Autonomy II: Do Ask, Do Tell

KC sniffs LG 11-12

Last week I posted a blog about giving our dogs more autonomy, and asked for comments about ideas on how to do so outside of working dogs on sheep. Many of the comments sent in response to that post are extremely helpful, and I encourage you to read through them. However, I know that time is short for many of us, so I've summarized some of the best ideas and some of my own this week. First, as a preface, it is important to note that just like people, dogs vary tremendously in their desire for autonomy. Some dogs are extremely independent and others find too many choices burdensome. That's why Willie stays in a crate when I'm gone. I am 100% sure that he is more comfortable in his 'bedroom' than being left loose in the house. When left loose he's been a wreck when I returned home; no Read More

Can Dogs Tell Stories: The Answer

Willie at Clinic 10-12

Recently I asked the question, "Can Dogs Tell Stories?" I didn't mean stories in the sense of fictions we tell children to help them go to sleep at night, or novels about sexy spies, but stories as internal narratives that describe the "who, what and where" of an event in the past. In other words, can a dog have thoughts like "The last time I came to this dog park a big, dark dog ran up to me and play bowed and we had so much fun running around together." Readers, as usual, had some truly thoughtful answers to the question, and if you haven't read them I encourage you to do so. It turns out that many others have been pondering this question for quite a while, and I thought you'd be interested in what they have to say. Not surprisingly, given the complexity of this issue, there is not Read More

Going to the Light

Polly fall colors 9-12

Much of my time in the past few weeks has been in a pretty dark place; learning things I wish I didn't know about some hunting practices that occur in northern Wisconsin. (Not to mention reading death threats directed toward me and colleagues.) I'm not opposed to hunting, but I am very much opposed to some of the practices I've learned about recently while researching the use of dogs to hunt wolves. I'm not going to be more specific; I don't want to take you there for your own sake, and I need to take a break from it. (If you want to know more, you can start by googling wolves, dogs and wisconsin, or hound hunting of coyotes, bear and bobcat). Tonight I get to shift focus in a wonderful way: doing a fund raising speech for the Fox Valley Humane Association in Appleton,  Wisconsin. If Read More

Happiness in Animals?

Callie & Jenny

Of course! It seems like a simple question, but as is often the case, our big, complicated brains allow us to add nuance to the answer. I've gone on record as arguing that yes indeed, mammals like dogs and horses can be happy, how could they not be? Feeling good is a way for the body to tell the brain (as if they were separate, forgive me for this simplistic duality) that it is in an environment that is safe and healthy. The neuro-hormones associated with happiness, like dopamine and oxytocin are shared by all mammals, and expressive mammals like dogs have the same facial expressions as we do when we are happy ourselves. I write about this in the book For the Love of a Dog and show examples in the DVD of the same name. However, I was reminded that the question has more depth than "can a Read More

First Case Study – A Grieving Dog

PatchSleeves

Lots of you liked the idea of doing some case studies, as well as reviewing and discussing photos and videos. I think it's a great idea, so here goes our first one: Here's Sleeves on the left, and Patch on the right. I'm sad to report that Patch died just last week and her sister Michaela died only a month ago. All three of them, "Boonie" dogs--or mixed-breed dogs as they are called on Guam where they were born, were raised together and were litter mates. The litter lost their mother at 4 weeks, and owner Cin bottle fed them and raised them together. Brother Sleeve appears to be devastated at the lost of both of his litter mates in such a short period of time (not to mention poor Cin, the owner). Sleeve appears to be grieving, and is described as "so sad" by Cin. Usually this Read More