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Tag: attention

10 things I hate about Facebook

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Here’s my list.

It is not of 10 bands I saw in concert and one I didn’t. (How quickly that became tiresome.) It’s not my favorite books of all time, or my favorite movies of all time, or my favorite live giraffe births of all time.

It’s a list of the 10 kinds of Facebook posts that bore me, clutter my Facebook feed, and keep me from locating anything interesting I might otherwise find – the kind that, in their repetition, are so annoying that I hereby proclaim they should find a home somewhere else.

Perhaps little auxiliary Facebook-type sites, custom created for such niches, or a system in which, through the miracles of the Internet, all the flotsam, dregs, nauseatingly reappearing games and quizzes and fads could end up, thus making the page I get when I sign on to Facebook something where I’m interested in 25 percent of what might be on there, instead of only about 3.2 percent.

I seem to remember hitting a 60 to 80 percent rate of interest in the content of what we once called newspapers, making them therefore worth my time. Facebook comes nowhere close to that.

Just to sketch out a rough idea of how I’d like things to be, I’d offer these 10 new Facebook type sites — some or all of which might actually exist (I did not check first, for that would lead me to more of what I HATE). The idea, though, is that all the posts that, no offense, fail to interest me sufficiently, annoy me or outrage me, could be diverted to these auxiliary sites, instead of the real Facebook, or at least that version they feed me.

1. Highspeedrecipes.com: Super speeded-up videos showing the preparation of recipes that we use to spend a half hour watching get made on TV, and which take two hours or more to actually make. Now they whir before us on Facebook with only 30 seconds passing from the first cracked egg to the final finished product. Instantly gratifying as they seem, they serve only to remind me of the 29:30 I once wasted on each and every cooking show.

hairdo2. Feedmecompliments.com: Where all the posts about your new profile pic, your new hairstyle, your fancy manicure, what you cooked, or what you planted end up – the purpose of which, admit it, is to get compliments on how beautiful you look or it looks. Soon it will be prom dresses. And by all means, go ahead and post those photos and be proud. But, Facebook, please disappear them off my feed.

3. Detailsofmyailment.com: The most intricate details — especially when they come from the pretty much complete stranger kind of Facebook “friend” — of the latest twist and turns your disease, ailment, condition, bruise, depression, phobia has taken. (Your dog’s ailment? Well, I might be interested in that.)

(Interlude: I should point out here that, in some cases, namely those cases of close friends or relatives, I actually do want to be kept up on how you, your dog, your ailment, are doing (though it’s not necessary to show me photos of gashes, stitches, bruises or surgery) As I’ll explain more later, my Facebook friends list consists of relatives, actual real life friends, cherished former co-workers and a few online friends I’ve grown (because Facebook isn’t all bad) to care for and/or become interested in, and lots of people that, no offense, I am less concerned about because, hey, I don’t really know you.)

frankss4. Anyoneknowagoodplumber.com: Again, if it’s a post from someone I know or more specifically someone who lives in the same town as me, I might be interested, or even helpful. Otherwise, if you live in Alma, Kansas, or some such place, I can be of no assistance in your quest for a plumber, or anything else, and your words are cluttering my Facebook. It’s not your fault; it’s Facebook’s.

trump5. Trumpbeingmildlystupid.com: Sorry, but these have become so commonplace, so recurring, so more than once a day, that I no longer have time for them and would prefer my Facebook page be cleared and kept open for only the most blatant, outrageous and mind-blowing, of Donald J. Trump’s egregious acts and remarks — and preferably those based on accounts provided from legitimate media outlets. Quite possibly, even those in time will become too numerous as well, or maybe they have already.

franksplumbing6. Pinpointmeonamap.com: Unless you are somewhere in need of my immediate assistance, I can see no purpose in receiving a large map pinpointing your current location. If it’s a party and you’re inviting me, or dinner and you’re paying for it, OK. Otherwise, I do not require that knowledge and I definitely do not require a detailed map. But just in case you do, here’s where Frank’s Plumbing is located in Alma, Kansas.

