Do dogs need training to understand human cues?

Dr. Anindita Bhadra of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Kolkata, India, and colleagues studied stray dogs across several Indian cities to determine if dogs can understand human cues without training.

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They found that stray dogs that were not timid or shy, would respond to a strange human pointing to a bowl. If the dog was friendlier and less anxious, they approached the bowls that the tester pointed to about 80% of the time. This shows that the dogs not only recognized human body language but are able to understand complex gestures.

What the researchers were unable to tell is how much experience the stray dogs had with humans and was it positive or negative. Also unknown is if people had fed the dogs in the past, using a pointing motion to indicate that there was food available.

The study does mention that more research is needed to determine if the personality of the dog is a factor in their response to human pointing. But all in all, it is another piece of information that gives us insight into the mind of the dog.

Roaming cats worry their owners

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Exeter, found that owners who allow their cats to roam freely outdoors worry about their cat’s safety. Why then do they let their cats roam? The study shows that many cat owners feel that their cats need to roam and hunt. They feel that a cat would not be happy or fulfilled if they are kept indoors.

 

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A feral kitten we rescued a few years ago. We found her in the road on a cold, snowy Christmas eve. She was adopted to a good home. 

Unfortunately these sentiments can be detrimental to a cat’s health and even it’s life. Cats do not need to be free outdoors to roam and hunt. Cats can and do live a happy and productive life indoors. It is up to the owner to provide interactive toys or play with their cat to satisfy the cat’s need to hunt and attack prey.

Cats also need companionship, either from another animal or their owners. Most cats are very social although not in the same way as dogs are.

There are videos made for cats to watch. If a cat owner feels strongly that their cat should spend time outdoors there are cat containment systems that allow a cat to go outdoors and be safe. You only need to google “cat outdoor yards” or “cat containment systems” to find a wide variety to meet your cat’s needs.

There are a number of reasons why a cat should not be allowed to freely roam outdoors. Being outdoors, even in a city or urban environment subjects the cat to predators which can range from dogs, other cats, hawks, foxes, coyotes and other wild animals that will attack a cat either aggressively or defensively. There are also evil people who make it a sport to trap and torture or kill cats.

If a cat kills wildlife, they are exposed to various parasites and diseases. If they come in contact with other outdoor cats, they can be exposed to various cat borne diseases which could be fatal. If a cat kills and ingests some of the blood of a rodent that has eaten rodent poison, the poison in the rodent’s blood can kill the cat.

Being exposed to injury, diseases and parasites, can make the cat sick and cost the owner multiple veterinarian bills. Not to mention subject the cat to preventable suffering and death.

If the cat is not spayed or neutered, letting it roam freely will cause pregnancy and add to the feral cat population. Contrary to what many people think, feral cats do not live a good life. They are subjected to all the above-mentioned diseases and death. Most feral cats do not live past kittenhood and if they do, only live about two very harsh years, struggling to find food, water, warmth and to fend off predators.

In conclusion, there is no positive reason to let a cat roam freely outdoors. There is every reason to trap, spay, neuter and adopt feral cats.

Early exposure to dogs lessens the risk of schizophrenia

An important study conducted by Robert Yolken, M.D. the chair of the Stanley Division of Pediatric Neurovirology at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center showed that early exposure to dogs may lessen the risk of children developing schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The study also explored if early exposure to cats had the same affect. It seems that it has not been proven if cats produce the same results.

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It is not hard to understand how this is possible when you realize, as the article explains, that serious psychiatric disorders are associated with changes in the immune system. Changes result from exposure to different environmental conditions (not just pets). In the case of pet cats and dogs, they can affect the immune system through allergic responses, bacteria related to pets, contact with animal bacteria and viruses, the microorganisms in the home environment as well as the reduction of stress which changes the brain chemistry.

While this study has given us insight to another benefit of raising a child during his first 13 years with a dog (and possibly a cat), the study points out that more research is needed. It is my hope that researchers will eventually be able to pinpoint the exact cause of this benefit and develop a way to use it to help many people.

