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

Ralphie’s Adventure at Summer Camp

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This week, it's all about the farm: (Next week I'll write a full report of the talks at the Animal Behavior Society 2013 Meeting in Boulder. It was great, lots to tell you about!) [I should mention here that I just changed that last sentence on 8-8, after a call from Jim who noticed I had actually written "I was great..." instead of "It was great". He pointed out that that didn't sound like something I would say, and he was right. I meant the latter, not the former. Argh, how embarrassing.] First, although it was lovely to be on Vancouver Island and invigorating to be at ABS in Boulder, it is heaven to be home.  Willie is doing well, I'm even giving him a little time off leash, and Tootsie is as adorable as ever. They both seemed awfully glad to see me, but they couldn't possibly have Read More

Things to do after your dog has died

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This poem was written by a friend and colleague, Catherine Young. I hadn't seen her in awhile, and then ran into her at a local coffee shop, where she handed me an envelope with a poem she'd written in it. Oh thanks, I said, focused on other issues at the time. I stuffed the envelope into my purse and thought nothing about it until a few days later when I dug it out to clean up my purse before traveling. And then I read it, and sat down and read it again and got all soppy-eyed and petted Willie and went to the couch and got Tootsie on my lap and read it again. It's the best description I've ever read of how many of us feel after we lose a beloved dog, and it seems especially fitting after so many evocative comments from last week's blog about "dogs as family." Here it is, with a Read More

Dogs As Family, People As Packs

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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

Ah Youth! The Initiation of Play in Dogs

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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