Posts Tagged ‘ animal psychology ’

Separation Anxiety-Avoiding It On A Trip

March 31, 2012

Well we took our first road trip without our Sophie. We had been travelling with her for the past 12 years & she was well schooled at staying hotels. Willie has been on the road with us but never without her. We were anticipating he would experience separation anxiety when we left him in our hotel room & we definitely didn’t want him to go into a panic when we left so we employed a little forethought during the car ride to our destination. When we got to the hotel, we placed his bed, toys & bowls in the room before we did anything else. One of us waited with him while the other unloaded the car.Then we switched, with the other person staying with him. Then we both stayed with him for a few minutes so he could “find” his way around the room & know it was our “den” even if it was temporary. We then went out & came RIGHT back for a couple of times but did it really quickly to get him used to us going out of the door. Our next step was to gradually increase our time outside of the room. The first time we left, he started to whine like it was the end of the world and we weren’t but ten feet from the door, so we stood still to see what he would do & he actually stopped crying. I must add that this may not work with dogs who are not “well adjusted”. The next time we left the room, he whined & I returned to the door, without going inside. I told him to go lay down & he stopped crying. As heart breaking as it was to hear him whine, we did not go back to pet him. This would have just reinforced his being sad.It would have also given him the message that”If I cry, my friends come back-so I will just keep crying”. We also tried to gradually get him used to being in the room alone. The main point is that it was done GRADUALLY & INCREMENTALLY. We have only been here one night & he seems to have adjusted. The process of leaving him for short stints was done over the course of a few hours & was really no work at all.

Separation Anxiety-at the loss of another dog

March 26, 2012

So far today, our younger dog is doing ok without his momma. It has been cloudy all day so we are hoping that explains his moping around. Since dogs do grieve(yes I assigned a human emotion to dogs because they do feel them), we recognize that he will go thru an adjustment just like us. Since he has hardly been home without anyone in the past 5 yrs, we need to get him acclimated to it in small doses. We both left the house & opened & closed the garage doors-just like we actually left-but we stayed in the garage. We heard him wimper & cry which gave me a knot in my throat. With dogs & kids, you sometimes have to be cruel to be kind. We forced ourselves not to go back inside otherwise, we ran the risk of rewarding his sad behavior because that is just how he would see the situation(When you own a dog, it helps to try to think like one). He would have  said to himself, I cried & they came back-so if I cry next time, then they will come back. So we were cruel & waited until he stopped crying. Once he stopped, we went back in. He was happy to see us. We gave him a casual “Hey Little Guy” but nothing too extravagant because that could create separation anxiety all by itself. Tomorrow we must re-enter the daily grind & will have no choice but to leave him alone. In order for him to make the departure more tolerable for him, we will create a distraction to take his mind off of us leaving. We will fill two Kongs with peanut butter & dry dog food & hide a few small piles of dog food throughout his area. Hopefully, he will concentrate on where we are leaving the food & not us putting our coats on. We will just have to take it from there. As much as we want to coddle him during the transition to being the only dog, we refrain because that will reinforce his being sad. He is getting the same type & amount of attention as he did before he lost his momma and we are maintaining his routine so he doesn’t get further confused. As a rule of thumb, the experts say it takes a dog 3 to 5 days in order to adjust to new environment or a change int heir existing one. This is just a general rule. The dog we just said Good Bye to took a good two years & an addition of a puppy to allow her to adjust to the loss of her buddy. We are also trying not to be sad around him so he doesn’t pick up on it. We will all get through this & we need each other to accomplish it but it can be done.

