Tag: Jaymi Heimbuch

A nose for doing good work!

A dog’s nose, of course!

We all know how good are the noses of our dogs. Yet, I suspect, many do not know how truly good is that nose. The Science ABC site has a detailed account of Why Do Dogs Have Such A Great Sense of Smell?
Here’s part of that article:

Dog Nose vs. Human Nose

When we try to smell something, we inhale air with our nose and we use the same passage in our nose to exhale that air. Therefore, all the smell that we get when we are inhaling is lost when we exhale that air. However, a dog has two different air passages, one for breathing and another for smelling. This means that dogs are able to store the smell in their nose even while breathing out the air!

When dogs exhale, they send air out through the slits of their nose, but the manner in which this air is exhaled through their nose helps the dogs to draw in new odor molecules. This also helps dogs capture more smells when sniffing.

You must have noticed that dogs’ noses are always wet, but have you ever wondered why? The mucus on the dog’s nose helps it smell by capturing scent particles. A dog also has the ability to smell independently from each nostril, this helps the dog to understand from which direction the smell is coming.

The passage through which dogs smell the air contains highly specialized olfactory receptor cells, which are responsible for receiving smells. A dog contains about 225-300 million smell receptors, as compared to just 5 million of these receptors being present in a human nose.

Dog Brain vs. Human Brain

By now, we clearly know that dogs have a nose that can smell about 1,000-10,000 times better than a human, but how are dogs able to remember all the different smells that they have sensed throughout their life?

The answer lies in the difference between the brains of dogs and humans. A human brain has a larger visual cortex than dogs, whereas a dog’s brain has a much larger olfactory cortex than humans. The visual cortex is responsible for processing visual information, whereas the olfactory cortex is responsible for processing the sense of smell. A dog’s olfactory cortex is about 40 times larger than that of a human.

Read the full science article here.

All of which makes a slightly longer introduction than normal to a fascinating article over on Mother Nature Network published two days ago.

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5 ways dogs are used for species conservation

May 16, 2017 Jaymi Heimbuch

Photo: Jaymi Heimbuch

Working dogs are an amazing asset not only for people, but for wildlife, endangered species and even threatened habitats. Expanding on the skills dogs have for tracking down scents and guarding something important, we humans have enlisted their help in many ways for conservation.

Here are five ways dogs are contributing to environmental protection efforts.

Smell for scat

It’s amazing the amount of information that can be sussed out of an animal’s poop. We can determine diet, health, genetics — even whether or not an animal is pregnant. Scat is really important to biologists studying elusive, sensitive or endangered species. Putting dogs on the track is an ideal solution.

Take cheetahs, for example. Scientists in Africa are using dogs and their unparalleled sniffing power to find cheetah poop, all in an effort to get an accurate count on the endangered big cats. (Only 7,000 cheetahs are left in the African wild, according to estimates.) And it’s working. Two trained dogs found 27 scats in an area of 2,400 square kilometers in western Zambia, according to a study published in the Journal of Zoology. Humans, looking for cheetah tracks over the same area, found none.

Groups like Conservation Canines (a handler and dog from the program pictured above), Working Dogs for Conservation and Green Dogs Conservation specialize in this area. Conservation Canines rescues highly energetic, “last chance” dogs from shelters and trains them to track down the scat of dozens of species, from wolves to moose to owl. Even things that are nearly impossible for humans to find — the minuscule scat of endangered pocket mice or orca scat floating on the ocean surface — dogs can track down. They are able to make huge contributions to scientific studies, all without ever bothering the wildlife being studied.

Sniff out problems for wildlife

Whether it’s sniffing out invasive species like giant snails in the Galapagos or detecting disease in beehives, dogs’ noses can be put to work in searching out what shouldn’t be there so that humans can act.

Dogs are able to sniff out particular plant species, pointing ecologists to tiny patches of invasive mustard so that the plants can be removed before they take over an area.

Conversely, dogs can sniff out rare or endangered native plants so that the species can be protected. Rogue is one such dog. The Nature Conservancy writes, “The 4-year-old Belgian sheepdog is part of a Nature Conservancy collaborative project to test the efficacy of using dogs to sniff out the threatened Kincaid’s lupine. The plant is host to the endangered Fender’s blue butterfly, found only in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.”

Surveying for the plant species is difficult work for people. It can only be done when the plant is in bloom so people can visually identify it. However, dogs like Rogue can sniff out the plant even when not in bloom, which can potentially double the length of the field season.

“More refined regional mapping of Kincaid’s lupine could promote the butterfly’s recovery and delisting — and contribute to larger habitat goals and wildlife impacts.”

Track down poachers

The trade in rare or endangered wildlife is a lot tougher for traffickers thanks to wildlife detector dogs. Trained to smell anything from tiger parts to ivory to South American rosewood, dogs are used in shipping ports, airports, border crossings and other locations to sniff out smuggled products.

It doesn’t stop there. Trained dogs can lead rangers to armed poachers in the wild, tracking down the culprits over long hours through heat and rain. They can catch poachers in the act, rather than just the products.

“Canine sleuths aren’t limited to the plains of East Africa, either,” reports National Geographic. “In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, bloodhounds are assisting in the fight against poaching in forested Virunga National Park, where the world’s last remaining mountain gorillas live. In South Africa, Weimaraner and Malinois dogs are helping to find wounded animals and track poachers on foot through the reserves around Kruger National Park.”

Guard endangered species

Dogs are also useful in putting their protective nature to use for endangered species.

Livestock protection dogs are trained to keep predators like cheetahs, lions and leopards safe, which then reduces conflict between ranchers and big cats and minimizes the instances of snaring or retaliatory killing of big cats. Cheetah Conservation Fund has a successful livestock protection dog program, which places Anatolian shepherd and Kangal dogs with ranchers. That not only has significantly reduced the number of livestock killed by predators but is also improving the attitude of local people toward cheetahs.

Sometimes the dogs are put to work guarding the endangered species themselves. One such successful program uses Maremma shepherd dogs to protect colonies of little penguins from foxes.

Keep bears wild

Karelian bear dogs are trained to keep bears from becoming too comfortable around people. A program by Wind River Bear Institute named Partners-in-Life uses a technique called bear shepherding. This specialized breed of hunting dog is used to scare bears away, and are an important part of the “adverse conditioning” work that keeps bears from becoming habituated. The ultimate goal is to protect bears from becoming habituated, a problem that leads to their being relocated or euthanized.

“Our Wind River Bear Institute mission, with the effective training and use of Karelian Bear Dogs, is to reduce human-caused bear mortality and conflicts worldwide to ensure the continued survival of all species of bears for future generations,” states the program.

This list is only a handful of ways that dogs help us with environmental conservation every day. More and more, we are figuring out new ways to put their skills to work, and more and more the dogs are proving they’re ready for the task!

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in July 2016 and has been updated with more recent information.

