Monthly Archives: August 2020
Victoria and Aly talk about how to be more effective when learning and working from home. Social distancing is the thing these days, but how do we keep from going nuts and what are the best practices to stay productive and efficient when working or learning from home. Dealing with the social aspect of isolation. Aly shares some top tips for how to be productive while staying home, including staying engaged and avoiding passivity. The use of rituals of physical, technical and mental preparation in staying efficient at home.
POSITIONING THEMSELVES FOR REINFORCEMENT First off, sorry. The title was designed to get your attention. We cannot forget about stress and anxiety but rather than focus on those conditions we assume a dog is experiencing, let’s get down to the business of behavior. It has been important that people have been encouraged to […]
A Milwaukee Exhibition Showcases the Midwest’s Imagination
An exhibition simply titled “The Dog Show” is a rare example of the wide diversity of contemporary art and the unique approaches to subject and craft on view. The show is presented by the Tory Folliard Gallery in Milwaukee, WI, the longtime purveyor of contemporary art of the Midwest. The exhibition (viewable online) features painting, drawing, photography and sculpture celebrating the representation of dogs in present-day art. The guest curator, painter Fred Stonehouse, was interested in the variety of ways that artists push beyond the pedestrian conceptions of a “pet portrait” into a terrain where images of dogs become thoroughly enmeshed with a creative vision or studio practice.
The benefits of good exercise for dogs and people are well known. Exercise improves physical fitness and releases endorphins and opioids in the brain, promoting an overall feeling of wellbeing.
When my dogs first get outside they take care of all their business before they truly put their noses down on the ground to sniff and catch up on all the neighborhood news left by other dogs, animals or people. I would love to see the rafts of air my dogs’ smell – a rich tapestry of scent that guides their noses and bodies on sometimes erratic trails to an unseen source. This is the ‘sniffy’ part of the walk where my dogs get to explore and investigate the world around them. Once they have gained as much information as they can, it’s time for me to lead the walk. There might be more forward and uninterrupted movement than my nose-driven dogs would like, but it’s important for them to build up strength and stamina with some physical exercise. This is the way I ‘share’ walks with my dogs, and understanding each other’s exercise needs makes walks more enjoyable for us all.
Dogs and humans have lived side by side for thousands of years but that doesn’t mean that our homes are natural environments for our dogs. The kind of sensory stimulation that a dog particularly enjoys can’t be found in the average living room – it’s out in the open air.
The walk is the highlight of the day for most dogs. Exercise helps maintain muscle tone and mass and promotes healthy skeletal development. It raises a dog’s metabolic rate so that toxins are flushed out of the system more efficiently and helps the digestive system work more effectively, keeping weight down. As well as toning muscles and reducing fat, a good workout is a powerful de stressor for both dogs and humans and stimulates the production of serotonin and other powerful endorphins in the brain. These are the chemicals that give dogs and people pleasure, promoting calmness and reducing stress.
The Reward System is a group of neural structures responsible for reward-related cognition and includes desire (otherwise known as the Seeking System), pleasure (the Consummatory System), and positive reinforcement. Homeostasis is a physiological state where the internal environment is regulated in order to maintain a stable, relatively constant level of a given characteristic. Achieving this state is highly reinforcing and engages the Reward System.
The emotional system is concerned with the ultimate goal of an action. The mammalian brain contains a foraging, investigatory, curious and expectant seeking system that leads an organism to eagerly exploretheir environment. When this system is aroused, the animal or person feels invigorated with a feeling of anticipation and is motivated to actively seek out rewards and experiences. This is what makes walking and sniffing so exciting for dogs.
Exercise also engages the reward system because it provides dogs with sensory stimulation by exposing them to different environments, satisfying their inherent need to work and providing opportunities for them to socialize with other dogs and humans. Varying the types of walks you take with your dog will enrich her walking experience even more, which will prevent future problem behaviors. Teaching your dog various cues for these walks will add predictability and give her the confidence to explore.
