Sleepovers for shelter dogs

A team of researchers from the Canine Science Collaboratory have determined that if volunteers take shelter dogs home for a few days, it reduces their stress level. The benefits of this mini-vacation last for a while after they are brought back to the shelter.

img039

The researchers found that the sleepovers provided a break for the dogs from the stress of the shelter. The team found that dogs in a shelter cannot get the sleep that they need because of how busy and noisy it is in a typical shelter.

The team is also looking into other programs that allow dogs to leave shelters, such as field trips and long-term foster care. With a grant from Maddie’s Fund, they are enrolling 100 animal shelters across the country in a study to understand how foster care impacts the dogs in shelters.

Advertisements

Identifying shelter dogs

Arizona State University’s Canine Science Collaboratory researchers Lisa Gunter and Clive Wynne collected DNA from over 900 shelter dogs that were at the Arizona Animal Welfare League and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (AAWL) in Phoenix, AZ, as well as the San Diego Humane Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SDHS) in San Diego, CA.

beagle pups

They found that although only 5% were purebreds, there were 125 distinct breeds that made up the mixed breed dogs. They also found that unless the dog was a purebred, shelter employees could only determine the mix  about 10% of the time.

Interestingly the three most common breeds were the American Staffordshire Terrier, Chihuahua and Poodle but they represented less than half the dogs in the shelters.

The researchers feel that since the bully breeds stay in shelters up to three weeks longer before being adopted, that the emphasis should be on the individual dog’s behavior to match them with their new families rather than the breed. They stress that a behavior assessment program would be very beneficial for shelter dogs.

I personally agree that each dog should be judged on its own merit rather than its breed. Labeling all individuals of a specific breed is profiling at its worst.

 

 

The truth about Pit bull’s, Bully breeds and mixes

Over the past few years there has been a lot of discussion about Pit bull Terriers as well as Pit or Bully mixes. Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about these breeds to the point where the Bully breeds in general have been banned in certain states. Owners are often restricted as to where they can live, what homeowner’s insurance they can get and how they have to house or walk the bully breeds.

People fail to understand the nature of these dogs therefore I have compiled a list to dispel some of the myths surrounding them.

  1. Myth: All Pit bulls will attack another dog.

The truth of the matter is not as clear cut as many are led to believe. First of all, the Pit bull is a terrier. As such it can have a typical terrier personality. In the dog show ring a number of terrier breeds are tested by “sparring” them. Here is a quote from the Kerry Blue Terrier (KBT) web site, “The act of sparring KBTs allows a judge to determine which KBT possesses the greatest amount of poise and fire, tempered with dignity and control. In other words, sparring shows the judge “who’s who”!”

To spar a dog is when the dogs are put face to face and they must show a willingness to challenge another dog. Although they are not allowed to fight, sometimes due to poor handling a fight will ensue.

The difference between the Pit bull and other terriers is that the Pit bull breed was bred not to bite his handler when pulled apart in a dog fight. There are few dogs that will not bite any hand that gets in the way of a dog fight. This is why if your dog is in a fight, never try to pull the dog’s apart by their collar, you will be bitten. The Pit bull is the only breed that is specifically bred not to bite people.

However, many Pit bull dogs will not fight other dogs. It is primarily a matter of training by their owners. The proof of this is how many Pit bull dogs have been beaten, abused, killed and otherwise discarded by those people who would use them in a dog fight, because they will not fight!

  1. Myth: Pit bull dogs can account for most of the human deaths by dogs.

This is difficult to prove because many dogs that are labeled as Pit bull dogs or mixes are in fact not at all Pit bull’s or mixes. It is difficult without a DNA test to determine if a dog is a mix between a Boxer, Boston terrier, Staffordshire terrier, Bullmastiff or a Rottweiler—just to name a few breeds. Many of the people who label a dog as a Pit bull or mix are not well versed in identifying breeds of dogs to make that determination. Even professionals in the dog business can find it difficult to determine what breed or mix a dog is. For example, if you saw a small Bull mastiff standing next to a large Pit bull, or a Pit bull standing next to a Staffordshire terrier or an American Bulldog, or even a Boxer, would you be able to tell the difference?

3. So why are the Pit bull types most often linked to attacks of all kinds on humans and other animals? Part of the reason is that they are currently the popular breed used by drug dealers, and other unsavory people that train the dogs to attack. In the past other breeds were popular with this element of society such as German Shepherds, Dobermans and Rottweilers. Also, when smaller dogs attack it is often not reported because they do not do much damage. The main thing to consider when you hear or read about a dog attacking a human, is to find out if the dog was taught to be aggressive and/or mistreated.

