Max was never trained to be a hero, but when the moment called for it, the Staffordshire terrier/bulldog mix answered the call.
Before Jamie and Rob Osborn adopted Max, he was a neglected pup. He lived mostly outside and was never taken out for walks. But the love of his new parents quickly changed the wary dog.
“When we got him, he was a bit antisocial,” Jamie Osborn told The Dodo. “If we were patting him too much, he’d get up and walk away. These days, Max is a completely different dog. He’s always happy! He’s really loving and gives us lots of love and affection.”
Max now lives inside as part of the family in Port Noarlunga, Australia. He loves sleeping in bed with his 11-year-old brother, Nev, and — most of all — splashing around in the water.
In the summer, Max spends most of his time at the beach with his family. “We have kayaks and he likes to swim along with us as we paddle, so we got him a life jacket so he wouldn’t get too worn out,” Osborn said. “Rob likes to surf and snorkel, so Max can often be seen at the beach hanging with the surfers waiting for a wave.”In January, Max was enjoying a quiet day at the beach with his dad and brother when something went wrong. A young boy got caught in the current and started to panic. Instead of swimming parallel to the shore to escape the current, he tried to swim against the current and quickly got stuck. Rob spotted the boy and called out to Max for help.
Later, Max acted as lifeguard yet again. “One of Nev’s friends also found it a bit tough, so he went back and got her, too,” Osborn wrote on Facebook.
Max was declared a hero — but he doesn’t know it. All he knows is that he’s getting a lot more pets and treats, and is happier than ever.
Isn’t this a terrific story! Max is a real star and hero. But then so are many, many other dogs. All they need is love from us humans and then they bond with us for life.
To the surprise of no dog owner anywhere, a new study finds that dogs get jealous.
You may know the feeling when you’re out on a walk and stop to pet another pooch. Your dog may bark or whine, or even come in between you and the offending canine.
New research published in the journal Psychological Science finds that dogs exhibit these types of jealous behaviors even when they only imagine their owner is interacting with another dog.1 In the case of this study, the perceived rival was an artificial dog.
In the past, some scientists have insisted jealousy is strictly a human trait and people are merely projecting emotions on their pets.1
“I think it is natural for dog owners to project a range of human thoughts and emotions onto their pets,” lead author Amalia Bastos, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, tells Treehugger.
Bastos cites a study published in 2008 in the journal Cognition and Emotion where 81% of dog owners said their pets get jealous. But as much as pet owners love their animals, they are sometimes wrong about them, she says.2
That same study found that 74% of dog owners reported their pets feel guilty after misbehaving.2 But several studies have found that what people see as a “guilty look” is merely dogs responding to getting in trouble from their owners, whether they actually misbehaved or not.3,4
“Anecdotes from dog owners are interesting and can inspire fascinating research into dog intelligence and behavior, but it is important that this is taken only as a starting point for rigorous science before we can make such claims,” Bastos says.
She adds: “Work on dog jealousy to date is more promising than for guilt: our study shows that dogs exhibit three signatures of human jealous behavior. However, we caution that the fact that dogs display jealous behavior does not necessarily mean that they experience jealousy as we do.”
For the study, researchers set up an experiment where 18 dogs imagined their owners interacting with either a realistic-looking stuffed dog or a similarly sized fleece-covered cylinder that looked nothing like a dog. The fake dog played the role of a potential rival while the cylinder was a control.1
First, the dogs watched the stuffed dog next to their owner. Then, a barrier was placed between the dog and the stuffed animal so they could no longer see the potential rival. The dogs pulled strongly on their leashes when their owners appeared to be petting the fake dog behind the barrier. In a second experiment, the dogs pulled on the leashes with less force when the owners appeared to be petting the fleece cylinder.1
“We developed a novel methodology whereby we could directly measure the amount of force a dog used to pull on its lead,” Bastos explains. “This provided the first easily quantifiable, objective measure of how strongly dogs attempt to approach a jealousy-inducing interaction between their owner and a social rival.”
This is called the “approach response” as the dog tries to get closer to the owner and the potential rival. It’s also how babies and kids respond when they are jealous, Bastos says.
“The approach response is a straight-forward and clean measure which happens to be the single most universal reaction to jealousy-inducing situations in human infants and children,” she says. “Although infants and children show a range of behaviors when observing their mothers interact with another infant — including but not limited to attacking the rival, crying, seeking physical contact with the mother, throwing a tantrum, or screaming — almost all react primarily by approaching the jealousy-inducing interaction.”
Researchers were able to measure the actual strength of the approach response rather than relying on inconsistent behaviors like barking, whining, growling, or attempting to bite, which would vary among dogs.1
The Canine Subjects Showcased Jealousy Signatures
The researchers found the dogs exhibited three human-like signatures of jealous behavior.1
These findings were different from earlier research because it’s the first to show dogs can mentally represent — or imagine — social interactions that they can’t directly see, Bastos says.
“We know this because when their owners appeared to pet a fake dog the dogs could not see behind an opaque barrier, they reacted with an approach response, which is a common jealous behaviour in humans. This suggests that dogs could mentally simulate what their owners must have been doing out of their direct line of sight,” she says.
It also showed that, like humans, dogs reacted more strongly when their owners interacted with a potential rival than with an inanimate object. And the reactions happened due to the interaction, and not when the owner and the rival were in the same room but not interacting.1
“Previous studies confounded jealous behavior with play, interest, or aggression because they never tested dogs’ reactions to the owner and the social rival being present in the same room but not interacting,” Bastos says.