Pilot whale groups have their own dialect

In a new study by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) has found that short-finned pilot whales living off the coast of Hawaii have their own vocal dialects. This discovery may help researchers understand the whales’ complex social structure.

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By using genetic material scientists have determined that the smallest family of whales, referred to as a unit, are directly related. We would call it the immediate family. Next is the cluster which would be the extended family, such as aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. When a group of clusters gather it forms a community, such as a neighborhood.

Understanding their social structure will help scientists understand the life and nature of the whale. They have a close-knit relationship which is evident by mass beaching. If the leader of a group beaches, the rest will follow.

Although the pilot whale is not on the endangered list, they do have risks. They are hunted in many countries and research suggests that they are sensitive to human made noise.

It would be a super thing if we could find a way to understand the language of whales as well as other animals. This latest research is one more step in that direction.

Animal related injuries account for over 1 billion dollars of health care

What may be surprising to many people is that most of the injuries are due to non-venomous insect and spider bites, about 40%. Dog bites only accounted for about 25% of the injuries. About 13% were caused by hornet, wasp and bee stings.

The dollar amount does not include doctor’s fees, outpatient charges, lost productivity, and rehabilitation.

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Over half of the costs associated with animal injuries included dog bites, non-venomous insect and spider bites, and bites from venomous snakes and lizards.

Death due to injuries is rare, only .02% with the highest rate of death due to rat bites, with venomous snake/lizard a close second and third was by dogs.

People over the age of 85 were six times more likely to be admitted to hospital and 27 times more likely to die after their injury.

It seems that while people are careful around dogs and other animals, they should be more aware of the reptiles and insects that they may encounter. This is especially true of ticks that carry several diseases that can make a human or animal seriously ill or even bring about their death.

Shining Hope: The Sparkly Silver Travel Trailer by Libby Trostle

This is a delightful children’s book series that will help children explore North America. The main characters are Gracie and her dog Marshmallow. Shining Hope is the travel trailer that they bring across the country with them.

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The series not only introduces magical places in the US but also teaches children about valuable camping and life lessons. The first book in the series visits Niagara Falls. The book is based on the experiences of the author as they travel throughout the country.

You can order a copy from: shininghopeadventures.com

The Child’s Role in Picking Out a New Dog

Over the years when I have helped families find and select the right dog/puppy, I have seen the frustration, heartache and pressure that allowing children to be part of the process at the wrong time has caused. In some cases even disagreements within the family. As a result I have developed a system that works 100% of the time if followed. In this article I mention my brochure about how to find the right dog and breeder. If you would like the brochure email me with brochure in the subject line. (sbulanda@gmail.com)

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The Child’s Role

Parents often want their children to be involved in picking out the family dog.

While this is a sweet thought, it must be done in a positive way for the benefit of the family, child and dog. First read my brochure, Selecting the Right Dog, Finding the Right Breeder that I offer at no cost.

Once the parents have followed these instructions, they can start the process that will include the children. It is important that only adults select the type, breed and age of the dog for the family. The reasons why are:

A. Children are not educated enough to know what will work for the entire family.

B. They do not understand the cost and care of a given type of dog. They often pick a dog that looks nice to them with no thought to the grooming requirements or costs to pay a groomer to maintain your dog’s coat.

C. If you bring a child with you to evaluate a breeder and/or a litter, and you find that the situation is not one you want to get a dog from, the child may not understand why you are not going to buy or adopt that cute puppy or dog. It can be traumatic for the child to walk away. It can also be impossible for some parents to walk away in that situation. For example, we all know that we should never buy a puppy from a puppy mill breeder. But picture a child who does not understand this and falls in love with a puppy in that situation. Try walking away with a child who is crying and begging you to bring home a puppy. It can be embarrassing for the parent to justify the decision in front of an unethical breeder.

Once you find the right breeder and litter, only the adults should pick which puppy is a candidate. If it is a good litter, then there should be more than one puppy that meets your needs.