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Closing words from that Science ABC piece:

A dog does not care how you look or dress, but if he gets good vibes from your smell, then a dog will love you. The world is truly a better place because of these wonderful creatures that we are lucky enough to welcome into our lives.

Why not make the world smell a bit more beautiful for them?

Belay that!

Closing picture taken from the OregonLive website. A stunning picture of the “Fender’s blue butterfly, found only in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.”

Out of this world!

Forgive my indulgence!

I wish I understood where my fascination with the night sky came from. Not that I am anything other than an amateur gazer (of the night sky, I should hasten to add!). I have never taken the trouble to gain any real knowledge.

Yet, some of the most serene moments of my life have been when I have been alone at sea under a night sky.

OK, that’s enough wallowing for anyone!

The last week has been an important one for those that take an interest in the planets in our solar system, or to be specific, take an interest in Jupiter.

For as EarthSky reported on the 8th April:

Today – April 8, 2017 – the planet Jupiter is closest to Earth for this year.

Yet yesterday was Jupiter’s opposition, when Earth flew between Jupiter and the sun, placing Jupiter opposite the sun in our sky. You’d think Jupiter was closest to Earth for 2017 yesterday as well … and yet it wasn’t. It’s closest to Earth for 2017 today, April 8, coming to within 414 million miles (666 million km).

EarthSky also included this image:

Jupiter at its April 7, 2017 opposition with the Great Red Spot and moons Io, Europa, and Ganymede (L to R). Photo by Rob Pettengill in Austin, Texas.

Then, Mother Nature Network yesterday presented more information:

Jupiter strikes a pose for Hubble portrait

April 12, 2017

During the month of April, Jupiter will be in opposition, meaning the planet is at its closest point to Earth. Thanks to the sun, it’s during this window that astronomers can enjoy a particularly close-up photo session that can help reveal how the planet’s atmosphere has changed over time by comparing it with previous such photos of the gas giant.

This photo of Jupiter was taken on April 3 by the Hubble Space Telescope when the enormous planet was 670 million kilometers (or about 416 million miles) from Earth. The photo shows the Great Red Spot, but it also shows something new: a weather feature called the Great Cold Spot, which is almost as large as its more well-known cousin.

“The Great Cold Spot is much more volatile than the slowly changing Great Red Spot, changing dramatically in shape and size over only a few days and weeks, but it has reappeared for as long as we have data to search for it, for over 15 years,” Tom Stallard, a planetary astronomer at the University of Leicester in the U.K. and lead author of the study, said in a statement.

The cold spot is nearly 15,000 miles by about 7,500 miles in size, and it’s dubbed the “cold” spot because it’s 200 degrees Kelvin (about 400 degrees Fahrenheit) cooler than the surrounding atmosphere.

The article included this stunning image of Jupiter.

Photo: A. Simon (GSFC)/NASA, ESA

Jaymi went on to write:

Here’s what some of the other details in the image mean:
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope reveals the intricate, detailed beauty of Jupiter’s clouds as arranged into bands of different latitudes. These bands are produced by air flowing in different directions at various latitudes. Lighter coloured areas, called zones, are high-pressure where the atmosphere rises. Darker low-pressure regions where air falls are called belts. Constantly stormy weather occurs where these opposing east-to-west and west-to-east flows interact. The planet’s trademark, the Great Red Spot, is a long-lived storm roughly the diameter of Earth. Much smaller storms appear as white or brown-coloured ovals. Such storms can last as little as a few hours or stretch on for centuries.

The Great Red Spot is an anticyclonic storm that is so large that Earth would fit inside it. That stormy spot — which is actually shrinking, though astronomers don’t know why — gives us a great perspective for understanding just how huge Jupiter is compared to our own blue dot in the solar system.

Finally, I’m taking the liberty of republishing in full an item that appeared on The Smithsonian site on April 7th.

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Hubble Snags Splendid Snapshot of Jupiter

The perfect photographic conditions make for a grand view of the gas giant

This snapshot shows Jupiter’s swirling, banded atmosphere and signature vortices. (NASA, ESA, and A. Simon (GSFC))
smithsonian.com
April 7, 2017

It’s been 27 years since the Hubble Space Telescope went into orbit, and the geriatric observatory is still going strong. When the telescope recently trained its sights on the solar system’s largest planet, the results were spectacular—proof that for the stellar spectator, age is but a number.

The image above is the latest picture of Jupiter. The snapshot was taken by Hubble on April 3 with the help of the telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3, a high-res instrument that lets the telescope observe using different wavelengths. It combines light on the visible, ultraviolet, and infrared spectrum to create an image of a massive planet in constant atmospheric flux.

In a press release, the European Space Agency, which co-runs Hubble with NASA, said that Hubble was able to take advantage of the planet’s current opposition with Earth to take the close-up. At the moment, Jupiter is lined up perfectly with the sun, and Earth is lined up with both the sun and Jupiter. Think of it as a truly heavenly photographic opportunity—a chance to look at the planet head-on. Better yet, Jupiter’s position relative to the sun means that it’s brighter than at any other time of year, which lets telescopes trained on the gigantic planet see even more detail than usual.

As The Washington Post’s Amy B. Wang notes, there were no new discoveries in the picture per se, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to look at. As ESA explains, scientists will compare the photo to previous views of the planet to hopefully learn more about the atmosphere. And for the rest of us, there’s a strangely soothing view of Jupiter’s layered cloud bands and impressive vortices.

The gas giant is thought to have sucked up most of the space debris left over after the sun formed, grabbing dust and gas with gravity. Scientists think it has two times as much debris as all of the other bodies in the solar system combined—and all of that material swirls through cloud layers in its quickly-rotating atmosphere.

Since Jupiter doesn’t exactly have a surface, it has nothing to slow the spots and vortices that appear in its atmosphere. The most famous, the Great Red Spot, is thought to have been swirling around for more than 150 years, and even though it’s unclear which gases give it that red hue, it’s the planet’s most recognizable feature. As NASA writes, the cloudiness of Jupiter’s atmosphere makes it hard to understand what might be contributing to it. But that doesn’t decrease its allure.

Want to delve even further into the mesmerizing bands of a huge planet’s atmosphere? A high-res version of the snapshot is available online. And if you prefer seeing things live, it’s a great time to check out Jupiter through in the night sky. You can find Jupiter in the east right after the sun goes down—a massive mystery that’s brighter than any star.

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/hubble-snags-splendid-snapshot-jupiter-180962832/#2QLP7buDDb5PJaGK.99
Give the gift of Smithsonian magazine for only $12! http://bit.ly/1cGUiGv
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

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Let me finish up with another incredible fact.

Namely, that the universe came into existence some 13.82 billion years ago. The power of natural evolution that came with that event eventually brought along homo sapiens some 200,000 years ago. 200,000 is 0.0000145 of 13.82 billion.

