I’ve got to admit I’ve never paid much attention to which way Ace’s tail is wagging — mostly to the right, or mostly to the left.
More often, it just seems to go back and forth, one side to the other, which is kind of the definition of wag.
But researchers in Italy, who first reported that the prominent direction of the wag signifies whether a dog is experiencing positive or negative feelings, now say other dogs are aware of this subtle distinction, and apparently have been for some time, indicating they — dogs — are much more on top of things than researchers.
Researchers at the University of Trento, in a new study, had dogs watch videos of other dogs wagging their tails. They found, according to a study reported in the journal Current Biology, that dogs watching another dog whose tail is wagging left showed signs of anxiety, including a higher heart rate. When watching a tail wag right, they remained calm.
When watching “Two Broke Girls” the dogs asked if they might please leave the room. (Not really.)
Returning to seriousness, the Italian researchers first reported in 2007 that dogs convey a wide array of emotions through the tail wag — not just happiness. A wag to the left indicates negative emotions; a wag to the right indicates positive ones. The directions are as seen when standing behind a dog.
In the earlier study, 30 dogs were placed, one at a time, in a large box surrounded with black plastic to prevent any visual stimulus (except maybe to dogs who find black plastic stimulating). The dogs were then shown a stimulus for 60 seconds — a dominant Belgian Malinois, a cat in a cage, their owners, and a strange human, by which we only mean one they hadn’t met.
A system for measuring the tail movements of each dog was established — far too complex to go into here. Suffice to say, as the scientists put it:
“Tail wagging scores associated with the different stimuli were analyzed from video-recordings. Positions of the tail were scored every 10 seconds by superimposition on the computer screen of a cursor on the long axis of the body: the maximum extents of the particular tail wag occurring at each 10 second interval was recorded. Using single frames from video recording two angles were identified with respect to the maximum excursion of the tail to the right and to the left side of the dog’s body. Tail wagging angles were obtained with reference to the axes formed by the midline of the dog’s pelvis – the segment extending lengthwise through the dog’s hips, drawn from the largest points as seen from above and the axes perpendicular to it.”
When faced with their owner, dogs exhibited a “striking right-sided bias in the amplitudes of tail wagging.” Less robust right-sided wags were observed also when the dogs were shown unfamiliar humans. When faced with a cat, dogs showed very reduced tail wagging, but still a slight bias favoring the right side. Seeing a dominant unfamiliar dog led the dogs in the study to wag more to the left.
The first study reported: “How far asymmetric tail-wagging responses are associated with postural asymmetry in preparation to the stimuli is difficult to say.” (You can say that again) “It is likely that control of the flexure of the vertebral column is the same for the tail as well as the rest of the column, but the method we used for scoring tail-wagging responses and the panels flanking the body of the animal in the test-cage minimized any effect of asymmetric posture associated with spine bending.”
I’ve got to wonder which way the dogs’ tails wagged — or if they tucked them between their legs — when they were listening to the scientists talk.
The researchers stop short of saying wagging tails are a mode of communication between dogs.
“This is something that could be explained in quite a mechanistic way,” said Giorgio Vallortigara, a neuroscientist and an author of both studies. “It’s simply a byproduct of the asymmetry of the brain.” Dogs, he explains, have asymmetrically organized brains, like humans (or at least most of them): ”The emotions are associated presumably with activation of either the right or left side of brain,” he said. “Left-brain activation produces a wag to the right, and vice versa.”
But it would seem to me that if one dog is moving his tail, and another is drawing conclusions from that motion, as the scientists say is the case, that’s communication — perhaps even a clearer form thereof than that to which the scientists are prone.
(Photo: Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of Bari)
Posted by John Woestendiek November 3rd, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aggression, animal, anxiety, behaviors, calm, communication, dog, dogs, emotions, excited, excitement, experiment, feelings, heart rate, indicators, italy, language, left brain, negative, pets, positive, research, right brain, scientists, signs, tail, tails, university of trento, wag, wagging, wags
We can’t remember a week — at least not since 2007, when federal authorities raided 1915 Moonlight Road – that pit bulls have grabbed so many headlines … without even biting anyone.
Here in Baltimore, the week began with a pit bull parade, sponsored by B-More Dog and designed to improve the image and shatter the misconceptions about the breed — such as the one that they are innately inclined to inflict violence.
