Eddie is a one-year old Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and a regular client for massage.

This little boy gets up on the table all by himself…

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

Another date

Izzy and Bergie had a Date Night Afternoon yesterday.  It’s incredibly satisfying to have them off-lead and able to run and play even with the cold winter weather.

Bergie likes to dig holes.  Izzy seems to admire his skills, taking a front row seat to watch.

These two mean something special to one another and it is a joy to watch them play together.

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

Sun Seekers


Izzy the greyhound rests in the late winter sun after a day of teaching a massage workshop for other greyhound owners

Our dogs are warm-blooded mammals, just like we are.  It’s no wonder that so many dogs love sitting in the sun and will move as the sun moves.

Based on the meridian theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine, it makes sense to me that the sun’s warmth will gently warm acupoints, stimulating blood and qi flow and releasing endorphins which make the dog feel better.

Dogs also produce Vitamin D in their skin, it’s a bit like humans only harder because the sun’s rays have to penetrate through their fur.  Dogs aren’t as efficient in converting 7-Dehydrocholesterol, which is the precursor to vitamin D.

If there’s a wound on the dog, sunlight will help to dry it out.  Sunlight is also a natural anti-bacterial (which is why our mothers and grandmothers swore by the need to hang towels and sheets in the sunlight to brighten and freshen them.)  Sunlight can help kill excess yeast which is particularly useful for dogs that fight skin problems relating to yeast.

Even though a dog can sit inside during winter to enjoy the warmth of the sun, windows will filter out some of the sun’s rays which we probably want to have in terms of penetrating through the fur to help with Vitamin D production.  That’s why in winter, I like to exercise Izzy on sunny days without her coat so she receives the full effect of the sun.

Thin coated dogs (like Izzy) have to be protected from UV radiation during summer and the warmer months.  White-coated dogs and those with thin skin over the muzzle or under the arms also need to be protected from sun damage.

But that’s not much of a worry right now, during the depths of the southern hemisphere winter.

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

Training of explosive-detecting dogs

With a sense of smell much greater than humans, dogs are considered the gold standard for explosive detection in many situations. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement.

In a study appearing in the journal Analytical Chemistry, scientists report on a new, more rigorous approach to training dogs and their handlers based on real-time analysis of what canines actually smell when they are exposed to explosive materials.

Vapor analysis training

New training techniques based on real-time analysis of what a dog smells could improve explosives detection. Credit: wellphoto/Shutterstock.com

Explosives are often used in terrorist attacks. Dogs trained to detect odors emanating from TNT, nitroglycerin and other explosives are a crucial part of the first-line defense against these incidents. But delivering low-concentration vapor during training sessions is a challenging task. Cross-contamination of training materials with samples from different explosives can skew results and confuse both dogs and handlers. To address these concerns, Ta-Hsuan Ong and colleagues sought to better understand the components within explosive odors that cue a dog’s reaction.

The researchers developed a real-time vapor analysis mass spectrometer to more accurately measure the vapor plumes from explosives that trigger a canine response.

In field trials, they used the device and found that some mistakes the dogs made were indeed correct identifications. For example, some “blanks” were used that were ostensibly prepared without explosive material, but the dogs indicated an explosive was present. When the researchers used the mass spectrometer on such blanks, they found evidence of explosive vapors, indicating cross contamination occurred or other interferents were present.

Based on these findings, the researchers suggest that use of real-time vapor analysis could help differentiate canine mistakes from cross contamination and other issues during training.

Source:  American Chemical Society

Doggy quote of the month for July

“Acquiring a dog may be the only time a person gets to choose a relative.”

– Mordecai Siegal, author

Izzy the greyhound

Quantifying the Effects of Service Dogs for Veterans with PTSD

veteran with dog


Researchers from the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Center for the Human Animal Bond will analyze the influence service dogs have on the lives of military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in a unique clinical trial.

According to the United States Veterans Administration, 22 veterans commit suicide each day, and at least 40 percent have been diagnosed with PTSD. The rate could be even higher, as many cases of PTSD go undiagnosed.

Previous studies have suggested that individuals who bond with their pet dogs exhibit elevated levels of oxytocin – sometimes referred to as the “cuddle hormone” because it sparks emotional responses that contribute to relaxation and trust. Additionally, the National Center for PTSD claims dogs can encourage veterans to communicate more through commands and training, and prompt them to spend more time outdoors and meet new people.