Sophie-Our Final Farewell

March 25, 2012

On 3/22/12 at 1pm in out yard next to my wife’s vegetable garden with the sun shining & us bawling our eyes out, Sophie left this world at 11 years & 11 months old. Her 12th bday would have been next month, one day after our 12th anniversary.  She had pizza the night before & hamburgers on the morning of. A young gal assistant who is Sophie’s vet office buddy since puppyhood came so that made Sophie happy. This girl was crying too. Sophie had a fantastic day & night (except for us crying on & off) the day before with puppy enthusiasm & energy with her body looking like nothing was wrong.My wife took out her old basket of secret stash toys, which we had hidden from Willie so he wouldn’t destroy them. He thought he hit the toy lottery. Sophie had immediately picked up her pink squeaky ball that she used to guard so no one would squeak it & she started right off where she left off with it & exerting her dominance over Willie one last time, which he respected. We then all watched tv with the dogs actually paying attention to the tv. I tell you if it wasn’t for the looming countdown till the vet came, it would have been the closest I have ever been to complete utter blissness in my entire  life. We then all slept upstairs as we always did & I gave her the last nite time head massage & sweet talk session. I did make her try to walk up the stairs & helped her rear end out by 90%. We had slept downstairs for the past 2 nites with my wife on the couch & me on floor so she wouldn’t have to struggle with the stairs. It was a wonderful evening that should never have ended so she did one last favor by giving us that last great day & night. On the morning of, she was good but not quite as the day before. She hadn’t pooped much in the last 2 days which was probably because the cancer was squishing her intestines. Her appetite got better as did her drinking. Sometimes her head would tremor slightly but not much or that often so we don’t think she was in pain & she showed no signs of pain other than the normal arthritis stiffness when she first got up. She only fell down once in the 3 days when before she had been falling 2-3 times each day when her front paw would sometimes knuckle under. The absolute WORST thing in the world was the ticking clock looming constantly which made me feel pressured to relax with her & suck in every last breath, sight & sound of her. When the vet came, Willie was locked in our den. Sophie laid on her travelling blanket which was hers in the car on every single road trip we ever took. Of course she tried to sniff every single item coming from the doctor’s bag & the vet let her sniff 1 thing & then to business-guess so she wouldn’t get emotional. They injected her with a sedative in the rear leg. She was laying on her side with her head lifted off the ground & was obviously fighting it & trying to keep her head up so she could see where my wife was & what was going on, but after about a long 45 seconds, her head relaxed. That was wrenching to watch her try to stay awake. The vet then tried to put the final dose in her front leg but in true Sophie spirit, it didn’t take & she had to get the injection in her rear leg. About 10 seconds later, the vet pronounced her gone, she farted one last time & then the knife twisted in my heart. My wife cried “Oh My Baby” and then my heart was ripped from my chest. In the morning of this good bye, I called the vet & told them to double & triple check the x-rays because they missed the boat months ago by pushing the Cushing’s diagnosis & I couldn’t take this decision back. They said they checked & we were doing the right thing before this whole thing started. After Sophie passed, we let Willie out hoping he would calmly sniff her & realize she had passed, but he was too happy to have freedom & see people that he actually stepped on poor Sophie’s body. I tried leashing him but he was too excited so he went back in the house & then I helped load Sophie on a stretcher & place her in the vet’s car for one last ride. Then the heart wrenched even more. After about 1/2 hr we agreed there was some sense of relief only in that there was no more clock haunting us. We sobbed for a bit & then took Willie to the beach where Sophie always loved to go with my wife. When we got to the beach, my wife found a piece of blue beach glass & she has never ever found glass at that beach or any other. Her sisters tell her that blue beach glass is rare so we take it as some sort of sign or gift from Sophie. Also of all the places on this huge beach, of course I had find the dog shit & step in it. When we got home, Willie looked at her bed & didn’t even check her bowl for missed crumbs as he always does. When we went upstairs he just stared at her bed when he would normally race to get in it. After he finished dinner, he looked over at her bed. Today he has been extra clingy & off with wind definitely knocked out of his sails. I haven’t caught him looking for her but there is definitely not the same enthusiasm he normally has. He has always been exuberant & a happy puppy. Still waiting for that sense of peace to blanket me so I know she made it safely to her destination. Today had its moments( & really bad ones) & there are spots in the house & yard I just can’t bear to look at. For years I have heard & known that putting a dog to sleep is the nicest thing you can do. While it finally sank in as taking 1 for the team so she would never experience pain, it still doesn’t jive with my longing for her. My wife hasn’t had a total meltdown yet but I anticipate one as this was her first baby from scratch. Just hope we can keep Willie from going into a funk. He hasn’t even been home by himself for more than 30 minutes& not more than a few times  so we will have to  work on that. I can’t concentrate & have been staring at the same pile of paperwork for hours today & got none of it done but at least I am not crying constantly or feeling sick to my stomach anymore. As my Grandma used to say “This too shall pass”. On that fateful day,  time was my enemy and now it will help me-what a dichotomy.

It was ironic that the day after was designated National Puppy Day & then today I saw this article in our paper.

Dogs Enrich Our Lives

March 11, 2012

Dogs can enrich our lives in many ways without even trying or knowing how. They do it by just being themsleves. By having a dog, we have a lesser chance of getting heart disease, depression and a host of other infirmaties. They do this with their mere existence within our world-without any training. The ones that are trained can help us weed out bad guys, find people & items, lead blind people, lend comfort to those in distress, alert people to impending seizures, detect pregnancy and assist handicapped people. Dogs have been found to be able to detect certain illnesses in humans, locate rare species of animals and on and on. I have a feeling that we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface with regards to the many ways dogs can enrich our lives.

