Tag: Ellen Furlong

Dogs in the White House

Dogs have been a regular part of the White House.

It will be of no surprise that dogs have been regular pets of Presidents over the years. Apart from the fact that they provide companionship and love the dogs are also never left alone unlike many  adults in normal life who often have difficult decisions to make.

So here’s an article in The Conversation that I am republishing.

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How Biden’s dogs could make the Oval Office a workplace with less stress and better decision-making

By

January 26th, 2021

Presidential pup Major Biden stretches his legs on the White House lawn. The Official White House photo/Adam Schultz via Twitter, CC BY

On Jan. 24 the White House welcomed two new residents: Champ and Major, the newly minted first dogs of the United States. The first dogs are poised to offer special benefits to workers in the White House.

The first ‘Indoguration’ hosted by the Delaware Humane Association. Delaware Humane Association

Since entering the political spotlight, Champ and Major have achieved celebrity status, making news when then-President-elect Joe Biden fractured his foot while playing with Major and stumping for Biden on the campaign trail. The dogs even share a Twitter account, which features photos and doggie press releases. Major, the first shelter dog to live in the White House, has delighted so many people, the Delaware Humane Association, from which Major was adopted, held an “indoguration” ceremony for him.

Pets in the Oval Office have long fascinated many on both sides of the aisle. George H.W. Bush’s springer spaniel, Millie, “authored” a book on life in the White House that charmed many readers – and even outsold her presidential guardian’s autobiography. More recently, Buddy Clinton, Barney and Miss Beazley Bush and Bo and Sunny Obama have captivated the American public while roaming the halls of the White House.

As a dog enthusiast, I too take enormous delight in seeing presidents’ dogs run down the White House hallways, deplane from Air Force One or campaign with their guardians. But as a psychologist studying dog cognition and behavior, I must add a crucial point: Dogs have much more to offer than feel-good stories and cute photo ops. A growing area of research suggests that dogs can provide real benefits, not only to their daily companions, but also to those in their orbit.

Promoting well-being

These benefits explain why many workplaces – from Amazon to Zygna – have begun welcoming dogs into their offices. Recent research suggests that dogs in the workplace can lead to increased worker engagement, lower employee turnover, greater work satisfaction and even enhanced employee cohesion and communication.

President Barack Obama takes a break outside the Oval Office with Bo in 2012. AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

The Oval Office, the site of momentous decisions, enormous stress and complex social dynamics, may benefit from dogs even more than typical workplaces. After all, stress can compromise decision-making and problem-solving abilities. Pets can alleviate stress, however, dampening these effects and leading to improved performance on difficult tasks.

Not only do people report feeling less workplace stress around dogs, but their very bodies tend to support this claim. A growing area of research suggests human heart rates slow, levels of the stress hormone cortisol shrink and blood pressure decreases when people hang out with dogs. Interestingly, the positive effects of pups on stress levels exceed that of even a close friend or family member: A dog will reduce your stress more than your spouse or best friend will. After all, dogs are naturally inclined to love you unconditionally and will never find fault with the way you slurp your soup.

President George H.W. Bush holds one of Millie’s six puppies at the White House in 1989. AP Photo/Ron Edmonds

Dogs may reduce stress because they provide social support. You may feel supported by your pooch, in part, because of the oxytocin feedback loop between humans and dogs. Oxytocin, a hormone involved in promoting social bonds, is released in both dogs and humans when gazing into each other’s eyes.

President George H.W. Bush holds one of Millie’s six puppies at the White House in 1989. AP Photo/Ron EdmondsPeople report improved mood, increased happiness and greater energy levels around dogs. And, on the flip side, they enjoy reduced feelings of depression, loneliness and negativity when dogs are present.

Creating connection

Given dogs’ skill at providing these supports and boosting mood, it may not surprise you to learn they work their magic not only one on one, but also in group settings. In the presence of a dog, people in groups have better social interactions, engage in more conversations and are more likely to form long-term friendships with one another.