“In our control condition, where owners petted a fleece cylinder, the fake dog was still present nearby,” she adds. “Dogs did not try to approach it as they did when they were being petted by the owner, showing that the interaction itself triggered their approach response, and therefore this is caused by jealous behaviour.”
Although this research is the first step, more research is necessary to figure out if dogs experience jealousy the same way people do.1
“There is still much work to be done to establish what dogs subjectively experience while exhibiting jealous behaviours, and this is a very difficult question to answer scientifically,” Bastos says. “We may never have an answer!”
The researchers went to some lengths to show that the dogs were able to detect real interaction with another dog rather than a fake dog. The video is very interesting and I hope you are able to watch it.
The streets were empty during a recent snowstorm in Romania.
But, while most people were staying warm at home, one little boy and his dog decided to go for a “walk.”
To make the most of the snow, 12-year-old Andrei attached a sled to his bicycle and his dog Pufi hopped on. True to Pufi’s name, the dog’s fluffy coat protects him from inclement weather, but the little pup seemed grateful to play with his human and not have to get his paws wet.
As Andrei started to cycle home, Pufi was a very good boy, balancing on the sled like a pro.
“Andrei and Pufi puppy conquered us hopelessly and reminded us of childhood when the simple things brought us the greatest joys: snow, a sled and a reliable friend next to you,” CERT Transilvania wrote on Facebook. “Today we also gave Andrei joy by giving him a brand-new bike, equipped with everything he needs for many years to come on the road to school or racing with Pufi.”
Now, Andrei and Pufi can safely sled and bike wherever they want together, through whatever weather comes their way.
Thought this would get your attention but read on:
There is no end to the love that so many people bestow on their dogs. I have said it before and there’s absolutely no doubt that I will say it again; many times!
One could go deeper into the human psychology to understand why, about the joy of having an animal who is sensitive to our moods but never rejects us. About the devotion and loyalty that dogs give us, well the vast majority of us, and who never expect anything in return other than a stroke or a cuddle.
I’m minded to be in this mood because today (ergo yesterday) I had to deal with an infestation of ants in the house. Luckily we had an unopened packet of Diatomaceous earth and, hopefully, that has put a stop to it. One of the issues of living in a rural part of the world.
So the following post spoke to me!
Kids Hold A Wedding For Senior Dog So He Can Marry His Best Friend
When Toby first arrived at Newman Nation: Senior Pets United, he needed a lot of help. He was 15 and had been severely neglected for most of his life. His fur was extremely matted. The rescue knew he would need a special family to foster him, and immediately thought of Jennifer Burke.
Burke and her family have experience with hospice animals, and were immediately on board to take in Toby.
“When Toby first joined our family, he was really scared and timid, in addition to being very sick,” Burke told The Dodo. “He was such a little pathetic mess and we fell in love with him immediately. Shortly after getting Toby, we discovered he was blind, and deaf, which was quite a surprise.”
They soon discovered that he had cancer, but the little dog recovered surprisingly well after treatment, and the family quickly decided he’d be staying with them forever.
Toby quickly fell in love with every member of his new family — especially Zoey.
Zoey was rescued from a puppy mill where she had been bred over and over again. She was never properly socialized so she’s often a little awkward around other dogs, but for some reason, she and Toby just work. Over the past two and a half years the two dogs have fallen completely in love with each other, and do absolutely everything together.
“It was really poignant to see two misfits start to figure out friendship and eventually fall in love,” Burke said. “They really are an awkward match made in heaven.”
Toby is now 17 years old, and his family recently discovered that he has cancer again. This time, he was only given a few months to live. His family knew this day would come eventually, but they were still so heartbroken — and then they had the best idea.
“After giving my kids the devastating news of his prognosis, my 8-year-old son, Dillon, said, ‘Well, I think Toby and Zoey should get married before Toby dies,’” Burke said. “Immediately, our family agreed. It was a perfect way to celebrate Toby and the really meaningful role he has played in our lives.”
All five family members began planning out the wedding together, as everyone wanted to be involved in making sure Toby and Zoey had the most perfect day.
“My daughter helped pick out Zoey’s wedding dress and she wrote the dogs’ vows,” Burke said. “My boys helped prep the backyard for the ceremony. My husband suggested throwing the wedding on the date of our 12-year anniversary, making the day even more special.”
Finally, everything was ready. The backyard was decorated, the cake was made and the entire family was dressed up and ready to celebrate the love of Toby and Zoey.
The wedding was absolutely perfect. While Toby and Zoey maybe weren’t as huge fans of getting dressed up and posing for pictures, they absolutely loved getting to kiss each other, eating cake and of course being together. That’s always been their most favorite thing of all.
Toby may not have a ton of time left, but his family is determined to make sure that what time he does have is filled with so much love. Toby has meant so much to his family over the past few years, especially to Zoey, and they’re so glad they were able to spend a day celebrating him and his best friend.
“Toby has enhanced our family so much in the last 2.5 years, but we had never realized the impact it could have on Zoey,” Burke said. “She is the one who has gained the most by having Toby in our lives. And I have no doubt that having Zoey in his life has enabled Toby to live so long. While I know Zoey will have a sad and difficult adjustment after Toby’s death, he has made her life so much fuller than we could have ever expected.”
