New Research on Dogs and Music

cardinal in tree 1-3

I recently read an interesting study about the effect of different types of music on kenneled dogs. ("Behavioral effect of auditory stimulation on kenneled dogs," by Kogan, Schoenfeld-Tacher & Simon, J of Veterinary Behavior 7, 2012, 268-275.) The authors' goal was to determine if different types of music, as has been reported in other species, had different types of effects on dogs, and the results indeed confirmed that this was true. The results suggested that 1) "classical music" increases the amount of time the dogs spent sleeping, and 2) "heavy metal" music increased body shaking (or trembling). Surprisingly however, "psychoacoustically designed" music, a piano piece specifically designed to calm dogs, resulted in no statistically significant change in behavior from Read More

Play Bows as Meta-Communication

snow early winter 2012

We all know the signs of imminent danger between two dogs right? Immobile stiff bodies, direct eye contact, round eyes. Except when dogs are playing and then the exact same postures and expressions are nothing but pauses between frolics. That is a perfect example of what's called meta-communication, or communication about communication. Here's a video of Willie and his new friend, Leo--the new pup of Katie Martz here at the office--illustrating meta-communication as well as any two dogs could. I look forward to your comments about it. First, some background: Yesterday they met for the first time, and it went beautifully. Katie stood 40 feet from the door with Leo as I let Willie out and asked him "Where's the Dog?" We played tug when he looked at Leo and then back at me. After 2 Read More

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