Tag: TreeHugger

What a brilliant idea!

This is a wonderful, innovative way to look after dogs.

It’s not that often that something comes along that is wonderfully refreshing, both as an idea and in practice. I am speaking of a way of housing shelter dogs.

It’s the work of Austin Pets Alive and I’m not surprised in the slightest to read from their website:

Austin Pets Alive! is not your average animal shelter. We pioneer innovative lifesaving programs designed to save the animals most at risk of euthanasia.

They are in Texas.

But back to the article which appeared on the Treehugger website.

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This Rescue is Building Tiny Homes for Shelter Dogs

They offer a calm alternative to the chaos of shelter life.

By Mary Jo DiLonardo, October 1st, 2020

The shelter is building two tiny homes for rescue dogs.
Austin Pets Alive!

The shelter environment can be incredibly overwhelming for any dog. There are strange sights, smells, and sounds, and the presence of unfamiliar animals and people can be constantly changing. Some pets adapt more quickly than others, while some struggle with the frenetic surroundings.

One animal shelter in Texas is building tiny houses as a solution for those anxious dogs that need a calmer place to stay. The non-profit rescue is creating two small cabins on their shelter grounds complete with heating and air conditioning, dog-friendly furniture, and their own private yards. The cabins will also provide workspaces for staff and volunteers.

The tiny homes should be ready for their first guests later this month.

“The idea is to provide more of a home-like environment for the unique population of dogs Austin Pets Alive! cares for as the safety net for shelter animals who need us most — a place for decompression, training, and quality-of-life purposes,” Director of Operations Stephanie Bilbro tells Treehugger. “It seemed like the best opportunity for the investment, and also has the benefit of being a project that can be repeated as many times as we want!”

Having tiny homes for some of the shelter’s canine residents was a long-time dream of the rescue’s executive director, veterinarian Ellen Jefferson. The rescue put together a committee of staff and volunteers in 2019 to assess the facility and see what improvement could be made.

They decided to build the tiny homes “as a way to provide a better quality of life for some of our longest-stay or most behaviorally challenged dogs”, Bilbro says.

The cabins will house one dog at a time and they will remain there for the rest of their stay until they find a foster or adoptive home. The cabins will primarily be used for dogs who are overstimulated by the standard kennel environment.

Some dogs are scared and overwhelmed by the shelter environment. Austin Pets Alive!

“Overstimulation can lead not only to higher stress in the animal, but can actually be dangerous for a handler, or other animals, if you have a dog who expresses stress by showing impulsive or aggressive behaviors,” Bilbro says.

“Overstimulation is also a big barrier to successful training or behavior modification, so it can be difficult to make progress with dogs like this in a kennel or shelter environment. The cabins will ideally provide a quiet and low-stimulation place for the dogs to decompress and relax in a way that will help our staff and volunteers get through to them easier.”

The rescue is relying on donations to keep saving lives and trying out innovations like these, Bilbro says. When the pandemic first started, the rescue increased its intakes so smaller and more rural shelters that were temporarily closing wouldn’t have to euthanize animals.

The first dogs should be moving into their tiny houses soon. And maybe they won’t be staying long.

“We also hope that the ‘home-like’ environment of the cabins will help us learn a little more about how a dog would act in a home, which could tell us more about what kind of foster or adopter they need for our matchmakers to match them with their forever families,” Bilbro says.

“Would they be calm or anxious, would they be destructive or tidy, are they possibly housetrained, will they let people come into their space without conflict? These are things we would hope to learn from a foster home but without needing to find a foster who is willing to take on a challenging dog, or a dog we don’t know a lot about.”

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I have nothing to do with neither Treehugger nor Austin Pets Alive.

However, I was so impressed with the way they operated that we made a very small donation. So, if there’s anybody else out there who can afford some money then this is the link to donate.

I just donated to Austin Pets Alive!, an organization that serves the animals most at-risk through innovative programs that address the animals’ needs. I’m proud to support a mission that believes that animal shelters should do just that – provide every animal the chance to find their forever home!

Provide every animal the chance to find their forever home.

It doesn’t get any better for our lovely dogs than that.

An insight into how breeds come about.

The background to breeds.

Funnily enough, Jeannie and I were speaking just recently about the creation of breeds, in particular because we were fascinated as to the breed origins of Oliver.

Oliver. Taken at home, 17th May, 2020.

Oliver’s eyes are to die for!

Well a recent article on the Treehugger blog threw some light on this.

I hope it is permissible to share it with you.

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Labradoodles Are More Poodle Than Lab

Study helps deepen understanding about how breeds are formed.
By
Published September 22, 2020

Australian Labradoodles aren’t officially recognized as a breed. Purple Collar Pet Photography / Getty Images

The Australian creator of the Labradoodle was trying to find the perfect guide dog for a blind woman whose husband was allergic to dog hair. He tried about a dozen poodles before breeding a poodle with a Labrador retriever. The resulting Australian Labradoodles became incredibly popular as a mix of two well-liked breeds.

But a new study finds that the breed that developed from that popular cross isn’t an even split of both breeds – it is primarily poodle.
Australian Labradoodles have been around for several decades and have been bred to each other and tinkered with since then. By contrast, many Labradoodles that are found in the U.S. are first-generation mixes of one Labrador and one poodle. These dogs were used as the control dogs in the study, researcher Elaine Ostrander, geneticist at the National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health, tells Treehugger.

“We were interested in taking a genomic snapshot of a breed in the making—the Australian Labradoodle. The breed has only been around since the 1980s as opposed to the many breeds we see at the dog park which have been around since Victorian times and were created in Western Europe,” she says.

