects of the child-dog relationship were similar in families with typically developing children and in those with children with a neuro-developmental disorder.

“As such, providing they are aware of key risk events and how to cope with these, and ensuring adequate supervision, parents should not necessarily be dissuaded from acquiring a pet dog because of their child’s developmental issues. As we know, pet dogs can really enrich family life and support child development and wellbeing.”

The results of this initial study are now being developed further by the team at the University of Lincoln with support from Dogs Trust.

The paper is freely available to view online at PLOS ONE.

Source:  University of Lincoln media release