Category Archives: Dogs

Have Dog, Will Travel – a book review

Subtitled A Poet’s Journey, this book is a memoir about how Stephen Kuusisto’s first guide dog changed his life.

Born legally blind in the 1950s, Stephen’s family taught him to hide his disability. His alcoholic mother was particularly harsh and so the young Stephen would read books by pressing them right up against his nose and even rode a bike by teaching himself the layout of the local roads (which sounded to me like a particularly hazardous activity). A poet, at age 38 he was employed as a lecturer and made his away around his small college town because he had memorized the routes he needed to take.

Then he was made redundant and was disheartened and depressed when a job coach suggested that he could get a job as a pieceworker in an assembly line. Recognising that if he wanted more, he would need to broaden his world, Stephen registered with Guiding Eyes and started on a new journey with Corky the Labrador by his side.

This book recounts Stephen’s decision to get a guide dog. Under Corky’s guidance, Stephen was able to find an independence he had never known and was employed by Guiding Eyes to speak to audiences about the organisation’s activities and its value to those people with limited or no vision.

I liked this book; it’s a testament to the human-animal bond and the giving nature of dogs. I prefer hard copy books to e-reading and so this book will reside with my growing collection of dog books on the shelf in my lounge.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Petting therapy dogs enhances thinking skills of stressed students

For college students under pressure, a dog may be the best stress fighter around.

Programs exclusively focused on petting therapy dogs improved stressed-out students’ thinking and planning skills more effectively than programs that included traditional stress-management information, according to new Washington State University research.

Enzo, a Labrador retriever and experienced therapy dog, enjoys some attention and relaxation during the WSU stress management study with students.

The study was published on May 12, 2021 in the journal AERA Open, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association. The paper demonstrated that stressed students still exhibited these cognitive skills improvements up to six weeks after completion of the four-week-long program.

“It’s a really powerful finding,” said Patricia Pendry, associate professor in WSU’s Department of Human Development. “Universities are doing a lot of great work trying to help students succeed academically, especially those who may be at risk due to a history of mental health issues or academic and learning issues. This study shows that traditional stress management approaches aren’t as effective for this population compared with programs that focus on providing opportunities to interact with therapy dogs.”

The researchers measured executive functioning in the 309 students involved in the study. Executive function is a term for the skills one needs to plan, organize, motivate, concentrate, memorize: “all the big cognitive skills that are needed to succeed in college,” Pendry said.

Pendry conducted this study as a follow up to previous work, which found that petting animals for just 10 minutes had physiological impacts, reducing students’ stress in the short-term.

In the three-year study, students were randomly assigned to one of three academic stress-management programs featuring varying combinations of human-animal interaction and evidenced-based academic stress management. The dogs and volunteer handlers were provided through Palouse Paws, a local affiliate of Pet Partners, a national organization with over 10,000 therapy teams.

“The results were very strong,” Pendry said. “We saw that students who were most at risk ended up having most improvements in executive functioning in the human-animal interaction condition. These results remained when we followed up six weeks later.”

Many universities, including WSU, have provided academic stress management programs and workshops for many years. These are traditionally very similar to college classes, where students listen to an expert, watch slideshows and take notes. They’re often evidence-based courses that talk about ways to get more sleep, set goals, or manage stress or anxiety.

“These are really important topics, and these workshops are helping typical students succeed by teaching them how to manage stress,” Pendry said. “Interestingly though, our findings suggest that these types of educational workshops are less effective for students that are struggling. It seems that students may experience these programs as another lecture, which is exactly what causes the students to feel stressed.”

Human-animal interaction programs help by letting struggling students relax as they talk and think about their stressors. Through petting animals, they are more likely to relax and cope with these stressors rather than become overwhelmed. This enhances students’ ability to think, set goals, get motivated, concentrate and remember what they are learning, Pendry said.

“If you’re stressed, you can’t think or take up information; learning about stress is stressful!” she said.

Animal sessions aren’t just about changing behavior; they help students engage in positive thoughts and actions.

“You can’t learn math just by being chill,” Pendry said. “But when you are looking at the ability to study, engage, concentrate and take a test, then having the animal aspect is very powerful. Being calm is helpful for learning especially for those who struggle with stress and learning.”

The study was supported by a grant through the WALTHAM Human–Animal Interaction Collaborative Research Program.

Source: Washington State University

Majority of Americans trust their pet’s judgement more than anyone else when it comes to romantic partners

Two in every three Americans will end their relationship if their pet doesn’t approve, according to new research.

A survey of 2,000 single and dating Americans found that 67% of those in the dating scene feel this way, while 68% said their pet has the final say in who they date.