Preselect the puppies that are candidates. Come to terms with the breeder about payment and paperwork. Once that is accomplished, then arrange for another visit to the litter. At that time you can bring the children and the breeder can introduce them to the preselected puppies. Now the children can pick which puppy they like.

By handling the puppy selection in this manner it will be a 100% happy experience for the whole family, as well as the breeder.

If you are going to adopt an older dog it is essential to have the dog evaluated by a professional, preferably a certified canine behavior consultant to be sure that the adult dog will be safe around children and safe in your home environment. This includes an evaluation to determine if the adult dog is safe around other animals. Even if you do not own other animals, the chances are that you and your dog will encounter them. It saves everyone heartache and disappointment if you carefully evaluate the new member of your family before you bring him home.

I would also like to mention that it is never a good idea to surprise an adult family member with a puppy as a present. Because of the unique bond that develops between people and their dogs, it is essential that the family member pick their own puppy/dog. If you want to give a dog as a gift, you can give the recipient a stuffed dog with a note that when they are ready, they can pick out the puppy/dog that they want. This way they can choose the breed, breeder and puppy. In many cases people have told me that they really did not want another dog or that they would have rather gotten a different breed even though the family thought they would want a dog like they had before. In some cases if the family member is elderly, they may want a smaller breed or even a cat instead of a dog.

New pets should not be given during the holidays and good breeders will not allow a puppy or kitten to be purchased as a holiday gift. This is a dangerous time to bring a new pet into the home. Often there are many guests coming and going that can frighten a dog or cat, or the pet can bolt out of an open door. It is frightening enough for them to be taken to a strange home. Remember, the pet has no idea why it was taken from its mother, litter mates and put in an unfamiliar environment.

The new pet needs a quiet environment to adjust and feel safe. There are also decorations and typically, an abundance of food available that the new pet might be able to get a hold of, so extra monitoring is needed.

Guests will want to see and perhaps play with the new pet. This can be traumatic for the pet who does not feel safe to begin with.  The new owners may be too busy with guests and even family celebrating the holidays to give the new pet the care and attention that he needs. This is especially true if the family does any visiting and must leave the pet alone.

If anyone has any questions, feel free to email me. I am always glad to help. When picking a dog for work, it is essential that the right breeder, breed and line are up to standards. We put too much effort and time into training a working dog to find out after a year or more of training that the dog cannot work up to the requirements. If children are part of the family, it is likely that you will keep the dog and try to find another. Keep in mind that genetics are not an exact science and even the best breeder can produce a “lemon.”

 

Catnip may help cancer patients

Many of us have seen how catnip also known as catmint makes cats act like a kitten. I have seen cats who played like crazy and some who seemed to get angry and aggressive when given catmint.

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Now scientists have discovered what the chemical process is that makes cats go gaga over catnip.

It turns out it is a two step process that has never been discovered before, where the plant produces nepetalactone, a chemical called a terpene. Other plants such as peppermint, have terpene. By understanding how this chemical is produced, scientists will be able to recreate chemicals such as vinblastine that comes from the Madagascan periwinkle and used for chemotherapy. If scientists can unlock this mystery they will not have to rely on the actual plants for medicines.

Again, our pets have helped us unlock the mysteries of medicine and we will benefit from this research. The lesson for me from this study is that researching something that seems to have no benefit can unlock lifesaving techniques for both humans and animals. After all, who would think of studying catnip?

All Things You Should Know When RVing with Pets by guest blogger, Charlotte Davis

Travelling with a dog can be one of the most exhilarating adventures you’ll ever have. However, journeying with a canine also requires proper planning and preparation. Dogs need quite a bit of maintenance, depending on the individual’s size, breed, and temperament, and it’s important to ensure that all of their needs are taken care of throughout your travels before finally hitting the road. Luckily, the following should supply you with everything you need to know when RVing with a pet.

