Sunday, 25 February 2018

Are Dogs Like Us?

Working as a canine behaviour counsellor means that I often have to help people understand why their dogs react or behave in a particular way.

Attributing human emotions can be unhelpful
Often misunderstandings arise because owners ascribe human emotions to their dogs and this can be unhelpful. The term for this is anthropomorphism.

As an example, the dog that destroys things when left alone can be described by the owner as being: annoyed at being left or wanting revenge for being made to stay at home. It’s easy to see that these sorts of attributes can have serious welfare implications, particularly if the dog is punished. It’s much more likely that the dog has some separation related issues. The common motivation for this is anxiety and fear.

Another very common statement that I hear is “They knew they had done wrong because they looked guilty when I came home”. The likelihood is that when the owner returns home to find destruction, the dog is repeatedly punished. The dog now begins to anticipate this and shows body language that is misinterpreted as guilt. Turid Rugaas, an international dog trainer, has observed dogs for a number of years and describes many of these displays of body language as calming signals. So rather than feeling guilty, your dog is actually trying to calm and defuse the situation.

Examples of calming signals:
  • Yawning
  • Turing the head or body away
  • Slow movement
  • Sniffing the ground
  • Lying down
  • Shaking (as if wet)
  • Licking lips or nose licking
  • Blinking
But we do share some common emotions, don’t we?

Anthropodenial is the opposite of anthropomorphism: Not being able to see any human-like characteristics in other animals. This too can be dangerous

As most dog owners know, we do share some feelings and are motivated by similar things. For instance, it is clear that dogs feel fear and anxiety. Take the dog that trembles and shakes when it is taken to the vets – that’s a bit like the human who has a fear of the hospital or the dentist.  And try telling me that my dog isn't able to feel joy and happiness when she's chasing her ball in the park!

Being open to our similarities can help an owner understand their dog's behaviour problem. Client education is crucial when getting some one on board with a behaviour modification plan. In my experience compliance is much greater when the owner can sympathise with their dog. It also helps with training if they can see how reward and praise has the same motivating effect on them as it does with us.


So having a balance is important. Being able to appreciate and compare a dog’s feelings with our own is a good starting point. But being mindful of our differences prevents misunderstandings and makes for a more harmonious relationship.  And that’s something we should all want - isn't it?

Caroline Clark is a recognised expert in canine behaviour and more information can be found at www.peteducationandtraining.co.uk

Thursday, 15 February 2018

More Reasons To Pick Up Your Dog's Waste

Pretty much every dog owner will be aware that dog waste is a bit of a 'hot topic' these days and a high percentage of both owners and non-owners share a resentment toward  those that refuse to 'scoop the poop'.

Aside from the ever increasing raft of legislation aimed at offenders that refuse to pick up after their dogs, there are a multitude of clever memes across social media highlighting the topic and aimed at making the 'non-scooping' fraternity feel a sense of guilt at their actions.

I thought I would weigh in with a few dog waste facts that may help  'non-scoopers' understand the consequences of their habit and hopefully encourage a few people to appreciate why, apart from the more obvious anti-social aspects, it is a serious health issue.

Dog Waste Kills Fish! 
Around water sources a dog's waste actually creates nutrients for weeds and the algae that commonly covers these water sources. Algae can limit the light that penetrates the water's surface and essentially starve the fish of oxygen.

Don't Compare Your Dog To Undomesticated Animals When It Comes To Waste.
Wild animals such as Coyotes, Foxes, Wolves etc. eat a diet that contain no preservatives, chemicals or grains and their waste decomposes within days. Insects such as flies and beetles make easy work of breaking down wild animals natural waste and even the bacteria in soil help this waste decompose.

Domestic dog waste is another matter and dependant on diet (the cheapest are the worst) a dog's waste can take up to a year to decompose and in some instances not decompose at all. This not very environmentally friendly waste also has the added negative of retaining it's smell and consistency for a long time even if it does eventually break down.

Dog Waste Contains These Harmful Horrors!
Aside from parasitic worms such as Heartworms. Hookworms, Roundworms,Tapeworms and Whipworms, dog waste may also contain Parvovirus, Salmonella, E.Coli amongst other horrors.

As you can see above, non-disposal of a dog's waste can have far reaching implications on both the environment and the health of animals and people that come into contact with it.

The privilege of owning a dog comes with a pretty low price tag when you consider what dogs bring to our lives. It would be respectful if we could all honour that privilege and pay the small price of cleaning up after our dogs.

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Thursday, 8 February 2018

Cat Owner? Important Information To Protect Your Privacy! Please Share

Most cat owners enjoy taking pictures of their feline friends but did you know that you could be compromising your privacy by doing so?

I recently came across a site that I wanted to share with you that indexes cat pictures by location provided by the geotagging facility on a sharers phone.

Owen Mundy, a professor at Florida State University created the site with pictures shared on social networks with the hashtag #cat and with the aid of a supercomputer and satellite imagery has compiled the geographical data of around a million cats!

Personally, I didn't find the site that user-friendly and failed to home in on feline friends that I know have had pictures shared on social media and tagged. There are however random pictures of people's cats in their local area at street level. On the site itself Mundy has written:

"This project explores two uses of the Internet: the sociable and humorous appreciation of domesticated felines and the status quo of personal data usage by startups and international megacorps who are riding the wave of decreased privacy for all."

Although no exact addresses are revealed, I felt that cat owners may be interested in knowing how their data can be used on social media if tagged.

I'm no technical wizard but I am fairly reliably informed that if you disable the geotagging facility on your device this will protect your privacy. Cat lovers with an iPhone can disable their location by going to 'settings' then 'privacy' then 'location services' and turning that off on the camera and various apps.

Visit the site here and take a look yourself
 
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Friday, 2 February 2018

This Could Improve Your Dog's Memory After A Training Session

For those of us that enjoy training our dogs a small tip can mean a lot and help our canine friends get the most out of a session.

I always advise owners to let their dog exercise before a training session begins and 'do its business' to both burn off excess energy and avoid distractions. This and keeping training sessions short usually form the framework of my pre-training advice.

I came across some information recently regarding a study that involved dogs after a training session that I thought was pretty interesting and would like to share it with you.

The study carried out in 2016 at University of Lincoln in the UK found that dogs that engaged in a play session straight after a training session, as opposed to resting, needed far fewer sessions to complete previously learned tasks the next day compared to dogs that had rested.

It is thought that the hormones produced during the play/exercise component after a training session helped the dogs to improve their memory after learning tasks.

So the next time you're out teaching your canine friend a new command it may be wise to allow for a session of 'fetch' afterwards!

To read more about the study please click here

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