The results showed that most Americans value their furry friend’s opinion, as 71% of respondents trust their pet’s judgment over their own. Likewise, 68% trust their pets more than their friends and 67% trust them more than their own family.

In a study conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Zesty Paws, results found that almost seven in 10 Americans (69%) have dated someone their pet didn’t like.

Luckily, 69% of those who have had their pets reject their dates said their pets liked their next partner.

Sixty-seven percent can thank their pet for scoring the first date with a potential partner or their current partner. But if the first date and meeting of the pet doesn’t go well, 68% said there’s no chance of a second date.

Respondents gave varying reasons for their pet’s distaste in their current or ex-partner including not liking their scent, height or lack of attention.

The most obvious signs a pet doesn’t like potential partners include not going near them (47%), clawing/biting them (41%) and growling/hissing at them (40%).

In order to be liked by a pet, respondents said their partner needs to be friendly (44%), give behind-the-ear scratches (40%) and give treats (38%).

“Pets play an important role in relationships and can help guide their pet parents in the right direction as they look to meet their match,” said Steve Ball, CEO of Zesty Paws. “As a Bestie always does, fur babies use their intuition to check out their parent’s potential date and make sure they “approve”. Their deep emotional connection to their human Bestie can, as the data shows, drive their dating decision making.”

Praises and rewards are in order from nearly two-thirds of pet owners (63%) since they say their pet saved them from a bad or awkward date by showing signs they don’t like that particular person.

Thirty-one percent of pet owners show their appreciation for their pet by prioritizing getting them the highest-rated treats and only 21% say that the price may matter.

This just shows how highly people regard their pets. Continuing the trend, more than two-thirds (69%) said it’s worse having their pet mad at them than their partner being mad at them.

And if a potential partner is rude towards a pet, 64% of respondents said they could never forgive them.

Pet parents will go to any lengths to make sure their wing-pets are there for them. When looking for pet food, treats and supplements, respondents said they often look to recommendations from others who have the same breed of pet (45%), vet recommendations (42%) and even the recommendations from family and friends (42%).

“Our pets make a huge positive impact in our lives and relationships,” said Ball. “Their unique quirks and unconditional love you can’t find anywhere else, makes it easy and natural for us to trust our furry besties to play a big part in every area of our lives.”

TOP 5 WAYS PETS SHOW THEY LIKE SOMEONE

  1. Wagging tail/purring                                   46%
  2. Sharing their favorite toy                            45%
  3. Rubbing up against                                    39%
  4. Allows petting                                             31%

HOW PEOPLE WIN A PET’S APPROVAL

  1. Be friendly                                                   44%
  2. Give behind-the-ear scratches                   40%
  3. Give treats                                                  38%
  4. Give pets                                                     38%
  5. Walk them                                                   31%

Source: SWNS Digital

Dogs’ ag­gress­ive be­ha­viour to­wards humans is of­ten caused by fear

A study encompassing some 9,000 dogs conducted at the University of Helsinki demonstrated that fearfulness, age, breed, the company of other members of the same species and the owner’s previous experience of dogs were associated with aggressive behaviour towards humans. The findings can potentially provide tools for understanding and preventing aggressive behaviour.

Photo by Shutterstock

Aggressive behaviour in dogs can include growling, barking, snapping and biting. These gestures are part of normal canine communication, and they also occur in non-aggressive situations, such as during play. However, aggressive behaviour can be excessive, making the dog a health threat to both humans and other animals.

“Understanding the factors underlying aggressive behaviour is important. In what kinds of circumstances does aggressive behaviour occur and what is the dog’s motive for such behaviour? In normal family dogs, aggressive behaviour is often unwanted, while some dogs with official duties are expected to have the capacity for aggressiveness. At the same time, aggressiveness can be caused by welfare issues, such as chronic pain,” says doctoral researcher Salla Mikkola from the University of Helsinki.

The canine gene research group active at the University of Helsinki surveyed connections between aggressive behaviour and several potential risk factors with the help of a dataset encompassing more than 9,000 dogs, a sample from a larger dataset from a behavioural survey dataset of nearly 14,000 dogs. The study investigated aggressiveness towards both dog owners and unfamiliar human beings. Dogs were classified as aggressive if they growled often and/or had attempted to snap at or bite a human at least occasionally in the situations described in the survey.

“Dogs’ fearfulness had a strong link to aggressive behaviour, with fearful dogs many times more likely to behave aggressively. Moreover, older dogs were more likely to behave aggressively than younger ones. One of the potential reasons behind this can be pain caused by a disease. Impairment of the senses can contribute to making it more difficult to notice people approaching, and dogs’ responses to sudden situations can be aggressive,” Mikkola adds.

