We woke yesterday on the first day of the New Year to a classic Winter’s scene: Snow!
Not long after we were washed and dressed I let the dogs out. Typically, while all of them were quick to return to the warmth of the house, Brandy went off on one of his ‘walkabouts’. It was probably the first time he had seen snow.
Twenty minutes later, I started walking down our driveway (just visible in the photograph above running alongside the far tree line) because I knew that Brandy had walked down to the (closed) front gate to check everything out.
I saw Brandy coming back up the driveway and called to him. He looked up, wagged his tail, and I then crouched down holding my arms apart. Brandy started a wonderful, bouncy run that continued until he came right up to me and he then buried his wonderful, furry head between my thighs.
We walked together back to the house and went inside. As we walked together I was aware of a feeling of joyous happiness, a magic that was flowing from the way that Brandy chose to relate to me.
It really did make my heart sing and as I write these words some three hours later I hope you can pick up the gift of goodness that dogs, and so many other animals, offer us humans.
On his way to a call Dec. 17, Deputy Brian Bowling came across a dog stumbling down the middle of an Arizona road.
The pit bull mix named Ginger had been shot in the head by a neighbor who said he felt threatened after the dog dug a hole under her backyard’s fence and wandered into his yard.
Ginger was alive, but not for long.
“She was bleeding profusely from her head and neck,” Bowling told ABC15. In addition to being a deputy with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, Bowling also happens to be a trained paramedic and a veteran who served in Afghanistan. He knew he had to act quickly.
“I had a little flashback, because we had seen military working dogs over there who were blown up by IEDs and shot, and that’s what went through my head,” he told ABC15. “I thought I had to do anything to save its life.”
When he approached Ginger to move her out of traffic, Bowling wasn’t sure how the injured dog would react. “But instead of running away from me or trying to bite me, she ran right up to me and started wagging her tail,” he told FOX 10. She then tried to climb up into the driver’s seat of his patrol car.
Bowling applied combat gauze to her wound, helping to stop the bleeding, and rushed her to a local emergency animal hospital.
His quick actions saved Ginger’s life. She was also fortunate that the bullet bounced off her skull instead of penetrating it.
Foster Mom Couldn’t Afford the Surgery
But Ginger’s luck seemed to be running out. When her foster mom, Hailey Miller, was told Ginger still needed surgery that would cost thousands of dollars, she made the difficult decision to have the dog euthanized. “If I had [the money], I wouldn’t even hesitate,” she told ABC 15.
Just as Bowling had saved Ginger from dying in the middle of the road, he decided he would save her from being put down.
“It just didn’t seem right for a dog that survived so much to die because the owner didn’t have the money to pay for it,” he told ABC15. He paid for her surgery himself, putting it on his credit card.
“If this man has this kind of empathy and love for a dog, imagine what he has for people and the rest of the world,” she told ABC 15. “There is such a lesson that can be learned from him.”
Ginger is recovering, Miller wrote on Facebook. She’s now able to walk and eat, and is “so sweet as usual.”
To reimburse Bowling, Miller has launched a GoFundMe campaign that has raised over $6,000.
“It is my Christmas wish that with the help of all animal lovers around the world, I can pay this deputy back,” Miller wrote. “Any remaining funds will go toward law enforcement charities, animal rescues and future rescue dogs that are always coming through my rotating door. Of course the officer will be involved in choosing these charities!”
One week ago it was Christmas Day and in the blink of an eyelid it is now New Year’s Day.
Here we are on the first day of the year 2017.
Where is the year going to go? As in where is humanity heading over the next twelve months? Who knows and, frankly, guessing isn’t going to offer clear answers. As that silly saying goes: “I can predict anything except those things involving the future!”
But what is certain is that the need to care for and love our dogs continues day after day. My introduction to an essay recently published over on the Care2 site.
5 Simple New Year’s Resolutions to Improve Your Dog’s Life
When we think of New Year’s resolutions, we often think of changes in our lives we’ve been trying to make for years. Often they are massive changes. But, in reality, sometimes the smallest changes can make the biggest difference over time. The same can be said for changes we make in our pet’s lives. These five resolutions are simple and will be enjoyed by you just as much as Buster. And you will be improving both of your lives in the process.
