Archive for 'Muttsblog'
Most of us have probably tried a version of this at home — be it with the fake tennis ball toss, the hidden treat or the imitation door knock.
How easily, and how many times in a row, can we fool the dog?
For some reason — maybe to test their intelligence, more likely because of the puckish tendencies of our own species — we seem to like to prank our pets.
Even many of your more admirable dog owners aren’t above punking their pugs, confusing their corgis, tricking their terriers or discombobulating their dachshunds.
My dog Ace has fallen victim to most of them. I’ve rapped against the wall to make him think someone’s at the front door. I’ve pretended to throw sticks and balls and hidden them behind my back as he gives chase. (This may explain why he’s not great at fetch). And, in perhaps the cruelest torment of all, I’ve made him think I’m holding a treat in one of my hands, holding out two closed fists and letting him pick one, then the other, only to find both are empty.
With each, he quickly caught on to the fact he was being played, and, despite my attempts to continue teasing him, moved on to something more interesting than me — like a shrub, or a rock, or the couch.
Dogs, due to their trusting nature, can be pretty easily fooled the first time. But you’re not likely to fool them with the same trick more than once or twice, according to a new study, published in the journal Animal Cognition.
Thirty four dogs were involved in the study, conducted at Kyoto University in Japan. One at a time, they were taken to a room where a researcher pointed to where food was hidden in a container. All the dogs followed the cue and got the treat. The second time around, the researchers pointed to an empty container, and all the dogs followed the cue , only to be disappointed.
The third time around, when the researcher again pointed to a full container of food, hardly any of the dogs bought it.
When a new experimenter came in to try again, the dogs initially trusted him — at least until he duped them, too. (Thank you, dogs, for not judging our entire species based on the acts of one.)
The leader of the team that conducted the study, Akiko Takaoka, says its findings suggests dogs are pretty good at determining how reliable an individual human is.
“Dogs have more sophisticated social intelligence than we thought. This social intelligence evolved selectively in their long life history with humans” she told BBC. Dogs understand what it means when a human points at something. If a dog’s owner points in the direction of a ball, stick or food, the dog will run and explore the location the person is pointing to.
But Takaoka said she was surprised that the dogs “devalued the reliability of a human” so quickly.
I wonder if the results might have been different if dog owners — rather than strangers — were the ones trying to fool them. Would they, based on the bond they have with their owners, be a little more trusting, and follow the cues a few more times before giving up?
Maybe … assuming their owner hasn’t raised them with a steady diet of pranks.
Fun as they may be, they should probably be done in moderation, and not during puppyhood. And, when it comes to training, it’s probably best to avoid duping our dogs into doing what we want them to do — as in tricking him into a bath, or into the crate, or using the word “treat” to get him to come. Deception — with the possible exception of putting his pill in a shroud of cheese — shouldn’t be something we regularly practice to control our dog.
Dogs like things to be predictable, John Bradshaw of the University of Bristol notes in the BBC article, and not knowing what’s going to happen next can make them stressed, fearful or even aggressive.
“Dogs whose owners are inconsistent to them often have behavioral disorders,” he said.
Still, many of us (perhaps due to our own behavioral disorders) persist — even those who know fooling the dog runs counter to good training, and works against building a relationship of trust.
Why we’re that way might be equally worthy of a study. Why, long after the dog has lost interest and moved on to something else, do some of us humans continue to try and amuse ourselves by tricking them?
Maybe those people are scientists at heart, and want to test their dog’s cognitive abilities. Maybe they justify it by telling themselves — as I did when teasing my little brother — that it’s building character, or teaching our dog that life isn’t always fair. Maybe they’re trying to establish their dominance, or at least their feeling of mental superiority, or re-establish the fact they are in control. Maybe they have a tiny cruel streak.
More likely, they are just seeking a laugh, or feel the need to confirm how much their dogs trust them.
The occasional prank, I think, is OK, but pulling too many of them might be an indication we’re not worthy of that trust, leading it to erode, as maybe — based on the experiment in Japan — it is already.
Dogs are continuing to figure us humans out (no small task). They learn our schedules. They predict our actions. Apparently, they have also learned when, amid our trickery, to turn us off, in which case the joke just might be on us.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 4th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, behavior, bond, cognition, cues, deceiving, deception, dog, dogs, evolution, experiment, food, fool, fooling, fooling the dog, intelligence, pets, relationship, reliability, science, social, study, training, treats, tricking, tricking the dog, trust, trusting, university of kyoto
Residents of Greensboro who tie up their dogs and leave them unattended can expect to start receiving warnings this week, and $500 fines by September, as Guilford County’s anti-tethering ordinance comes closer to being fully phased in.
The ordinance, approved by the Guilford County Board of Commissioners in 2013, prohibits the tethering or chaining of a dog without the owner present, or the use of any tether or chain less than 10 feet long.
