Is Anthropomorphism a Dirty Word?

W M stick 2

The short answer is no, not always. As a matter of fact, our ability to attribute human characteristics to non-human animals is an impressive ability that we should be proud of. In addition, it can make us better dog owners. Lest you think I've lost my mind, let me explain, this time with a longer answer. Go back to about 40,000 years ago, when people began creating figures that combined features of humans and animals. We don't know their purpose, but we do know that our tendency to combine human and non-human characteristics is ancient. Archeologist Steven Mithen argues that anthropomorphic art suggests that hunters were attempting to identify empathetically with hunted animals to "better predict their movements." The term was actually used most often in early history as imagining Read More

Meet Maggie

Happy Maggie

Yup, Redstart Farm has a new member of the family. Maggie, a 15-month old female Border Collie from Idaho, has stolen the hearts of us all, Willie especially. He is gobsmacked. In love. Head over heels. Watching the two of them play has become one of my greatest joys in life. Those of you who have been following the farm for awhile know that finding the right dog for Willie hasn't been easy. He started life as a puppy pathologically afraid of unfamiliar dogs. He grew into an adolescent torn between fear and the desire to control everything, the kind of dog I call an "alpha wanna be." He has always loved to play with dogs who also loved to run together outside, but became tense and a tad crazy if they came into the house. Remember Jack Nicholson's face in the movie The Shining? Read More

USDA Internet Sale Regulations

shae portrait

Mea culpa. Awhile back I hastily posted a Here Here! on Facebook about the new USDA regulations targeting internet sales of dogs. The regulations narrow the definition of "retail pet stores" in order to regulate the sales of animals sold "sight unseen," an increasingly common situation given the vast reach of the internet, and the increase in the number of puppies purchased by buyers who have no idea how they were raised. The responses to my FB post came in fast and furious and can be summarized by the following examples: "Oh, Trisha, it makes me so sad that you think that is what they have done. Please educate yourself further. This is not a step forward for the reputable breeding community." "Yes and by doing so, they are requiring everyone with 4 intact females to raise their Read More

Resource Guarding: Treatment and Prevention

bee-crocus 4-13 small )

Years ago, I took care of a gooey-sweet adolescent Border collie, (Tilly, I'll call her) who flattened her ears and folded like a bird's wing every time you said her name. She was responsive and polite, and the other dogs seemed to like her as much as I did. It was especially rainy when she visited, so I appreciated that she never objected to endless paw wiping and toweling off, not to mention body checks for ticks and dental inspections. One morning I saw that she had grabbed something from the leaf litter in the woods, the kind of "something" you figure would be better off melding its way into the soil rather than ending up in the stomach of even the hardiest of dogs. I couldn't tell what it was, but it looked well on its way to rotting itself into organic mush. Probably not the best Read More

Dognition Canine Assessment Tests

beech leaft small

Several readers have asked about the new product called "Dognition" that promises (quoting from the website), "You’ll learn your dog’s cognitive style by playing fun, science-based games — an experience that gives you the insight you need to make the most of your relationship with your best friend." I was curious myself, given that the force behind the product is the work of scientist Brian Hare, whose relevant claim to fame is his research on the ability of dogs to inherently understand a person's pointing gesture. I've argued that this claim needs more research, as does his suggestion that the long-standing relationship between dogs and people has resulted in the evolution of special communicatory skills in dogs (especially as regards to pointing). However, I love that his work has Read More