1. Take a Sonic Inventory
Those of us who love our pets often assume that our environment is the best for our pets. However, sometimes it requires a different way of thinking. What works for us doesn’t always work best for our pets. Taking a sonic inventory of your environment is a good way to check for sounds in your house that may be causing stress to your pets. Sound is like air. We rarely notice these two common elements unless the air suddenly becomes polluted or the sound becomes chaotic.
The sonic inventory is one way of becoming aware of the noise in your pet’s environment. Simply sit on your sofa with pen and paper in hand. Jot down all of the sounds you hear and rate them from one to 10. Observe your pet’s response to these sounds. Ask yourself how you can make your home a calmer, more peaceful place, for yourself and for your pets. Often, just by listening, we become more sonically aware, an important first step. Small changes made in your sound environment can often make a big difference in your pet’s behavior.
2. Enjoy a Silent Meditation Hike
Have you ever walked with your dog in total silence? It’s very interesting trying to observe the world from their point of view. Allow Buster to stop and sniff as much as he wants. Taking in the scents gives him all sorts of information and provides him with enrichment. Take a break with Buster. Just sit still without any verbal communication and enjoy all the sights and smells. You’ll be amazed how bonding time in nature is with your furry friend when you aren’t speaking any words.
3. Teach Your Dog a New Trick
No matter how young or old your dog, she will love learning new tricks. Learning new things provides them with much needed mental stimulation. Use a clicker and positive reinforcement training, and it will be just as fun for you as your pup.
4. Teach Him to Tug
Tug is great exercise for dogs and is often a great stress reliever. Pat Miller, training editor of The Whole Dog Journal, wrote about the benefits of playing tug with your dog (when they follow the rules). A good game of tug provides:
a legal outlet for roughhousing
builds healthy relationships
offers incredibly useful reinforcement potential
redirects inappropriate use of teeth
creates a useful distraction
Just make sure that you teach a release word and randomly have him release the tug toy throughout your playtime together.
5. Give Her a Massage
Dogs reduce our stress. Canine massage is a way of giving back to them so that we can reduce theirs. Veterinarian Narda Robinson, Director at Colorado State University’s Center for Comparative and Integrative Pain Medicine, teaches classes on canine massage. She believes that administered with science knowledge, canine massage can help dogs recover from injuries, illness and stress.
Do you have new year’s resolutions for your pets? Thanks for sharing them in a comment below.
Please, all of you, have a very safe, peaceful and loving New Year.
Thank you for your companionship these last twelve months, and beyond.
We’re about to turn over a new leaf on a new year — something I think we’re all pretty excited about — and it’s a good time to sit back, take stock, and think about what we want to do for ourselves, and the world, in 2017.
New year’s resolutions don’t have to be big and fancy, and sometimes they work best when they’re small and manageable, so I rounded up seven totally free ways you can help animals next year, from something you can do weekly (like writing letters) to bigger projects (like fostering animals).
1) Keep an eagle eye on upcoming animal-related legislation.
Chances are that there’s some animal-related regulation coming your way in 2017 on the local, state and even federal level. This includes laws and ordinances as well as rules, regulations and executive orders. You can make a big difference by weighing in on these issues — sometimes, surprisingly few members of the public comment!
You can take advantage of resources for animal welfare groups and sites like Care2 to keep track of big upcoming government actions. You may want to call or write to support legislation, to ask that it be more robust, or to oppose it, depending on the contents. For legislation, you need to contact your elected official to explain how you feel and provide a concrete action to take, like “Please cosponsor this bill” or “please vote against this bill.” Rules and regulations are opened to public comment by the agencies making them, allowing you to speak at public meetings or submit written comments.
The Federal Register is a great place to search for upcoming regulations — it’s a little bit intimidating at first, but don’t let that put you off!
2) Don’t be sheepish — speak up about nonlethal solutions to predators and pests.
