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When Is It Time to Put Down a Dog Who is Aggressive to People?

If there is anything harder than euthanizing a beloved dog for serious behavioral problems, I don't know what it is. And yet, sometimes, that is an option that dog owners have to consider. These were some of the hardest cases I worked with when I was seeing clients full time. I would drive home, sick at heart, and wonder why the hell I hadn't found an easier way to make a living. Often I'd run into people who would say "Oh! What a wonderful job you have!", no doubt envisioning me spending my days running through fields of daisies with Golden Retriever puppies. As hard as it is to talk to clients about whether to put down an aggressive dog, it is nothing compared to what the owners are going Read More

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Winter Through the Lens

Just a few photos today. I've recently returned from San Antonio, celebrating my amazing sister Dr. Wendy Barker, at the Festschrift put on in her honor by her colleagues at the University of Texas, San Antonio. She is the real writer in the family, and I wish that each of you could have been there to listen to her read some of her poems. I don't think anyone moved the entire time that she was reading her poems; the entire room was enthralled. Engrossed. Captivated. It was a highlight of my life to listen to her colleagues and students acknowledge her contributions to creative writing. Her book, Nothing Between Us: The Berkley Years, is beyond brilliant. Yes, I know, she's my sister, but Read More

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How Do Dogs Interpret Human Facial Expressions?

What ever is a dog to make of a human smile? Or a frown for that matter? On the one hand, it seems to me to be trivial for a dog to distinguish between obviously different expressions on the face of a human. Dogs, after all, are highly visual and the preponderence of their social communication is based on visual signals. But here's the question I've always wondered about: What signals from our faces are salient to dogs? My experience has suggested that dogs are exceptionally good at noticing (and interpreting) the following, whether done by a person or another dog: a still body versus a relaxed one, a hard, direct stare versus a soft or indirect gaze, and a loose, relaxed, open-mouth face Read More