Or to put it another way, we humans have only been a part of this universe for 1/10th of 1% of the life of said universe! (Oh, and dogs came along 100,000 years ago!)

Putting a smile on your dog’s face!

Dogs do suffer from depression.

OK, in many cases I’m sure it is because dogs are watching too much television; especially the news!

OK: Only kidding!

Some may be surprised that dogs can express sadness and suffer from depression but it is true.

Only a few days ago there was a bit of a ‘punch up’ between Brandy and Ruby. Ruby was feeding and Brandy approached her food bowl. Ruby gave a short, throaty “stay away from my food” growl and the next instant Brandy had Ruby’s face in his mouth and it was quickly turning into a Grade A dog fight.

Luckily Jean and I were on hand and had the two of them separated within seconds. But it was still sufficient time for Brandy to have drawn blood from a small bite to the side of Ruby’s face.

However, the point I was coming to was that since that incident Ruby has clearly been very depressed and withdrawn.

So on to today’s topic. Recently published on Mother Nature Network.

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Is my dog depressed? The warning signs and solutions

Find out what causes doggy depression and how to fix it.

Jaymi Heimbuch March 30, 2017.

Dogs can get the doldrums. But there are ways to help them come out of it with a wagging tail. (Photo: Iuliubo/Shutterstock)

Yes, dogs can get depressed. Whether or not it’s the same as what humans experience, we may never know since we can’t ask a dog. But there are signs and symptoms from a dog’s behavior that reveal when a dog is in the doldrums. If you’ve noticed a sudden change in your four-legged friend’s behavior and are worried, you may need to see if the change is a clue that your dog needs some psychological TLC.

Common triggers for dog depression

Dogs are creatures of habit, activity and loyalty. A sudden change that affects their world can cause a dog to have a spat of depression. Triggers include:

  • The addition of a new person or pet to the family
  • A sudden drop in attention from an owner or family members
  • A sudden change in the household schedule
  • The loss of an owner or companion
  • Moving to a new home
  • A traumatic injury

Dogs may also suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, during the winter months. Stanley Coren reports in Psychology Today: “Do dogs suffer from SAD? Some data comes from a survey conducted by a leading veterinary charity in the UK. PDSA (The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals) found that approximately 40 percent of dog owners saw a considerable downturn in their pet’s moods during the winter months. In addition, half of the dog owners felt that their dogs slept longer, with around two in five reporting their pets to be less active overall.”

Some dogs may suffer depression simply for not having a job to do. The Guardian notes:

“In the not too distant past, dogs mostly had to work for a living and were probably very often physically and mentally fatigued at the end of the day – which is why we have the expression ‘dog-tired’. Could the stress of being made redundant be the source of this apparent unhappiness? Dog behaviourist Penel Malby told me: ‘Dogs live very differently to the way they used to. Lots more dogs, lots more people, lots more stress for everyone, I think. If you think back even just 50 years, dogs were allowed to roam free every day, socialise with their neighbourhood friends. Now they either go out with a dog walker or go out for an hour if they’re lucky, and the rest of the time is spent at home.'”

The upside is that canine depression usually isn’t permanent, or even necessarily long-lived, and there are ways to combat it to help your dog get back to normal in due time.

What are the warning signs?

Watch for warning signs of depression so you can catch the trouble early and help your dog recover. (Photo: DREIDREIEINS Foto/Shutterstock)

The most common symptoms dogs display when they’re depressed mirror those that humans experience during a depression. They include:

  • Sleeping much more than usual
  • A change in eating habits, including a loss or gain in appetite and in weight
  • A refusal to drink water
  • A lack of interest in usual energetic activities like going for walks or playing
  • Excessive licking of their paws
  • Excessive shedding
  • Become withdrawn or hiding in the house
  • Suddenly showing signs of aggression or anxiety

Unfortunately, these symptoms also occur with a range of other medical issues. A dog might have a change in appetite because of a thyroid or kidney issue, or the dog might not want to go on a walk because of joint pain or arthritis flaring up. So if you notice any changes in your dog’s behavior, the first thing to do is visit the vet to rule out any serious health-related issues before assuming it comes down to depression.

How to help your dog out of a depression

Sometimes time, extra love and a steady routine is all that’s needed. (Photo: Soloviova Liudmyla/Shutterstock)

If you have determined your dog is feeling depressed, there are many things you can do to help them pull out of it.

– Take your dog on more frequent walks during the day to favorite places, allowing them to sniff around and enjoy the scenery. It’s also helpful to do this first thing in the morning to start the day out with a bit of fresh air and energy.

– Try to keep a schedule as much as possible. Dogs are creatures of habit and having a predictable routine can be an enormous source of comfort for a stressed or depressed dog, especially if the trigger for the depression was a sudden change in routine.

– Reward your dog when he shows signs of improved mood or energy. Rather than babying the dog during the down times — which reinforces that behavior — reward him with extra special treats or a favorite toy when he shows a bit of enthusiasm about life to amplify the mood even more.

– Bring home a new toy, such as a squeaker or puzzle toy that stimulates the senses and encourages play.

– If the cause of depression is the loss of a companion, like another household pet, consider adopting another dog that can be a companion. However, only do this if you’ve seriously considered the needs of your household and your depressed dog. It isn’t an option to be taken lightly.

As a last resort, medication could be an option. There are antidepressants for dogs that you can discuss with your veterinarian. However, catching depression early on and trying for behavioral changes first is the best solution. Bonnie Beaver, DVM, notes in a WebMD article, “[I]t can take up to two months for drugs to become effective. But unlike people, who often remain on antidepressants for years, most dogs can get better in six to 12 months and then be taken off the drugs.”

And finally, give it time. As Wag Walking notes, “Be Patient: Sometimes — especially if the issue was a loss of a companion or master — the only thing that will heal a dog’s heart is time. It may be as few as a couple days or as much as a few months, but most dogs will be able to pull themselves out of depression with a little time and understanding.”

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May you, your family and all your wonderful animals have a wall-to-wall happy weekend!

That fickle finger of fate!

Coping with an emergency includes looking after our dogs.

Most of us live our daily lives without paying too much attention to the likelihood of an emergency. But as Hurricane Hermine and the recent explosion of that SpaceX rocket show the unexpected does come along.

All of which is my preamble to a recent item over on the Mother Network Nature site that reviewed taking care of our beloved pets when an emergency does strike.

I have pleasure in sharing it with you.

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5 steps to ensure your pet is cared for in an emergency


Jaymi Heimbuch August 31, 2016

When an unexpected problem pops up, have a back-up plan for your pet. (Photo: Africa Studio/Shutterstock)
When an unexpected problem pops up, have a back-up plan for your pet. (Photo: Africa Studio/Shutterstock)

A car crash, an arrest, a natural disaster or a medical emergency. While no one wants to think about these awful possibilities, sometimes we should to protect and provide for those we love, in case one day we can’t make it home as planned. And those we love include our pets.

