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

When to Intervene in Dog-Dog Interactions

Luke, Indiana & me

This is one of the questions I am most frequently asked, and with good reason. It's a tough one. It's also relevant to my own life right now, after having just introduced a new dog into the household, and having to make split-second decisions several times in the first few weeks. I should say first off that there is no ultimate truth here. No research, no data, just my opinion based on experience with thousands of client dogs and plenty of my own. Certainly there is no dearth of opinions about when to intervene when dogs "get into it," from the extremes of "I never intervene, I just let them work it out" to the opposite attitude of calling a dog off instantly, or correcting her, for a hard eye or a quiet growl. You won't be surprised to learn that I live in the middle ground, not being Read More

Adopting a Dog Into a Multi-Dog Household

Willie & red stick

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

Dogs As Family, People As Packs

willie on ball 2  7-13

It's not just us that sees our dogs as family; apparently, dogs see us as family too. This may not be shocking news to many of us, but it is always good to look at our beliefs objectively. An interesting study was recently published on Plos One about whether dogs are attached to their owners in a similar way that children are attached to their parents. Done by Horn, Huber and Range, the study was based on the early work of ethologists Bowlby and Ainsworth, who argued that human infants require a "secure attachment base" to develop normally. Far beyond simple "affection," what they called true "attachment" included voluntary close proximity between parent and child, distress from the child at separation, seeking out the attachment figure for contact and reassurance if stressed, and most Read More

The Tragedy of Wolf Dogs

back yard dug up

  This is Bits. He is a hybrid wolfdog. Or maybe some coyote, no one knows. He is drop-dead gorgeous and is flat out terrified of strangers. He has been living with Jayne and Mike Belskey at the Grey Wolf Central Wisconsin Rescue¬† for two years now, having been rescued by them as a panicked, huddled, terrified mess from a shelter. It made me happier than I can say that after two hours after I arrived in the house he relaxed enough to lie down only a few feet away from me, albeit with a table between us. Maybe it was because I did lots of look aways, yawned a lot, avoided eye contact and kept my voice down. Maybe not, but I hereby admit to being thrilled to be in the same room with him, and was absolutely overwhelmed by his beauty. And heartbroken, because wolfdogs should break Read More