When it comes to exercise, quality is just as important as quantity. Taking the same route to the same park twice a day and letting your dog off the lead to run free in the same area becomes repetitive. Even though smells change throughout the day and there is always something new to sniff, changing the location of a walk can be invigorating. Environmental enrichment should provide both positive mental and physical experiences for you and your dog.
The brain is the most under-used “muscle” in pet dogs. While dogs need appropriate physical exercise, many people fail to enrich their dogs’ lives with mental and cognitive stimulation. This becomes most evident when a dog is going through adolescence, and when most people are challenged with adolescent canine behavior.
If dogs are left to their own devices, they will do what dogs love to do best. They will scavenge, hunt, roam the neighborhood, mate with other dogs, mark things that are important to them and protect things of value. These behaviors make perfect sense to dogs but are not appropriate in the human world. Lack of positive and appropriate enrichment encourages dogs to seek their stimulation elsewhere, and leads to the development of stereotypical behaviors such as incessant barking, inappropriate chewing, hyperactivity, and intense licking.
Training, exercise, food puzzles, dog sports and other activities provide physical and mental stimulation for dogs of all ages and is especially beneficial for dogs that have behavioral issues. Solving puzzles can be intrinsically rewarding. Dogs that voluntarily work on puzzle toys or other enriching activities are much more fulfilled because just seeking for something is intrinsically rewarding. Nose driven games like scent work and seeking games engage the entire cycle of the Reward System.
In Temple Grandin’s amazing book, Animals Make Us Human, she outlines how important enrichment is for all animals. “Everyone who is responsible for animals – farmers, ranchers, zookeepers, and pet owners –,” she writes, “need a set of simple, reliable guidelines for creating good mental welfare that can be applied to any animal in any situation… The rule is simple: Don’t stimulate rage, fear, and panic if you can help it. Do stimulate seeking and also play.”
Walking might sometimes be an exhausting prospect for you especially after a long day at work, but as soon as you attach the lead, put your walking boots on and step out of the door, you are not only improving you and your dog’s physical and mental fitness, you are enriching your lives together.
A new collection of canine-inspired songs benefits shelters
Music remains as enduring and powerful as ever, and a new project uniting 17 emerging songwriters and artists is proof positive. Created as a testament to our bond with dogs, these dog loving members of the Nashville music scene have banded together to release “Rock and Roll Over,” a showcase tribute album featuring original songs about man’s/woman’s best friend. Plus, dog lovers can download their favorite songs for free by donating to animal shelters nationwide.
The Human-Animal Bond is the connection between a human and a pet and includes the development of emotional attachment to that pet, with genuine feelings of affection and a sense of responsibility for their well-being.
Considering dogs and humans are two very powerful predatory species, it is remarkable that we have a bond at all, but the fact that we can live together in relative harmony is a testament not only to us, but also the dog’s amazing ability to adapt, which has made them the most successful domestic species on the planet.
It is not necessarily true that only the fittest survive. Survival depends on how a living thing adapts to a changing environment or situation and dogs have adapted for centuries as they have evolved with us. Unlike the dog’s common ancestor – the grey wolf – domestic dogs are able to cope with novelty. The dog in your home copes with new things every day – a person coming into your house, a new dog on the street, different sights and sounds he experiences on a car journey. Most dogs live very successfully in a human domestic environment and their adaptive skills have been enhanced through selective breeding.
Attachment theory has shown the life-long need for humans to have close affectional bonds. Animals are like human infants in their need for attachment, and are affected by separation and loss. The bond with a pet is part of the inner working model of attachment and family relationships for humans, and a pet is particularly needed when someone is going through a tough time. Affection and bonds between pets and their people are shown to be as strong as those between a human parent and a child. The perception of a broken bond leads to increased neediness on the part of the individual that perceives this.