Imagine something happens to you and you can’t get home to your dogs, cats, birds or other critters. You need a way to not only alert others to the fact that you have pets at home, but also the information they need to care for your pets in your absence. Here are five ways you can ensure that your pets will be looked after.

Carry a card in your wallet

Create a card that you can carry in your wallet or purse. If you’re ever in a medical emergency, a rescue worker or paramedic looking through your wallet for identification will also know that there are animals at your home that need care.

The card can be as simple as a note that you have pets at home on one side, and on the other side lists contact information for friends or family members you’ve designated to care for them. Or it can be detailed, listing how many pets you have at home, their names and the kind of animal each pet is, your address, and emergency contact information for two people you trust to care for your pets. How much information you want to include is entirely up to you.

You can create your own card, download a free template online to print out, or buy cards online that you can fill in information with a pen.

Add a sign on your door or windows to save your pet

Another place to put an alert card is in your window or on the door to your home. An emergency emergency-pet-sign.jpg.838x0_q80pet alert sticker is ideal when you can’t get to your home but someone like a firefighter or rescue worker can.

Like a wallet card, a sticker should list how many pets are inside and what species they are, so any rescue worker would know if they’d found all the animals inside.

This is a small but potentially life-saving step in preparing for emergency situations such as after an earthquake, tornado, fire or flood, so that someone who is searching through homes can rescue your pet even if you can’t — or aren’t allowed — to get back to your home.

Ensure at least 2 separate people you trust have access to your home

Your emergency wallet card states contact information for people you trust to care for your pet if you’re in an emergency situation and can’t get home to them. The next step is ensuring they can get to your pet when needed.

Make sure each person listed as an emergency guardian has a set of keys, or that they know the secret hiding place for your spare set of keys. If you have an alarm system on your home, you’ll need to provide these friends with the access code.

Because these friends or family members not only have access to your home but also will take responsibility for your animal companion, you’ll need to put some thought into who you’ll have in place as a temporary caregiver or as a permanent caregiver.

The ASPCA notes:

When choosing a temporary caregiver, consider someone who lives close to your residence. He or she should be someone who is generally home during the day while you are at work or has easy access to your home. When selecting a permanent caregiver, you’ll need to consider other criteria. This is a person to whom you are entrusting the care of your pet in the event that something should happen to you. Be sure to discuss your expectations at length with a permanent caregiver, so he or she understands the responsibility of caring for your pet.

You may want to put down temporary caregiver contact information on your emergency cards, and ensure they know who is designated as the permanent caregiver should you not be able to return home to your pets for a long time, or at all.

An emergency kit with your pet's medical information, extra food and other supplies will help rescuers. (Photo: rSnapshotPhotos/Shutterstock)
An emergency kit with your pet’s medical information, extra food and other supplies will help rescuers. (Photo: rSnapshotPhotos/Shutterstock)

Create a kit for your pet

A disaster preparedness kit is a great idea both for you and your pet. This also benefits your pet not just for a natural disaster, but if you’re in an emergency and can’t get to them.

An emergency supply kit should include a document that a temporary caregiver or potential permanent guardian can use to understand your pet’s needs. This includes:

  • vet and vaccination records
  • pet insurance details
  • information about any medications your pet needs
  • an extra leash and collar
  • a carrier if you have a smaller pet
  • information on any behavior problems, quirks or habits that a caregiver should know about

Be sure to tell your emergency contacts and temporary caregivers where this information is located in your home, so they can access it should they need it.

Make formal long-term arrangements for your pet

We briefly discussed designating someone as a permanent caregiver for your pet should you not be able to return to them. You may want to consider setting up a formal arrangement for this to ensure that your pet definitely goes to the person you’ve designated and receives the care they need.

This could be a formal written arrangement with a permanent caregiver or it may be part of your will. You might also consider creating a trust or other financial arrangement to ensure your pet is cared for if you’re incapacitated. However, Petfinder notes:

Before making formal arrangements to provide for the long-term care of your pet, seek help from professionals who can guide you in preparing legal documents that can protect your interests and those of your pet. However, you must keep in mind the critical importance of making advance personal arrangements to ensure that your pet is cared for immediately if you die or become incapacitated. The formalities of a will or trust may not take over for some time.

Such a document may at first seem like a lot to handle for a “what if” situation, but by taking the appropriate precautions ahead of time, you can be sure that your pets are immediately cared for should something occur that prevents you from returning home to them.

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This all seems like very sound advice and, believe me, advice that Jeannie and I will review and adopt wherever we can.

Please, good people, do take care of yourselves including all your pets.

Picture Parade One Hundred and Fifty-Seven.

The concluding photographs from the 10th annual Dog Photographer of the Year competition.
The first set were published a week ago, together with this introduction:

Incredible, prize-winning, images of dogs.

The following was read over on Mother Nature News on June 30th. They just have to be shared with you.

However, to ensure the integrity of republication and the identity of the photographers, I’m going to include the photographs and the words of the original MNN piece, and split it across today and next Sunday.

Trust me you will adore these photographs.

Here are the concluding photographs.

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These prize-winning images of dogs will steal your heart.

10th annual Dog Photographer of the Year competition drew entries from photographers in 90 countries.

Jaymi Heimbuch June 30, 2016.

Winner of the 'I Love Dogs Because...' category (Photo: Jade Hudson/Dog Photographer of the Year Competition)
Winner of the ‘I Love Dogs Because…’ category (Photo: Jade Hudson/Dog Photographer of the Year Competition)

Hugo the puppy is the subject of this winning image by 16-year-old Jade Hudson.

Winner of the Oldies category (Photo: Kevin Smith/Dog Photographer of the Year Competition)
Winner of the Oldies category (Photo: Kevin Smith/Dog Photographer of the Year Competition)

The gray faces of old dogs speak to all the love and friendship they’ve provided over the years as Lizzie, a 12-year-old mixed breed dog, shows us. Curling up with a cracking fire and your four-legged BFF is one of life’s great joys.

Winner of the Dog Portrait category (Photo: Jamie Morgan/Dog Photographer of the Year Competition)
Winner of the Dog Portrait category (Photo: Jamie Morgan/Dog Photographer of the Year Competition)

This portrait of two Afghan hounds named Ozzie and Elvis took first place for the Dog Portrait category. The setting is the idyllic Ashdown Forest in Sussex.

Winner of the Puppy category (Photo: Linda Storm/Dog Photographer of the Year Competition)
Winner of the Puppy category (Photo: Linda Storm/Dog Photographer of the Year Competition)

And finally, the winner of the Puppy category is little rescue puppy Buddy enjoying a bowl of milk. The photo was taken by Colorado-based photographer Linda Storm.

