If I Only Had a Tail…

willie and frisbee 12-11

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

Who is Going to Win?

tootsie eval

An alert Facebook reader sent in this video of two dogs posturing over some kibble scattered on the ground. Oh my, oh my, so much to say about what goes on here, but I'm going to hold my comments until you have had a chance to look at it. Here's my suggestion: Watch the entire video before reading any comments, and write down, as soon as you think you have enough information, 1) which dog is going to get the food and 2) why. A couple of points to make before you watch it: First, I'll tell you right off that there is no fight, so don't worry that you are about to watch a canine snuff movie. Second, after you make your decision about who is going to win, continue to watch closely and note all the behaviors that could be communicative in nature.  Then play it again (and again) to see Read More

Ah Youth! The Initiation of Play in Dogs

strawberries 2013

First, watch the video of Katie's young Leo trying to get an older Mastiff, Herk, to play. (You'll know who is who, trust me!) Second, take a minute to wipe the tears from your eyes because you were laughing so hard. Third, think about all the ways you've seen dogs try to initiate play with other dogs, from a standard and obvious play bow, to Leo's method of smashing a toy into another dog's head. I find the topic of how dogs convince other dogs to play an interesting one. How do dogs go about initiating play in others that are a tad reluctant? I'm especially interested in Leo's use of a toy (tool?) to get Herk's attention. How common is it for a dog to use an object to elicit play from other dogs? Willie's favorite method of play is "Let's be race horses!" but he also loves 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

Mounting By Any Other Name…

nellie window

A long, long time ago I had an intact male Border Collie (my first BC ever, Drift), who appeared to be failing his job as a stud dog. Although his escort, the lovely Tib, could not have been more clear that she was ready to be bred, Drift couldn't seem to get the job done. Tib would prance around Drift all shiny-eyed, literally throw her rump in his face and flag her tail so far over to the side that I wondered if it might break off. Drift behaved as though he got the message loud and clear, and would enthusiastically mount Tib from behind. But then he would make one or two thrusts, and his entire body would appear to deflate (not to mention his equipment) while he slumped off to the side. Tib would respond by again throwing her rump at his head and flagging (the clarity of a female dog's Read More