Category Archives: dog ownership

The Effect of Dogs on Human Sleep in the Home Sleep Environment

Let sleeping dogs lie … in the bedroom. That’s according to a new Mayo Clinic study that’s sure to set many tails wagging.

Sleeping with dog

It’s no secret that Americans love their dogs. According to the American Veterinary Association, more than 40 million American households have dogs. Of these households, 63 percent consider their canine companions to be family. Still, many draw the line at having their furry family members sleep with them for fear of sacrificing sleep quality.

“Most people assume having pets in the bedroom is a disruption,” says Lois Krahn, M.D., a sleep medicine specialist at the Center for Sleep Medicine on Mayo Clinic’s Arizona campus and an author of the study. “We found that many people actually find comfort and a sense of security from sleeping with their pets.”

The study, “The Effect of Dogs on Human Sleep in the Home Sleep Environment,” evaluated the sleep of 40 healthy adults without sleep disorders and their dogs over five months. Participant and their dogs wore activity trackers to track their sleeping habits for seven nights.

According to the study, sleeping with dogs helps some people sleep better ─ no matter if they’re snoozing with a small schnauzer or dozing with a Great Dane. There is one caveat, however. Don’t let your canines crawl under the covers with you. The sleep benefit extends only to having dogs in your bedroom ─ not in your bed. According to the study, adults who snuggled up to their pups in bed sacrificed quality sleep.

“The relationship between people and their pets has changed over time, which is likely why many people in fact do sleep with their pets in the bedroom,” says Dr. Krahn. “Today, many pet owners are away from their pets for much of the day, so they want to maximize their time with them when they are home. Having them in the bedroom at night is an easy way to do that. And, now, pet owners can find comfort knowing it won’t negatively impact their sleep.”

So, go ahead. Turn your sheepdog into a sleep dog. Just make sure they are relegated to their own bark-o-lounger, rather than your bed.

Source:  Mayo Clinic news release

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My Dog is My Home

One of the best parts of the day is when I return to my home after a long day’s work and Izzy is there to greet me.  I think most dog owners/parents feel that way.

Now imagine that you are homeless and you have a dog (or two).  Access to a homeless shelter and other social services is out of reach because you refuse to give up your dogs.

That’s the plight of many homeless Americans and the charity My Dog is My Home is working to help them by facilitating co-sheltering projects that allow both humans and pets to be supported.

The project did a series of YouTube videos to highlight the experience of human-animal homelessness.  Here’s one of the videos:  Spirit’s story alongside his dogs, Kyya and Miniaga, in Los Angeles.

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

Health benefits of owning a dog (video version)

Throughout this blog, you’ll find articles about research involving dogs.  Some of these articles can be quite lengthy, so I was pleased when Time published this short video – all of the key points about the health benefits of owning a dog in one place.

If you’re really busy, or simply not interested in reading the full research, this video is for you!

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

Housing affordability is a dog issue

I’ve been wanting to write this post for some time.  There’s been trouble brewing for a while now when it comes to housing availability and affordability in New Zealand.  But if you’re a dog owner, the problem is usually magnified.

Take this case from the Waikato; a gainfully employed immigrant to New Zealand struggles to find a rental home that will allow both his children and his beloved dog, Blue, to live there.

Welcome dog

In the months and years following the 2011 earthquake in Christchurch, the rate of surrenders of dogs increased as people were displaced from their damaged homes.  Most rentals prohibited dogs. (Only now – in 2017 – is the housing market adjusting again with something of a rental surplus.  Creative rental owners are starting to open their minds about dogs.)

Last week, I shared this article on my Facebook page about Millennials, a generation of men and women who are buying homes to secure their futures as dog owners.  It created the highest readership of the page in almost two years, with many of my clients and other readers agreeing that they bought a home because they wanted a secure place to live with their dog(s).

I moved from Auckland to Christchurch in large part because of better housing affordability and the goal of having my own dog.  (In Auckland, the best I could achieve was a regular dose of ‘dog therapy’ by volunteering at the SPCA as part of a regular roster.)

But housing affordability is a barrier to many owning their first home.  Loan-to-value ratios require a minimum of 20% deposit.  If you are already paying a high rent, savings to reach that 20% can be very difficult.  In the Auckland region, I’ve read that many employed people are paying up to one-half of their income in rent.  So much for saving a 20% deposit!

If people can’t find homes that allow pets, what happens to all the dogs needing loving homes?  They face a bleak future.

So in this – an election year in New Zealand – think about housing affordability as a key issue particularly if you are a dog lover or prospective dog owner. If you’ve made it into your own home with a dog, think of those who are still trying.

And if you are an owner of one or more rental properties, you can be part of the solution.  Do you allow your tenants to have dogs?

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

A perspective on time, a precious resource

Time is a precious resource.  We only have so much time in our day – you don’t get any more or any less than anyone else.

I have often said that one of the most important things we have to give our dogs is our time.  Time for play, time for love, time for care…That said, since I often work with sick or elderly dogs in my massage practice, I am also very mindful of how time can get away on us.

