Dog bites and children – prevention

A recent study by Lead researcher Professor Kerstin Meints, from the University of Lincoln’s School of Psychology, found that both children and parents misinterpret the signs of distress and anxiety in dogs. Often children thought dogs were happy when they were growling and snarling. The study found that young children around three years old especially found it difficult to identify a dog’s distress signals. About 17% of parents were incorrect as well. About 65% of the children tested thought the dog was smiling.

The researchers then gave the children and parents a training session and found that as a result of the educational experience, 72% of the children tested were able correctly identify anxiety and distress in a dog’s body language.

It would benefit all my readers to go to this site and order the power point presentation on canine body language. If you can, offer to show it to children in the classroom as well as other organizations where children and adults can learn about canine body language. This is the power point presentation that I have used for years in my college program about dog training and behavior. (No I do not make any money by promoting it.)



Amazing Cowbirds

Many birds and animals imprint on what they see and hear at birth. Cowbird females lay their eggs in another bird’s nest and let the host bird raise their young. Yet the Cowbird fledglings do not imprint on the host bird.


Interestingly, they sneak out at night and return to the nest in the morning. The mother cowbird stays near the nest and will call to her baby. The mother’s pay close attention to whether or not their young survive. If the host mother kicks the Cowbird egg out of her nest, sometimes the mother Cowbird will destroy that host bird’s nest.

What is still a mystery is how the Cowbird babies find their way into a Cowbird flock and survive to mate. They must learn how to eat what a Cowbird eats and behave like a Cowbird to survive. This is the opposite behavior of many other birds.

Bladder cancer in dogs

Although it is rare, bladder cancer in dogs is on the rise. Fortunately, there is a new test, the CADET℠ BRAF  to help veterinarians determine if your dog has bladder cancer.


Parsons Russell Terrier

There are two types of bladder cancer, transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) and urothelial carcinoma (UC). The tumors start in the urinary tract, but can travel to the rest of the body including bones, liver, kidney, spleen, and skin.

Warning signs of bladder cancer can often be misdiagnosed as a lower urinary tract disease, such as stones and infections. The most common signs are when a dog urinates small amounts often, difficulty urinating, blood in the urine, and accidents in the house, frequent urinary tract infections that do not respond to treatment.

Certain breeds are more likely to get bladder cancer, and usually from the age of six years and older.

High risk breeds: Scottish Terrier, West Highland White Terrier, Beagle, Shetland Sheepdog, Wire Fox Terrier, American Eskimo Dog,  Australian Cattle Dog, Australian Shepherd, Bichon Frise, Border Collie, Russell Terrier, Lhasa Apso, Rat Terrier, Wire Fox Terrier, Parsons Russell Terrier.

Interestingly, veterinarians have found a link between feeding a dog safe fresh vegetables three times a week to a reduced risk of bladder cancer. On the other hand, exposure to herbicides and pesticides increased the risk of cancer.

The good news is that the CADET℠ BRAF test can catch the cancer in its earliest stages, even before symptoms start to show, and it can help veterinarians determine the extent of the disease.

Some veterinarians suggest that all high-risk breeds get tested from ages 8 years and older. It is a good idea to discuss this possibility with your veterinarian or go to for more information.

How smart are bees?

Can bees think? I have asked a number of beekeepers if the bees attack them when they harvest the honey. Often they have told me that the bees know that they love and respect them and do not show hostility to them, that they rarely get stung. Could this be true? Are bees aware of their surroundings other than where the flowers, hives and other related environmental elements are?


The way beekeepers have expressed their concern and sadness about the death of colonies of bees almost as much as other pet owners do when their pets are sick or at risk, show their love for bees.

Therefore a recent study about a group of bees who have resisted the Varroa mite that is killing them is a welcomed ray of hope for beekeepers. After all, bees are a pretty amazing insect as far as insects go, in my opinion. We rely on bees to pollinate just about everything that needs pollination, around the world and pollination means that we have food to eat.

The good news is that researchers have found a group of wild bees in the Ithaca, New York area that seems to have developed a genetic resistance to this killing mite.

Alexander Mikheyev, a professor at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) and his cohorts at Cornell University have conducted a rare and interesting study.

