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

zucc yum 9-13

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

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

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

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

Possibility Dogs: Review and Q & A with Susannah Charleson

lambs follow nellie 1

Susannah Charleson, author of Scent of the Missing, has done it again: Given us a page turner that is exquisitely written, and rich with both emotion and information related to working dogs. However, this time the dogs aren't search and rescue dogs; although in some ways you could suggest that's exactly what they do. The Possibility Dogs, just released a few days ago, directly relates to last week's post about Psychiatric Service Dogs, because that's what it is about: dogs who help people function, and in some cases,  heal. Some of these dogs seem able to search out people in need as if following a scent trail, and "rescue" them by their insightful awareness of what a damaged person needs. As in Scent of the Missing, The Possibility Dogs entwines incidents from her own life, insights into Read More