Our dogs live at a different time scale than we do.  There are many illustrations of the this  – here’s just one:

dog age chart

With our dogs aging at a faster rate than we do,  we don’t always understand the impact of a delay.

For example:

I meet many dog owners who come to see me because they have a fear of putting their dog on medications such as those that are used for arthritis.  Let me be clear on this – although I practice natural therapies – I am not against using traditional medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).  Actually, quite the opposite.

Many dogs benefit from pain relief just like we humans do.

One of the better ways to assess the levels of pain in a dog is to give it a short course of NSAIDs and simply watch for changes in the dog’s behaviour and levels of activity.   If the dog improves, this is often the best indicator we have about the dog’s level of discomfort.

If pain is managed, then we can do even more hands-on work like acupressure, stretching, acupuncture and massage and this often means dosages of the ‘hard drugs’ can be reduced without sacrificing pain management.

In this example, the owner is hesitating to make a decision on using medication – even with the idea that we go into the arrangement knowing the medications will be used for only a short period – perhaps 2-3 weeks.

The dog weighs 25 kg and is 10 years old.

I start working with the dog and suggest a number of times that I believe the dog is in pain or at a minimum – uncomfortable.

The owner takes 2 months to make a decision before agreeing to try some pain relief.

In human years, since the dog is aging at a rate of 6 years to 1 human year at this life stage… 

The owner has waited the equivalent of one human year to make a decision!

 I will ask– if this was your grandma/grandpa/father/mother –  would you allow them to live like this without pain relief?

The answer has always been ‘no.’

We have a duty to care for our dogs which involves acting in their best interests.  They can’t tell us in words how much pain they are in, it’s up to us to figure it out.  And in deciding what to do, we must always be mindful of how precious time is.

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

Dog registration

It’s that time of year again – time to renew Izzy’s registration.

Dog registration is a legal requirement throughout New Zealand and dogs must be registered before they reach the age of 3 months.

Licence tag

Dog registration fees vary widely across different city and district councils but most offer discounts for spaying/neutering and also holding responsible dog owner status.  In my case, I have held responsible dog owner status for years and this qualifies me for the lowest rate possible.

My $57 fee goes towards the support of services like impounding lost dogs until they can be re-united with their families (hopefully) and officers responding to complaints about dog bites or attacks.

Unfortunately, there’s a portion of our community who don’t register their dogs and so they are not paying their fair share for services.  I know that some people will say that they can’t afford to pay the fees; but I have to ask – if you can’t pay your registration fee how can you afford to care for your dog?

I support efforts to make people better dog guardians.  It starts with an understanding that having a dog is a privilege and not a right.  If you are going to be a good dog owner, then pay your fair share to manage dogs in your community.

Below is the schedule of dog registration fees for 2017/2018 in the Christchurch City Council area:

Item Fee
Dogs classified as dangerous
If paid on or before 31 July $137.00
If paid on or after 1 August $169.00
Un-neutered dogs (other than Responsible Dog Owner status)
If paid on or before 31 July $91.00
If paid on or after 1 August $124.00
Spayed/neutered dogs (other than Responsible Dog Owner status)
If paid on or before 31 July $80.00
If paid on or after 1 August $112.00
Owner granted Responsible Dog Owner status
First dog
If paid on or before 30 June $57.00
If paid between 1 July and 31 July $80.00
If paid on or after 1 August $112.00
Second and subsequent dogs
If paid on or before 30 June $39.00
If paid between 1 July and 31 July $80.00
If paid on or after 1 August $112.00
Working / Rural dogs
First dog
If paid on or before 31 July $27.00
If paid on or after 1 August $39.00
Second and subsequent dogs
If paid on or before 31 July $22.00
If paid on or after 1 August $32.00
Disability Assist dogs NIL
More Than Two Dogs licence (other than rural zoning and Banks Peninsula wards)
Licence for 3 dogs $70.00
Re-inspection fee – same property $32.00

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

The Dog Lawyer

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to interview Jeremy Cohen of Boston Dog Lawyers.

Yes – your dog can have a lawyer.  Or, more accurately, you can hire a lawyer to advocate for you and your dog.

Boston Dog Lawyers picture

It’s a sad fact that many dogs are often destroyed because poor laws and policy deem them to be dangerous.  Jeremy thinks we can do better and has a range of trainers, behaviorists and other experts he can call upon to represent an alternative position.

Couples who haven’t married legally may find themselves fighting over ‘ownership’ of their pet.  Custody battles are another area of the practice.

Jeremy is profiled in my column this month in NZ Dog World magazine.

I particularly like Jeremy’s simple to understand bite prevention tips:

Boston Dog Lawyers – Bite Prevention Tips

Never allow your dog to be alone with children under age 12
Integrate your dog into your family and don’t segregate it
Follow the leash law
Use the leash when entering and exiting the car
Exercise your dog daily
Post signs if dog is aggressive
Keep current with licensing and shots

Boston Dog Lawyers logo

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