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Food

This will be one of the first things you’ll want to get sorted out. It’s not quite as easy as just bringing along some dog food and leaving it at that, especially if you’re heading away on a lengthy road trip. For a start, if you’re planning to top up your dog food along the way, make sure that the type of food your pet requires (or is used to) is available wherever you’re going. If possible, research ahead and check availability of dog food in local pet stores located along your route. Don’t forget to clear away any food or water in the RV before hitting the road again, otherwise this is sure to spill and go everywhere once you’re moving. Store water in containers that are properly sealed to avoid spillage and put them in lower parts of the cabinets. If possible, have your dog eating outside to minimize mess in the RV.

Bathroom Duties

Every dog owner knows the kind of disaster that can happen when a dog doesn’t have proper bathroom essentials. When a dog has nowhere else to go, they will go anywhere they can. This can really be an issue when travelling in an RV. Stopping regularly to let your furry little friend do its business is one of the best ways to prevent any messes from occurring, though this can be a challenge depending on where your journey takes you. If your dog is house trained, puppy pads are the next best bet, and have been relied on by millions of dogs since their invention. Simply lay a pad or two on the floor of your RV, and make sure your dog knows where to find them in a pinch.

Finding an RV

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RVs aren’t always the most dog-friendly vehicles. Kitchenettes, stove tops and living areas all have their own hazards to contend with, whether that’s hot elements, loose pots and pans or small spaces your four-footed friend could get stuck in. While many of these issues can be addressed in any RV with adequate care, it’s worth searching for a vehicle that is suitable to begin with. Look for models which have adequate space for your dog to move around a little, and include necessary safety features which ensure that doors or items won’t fly open or come loose, disturbing or hurting your pup. If you have yet to rent an RV for your adventure, there are plenty of types and models to choose from. Within this wide variety, you’re sure to find the perfect mobile abode for both you and your dog. When traveling in Canada, for example, searching for an RV rental in Edmonton is not difficult. Try to find an RV that will provide adequate space, accommodations, and safety for both you and your dog.

Dog-Proofing The RV

RVs are designed primarily with humans, not dogs, in mind. With that in mind, it’s worth puppy-proofing your RV, no matter how fitting your selection of vehicle. Before setting out for the great beyond, you should make sure that electrical outlets are covered, loose cords and wiring are hidden away, and anything toxic or otherwise unsafe for your pooch is safely out of their reach. Any windows accessible to your dog should be secured so they do not open too wide or even break in a worst-case scenario. Ensure that your dog can’t and won’t distract you from the driver’s seat. You can purchase mesh gating at nearly every pet store, which will keep your dog in his or her own, designated area of the RV. Finally, if your dog doesn’t sleep in your bed (which they should not in an RV rental) you should place any bedding in a safe place where your dog will not move around too much. It’s hard enough for dogs to stand up in a moving vehicle. For long journeys, it is important they don’t have any trouble lying down as well. Your dog will, undoubtedly, be doing a lot of that on your ride together.

While holidaying in an RV with your furry pal definitely means doing a lot more prep than you would otherwise, most pet owners would agree that it’s more than worth it to have them along for the ride.

BIO: 

Charlotte Davis is a digital nomad on a mission to spread positivism by sharing tidbits of her travel journey with her pooches. An animal-lover at heart, she wants to inspire people to travel with their pets through her tips on how to make it a safe, relaxing and enjoyable trip.

Follow her on Tumblr to read more of her travel stories.

Susan Bulanda’s Books

Hi loyal followers. Earlier this month I posted about the books I have written. However, I did not realize that my website (www.sbulanda.com) was not working. It is fixed, so if you tried to order any of my books and could not, you should be able to do so now. Sorry for any inconvenience. Please note that you cannot order my WWI book, Soldiers in Fur and Feathers from my website. This is because I only have a few copies left. If you would like a copy of that book email me at sbulanda@gmail.com to see if I still have some. It is a collectible since it is a signed first edition. Also note that Scenting on the Wind and Ready to Serve, Ready to Save are on sale for $6.00 each. These area also signed first editions that are now out of print. Go to my previous blog to see my books.

Thanks, Sue

K9 OBEDIENCE TRAINING COVER PRINT