To the uninformed, it might seem odd — an agency called “Animal Control” telling people to un-tether their dogs — but it’s another example of how, amid a new sensibility about dogs, the duties of such agencies have outgrown their name, and have (rightly) become more about helping animals than controlling them, and therefore should be called something else, something less archaic, something like the office of Animal Protection.
We tried to make that case last week, arguing that a new name could also go a long way toward improving the image of those offices, and pushing those that are still living in the past into modern times.
Animal protection, we think, is a better description of their modern day duties, or at least what their modern day duties should be.
Responding to complaints about chained dogs, and helping to free them, is a perfect example of that.
Guilford County Animal Control officers will be investigating complaints about tethered dogs and issuing written warnings to the owners until Sept. 1, when fines will go into effect. Until then officials will continue to educate residents about the new ordinance.
“We’ve done good about getting the word out and handing out fliers, posters and brochures to let people know it’s coming and it’s going,” Logan Rustan, the manager of Guilford County Animal Control, told the Greensboro News & Record. “But believe it or not, a lot of people just still have no clue.”
The ordinance took effect last March but is being phased in gradually to give residents time to comply.
It was welcomed by animal activists, and particularly by Unchain Guilford, a nonprofit organization that helps dog owners construct fences as an alternative to tying up their dogs.
Tethered dogs left unattended can easily injure themselves, and often develop behavioral problems.
“If you’re chained to a small area your entire life, you’re going to have issues interacting with other people — whether you’re a dog or a human,” said Ellen Metzger, a committee member for the group.
Many dogs who spend their lives tethered outside can easily make the transition to inside dogs, with a little training.
Greensboro resident Jennifer Thompson found that out when, shortly after the county passed the ordinance, she contacted Unchain Guilford for help.
Her 10-year-old pitbull-chow mix, Spike, had spent most of his life tethered in her yard.
“He was so big and was at the point where he would jump all over,” Thompson said. “I was kind of fearful of him.”
In Thompson’s case, volunteers also taught her training techniques to help Spike behave better. Spike lives inside the house now.
“I didn’t know this dog is so lovable,” she said. “e sat outside all these years, and he just wants somebody to love him. He’s such a sweet dog. I would not keep another dog outside, knowing what I know now.”
(Photo: Jennifer Thompson and her dog Spike; by JERRY WOLFORD / Greensboro News & Record)
Posted by John Woestendiek March 3rd, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal control, animals, chained, chains, dog, dogs, fines, greensboro, guilford county, guilford unchained, north carolin, ordinance, pets, prohibited, tether, tethered, tethering, tied, warnings
This public service ad for a Dutch service dog foundation certainly isn’t the typical “awwww”-invoking stuff you see from do-gooders trying to raise some money.
It’s pretty chilling, as is its tagline: “We not only help people who cannot see, but also those who have seen too much”
The ad was made for the Royal Dutch Guide Dog Foundation (KNGF Geleidehonden), which in addition to supplying guide dogs for the blind, also trains assistance dogs for veterans coping with PTSD and other war-induced traumas.
Established in 1935, the organization has trained over 5,000 dogs for guide dog users in various parts of the Netherlands.
The ad won the the Gouden Loeki (a Dutch commercial award) in 2014.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 2nd, 2015 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: ad, advertisement, assistance dogs, commercial, dog, dogs, dutch, fundraising, Gouden Loeki, guide dogs, KNGF Geleidehonden, netherlands, psa, ptsd, public service announcement, royal dutch guide dog foundation, service dogs, trauma, veterans, war
Some long called for changes may be coming at Baltimore County’s animal shelter.
After more than a year of pressure by animal advocates for improvements, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced yesterday that the shelter in Baldwin, Md., will be shifting from the “narrow view” of it being a place for dangerous animals and focusing more on caring for animals and getting them adopted.
That’s exactly the sort of change we called for in yesterday’s ohmidog! post — the one suggesting local governments ditch their use of the term “animal control” and become animal protection departments.
Baltimore County hasn’t announced any formal plans to do that (maybe it’s not too late to work that in), but the county executive did outline future steps to add more employees, expand low-cost spaying and neutering services, cooperate with a program aimed at neutering feral cats and increase the shelter’s focus on getting animals adopted.
Kamenetz said he’ll hire a volunteer coordinator and a foster care coordinator at the shelter – two areas animal advocates have been critical of. He also announced that a new Facebook page will be set up devoted to promoting adoptable animals, and that the shelter will be receiving guidance from the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter, commonly known as BARCS.
The changes will be included in his next budget for Animal Services — a division of the county health department — and would go into effect at the start of the next budget year on July 1, the Baltimore Sun reported.
