Is Anthropomorphism a Dirty Word?

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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

Adopting a Dog Into a Multi-Dog Household

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As some of you know, on January 9 I did a webinar for ASPCApro on adopting a dog into a multi-dog home. It was geared toward shelter and rescue professionals and volunteers, covering everything from how to do the first introduction to managing the household as time goes on, and what to do if it's simply not working. (Don't worry if you missed it. You can still watch the recording of this one, and many others, for free on the ASPCApro website.) I also wrote a follow-up guest blog to summarize the most important points of the webinar. Here it is, re-posted for The Other End of the Leash followers: From First Date to After the Honeymoon: Adopting a Dog Into a Multi-Dog Household FIRST DATES: Some aspects of dog-dog introductions are universally agreed upon, such as giving the dogs as Read More

If I Only Had a Tail…

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This is the time of year that I regret not having a tail. If I had one, I could curl it around my nose as did Nellie and Polly this morning, the thermometer descending toward single digits. Better yet, I could use it to wag from the shoulders back, like Willie does when Jim comes home. Or perhaps I could toss it up into the air, stiff and straight, and leave a committee meeting in a huff, my tail rising up like a standard held high in medieval England. I'm not sure where that image comes from, given that I've never left a committee meeting in a huff in my life. But then, it doesn't mean I haven't wanted to, and if I did, wouldn't a raised tail make it that much more effective? The fact is, tails are amazing things. Just look at all the functions that tails provide: BALANCE (see Willie Read More

Serious Dog Fighting: Questions to Ask if Considering “What Next?”

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Recently I had a discussion with good friends and colleagues about how to handle difficult cases in which two dogs have engaged in extremely serious fights in the home. We found ourselves sorting through what factors need to be considered if re-homing is on the table. This is a common problem brought to behaviorists; I must have seen hundreds of clients who had dogs who did not get along. At all. I don't mean dogs who had minor tiffs, or dogs who were occasionally possessive-aggressive ("My couch! My human!), but dogs who had truly serious issues and were making life at home less than relaxing, if not downright dangerous. Sometimes they had serious, injurious fights, sometimes one dog lived in obvious terror of the other, even though actual fights were rare or non existent, and sometimes Read More