“The entries for this year’s Dog Photographer of the Year competition were some of the best we have ever seen,” says Rosemary Smart, Kennel Club chief executive. “Choosing the winners was an incredibly challenging task and we commend every photographer who entered. Each of the winning photographers beautifully captured the essence of their canine subjects on camera, demonstrating how important dogs are to us in every walk of life.”

If you’re a photographer who loves dogs as your subject, keep an eye on the opening date for next year’s competition!

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Going to repeat the words of Rosemary Smart as I can’t even come close to the power of what she said:

The entries for this year’s Dog Photographer of the Year competition were some of the best we have ever seen.

Choosing the winners was an incredibly challenging task and we commend every photographer who entered. Each of the winning photographers beautifully captured the essence of their canine subjects on camera, demonstrating how important dogs are to us in every walk of life.

How very important our dogs are to us!

 

Picture Parade One Hundred and Fifty-Six

Incredible, prize-winning, images of dogs.

The following was read over on Mother Nature News on June 30th. The item, and especially the photographs, just had to be shared with you.

However, to ensure the integrity of republication and the identity of the photographers, I’m going to include the photographs and the words of the original MNN piece, and split it across today and next Sunday.

Trust me you will adore these photographs.

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These prize-winning images of dogs will steal your heart.

10th annual Dog Photographer of the Year competition drew entries from photographers in 90 countries.

Jaymi Heimbuch June 30, 2016.

Winner of the Man’s Best Friend category (Photo: Fiona Sami/Dog Photographer of the Year Competition)
Winner of the Man’s Best Friend category (Photo: Fiona Sami/Dog Photographer of the Year Competition)

The love of a dog is a universal joy, as the latest photography competition from The Kennel Club illustrates. The 10th annual competition drew over 13,000 entries from photographers in 90 countries. The photographs show the beauty, loyalty, companionship, dignity and, of course, the adorableness of dogs around the world.

The competition features eight categories, including Puppies, Oldies, Dogs at Work, Dogs at Play, Man’s Best Friend (winner pictured above), Assistance Dogs and Dog Charities, Dog Portraits and I Love Dogs Because.

Winner of the Dogs At Work category as well as overall winner of the competition (Photo: Anastasia Vetkovskaya/Dog Photographer of the Year Competition)
Winner of the Dogs At Work category as well as overall winner of the competition (Photo: Anastasia Vetkovskaya/Dog Photographer of the Year Competition)

This image of Sheldon the English springer spaniel enjoying a mist-shrouded pond early one morning is the work of Anastasia Vetkovskaya from Russia. Not only did it win for the Dogs At Work category, but it also placed as the overall winner of the competition.

Vetkovskaya states, “I have loved animals from an early age, which is why I went to Moscow Veterinary Academy and became a veterinary surgeon in 2007. Around this period of time, my husband gave me my first SLR camera, and since then I have devoted all of my free time to photography. My specialty is pets, and I am inspired most by horses and dogs.”

Winner of the Dogs at Play category (Photo: Tom Lowe/Dog Photographer of the Year Competition)
Winner of the Dogs at Play category (Photo: Tom Lowe/Dog Photographer of the Year Competition)

Baxter the Westie inspired his photography-loving human, Tom Lowe, to snap this image of Baxter playing in the water of Loch Lomond in Scotland.

Winner of the Assistance Dogs and Dog Charities category (Photo: Michael Higginson/Dog Photographer of the Year Competition
Winner of the Assistance Dogs and Dog Charities category (Photo: Michael Higginson/Dog Photographer of the Year Competition)

This poignant image was taken by Michael Higginson, and features his brother Dale with Esta the dog. The win not only benefits the photographer but also a charity of his choice. The Kennel Club is making a donation to Higginson’s favorite charity, Dogs for Good.

Higginson states, “Winning the Assistance Dog category has made it even more special. It’s an honor to be able to show the world what a difference a dog can make to someone else’s life.”

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Aren’t they breath-takingly beautiful!

The rest of these fabulous photographs in a week’s time.

And more tricks for senior dogs.

The concluding part to yesterday’s post.

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Open a door

Your dog can cue to you open the door by ringing a bell, but how about taking it to the next level and teaching your dog to open the door by himself? In fact, there’s a handy trick built into this that we will introduce later on! This video walks you through all the steps to opening doors and drawers:

Hold an object

If your dog likes to play fetch or tug, it may be a great idea to teach him how to hold and carry an object. It’s a new way for a dog to think about holding a toy, since once the dog has a grip on it, he needs to wait for you to give the cue to release it. This trick is also included in a more complicated trick, which is next on our list. But first, here’s a video that shows you how to master this trick:

Fetch something from the fridge or cupboard

When you have the training down for touch, opening the door, knowing the names of objects, and holding an object, it’s just a matter of putting the steps together to teach your dog to fetch an item from somewhere in the house. A popular version of this trick is of course to fetch a beer from the fridge! But maybe start out with a less fizzy drink option, just in case.

Back up

An interesting trick to teach your senior dog is how to walk backwards. It’s a great one to help with getting him to think about using his body a little differently. Most dogs aren’t really aware of where their hind end is — it’s just the part that follows their front end. By teaching your dog to walk backward, you’re teaching him to be aware of where his back legs are going. It’s great for both mental and physical agility.

Find it

Keep life interesting for your dog by creating a game around using his nose to find a reward. This is a great trick especially for dogs whose hearing or sight has diminished with age. The trick teaches them to use their noses even more purposefully, using scent work to find the hidden treat or toy. Once you teach your dog how to find it, you can have the “it” be something different every time you play to keep your dog at the top of his game. This video shows an older Labrador learning the steps to the “find it” game and having fun playing:

Tuck himself in bed

It’s surprising how much fun you can have with a trick that only requires your dog to grab a blanket and roll over. This adorable trick is great for dogs of any age, and is an easy (and cozy) trick for your senior dog to learn. You simply teach your dog to lie down on a blanket, grab and hold the corner of it, and roll over so he tucks himself into bed. For senior dogs who like to snooze in extra warm blankets, this is a dream trick. Here’s how it works:

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So there you are. Plenty to keep you and your senior dogs engaged for a long time. Once again, if you missed part one then that was published yesterday.

Tricks for us seniors

Eleven tricks you can teach a senior dog.

The household here in Oregon has a number of seniors, both dogs and humans. And while I’m pretty sure that this senior human is practically past the point of learning new tricks, apparently it doesn’t apply to our old dogs.

So enjoy this recent article that appeared on Mother Nature News.

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Teaching an old dog new tricks is not only possible, but a lot of fun!

By: Jaymi Heimbuch, November 30, 2015

Old dogs can learn new tricks with ease! (Photo: Annette Shaff/Shutterstock)
Old dogs can learn new tricks with ease! (Photo: Annette Shaff/Shutterstock)

The old saying goes that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but we know a lot of old sayings are wrong — this one included. Of course we can teach old dogs new tricks! In fact, it’s a great way to keep your dog mentally stimulated and having fun throughout his life.