“We think we’re moving in the proper direction in a deliberative manner,” Kamenetz said.
Animal advocates and the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland complained to the county last fall that shelter volunteers were banned from taking pictures, in violation of their First Amendment rights. The county has been working with the ACLU on training shelter employees on the rights of volunteers.
Earlier this month, the County Council passed a bill creating an animal services advisory commission to review the shelter’s operations. The 11-member commission has yet to be appointed.
In a statement released by the county executive’s office, Council Chairwoman Cathy Bevins praised the proposals as “bold steps to upgrade animal services in Baltimore County.”
The county already is building a new shelter on its current site, scheduled to open in August.
Our hope would be — in accordance with the proposal we put forth yesterday, and in accordance with the new focus Kamenetz spoke of — that the sign in front of it reads Animal Protection, or Animal Services … anything but Animal Control.
(Photos: Protest sign from WJZ; Kamenetz from Baltimore Sun)
Posted by John Woestendiek February 27th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adoptions, advocates, animal control, animal control division, animal services, animal shelter, animal welfare, animals, baltimore county, budget, changes, county executive, dogs, feral cats, focus, funding, improvements, kevin kamenetz, pets, promised, reform, shelters, tnr, volunteers
I have a simple and modest proposal — one that would involve only a name change, a slightly new way of thinking, and maybe some new stationery.
It has long been in the back of my head, but was brought to the forefront by recent cellphone videos gone viral — one (above) of a dog being dragged through the halls of an animal control department in California; one (below) of a police officer slapping and otherwise berating a homeless man in Florida.
Both are examples of what can go wrong — and often does — when you give one group power over others. Both are about control.
Seeking, seizing and holding “control,” necessary as it sometimes seem in a so-called civilized society, almost always leads to bad things, including most of the dog abuse that occurs in our country. We get a little too caught up in the whole idea of having control — over our fellow man, over other species, over other nations, over nature itself.
Those put in control, as today’s videos show, tend to lose control when they see their control being threatened.
Hence, I propose that we do away with the term “animal control” and rename all those county animal control offices “animal protection” departments — protection being what they are mostly about, or should be mostly about, in the first place.
I’m not suggesting doing away with regulating and enforcing in the dog world — only that those doing it go under a different moniker, which, just maybe, would allow them to be seen by the public, and see themselves, less as heavy-handed dictators, more as noble do-gooders.
And animal control offices do do good. They operate shelters, find dogs new homes, rescue strays from the streets and abusive situations. The new name would put an emphasis on that, and take it away from “control.”
The term “animal control” is archaic — not much better than the even more outdated “dog warden” — yet most counties continue to use it. Employees see it on the sign when they pull into the parking lot, when they walk through the front door, on their memos and their paychecks. It’s a constant reminder, even though most of their duties are aimed at helping dogs, that they are, above all, strict enforcers and inflexible bureaucrats.
A simple name change could help fix that.
I, for instance, would love working as an animal protection officer; I’m not sure I’d want to be an animal control officer — even though most of what they do is about protecting animals. The name change could attract job applicants who see the mission as helping dogs, and possibly help weed out those who see all dogs as nuisances, and control as paramount.
In addition to improving employee self-esteem, it could help change the negative public perceptions that come with being the agency that tickets dog owners for leash-less or unlicensed dogs, euthanizes dogs when their facilities get too crowded, and sends the “dog catcher” out on his daily rounds.
There’s no reason — assuming a stray dog is being captured humanely, and treated humanely in a shelter, and put up for adoption — that the “dog catcher,” traditionally portrayed as a villain, can’t become a dog savior in the public view.
Having “Animal Protection Department” written on the side of the truck, instead of “Animal Control Department,” would go a long way toward that.
A simple shift in emphasis, and in how some agencies present themselves to the public, is all I’m talking about. It wouldn’t be only a matter of spin, though. Being an animal protection department would require actually protecting animals — and seeing that as a primary mission.
It wouldn’t make the world a kinder place overnight, and it wouldn’t keep cranky police officers from slapping homeless people — like I said it’s a modest proposal — but it could be a start, at least in the dog world, to a new way of thinking both about and among the government employees we entrust those duties to (and pay the salaries of).
They would be more about helping and educating, less about controlling.
A handful of agencies have at least worked “animal protection,” or “animal care” into their names, but most can’t quite bring themselves to let go of the term “control.”
Thus you have, for instance, the Los Angeles Department of Animal Care and Control.
Maybe they think losing “control” would be a sign they are losing control.
The term “control” might be appropriate when it comes to those agencies dealing with things like disease and traffic.
But not for those dealing with our family members.