No matter where you live, there’s probably a battle brewing over feral cats, mountain lions, raccoons, coyotes, skunks, alligators, or someone else from the non-human world who’s getting squeezed by human incursion into its habitat. Historically, many areas have favored a lethal response to animals deemed “pests.” You can change that — and you already are, across the country. When you see animals on the agenda, speak up to request investigation into a nonlethal solution to a problem.
For example, maybe a feral cat colony is causing controversy in the community. You can talk about how responsible colony management should control numbers and limit annoying smells. You could also discuss how research shows that TNR can be more effective at long-term colony management than just trapping and removing cats — in Florida, they found that doing this just allowed other predators to move in, creating an even bigger headache!
Come backed with research and evidence, rather than emotion. You can look to advocacy groups for their data, but also explore scientific papers, and see how other municipalities are dealing with the same problem, because they may have tips to share.
3) Lend a paw at a local animal welfare organizations.
Animal welfare groups can always use volunteer help. At the shelter, they don’t just need a hand with cuddling cats, walking dogs, and handling other species. They need all kinds of help, from more boring stuff like cleaning and filing to web design, social media management, legal counseling, accounting, event planning, and much more. Even something as simple as taking your camera (or your photography class) to the shelter once a week to photograph everyone who’s looking for a home can make a huge difference. It turns out that great shelter photos save lives!
Advocacy groups that don’t run shelters or don’t have one in your area also need help. Lots of mundane office stuff is time consuming, and volunteers can make it go more smoothly, whether you’re stuffing envelopes or answering phones. If you have special training or skills, offer those too, especially if you’re willing to get into a long-term relationship with the group. Pro-bono legal services, for example, are incredibly valuable. Your graphic design skills could help them relaunch an impressive, gorgeous website. You get the idea!
4) Don’t duck the issues — teach youth about animal welfare issues.
Many kids love animals, and the best time to hit people with humane messages is when they’re young. Some organizations actually offer humane educator training to help people learn about how to communicate with children about animal welfare issues. Humane educators can lead classes and mentor kids in the community, whether they’re taking people on bird walks and teaching them about ecology or working with kids who are learning to ride horses to teach them how to handle their mounts respectfully and kindly.
If you already are an educator, consider working humane topics into your curriculum. If you’re not, look into what might be required to teach classes at a community center, mentor students in programs like 4-H and FFA, lead educational sessions at a local museum (another great volunteer opportunity!), or come into classrooms with presentations. You may need some training and a background check to work with youth, but once you’re squared away, you can establish lasting relationships with teachers and schools to introduce humane coursework to the classroom and beyond.
5) You’ve goat mail — or at least, someone will after you write a letter on behalf of animals!
Once a week — or every two weeks, or once a month — resolve to sit down and write a letter. It doesn’t have to be an epic, and you can establish a template, but pick a specific person to target, and go to town. Maybe you want to write a letter-to-the-editor once a month about an animal issue in your community that you’re concerned about. Perhaps you want to write a letter to a corporation to ask them to stop, or start, a practice related to animals — like dropping animal testing, or introducing tougher humane standards to the supply chain.
Keep your letter concise, polite and actionable. Explain why you’re writing, the basis for your concern, the solution you’re recommending and why. You can appeal to issues like cost efficiency, making your town more attractive for visitors, compassion for animals (that’s why we’re here, after all!), falling in line with industry-wide practices, setting an example for others, or any number of other things. Present a clear case for what you’re arguing so that the person reading your letter is moved to act, and has something to bring to other people while trying to convince them to get involved.
6) Be a mother hen — foster somebody in need.
If you can’t adopt more animals or don’t have room for a full-time friend in your life, consider fostering. Fostering saves lives, getting animals who can’t handle shelter stress or who need a little extra care to a safe place where they can unwind and grow into themselves. Some shelters have foster programs, and many animal welfare groups do — some run almost entirely on fosters, in fact!
Generally, participants in a foster program are provided with food, medication and veterinary expenses to keep things low-key for you. If you have a spare room, fostering can be a great fit for your life, although watch out for foster fail! (When that kitten you swore you were just fostering is still lying on the living room rug ten years later, you are definitely a victim of foster fail.)