There are a number of key factors that come into play as to why any dog will attack or bite.

a. The way the dog was bred is vital to this issue. Many dogs that come from backyard breeders, commercial breeders, puppy mills or people who do not understand genetics and careful breeding can have a bad temperament. This is not limited to the Bully breeds which are why organizations such as the American Temperament Test Society formed to encourage people to show that the dogs they want to breed or own have a sound temperament. Any dog that does not have a sound temperament can be dangerous, especially if they are a large breed of dog.

b. The way the dog is raised by its owner plays an important part in how the dog will develop. Each puppy, no matter what breed, must receive proper socialization in order to increase its chance of adjusting to life with humans. This is why many dog trainers and dog clubs offer Puppy Kindergarten classes to help dog owners properly raise their puppies.

c. What the dog is taught is also critical. Every dog should have “no force” obedience training. This is critical for large dogs as well as the terrier breeds since they can be very focused on other things and a challenge to train for the novice dog owner.

d. The environment that the dog lives in is very important. Dogs are very intelligent and the latest research shows that they are much more intelligent than previously thought. When a dog’s needs are not met, the dog can become “mentally ill” in that he misjudges how he is supposed to behave. Solitary confinement — defined as being tied to a dog house, kept in a pen or a room in a house can have the same effect on a dog as it would a human—irrational behavior, violence and hostility. Even if the dog is not confined, aggressive behavior by the owner toward the dog or even other people can cause aggressive behavior in a dog.

e. The owner’s attitude can also play an important part in the way a dog behaves around other people. For example, the person that purchases the dog for protection will act differently when someone comes to their door or into their house than the person who only wanted a companion. Either consciously or unconsciously, they want the dog to attack an intruder to protect their home. They expect the dog to bite but they do not want the dog to bite everyone. They expect the dog to understand the difference between a friend and foe.

Unfortunately the dog will sense the owners fear that the dog will bite wanted guests and friends. However, the dog never associates himself as the cause of the fear or anxiety and thinks that everyone who comes near the owner, or to the door, is a threat. Pit bull’s are loyal dogs who instinctively want to protect their family, just like many other breeds. Therefore, as the dog becomes more protective and the owner becomes more fearful, when people come to the door, the dog’s protective instinct increases with every encounter. It is a vicious cycle.

f. One aspect that people hesitate to discuss or consider is the neighborhoods and types of people who own Pit bull’s and what they do with the dogs. Do most bites occur in a neighborhood where people have the dogs for protection, engage in dog fighting, or as a warning for illegal activities? As explained above, the owner plays a big part of why dogs behave as they do.

g.  When looking at dog bite statistics it is important to consider what percentage of the whole population of Pitbull’s (real Pitbull’s not dogs labeled as Pitbull’s) bite humans compared to other breeds.

h. Lastly, each bite must be evaluated based on its own merits. Was the dog trained to bite? Was the dog teased? Was the dog mistreated, etc.

All dogs will bite given the right circumstances. A bite is not always an act of aggression. A bite can be a warning to be left alone. People seem to forget that a dog’s mouth is also his “hands.” They communicate, manipulate, explore, and learn by using their mouth. If a dog owner does not teach a dog to inhibit his bite, a playful nip can hurt.

According to statistics, approximately 4.7 million dog bites occur each year. The following list ranks breeds in order of the most bites attributed to that breed.

  1. Chihuahua
  2. Bulldog
  3. Pit Bull
  4. German Shepherd
  5. Australian Shepherd
  6. Lhasa Apso
  7. Jack Russell Terrier
  8. Cocker Spaniel
  9. Bull Terrier
  10. Papillion

While the Pit Bull Terrier is ranked third on the list, of all of the bites reported, they do not represent the majority of bites.  Note that three of the breeds on the list are toy breeds.

Many if not the majority of Pit bull’s and the Bully breeds are sweet, wonderful companions. It is ironic that in today’s world it is against the law to use certain words, and people protest being profiled. Yet the Bully breeds are being profiled and persecuted no matter what the individual dog is like, even if the dog only looks like a Bully breed or mix and in reality is not.

The following photo is from on on-line free photo site: Can you tell what breed it is?

pit mix

Delayed weaning makes cats better companions

According to a study conducted by Professor Hannes Lohi’s research group at the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Faculty of Medicine as well as at the Folkhälsan Research Centre, cats have less behavior problems if they are allowed to stay with their mother until 14 weeks of age.

Professor Lohi’s group studied about 6000 cats and learned that behavior problems are more widespread than expected. They found that 80+% of the cats surveyed had mild behavior problems while 25% had serious behavior problems. The problems included shyness, wool sucking, excessive grooming and aggression.

IMG_0231

The study found that cats weaned under the age of 8 weeks had more aggression issues and other behavior problems. Those weaned at 14 weeks had fewer behavior problems.