Just read that last paragraph again: “Toby has enhanced our family so much in the last 2.5 years, but we had never realized the impact it could have on Zoey,” That was said by Jennifer Burke. Then she said how beneficial Toby was on the life of fellow dog Zoey.
It is a very lovely story and, once again, we have to thank The Daily Dodo.
Yesterday, (it was actually the 22nd February, 2014!) I published a post and called it Dogs and wolves – fascinating research. Then blow me down in yesterday’s online BBC News, there was an article headlined: Dogs’ brain scans reveal vocal responses This is how it opened.
Dogs’ brain scans reveal vocal responses
By Rebecca Morelle, Science reporter, BBC World Service
Devoted dog owners often claim that their pets understand them. A new study suggests they could be right.
By placing dogs in an MRI scanner, researchers from Hungary found that the canine brain reacts to voices in the same way that the human brain does.
Emotionally charged sounds, such as crying or laughter, also prompted similar responses, perhaps explaining why dogs are attuned to human emotions.
Lead author Attila Andics, from the Hungarian Academy of Science’s Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest, said: “We think dogs and humans have a very similar mechanism to process emotional information.”
Eleven pet dogs took part in the study; training them took some time.
During the approximately 18–32 thousand years of domestication , dogs and humans have shared a similar social environment . Dog and human vocalizations are thus familiar and relevant to both species , although they belong to evolutionarily distant taxa, as their lineages split approximately 90–100 million years ago . In this first comparative neuroimaging study of a nonprimate and a primate species, we made use of this special combination of shared environment and evolutionary distance. We presented dogs and humans with the same set of vocal and nonvocal stimuli to search for functionally analogous voice-sensitive cortical regions. We demonstrate that voice areas exist in dogs and that they show a similar pattern to anterior temporal voice areas in humans. Our findings also reveal that sensitivity to vocal emotional valence cues engages similarly located nonprimary auditory regions in dogs and humans. Although parallel evolution cannot be excluded, our findings suggest that voice areas may have a more ancient evolutionary origin than previously known.
“There were 12 sessions of preparatory training, then seven sessions in the scanner room, then these dogs were able to lie motionless for as long as eight minutes. Once they were trained, they were so happy, I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t see it.”
For comparison, the team looked at the brains of 22 human volunteers in the same MRI scanners.
The scientists played the people and pooches 200 different sounds, ranging from environmental noises, such as car sounds and whistles, to human sounds (but not words) and dog vocalisations.
The researchers found that a similar region – the temporal pole, which is the most anterior part of the temporal lobe – was activated when both the animals and people heard human voices.
“We do know there are voice areas in humans, areas that respond more strongly to human sounds that any other types of sounds,” Dr Andics explained.
“The location (of the activity) in the dog brain is very similar to where we found it in the human brain. The fact that we found these areas exist at all in the dog brain at all is a surprise – it is the first time we have seen this in a non-primate.”
Emotional sounds, such as crying and laughter also had a similar pattern of activity, with an area near the primary auditory cortex lighting up in dogs and humans.
Likewise, emotionally charged dog vocalisations – such as whimpering or angry barking – also caused a similar reaction in all volunteers,
Dr Andics said: “We know very well that dogs are very good at tuning into the feelings of their owners, and we know a good dog owner can detect emotional changes in his dog – but we now begin to understand why this can be.”
However, while the dogs responded to the human voice, their reactions were far stronger when it came to canine sounds.
They also seemed less able to distinguish between environmental sounds and vocal noises compared with humans.
About half of the whole auditory cortex lit up in dogs when listening to these noises, compared with 3% of the same area in humans.
Commenting on the research, Prof Sophie Scott, from the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London, said: “Finding something like this in a primate brain isn’t too surprising – but it is quite something to demonstrate it in dogs.
“Dogs are a very interesting animal to look at – we have selected for a lot of traits in dogs that have made them very amenable to humans. Some studies have show they understand a lot of words and they understand intentionality – pointing.”
But she added: “It would be interesting to see the animal’s response to words rather than just sounds. When we cry and laugh, they are much more like animal calls and this might be causing this response.
For the full report, as it was posted on the BBC website, click here.
Plus, do watch this five-minute video abstract.
Published on Feb 20, 2014
The video presents the first study to compare brain function between humans and any non-primate animal. Scientists at MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group in Hungary found that dogs and humans use similar neural mechanisms to process social information in voices. The fact that dogs can be trained to lie motionless during fMRI tests opens up the space for a new branch of comparative neuroscience.
The first study to compare brain function between humans and any non-primate animal shows that dogs have dedicated voice areas in their brains just as people do. Dog brains, like those of people, are also sensitive to acoustic cues of emotion, according to a study in the Cell Press journal Current Biology.
The findings suggest that voice areas evolved at least 100 million years ago, the age of the last common ancestor of humans and dogs, the researchers say. It also offers new insight into humans’ unique connection with our best friends in the animal kingdom, perhaps explaining how our two species have lived and worked together so effectively for tens of thousands of years.
“Our findings suggest that dogs and humans not only share a similar social environment, but they also use similar brain mechanisms to process social information,” said Atilla Andics of MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group in Hungary. “This may help the successfulness of vocal communication between the two species.”
Andics and his colleagues trained eleven dogs to lay motionless in an fMRI brain scanner. That made it possible to run the very same neuroimaging experiment on dog and human participants — something that had never been done before. They captured both dogs’ and humans’ brain activities while they listened to dog and human sounds, ranging from whining or crying to playful barking or laughing.