When fostering, be honest about what you can and cannot take on: For example, if you have a barn, you might be able to handle horses and sheep, but not notoriously mischievous and curious goats. You might not be able to take a kitten who needs constant feeding, or a dog that has aggression issues.
That said, if you can stretch your comfort zone, do. Some animals need a little extra care because they’ve had a hard life. That makes them vulnerable to euthanasia, and a foster can make all the difference. Things like giving animals fluids or medications, managing diapers, or handling other vet stuff might sound scary, but it’s pretty easy to get the hang of it.
7) Don’t have a cow — on your plate or anywhere else.
We saved the easiest for last, because chances are that you’re already well on your way with this one. When it comes to what you eat, consider cutting animal products — or at least meat — out of your life. You’ll save a ton of suffering, and also, a ton of money, if you’re trying to cut back in 2017.
If you can’t cut animal products out entirely, consider moderating: Meatless Mondays are popular, for example! Something else that really works for me is a soup exchange — a group of us make huge batches of vegan soup and share them out once a month, so there’s always a go-to vegan meal hanging out in my fridge or freezer when I need it!
While you’re at it, think about what you wear and use, too. Leather is an obvious source of animal suffering, but some people also like to avoid fibers like wool and cashmere (cashmere also comes with a big environmental price tag). You’d also be surprised by where animal products sneak in, from bodycare products to that goop you waterproof your shoes with. (No really. Go look.)
And, of course, cutting animal testing out of your life is valuable too. Growing numbers of cosmetics are produced without the use of animal testing, though it’s always a good idea to independently verify to see if a company is skirting labeling conventions. For example, some companies say “made without animal testing” because they don’t test ingredients on animals, but third party contractors do. Ugh!
If you take medication, you’re caught in the animal testing trap — but it’s worth writing the manufacturer, as well as the FDA, which governs drug testing, to push for alternatives to animal testing so that you have cruelty free options for your health care needs.
You can also make your preference for cruelty free medical supplies clear to your health care providers as well, as they may be able to recommend alternatives if they’re aware that this is a concern for you. (For example, some sutures are made from animal products, which is weird and creepy, and pig valves are used in some valve replacement surgeries. Gross, right?)
I have lost count of the times in the last year that I have said the following:
Thank goodness that when we were younger we really didn’t understand what it was to be old!
Now being old is to a great extent as much as a thing of the mind as it is of the body. As the saying goes: “One is only as old as you feel!” (Or as many men know it: One is only as old as the woman you feel.)
Moving swiftly on!
Dogs offer us many lessons including what it is to become old, then old and infirm, and then pass away. Which is why so many owners of their beloved dogs spend as much time and care on keeping their elderly dogs as fit as possible as they do on themselves; probably in many cases spending more care and attention on their dogs than on themselves.
Those of us who love and have dogs know that senior years always approach too fast. Sanchez, my 13 1/2 year old yellow Lab, has had his health challenges this year, but now that he’s gained back his strength and has recovered from E. coli, he’s acting younger than he has in years. I’ve noticed this not only in his energy level, but also in his cognitive abilities and in his engagement with dogs and people around him. I cherish his golden years and am always looking for ways to keep his mind active and alert, and keep him connected with life.
1. Adopt a second, younger dog.
Admittedly, I’ve been a single dog person my entire life… up until five years ago. When it felt like I was agonizing on the decision to expand my canine household, my vet said to me, “Bringing a younger dog into your household will help keep Sanchez younger as he ages.” Sanchez was only seven at the time, and that perspective had never occurred to me. It’s shown itself to be true.
2. Give daily spoonfuls of coconut oil.
I’ve written about the benefits of coconut oil for pets, everything from fur conditioner to paw protection. But, I hadn’t realized that coconut oil helps with canine cognition until I read this Cambridge study. I’ve been giving both Sanchez and Gina a tablespoon of coconut oil nightly for a couple of months. Not only do they love the taste, but I have definitely noticed an improvement in Sanchez’s cognitive abilities.