Early weaning seemed to manifest itself in aggression which according to the study, suggests changes in the neurotransmitters of the basal ganglia. What this means to the person who owns a cat who exhibits aggressive behavior as a result of early weaning, is that the behavior is not a result of the cat’s experience but is rather “hard wired.” Behavior modification in this case will not produce the same results as it will with a cat who is aggressive because of trauma or experiences.

This should be taken into consideration when adopting kittens who are very young and/or who were feral or barn cats. Due to unforeseen circumstances, they may have been forced to be weaned prior to 14 weeks.

Allowing kittens to stay with their mother and litter for two more weeks is an inexpensive, easy way to help cats and cat owners have a long happy relationship.

Two independent studies show the benefit of dog ownership for children

A study conducted by Darlene Kertes and her colleagues from the University of Florida documented how a pet dog helped children cope with stress. To test this the researchers had children perform stressful things, such as giving a report, or doing a math problem. They compared children who were allowed to have their dogs with them to children who did not and found that the ones who had their dog with them were much less stressed. They also found that a pet dog lowered the stress level of children more than having a parent with them.

Megan MacDonald, an assistant professor in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences, and co-authors Monique Udell of the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences; Craig Ruaux of the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine; Samantha Ross of the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences; Amanda Tepfer of Norwich University and Wendy Baltzer of Massey University in New Zealand conducted a study to determine how a pet dog could help a child with disabilities.

They determined that children with disabilities do not exercise as much or join in physical activities the way children who do not have disabilities do. So they developed a physical activity program where the family dog would act as a partner for the child.

Although their study initially only involved one child, based on its success, they have expanded the program. What is unique is that their study was one of the first to evaluate animal-assisted therapy.

It is reasonable to assume that children with disabilities who are challenged to exercise and/or socialize are also stressed. Based on the two studies, it appears that children who are stressed and those who are stressed that have disabilities benefit from having a pet dog. This is a win-win situation.

Scout & Tom

Thinking of getting a pet? Here’s what you need to know.

by guest blogger Jessica Brody

man-3226882_1920

Photo by Pixabay

Have you been thinking of adding a pet to your family? If you’ve never had pets or are inexperienced in pet ownership, you’ll need to do a little thinking and research first. What kind do you want? What fits your lifestyle? Where do you get it? These are all good questions to get ready.

First, consider your home and lifestyle. What kind of pet can your home handle? If you’re in an apartment or condo, you will have different needs than someone with a big house and a yard. Are you home a lot or do you travel often for work? If you’re a traveler, you’ll need a pet like a cat or rodent who is much more independent. If you’re home a lot and physically active, you might do better with a dog (though not all dogs like to run). Start by assessing your lifestyle.

If you want a dog, you’ll want to consider breeds. One of the great things about dogs is that they come in so many shapes, sizes and personalities. You are almost certainly likely to find one that fits your style. Start reading up on breeds that you like and determine if they fit your personality. Don’t trust what you see on TV. A dog that looks like a calm friend on a sitcom is actually a well-trained actor. For example, Eddie, the super-cool dog from “Frazier” is a Jack Russell Terrier, one of the most high-energy breeds.

Pay attention to grooming and medical needs, too. If you can’t stand dog hair, don’t even think about getting an Akita, Chow Chow or Husky. If you’re not into dog drool, avoid St. Bernards or bloodhounds. If you live in close quarters with your neighbors, you might want to avoid the barky breeds.

Next, consider where you’ll get your dog. Never buy a dog from a pet store or flea market. They get their dogs from puppy mills, which don’t breed with care and often keep their breeders in inhumane conditions. Seek out reputable breeders, preferably those who work or show dogs. Quality breeders are careful to breed out bad temperament and genetic diseases.

If you would like to help an animal in need, stop by your local shelter or rescue organization. There are millions of dogs in shelters that need homes, and many are purebred or close to it.

When it’s time to bring your new pal home, do a little shopping. Make sure you have all the basics that your pal needs, including a dog bed that’s the correct size for your pet, food and water bowls, leashes and even a stroller for your pet who won’t or can’t go for walks.

If you adopt a pet, especially a dog or cat, give him a chance to adjust. If he’s from a shelter, he’s likely been through a lot and can be nervous, so don’t force yourself onto him. Give him a chance to hide out at first, and just sit near him and speak to him softly. He’ll slowly come out of his shell and fall in love with you. Tell children to give him a little space, and remind them that dogs (and cats too) don’t always like being grabbed or hugged. Lay down some ground rules with your child such as leaving pets alone when they are sleeping, eating, and pottying. Of course, a life-size version of their stuffed animal is tempting, so never leave children unattended around pets, no matter how kid-friendly the pet may be.

