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.

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.

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.”

 

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

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People’s ability to read canine facial expressions

Some people seem to be able to understand a dog’s facial expressions better than other people. Of course we know that you need to be able to read the dog’s whole-body language to fully understand how a dog feels and what they are thinking. But why are some people better at it than others?

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In a recent study by Federica Amici of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and Juliane Bräuer of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History has discovered that all humans can identify anger and happiness, but those who grew up in a dog friendly environment were able to identify other emotions much better. It seems that age and experience make a difference in a person’s ability to interpret canine feelings. It would be interesting to see how this applies to other animals.

How animals detect odor

Prof. Nowotny, Director of Research and Knowledge Exchange in the University of Sussex’s School of Engineering and Informatics had determined that animals may not single out a specific odor when they look for a substance. He has found that animals may find it easier to detect a collection of odors instead of a single substance. If this is true, then most of the detection dog training that focuses on teaching a dog to look for one odor rather than a scent picture, may not be the best way to train a dog.

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One single odor does not exist in a natural environment, rather there are a collection of odors. When you consider that it is impossible to isolate a single odor in a natural environment, this discovery makes sense. Of course it is possible and often likely that a single odor is stronger than the surrounding odors, but still it is not the only odor present.

Professor Nowotny suggests that animal and human olfactory systems may not be made to do analytic smelling of pure odors. He uses the example of how an animal will give off pheromones, a complex set of odors, as a form of communication and that it is important that an animal recognize the entire chemical message and not a single element in the chemical message.

For years I have maintained that when teaching a dog scent work that there is no such thing as an uncontaminated scent article. Professor Nowotny has confirmed this with his latest research. Although more studies need to be done, and we should still train our dogs as we have in the past, it does open the door for a less narrow view of what dogs detect and how they detect it and may lead to new training methods. It is always good to “think outside the box.”

Sue Bulanda’s books

With the holidays fast approaching I thought I would post a list of the books that I have written. All but two of my books can be ordered from my website (www.sbuland.com) by clicking on the “books” tab. If you want a book shipped outside of the USA please email me for the correct postage. If you order my listed books you will get an autographed copy. I only have a few copies of Soldiers in Fur and Feathers so if you want that please email me first to see if I have any more. This book is out-of-print, so do not order it from my website.

K9 Obedience Training: Teaching Pets and Working Dogs to be Reliable and Free-Thinking.  This book shows you how to teach a dog the basic obedience that is the foundation for all other training. The methods used in this book allow the dog the freedom to think for themselves rather than perform in a robotic method where creativity is discouraged. Free-Thinking is necessary for all working dogs who cannot be trained for every situation that they encourage. Obedient disobedience is also covered. The book also explains what not to do and why. It includes basic handling and grooming techniques that are necessary for a well socialized dog. Some fun tricks are included.

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K9 Search and Rescue Troubleshooting: Practical Solutions to Common Search-Dog Training Problems – explains the typical training problems and offers solutions that SAR dog handlers encounter when training their dogs. The solutions apply to all disciplines in canine search and rescue. It explains how the puppy stages of development can have lasting effects on the behavior and training of a dog. Often people adopt an older dog to train and do not understand why the dog behaves the way it does, this book gives insight to those issues. Although K9 Search and Rescue Troubleshooting: Practical Solutions to Common Search-Dog Training Problems is written for the SAR dog handler, the information contained in it applies to many training issues that are not related to SAR.

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Soldiers in Fur and Feathers: The Animals That Served in WWI – Allied Forces: A unique, collection of accounts about many different animals that served in WWI. There are many rare photos. What is especially interesting about this book is that it includes many of the mascots that the soldiers kept. Some went into the trenches with the men. For example, there is an account about how a cat saved the life of a soldier, how a pair of geese slated to be Christmas dinner wound up being kept as mascots, and one soldier had a huge Golden Eagle as a pet. WWI was a transitional war from animal power to mechanization, therefore many species of animals served, such as oxen, horses, mules, camels, pigeons, and dogs in many capacities.

2012: Second Place Winner Non-Fiction, National League of American Pen Women; Finalist for the Alliance of Purebred Dog Writers Arthur Award, Certificate of Excellence for the Cat Writers Association of America.

Soldiers in Fur and Feathers

Faithful Friends: Holocaust Survivors Stories of the Pets Who Gave Them Comfort, Suffered Alongside Them and Waited for Their Return: This is the only book written about the animals of the Holocaust victims, recording a part of history that has been overlooked. Some of the stories are sad and some joyous, but all are a part of history. Learn about Nicholas the French Bulldog owned by a woman who was part of the French resistance, and how he came to tour with the German army. Also, the dogs who somehow survived the war and were reunited with their owners and many other stories about dogs and cats.

2012: Dog Writers Association of America, Maxwell Award.

Certificate of Excellence Cat Writers Association, 2012; National League of American Pen Woman 2nd place non-fiction, 2012.

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God’s Creatures: A Biblical View of Animals: explains the role that animals play in the Bible and how God uses them. It explores the nature of animals and miracles that involve them. The book explores many of the miracles that involve animals. It answers questions such as, do animals go to heaven, do they know and obey God, can they be evil?