Evidence of social bonding with our pets is more obvious than ever. We call our dogs our children and refer to ourselves as mum and dad. We celebrate our dogs’ birthdays and buy them presents. We spend thousands of pounds a year on food, supplies, clothes and other services. This is the modern way we show love to our animals, but the human-animal bond has existed throughout our history of cohabitating.
Building a bond with a new puppy or adult dog is more important to begin with than teaching cues, such as sit, come and stay, because the relationship you build with a dog at the beginning of her life with you, builds a solid foundation for everything else in your future together. If your dog is playful, play the games she loves. If she loves smelling things, take her out to walk and sniff. The more you are connected with being the source of pleasant, fun things, the more your dog will want to be with you and the quicker she will respond when you start teaching her life skills.
The bond can also be strengthened by knowing what your dog needs and wants from you and seeing if your own expectations match those needs. Finding common ground with your dog ensures a more harmonious relationship, and once you have a better idea of expectations, you can focus on behaviors and skills you want your dog to learn.
We all have different needs and wants including the need for safety, security, love, choice, food, water and companionship. Our dogs have the same biological needs as us in that they also need to be safe, find shelter, eat food, drink water, socially bond with their own and other species, sleep, play, and have the choice to make certain decisions. But are there other things you could give your dog that matches your needs and enhances the bond between you?
If you asked your dog to write a list of everything she needed, what do you think she would ask for? I know my dog Jasmine needs similar things to me – food, water, companionship, love and shelter – but her wants are quite different. I think she would tell me that she loves when I put food in her toys, that she wants to sit up high, chase every chipmunk and squirrel she sees, avoid strange people touching her, play fetch and roll in dead animal carcass without me bathing her afterwards.
You can do this exercise with your own dog and see if any of his needs and wants match yours. Does your dog need love and companionship? Does he want to have fun and play? Do you want your dog to be a good walking and exercise partner? Do you want him to have the confidence to be left alone for short periods of time without chewing or toileting in the house? Do you need your dog to be friendly?
We ask a lot from our dogs and sometimes we don’t realize the pressure we put on them to be perfect. We don’t want our furniture to be chewed on, our shoes to be eaten, or for our dogs to beg while we are eating, even though chewing is a puppy’s favorite pastime and dogs spend most of their lives being hungry. Dogs don’t know that they cannot toilet in the home unless they are taught. Eliminating outside comes with all kinds of dangers and discomforts, especially when a dog has to go in the rain or when the ground is burning from the hot sun, but many people are oblivious to these behavior altering obstacles.
I often see people running in my neighborhood with panting dogs trailing on the lead behind them, but did they ask if their dog likes running or did they make sure that their dog had the stamina to run with them before they started? A dog’s pace is very different from a human’s and running slower or trying to keep up might be uncomfortable for them.
So while there are similarities in what both dogs and people need and want, we obviously want very different things, and unless we negotiate from both perspectives, we are likely to have problems. To avoid any issues, start thinking about your dog’s needs and wants right from the start and be sensitive to what he is trying to tell you. We don’t need dogs now to survive and be happy, but domestic dogs need our care so they can be safe, and sometimes they have to negotiate tricky waters in order to do that. If dogs don’t meet human expectations, they often find themselves homeless or in a shelter wondering what happened and why the family that supposedly loved them gave them away. The bond can break very easily in many situations, but this can be prevented if time is taken to understand each other and expectations are met on both sides.
Half a dozen trips to fill up my husband’s Prius, back and forth between our home and the car I go, mechanically piling things in the front and the back. When I’m finished, there’s barely room to drive. Loose dog food in a huge plastic bin, dozens of cans of specialized food. Then the treats: an assortment of tiny, teddy-bear-shaped biscuits; little rawhide chews; meatball-shaped, chicken-filled balls; and other specialty treats Ghillie loved, along with the standard medium-sized biscuits. There’s also an IV drip we used at the end, distracting our Sheltie with frozen cream-cheese balls and spoonfuls of peanut butter while he endured the needle for 30 minutes.