One important thing to keep in mind about teaching senior dogs new tricks and behaviors is the dog’s level of physical ability. Many senior dogs are perfectly able, but if your dog is getting achy in the joints or has other limitations that come with age, keep these in mind. Older dogs may have joint pain or arthritis and have a harder time jumping or even sitting for long periods. They may also have dental issues which may limit the tricks they can do using their mouths. And they may also have hearing or vision problems which alter not only what kinds of tricks you want to teach them but also the way in which you teach them. So it’s important to know what your dog’s physical limitations are when you’re thinking up new tricks, and not push him to the point of possible injury.

While your dog may be past the days of learning to jump through hoops or leap over walls, there is a huge range of tricks that keep mobility issues in mind, and which senior dogs will have a lot of fun learning. Some of the tricks listed here build on each other and gain complexity, so you can keep things interesting for your dog for weeks at a time while training.

Touch

This is such a great trick to use as a foundation for other tricks, from flipping light switches on or off to coming back to your side. And it’s incredibly easy for your dog to learn and do. This is great for older dogs because you can make it really simple at first and build complexity into it after your dog has it down. To start out, you train your dog to do hand targeting. Here’s a video that shows not only how to train your dog to touch your hand, but many of the uses of the behavior:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWSJVwZybwo

Yawn

Teaching your dog to yawn is all about “capturing behavior” with clicker training. It’s much like training your dog “touch” but this time, you have to wait for your dog to offer the behavior and capture it when it happens. Click — or say a key word like “Yes” — whenever you catch your dog yawning, and then reward him with treats or a game with a toy. After awhile, your dog begins to associate the yawn as being a trick that earns a reward. Here’s a video that demonstrates capturing different behaviors that you can turn into cute tricks, including yawning on command:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybL0mkN0ZYA

Put toys away

Even when you’re a grown-up, you have to pick up your toys when you’re done playing. Teaching your dog this tidy behavior will keep him or her a little more active in a low-key way, and thus help loosen up those stiff joints and muscles without putting a strain on their body. Plus, it’s a fun game that you can play over and over, not just on clean-up duty.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjfjzhErIF4

Names of objects

Stretch your dog’s mental abilities by teaching him the name of different objects or toys. This is a great way to teach your dog to fetch certain items from the toy box or even various objects from around house. You can start off with a few items from the toy box or simply get rolling with items you may want him to fetch for you, including hats, keys, shoes, blankets and so on.

Though it may take a while for your dog to truly grasp the name for each item at first, soon he will catch on to what the name game is all about and will likely grasp names faster when introduced to new objects.

Here’s a video that shows how to begin teaching a dog the name of an item, and how to add more items into the mix:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9cDzgEa4Ado

Ring a bell to go out

Your senior dog may be house-trained, but is he also trained to tell you precisely when he wants or needs to go out? You can give your older dog a great tool to tell you what he needs by teaching him to ring a bell as a cue to go outside. This video shows the progression of teaching a dog to touch the bell, and then eventually transition to learning that ringing the bell means their human opens the door for them.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjve4nuw7So

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The balance of this fascinating article comes out tomorrow.

Friendly play between dogs, or what?

An informative article about bullying by dogs.

Another day that almost disappeared as a result of my impending book launch soaking up so much time.

LfDFrontCoverebook

The book should be available for sale by the end of the month, with the launch and book signing taking place locally in Grants Pass on Saturday, December 12th. Followers of this blog will be offered a special discount on the ebook versions once they are released shortly. So if that “rocks your boat” then sign up to follow this blog. Here’s a description of the book:

About the book

There’s a tiny amount of domesticated wolf in all of us. The relationship between canids and humans goes back nearly 40,000 years, when dogs split away from wolves. With our dogs, we have traveled the ancient track from hunter-gatherers to modern humans. However, this track now seems to offer an uncertain future for humankind and society.

Learning from Dogs shows how and why now, more than ever, we humans need to learn from our dogs. At times the book relates personal stories through autobiography, diary, and blog entries. Other times it reinforces a point with speculative and imaginative fictional narrative. Throughout the book, there is a foundation about the history of wolves, dogs, and humans, as the author injects factual research to assist us to more fully understand the importance of this unique relationship.

With just the right blend of humor, story-telling, perception, compassion, and insight, the author shares his unusual perspective and how he came to share what he’s learned through a lifetime of observation and interaction with dogs.

Readers who love dogs, or any animals, will connect with this book and become more fully aware of why our animal friends are valuable to learn from to help us heal the challenges of the 21st century. Occasionally launching into intellectual tangents that will provide intrigue and inspiration for the heart and soul, the book ultimately returns to the central thesis: “What we can (and should) learn from dogs.”

Pat Shipman, retired adjunct professor of anthropology at The Pennsylvania State University, and the author of The Animal Connection and The invaders; How Humans and Their Dogs Drove Neanderthals to Extinction, described the book as, “both wise and thoughtful. It also includes some of the best writing about the intimate and special relationship between dogs and humans I have ever read.”

The Foreword to the book is by well-known local vet, James R. Goodbrod, Master’s Degree, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.

So with no further ado, here is an informative article that was recently published by Mother Nature News and is republished here with their kind permission.

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Is your dog a playground bully?

What starts out as rambunctious play can quickly turn into a toothy problem.

By: Jaymi Heimbuch, November 12, 2015.

I'm the boss and you'll do as I say! (Photo: Rita Kochmarjova/Shutterstock)
I’m the boss and you’ll do as I say! (Photo: Rita Kochmarjova/Shutterstock)

You’re at the park with your dog as he finds another four-legged buddy to play with. The two dogs seem to be having fun, but something feels amiss. Your dog is extra rambunctious and is really pushing the other dog around. Maybe the other dog is handling your dog’s overly rough-and-tumble attitude with patience. Or perhaps the other dog begins to hide behind or between his owner’s legs, looking for a break from your bossy dog.

Been in this situation? You just might have a bully on your hands.

Bullying behavior is a bigger problem than simply having a rude dog. In the immediate situation, it can lead to an attack or a fight, and in the long run it can cause the dog’s unappreciative play partner to become fear-aggressive, thinking all dogs are bullies. That’s why it’s important to stop bullying behavior the second you see it and train your dog to play appropriately.

Signs of bullying behavior include:

  • Being overly demanding about getting a toy, attention from people, or other resources
  • Continually standing over or pinning another dog to the ground
  • Ignoring signals from a play partner that the play is too rough or unwanted
  • An escalating intensity when the other dog pushes back or tries to leave

If you have a dog that behaves like a bully on the playground, there are steps you can take to fix the situation, which will benefit both your dog and all the other dogs he wants to play with.

