Category Archives: regulation

Pet dogs help kids feel less stressed

Pet dogs provide valuable social support for kids when they’re stressed, according to a study by researchers from the University of Florida, who were among the first to document stress-buffering effects of pets for children.

boy-and-dog

Darlene Kertes and colleagues tested the commonly held belief that pet dogs provide social support for kids using a randomized controlled study – the gold standard in research.

“Many people think pet dogs are great for kids but scientists aren’t sure if that’s true or how it happens,” Kertes said. Kertes reasoned that one way this might occur is by helping children cope with stress. “How we learn to deal with stress as children has lifelong consequences for how we cope with stress as adults.” 

For their study, recently published in the journal Social Development, the researchers recruited approximately 100 pet-owning families, who came to their university laboratory with their dogs. To tap children’s stress, the children completed a public speaking task and mental arithmetic task, which are known to evoke feelings of stress and raise the stress hormone cortisol, and simulates real-life stress in children’s lives. The children were randomly assigned to experience the stressor with their dog present for social support, with their parent present, or with no social support.

“Our research shows that having a pet dog present when a child is undergoing a stressful experience lowers how much children feel stressed out,” Kertes said . “Children who had their pet dog with them reported feeling less stressed compared to having a parent for social support or having no social support.”

Samples of saliva was also collected before and after the stressor to check children’s cortisol levels, a biological marker of the body’s stress response. Results showed that for kids who underwent the stressful experience with their pet dogs, children’s cortisol level varied depending on the nature of the interaction of children and their pets.

“Children who actively solicited their dogs to come and be pet or stroked had lower cortisol levels compared to children who engaged their dogs less,” said Kertes, an assistant professor in the psychology department of UF’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “When dogs hovered around or approached children on their own, however, children’s cortisol tended to be higher.”

The children in the study were between 7 to 12 years old.

“Middle childhood is a time when children’s social support figures are expanding beyond their parents, but their emotional and biological capacities to deal with stress are still maturing,” Kertes explained. “Because we know that learning to deal with stress in childhood has lifelong consequences for emotional health and well-being, we need to better understand what works to buffer those stress responses early in life.”

Source:  University of Florida News

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If you’re lost…let’s hope your dog is with you

As readers of the blog know, I love to profile new research into topics such as dog health and behaviour.  This story, however, is truly astounding – not only because of the results but because someone chose to research the topic!

It seems that our dogs are sensitive to the Earth’s magnetic field and so they will align themselves in a north/south direction when urinating or defecating – particularly when they are off-leash and allowed freedom.

Photo by Brock Daves

Photo by Brock Daves

A research team of Czech and German scientists studied 70 dogs during 1,893 defecations and 5,582 urinations over the course of two years.  When the Earth’s magnetic field was stable, the dog would align themselves to it when answering the call of nature.  If there was an unstable magnetic field, such as during a solar flare, the dogs seemed to become confused.

So the next time you are lost in the woods (bush for those in the Southern Hemisphere), pray that your dog needs to take a toilet break and watch carefully!  (Or, you could simply help to validate the researchers’ findings by paying more attention to the direction your dog faces when needing to pee or poo – remember your compass!)

The results of this research have been published in the journal Frontiers in Zoology.

Protecting pets on US flights

The US Department of Transportation has proposed a strengthening of regulations involving the transport of animals on airplanes.

The proposal would require 36 airlines to report companion animal incidents that happen in the cargo holds of their planes.  Currently, only 15 airlines are required to submit annual reports.  Carriers also would have to report the number of animal losses, injuries and deaths and the total number of animals transported each year.

The Humane Society of the United States has endorsed the proposal.  The Society regularly receives complaints about animals who are injured in cargo holds or – worse – die.  Animals transported as cargo are exposed to excessive temperatures (hot and cold) and rough handling.  There have been reports of poor ventilation and lack of oxygen, too.

Another significant change is that the regulations also would apply to dogs and cats being shipped for commercial sale. With an upsurge in online sales, particularly of dogs,  many operators of inhumane commercial breeding facilities (puppy mills) transport dogs to pet stores and to new owners via airplanes.

Inga Fricke, the Director of Sheltering and Pet Care Issues for the Humane Society says  “We applaud the Department of Transportation for proposing to expand this rule because it will keep dogs and cats safer on planesRequiring stronger reporting requirements of airline carriers will force carriers to better handle animals during transport, providing the oversight needed. It would also give consumers clarity when choosing an animal friendly airline, and travelers would be able to compare carriers’ rates of animal deaths and injuries.”

Nelson City responds to dog owners

Here’s an example of democracy in action in the city of Nelson on the South Island of New Zealand.

The Council consulted on revisions to its dog bylaws and dog owners responded about the unnecessary restrictions.

On 3 May, the Council announced “Nelson City Council has responded to submissions on its Dog Control Policy and Bylaw Review by developing a new proposal based on feedback from submitters.”

Deputy Mayor Ali Boswijk said, “Ultimately, the dog bylaw we are proposing will take a default position where dogs can be off-leash everywhere, except areas which are identified as prohibited or on-lead.

“Hindsight is a wonderful thing and perhaps we should have spent more time talking with the wider community before we drafted the original Statement of Proposal. This is a good learning for us and something we will take on board in future.”

The new summary of Council’s preferred direction for the Dog Control Policy and Bylaw:

  • Dogs to be prohibited from the part of Marsden Valley Reserve to the east of the Barnicoat Walkway
  • Retain Girlies Hole and Black Hole as swimming holes for dogs during summer (December to March) and allow dogs in all holes during the remainder of the year
  • Add Sand Island to the list of dog prohibited areas
  • Dogs to be prohibited from the Maitai Cricket Ground during the cricket season but they can exercise there from April to September.
  • The shared pathways (Railway Reserve and Atawhai Shared Pathway) will become off-leash areas
  • The Maitai Walkway to remain an off-leash area for dogs
  • Seventeen neighbourhood reserves will remain on-lead areas for dogs as requested by submitters
  • The Good Dog Owner Policy will be amended with input from the Dog Owner’s Group and other interested parties.

In addition, Council is looking at establishing a dedicated dog park at Saxton Field where dogs can exercise off-lead.

Well done to the Nelson City Council for recognising that its constituents wanted something else for dogs and their owners and well done to all who submitted on the dog control bylaw.

If you don’t participate in your local community to represent your interests and the interests of dog owners in general, be prepared for restrictions that will inhibit your ability to socialise your dog and enjoy their company in public places.

Perhaps a lesson for dog owners elsewhere in NZ and overseas?

Dog imports to New Zealand

Did you know that approximately 3,100 dogs are imported into New Zealand per year?

New immigrants bring their dogs into the country; breeders also import dogs to add to their bloodlines, and individuals import dogs as pets or show dogs.

MAF had to put changes to dog importation rules on hold last month because there was an application for an independent review.   Proposed changes that are now on hold include introduction of a quarantine for dogs coming from Britain and the Irish Republic  (currently these dogs are allowed into the country without quarantine as long as they have lived 6 months in these areas).

Read about the conflict over MAF’s intention to change the rules in this Otago Daily Times article.