Those who ran into the pack of four-legged goodwill ambassadors at the Inner Harbor Sunday got a chance to see beyond the myths.
The very next day, a mistrial was declared in the case against twin brothers in Baltimore accused of setting a pit bull on fire in the summer of 2009. Phoenix, as the dog was dubbed, died five days later. The police investigation that followed, testimony at the trial indicated, was something less than thorough — likely, I think it’s safe to say, because the murder victim was a dog, and, in particular, a pit bull.
Jurors were unable to reach a decision, and a new trial is a possibility, but as of now, it appears the fatal burning of Phoenix will go unpunished. Despite that, she leaves a legacy.
“We waited almost two years for justice for Phoenix and though justice was not met for her, she became the change agent and public figure for animal abuse,” said Jennifer Brause, executive director of Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter (BARCS). “Thousands of people offered their support on her behalf. Because of her, a Mayor’s Commission on Animal Abuse has been formed and the seriousness of animal abuse has been elevated to a national level.”
No dog, I will go out on a limb and educatedly guess, is more often the victim of abuse and neglect than the pit bull type — just as they are the most often maligned. Society, rather than simply label them as aggressive, and ban and muzzle them, needs to come to terms with the fact that, in those instances when they are violent, our fellow humans are responsible for it, training them to fight, attempting to breed for viciousness, and trying to turn their natural born tenacity into something mean and macho.
Which brings us, once again, to Bad Newz Kennels.
Down in Dallas, the adoptive parent of one of Michael Vick’s dogs confronted the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback and offered him an opportunity to meet Mel, a shy and fearful pit bull who was apparently used as a bait dog at Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels.
The convicted dogfighting ring operator — in Dallas to receive the key to the city — declined, and his entourage shoved Mel’s new owner, local radio personality Richard Hunter, who captured the whole episode on his shaky camera, out of the way.
A few days after that, reports surfaced that Vick’s former estate on Moonlight Road, the Surry, Virginia, headquarters of Bad Newz Kennels, which has sat empty for three years, may be getting a new owner — Dog Deserves Better, a Pennsylvania-based dog rescue and advocacy group.
They hope to turn the former Vick mansion — where 51 dogs were seized by authorities and eight more were found dead and buried on the grounds — into a training and rehabilitation center for rescued dogs.
As usual, bringing up Michael Vick brings on lots of comments, on this blog and others, from his supporters — those who say “give it a rest,” those who say “he served his time,” those who say he’s a different person now who should be permitted to move beyond his besmirched reputation.
Be that as it may, I’m wondering when pit bulls — given they are regularly accused and punished without any trials, given that any violence they display has been instilled into them by humans, given that their bad reputation is mostly undeserved – will be afforded that same opportunity.
As a breed, they’ve done their time.
(Photo by Tim Quinn)
Posted by John Woestendiek February 9th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, aggression, animal abuse, animal welfare, animals, bad newz kennels, baltimore, baltimore animal rescue & care shelter, barcs, brothers, burned, burned dog, cruelty to animals, dogfighting, dogs, doused, fire, image, investigation, media, mel, michael vick, myths, news, parade, pets, phoenix, pit bull, pit bulls, pitbull, pitbulls, prosecution, richard hunter, stereotypes, trial, vick, vick dogs, violence
My time at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, helping out as a volunteer, was mostly spent among those dogs who, due to their unpredictable behavior, have been assigned red collars — meaning only staff can interact with them.
I drew duty at Dulcie’s School of Dance, an octagon-shaped structure whose residents, for the most part, misbehaved either before or after their arrival at the southern Utah animal sanctuary, and who — though red collared dogs can be adopted under the right circumstances — in many cases will live out their lives there.
Dulcie’s is occupied by outlaws like Wooley Bear, a 12-year-old border collie mix who is one of Best Friends most prolific biters, a mutt named Billy Brindle, and Boo, a 14-year-old boxer who has spent more than a decade there.
Caregiver Carin Carothers was my supervisor, and she made sure a closed gate was always between me and the mostly notorious canines she oversees.
I did get to help make dinner though, and wash the dog bowls, and attended two classes — one for shy dogs, one for unpredictable and aggressive ones.
Shy dog class was easy lifting — not unlike a day at the park. I took a seat, bag of dog treats in hand, and waited for students, all green or purple collared dogs and all fearful of humans to differing degrees, to cautiously approach.