Play can quickly escalate into bullying behavior. Here's how to keep an eye out for it. (Photo: Photick/Shutterstock)
Play can quickly escalate into bullying behavior. Here’s how to keep an eye out for it. (Photo: Photick/Shutterstock)

What causes bullying behavior?

“Over-stimulation often leads to bossy behavior,” says Erin Kramer, an expert dog trainer who specializes in rehabilitating fearful, anxious and aggressive dogs. “This means that as the energy level rises, such as during chasing games, tug of war, or even just enthusiastic wrestling, dogs often become too stimulated and start to ignore signals from other dogs that they are playing too rough or that their interaction is not welcome. Dogs also feed off of each others’ energy, so a group of playing dogs can escalate into over stimulation and bullying behavior faster than a dog would with just one play partner.”

Kramer adds that simply watching how another dog is responding to your dog can tell you if your dog is being a bully. “If the other dogs are attempting to move and stay away, overly submitting by rolling on their backs, or are showing signs of stress or avoidance, that is a good indication your dog may be getting too rough.”

If you aren’t certain if your dog is bullying or if that’s just the play style of the two dogs, Kramer suggests getting a hold of your dog and seeing what happens when you make him take a break from play. If the other dog runs to your dog for more, then the two are getting along fine. But if the other dog maintains space, then the other dog is likely not really enjoying your dog’s rough play behavior and your dog needs to tone it down.

What to do if your dog is the bully

The old advice of letting dogs “work it out themselves” is the source of many problematic behaviors that can take years of training to overcome. Bullies will simply get better at bullying, and the dogs being picked on will likely develop increasingly intense fears about your dog and other dogs. Humans need to step in immediately to break up play that isn’t fun for both dogs, and prevent a bad situation — and bad behavior — from getting worse.

Once you’ve identified that your dog is being unappreciatively assertive with other dogs, it’s important to interrupt the behavior in the moment, then begin training to end the behavior in the long run.

In the moment, call your dog away and have him sit or lie down until he calms down. This can take a long time for a dog easily aroused in a dog park. Your dog is not calm until he can look away from other dogs playing, focus on you and exhibit relaxed body language. If after several minutes, your dog can’t seem to take his eyes off the other dogs and just wants to dive back in, then it’s time to leave the play area as it’s likely your dog won’t be able to tone down his play style.

The next thing is to begin setting your dog up for successful play sessions in such a way that you can easily step in to interrupt bullying behavior the moment it happens.

“If your dog does not have the advanced obedience it takes to perform an off leash ‘come’ out of play — and let’s face it, that’s a really challenging time to respond — then you need to set up your dog to deal with their bullying issues,” advises Kramer. “Have the dog wear a long leash, select a small play area where it’s easy to get control, and practice your obedience training so you are prepared to handle your dog correctly.”

Watch for things that might set your dog into bully mode, including the energy level, the play partner's personality, and other factors. (Photo: Ksenia Raykova/Shutterstock)
Watch for things that might set your dog into bully mode, including the energy level, the play partner’s personality, and other factors. (Photo: Ksenia Raykova/Shutterstock)

During play, look for the timing of your dog’s bullying behavior and see if there are patterns. Kramer notes to watch if it’s a certain type of play partner, such as a high-energy or confident dog, that brings out the bully in your dog, or perhaps it’s simply that your dog bullies more when he hasn’t had as much exercise or training practice.

“If you can find a pattern to what creates or worsens their bullying behavior, then you can take steps to reduce it from happening and set them up for success by choosing more appropriate play partners or getting them increased exercise before play,” says Kramer.

Taking steps to train your dog to end bullying behavior is important, and Atlanta Humane Society has a great article outlining one way to interrupt and retrain your dog to end bullying over the course of many weeks. In addition to solid training addressing bullying during play, it’s important to have other tools to help your dog take the lessons beyond the dog park.

One lesson that Kramer notes is essential for pushy dogs is concept “Nothing In Life Is Free.” Teach your dog that he only gets the rewards he wants most in life when he thinks about what his human wants. Your dog will then continually check in with you, so he can earn what he wants.

“Demanding dogs are often dogs who need to know, ‘what’s in it for me?'” says Kramer. “Start making an asset list of all the things your dog sees as valuable. Remember that there are things that should go on the list outside of just treats and toys such as going through the front door, playing with friends, greeting strangers, even tummy rubs and snuggle time. Instead of giving away all those valuable rewards, ask your dog to earn them by performing commands like sit, down, stay, come, or doing a trick. Your dog will still get access to all of the things he likes, but he’ll have to earn those things from humans and in doing so, he’ll learn that pushy behavior doesn’t get rewarded. Once they learn this skill, they will be less bully-ish in general, and much more willing to listen to people when you need to get their attention.”

You can also implement a “no reward marker” or NRM, which works in the same way as clicker training, but rather than the marker indicating that a reward is coming, the marker indicates a loss of something is coming. Pat Miller writes in Whole Dog Journal, “My preferred NRM, the one I teach and use if/when necessary, is the word ‘Oops!’ [which] simply means, ‘Make another behavior choice or there will be an immediate loss of good stuff.’ An NRM is to be delivered in a non-punitive tone of voice … Timing is just as important with your NRM as it is with your reward marker. You’ll use it the instant your dog’s bully behavior appears, and if the bullying continues for more than a second or two more, grasp his leash … and remove him from play. Don’t repeat the NRM. Give him at least 20 seconds to calm down, more if he needs it, then release him to go play again.”

Sharing is caring! (Photo: Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH/Shutterstock)
Sharing is caring! (Photo: Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH/Shutterstock)

What to do if your dog is being bullied

You may have an issue with a bullying dog, but it isn’t your dog causing the strife. It’s just as important to step in to interrupt your dog getting picked on. Again, letting dogs “work it out themselves” leads to significant behavioral problems, including a bullied dog becoming excessively fearful or reactive to other dogs because of the bad experience of being bullied.

“This mindset is just much too risky!” says Kramer. “We the humans very often do not know the social skill level of the other dogs involved nor can we successfully know exactly how stressed or scared our own dog is in that situation. I would much rather a dog learn that his humans step in when he is showing signs of discomfort rather than him learning he is forced to defend himself, and that being fear-aggressive is a good strategy to keep himself safe.”

If you see that your dog is getting picked on or is uncomfortable in a play situation, calmly but confidently step in. You can leash your dog and leave, or step between your dog and the other dog to break up play. Staying calm but assertive is key, since your reaction sends a message to your dog. Screaming and yelling at the dogs to break it up tells your dog that this is a scary situation, where as firmly stepping in lets your dog knows that what happened was uncomfortable but nothing to be scared about.

“By demonstrating to your dog that you are responsible and actively engaged in keeping them safe, they will gain confidence in handling tricky social situations and will be less fearful and reactive when negative experiences arise,” says Kramer.