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Boston Terriers, a book all about this wonderful breed of dog. Learn about their care, training and personality. The book has fun sidebars that give personal accounts of Boston terriers.

First Place Maxwell Award for the Dog Writers Association of America, 2002. (only available on-line)

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Ready: The Training of the Search and Rescue Dog: Adopted worldwide as the training book for SAR dogs. This book has been in print since 1994 and is in its second edition. It gives the SAR dog handler a training plan for all disciplines of canine search and rescue.

First place for the National League of American Pen Woman’s biannual contest, 1996. Also nominated best book of the year, 1994 Dog Writers Association.

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Ready to Serve, Ready to Save: Strategies of Real-Life Search and Rescue Missions: is about actual search and rescue missions giving the reader inside information about how searches work. It is useful as a tabletop training exercise for SAR units.

2000 Award winner for the National League of American Pen Women contest.

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Scenting on the Wind: Scent Work for Hunting Dogs: helps the hunting enthusiast understand how weather, wind and terrain features affect scent. It is a great aid for people who compete in field trials or who do any kind of scent work with dogs.

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Real Estate Today, Seller Beware! – is how to save money when selling your house. Available on Amazon

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Canine genetics and behavior

Dog owners and breeders know that certain behaviors dominate certain breeds. For example herding dogs have the instinct to herd. Hounds have the instinct to hunt with their nose, some breeds are better guard dogs and the list goes on. This is what makes breed traits what they are. But it has been somewhat of a mystery about how this happens genetically because not all dogs in a particular breed have the same strength of the trait for that breed and some lack it entirely.

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In a new study, James A Serpell of the University of Pennsylvania and colleagues Evan L. MacLean of the University of Arizona, Noah Snyder-Mackler of the University of Washington, and Bridgett M. vonHoldt of Princeton University conducted a study to try to unravel how genetics affect breed trait behavior.

Their study concluded that genes do play a large part in breed behavior, and those gene most affect the brain rather than other bodily tissues. However, they stressed that there is a large margin to allow for the differences between individual animals.

What this means to the dog owner, and especially the potential dog owner, is that getting a dog from a reliable, ethical and trusted breeder is critical to your dog’s behavior. The genetic tendencies can and do vary from line to line. It also means that if you adopt a mixed breed or purebred dog, you will have no idea what it’s genetically controlled behavior will be.

This is important to understand because if behavior issues arise, you will have to allow for the possibility that it is genetically influenced. The method that you use to alter any unwanted behavior that is genetically influence will be different than simple training methods. Always consult a certified behavior consultant. You can find one at www.iaabc.org.

Also keep in mind that genetically influenced behavior is not limited to dogs but is a part of the makeup of all living beings. Yes, environment and learning also comes into play.

Measuring device-critical in feeding your dog

Prof. Jason Coe from University of Guelph, Ontario Veterinary College did a study to see how accurately people measure dry dog food. While this may not seem like an earth-shattering study, it can have a huge impact of the health of all dogs. Coe found that 48 percent of the people tested underestimated and 152 percent overestimated the amount of food that they fed their dogs.

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This can cause dogs to be either underweight or overweight. Small dogs are especially at risk because even a small error in the amount of food can cause them to become overweight.

A two-cup measuring device was the least accurate form of measuring food. This is because it is hard to eyeball one half or one cup of food. A measuring device that is the correct size for the amount you want works better than the two-cup device. What works the best is a kitchen scale. This is the most accurate way to ensure that your dog gets the correct amount of food.

Of course it goes without saying that if you feed your dog table scraps or other items, you must account for that too. Yes, table scraps of a high quality are OK in small amounts. You also have to consider treats, especially if you are training your dog and using treats as a reward.

One of the culprits that I have found is if your dog is around small children, since kids often share their food with a dog. I have seen my grandson sitting next to my dogs and sharing, ‘one for you and one for me.’

It is always best to take notice of your dogs’ physical condition and if you see that they are losing or gaining weight, reassess what you are feeding your dog and how much. If there has been no change, sudden weight loss or gain does warrant a trip to your veterinarian.

Night blindness in dogs

Dogs suffer from the same type of night blindness as people. People who have congenital stationary night blindness (CSNB) have normal vision during the day but have trouble seeing things in dim light. Because dogs cannot tell us what they see or do not see, we can only assume that they have the same problem. We do know that they suffer from CSNB by their behavior. If you notice that your dog seems to be okay going out during the day but does not want to go out at night or acts uncertain when the lights in your home are off, you might want to have a veterinarian ophthalmologist examine your dog.

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The good news is that a team of veterinarians have proven that dogs suffer from CSNB and they have identified the gene that causes it. Once the gene has been identified, veterinarians can work to find a cure. That is exactly what veterinarians Keiko Miyadera and Gustavo Aguirre, a professor of ophthalmology and medical genetics at Penn Vet, and Rueben Das, then of Penn Vet and now of Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine, in collaboration with a team led by Mie University’s Mineo Kondo are doing.

As with inherited disorders and diseases that are common in dogs and humans, a cure for one will lead to a cure for the other.