They have compared the DNA taken from bees in the Ithaca area in 1977 which have been stored in a museum, with DNA collected in 2010 using a new analysis tool that is especially designed to test degraded or old DNA.

It seems that the group of bees in the Ithaca area were attacked and suffered from the mites the same as other bees during the 1990’s, but were able to recover and are thriving. What the scientists discovered what that the Ithaca bees developed a genetic resistance to the mites. While more research needs to be conducted, it shows promise for the survival of bees. (Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology – OIST. )

But, do bees recognize their keepers as some beekeepers have told me? Can bees tell if their keepers really love and respect them? Most people who study bees know how a bee will come back to the hive and do a sort of wiggle-waggle dance to communicate to the other bees where and how much food the bee has found. For the most part, people think that insects function purely by instinct.

However, an interesting experiment recounted in the book “The Parrots Lament” by Eugene Linden (ISBN: 0-525-94476-1) tells about an experiment conducted by ecologist James Gould on Carnegie Lake in Princeton, New Jersey.

Gould brought some bees and flowers to the middle of a lake in a rowboat and then later, another group of bees were brought to a feeder by the shore. Each group of bees went back to the hive and did their “dance.” However, few bees believed that there was food in the middle of a lake while many bees flocked to the food near the shore. This illustrates that at some level, even bees have the ability to make a judgment about their environment. They made a choice based on their knowledge that pollen is not found in the middle of a lake while it is found on land.

In one of his papers, Gould states, “Other experiments suggest that recruits, having attended a dance in the hive specifying the distance and direction of a food source, can evaluate the “plausibility” of the location without leaving the hive; this suggests a kind of imagination.”

In other words the bees felt that the “dancing” bees, who were telling them to go to the lake, were batty! They made a conscious decision. They made a choice. No matter how you look at it, making a choice involves cognitive ability,  knowledge of the past, present and future. The bees had to realize that from experience, food is not found on water but is found on land, and this illustrates episodic memory.

We know that many if not all animals have episodic memory, is it possible that insects have it too? If they do then could it be possible that bees do recognize and accept their keepers who love them and do not consider them a threat?

This is certainly something interesting to think about.

Declawing a cat

Some people feel that they must declaw a cat in order to save their furniture, rugs and curtains. However, they fail to realize that declawing a cat is not the same a trimming their nails. It involves removing the end bone and claw on each of the cat’s toes. This is a painful procedure and the cat will need care and pain medications to recover. Many veterinarians will not declaw a cat.


Declawing a cat will also take away the cat’s main defense mechanism. While you may feel that your cat will be an indoor cat, during the cat’s lifetime, he may accidently get outside and will be almost defenseless.

Scratching is a normal behavior for a cat. They mark their territory and sharpen their nails by scratching. It seems that they also enjoy the activity.

Rather than declaw a cat, you can teach a cat to use a scratching post. Provide a scratching post in the places the cat likes to scratch. If the cat starts to scratch furniture, simply say no and move the cat to a scratching post. They are capable of learning where to scratch. Clicker training can help a cat learn to use a scratching post.

There are different types of scratching posts for cats. Experiment with them to see which one appeals to your cat. Some of the types of scratching posts are ones made from rug, natural wood and cardboard like substance.

It is easier to train a young cat than an older cat, but the main thing is to not give up. With the right scratching post and encouragement, your cat will learn.

If you do consider declawing, consult with your veterinarian first to see what is involved in the procedure as well as the care that the cat will need after. It is always easier to declaw a young cat. Declawing an older cat or one that has medical issues can be riskier and cause health problems.

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, or can you?

Lisa Wallis and Friederike Range of the Messerli Research Institute at Vetmeduni Vienna have designed tests to study the effect of aging on cognitive processes such as learning, memory and logical reasoning in dogs. Something that has not be explored previously.


The researchers tested 95 Border Collies that ranged in age from 5 months to 13 years. They picked this breed because of their reputation as fast learners and because as a popular pet, there were enough dogs available for testing.

The dogs were divided into five age groups and tested for learning, logical reasoning and memory. The test involved a touchscreen with images on it. What the researchers found was that older dogs learned more slowly with less flexibility in their thinking. However, logical reasoning increased with age. Also, long-term memory was not affected by age, all of the dogs were retested six months later and all had no problem recalling the positive images.