The Australian Labradoodle has gone through several generations, with careful and thoughtful addition of Labradors and poodles added, reflecting what breeders and owners want. We wanted to see if genomics could be used to tell what was happening to the genome of these dogs as they evolved into a breed.
The Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI), an international federation of many national kennel clubs, recognizes about 350 dog breeds. The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognizes 195 breeds. The Labradoodle is not an official breed.

“We were also curious to see if the breed met the statistical definition of a breed. There are many measures in terms of genomic diversity and ability to ‘breed true’ that are taken into account when determining when a dog population is really a ‘breed’ at the genetic level,” Ostrander says.

Many of these breeds have been created through intense breeding programs focused on enhancing specific traits. When designer breeds are created, the genetic diversity is limited because there are a small number of animals being bred together. This often leads to a high incidence of disease and other problems.
Lots of Poodle DNA

For the study, researchers analyzed genetic data from Australian Labradoodles, Labrador retrievers, poodles, and a number of other breeds. The results were published in PLOS Genetics.

Ostrander says they were somewhat surprised at what they found.

“First, the Australian Labradoodle meets the definition of a breed at the statistical level. Those arguing for it to have breed status with various registries have a good argument,” she says. “What we didn’t expect was the degree to which today’s Australian Labradoodle has such a large component of its genome from the poodle. While the breed started as a 50-50 mix, it is clear that poodle traits are highly valued and many more poodles than Labradors have been added to the breed at strategic points.”

That’s likely because poodles have a reputation for being hypoallergenic, she points out, and elicit a lower allergic reaction than many other dog breeds in people with allergies or asthma.

“Owners buy Labradoodles for many reasons including their trainability, family friendly traits, and, importantly, they want a dog that won’t make them sneeze or otherwise respond,” she says. “Interestingly, the Labrador is very much present in every Australian Labradoodle we tested. Likely people are seeking the family-friendly traits of the Labrador and breeders work hard to retain that as well.”

Labradoodles weren’t the first doodle dogs and definitely are not the last. The first poodle mixes were likely Cockapoos because Cocker spaniels and poodles were two of the most popular dog breeds in the U.S. in the 1940s. Today, you’ll find schnoodles (schnauzers), sheepadoodles (Old English sheepdog), and whoodles (soft-coated wheaten terrier). Poodles have been mixed with beagles, pugs, Australian shepherds, corgis, and even Saint Bernards.

The lore behind Australian Labradoodles is that English and American Cocker spaniels were mixed in with the breed early on.

“We did find some minor evidence for the addition of other breeds in some lineages of Australian Labradoodle. Likely this represents the historical relationship of those breeds with the poodle or Labrador more than anything else,” Ostrander says. “We did not see that in every lineage we looked at and where we did see it, the addition was very small and, likely, many generations ago.”

The findings are helpful, the researchers point out, because it shows how quickly genetics can be changed by thoughtful breeding.

“Imagine a breed has a significant risk for a disease. Careful breeding can reduce the incidence of those deleterious variants in just a few generations,” Ostrander says. “This is incredibly important to breeders who have taken very seriously the criticism they have received over the years regarding how established breeds are less healthy than mixes. We all want our dogs to be healthy, regardless of what breed they are.”

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This deserves a very careful read and, to those really interested in the subject, perhaps this will serve as an incentive to do more research. There are links in the article to the FCI and AKC.

And I will finish with the closing statement by Elaine Ostrander: “We all want our dogs to be healthy, regardless of what breed they are.

The power of love …

….. for the animals in our lives.

In yesterday’s post Senior Smiles there was a lovely exchange between Cindy and me. Cindy wrote:

Just a few days ago I relived in my mind the pain of losing our 16 year old Bichon- and that was a year and a half ago! Honestly, that is my biggest fear of adopting another dog- esp an older one.

Cindy then, mistakenly in my view, thought that, “it’s selfish to hang on to grief like this, and I REALLY don’t mean to“, to which I replied:

Grief is not a selfish attitude, far from it! You will know when it’s the right time to adopt, and love, a new dog.

You can then easily imagine my pleasure when thinking of what to write for today’s post to see a recent item over on the Care2 site about our commitment to our pets. About our love for our pets.

The item was called How Far Would You Go For Your Pet? and is republished here today. I would like to dedicate this post to Cindy! Cindy is the author of the blog: Mermaid in a Mudslide.

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How Far Would You Go for Your Pet?

1388717.largeBy: TreeHugger. August 23, 2016

There is simply no denying the power that pets hold over us.

I suppose there are a number of reasons why we love our dogs and cats (and others) so much, but surely their innocence and unconditional love rank right up there on top. Plus they’re cute, and furry, and funny, and sweet, and overall good companions. But I have to think there is something about them providing access to the larger animal world in general as well – domesticated animals are like a bridge between us civilized humans and wildlife, and for this they serve an important role. If we can find compassion for our companion animals, in many cases that compassion seeps out and becomes extended to other elements of the natural world as well.

And we really, really have compassion for our pets. Like, approaching fervency. Last year Americans spent over $60 billion on their pets, a number expected to increase by another $2 billion this year. That. Is. So. Much. Money. If you spent $20 per second, it would take 95 years to spend $60 billion.

But even more telling than how much we spend on our pets is the other sacrifices we would make for them. With pets on their mind, the website Abodo conducted a survey of 2,000 dog and cat owners and asked them all kinds of bordering-on-Sophie’s-Choice type of questions. The following results display just how cuckoo we are for our creature cohabitants.

What-Would-People-Really-Do-for-Their-Pets

See more of the survey’s results here.

Written by Melissa Breyer, this post originally appeared on TreeHugger.

Photo Credit: dougwoods/Flickr

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The power of (unconditional) love!