(Interlude: I know what many of you are saying by now. I just need to take better control of the existing parameters available to control the content of my Facebook page, rid myself of those unreal friends, fine tune my profile and do a better job of letting Facebook know my needs and desires. Problem is, I feel they know them too well already, otherwise I wouldn’t be getting those sponsored messages about gout and where to buy whatever product I last Googled. Also tinkering with parameters makes me nervous – and almost as crazy as encountering useless (to me) Facebook posts.

In addition to not properly controlling my Facebook, I did not properly set it up. I created my personal site first – primarily for the purpose of leading to people to posts on my website, ohmidog! Then I added a separate Facebook page for ohmidog!, but I still link to a post every day on my personal Facebook page as well.

Thus my “friends” are a predominantly dog lovers and advocates I don’t really know (though they are generally speaking a good class of people). I still use that personal page to draw attention and link to new ohmidog! posts. Most people don’t go to the link, but prefer to comment based on seeing the picture and headline alone, or ask a question about it, rather than clicking on that blue link that will give them all the answers and details, and countless hours of reading pleasure.

So I use Facebook for two purposes — to stay in touch with friends and to procure the readers necessary to satisfy my ego. (Any profile pic of me isn’t likely to get compliments, so I post what I’ve written, which still sometimes does). In a way, what I’m doing is no different than that person who, proud of their new hairdo, or what they made for dinner, posts pictures of it on Facebook.

I accept almost all friend requests from strangers, as long as their timeline looks like they have an interest in dogs, for that could mean new readers. I reject those from strangers who look suspicious, like say one with a name like Boris “The Hacker” Ivanov, or one who is a scantily clad female who lacks a timeline, has three or four friends and is clearly a temptress lurking on Facebook for evil purposes.

Oh wait, weren’t we doing a list?

marathon7. Myaccomplishment.com: Whether it’s that casserole fresh out of the oven, that marathon you just completed, that award you won or any other achievement of yourself or, often more important, your children, you want to the world to see it. And that’s OK, within reason. But too much of it, stated too smugly, and your venturing very close to item 8.

beach8. Envymylife.com: A friend going on a cool trip? That’s acceptable. Sure, I’d like to see a few photos. But if you’re constantly going cool places that I can’t go, if I don’t know you from Adam, if you’re living a joyous life of wealth, leisure, fun and adventure, I’m going to get a little pissed – 98 percent because I’m jealous, 2 percent because you are flaunting it too much. I do not need to see every single pastry you enjoyed at every single café you visited during your trip to Paris. Try a little moderation — if not in your life, at least in what you post about that total fulfillment you are achieving.

inspir9. Mywordsinacolorfulbox.com: Putting your words in a colorful box makes me no more likely to read them. I tend to do the opposite and skip them entirely. Those who go to the trouble of putting their words in a colorful box are likely so full of themselves as to leave me uninterested in any substance or knowledge they might be trying to impart. Plain old box-less words are fine. We would include in this category all those all purpose, one-size-fits-all inspirational phrases you’ve stolen from somewhere else, and, often along with them, a photo or depiction of a sunset or a meadow with wispy clouds. I know you mean well. But spare me, please.

friends-cast-tease-today-16021010. Sillygameslistsquizzes.com: What possible interest would I have in 10 concerts you saw, and one you didn’t? Nor could I possibly care what “Friends” character, or “Survivor” character, or “Golden Girl” character you most resemble. Take those quizzes if they make you happy. Broadcast the results to friends and strangers alike. I won’t call you mindless sheep. (I can assure you with near certainty, though, that Bea Arthur would never have taken part in such time-wasting frivolity. Rue McClanahan? Oh she definitely would have. Estelle Getty? I’m guessing, she would start them, but get cranky halfway through and give up. Betty White, I’m quite sure, would only take part in them rarely, and in moderation

Conclusion: That’s it. That’s all I ask. Just a few little drainage points through which much of the trite, self-aggrandizing, look-at-me, time-waster posts could exit the stream that becomes my Facebook page.

