Is Anthropomorphism a Dirty Word?

W M stick 2

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

How Do You Play with Your Dog?

fence posts snow 2-2013

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

Happy New Year and Happy Pictures!

Willie and Lily Chase 1

Trisha is feeling a little under the weather this week, but didn't want to leave you without a few cheery pictures. Here is Willie playing a good game of chase with Lily, Katie's Dogo Argentino, in the upper pasture this week. From all of us at McConnell Publishing, have a happy, healthy, and safe New Year. Give your dogs a good belly rub from us!   __ Read More

Play Bows as Meta-Communication

snow early winter 2012

We all know the signs of imminent danger between two dogs right? Immobile stiff bodies, direct eye contact, round eyes. Except when dogs are playing and then the exact same postures and expressions are nothing but pauses between frolics. That is a perfect example of what's called meta-communication, or communication about communication. Here's a video of Willie and his new friend, Leo--the new pup of Katie Martz here at the office--illustrating meta-communication as well as any two dogs could. I look forward to your comments about it. First, some background: Yesterday they met for the first time, and it went beautifully. Katie stood 40 feet from the door with Leo as I let Willie out and asked him "Where's the Dog?" We played tug when he looked at Leo and then back at me. After 2 Read More