The images show that dog and human brains include voice areas in similar locations. Not surprisingly, the voice area of dogs responds more strongly to other dogs, while that of humans responds more strongly to other humans. The researchers also noted striking similarities in the ways the dog and human brain processes emotionally loaded sounds. In both species, an area near the primary auditory cortex lit up more with happy sounds than unhappy ones. Andics said they were most struck by the common response to emotion across species.
There were some differences too: in dogs, 48 percent of all sound-sensitive brain regions respond more strongly to sounds other than voices. That’s in contrast to humans, in which only three percent of sound-sensitive brain regions show greater response to non-vocal versus vocal sounds.
The study is the first step to understanding how it is that dogs can be so remarkably good at tuning into the feelings of their human owners. “This method offers a totally new way of looking at neural processing in dogs,” Andics said. “At last we begin to understand how our best friend is looking at us and navigating in our social environment.”
Although this is the second time this has been shown it is so remarkable, and there may well be many who have not seen it!
In the last twenty-four hours I was in communication with a person in Essex, England about dog training (and hopefully there will be a guest post from him) and it caused me to think of Angela Stockdale.
I then did a search on my blog for posts where I had mentioned Angela and came across quite a few in the early days of blogging. Then I thought it would be nice to republish one of them; Four Years Old.
So here it is again.
How time flies!
Four years ago this day, the first post was published on Learning from Dogs. Here it is again:
Parenting lessons from Dogs!
Much too late to make me realise the inadequacies of my own parenting skills, I learnt an important lesson when training my GSD (who is called Pharaoh, by the way). That is that putting more emphasis into praise and reward for getting it right ‘trains’ the dog much quicker than telling it off. The classic example is scolding a dog for running off when it should be lots of hugs and praise for returning home. The scolding simply teaches the dog that returning home isn’t pleasant whereas praise reinforces that home is the place to be. Like so many things in life, very obvious once understood!
Absolutely certain that it works with youngsters just the same way.
Despite being a very dominant dog, Pharaoh showed his teaching ability when working with other dogs. In the UK there is an amazing woman, Angela Stockdale, who has proved that dogs (and horses) learn most effectively when being taught by other dogs (and horses). Pharaoh was revealed to be a Beta Dog, (i.e. second in status below the Alpha Dog) and, therefore, was able to use his natural pack instinct to teach puppy dogs their social skills and to break up squabbles within a pack.
When you think about it, don’t kids learn much more (often to our chagrin!) from other kids than they do from their parents. Still focusing on giving more praise than punishment seems like a much more effective strategy.
As was read somewhere, Catch them in the act of doing Right!
By Paul Handover.
As it happens, it feels a little like ‘what goes around, comes around’. Why do I say that?
Because just last Saturday, I sent off a selection of pictures and videos to Angela Stockdale. Stay with me for a while as to the reason why.
Angela trades under the name of The Dog Partnership and, frankly, what she doesn’t know about the behaviour of dogs isn’t worth bothering about!
Just take a peek at the page on her website under the heading of Teaching Dogs. Here’s a little of what Angela writes:
I consider myself so lucky for dogs alone to have been my teachers. I learnt from watching how my own dogs responded to another dog’s body language and vice versa their language. Watching, learning and working with Teaching Dogs was the only way I knew.
I was and always will be in awe of a Teaching Dog’s dogs ability to consciously adapt their body language in accordance to how the other dog was feeling. The result being, they could relax nervous dogs but at the same time maintain control of a problem situation. Remember, dogs talk dog far better than we do.
It came as quite a shock to me when I learnt about other approaches. It seemed foreign for people to have so much input in resolving what were described as ‘ behavioural’ issues. For me, working with these dogs was far more than resolving a behavioural issue. It was about improving the quality of lives of dogs who were not coping with everyday life. If they found dogs or people worrying, sometimes this was shown in displays of aggression. It is important to understand, these dogs were not aggressive, they simply displayed aggressive behaviour.
Now, I would like to introduce you to the world of Teaching Dogs and how these special dogs change the lives of less fortunate dogs, who never had the opportunity to really understand how to communicate with their own species.
Back to why those photographs and videos had been sent to Angela. A couple of weeks ago, we enjoyed an evening meal with friends of friends, so to speak. This other couple owned a beautiful-looking male German Shepherd dog: Duke. Duke was 4-years-old. Our hostess remarked that he was very boisterous and had nipped a couple of strangers who had called at the house. She added that he seemed difficult to control. Duke had been there for about a month and he was a rescue so they had little or no knowledge of past behaviour.
Well, I’m no expect with dogs, that’s Jean’s domain. But there was something about Duke that captivated me. Something in the way he looked at me, his eyes linking so directly with mine, allowing me to see a dog that offered an honest openness.
More or less on impulse I stood up, held my right arm up at 45 degrees, looked Duke in the face and said, “Duke! Sit!”
Duke held my gaze and sat back on his haunches.
I moved my arm in a complete circle, around to the right, and said, “Duke! Lie down!” Duke lay down.
H’mm, I thought. Fascinating. This dog has been professionally trained at some point in the past, using the same ‘command’ system of voice and arm signalling as I had learnt with Pharaoh way back in 2003/2004.
The food was now on the table. I grabbed a small piece of meat off my plate and returned to Duke who had, of course, resumed his pottering around the room. “Duke! Here boy!” Duke came over to me. “Duke! Lie down!” Duke did so. I placed the piece of meat on the wooden floor about three feet in front of him. Duke’s eyes were riveted on the meat. “Duke!” Duke’s eyes reluctantly engaged with mine. “Duke! Stay!” I repeated the Stay command a couple more times as I backed away about 6 or 8 feet.