It’s all aimed at getting the dogs — many of whom came from hoarding situations — to trust humans more, difficult as that sometimes is to do.
Later, I caught part of a class for dogs who, rather than being shy, are aggressive.
I took a seat under the shade and watched as Carin and four handlers, each working with a single dog, sought to keep that dog’s attention focused on the handler. Another volunteer was called upon to approach the leashed dogs who, the hope was, would continue focusing on the treats and their handler rather than snarling and lunging at the person approaching.
I was wondering who that volunteer had made mad when I was called upon to do the same thing — repeatedly walk up to within five feet or so of a dog and be distracting.
Almost every time, the dogs failed to notice me — the preferred reaction, though I didn’t like it much. The only thing worse than not being able to pay attention to a dog is when a dog pays no attention to you.
Later, though, I did enjoy bonding with Smitty, another Dulcie’s resident — a green collar placed in the unit to be a good influence on the less friendly dogs. Carin suggested I take the coonhound for a spin in my car around the canyons — and Smitty seemed to love it, peering intently out the window.
Though we only planned for a day of volunteering, we stopped by Best Friends again yesterday, mainly to take Smitty for another spin.
This time he was even more gung-ho about the ride, throwing his front paws on the back of my Jeep and awaiting to be hoisted the rest of the way. Looking at him in my rear view mirror, I could swear he was smiling.
We tooled around the canyons, stopped and spent some quiet moments at Angel’s Rest, the pet cemetery on the grounds of the sanctuary. We listened to the wind chimes, and sat in the shade of a gazebo. He hardly howled at all this time, instead laying quietly and staring at me.
Were I not on the road for an extended period, or maybe if I had a bigger vehicle, I’d have taken him with me when I left Best Friends Wednesday afternoon. That I didn’t means you still can.
My day and a half as a volunteer at Best Friends may not have saved the world, but I had a good time, and I think Smitty, who’s not yet two years old and still a little shy around most people — did, too.
And while I’m not saying it’s karma or anything, I noticed as I headed back to the highway that my car’s version of the red collar — my malfunction indicator light — was no longer lit. I’d been fretting about it ever since it came on when I rolled into Phoenix last week.
I do believe that doing good things makes good things come back to you — just maybe not that instantly. And if there is such a thing as karma, Smitty — the role model at Dulcie’s, that green collar who lives among the reds — has good times ahead.
Posted by John Woestendiek July 1st, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace does america, adopt, aggression, animal sancutary, animal welfare, animals, behavior, best friends, collar, color, coon dog, coonhound, dog, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, dulcie's school of dance, kanab, pets, road trip, role model, shy dogs, smitty, utah
Lee Mannix, a Texas-based, internationally respected dog behaviorist, was killed Sunday in a one-car accident.
Mannix, 40, was founder of the Lee Mannix Center for Canine Behavior in South Austin, and his clients included musician Jimmie Dale Gilmore and author Kinky Friedman.
“There are very few people who have the touch, and Lee certainly had it,” said Friedman, who co-founded the Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch. “His ability to relate to animals was second to none. He could take a dog that everybody’s having trouble with and thinks is ferocious and untameable, and two or three weeks later it’s a totally different dog. Lee came in as an equal, and the dogs just loved him.”.
Mannix, 40, was killed in a single-vehicle accident Sunday in Hays County. His brother Kevin, also in the vehicle, survived, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
Mannix wasn’t always drawn to dogs; for 12 years he avoided them entirely. When he was 8, a German shepherd bit him so severely he required 130 stitches. He shunned dogs until he was 20, when a friend gave him a dog.
Mannix worked at the Austin Humane Society and DogBoy’s Positive Power Kennels in Pflugerville, and headed a local humane society in Colorado.
As a trainer, Mannix specialized in canine aggression problems.
“I can get a dog to do anything I want it to do. The thing is training the owner to do it,” Mannix said last summer. “So I don’t train dogs per se; I train owners to understand their dog’s behavior and get it right.”
Author Friedman noted: “There are lots of important people out there, politicians and the like. But I think Lee Mannix was significant. And there is a distinction there … He’s the kind of guy who has opened the gates of heaven wider.”
Memorial donations may be made to the Schrodi Memorial Training Fund.
