Placebos and Dogs: Really? (Yes!)

logs sheep 1-2015

I've always been fascinated by placebos and I never understood why the phrase "the placebo effect" was often spoken with such disdain. Here is a standard definition (from Wikipedia): "A placebo is a simulated or otherwise medically ineffectual treatment for a disease or other medical condition intended to deceive the recipient." Except, it's not necessarily ineffectual, right? That's the point, if you think about it: We know that you can be helped just by the belief that something can help you, and that factor must be eliminating when testing new medications or treatments. Yes, the placebo effect can be a confounding factor when trying to discern if a particular treatment or medication is worthwhile, but isn't it even more remarkable that belief itself can be therapeutic? Study after Read More

Doggy Day Care –Fun for Fido or Not?

BCs good interaction Knox clinic 2014

When I was five or six years old my mother took me to kindergarten. I am told I cried the entire day, sitting in the corner and sobbing hysterically. Nothing anyone did assuaged me. When my mother returned to pick me up, I reportedly ran screaming across the room, grabbed onto her legs and wouldn't let go. Oh my.  I thought of that somewhat embarrassing story when a friend asked if they should put their dog into a local Doggy Care. If you've been following my blog you know my answer: "It depends." A bad doggy day care is no less than abusive and dangerous. A really good one can be a wonderful option for some dogs, but not others. I can relate to the "not others". If I'd been a dog when I was young, I would have hunkered in a corner, big-eyed and silent, or growling and snarling under a Read More

Assistance Dogs International (Or does the “I” Stand for Inspiring?)

Dementia Dogs adi 2014

If you're feeling a tad disheartened by the news, or maybe the view in the mirror when you went to buy new pants (okay, that's probably just my problem), I have a suggestion: Go out of your way to go to the Assistance Dogs International Conference, wherever it might be held in the years to come. I'm at the 2014 conference in Denver, as I write, having spoken yesterday about People, Trauma and Dogs (focusing primarily on identifying trauma in dogs and using what we know about healing from it in humans to apply to helping traumatized dogs). It's hard to imagine a more inspiring place. The rooms are full of awesome people doing wonderful things, many accompanied by equally awesome service dogs doing equally wonderful things themselves. One of the things you take away from a conference like Read More

Adopting Littermates… (Don’t)

wwsda course close up 2014

The title of this post is a bit strong, but I do want to caution people from adopting two dogs from the same litter because "it's easier" to raise two at once (ask someone with twins if it's easier than having one child) or "we don't want our dog to be lonely." (Because you might be if the dogs are so enchanted with each other that they ignore you). I'm writing this now because we have gotten a number of questions about this issue lately: "Someone told me I shouldn't adopt dogs from the same litter, is that true?" Far be it from me to say what you should or shouldn't do, but there are a lot of red flags related to getting pups from the same batch. Before I say more, I should add that I've looked and asked around for any research on this issue and haven't found a thing that supports (or Read More

Consciousness in Dogs

maggie tongue flick on wall 2014

Ray Coppinger loves to start controversies, and he did a great job of it at the SPARCS Conference in June. He began his talk by stating that dogs are have no consciousness and are merely "acting out motor patterns." It's always hard to know what Ray believes and what he is saying to generate a conversation, but needless to say, he was highly successful at the latter. The number of attendees who believed that dogs are not conscious or self aware was small indeed, no surprise there. I'll say right off the bat that I'm one of those who believe that dogs are indeed conscious and aware, but I also think it is an important conversation to have. First, because the more we learn about comparative mental states between people and non-human animals the better. Second, because the minds of other Read More