So, you can teach an old dog new tricks, although it may take longer. As a certified animal behavior consultant, I find that older dogs are more likely to have formed habits that are harder for them to break. If the new trick, or task requires them to change a habit, it may be hard for them to accomplish that, the same as it is for people.

Tough love moms in dogs

Studies have been done about “tough love” moms and children and how letting children face minor adversities gives them the ability to cope better when they are adults. But now for the first time a study has been done to determine if the same applies to dogs.


Emily Bray, a postdoctoral researcher in the Arizona Canine Cognition Center at the University of Arizona’s School of Anthropology studied litters of puppies at the Seeing Eye, the guide dog organization in Morristown, New Jersey, and published her report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

What she found is very interesting. After tracking the litters into adulthood, they found that the puppies with mothers who were more attentive were more likely to fail as guide dogs for the visually impaired.

Bray did stress that although her study highlights the connection between a mother’s behavior and puppies, she feels that more research is needed to see if genetics plays a part in the results of her study. It never ceases to amaze me how similar dog behavior is to human behavior in many ways.

Dogs help children in many ways

In two independent studies, it was found that pet dogs help give children social support and that a family dog can help a child with disabilities become more active and improve the child’s life.

Scout & Tom

Darlene Kertes and her colleagues from the University of Florida have documented how dogs can help reduce stress in children. Although many dog owners knew this, Kertes’ report was the first to scientifically show the stress reducing nature of dog ownership for children.

In another study Megan MacDonald, an assistant professor at OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences, studied how a family dog helped a ten-year-old child who suffers from Cerebral Palsy. Because of the dog, the child increased his physical activity, improved motor skills, and developed a better human-animal bond. These studies may pave the way for more research which will help both children and their families for the long term.

Brominated flame retardants found in cats

This is a short article but important. A recent study found that indoor cats have a high level of brominated flame retardants in their blood as a result of inhaling the dust in homes. Previous studies found that cats who developed Feline Hyperthyroidism had high levels of flame retardants, but now researchers have found it in healthy cats as well.


As the flame retardant materials age the particles that come from them become part of the dust in a home. What is especially important to be aware of is that other pets, humans, and especially small children also breathe in the dust.

The flame retardants make up part of furniture, electronics, and even various fabrics. So what can we do about it? I have found an air cleaner that can help reduce the dust in a home. I personally have used the Fresh Air Surround air purifier for years and find it helps keep my home allergy free. I picked that model because it kills germs as well, an added benefit, and does a great job of killing household odors, including litter box odor.

I strongly urge everyone to consider this air purifier. You can get more information from David Scharikin, at or call him at 570-325-2433. There are a number of models to choose from. And no, I do not make a commission for passing this information along. As a pet owner, dogs, cats and birds, and allergic to many indoor and outdoor irritants, it has made my life much better.


Wild bee population dying in 139 U.S. Crop Producing Counties

Until you realize how many crops depend on wild bees for pollination, most people underestimate their importance. Crops such as fruits, berries and nut trees require bees for pollination. Other food crops also require bees for successful production. This is why it is alarming that wild bees are disappearing in 139 key agricultural counties in the United States.


The loss of wild bees makes the death of commercially raised honeybee colony populations even more critical. Honeybee keepers cannot keep up with the demand for commercial pollination services. If the production of food drops due to the lack of pollinators, then the cost of food will rise, affecting everyone.

Most people do not realize that there are over 4000 species of bees in the United States. Each of us can help by developing or preserving habitat that supports bees. Wild bees are essential, even when commercial pollination services are being used by complementing commercial pollination, increasing crop production.


Each of us can help by planting spring to fall plants for bees, even a small garden can help or a container garden. Of course it goes without saying that you should not use pesticides.


Here are some plants that help bees. Many of these plants also attract butterflies and hummingbirds.


Spring: Crocus, hyacinth, borage, calendula, and wild lilac.

Summer: Bee balm, cosmos, Echinacea, snapdragons foxglove, and hosta.

Fall: zinnias, sedum, asters, witch hazel and goldenrod.

These are just a few plants. Check with your local nursery or your local bee keeping society to learn more about helping wild bees. If everyone contributes we can save the bees.