I’m not asking you, personally, to refrain from anything. I’m just asking Facebook to fix it, or make it a little better, because I know Facebook cares about me (it has told me so) and I know it has all the answers — buried though they may be in the murky, often smothering, depths of its vast wasteland of content.

Your attention, please …

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Look at you! Look at you! You are the cutest little reader I’ve ever seen. Yes you are. Yes you are! You’re just the sweetest reader ever. What a good reader! And, yes, you’re a genius, too. So very smart. Just a good good good pretty genius reader. Yes. Yes!

Talk to a baby like that (and most people do) and you’re going to get a reaction, studies show. You’re going to hold their attention, stimulate their brain, and (put most unscientifically) make them feel warm and bubbly inside.

Talk to a dog like that — especially if it’s a puppy and you have a higher-pitched, female type voice — and you’re going to achieve the same, a new study suggests. They’ll be more responsive and more likely to retain what (though it’s mostly gibberish) you’re saying.

Talk to your website readers like that, and they’re likely to think you’ve gone off the deep end, that you’re either stalking or patronizing them, and report you to the Internet police.

But you wouldn’t do that. Would you, pretty reader? Noooo. ‘Cuz you’re a good reader. Yes! You’re such a sweetie pie. Yes! Yes!

SONY DSCDogs, at least younger ones, find being talked to in a slow, sing-song, high-pitched, “baby-talk” type voice exciting, and react better to it, a new study says.

The findings show that the voice pitch and patterns of humans may help dogs learn words, as is believed to be the case with human babies.

To find out how dogs reacted to human speech, Nicolas Mathevon, a bioacoustician at the University of Lyon in Saint Étienne, France, recorded the voices of 30 women.

The women were asked to read the scripted phrases as they would to dogs, and as they would to humans. For the dog-directed readings, researchers provided them with photos of dogs to help them get in the mood.

Each woman read the following words: “Hi! Hello cutie! Who’s a good boy? Come here! Good boy! Yes! Come here sweetie pie! What a good boy!”

The women read the words as they would to a puppy, as they would to an older dog, and as they would to a human.

The recordings were then played to dogs — 10 puppies and 10 adult dogs at a New York City animal shelter.

Nine of the 10 puppies reacted strongly to the pupy-directed recordings, barking and running toward the loudspeaker and even going into a play stance.

The pups were less interested when the women were using the lower pitched, less playful voices they would use while talking to other humans.

The older dogs, possibly having heard their fill of baby talk, didn’t react at all — likely because they’d become more attuned to their master’s voice and less to those of strangers.

The study’s findings were presented this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Why we talk to babies this ultra-animated, affirmation-filled way — both our own and those we’re just meeting — is instinctual. Why we talk to dogs, especially puppies, like this, is a result of their big-eyed, baby-like appearance that brings out similar instincts in us.

SONY DSCIn either case, it’s all related to our instinct for nurturing, and our desire to communicate with a non-verbal, or not-yet-verbal, being.

In the study, the women’s exaggerated, high-pitched speech served far better to get the attention of the dogs, said Mathevon, who believes this way of talking may help dogs learn words.

I couldn’t find an explanation of why only women’s voices — 30 of them aged 18 to 55 — were used in the study, but I’d guess it’s because women are generally better at, and less embarrassed, at using baby talk in public.

Most of my dogs have favored women. Ace always preferred females, and my dog new dog, Jinjja, is much more comfortable around them too. If he hears a female voice in the distance he pulls toward it, if he hears a male one, he stops or retreats.

A lot of it I think is simply a matter of pitch. A higher pitch is less threatening.

Likely, with Jinjja, it also has to do with how he was raised. Probably, men ran the Korean dog farm he was rescued from, and during and after that rescue it was probably mostly women who were kind to him.

The same is probably true of many a shelter or rescue dog. Given women make up the bulk of the staff and volunteers at animal rescue and shelter operations, those dogs often tend to associate a female voice with food, warmth and safety.