“Go on, Boy. Take the meat!” Duke gleefully grabbed the piece of meat. Gracious, I thought, this dog is magnificent. I wonder ……..
I took another piece of meat, “Duke! Sit!” “Duke! Stay!” I then backed off that 8 feet again, got down on my knees and placed the piece of meat just between my lips. I knew this was potential madness with a dog I had only met some 30 minutes previously, but there wasn’t an ounce of doubt in my mind. I voiced in my throat for Duke to fetch the meat. Duke came straight over and confidently and carefully removed the meat from my lips.
What a truly fabulous dog! It was a wonderful evening and once home both Jean and I were eulogising about Duke.
Then two days later, our dinner hostess rang me. “You know, I have decided we can no longer keep Duke. He is too strong a dog, I can’t control him. Is there any chance of you finding a new home for Duke?”
Without question, Jean and I would have offered Duke a new home; in a heartbeat. The only thing stopping that was me wondering if this strong-willed, male German Shepherd might be a Beta dog, as Pharaoh was. Or just might be too dominant a male dog to fit in comfortably with our dogs, especially Pharaoh who was at the stage of life where the last thing that should happen is for his happiness and contentment to be disturbed.
I hadn’t a clue as to how to answer that question. But I knew someone who would know: Angela Stockdale.
I rang her, caught up on old times and then explained the background to Duke’s situation. Angela said to repeat the exercise that I had witnessed when I took Pharaoh to her all those years ago, when I wondered if Pharaoh was an aggressive dog. My uncertainty with regard to Pharaoh followed a number of times when walking him in a public area with other dogs and he had been very threatening, both in voice and posture, towards some of those other dogs.
This is what Angela arranged. I took Pharaoh up to her place at Wheddon Cross, near Minehead in Somerset. When we arrived, Angela was standing just by a gate into a fenced paddock, maybe a half-acre in size. In the far corner were two dogs.
Angela asked me to bring Pharaoh to the gate and let him off the leash. It was clear that Pharaoh was going to be let into the paddock. I cautioned that Pharaoh could be quite a handful with other dogs and, perhaps, it would be better that I walked him into the area still on his lead. Angela said that wouldn’t be necessary. So as she held the gate open sufficient for Pharaoh to enter the paddock, I slipped the lead off him and backed away, as requested.
Pharaoh had hardly taken 2 or 3 paces when Angela called out, “Paul, there’s nothing wrong with him!”
I was astounded and stammered, “But, er, er, how can you tell so quickly?” “Because my two dogs haven’t taken any notice!”, came the reply.
Later Angela explained that in the paddock were her female Alpha dog and her male Beta dog. Ergo, the two top dogs in terms of status so far as dogs see other dogs.
In fact, Pharaoh was utterly subservient to these dogs, in a way that I had never witnessed before. Later on, as Pharaoh relaxed and started playing, Angela said that she thought that Pharaoh was a Beta dog. Mixing some of her other dogs into the group was later able to confirm that.
So back now to present times and Duke.
Thus last Saturday, as Angela recommended, we selected two of our dogs, Cleo our female German Shepherd and the most socialable of dogs, and Casey, a strong but not aggressive male (he had some PitBull in him).
Duke arrived and was allowed freely to nose around the large grassed area some way from the fenced-off horse paddock that we were using for the ‘introduction’.
Duke pottered around and then caught sight of Cleo and Casey in the paddock.
Then the meetings began!
And play didn’t seem to be too far off the agenda!
So all the photographs and videos have been sent to Angela, and we will see what the conclusion is!
As Angela put it, “Remember, dogs talk dog far better than we do.”
Yes there’s no question that dogs talk dog far better than we do!
During the political campaign season, Americans are deciding who has the characteristics, skills and temperament to be president. As a dog psychologist and founder of the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University, I spend my time studying the relationship between dogs and their people. I’d certainly be happy if a candidate’s attitude toward dogs could offer a simple way to evaluate a leader’s personality, cutting to the essence of a person’s character and clinching my vote without needing a detailed assessment of their policy proposals.
Is it enough just to follow the leash to choose a leader? There must be good people with bad dogs, or no dog at all, and some notoriously bad people who were loved by their dogs, no? But I want to believe that canine companionship can still shed lightonhumancharacter and help us pick a candidate.
Dogless in the White House
For the past three years, the pup-parazzi have been speculating on President Donald Trump’s dogless existence at the White House. It’s certainly most common for the president to have a dog – perhaps because, as someone reputedly said, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”
Biden might want to be careful of the historical baggage that comes with this popular large breed. The most famous German shepherd in politics must surely have been Blondi, the dog Adolf Hitler himself said was the only being that loved him.
Bailey features so prominently in his owner’s social media feeds that Warren might want to be careful not to be upstaged by her pooch. George H.W. Bush’s dog, Millie, published a memoir that outsold President Ronald Reagan’s contemporaneous “An American Life.”
Other candidates either have no dog or are happy to keep their canine enthusiasms to themselves.
The Facebook group “Pet Lovers for Bernie Sanders” had to photo-edit dogs into an image of Sanders and his wife, who have no dog.