Posted by John Woestendiek February 26th, 2015 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: agency, animal control, animal rights, animal welfare, animals, change, control, controlling, county, department, dog catcher, dog dragged, dog warden, dogs, duties, enforcement, government, hesperia, homeless, local, los angeles, mission, name, name change, office, pets, police, proposal, purpose, regulation, rescues, shelters, slapped, videos
When a front woman for the Kardashians emailed the owner of a dog sled adventure company in Montana, asking him to arrange a half-day trip for Khloe, Kim and eight other cast members — all while being filmed by 20 or so crew members — he quoted a price.
It would be $390 per sledder, or $3,900 total, Jason Matthews, the owner of Bozeman-based Yellowstone Dog Sled Adventures, told her in an email.
Ashley Warner, the production release coordinator for “Keeeping Up with the Kardashians,” emailed back, suggesting — rather than cash — “an exposure trade out.” The publicity Matthews’ company would receive being on the reality show was worth at least that much, she told him.
Matthews responded to her email saying, in effect, that kind of math didn’t fly in Montana, and requesting payment in advance.
The email exchange continued after that, with the Kardashian representative continuing to talk about a “trade” and explaining the value of “exposure” and Matthews — who has never seen the show — insisting on payment in the form of currency he was familiar with.
At one point, when his message seemed to not be getting through, he made a comment reflecting his own reality: “Look,” he wrote, ” my dogs don’t eat trade.”
The discussion continued until he was sent a confidentiality agreement. He declined to fill it out, saying “I’m not going to sign this until you agree to pay my rate.’”
Warner stopped emailing after that, and Matthews assumed the Kardashian sled ride was off.
On Sunday, Matthews heard the Kardashians had been in a car accident near Bozeman on Saturday. Their car slid off a road and into a ditch. No one was injured and no citations were issued. But it was still very dramatic, Khloe said the next day, when she was interviewed at the Oscars.
“We were in Montana, hit some black ice, car spun out of control, like a big rig got ice all over our car … It was really scary … but we’re all good, all safe, thank God.”
The Kardashians, while they didn’t get their dog sled adventure, did get some skiing in while visiting Montana.
Matthews, after learning of their misfortune — and that no one was injured — got on Facebook and wrote a post titled “Montana Karmic Justice.” explaining his experience with the family’s representatives, LastBestNews.com reported.
In it, he said he didn’t feel the $3,900 fee he was going to charge was exorbitant, considering that — at least according to what he read on the Internet — the family is being paid $60 million this season. He said he was glad they never showed up.
His Facebook post was shared widely, bringing him and his company some major (you guessed it) exposure — all while steering clear of the Kardashians.
And you can’t put a price on that.
Posted by John Woestendiek February 25th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: accident, adventure, bozeman, car, company, crash, dog sled, dog sled adventure, exposure, ice, kardashian, keeping up with the kardashians, khloe, kim, kylie, montana, owner, publicity, reality, skiing, snow, television, trade, yellowstone dog sled adventures
If there’s any dog breed that could be described as an “animated short,” it has to be the Boston terrier.
So it’s fitting that a Boston Terrier — an animated animated Boston terrier — is the star of “Feast,” which won the Academy Award for animated short film Sunday night.
The Disney film depicts a relationship, over the years, between a voracious puppy named Winston and the young man who feeds him.
Through the miracles of animation, this paean to doghood didn’t take 12 years to make.
“Feast” was first-time nominee Patrick Osborne’s directorial debut.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the choice of breed for the film wasn’t taken lightly:
“Because Disney has a long tradition of animated canine superstars — Pluto, Goofy, pampered cocker spaniel Lady, Tramp and the 101 Dalmatians, among them — Osborne watched the studio’s films to make sure he wasn’t repeating a character. He also wanted a dog that wasn’t too big and that had a light-dark pattern that would make its movements more visible.
“The compact, intelligent Boston terrier — a.k.a. the American Gentleman, known for its amusing, bright and friendly personality — fit the bill.”
One of the story artists working on the film had Boston terriers, Osborne said, and brought them in so that their motions and behavior could be observed.
The movie chronicles Winston’s growth, and the coming of age of the boy who owns him.
“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we saw a puppy go through from being a young dog to grown up below the table as part of the family and enjoying these meals together?’” Osborne told The Times.
For $1.99 ($2.99 for HD) you can watch it in its six-minute entirety on YouTube.
Osborne said he grew up with dachshunds. “They are all gone now, but there is a little bit of them alive with the short, because of my memory of how they moved and acted.”
While he doesn’t have a dog now, he said he felt like he had one a dog during the year he worked on the film about Winston and his eating habits.
“I spent a lot of time with him,” Osborne said.
Posted by John Woestendiek February 24th, 2015 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: academy awards, animals, animated, animated short, animated short film, boston terrier, breeds, disney, dog, dogs, feast, film, movie, oscars, patrick osborne, pets, short, view, watch, winston