3. Train him often.
An old dog not only can learn new tricks, but also loves the attention and benefits from the mental stimulation as much as any age dog. Dogs love to learn, no matter their age. I still spend time training every night with Sanchez. As you can see in the video above, I’ve come up with ways to make his training less physical. But, he still gets rewarded for being involved and staying still. If it gets late, he starts whining and begging for his training time with me. The bonding time is precious and it stimulates him to keep learning and being challenged. He has no complaints about his yummy rewards either.
4. Mix it up.
Although dogs love consistency and build confidence through their routines, it’s sometimes good to mix up that routine as well. I recently was staying with friends and their three Golden Retrievers. While there, Sanchez loved the new smells in their backyard, neglected all of his daily naps and really enjoyed their multi-pet household, including the cats. Our routine completely changed as my friends generally rise much earlier than me and their dogs are fed right away. I decided to allow my dogs the same privilege while we were there. Of course, Sanchez just loved it. I was surprised how quickly he reverted back to our normal routine when we got home. While he’s making up for his missed naps now, he really enjoyed the change of scenery, people, pets, and general surroundings.
5. Add variety to diet, and consider nutritional needs.
I also add variety to Sanchez’s dog food. While the base is the same (organic meat), the variety comes in the extras. Sometimes I add in canned sardines, other times it’s salmon oil. I alter between any of the following additions: sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, green beans, spinach, kale, apples, and bananas. He’s a Lab and LOVES his food. Surprising him adds to his olfactory delight as well.
6. Add environmental enrichment.
Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine defines environmental or behavior enrichment as “the process of manipulating an animal’s environment to increase physical activity & normal species typical behavior that satisfies the animal’s physical and psychological needs.” Music created for senior dogs, with their hearing sensitivities in mind, is a great way to provide auditory stimulation that engages their senses.
7. Incorporate nose work.
Dogs often lose hearing and sight in their senior years. But, as long as they can still smell, they can still find their way around. I’ve honestly met blind and deaf dogs that were still retrieving balls, and I barely noticed any impairment to their sight or hearing. Engage a dog’s nose, and you’ll keep him stimulated.
K9 Nose Work defines this sport as “the fun search and scenting activity for virtually all dogs and people. This easy to learn activity and sport builds confidence and focus in many dogs, and provides a safe way to keep dogs fit and healthy through mental and physical exercise.” I enrolled Sanchez in classes a couple of years ago, and now we play “find” games at home. I hide pieces of liver in boxes spread throughout the living room. He searches for the piece of liver and is rewarded with more liver in the box when he finds it. He LOVES this search game.
8. Play often.
No matter the age, dogs enjoy and benefit from playtime. Even if they don’t have the same physical abilities as their younger canine friends, they can still engage in play. Try a game of hide and seek. Actually, all training and nose-work games should also feel like play to them. Pretend you’re a kid again, and they’ll pick up on your energy and thank you for it.
9. Walk them in new areas.
Again, engaging their nose helps keep them stimulated and interested in their surroundings. Bringing them to a new area for a walk is another way to do that. Sanchez is still often with me in the car. So, once a week, I try and stop in a new area for him to explore.
10. Take time to smell the roses.
Walks may no longer be about physical activity. Move at his pace. Allow him to use his nose as much as he chooses. I’ve learned that it’s not only good for Sanchez, but it’s good for me. He’s teaching me the importance of taking time to slow down and enjoy nature. Honestly, does it ever get any better?
Our wonderful Pharaoh is getting pretty old now; he was 13 1/2 years-old on December 3rd which is a grand age for a German Shepherd. When he was a young puppy I was advised to get a younger playmate for him when his years were building up. For two reasons. The first being that the younger dog keeps the elderly dog playing and interested in the world. The second reason being that the elder dog will teach the younger dog all the owner’s commands.
Cleo has proved both points. Pharaoh in living with so many dogs around him is most definitely kept engaged and despite his rear hips being so very fragile and weak he still doesn’t miss a turn in going out with the other dogs.
Just to underline how fantastic Pharaoh is doing, his age at the conversion ratio of 1 dog year to 8 human years makes him 108! Or 36 years my senior!