Michael Bloomberg was in the “apparently dogless” camp until just the other week when he got into a spot of dog difficulty by shaking a pooch by its snout rather than engaging in one of the more customary forms of interspecies greeting. The dog looked unperturbed, but pet lovers on social media roasted Bloomberg for his maladroitness.
The billionaire’s campaign quickly stitched together a 30-second ad spot of dogs voiced to endorse their candidate – ending with a cute white Lab who “says,” “I’m Mike Bloomberg’s dog, and I approve this message.”
Canine character references
Of course, dogless people get elected all the time – they can always pick up a pooch later. The Obama family did not acquire their dog, Bo, until three months after the inauguration. Having originally indicated an interest in rescuing a shelter mutt, they ended up with a pedigree Portuguese water dog because of their daughter Malia’s allergies. Though often known as the “Big Dog,” Bill Clinton did not acquire a dog of his own, a chocolate Labrador retriever, until his second term.
On Trump’s doglessness, the memoirs of his ex-wife, Ivana, are often quoted: “Donald was not a dog fan. When I told him I was bringing Chappy with me to New York, he said, ‘No.’ ‘It’s me and Chappy or no one!’ I insisted, and that was that.” But two sentences farther on – and far less frequently cited – Ivana adds, “Donald never objected to Chappy’s sleeping on my side of the bed.”
In fact, from 2010 to 2015, the Westminster Kennel Club had a tradition of sending the winner of its annual show to be photographed with Trump at his eponymous New York tower. Images fromthattime show Trump happily hugging the pooches.
Witness accounts from these meetings, quoted by Snopes.com in an assessment of the claim that Trump hates dogs, recall Trump thoroughly enjoying himself cuddling the prize-winning canines. Snopes concluded that claims Trump considers dogs “disgusting” were just plain false.
Asked at a press conference in April 1947 what had become of the pup, Truman responded: “To what?” On receiving clarification, he lied, “Oh, he’s around.” In fact, Truman had already given Feller away to his physician, Brig. Gen. Wallace Graham.
Much as we might like dogs to tell us whom to vote for, the truth is, dogs are such forgiving assessors of human character that their appraisals need to be taken with more than a pinch of salt. We may just have to do the hard yards and learn about the candidate’s policies. It isn’t easy. Maybe not having to participate in a democracy is what keeps our dogs so happy.
This is both a lovely and intelligent article. Professor Clive Wynne raises some important points but concludes that we shouldn’t take it too seriously. I, for one, would not trust a person who doesn’t like dogs!
I am minded to start today’s post with that reflection because quite simply it was the way to introduce my republication of Wibble’s post.
The article is about Dexter and is just lovely. It is called Older or wiser.
Older or wiser
By Dexter, February 19th, 2020
I’m sitting here and the rain is drizzling down the window. It’s February, its windy, we’ve had two winter storms in quick succession and they are digging up the road outside my house. Do they not know I am trying to sleep. Even more surprising but equally as joyous, Lenny isn’t trying to bite me. Now if you have read some of my recent blogs, you will know I have been somewhat contemplative. If you are hoping for shenanigans in this article, then I fear you will again be somewhat disappointed. Earlier today I was wondering to myself about becoming older and, apparently, wiser.
Being older is a bit obvious really. I have more grey hair, I eat my dinner more slowly and I don’t need to walk as far as I used to. I’ve even missed scenting rabbits and squirrels according to assorted parents I have been attached to when these alleged missed sightings have taken place. I can still play bitey face with Lenny, and give him what for, but I tend to duck out of said prolonged snout jousting after a short time. Being beagles we are docile chaps and even when we are in full cry with sofa covers flying around, furniture being rearranged and rugs being ruffled, we manage to stop for a breather on fairly regular occasions. Sometimes it takes a parent stepping in between us to remind the warring parties that its time for a break but, on the whole, we tend to cease and desist quite readily. I am then happy to retire to one of my six or so beds to snooze. However Lenny seems to have a little extra bounce in his paws although I think that is because he is around eighteen months old and I am, allegedly, going to be ten next birthday. No one truly knows how old I am due to me being a rescue but the wise money is on nearly ten now. I am happy for him to run around a little longer, chew what remains of one of my toys and then fall asleep on the sofa. Usually this is interspersed with trying to bite me but again, being docile, I try and fend him off without sending clear signals that I just want to rest.
As for being wiser, I don’t really know what that entails. If it means that I have seen things, been places and done stuff, then yes I am wiser. If it means that having done said activities, I have learned from the experiences, then not necessarily. For example I have been on the tube and train to London quite a few times, however I still want to investigate what those wonderful smells are down on the track. Thank goodness for a lead and attached human apparently. Another example, is that I have lived here for seven Christmases and, despite the jolly red faced man delivering me many wonderful things but nothing closely resembling a pizza tasting gift, it is wrapping paper I am still fascinated by. I can’t eat it, I know I can’t, but does it stop me from trying? Of course not. Many winters have I seen here, many dirty puddles have I walked through in a Moses style and many times have I been told “Dex, no, ugh good grief you look like the Creature from the Black Lagoon”. Does it stop me stomping through puddles in the most triumphal fashion? No, of course not. I have stopped chasing pigeons in the garden and that’s not because I am banned from the garden. Far from it, for I merely allow my protege to chase them for me. Young whipper-snapper legs are faster than these old bones of mine. I have stopped chewing my toys to a misshapen soggy jumble of fabric, with an accompanying scene of death and destruction wrought across the rugs. Again I leave the dental lobotomisation of toys to Lenny, as he seems to have picked up the baton fairly quickly and extremely proficiently.