Posted by John Woestendiek May 4th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: accident, aggression, animals, austin, auto, behavior, behaviorist, canine, car, dog, dogs, killed, kinky friedman, lee mannix, lee mannix center, news, pets, texas, trainer, training
Here’s a look inside the cavernous warehouse in St. Louis that has served as the emergency shelter for the hundreds of dogs seized in this summer’s massive five-state dog-fighting raid — the largest in U.S. history.
The Humane Society of Missouri, at one point, was sheltering more than 400 dogs, and 100 newly born puppies, at the emergency shelter, the first public access to which was granted last week to the Associated Press.
More than 120 of the seized pit bulls have been placed in foster homes, but about that many still remain in the temporary shelter. Another 160 dogs were put down because of injuries, illness or behavior.
“They are not a vicious animal. They are the victims of abuse,” said Debbie Hill, vice president of operations for the Humane Society of Missouri. “That face and their eyes tell the story. They only want to be in someone’s home, on a couch, or sleeping at someone’s feet, maybe chew up a rug or two for entertainment. They’re learning for the first time how to be a dog.”
Animal behaviorist Pamela Reid, who was part of the team that evaluated the dogs, said a surprising two-thirds tested well for nonaggression and adoptability. She’s fostering one puppy, although one of her favorite dogs had to be euthanized because he showed aggression toward men.
Posted by John Woestendiek November 17th, 2009 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: abuse, aggression, aggressive, behavior, debbie hill, dog, dogfighting, dogs, emergency, euthanized, fighting, five-state, humane society, missour, neglect, pamela reid, pit bulls, pitbulls, put down, raid, rape stand, report, seized, shelter, st. louis, temporary, video, warehouse
The U.S. Marine Corps –which had outlawed pit bulls, wolf hybrids, Rottweilers and any other dog with “dominant traits of aggression” at several of its bases — has now instituted a blanket, worldwide breed ban for all of its bases.
Stars and Stripes reports that the policy was approved in August.
The policy allows Marines and families currently living in base housing to keep their pets if they apply for a waiver by Oct. 10 and if their dogs pass a behavior test. That waiver will last only as long as the family remains at the same base or until Sept. 30, 2012.
By that date, under the policy, all Marine housing and Marine-controlled housing should be free of any full or mixed breeds considered pit bulls, Rottweilers and wolf hybrids.
Daisy Okas, a spokeswoman for the American Kennel Club in New York, told Stars and Stripes that the policy comes as more local governments and public housing facilities are instituting similar bans.
”We’re seeing breed-specific bans pretty regularly,” she said. “We’re very against it. We look at how a dog behaves. It’s a frustrating topic.”
Posted by John Woestendiek October 7th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aggression, animals, ban, bases, breed bans, breed-specific, breeds, dog, dogs, housing, marines, pets, pit bulls, rottweilers, waivers, wolf hybrids, worldwide
This episode of National Geographic Channel’s “The Dog Whisperer,” recaps Cesar Millan’s Chihuahua conquests, leading up to his experience with El Diablo, described as the latest contender for “America’s meanest Chihuahua.”
Posted by John Woestendiek September 18th, 2009 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: aggression, animals, behavior, cesar millan, chihuahua, chihuahuas, chihuahuas from hell, dogs, el diablo, episode, meanest, national geographic channel, pets, the dog whisperer, training, video
One family’s experience with “canine disarming” — a controversial last resort for dogs who haven’t been able to lick the biting habit — was the subject of a first person account in Saturday’s Los Angeles Times.
Dog owner Diane R. Krieger wrote about her dog, Cotton, a six-year-old American Eskimo dog who even ”Dog Whisperer” Cesar Millan couldn’t help,
“I had tried everything. Puppy classes and basic-training at the neighborhood PetSmart. A library of self-help books and videos. Even a pricey dog-aggression expert whose Israeli accent made me want to stand at attention. He ordered counter-conditioning and desensitization drills, supplemented by a low-protein diet and a doggie herbal remedy akin to St. John’s Wort…
“I tried clicker training, high-pitched electronic tones, pepper spray, throwing soda cans filled with rocks. I considered an electric shock collar but worried that in the hands of an amateur … it might do more harm than good.
“Finally, I appealed to the fabled Dog Whisperer.”
