The Human/Animal Bond, Can Dogs Get Angry?

I'm just back from the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. I was one of several speakers discussing the Human/Animal Bond at NIH's STEP Forum, a monthly meeting for all NIH staff designed to educate staff about issues relating to science in the public health. It was very much worth the travel; the talks given by zoo-anthropologist Dr. James Serpell, Dr. Sandra Barker and Dr. Joan Esnayra were each worth the trip alone. Dr. Serpell discussed historical and cross-cultural aspects of the human-animal bond, and dispelled the myths that "pets" are only luxuries indulged in by industrial societies and that people who love animals do so from some social pathology that prevents them from "normal" relationships with other people. His books In the Company of Animals and The Domestic Read More

Alex and Me, Animal Communication

I'm on way to Bethesda MD to speak at NIH at a forum about the Human-Animal Bond, I'll write about the other speaker's talks when I get back later in the week. The talks promise to be very, very interesting. But today I wanted to alert those of you who are interested in animal behavior and animal cognition in general to a new book that has just come out: Alex and Me. It is written by Irene Pepperberg, and is about her relationship with the African Grey Parrot, Alex. Alex is the internationally famous parrot who Dr. Pepperberg taught to use words, not just to describe objects or actions, but to label concepts, like bigger or different. Many had argued that non-human animals were unable, cognitively, to understand something as abstract as a concept (you can't pick up a "bigger," now can Read More

Boys, Girls and Forever Dogs

I am fascinated by your posts about differences in training with male and female dogs (or not.) I'll keep reading, and in a few weeks I'll summarize what you've all said on another post. But just to add to the fire, I want to ask another question about male and female dogs, but this time about the sex of your "forever" dog. Here's the question: If you have, or have ever had, a one-in-a-million dog, a dog who who you think of as our soul mate or your "forever dog," was he or she the same sex as you, or the opposite? Again, I'm not saying nothing til I hear from you. A related question is: do you think you have a different social relationship with same sex and different sex dogs? Does sex have any role in how you feel about dogs? I will tell you some thoughts of mine about this one: It Read More

Are Males and Females different to train?

This is an honest question! I'm truly curious what you think.  The editor of the Bark Magazine asked me to write my next column on whether male and female dogs need to be trained differently, and whether they perform differently. I have some thoughts about it, but I am primarily interested in what YOU think! I'd especially love to hear from trainers or people who have had a good number of dogs, so that they have seen a good 'sample size' to use to compare the sexes. I must say, I take this on with trepidation! Would it be less potentially controversial to talk about the Iraq war or the recent election?! I'll tell you what my experience has been (and what I've heard others say so far) after I've gotten a good number of comments... The face of Mike, shown below, is suggesting he'd love to Read More

Canine Chiropractors. Larry Meiller’s Show

So much to say, so little time! First off, I thought I'd let the folks who get WPR daytime know that I'll be a guest on Larry Meiller's show tomorrow at 11:45. It'll be a hoot to see him. I'm feeling sort of smiley-silly about it, so watch out what you ask me if you call in! Second, here's a photo of Lassie with her canine chiropractor, Dr. Mark McCaan (spelling?). We go in every month (Willie every other), and there is simply no question that it helps her 15 year old body (almost, she'll be 15 in 3 weeks!). The effects are immediate and obvious. If I skip them she develops a significant limp originating in her right shoulder. If I stay on schedule she still clearly has some arthritis (treated in many ways, not just chiropractic). [Did I mention, that in spite of Dr. Mark's kindness Read More