Small dogs are more likely to behave aggressively than mid-sized and large dogs, but their aggressive behaviour is not necessarily considered as threatening as that of large dogs. Consequently, their behaviour is not addressed. In addition, the study found that male dogs were more aggressive than females. However, sterilisation had no effect on aggressive behaviour.

The first dogs of dog owners were more likely to behave aggressively compared to dogs whose owners had previous experience of dogs. The study also indicated that dogs that spend time in the company of other dogs behave less aggressively than dogs that live without other dogs in the household. While this phenomenon has been observed in prior research, the causality remains unclear.

“In the case of dogs prone to aggressive behaviour in the first instance, owners may not necessarily wish to take a risk of conflicts with another dog,” Mikkola muses.

Sig­ni­fic­ant dif­fer­en­ces in ag­gress­ive be­ha­viour between breeds

Differences in the aggressiveness of various dog breeds can point to a genetic cause.

“In our dataset, the Long-Haired Collie, Poodle (Toy, Miniature and Medium) and Miniature Schnauzer were the most aggressive breeds. Previous studies have shown fearfulness in Long-Haired Collies, while the other two breeds have been found to express aggressive behaviour towards unfamiliar people. As expected, the popular breeds of Labrador Retriever and Golden Retriever were at the other extreme. People who are considering getting a dog should familiarise themselves with the background and needs of the breed. As for breeders, they should also pay attention to the character of dam candidates, since both fearfulness and aggressive behaviour are inherited,” says Professor Hannes Lohi from the University of Helsinki.

This study is part of a wider Academy of Finland project that investigates the epidemiology of canine behaviour, as well as related environmental and genetic factors and metabolic changes. Professor Hannes Lohi’s research group conducts research at the Faculties of Veterinary Medicine and Medicine, University of Helsinki, as well as the Folkhälsan Research Center. This study was supported, among others, by the Academy of Finland (308887), the European Research Council (Starting Grant), the ERA-NET NEURON funding platform and the Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation.

Ori­ginal art­icle:

Salla Mikkola, Milla Salonen, Jenni Puurunen, Emma Hakanen, Sini Sulkama, César Araujo, Hannes Lohi. Aggressive behaviour is affected by demographic, environmental and behavioural factors in purebred dogs. Scientific Reports. doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-88793-5

Source: University of Helsinki

Pets at work

Pet retailer Petco has created some great graphics to support the benefits of pets in the workplace Have you seen them yet?

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Doggy quote of the month for May

“No man can fully understand the meaning of love unless he’s owned by a dog. ”
― Gene Hill, author

Izzy rides along to visit with customers

Mystery canine illness identified in UK

An outbreak of vomiting among dogs has been traced back to a type of animal coronavirus by researchers.

Vets were asked for help in collecting data

Vets across the country began reporting cases of acute onset prolific vomiting in 2019/20.

The Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network (SAVSNet) at the University of Liverpool asked vets for help in collecting data, with 1,258 case questionnaires from vets and owners plus 95 clinical samples from 71 animals.

Based on this data, a team from the universities of Liverpool, Lancaster, Manchester and Bristol identified the outbreak as most likely to be a variant of canine enteric coronavirus (CeCoV).

Canine coronavirus only affects dogs and is not the same as Sars Cov2 which causes Covid in humans. Researchers found no evidence of any similar illness in people.

The work is published in Emerging Infectious Diseases.

The team are working on a project funded by the Dogs Trust called SAVSNet-Agile which aims to develop a national surveillance system for canine health.

Dr Barry Rowlingson from Lancaster University said: “We’ve developed complex statistical models to look for disease outbreaks. Being able to rapidly detect increased incidence, without triggering a false alarm from a natural random variation, is the key problem here. Early detection is crucial to early treatment and enhanced monitoring.

“The SAVSNet Agile project aims to feed information back to local veterinary practices so they can be alert to any new outbreaks.”

Vets began to suspect an infectious cause because vomiting was more frequent than is typical for canine gastroenteritis.

SAVSNet researchers found a specific and significant increase in the number of dogs recorded as exhibiting gastroenteric signs between late December 2019 and March 2020.

As well as reusing health records, SAVSNet also collected questionnaire data from vets and owners caring for affected animals, as well as healthy controls. This showed male dogs were more at risk than females.

Charlotte Appleton, SAVSNet Agile PhD Student, said: “Obtaining such important results at an early stage of my PhD is a wonderful achievement and will hopefully provide a pathway of higher visibility into the health of domestic animals.”