Possibly, dogs have figured out females are the kinder and more nurturing gender (though that might be a little sexist to say). Or it could be women’s voices, in general, sound more like squeaky toys (though that might be a little sexist to say).

But you’re not going to hold that against me. Nooooooo. You’re too nice to do that, aren’t you? Aren’t you? You’re such a good reader. Yes, you are.

(Photos by John Woestendiek / ohmidog!)

You’re just the cutest little audience ever … Yes … Yes … Yes, you are!

A business professor at American University is using dogs to help students overcome their fear of public speaking and hone their oratorical skills.

Bonnie Auslander, the director of the Kogod Center for Business Communications, started the program on a trial basis last year, pairing anxiety-prone business school students with patient canine listeners.

The thinking behind it is similar to that of programs around the country in which much younger students read to dogs to gain confidence in their reading skills.

“Addressing a friendly and nonjudgmental canine can lower blood pressure, decrease stress and elevate mood — perfect for practicing your speech or team presentation,” says the program’s promotional material.

For now, evidence of the benefits is mostly anecdotal, reports the New York Times.

With therapy dogs arriving on campus regularly during finals, Auslander got the idea to use dogs as a practice audience and she recruited six dogs with calm personalities.

They included Teddy, a Jack Russell terrier, and Ellie, a Bernese mountain dog.

We think it’s a great idea — assuming the dogs are willing to put up with all those speeches. On top of gaining confidence, students can learn the importance of inflecting their voices and gesturing to hold audience attention — though treats are proving to work better than either of those.

Auslander joked about having “an audience cat program some day that will be for speakers who are overconfident and need to be taken down a peg. The cats will turn away and lick their paws.”

Although we feel a little sorry for them, we wish the best to those dogs taking part in the program. And having had our own issues with public speaking, we wish great success to those students taking part.

We’re confident they will get their MBA’s and become great orators — identifiable only by their tendency to throw Milk Bones to their audiences.

Which motivates more — food or praise?

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A study at Emory University suggests that dogs aren’t strictly the food-obsessed beasts they’ve traditionally been seen as — and that many, maybe even most, prefer attention and praise over a chewy treat.

While only 13 dogs participated in the study, there were only two of them who — judging from their neural reactions — showed a distinct preference for food over praise.

The study, published in the journal Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, is one of the first to combine brain-imaging data with behavioral experiments to explore what kind of rewards canines prefer.

“We are trying to understand the basis of the dog-human bond and whether it’s mainly about food, or about the relationship itself,” says Gregory Berns, a neuroscientist at Emory and lead author of the research.

“Out of the 13 dogs that completed the study, we found that most of them either preferred praise from their owners over food, or they appeared to like both equally. Only two of the dogs were real chowhounds, showing a strong preference for the food.”

Berns heads the Dog Project in Emory’s Department of Psychology. It was the first to train dogs to voluntarily enter a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner and remain motionless during scanning, without restraint or sedation.

Their previous research using the technique identified the ventral caudate region of the canine brain as a reward center and showed that region responds more strongly to the scents of familiar humans than to the scents of other humans, or even to those of familiar dogs.

Phys.org reports that, in the new study, researchers trained the dogs to associate three different objects with different outcomes. A pink toy truck signaled a food reward; a blue toy knight signaled verbal praise from the owner; and a hairbrush signaled no reward, to serve as a control.

The dogs then were tested on the three objects while in an fMRI machine. Each dog underwent 32 trials for each of the three objects as their neural activity was recorded.

Four of the dogs showed a particularly strong activation for the stimulus that signaled praise from their owners. Nine of the dogs showed similar neural activation for both the praise stimulus and the food stimulus. And two of the dogs consistently showed more activation when shown the stimulus for food.

Berns says the findings run counter to the old view that dogs “just want food and their owners are simply the means to get it … Another, more current, view of their behavior is that dogs value human contact in and of itself.”

