Come to Africa with Me

I'm leading another safari in Kenya and Botswana this August. Wanna come? It probably will be my last. The first time I went to Africa to lead an animal-behavior-focused safari, I cautioned the participants the day we arrived that we weren't going to see what we usually see on a nature special on television. "What you see on a nature special is the result of hours and hours and hours of long, boring observations, while waiting to capture the excitement and beauty and drama that eventually will be edited down to a series of amazing sequences. We'd be wise to have our expectations be realistic: we'll see some wonderful animals and some interesting behavior, but it will be far cry from what you see on TV." Boy was I wrong. I mean, totally wrong. I mean, totally, completely and utterly Read More

More Wackadoo Medicine for Dogs

I promised I'd write about the last alternative treatment that I use for my dogs: homeopathic medicine. I'm totally comfortable with someone calling this wackadoo and weirdo, because even I am not comfortable with the explanation given by proponents of the treatment. I'm fine with the first part, in which preparations are given that are believed to cause a diminished version of the very symptoms you are trying to treat. This is much like the vaccination principle in allopathic medicine, and I have no problem with it. It's the second part that loses me, in which the preparation is so heavily diluted that in some cases, there are virtually no molecules left of the original substance. It was explained to me that it works because the energy field around the water molecules has been changed. Oh Read More

Alternative Medicine for Dogs

A comment from a reader inspired this post, about "alternative" medicine for dogs (see the comments for April 15th). In her comment, she expressed great disappointment that I bought into "...wackadoo absolutely scientifically unsupported claptrap." This is not the first time I've been told that my interest in Chinese medicine, acupuncture, chiropracty and natural foods is a kind of a betrayal to my scientific background. And yet, it is exactly my background in science and research that causes me to make the choices that I do for my own health and for that of my dogs. One of the things that one learns when getting a Ph.D. is that "science" is a fluid creature, moving this way and that, depending on the state of our knowledge (and the culture) at the time. You also learn that there is a Read More

The Menu at Redstart Farm; Feeding Dogs

So many of you have asked what I feed my dogs that I feel compelled to answer. I sympathize, truly, nutrition is such a complicated and sometimes contentious issue. I'll honor your requests if you'll honor mine: Read the following carefully before getting to the menu! 1. I am not an expert on canine nutrition,  not by a long shot. I know lots of people, professional and committed dog lovers, who know much more about the topic than I do. 2. I don't believe that my dogs get the perfect diet. I do the best I can, and I know that my dogs do better than most, but there's no question that the way I feed them isn't perfect. 3.What I feed my dogs changes, depending on the dog, the week, how busy I am and what article I read the night before. 4. I think diet is important, but so are genetics. Read More

Talking to Journalists about Dog Parks

Oh my. An article just came out in the Sunday  Wisconsin State Journal about dog parks, full of information about how to read dog language to prevent potential problems between dogs. The author, Chris Martell, spent a long time with me, gathering photographs (thank you to all who have sent me photos to use for education!), getting clear on what signals meant what.... All that is greatly appreciated. She even checked the accuracy of quotes with me, something many journalists don't do. But when I read "..McConnell says many dog owners--no matter how much they love their pets -- are clueless when it comes to body language," I winced.  Ouch.  "Clueless." That sounds horrible. Did I say that? The truth is, many dog owners are not very good at reading body language from dogs.. but "clueless?" Read More