Source: Lancaster University

With impressive accuracy, dogs can sniff out coronavirus

Many long for a return to a post-pandemic “normal,” which, for some, may entail concerts, travel, and large gatherings. But how to keep safe amid these potential public health risks?

One possibility, according to a new study, is dogs. A proof-of-concept investigation published in the journal PLOS ONE suggests that specially trained detection dogs can sniff out COVID-19-positive samples with 96% accuracy.

“This is not a simple thing we’re asking the dogs to do,” says Cynthia Otto, senior author on the work and director of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine Working Dog Center. “Dogs have to be specific about detecting the odor of the infection, but they also have to generalize across the background odors of different people: men and women, adults and children, people of different ethnicities and geographies.”

In this initial study, researchers found the dogs could do that, but training must proceed with great care and, ideally, with many samples. The findings are feeding into another investigation that Otto and colleagues have dubbed “the T-shirt study,” in which dogs are being trained to discriminate between the odors of COVID-positive, -negative, and -vaccinated individuals based on the volatile organic compounds they leave on a T-shirt worn overnight.

“We are collecting many more samples in that study—hundreds or more—than we did in this first one, and are hopeful that will get the dogs closer to what they might encounter in a community setting,” Otto says.

Through the Working Dog Center, she and colleagues have had years of experience training medical-detection dogs, including those that can identify ovarian cancer. When the pandemic arrived, they leveraged that expertise to design a coronavirus detection study.

Collaborators Ian Frank from the Perelman School of Medicine and Audrey Odom John from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia provided SARS-CoV-2-positive samples from adult and pediatric patients, as well as samples from patients who had tested negative to serve as experimental controls. Otto worked closely with coronavirus expert Susan Weiss of Penn Medicine to process some of the samples in Penn’s Biosafety Level 2+ laboratory to inactivate the virus so they would be safe for the dogs to sniff.

Because of workplace shutdowns due to the pandemic, instead of working with dogs at Penn Vet, the researchers partnered with Pat Nolan, a trainer with a facility in Maryland.

Eight Labrador retrievers and a Belgian Malinois that had not done medical-detection work before were used in the study. First the researchers trained them to recognize a distinctive scent, a synthetic substance known as universal detection compound (UDC). They used a “scent wheel” in which each of 12 ports is loaded with a different sample and rewarded the dog when it responded to the port containing UDC.

When the dogs consistently responded to the UDC scent, the team began training them to respond to urine samples from SARS-CoV-2 positive patients and discern positive from negative samples. The negative samples were subjected to the same inactivation treatment—either heat inactivation or detergent inactivation—as the positive samples.

Processing the results with assistance from Penn criminologist and statistician Richard Berk, the team found that after three weeks of training all nine dogs were able to readily identify SARS-CoV-2 positive samples, with 96% accuracy on average. Their sensitivity, or ability to avoid false negatives, however, was lower, in part, the researchers believe, because of the stringent criteria of the study: If the dogs walked by a port containing a positive sample even once without responding, that was labeled a “miss.”

The researchers ran into many complicating factors in their study, such as the tendency of the dogs to discriminate between the actual patients, rather than between their SARS-CoV-2 infection status. The dogs were also thrown off by a sample from a patient that tested negative for SARS-CoV-2 but who had recently recovered from COVID-19.

“The dogs kept responding to that sample, and we kept telling them no,” Otto says. “But obviously there was still something in the patient’s sample that the dogs were keying in on.”

Major lessons learned from the study, besides confirming that there is a SARS-CoV-2 odor that dogs can detect, were that future training should entail large numbers of diverse samples and that dogs should not be trained repeatedly on the samples from any single individual.

“That’s something we can carry forward not only in our COVID training but in our cancer work and any other medical detection efforts we do,” says Otto. “We want to make sure that we have all the steps in place to ensure quality, reproducibility, validity, and safety for when we operationalize our dogs and have them start screening in community settings.”

Cynthia M. Otto is a professor of working dog sciences & sports medicine and director of the Working Dog Center in the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.

Source: Penn Today

Dogs Don’t Deserve Us – film review

I downloaded and watched this independent film on Vimeo.

The film, confronting at times, interviews dog owners from around the world about the bond and relationship they have with their dogs.

Filmmakers Matthew Salleh and Rose Tucker filmed in 11 countries.

Footage of “Day of the Dogs” in Nepal is both colourful and a window into the Nepalese culture.

A dog walker in Istanbul is as busy as those in many western countries…

Former child victims of the civil war in Uganda are interviewed about the healing love their dogs provide to them as they suffer from PTSD. There is a lot of evidence to show how important emotional support dogs are to victims of PTSD – but the stories are often focused on North America for the support given to returning US soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan and to victims of sexual and family abuse. The use of dogs for PTSD victims in this poor country is an insightful departure from the norm.

