Tag Archives: dog ownership

Hug me, I need the oxytocin

Oxytocin is a mammalian hormone that is released during the act of touching and hugging.   For these reasons, the hormone is often referred to as ‘the cuddle hormone’ or ‘the love hormone.’  (The hormone is also released during childbirth, by the way).

As a dog owner, your relationship with your dog is likely to involve you and your dog triggering the release of oxytocin in one another.  Temple Grandin, animal behaviourist and autism researcher, has found that ‘A dog’s oxytocin levels rise when his owners pet him and petting his dog raises the owner’s oxytocin too.’    In other words, this hormone plays a role in the human-animal bond.

In 2003, J.S.J. Odendaal and R.A. Meintjes of the  Life Sciences Institute at Pretoria published research into the blood levels of endorphins, oxytocin, prolactin, B-phenylethylamine and dopamine (all associated with pleasure response or relaxation) and cortisol (a known stress hormone) in people and dogs both before and after they interacted with each other.  The researchers compared levels of the neurochemicals under three scenarios:   1) after people petted their own dogs 2)  after they petted unfamiliar dogs and 3) after they sat quietly and read a book.

In both humans and dogs, the levels of the pleasure-response chemicals  rose after 5 to 24 minutes.  At the same time, cortisol levels in humans fell as they spent time with their pets.   The increase in oxytocin was highest in the group where people interacted with their own dogs, as opposed to dogs that were unfamiliar to them.

In 2008, Miho Nagasawa’s research team in Japan showed that only eye contact was necessary between dogs and their humans to increase oxytocin levels.  After 30 minutes of contact with their dog, owners showed an increase in oxytocin levels.

Dr Kerstin Uvnäs-Moberg from Uppsala University, studies oxytocin and its effects.  Her 2010 study showed that women and their dogs experienced increases in their oxytocin levels after only 10 minutes of contact.  When compared to a survey of the women, their oxytocin response was in direct correlation with the quality of the bond they felt for their pet.

For those of us who have experienced this bond during our lives, it is probably not surprising that there is a scientific reason for our feelings and that it is hormone-related.  But it’s nice to have science on our side.

For those of you raising puppies, these studies show that there  is a good scientific reason to ensure your  puppy is socialised.  It is not surprising  that dogs involved in hoarding cases or puppy mills are withdrawn and in many cases frightened of humans.  They aren’t accustomed to the positive effects of oxytocin release and in many cases have suffered other traumas.

Hey Daisy, give me a hug…I need the oxytocin.

Have you hugged your dog today?

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

Furry friends with benefits

Research conducted at Case Western Reserve University has revealed the positive impact that pet ownership has on women who are managing HIV/AIDS.

Dr Allison Webel set out to understand how women manage their HIV/AIDS and stay on track to take their medications, follow doctors’ orders and live healthy lifestyles.  She found that “Pets—primarily dogs—gave these women a sense of support and pleasure.”

The human and animal bond in healing and therapy is being recognized, Webel said, as more animals are visiting nursing homes to connect to people with dementia or hospitals to visit children with long hospital stays.

Dr Webel talks about her research in this YouTube video:

A city good for dogs is great for humans

I went to a talk earlier this week by Stephen Jenkinson, who is visiting New Zealand from the UK.  Stephen works as a consultant in the UK, with clients including kennel clubs and other agencies.  His area of interest is how public authorities can help reduce conflict over dogs and dog ownership by providing adequate facilities and opportunities for dog owners to do the right thing.

This type of urban planning helps to make dog ownership easy.  For example, you don’t have to drive across town to find an off-leash dog park because there will be dog exercise areas that are within walking distance. (This helps to reduce traffic, greenhouse gas emissions, and conflict when dog owners take their dog off-lead in a ‘normal’ park or reserve.)    Areas in larger recreational parks may be designated for use by dogs and their owners, thus keeping other tracks free for other users who do not want to play or engage with dogs.  And there is a growing body of knowledge around design of dog-friendly accommodation such as apartments and condominiums.

Stephen feels that there is opportunity for the rebuild of Christchurch to do better for dogs, their owners, and all non-dog people.   Sadly, no one from the Christchurch City Council, CERA, or Gerry Brownlee’s office participated in Mr Jenkinson’s public talk on Monday evening.  That signals a lack of senior level buy-in and support for the concepts.

I’ll be doing more research on this topic over the coming weeks and months, but if you’d like to get a flavour for what Mr Jenkinson talked about, you can listen to him speak with Kim Hill on Radio NZ National.

Consultant Stephen Jenkinson with his Border Collie

Money saving tips for dog owners

Salaries and wages aren’t growing as fast as the cost of living and so it is always wise to look for ways to cut your costs.  This includes the costs of dog ownership.