President Clinton and President Chirac of France showing Buddy some love in 1999. National Archives and Records Administration

The effects of dogs as social lubricants can go further: Dogs even foster development of social support networks among their humans, leading to a sense of community, and more social interactions between people in their vicinity. These engagements offer opportunities for even more social support in high-stress environments. And perhaps most importantly, people are more likely to offer help when a dog is present.

Having Champ and Major in the White House may help President Biden and his staff navigate the stresses and tensions of the current political landscape. Beyond “indogurations,” tweets and cute photo ops, Champ and Major will offer physical, psychological and social benefits in the Oval Office.

In short, pets (yes, cats too!) improve the quality of life in almost every context – including presidential ones. Perhaps they can, even in a small way, play a role in uniting a divided country. After all, personal politics aside, isn’t it comforting to know there will be paws pattering around the White House again?

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As was said in the article: “In the presence of a dog, people in groups have better social interactions, engage in more conversations and are more likely to form long-term friendships with one another.

Dogs are miracle creatures and if you think of the benefits that dogs provide in crucial groupings and discussions that go on the White House then, frankly, they should be a non-negotiable addition to any White House incumbent!

The two of us!

A guest post from Sarah.

I have only recently made the acquaintance of Sarah’s blog The Two Of Us but it already has been a delight. So much so that I reached out to Sarah and asked if she would like to be a guest author. I am delighted to report that Sarah was pleased to do so.

First, let me add a little more about her blog. The Two Of Us has a sub-title of A college student and a Border Collie stumbling through life.

Next, Sarah explained in an email to me that:

I’m Sarah and my dog is Brèagha. She’s a Border Collie and I’m a college student hoping to become an animal behaviorist of some sort. Brèagha and I have been together for 3 years, and they have been the best three years of my life so far.

So with no further ado, here is Sarah’s guest post.

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Every breath you take

By Sarah, November 6th, 2020

One of the things you get used to when you have a herdy type of dog (especially a Border Collie) is the staring. They stare. And they stare intensely. Your own personal stalker.

One of those things that might be rated “annoying” for some but definitely falls under “endearing” for me.

I love every last weird thing about her.

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Now that last picture reminds me of a recent post on Learning from Dogs, namely The dog world! where I republished the scientific work by  Associate Professor of Psychology, Illinois Wesleyan University.

In her report Ellen said, and I quote an extract from that post:

A recent study found that dogs that have been deprived of food and owners choose to greet their owners before eating. Further, their brain’s reward centers “light up” upon smelling their owners. And, when your eyes meet your dog’s, both your brains release oxytocin, also know as the “cuddle hormone.”

All of this research shows that you can make your dog happier with just one ingredient: you. Make more eye contact to release that cuddle hormone. Touch it more – dogs like pats better than treats! Go ahead and “baby talk” to your dog – it draws the dog’s attention to you more and may strengthen your bond.

So that second photograph of Brèagha is a prime example of her meeting Sarah’s eyes and should be held as long as both dog and human can manage.

Wonderful!

The dog world!

A fascinating account of the differences and similarities between dogs and ourselves.

I couldn’t believe it but three days ago The Conversation published a post about dogs that told me something that I didn’t know. That there was the similarity between dogs and humans when it came to the brain and love!

I can’t wait for you to read it!

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Your dog’s nose knows no bounds – and neither does its love for you.

By

Associate Professor of Psychology, Illinois Wesleyan University.

October 26th, 2020

I have discovered one positive amid the pandemic: I love working with two dogs at my feet.

As someone who studies dog cognition, I often wonder: What is Charlie learning when he stops to sniff the crisp fall air? What is Cleo thinking when she stares at me while I write? Are my dogs happy?

I’m not alone in finding myself suddenly spending more time with my pups and contemplating what’s on their minds. More people in the U.S. are working from home now than are working in the workplace, and many now share home offices with their canine companions. What’s more, many are finding their lives enriched with the addition of a new pet, as people started adopting dogs at massive rates during the pandemic.