“As a trainer who does a lot of aggression rehabilitation work with dogs who have been bullied or attacked by other dogs, there is a particular joy I get in watching fearful dogs learn that they are no longer responsible for protecting themselves, and that I as their human handler will observe the body language messages they send me and will then take the steps needed to alleviate their discomfort. There is a bond that comes with such a system of partnership that makes a dog a more confident, social, and happy being. Allowing your dog to bully or be bullied means that you are undermining that system, and teaching your dog that they are on their own in learning how to make successful social decisions. With just a bit of observation, intervention and repetition you can help your dog learn the boundaries of positive social interaction and you will not only have a dog who is a better playmate, you will also have a stronger relationship altogether.”

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To my mind, this is a very helpful article and all the links offer a wealth of supporting information.

Pharaoh demonstrating his benevolent status with puppy Cleo. April 2012.
Pharaoh demonstrating his benevolent status with puppy Cleo. April 2012.

The emotions of our most beloved animal friend: our dog.

Exploring the range of emotions felt and displayed by our dogs.

Like so many bloggers, I subscribe to the writings of many others. Indeed, it’s a rare day when I don’t read something that touches me, stirring up emotions across the whole range of feelings that we funny humans are capable of.

Such was the case with a recent essay published on Mother Nature Network. It was about dogs and whether they are capable of complex emotions. Better than that, MNN allow their essays to be republished elsewhere so long as they are fully and properly credited.

Thus, with great pleasure I republished the following essay written by Jaymi Heimbuch.

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Are dogs capable of complex emotions?

Exactly what emotions do dogs feel, and are they capable of all the same emotions as humans? (Photo: Pressmaster/Shutterstock)
Exactly what emotions do dogs feel, and are they capable of all the same emotions as humans? (Photo: Pressmaster/Shutterstock)

Joy, fear, surprise, disgust, sadness. These are the basic emotions dogs feel that are also easy enough for humans to identify. But what about more complex emotions?

Many dog owners are convinced their dogs feel guilty when they’re caught misbehaving. In the same way, many owners are sure their dogs feel pride at having a new toy or bone. But it gets tricky when you assign these sorts of emotions to a dog. These are definitely emotions felt by humans, but are they also felt by dogs?

(see footnote)

Why we question the presence of complex emotions is wrapped up in the way we get to those emotions. The American Psychological Association explains, “Embarrassment is what’s known as a self-conscious emotion. While basic emotions such as anger, surprise or fear tend to happen automatically, without much cognitive processing, the self-conscious emotions, including shame, guilt and pride, are more complex. They require self-reflection and self-evaluation.”

Essentially we’re comparing our behavior or situation to a social expectation. For instance, guilt comes when we reflect on the fact that we’ve violated a social rule. We need to be aware of the rule and what it means to break it. So, can dogs feel guilt? Well, exactly how self-reflective and self-evaluative are dogs?

Among humans, children begin to experience empathy and what are called secondary emotions when they are around 2 years old. Researchers estimate that the mental ability of a dog is roughly equal to that of an 18-month-old human. “This conclusion holds for most mental abilities as well as emotions,” says Stanley Coren in an article in Modern Dog Magazine. “Thus, we can look to the human research to see what we might expect of our dogs. Just like a two-year-old child, our dogs clearly have emotions, but many fewer kinds of emotions than found in adult humans.”

In other words, if 18-month-old children can’t yet experience these emotions, and dogs are roughly equal to them in cognitive and emotional ability, then dogs can’t feel these self-reflective emotions either. At least, that’s what researchers have concluded so far.

Is that guilt or fear?

This little puppy might feel guilty for chewing on clothes, or he could just be worried about getting in trouble. The two aren't the same emotion. (Photo: InBetweentheBlinks/Shutterstock)
This little puppy might feel guilty for chewing on clothes, or he could just be worried about getting in trouble. The two aren’t the same emotion. (Photo: InBetweentheBlinks/Shutterstock)

The evidence for primary emotions like love and happiness in dogs abounds, but empirical evidence for secondary emotions like jealousy and guilt is sparse. And this is partially because it’s difficult to create tests that provide clear-cut answers. When it comes to guilt, does a dog act guilty because she knows she did something wrong, or because she’s expecting a scolding? The same expression can come across as guilt or fear. How do we know which it is?

Scientific American explains it further:

“In wolves, it is thought that guilt-related behaviors serve to reinforce social bonds, as in primates, by reducing conflict and eliciting tolerance from other members of the social group. The same could be true of dogs, though their social groups would primarily include humans. The problem is that the display of the associated behaviors of guilt are not, themselves, evidence of the capacity to emotionally experience guilt… It may still be some time before we can know for certain whether dogs can experience guilt, or whether people can determine if a dog has violated a rule prior to finding concrete evidence of it.”

Guilt, and other secondary emotions, are complicated. That’s exactly why cognitive awareness and emotional capacity in dogs is still a topic under study. In fact, it’s an area that has grown significantly in recent years. We may discover that dogs have a more complex range of emotions than we’re aware of today.

Dogs are highly social animals, and social animals are required to navigate a range of emotions in themselves and those around them to maintain social bonds. It wasn’t so long ago that scientists thought that dogs (and other non-human animals) didn’t have any feelings at all. Perhaps our understanding of dog emotions is simply limited by the types of tests we’ve devised to understand their emotions. After all, we’re trying to detect a sophisticated emotional state in a species that doesn’t speak the same language.

There’s a lot we don’t know

Dogs experience a range of emotions, but researchers are still trying to figure out exactly what those emotions are. (Photo: Hysteria/Shutterstock)
Dogs experience a range of emotions, but researchers are still trying to figure out exactly what those emotions are. (Photo: Hysteria/Shutterstock)

Marc Bekoff makes the argument for leaving the possibility open. In an article in Psychology Today he writes, “[B]ecause it’s been claimed that other mammals with whom dogs share the same neural bases for emotions do experience guilt, pride, and shame and other complex emotions, there’s no reason why dogs cannot.”

Keeping the possibility open is more than just an emotional animal rights issue. There is a scientific basis for continuing the research. A recent study showed that the brains of dogs and humans function in a more similar way than we previously thought.

Scientific American reports that “dog brains have voice-sensitive regions and that these neurological areas resemble those of humans. Sharing similar locations in both species, they process voices and emotions of other individuals similarly. Both groups respond with greater neural activity when they listen to voices reflecting positive emotions such as laughing than to negative sounds that include crying or whining. Dogs and people, however, respond more strongly to the sounds made by their own species.”

Until recently, we had no idea of the similar ways human and dog brains process social information.

So do dogs feel shame, guilt and pride? Maybe. Possibly. It’s still controversial, but for now, there seems to be no harm in assuming they do unless proven otherwise.

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Footnote: At this point in the MNN article there was a link to a series of gorgeous photographs of dogs. If you dear readers can wait, then I will publish them this coming Sunday. If you can’t wait, then go here!