Murat Şahin climbs onto his dusty motorbike and holds his breath as he turns the key, hoping the engine will start. His trip is important because he’s going to feed more than 100 dogs in the forest of Aydos in Istanbul, Turkey. Dozens of cats living along the rocky coastal walls are waiting for him too.
Watch Murat Feed the Animals
Murat’s mission is important to him, it’s a spiritual calling in fact, and he is deeply devoted to serving the hungry animals as you will see in the uplifting video below.
Murat does take some animals to the veterinarian for spay/neuter, but it isn’t always feasible. Some of the animals are wild, and without a car, he can’t bring a trap or transport them easily. He also doesn’t have the funds to do sponsor spay/neuter on a wide scale on his own.
“Murat has never asked for any help,” fellow volunteer Anna Efe explains. “He has always used his own money and collected food at a restaurant and a local canteen. Also, some butchers were giving him leftovers free of charge. But this year the situation has changed. The butchers stopped giving leftovers for free and, on top of that, Murat’s old motorbike was stolen. It was his only way to deliver food to the forest dogs.”
Though Murat did manage to find a very low-priced bike to replace the stolen one, the replacement bike frequently breaks down. In fact, it broke down immediately after the filming of the video on this page.
Better Days Ahead
The Harmony Fund charity, based in the U.S., is working on a surprise for Murat. The group is attempting to raise funds to purchase a reliable, used car for Murat’s rescue work and would be shared by Murat and his fellow volunteers working together as an authorized rescue team in Turkey. The car would have several advantages over the bike including carrying larger quantities of food, transporting animals to the veterinarian and safer transportation during bad weather.
If anyone reading this post can find it in their hearts to make a donation, then this link on the Harmony Fund website is the place to go. You can specifically nominate that your gift goes to Murat out in Turkey. (And Jean and I have made a modest donation to Harmony to be passed to Murat.)
Both with animals and with us humans we reap what we sow. Or as I am oft to put it: “Always play with a straight bat for bent bats are practically useless”.
So what has prompted this introspective start to today’s post?
Something that was published on the Care2 blogsite earlier in the month. It was a story about how ex-rescue dogs went on to become dogs that rescued others. It certainly spoke to me and I feel sure that many of you will be inspired by the story.
Puppy Rescued Day After Italy’s Latest Quake to Become a Rescue Dog
Among the survivors pulled from the rubble of Italy’s latest major earthquake (Oct. 29) was a border collie puppy who was trapped in the town of Norcia for two days.
The puppy was reunited with his owners, who were so grateful for his rescuers’ work that they decided to let the local fire service adopt him.
Now named Terremoto, which is Italian for – you guessed it – “earthquake,” the pup will be trained to pay it forward by becoming a search-and-rescue dog.
Volunteers from the nonprofit ENPA have been helping nearly 1,000 animals rescued after the earthquakes this year in Italy’s central region. ENPA, an acronym for Ente Nazionale Protezione Animali (National Animal Protection Agency), has been around since 1871. It is Italy’s oldest and largest animal rights organization.
After the 6.6-magnitude Oct. 29 earthquake, at least 900 animals have received assistance from the organization, according to the ENPA website. Almost 160 of them required veterinary care, including 59 dogs, 63 cats, 13 chickens, 10 tortoises, four parrots, five canaries, two geese, one hedgehog and a hamster. Amazingly, only one animal died: a dog rescued from the rubble alive but in serious condition in the town of Nottoria.
So far, at least 78 animals have been reunited with their owners. Police in Perugia adopted two rescued puppies, The Local reports.
A video captured rescuers using their hands to dig out another dog, Ulysses, after they saw his legs sticking out of the rubble. Like Terremoto, Ulysses had been buried alive when the 6.5 earthquake struck. And, like Terremoto, despite his terrible ordeal, Ulysses was checked out by a veterinarian and found to be in good condition.
About 50 trained search-and-rescue dogs worked with more than 5,000 rescuers after a 6.2 earthquake struck the same region of Italy in August. Among the survivors the dogs sniffed out were two children who’d been stuck in the rubble at separate locations for about 15 hours.