Before long, you’ll have a great friend who is ready to spend his life hanging out with you. You can take Fido on adventures with you, or just chill on the couch and watch movies. Either way, you’ll learn each other’s quirks and have a life of laughs together. With a little planning, introducing a pet to your home can go smoothly and happily.

Adopting is the Best Choice

Adopting is the Best Choice  by guest blogger, Mary Nielsen

With all the dogs in the world it can be difficult to choose just one. However, there is one choice that should be quite clear; where you go to get your new best friend. Some people might go to a pet store or answer an ad in a paper. Neither of those is very good unless the pet store in question is working hand in hand with the local animal shelter. You want to get a dog from a shelter for various reasons.  Here are just a few:

You don’t want to support puppy mills.

You just don’t. The puppy mills are all about profit rather than animal welfare. Dogs and puppies are almost continually locked in cages with minimal food and little to no comfort. This cruelty leads to sickly puppies and mother dogs in constant agony. Please don’t support animal abuse. Not only is adopting the humane choice, it’s less expensive. Another good reason to consider adoption rather than buying a purebred is that mixed-breed dogs tend to be more robust than purebreds. They have the best traits of every breed they’re related to!

Shelter dogs are safe and healthy.

Some people might be a bit wary about taking in a dog with an unknown background. That worry is groundless. Occasionally, an owner might relinquish a pet be re-homed due to moving, allergies or other unexpected lifestyle changes. No matter what reason the animal is in a shelter, it’s never their fault. All a dog wants to do is find a loving family to belong to. The first thing a shelter does with a dog that is brought to them is screen for health and behavior problems. If the dog has any, the shelter will do all they can to solve the problem so that the dog will be fit to be a loving companion. This may take the form of extra grooming, veterinary care or remedial training. A lot of work goes into making a dog adoptable.

petey

So many dogs, so little time (and space) 

Shelters have plenty of puppies, and there’s more coming in every year. In just six years, one dog and her offspring could have 67,000 puppies if breeding goes unchecked. Some shelters are forced to euthanize dogs to make room for these puppies. Even no-kill shelters can only take in so many. Please make things easier on everyone by adopting.

Note from Sue Bulanda: Also consider adopting other pets from your local shelter. They often have a variety of animals and birds for adoption.

For more information, please consult this infographic.  https://www.felineliving.net/10-reasons-adopt-pet/

Rescuing or Fostering a Dog From a Foreign Country

Most people would be surprised at how many dogs are imported from one state to another and put in shelters and foster care. These dogs come from areas of the United States that have too many dogs for the local shelter to handle. Some are rescued by breed specific groups. But what most people do not realize is that many dogs are imported from other countries. Most of those dogs are street dogs which present a different problem.

Dogs from other countries do not understand our language, are used to a different climate, water and food. Many had to scavenge for food and have never had a good diet. They are often aggressive to other dogs because they had to fight to survive. They may also be wary of humans.

Rehabilitating these dogs can be done but may take much more time. Genetics play an important part in how well these dogs can be rehabilitated since temperament is inherited. A dog that has a mild temperament and who is not inherently aggressive may respond well to rehabilitation. As a rule of thumb you cannot change the genes but you can change or alter the behavior.  This does not mean that a dog will forget what he has learned, but dogs are capable of learning to change how they react to given situations.

A good rule of thumb for rehabilitating foreign dogs is as follows:

  1. Give the dog time to adjust to the physical changes that he must face. This would include food, weather, water, where he is housed, general odors and language. Remember that scent is one of the key elements in a dog’s life. The scents of one place can be drastically different than another, even in the United States. This will mean that the dog has to learn a whole new point of reference. Even people smell different from one area to another. This is because the soil and plants that surround us have different odors and cling to our clothes and permeate our homes. Also the food we eat make up a part of a person’s general scent.
  2. Start easy basic training using a non-force method such as clicker training. No matter what language a dog has grown up hearing, all dogs understand human facial expressions and tone of voice. Take baby steps and use very short, (five minute) training sessions. Dogs need time to analyze and think of what is going on and relate to it.
  3. Give the dog space. Too much activity and people can make the dog withdraw.
  4. Do not house the dog with other dogs unless it is apparent that the dog is dog friendly. If the foster dog had to fight for its food and existence, he may not get along with other dogs.
  5. Do not be discouraged if the dog seems to backslide. We all do. Dogs have bad days just like humans. Give the dog a day off if he seems to be having a bad day and try again the next day.

With time and patience, a foster or adopted dog can adjust to a completely new environment, learn to trust humans and perhaps, enjoy the company of other dogs.

scan0013 - Copy