Nail Clipping-Instructional Video

March 3, 2012

Many dogs absolutely hate having their nails cut. It is usually due to a bad experience when they were hurt during clipping. As a result, the dog has become conditioned to associate pain with nail clipping. As with all training it is important to make every experience a positive & fun one. When you are cutting the dog’s nails, you must be actively conscious that there is a vein running through the nail which is called a “quick”. Cutting into the quick can cause extreme pain in dogs as well as cause them to bleed. Dogs can actually bleed to death from a nail that is cut too short. It is for this reason that I have become a fan of nail grinders. Some dogs have never been trained to accept a nail clipper and get aggressive due to fear of the unknown. Counter-conditioning(teaching the dog to illicit a different behavior) & desensitization(getting the dog used to it) are two very important ways to get your dog over the fear of the clipper. This link will bring you to a very informational video on how to perform these tasks. Please keep in mind that it may take a lot longer for some dogs to have success with these methods, but persistence will prevail. If you are unsure of how to cut your dog’s nails or how short to cut them, then please consult with your veterinarian of professional groomer. Don’t get discouraged-just stick to the program.

Dog Bite Fatality Statistics-2010-National Canine Research Council

February 21, 2012

Podcast-Dog Gauging Human Intention

February 21, 2012

Dogs & Us See Eye to Eye

February 19, 2012

In the Eyes of a Dog

by    Sarah C. P. Williams    on 5 January 2012, 12:29 PM|

Eyes on the prize. If a human first gets the attention of a dog, the dog will follow the direction of the person’s gaze.
Credit: Ernő Téglás

Sit a dog in front of a television screen, and it may not always look intently at what it sees. But show a person on that screen who looks directly at the dog and says “hello,” and the canine will pay attention. In fact, a new study shows that a dog will go so far as to follow the gaze of the human on screen when he or she looks to one side or the other—something not even chimps can do.

Researchers already knew that dogs were attuned to human communication signals. In addition to their obvious facility at learning commands, dogs, like young children, can signal where a human puts an object if the human feigns ignorance, even if it’s been moved, and they follow the direction of our finger when we point at things, a task chimps fail at. But are dogs capable of following more subtle cues, such as our shifting gaze?

To find out, cognitive scientist Ernő Téglás of the Central European University in Budapest adapted a technique that had previously been used only on children. In one example of the test, a child watches a woman on a video screen who has toys on either side of her. The woman then either looks straight toward the camera and says “hello” in a high-pitched voice known to engage children or looks downward and says “hello” in a more dull, low-pitched voice. Then the person looks to the toy on one side or the other for 5 seconds. Whether a child also looks at the toy on the same side is recorded. To modify this experiment for dogs, Téglás substituted empty plastic pots for the children’s toys and had a stranger on the screen say “hi, dog!” in one of the two intonations while looking at the camera or downward. As each dog watches the video, a specially programmed camera below the television screen follows, and records, the dog’s eye movements.

Téglás and his colleagues used 22 dogs of different breeds for the study. They found that the canines always looked at the person on the video for the same amount of time. But when the person initially directed his or her attention at the dog and spoke in a high-pitched voice, the dog looked at the same pot as the person 69% of the time. When the person avoided eye contact and spoke in a low voice, the dog didn’t look at one pot more often than the other.

The results, published today in Current Biology, were almost identical to those seen in 6-month-old human infants. “We were surprised by the high similarity of the performances,” Téglás says. “Dogs are receptive to these cues in a way that is very similar to infants.”

The precision of the eye-tracking device will allow scientists to develop a new generation of tests on how dogs interact with humans, says Juliane Kaminski, a developmental psychologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, who was involved in earlier studies on how dogs interpret finger pointing. “It opens many new opportunities.”

Now that the scientists have shown that the test works on dogs, they plan to separate the two factors—eye contact and tone of voice—to test each one’s effect on the dog’s attention, Téglás says. They also can compare different dog breeds with each other. This may help answer the question of how dogs’ skills at interpreting human communication have evolved.

“Dog skills with human communication seem to be a special adaptation to live with humans and the result of certain selection pressures during domestication,” Kaminski says. If this is true, researchers would expect dog breeds that have been domesticated the longest to perform best at tests such as gaze following. But don’t plan on being able to compare your dog with all the other neighborhood canines—dogs likely interpret the cues from their owner differently than those from a stranger.

(taken from

Mind Readers?