In another part of the study, dogs were put into a Y-shaped maze in which one path led to a bowl of food and the other path to the dog’s owner.

The dogs were repeatedly released into the room and allowed to choose one of the paths.

While most dogs alternated between the food and their owner, dogs who showed a greater response to praise in the first part of experiment chose to go to their owners 80 to 90 percent of the time.

Berns said the study “shows the importance of social reward and praise to dogs. It may be analogous to how we humans feel when someone praises us.”

ozziefood

(Photos: At top, Kady, a Lab-retriever mix in the study who preferred praise from her owner to food; at bottom, Ozzie, a shorthaired terrier mix who chose food over his owner’s praise / Emory University)

Another fun thing to do with your dog that won’t require your actual presence

playdate

Here’s another special report from your favorite worry wart.

No sooner do I bemoan one high-tech invention for dog owners than another comes rolling along, equally worth fretting about.

This one is a 3-inch remotely controlled orange ball, with a high-def camera inside, that you can watch and listen to on your cell phone.

Its makers boast it will “usher in the future of human-pet interaction.”

Let’s hope not.

It’s called PlayDate, now in the Indygogoing stage, and like many other contraptions hitting the market, it’s designed to make all the time your dog spends alone more bearable for him, and more entertaining and guilt-free for you.

The problem I have with that, as I’ve stated before, is how it lets dog owners shrug off the responsibility of dog ownership and diminishes the bond between dog and owner.

What I fret about is that the “future of human-pet interactions” could be long-distance, computer-assisted, virtual and heartless — exactly opposite of what dogs need, and exactly opposite of the reasons for having a dog in the first place.

A Manhattan inventor has come up with what the New York Post called “the next big thing for man’s best friend.”

Company co-founder Kevin Li says he got the idea for PlayDate after adopting his Rhodesian ridgeback-Lab mix, Hulk, three years ago.

“Looking at his sad face every time I left for work, I realized he … needed more time with his best friend.”

So Li (and we hope he worked from home at least a little bit) invented a ball for Hulk to play with — one he could control remotely, issue commands through, observe his dog through, and make squeak.

An adjunct computer-science professor at Columbia, Li described the $249 gadget as “Fitbit meets iPhone localization.”

He has already raised more than $200,000 on Indiegogo and has sold out of pre-orders.

With the rechargable ball, a pet owner can watch and listen to their pet, take photos, and record video, all from their iOS or Android device.

A stabilized camera inside provides real-time HD images. And a clear, replaceable outer shell protects the inner workings while allowing the camera — slobber aside — to see out clearly.

There are just three simple steps, its makers say: Download the free app, connect to wi-fi and “usher in the future of human-pet interaction.”

Sorry, but talk like that scares me, as do a few other things.

The shell of the ball is made of a strong, chew-resistant polycarbonate, designed to withstand rambunctious play, according to its makers.

I hope that has been well tested, because I’d prefer not to think about what swallowing a little camera and a lithium polymer battery might do to a dog (or cat).

In the world of pet products, many a toy marketed as indestructible has proved otherwise.

Even PlayDate’s makers are saying that part might take some fine tuning:

“As we put PlayDate’s smart ball in front of more dogs and cats, we may discover the need to make aspects of its design more robust; any pet owner will tell you there’s no such thing as an indestructible toy. We have purposefully designed features like the replaceable outer shell with this in mind. Additional design changes may be required as we perform more testing.”

And what, I wonder, will be the effect of communicating with — and issuing orders to — your dog via an orange ball? Seeing an orange ball wandering around the house on its own, and hearing a disembodied voice come from it would, at the very least, be confusing, I’d think.

I’m all for keeping a dog active, engaged and feeling loved when the owner is away. But it’s a mistake to assume that technology can make up for failing to give your dog adequate attention.

And — needless to say — one shouldn’t get a dog in the first place if one is unwilling or unable to give him or her their time.

Face-time, I mean, with no cameras, or wi-fi, or remote controls involved.

Before we usher human-pet interaction “into the future,” it might be wise to question whether we really need to take that trip.

