Response to New Topics Request

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Seek and ye shall find.  What a great list of topics that blog and Facebook readers came up with! There were over 100 topics suggested, many of them addressing excellent questions. For example: What does it mean if a dog greets other dogs with a high head and tail, and yet lets all the other dogs rule the roost? Why do dogs mount other dogs--is it really just about social status? Do dogs learn best through a particular sensory modality, given that people tend to be "visual, auditory or kinesthetic learners?" These topics, along with posts about recent research, videos and case studies, should keep us all happily discussing dogs and their humans for a long time to come. I thought you all might be interested in the topics and had considered listing them for you, but a full list of 100 Read More

Why Do Male Dogs Scent Mark So Much?

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Answer: We don't know, but some research discussed Friday at IFAAB by Dr. Anneke Lisberg might have shed some light on the topic. Those of you who have been following the blog for awhile know that Anneke is one of the few people studying chemical communication in domestic dogs. Although chemical communication is central to communication in many species, including our dogs, it is exceptionally difficult to study and very few people have made the attempt. It doesn't help that we primates are primarily visual and most of our chemical communication is unconscious. In previous studies (Lisberg and Snowdon 2009), Dr. Lisberg found that males and females both investigated the urine marks of either sex, although neutered males were less interested in urine from females than from males. Urine Read More

How Do You Play with Your Dog?

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Surely our mutual love of play is one of the reasons that dogs and people get along so well. As Karen London and I write in Play Together, Stay Together, "Play is powerful stuff. It influences so many things, including development, motivation, emotions, physiology, communication and behavior. Wow! That's an impressive list." After years working as Applied Behaviorists, it was clear to Karen and I that play has the power to strengthen one's relationship with a dog, or alternatively, to destroy it. You can use play to teach self control and good manners, or to inadvertently teach a lack of frustration tolerance and a lot of rude behavior that ends up getting a dog into trouble. You can use play to allow a dog to release tension, to learn a behavior incompatible with a problematic one, or Read More

Safe Off Leash?

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Last weekend Jim, Willie, Tootsie and I stayed in a lovely log cabin owned by friends in the woods in eastern Wisconsin. I mention that because for the first time in her nine years of life, Tootsie got to run off leash in an unfenced area off the farm. Wooo Hooo! Some people might not understand what a huge step that was for a little puppy mill dog, but I'm guessing that many of you get it completely. I was over the moon with happiness that I could unsnap the lead, and trust that she would stop when told, come when called, and as importantly, get to sniff and explore with more freedom than she's ever had in her nine years of life. The decision I made got me thinking about the issue in general: When IS it safe to let a dog off leash? What do you need to know to evaluate the risk and Read More

New Research on Dogs and Music

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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