February 19, 2012

Another reason dogs rule: They know what you’re thinking

Knode family

Crystal Knode says her Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Rachel, shown with her 15-year-old daughter, Alex, pays close attention to the family and “anticipates what is going to happen.”

By Linda Carroll

Scientists have finally proven what every dog owner knows – our canine friends read our facial expressions like dedicated detectives.

Dogs don’t just depend on verbal commands to figure out what we want, a new study shows. Instead, they look into our eyes and try to guess what we’re up to, according to the study published in Current Biology.

Hungarian researchers showed that dogs will even follow our gaze if we make eye contact with them first.

This study “reveals that dogs are receptive to human communication in a manner that was previously only attributed only to 6-month-old human infants,” said study co-author Jozsef Topal a researcher at the Hungarian  Academy of Sciences.

Topal and his colleagues studied 29 canines. The dogs were shown a movie of a woman who sometimes would stare straight at the dog and call out to him and then turn her head to stare at an object next to her. The other times the woman would just turn her head and stare at the object.

For the most part, dogs who were addressed both through eye contact and with a verbal greeting tended to follow the gaze of the woman in the movie. When no eye contact was made, the dogs didn’t follow the gaze of the woman.

There have been similar experiments in babies, Topal said. And the dogs are behaving just as 6-month-olds do.

The new findings come as no surprise to Crystal Knode, a 51-year-old legal secretary from San Jose, Calif. Her 9-year-old Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Rachel, is always observing family members’ body language and facial expressions.

 “She anticipates what is going to happen,” Knode said. “She watches and takes cues to figure out what I’m going to do and what I’m not going to do. Dogs are very attuned to body language and hand motions.”

Topal is convinced that the dogs’ behavior is something that has been bred into the species over its long partnership with humanity.

“Dogs have evolved to sharing their lives with humans,” Topal said. “And they gained new skills that support their social interaction with humans.”

Deleta Jones isn’t buying that analysis. She thinks this is just the way dogs interact – whether it’s with a human or another dog.

“When they learn verbal commands, they are learning a foreign language,” said the 48-year-old dog trainer from Hollister, Calif.  “Dogs normally speak through body language and facial expression. It’s more natural to them.

“If you’ve ever watched dogs at a dog park, you’ve seen it. Within 30 seconds of the time they enter the park a huge amount of information has passed back and forth between the new dog and the ones already in the park. They’re exchanging looks, observing eyes and body posture. In seconds they know who is dominant and who is submissive.”

That skill just transfers to relationships with their owners, Jones said. “If people are upset and crying the dog sees the upset facial expression and also smells the adrenaline,” she added. “Dogs read all of that.”

So ultimately, babies, until they develop language, are using a communication system that all social animals do. Later on, they’ll lean more heavily on the spoken word, while dogs, cats and horses will continue to rely on body language.

People sometimes forget that body language is the more natural mode of communication for their pets, Knode said. If you really want to have a conversation with your pet, tune in to their language, she says.

“You have to try to communicate on their level, what they understand,” Knode said. “They have their own language and you just have to try to communicate and think as they would think.”

(taken from )

Dogs Read Human Expressions

February 11, 2012

Dogs Read Human Expressions As Well As Human Infants, Study Shows

 Posted: 1/5/12

A new study shows how man’s best friend might be even more human-like than we thought.

The study, published in the journal Current Biology, suggests that dogs are able to read our “communicative intent” — that is, our intention to interact with them — via our faces, an ability that very young humans possess.

“Increasing evidence supports the notion that humans and dogs share some social skills, with dogs’ social-cognitive functioning resembling that of a 6-month to 2-year-old child in many respects,” study researcher Jozsef Topal of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, said in a statement. “The utilization of ostensive cues is one of these features: dogs, as well as human infants, are sensitive to cues that signal communicative intent.”

To test this theory, Topal and his colleagues tracked the eye movements of dogs as they watched video recordings of humans turning toward plastic pots.

When the person said “Hi dog!” in a high-pitched voice and looked straight at the dog, and then turned toward the pot, the dogs were more likely to look at the pot, compared with if the person just said “hi dog” in a low-pitched voice and avoided eye contact.

“Our findings reveal that dogs are receptive to human communication in a manner that was previously attributed only to human infants,” Topal said in the statement.

However, Deleta Jones, a dog trainer from California, told MSNBC that she doesn’t think the finding means dogs have evolved in any certain way to interact with humans — rather, that’s just how they interact with anyone, whether it be dogs or humans.

“When they learn verbal commands, they are learning a foreign language,” Jones told MSNBC. “Dogs normally speak through body language and facial expression. It’s more natural to them.”

(taken from )

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