Krieger writes that Cotton became calm and submissive — until Millan left.
Running out of options, she considered surrendering the dog, and even euthanasia.
Then she saw an Animal Planet program featuring Dr. David Nielsen, a veterinary dentist based in Manhattan Beach, talking about a miracle fix: “canine disarming.”
Instead of extracting the four canine teeth, Nielsen cuts away 4 millimeters of tooth, then blunts the extra set of pointy incisors. Nielsen says he has “disarmed” some 300 animals in the last dozen years, not all of them dogs.
Kireger notes that Nielsen may be something of a maverick. The American Veterinary Medical Association says that disarming dogs, once fairly common, fell out of favor several years ago as behavioral modification techniques improved. The association is opposed to either tooth removal or disarming.
The American Veterinary Dental College agrees that disarming is controversial, but in a position statement adopted in 2005 it endorsed the procedure in “selected cases.”
Cotton’s reconfigured choppers cost Krieger $1,600, and led to no lasting physical side effects.
Nielsen told Krieger canine disarming does have psychological effects, though. “You can see it in their eyes almost the moment they wake up from the anesthesia. It’s like they’re wondering, ‘who took away my knives?’”
Cotton still bites, Krieger wrote, but inflicts little damage.
Posted by John Woestendiek July 27th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aggression, american eskimo dog, american veterinary medical association, animal planet, behavior, bite, biters, biting, california, canine, cesar millan, clicker, cotton, david nielsen, defang, dental, disarming, dog bites, dog whisperer, dogs, pepper spray, problem, shock collar, teeth, training, veterinary
If your dog has been showing some uncharacteristic behavior problems of late, blame the economy.
According to Sainsbury’s Pet Insurance, some 3.35 million cat and dog owners have reported behavioral problems in their pets over the past 12 months, and “it is no coincidence that this comes at a time when many people are wrought with stress and anxiety” over the economy.
The study found that millions of troubled pets have caused damage to furniture, while others have suffered moodiness, aggression and loss of appetite.
Joanne Mallon, Sainsbury’s Pet Insurance manager, said this could all be due to the stress owners are under during the current economic climate.
“Cats and dogs can be very sensitive to their owner’s feelings and behavior, so changes in mood such as irritability, distress or remoteness could be sensed and leave the animals themselves agitated or depressed,” she said.
The findings come after the Sainsbury’s Bank revealed earlier this year that some 270,000 cat and dog owners have refused their sick pet veterinary treatment in the past because they could not afford it.
Posted by John Woestendiek July 8th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aggression, animals, anxiety, appetite, behavior, cats, damage, depressed, distress, dogs, economy, felings, furniture, insurance, irritability, moodiness, owners, pet insurance, pets, problems, sainsbury's, sensitive, stress
Here’s a sweet story out of Owosso, Michigan about a somewhat anti-social stray dog who, given a second chance, became a prize winner.
Heather Good and her son Dylan Davalt found the Chihuahua-terrier mix in April 2008 in the woods south of Owosso, the Argus-Press reports. He was avoiding humans, and had bit one man who tried to approach him. After three weeks of coaxing, and a lot of treats, the dog consented to come home with them.
There, the dog, named Meko, proved to be a bit of a terror.
Meko didn’t get along with Dylan’s other dog, Sassy, and, for the first six months, had to be kept on a muzzle when guests came to visit.
Some people advised Dylan and Good to put down the dog because of his aggressive behavior, including Good’s father, John.
Meko and Dylan’s grandfather “weren’t buddies,” Dylan said.
But the family worked hard to train Meko, teaching him the basics, and working on his aggression. Meko and Sassy were taken to obedience training, and, for socialization, to a 4-H Club training program called “Hush Puppies.”
A year after taking him home, Dylan decided to enter Meko in a dog show at the Curwood Festival, where he dazzled the crowd and took first place honors.
“I didn’t figure that dog would amount to anything but a vicious mix breed,” said Grandpa Good. “He has made a complete turnaround.”
“My thing about Meko is that every dog deserves a chance,” his daughter said.
Posted by John Woestendiek June 30th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adopt, aggression, aggressive, anti-social, behavior, bite, chihuahua, curwood festival, dog, dogs, dylan davalt, heather good, meko, michigan, mix, mixed breed, mutt, obedience, owosso, rescue, second chance, stray, terrier, trained