Didn’t we pretty much have it down just fine already — most of us, anyway?

(Photo: from PlayDate’s website)

Making New Year’s resolutions for our dogs is more popular than ever, survey finds

new-years-dog-3

A survey conducted for Milk-Bone says more Americans than ever are including their dogs in their New Year’s resolutions.

To which dogs, could they respond, would probably do so with a sarcastic “Gee, thanks.”

But fret not canines. Putting you on a diet ranks all the way down at nine in the top 10 list, and the most popular resolutions are mainly ones dogs would wholeheartedly support.

And keep it mind, we humans hardly ever carry out our resolutions, anyway.

Three thousand pet owners were surveyed, and the most popular resolutions were:

1. I will spend more time with my dog. (52%)

2. I will help my dog to have better health and wellness. (42%)

3. I will take my dog on more trips with me. (34%)

4. I will brush my dog’s teeth regularly. (31%)

5. I will help my dog get essential vitamins and nutrients.(30%)

6. I will help my dog become less anxious and stressed. (29%)

7. I won’t feed my dog food from the dinner table. (25%)

8. I won’t leave my dog home alone for quite so long. (23%)

9. I will help my pet lose weight. (21%)

10. I will take my dog to dog training class. (15%)

(Photo: Instagram)

Shut up and pet me: Study says dogs prefer petting over anything you might have to say

SONY DSCLess talk, more petting — that’s what your dog wants, according to a new study.

Based on tests with dozens of dogs — some from homes, some from shelters — researchers found that, when it comes to interacting with humans, dogs seems to prefer physical contact to anything you might have to say, praise included.

One possible exception — verbal pronouncements that dinner, or treats, are about to be served.

Two scientists from the University of Florida, who in a previous study determined dogs prefer eating food to being petted, have published the results of another research project, showing dogs prefer physical contact over verbal praise.

Neither conclusion seems that surprising to me, but one has to bear in mind that scientists prefer having their work published to having their bellies rubbed, dinner at a five-star restaurant or even verbal praise: “Good scientist. Yes! Yes! You’re a very good scientist.”

“I spend half my day talking to my dog,” study co-author Dr. Clive Wynne, who is now professor and director of the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University, told The Huffington Post. “She always looks like it’s valuable to her. It’s quite a shock to discover that what we say to dogs doesn’t seem to be rewarding to them after all.”

For one part of the study researchers observed 42 dogs as they interacted one at a time with two people in a room. One person petted the dog, while the other praised the dog verbally. The researchers measured how much time the dog chose to spend interacting with each person.

Next,  72 dogs were, one at a time, placed in a room with just one person and their behavior was observed as the person spent time petting or praising the dog, or not interacting at all.

Dogs showed the most interest in people who were petting them, while they seemed to show no more interest in spoken praise than in having no interaction with the human at all, according to the study, published in the journal Behavioural Processes.

“I was surprised that when only one alternative was available, dogs still did not engage with the human for vocal praise,” said study co-author Dr. Erica Feuerbacher, now assistant professor of anthrozoology at Carroll College in Helena, Montana. She conducted the research while earning her doctorate degree at the University of Florida.

The scientists say dogs never seem to tire of getting petted, and they note that previous studies have shown a dog being stroked, like the human who is stroking him, reaps some health benefits, including a lowering of heart rate and blood pressure.

We won’t go so far as to suggest dogs realize that petting is a more honest form of interaction; that words can be less sincere, or even deceptive; or that words can even be annoying — like when they go on too long, are ridiculously repetitious, or they’re uttered in that high-pitched baby talk tone some of us use when talking to our pets.

But we won’t rule it out, either.

For his part, researcher Wynne says that, even if his own dog doesn’t fully appreciate all he verbally passes on to her, he’ll probably keep talking to her anyway.  “I just recognize better that I’m doing it more for my benefit than for hers,” he said.

(Photo: Ace seeking some physical contact in Kanab, Utah / by John Woestendiek)