These benefits support anecdotal reports that show an increase in the prevalence of service dogs for individuals with PTSD, but scientific evidence examining this growing trend and its effects on PTSD patients is still lacking.

“Many veterans are increasingly seeking complementary interventions for PTSD, including service dogs,” stated Maggie O’Haire, lead researcher and assistant professor of human-animal interaction at Purdue. “Yet, even with the well-meaning intentions of service dog organizations that are working to meet the demand, our systematic review of scientific literature confirms a lack of published, empirical research on the effects that service dogs have on veterans and their spouses.”

To help carry out the study, the research team has partnered with K9s for Warriors – one of the nation’s leading providers of service dogs to military vets suffering from a variety of conditions including PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, or sexual trauma as a result of service post-9/11.

The team hopes to determine what sort of PTSD symptom changes veterans may experience as a result of having a service dog, as well as any effects on social functioning and physiological biomarkers.

According to a university release, standardized survey instruments and objective measures of physiology will be used to track stress and functioning. The researchers will also use a novel ecological momentary assessment protocol to capture the role and function of the dogs in everyday life.

The results will be the first evidence-based data to be published that quantitatively identifies the roles and effects of service dogs for military veterans with PTSD.

The study is unique because it applies research methodology and evidence-based science to an area that has typically relied on emotion, according to O’Haire.

“Without scientifically sound studies that establish proof-of-concept for the therapeutic efficacy of PTSD service dogs, this animal-assisted intervention strategy will continue to be minimized as an unsupported and potentially unsound practice, despite anecdotal reports that the dogs may have a significant impact,” added O’Haire.

Source:  www.laboratoryequipment.com

Sharing your bed with your pet (or other humans)

About half of all pet owners share their beds or bedrooms with their pets at night. Although this has been the case through the ages, remarkably few studies have been done about the benefits and drawbacks of this practice.

In an article in Springer’s journal Human Nature, the authors argue that society regards both human-animal and adult-child co-sleeping with the same unnecessary apprehension. These concerns should, however, be set aside because both practices have their benefits, says lead author Bradley Smith of Central Queensland University in Australia.

sleeping together

Sleeping arrangements between humans have evolved over time and across cultures. In medieval Europe, for instance, sleep was a public and communal affair. It was not uncommon to receive visitors in the bedroom, or for many people to sleep in the same bed. Sleeping with others was a way to increase personal security, conserve resources, and generate warmth. Sleeping with children from birth is still the norm in many cultures, for instance in Egypt and among indigenous cultures in unindustrialized populations. Intergenerational co-sleeping is generally more prevalent in collectivist Asian countries than in contemporary, individualistic or industrialized Western cultures.

In the West, sleep is nowadays regarded as an individual and private experience that helps the body and mind to optimally rest and recuperate. The normative shift from sleep as a public and social affair to a private one arose through a complex “civilizing” process starting in the Victorian era. Social norms and rules began to dictate that each person should sleep in a single bed, in a private place away from public view, and wear appropriate sleeping attire. This gradually introduced the concept of the private bedroom and private sleep to many social classes.

In their paper, Smith and his co-authors use dogs as an example of human-animal co-sleeping. They compare human-canine sleeping with adult-child co-sleeping and argue that both forms of co-sleeping share common factors for establishment and maintenance, and have similar advantages and disadvantages.

According to the Australian researchers, current apprehension about human-animal co-sleeping and bed sharing between parents and their children focuses too much on possible negative aspects or consequences, such as poor health, impaired functioning, the development of problematic behavior, and even sexual dysfunction.

“Apart from its clear reproductive function for the survival of the species, as well as physiological support for the quality and quantity of sleep that are essential to individual health and well-being, co-sleeping fulfils basic psychological needs and reinforces and maintains social relations,” highlights Smith. “Throughout history, humans have shared their sleeping spaces with other humans and other animals.”

“We propose that human-animal and adult-child co-sleeping should be approached as legitimate and socially relevant forms of co-sleeping,” says Smith, who believes that more research should be done on human-animal co-sleeping practices. “Moreover, a comprehensive understanding of human-animal co-sleeping has significant implications for human sleep, human-animal relations, and animal welfare.”

Reference: Smith, Bradley P. et al. (2017). A Multispecies Approach to Co-Sleeping: Integrating Human-Animal Co-Sleeping Practices into Our Understanding of Human Sleep, Human Nature, DOI: 10.1007/s12110-017-9290-2

Source:  Springer publishing media statement