The Concept Formerly Described as “Dominance”

Ah, here I go into the fray. Picture my loins girded. In some ways I'd love to avoid this topic altogether, because as most of you know, conversations about "the D word" can sometimes turn into arguments that make the American health care debate seem like a day at the spa. (I was going to say "like a tea party," but then . . . )  But I think the issue is important, and deserves consideration. So EEEEE HAH! here we go. This post will only be a beginning, because the topic of "dominance" and social relationships is actually a big one, and I'd like to facilitate a thoughtful, meaningful discussion about it in dogs. As you all know, some people think that just about all of our problems with dogs relate to "dominance" and advise owners to "be the alpha dog." At the other end of the spectrum, Read More

Starting from the Beginning

I'm just back from participating in grant reviews for NIH (Nat'l Institute of Health), and what a process it was. 36 people, from all over the country and a vast range of fields, were charged with reviewing a large number of grant proposals for scientific merit. The proposals were administered through the Nat'l Institute of Child Health and Development and related to Human/Animal Interactions. I can't tell you anymore about the grants themselves, or they'll shoot out my kneecaps. Well, probably not, but the absolute hardest part of the process is that we all pledged to keep virtually any information about the proposals themselves completely confidential.  That means never, ever talking about them to anyone, ever, outside of our two days of meetings in Washington, D.C. As the Scientific Read More

How Much is Enough?

Some of the recent posts have brought up the question that many of us live with on a daily basis: how much training and attention do our dogs need every day? I get asked this a lot, and as I wrote in my essay in Tales of Two Species, I suspect that there's another fundamental question driving it (she says, speaking from  experience). How much exercise, training and attention do our dogs need for us not to feel guilty? Fess up, don't you sometimes wonder if you are doing enough for your dog, and don't you sometimes feel guilty about not doing as much as you should? I am sure that many of the people reading this blog will say no, they don't feel guilty, and for good reason. I know that many of you take your dog out to classes several nights a week, take long walks in the country with Read More

Sheep Shearing

I promised a post on "how much training/attention" should we be giving our dogs, and it'll come, I promise. However, I'm a tad under the weather today, and since I wrote this part up yesterday I'll post it now, and pick up the training topic soon. Fact is, things are pretty crazy here right now. Besides speeches (thanks SAVMA for having me!), finishing grading 150 7-page exams, new lectures, and the usual daily work load, I agreed to be a grant reviewer for NIH (Nat'l Institute of Health). They are due this Friday, then I fly to DC for panel reviews (and an appearance on Diane's Rehm's radio show... I just love her, so that's a great perk.) If I'd known how much work these reviews would be, well... not so sure I'd have said yes. But it's interesting, very interesting. But more on the Read More

Training Schedules

I'm reading a fascinating book, one that I recommend with five stars for anyone interested in the brain and behavior. It's titled The Brain That Changes Itself, and is written, beautifully, by Norman Doidge, M.D. The book's primary focus is on the plasticity of the brain, and how, in contrast to what was formerly believed, the brain is continually changing in response to the environment. He relates stories of stroke victims, for example, who are able to regain the use of limbs rendered nonfunctional because the motor area of the brain that controls them was destroyed. Previously it was believed that the brain can not regenerate and once an area is damaged there is very little that can be done to restore functionality.  However, that turns out to be a complete misunderstanding of how the Read More