Like these dogs, Terremoto will be trained to bark if he detects a survivor less than 7 feet below the rubble. The rescuers will then dig out the survivor by hand. If Terremoto or other search-and-rescue dogs do not bark, it indicates there are no survivors below. In these cases, heavy machinery is brought in to clear the debris, with care being taken in case there are bodies buried in it.
Search-and-rescue dogs usually stop barking about three days after a disaster like a major earthquake. The rescue efforts then become recovery efforts, since victims would not be able to survive that long without water.
Here in the United States, the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation trains rescued dogs to become search-and-rescue dogs. The dogs are saved from shelters and rescue groups across the country.
While I’d like to wish Terremoto a successful career as a search-and-rescue dog, I’m really hoping he never needs to put those skills to use.
Founded in 1996, the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (SDF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, non-governmental organization based in Santa Paula, California. Our mission is to strengthen disaster response in America by recruiting rescued dogs and partnering them with firefighters and other first responders to find people buried alive in the wreckage of disasters.
We have two dogs that are delightfully obedient, but with an over-rider; they choose whether to be responsive to the ‘requests’ from Jean and me.
Those two dogs are Oliver and Brandy.
It’s so easy to see each of them listening to a request from us and deciding whether or not to oblige us at that moment.
So when I came across a recent article over on the Care2 website about dogs deciding what are or are not valuable instructions from their human carers it really struck a chord with me. Read it below and I bet many of you will know exactly what I mean.
Dogs Are Smart Enough to Know When to Ignore Useless Directions
Dogs are pretty smart, but they’re still pretty clueless enough that we’re able have a good laugh at their reactions to certain things every so often. Whether it’s confusion over a ball that was never thrown or fear of a strange looking photograph sitting on the fireplace mantel, dog brains definitely see and understand the world in a way that can be pretty amusing to us.
According to recent research from Yale University’s Canine Cognition Center, it turns out that dogs can learn to pick up on the uselessness of their owners’ orders or directions so that they can disregard them altogether. In fact, they’re even less likely to follow them than children.
Researchers gathered 40 dogs of different breeds and examined their behavior in some problem solving experiments to see whether they could differentiate between helpful and useless directions. A treat was placed inside of a clear puzzle box with a red lid that the dogs had to open to get their reward.
The dogs were shown how to solve the puzzle box, which had a lever attached to it that could be pushed. Although the lever step was shown in the demonstration, it was actually completely unnecessary and didn’t serve any purpose at all to help open the box. The dogs really only needed to lift the lid to get to their treat.
The researchers left the room while the dogs worked on the puzzle to make sure they would actually try to solve it on their own rather than just follow orders from people. All of the dogs spent several rounds trying to figure out the puzzle to get to their treat, eventually figuring out that they didn’t need to do anything with the lever after all and that all they needed to do was lift the lid. By the end, the dogs were completely ignoring the lever.
The results suggest that dogs learn on an individual level as opposed to humans who imitate each other when trying to learn. The study was inspired by a previous study that involved observing children as they solved puzzles.
Unlike the dogs, the children didn’t stop to think about how the puzzle might be solved differently and more effectively from what was demonstrated, instead repeating what they were shown to do again and again. Even when the children raced to finish solving the puzzle, they still repeated all the unnecessary steps.
Researchers described the children’s problem solving as ”overimitation,” which may be a unique aspect of how humans learn. Dogs and humans are both very social, but dogs are clearly independent problem solvers while children are natural copycats. Children seem to find it instinctive to limit problem solving because they have so much to learn.
Regardless of whether you have a dog, children, or both, these findings give us the opportunity to notice and appreciate their unique learning styles. From a very young age, children will often start mimicking their parents behaviors whether it serves them as an independent human being or not, offering parents all the more reason to be extra conscious of their own behaviors.
Your dog, of course, might just figure out your trickery after falling for a few fake throws of his favorite toy or ball. Now you know that he’s his own kind of canine problem-solving genius!
I think I need to be a bit more careful what I discuss in front of our dogs!