If growing older and wiser means seeing things, going places, enjoying the view, smelling more flowers and generally knowing that I should take my time to appreciate and immerse myself in all the things I rushed to see previously, then I am older and wiser. I still have adventures, I still walk and pull on the lead, stick my head down rabbit holes and try to climb the banks along the lanes and byways I explore. I still look in awe at the beauty of the countryside I visit, gaze at the buildings and people in the city. But I let it sink in now, I actually look at what is in front of me and then usually fall asleep soon after, twitching and dreaming. I am trying to pass on my perceived wisdom to Lenny. He is often too busy bouncing around, trying to sniff everything, meet every fur and being a very lovable pest in as quick a time as possible. I see much in Lenny that I had in my youth and this gives me a warm feeling. I hope I can help him to understand that, at some point, he will sit and watch the world go by, with a peace and calmness that I seem to be achieving more often.
Who knows, maybe that is the secret to being older and wiser.
Just read that last paragraph again. Especially the first sentence: “If growing older and wiser means seeing things, going places, enjoying the view, smelling more flowers and generally knowing that I should take my time to appreciate and immerse myself in all the things I rushed to see previously, then I am older and wiser.”
In my opinion dogs do this so much better than we humans. Yet another lesson to be learned from dogs!
Because both for dogs and their human friends, it’s only a matter of time!
But the single most important lesson is integrity.
Again, another post from previous times. Albeit just a couple of years ago.
Another tribute to dear Pharaoh.
The most profound thing that I learned from Pharaoh is that dogs are creatures of integrity. That goes back to a day in June, 2007. Some six months before I met Jeannie in Mexico in December, 2007. I was sitting in Jon’s home office just a few miles from where Pharaoh and I were then living in South Devon.
It was a key chapter in Part Four of my book where I examine all the qualities that we humans need to learn from our dogs.
In the Introduction to this book I mentioned how the notion of “learning from dogs” went back to 2007 and me learning that dogs were creatures of integrity. Let me now elaborate on that.
It is a Friday morning in June in the year 2007. I am sitting with Jon at his place with Pharaoh sleeping soundly on the beige carpet behind my chair. I didn’t know it at the time but it was to become one of those rare moments when we gain an awareness of life that forever changes how we view the world, both the world within and the world without.
“Paul, I know there’s more for me to listen to and I sense that we have established a relationship in which you feel safe to reveal your feelings. However, today I want to talk about consciousness. Because I would like to give you an awareness of this aspect of what we might describe under the overall heading of mindfulness.”
I sat quietly fascinated by what was a new area for me.
“During the years that I have been a psychotherapist, I’ve seen an amazing range of personalities, probably explored every human emotion known. In a sense, explored the consciousness of a person. But what is clear to me now is that one can distil those different personalities and emotions into two broad camps: those who embrace truth and those who do not.”
Jon paused, sensing correctly that I was uncertain as to what to make of this. I made it clear that I wanted him to continue.
“Yes, fundamentally, there are people who deny the truth about themselves, who actively resist that pathway of better self-awareness, and then there are those people who want to know the truth of whom they are and seek it out when the opportunity arises. The former group could be described as false, lacking in integrity and unsupportive of life, while the latter group are diametrically opposite: truthful, behaving with integrity and supportive of life.”
It was then that Jon lit a fire inside me that is still burning bright to this day. For he paused, quietly looking at Pharaoh sleeping so soundly on the carpet, and went on to add, “And when I look at dogs, I have no question that they have a consciousness that is predominantly truthful: that they are creatures of integrity and supportive of life.”
That brought me immediately to the edge of my seat, literally, with the suddenness of my reaction causing Pharaoh to open his eyes and lift up his head. I knew in that instant that something very profound had just occurred. I slipped out of my chair, got down on my hands and knees and gave Pharaoh the most loving hug of his life. Dogs are creatures of integrity. Wow!
Later, when driving home, I couldn’t take my mind off the idea that dogs were creatures of integrity. What were those other values that Jon had mentioned? It came to me in a moment: truthful and supportive of life. Dogs have a consciousness that is truthful, that they are creatures of integrity and supportive of life: what a remarkable perception of our long-time companions.
I had no doubt that all nature’s animals could be judged in the same manner but what made it such an incredibly powerful concept, in terms of dogs, was the unique relationship between dogs and humans, a relationship that went back for thousands upon thousands of years. I realised that despite me knowing I would never have worked it out on my own, Jon’s revelation about dogs being creatures of integrity was so utterly and profoundly obvious.
As I made myself my usual light lunch of a couple of peanut butter sandwiches and some fruit and then sat enjoying a mug of hot tea, I still couldn’t take my mind off what Jon had revealed: dogs are examples of integrity and truth. I then thought that the word “examples” was not the right word and just let my mind play with alternatives. Then up popped: Dogs are beacons of integrity and truth. Yes, that’s it! Soon after, I recognised that what had just taken place was an incredible opening of my mind, an opening of my mind that didn’t just embrace this aspect of dogs but extended to me thinking deeply about integrity for the first time in my life.
Considering that this chapter is titled “Integrity”, so far all you have been presented with is a somewhat parochial account of how for the first time in my life the word “integrity” took on real meaning. That until that moment in 2007 the word had not had any extra significance for me over the thousands of other words in the English language. Time, therefore, to focus directly on integrity.