Viewers warning: I was totally unprepared for the segment towards the end of the film which features a butcher in Vietnam who trades in dog meat. While the butchering itself is not filmed, we see a live dog in a cage and then its gutted carcass as it is sent to market.

I think the placement of this segment is by design – to underpin the film’s title. Be prepared for the segment because the rest of the film is insightful and largely uplifting.

Dog lovers from around the world share much in common – and dogs provide unconditional love and devotion which crosses cultural boundaries. In a Covid-19 world, it’s a good theme for us to focus on because we have much in common regardless of where in the world we live.

You can rent or buy the film on a number of platforms including Prime Video, YouTube and Vimeo which will support the work of these independent filmmakers. The film’s website gives you all the links and details on how to access the film.

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Archaeologists uncover earliest evidence of domesticated dogs in Arabian Peninsula

Dog bones dated between circa 4200 and 4000 BCE discovered

A team of archaeologists in north-west the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has uncovered the earliest evidence of dog domestication by the region’s ancient inhabitants.

An AlUla rock art panel shows two dogs hunting an ibex, surrounded by cattle. The weathering patterns and superimpositions visible on this panel indicate a late Neolithic age for the engravings, within the date range of the burials at the recently excavated burial sites. (PRNewsfoto/Royal Commission for AlUla for Saudi Arabia)

The discovery came from one of the projects in the large-scale archaeological surveys and excavations of the region commissioned by the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU).

The researchers found the dog’s bones in a burial site that is one of the earliest monumental tombs identified in the Arabian Peninsula, roughly contemporary with such tombs already dated further north in the Levant.

Evidence shows the earliest use of the tomb was circa 4300 BCE and received burials for at least 600 years during the Neolithic-Chalcolithic era – an indication that the inhabitants may have had a shared memory of people, places and the connection between them.

“What we are finding will revolutionize how we view periods like the Neolithic in the Middle East. To have that kind of memory, that people may have known for hundreds of years where their kin were buried – that’s unheard of in this period in this region,” said Melissa Kennedy, assistant director of the Aerial Archaeology in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (AAKSAU) – AlUla project.

“AlUla is at a point where we’re going to begin to realize how important it was to the development of mankind across the Middle East,” said the AAKSAU director, Hugh Thomas.

This is the earliest evidence of a domesticated dog in the Arabian Peninsula by a margin of circa 1,000 years.

The findings are published in the Journal of Field Archaeology.

The project team, with Saudi and international members, focused its efforts on two above-ground burial sites dating to the 5th and 4th millennia BCE and located 130 kilometers apart, one in volcanic uplands and the other in arid badlands. The sites were above ground, which is unique for that period of Arabian history, and were positioned for maximum visibility.

The research team detected the sites by using satellite imagery and then by aerial photography from a helicopter. Ground fieldwork began in late 2018.

It was in the volcanic uplands site that 26 fragments of a single dog’s bones were found, alongside with bones from 11 humans – six adults, an adolescent and four children.

The dog’s bones showed signs of arthritis, which suggests the animal lived with the humans into its middle or old age.

After assembling the bones, the team then had to determine that they were from a dog and not from a similar animal such as a desert wolf.

The team’s zoo archaeologist, Laura Strolin, was able to show it was indeed a dog by analyzing one bone in particular, from the animal’s left front leg. The breadth of this bone was 21.0 mm, which is in the range of other ancient Middle Eastern dogs. In comparison, the wolves of that time and place had a breadth of 24.7 to 26 mm for the same bone.

The dog’s bones were dated to between circa 4200 and 4000 BCE.

Rock art found in the region indicates that the Neolithic inhabitants used dogs when hunting ibex, and other animals.

The fieldwork uncovered other noteworthy artefacts, including a leaf-shaped mother-of-pearl pendant at the volcanic uplands site and a carnelian bead found at the arid badlands site.

The researchers expect more findings in future as a result of the massive survey from the air and on the ground, and multiple targeted excavations in the AlUla region undertaken by the AAKSAU and other teams, which are operating under the auspices of the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU). The AAKSAU team is led by researchers from the University of Western Australia in Perth, Australia.

The researchers note that AlUla is a largely unexplored area located in a part of the world that has a fertile archaeological heritage of recognized global value.

“This article from RCU’s work at AlUla establishes benchmarks. There is much more to come as we reveal the depth and breadth of the area’s archaeological heritage,” said Rebecca Foote, Director of Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Research for RCU.

Source: Taylor and Francis Group