This uptick in dog time means I have been fielding questions from new and experienced dog owners alike about their companions’ mentalities. Many questions center on the same themes I ponder: What is my dog thinking? Am I doing everything I can to ensure my pup is content?

Fortunately, research on dog cognition can help unravel what is on their minds and provide insight into what they need for psychologically fulfilling and happy lives.

Smelling superstars

Dogs are both familiar and yet fascinatingly alien. To appreciate their “otherness” all you need to do is consider their sensory world.

My dogs and I have very different experiences when we walk a trail. I marvel at the beautiful autumn day, but my dogs have their heads to the ground, seemingly ignoring the wonders around them.

However, they are appreciating something I can’t perceive: the scent of the fox who scampered through last night, the lingering odor of the dogs who’ve walked this way and the footsteps of my neighbor, who last wore her hiking shoes in woods my dogs have never visited.

You’ve probably heard about dogs who sniff out cancer, weapons or even coronavirus. These dogs are not special in their nose power: Your dog could do the same thing. In fact, the first dog to sniff out cancer sniffed a mole on his owner’s leg so frequently that she went to the dermatologist, where she was diagnosed with melanoma.

A dog’s sense of smell is estimated to be 10,000 to 100,000 times better than that of a human. This is due, in large part, to staggering differences in odor processing in humans and dogs.

While we have about 6 million olfactory receptors, dogs have a staggering 300 million. Their epithelium, or nasal tissue, is about 30 times larger than ours. And while people have between 12 million and 40 million olfactory neurons – specialized cells involved in transmitting odor information to the brain – dogs, depending on the breed, can have 220 million to 2 billion!

How can you even conceptualize this breathtaking difference in abilities? This disparity is like detecting one teaspoon of sugar in enough water to fill two Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Now that your mind has been blown about your dog’s incredible sense of smell, you can use this information to make your dog happier by taking it on the occasional “sniffy walk” – letting it lead the way and take as much time to smell as it would like. Such walks can make dogs happier by allowing them to gain lots of information about the world around them.

The love is mutual

While there are parts of a dog’s mind that are alien, there are also parts that feel very familiar. Chances are, your dog occupies a special place in your heart. Recent research suggests your dog feels the same way about you. Your dog adores you.

The average dog spends a lot of time gazing at its owner – creating a ‘love-loop.’ Murat Natan/EyeEm via Getty Images

Dogs attach to their owners in much the same way human infants attach to their parents. Like babies, dogs show distress when left with a stranger and rush to reunite upon their person’s return.

A recent study found that dogs that have been deprived of food and owners choose to greet their owners before eating. Further, their brain’s reward centers “light up” upon smelling their owners. And, when your eyes meet your dog’s, both your brains release oxytocin, also know as the “cuddle hormone.”

All of this research shows that you can make your dog happier with just one ingredient: you. Make more eye contact to release that cuddle hormone. Touch it more – dogs like pats better than treats! Go ahead and “baby talk” to your dog – it draws the dog’s attention to you more and may strengthen your bond.

Understanding your dog’s mind can not only satiate your curiosity about your companion, but can also help you ensure your pup lives a good, happy life. The more you know about your furry friends the more you can do to meet their needs.

And now I am off to gaze into Cleo’s bright blue eyes, give Charlie a belly rub, and then let them take me on a “sniffy” walk.

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How many of you also learnt something about our dogs when it comes to love?

This was a fascinating report of the research that was carried out by Illinois Wesleyan University.

When one quietly reflects on the span of time that dogs and humans have been together, something in the order of 40,000 years, it’s no surprise that dogs have evolved to be our closest companion. Indeed, the initial connection between man and wolf had a profound impact on man. We went from eating crops and nuts to eating meat. It was the first human-animal relationship, and it is still extremely special.

Yes, the dog’s nose and heart know no bounds!

A dog’s nose dominates its face for good reason. Capuski/iStock via Getty Images Plus