“If goodness is to win, it has to be smarter than the enemy.”
That was a comment written on my blog some years ago, left by someone who writes their own blog under the nom-de-plume of Patrice Ayme. It strikes me as beautifully relevant to these times, times where huge numbers of decent, law-abiding folk are concerned about the future. Simply because those sectors of society that have much control over all our lives do not subscribe to integrity, let alone giving it the highest political and commercial focus that would flow from seeing integrity as an “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.” To quote my American edition of Roget’s Thesaurus.
Let me borrow an old pilot’s saying from the world of aviation: “If there’s any doubt, there’s no doubt!”
That embracing, cautious attitude is part of the reason why commercial air transport is one of the safest forms of transport in the world today. If you had the slightest doubt about the safety of a flight, you wouldn’t board the aircraft. If you had the slightest doubt about the future for civilisation on this planet, likewise you would do something! Remember, that dry word civilisation means family, children, grandchildren, friends, and loved ones. The last thing you would do is to carry on as before!
The great challenge for this civilisation, for each and every one of us, is translating that sense of wanting to change into practical, effective behaviours. I sense, however, that this might be looking down the wrong end of the telescope. That it is not a case of learning to behave in myriad different ways but looking at one’s life from a deeper, more fundamental perspective: living as a person of integrity. So perfectly expressed in the Zen Buddhist quote: “Be master of mind rather than mastered by mind.” Seeing integrity as the key foundation of everything we do. Even more fundamental than that. Seeing integrity as everything you and I are.
It makes no difference that society in general doesn’t seem to value integrity in such a core manner. For what is society other than the aggregate of each and every one of us? If we all embrace living a life of integrity then society will reflect that.
Integrity equates to being truthful, to being honest. It doesn’t mean being right all the time, of course not, but integrity does mean accepting responsibility for all our actions, for feeling remorse and apologising when we make mistakes. Integrity means learning, being reliable, and being a builder rather than a destroyer. It means being authentic. That authenticity is precisely and exactly what we see in our dogs.
The starting point for what we must learn from our dogs is integrity.
I was sorting out some stuff the other day and came across the following. It is the record of a talk I gave some time ago in connection with the publication of my book Learning from Dogs.
As much as I would have expected to have previously published this on the blog I cannot find an entry. So here you are!
The concept of attributing dogs with human traits is nothing new. In fact the ancient Greeks came up with a fancy word for it around two thousand years ago: anthropomorphism.
As ever, the truth of the matter is not a case of black and white but subtle shades of grey. No doubt in another two thousand years as science advances and we discover more about DNA and the mysteries of the human and canine brains the picture will develop into sharper focus. In the meantime, we must satisfy ourselves with some basic observations.
Let’s start off on common ground. One thing that we all seem to agree on is that humans are at the top of the pile in terms of evolutionary sophistication. For obvious reasons we view ourselves as the being the highest life form (although there is increasing alarm that we have totally lost touch with our basic instincts, if not totally lost the plot, by endangering the very planet that sustains life as we know it).
But I digress – back to common ground. We agree that as children our mental capacity is not fully developed. We survive by our instincts and the basic needs to be fed, watered, sheltered and bonded in a family group where we defer to a natural hierarchy. When you think about it this is precisely how dogs survive.
Like children, dogs display the most basic instincts to rough and tumble, compete for toys and establish a natural pecking order. Inherent in this is the need for a parent or pack leader to set down boundaries and create order and stability out of chaos. Without this both child and dog feel insecure and may well grow to display anti-social behaviour.
You would responsibly bring a child up with love and discipline, have consistent boundaries, teach them what is safe and what is dangerous, what is sociable and what is unsociable.
Dogs too need love and discipline, consistent boundaries, and to learn what is safe and what is dangerous, what is sociable and what is unsociable.
Communicating with a child is not so very different from communicating with a dog. Young children, like dogs, do not have the power of speech so you have to work out alternative strategies to speech in order to get through to them. You will find that if you approach a dog in much the same way as you approach a child, life will be a whole lot easier for you. And the dog! Hopefully you will have realised that praise is a far stronger motivator that punishment.
A positive approach.
Take the example of the puppy that makes a puddle on the floor and the child that wets its bed. Each one of them have not learnt control of their bladder and are simply responding to the call of nature. Neither are being naughty nor are in the wrong.
Yelling at the child will only make it more stressed and, therefore, more likely to continue wetting the bed. In exactly the same way if a puppy has an accident on the carpet being harsh will make matters worse.
How many human ‘sports’ involve chasing a moving object? How many of these games also involve people working as a team to ‘catch’ these objects? Football, rugby, basketball, tennis, badminton, etc. I could go on but you get the idea.
Why do we enjoy these games? Is it not because we too are instinctively striving for a pecking order within the pack and following our predatory instincts.
“No, no no!’ I hear you say. ‘We are a civilised, sophisticated race who have created these games for our enjoyment. They are so different to the throw and fetch games our canine friends mindlessly enjoy.’
Don’t kid yourself. Look also how football supporters revert to uninhibited childlike behaviour. At worst becoming hooligans and behaving, almost literally, like savage animals when they find themselves challenged or threatened by an opposing pack.
Or on a much more positive note how hundreds of fans, unrehearsed, suddenly find one voice and break into a prefect, heart-stopping rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. Now that’s a perfect example of the ‘pack call’.
We all enjoy the close relationship we have with our dogs. Maybe sometimes we don’t realise quite how close we are.