Here are my tips for reducing the overall cost of caring for your dog:

  • Buy quality toys and rotate them – instead of buying toys that are the cheapest you can find (there have been reports of cheap imported toys containing lead paint, for example) – buy quality.  Every few weeks, rotate the toys available to your dog.  A deep toy basket will help you with this chore!
  • Learn to bathe and groom your dog at home, and then cut down on the trips to the professional groomer.  You’ll still want that professional look – but it will lengthen the time between visits and save you money.
  • Buy locally.  Look for locally made shampoos, toys,  food and treats.  These are likely to be less expensive than imported brands (the cost of petrol is a good indication of rising transport costs associated with imports).  The added benefit is you are returning business to people in your area.
  • Buy secondhand goods.  Sites like Trade Me are full of useful products that are up for sale.  You can buy dog kennels, crates, blankets, coats, shampoos, and grooming tools.  In some cases, small businesses (like mine) place products on the site at competitive prices to retail.
  • Buy with your friends.  If you have a small dog, you probably don’t want to buy the largest size bag of food but typically it is the largest bag with the best price.  Why not buy a re-useable storage container and split the cost of a large bag with another dog owning friend?  You both win!
  • Watch out for your dog’s dental health.   Feed bones and chews regularly and introduce teeth brushing for added benefits.  Preventing dental problems will save you money and your dog pain in the longer term.
  • Look out for alternative places to buy your pet supplies.  I have found MyVet online in New Zealand for things like flea and worming treatment.  Much better prices than at the vet or in the pet store.
  • Keep up with your regular veterinary visits.  Regular veterinary checks are essential to picking up on health problems early.  Preventive healthcare is an investment, not a cost.

Please feel free to post your cost-saving ideas by submitting comments to this blog.

Responsible dog ownership – what does it mean in your town?

The 1st of July will mark the start of a new financial year for many towns and here in Christchurch it means that dog registrations must be paid for another year.

Christchurch encourages responsible dog ownership by offering certified responsible dog owners a dramatically reduced registration fee.  For a spayed or neutered dog, the fee drops from $76.00 to $53.00.  Second and subsequent dogs at the same residence can be registered for only $37.00 each.

What does it mean to be a responsible dog owner? 

Dog owners must apply to the council to be granted responsible dog owner status.

Applicants for Responsible Dog Ownership status sign an application form stating that they have and will continue to meet all the following conditions and requirements listed below:

(a) No dog owned by the applicant in the last two years has:

(i) Been impounded, chased or returned home by Council Dog Control staff.

(ii) Been the subject of any bona-fide complaint.

(iii) Been issued with an infringement notice for any dog related offence.

(b) All dog registration fees have been paid for the past two years by the due date.

(c) The applicant has not been prosecuted, nor issued with an infringement notice, for any dog related offences.

(d) Any information regarding the purchase of, death, sale or transfer of dogs to and from the applicant’s property, including movement of any pups born on the premises, shall continue to be promptly notified in writing to the Council.

(e) The applicant’s property is suitably fenced and gated to ensure it is dog-proof.

Dog free access to a door of the dwelling is provided for authorised callers.

(The Council reserves the right to carry out random property inspections to ensure compliance.)

(f) All dog(s) owned or kept by the applicant will be controlled in accordance with the Dog Control Act 1996 and with current Council Dog Control Bylaws.

(g) The applicant has been a recorded dog owner and resided within the Christchurch City Council area for at least 12 months. If an owner has not been a recorded dog owner and resided in Christchurch City for at least one year but can produce written evidence that they have had a classification with criteria similar in most respects to those included here in another territorial authority they may be considered to have fulfilled this condition.

(h) Any faecal matter (droppings) deposited by the applicant’s dog(s) in any public place or on any land other than that occupied by the applicant will be removed forthwith and deposited in a suitable receptacle.

(i) Any change of residential address within the city shall be notified in writing to the Council within 14 days.

(j) The applicant understands that any breach of the above conditions will lead to the immediate cancellation of privileges under this policy.

(k) The applicant is aware that the granting of this application does not relieve the applicant from payment of the full dog control fee.

If the dog owner breaches the rules in any way, they can lose their Responsible Dog Owner status for a period of two years.

What does your town do to encourage responsible dog ownership?

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

Southern Cross Healthcare endorses dog ownership

Well done to Southern Cross Healthcare, New Zealand’s leading private healthcare insurance company.

The company is celebrating its 50th year in business and as part of the celebrations they’ve published their 50 tips for living life well (Alive magazine, Issue 7).    As part of these tips, the firm recognises the health value of dog ownership.

Tip #13  Dog owners lead a healthier lifestyle.  Dogs help buffer stress and also assist in facilitating more physical activity

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

The role of the dog in the family unit

A recently-published New York times article explains the role of the pet in the family unit and various research projects that are attempting to define the human-pet bond.  This article goes onto explain why personal orientation about the role of the pet in the family can lead to disagreements and conflict.

My personal favourite is the 2007 research that categorises pet owners into one of three categories.

Humanists treat their dogs as a member of the family or primary companion.  They will do things such as allowing the dog into bed or onto the furniture, cook it special meals, and mourn it when it passes.  Humanists tend to look down on dominionists.

Protectionists consider themselves the animal’s advocate with strong personal views on how an animal should be treated.  Protectionists are critical of humanists.

Dominionists view their dog as a useful helper, below that in status of the humans.  Dogs, in their opinion, are replaceable.    Rural people often fall into this category, according to the research.

I’m a proud humanist, by the way!

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

Man’s best friend keeps children on the move

It’s that time of year again, when we start reflecting on all the food we’ve indulged in over the holidays and thinking about how we need to burn off some calories.

Well, I’ve just come across this article about the health benefits for children when the family owns a dog.  Researchers have found that children from families who own a dog are more active, a possible solution to fighting childhood obesity…

Man’s best friend keeps children on the move.

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

DoggyMom’s First Post – Welcome!

Welcome to my new blog – about everything dog!   Unlike my column for a previous NZ-based website, this one is totally under my control.  It won’t be going anywhere (except growing in content).  Join me as I discuss all sorts of topics related to the love and care of dogs.

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