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Tag: attention

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) 

Making friends doesn’t always come easily

Hang around long enough — whether you’re a YouTube video or a Labrador retriever — and you might find some love.

This video of a yellow Lab persistently trying to gain the attention of a three-year-old boy with Down syndrome, was posted on YouTube in June 2012, but only recently has its popularity soared,  topping 4 million views.

Ana Marta Vegas says her son, Hernan, usually avoids any kind of physical contact.

In this video, shot by his family, you can see the boy, after grabbing the dog’s paw, continuously backing off and at times seeming to push her away.

But the Lab is calmly persistent — nuzzling, licking, nibbling, pawing and inching ever closer to the boy.

At one point, she sits and gently puts her paw on his shoulder.

Eventually, nearly four minutes into the video, Hernan responds and gives the dog, named Himalaya, what appears to be a hug.

How many dogs can a dog walker walk?

dogwalker

How many dogs should a dog walker walk at once?

After half a century as an amateur dog walker, and three months as a professional one, I’m prepared to give a qualified answer to that question.

It depends on the dogs. It depends on the dog walker. But three at a time should be plenty.

Many a dog walker might scoff at that — and view the idea of limiting the number of dogs a person can walk at one time as cutting into their profit margin.

It would be nice if dog walking was the one industry in the world not obsessed with upping its profits. But it’s not.

Many dog walkers balked when San Francisco — one of very few cities that regulates professional dog walkers — suggested limiting them to walking no more than eight dogs at once.

I can’t imagine doing that.

I can’t even imagine walking all three of the small dogs I walk for residents of at an assisted living facility all at once.

bgdogs 042Their leashes would get tangled, I’d trip and fall, and, given a couple of them tend to snarf up anything that resembles food — including Punkin, the handsome Boston Terrier to your left – I wouldn’t be able to monitor all three at once.

So — even though it takes three times as long — I opt for walking them one at a time. Bean counters and efficiency experts would say that’s stupid of me.

But then again, I’m 60, and not as agile and speedy, maybe, as once I was.

Here’s a news item that came out of Mill Valley, just up the road from San Francisco, this week:

A 71-year-old dog walker who fell more than 200 feet down a ravine in California was found by rescuers — with all six dogs she was walking huddled around her.

Carol Anderson fell into the ravine near a remote fire road during a storm Tuesday in Mill Valley, KTVU reported.

It’s not clear from news reports whether all six dogs fell with her, but she did manage to hold on to her cell phone during the tumble, and use it to contact one of her dog walking clients.

A Mill Valley Fire Department official said Anderson told the client, “I fell down, I don’t know where I’m at. I have the dogs. I’m dizzy. I’m nauseous, come help me.”

Authorities were able to track her down through her cell phone signals. The first rescuers to arrive found all six dogs curled up around her, which authorities said probably protected her from the cold. Firefighters climbed into the ravine and hoisted Anderson back up.

Anderson was hospitalized in fair condition. All the dogs were returned safely to their owners

It wasn’t the first time the dog walker has run into some bad luck.

In 2007, three of seven dogs Anderson had been walking — all at once — all got sick and died, just hours later, from what turned out to be strychnine poisoning intended to exterminate gophers.

After a morning walk on the Alta Trail above Marin City, the three dogs experienced high fevers and seizures. Two died at an area pet hospital, and a third was dead on arrival.

Walking six, seven, eight or more dogs at once strikes me as asking for trouble — no matter how well behaved the dogs are, or how experienced and physically fit the dog walker is.

I don’t think the rest of the country needs to go all San Francisco and regulate the industry. Dog owners can do that themselves, simply by asking, or insisting if necessary, that their dog not be walked in a group the size of a baseball team, or jury.

The dog walker who refuses to comply with such a request is probably more of a money seeker than a dog lover and may be better off avoided anyway.

(Top photo, a dog walker in San Francisco, by Mike Koozmin/ San Francisco Examiner; bottom photo by John Woestendiek / ohmidog!)

The cull is on in Sochi: Stray dogs are being exterminated by city hosting the Olympics

sochistrays

It’s hardly the first time a city trying to put its best face forward has shown instead how ugly it can be.

Even as the opening ceremony for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi is choreographed — with its heartwarming message of peace, love and brotherhood — the city is trying to purge its streets of stray dogs, poisoning, capturing and killing them so it can project a clean, safe and pleasant image.

Despite publicly backing off from plans to do so last year, the city of Sochi has hired a private company to kill as many of its stray dogs as possible before the games, according to an ABC News report, based on an interview with the owner of the company hired to kill the dogs

Alexei Sorokin, while declining to comment on how many strays have been exterminated so far, was more than willing to talk about the dangers they pose:

“Imagine, if during an Olympic games, a ski jumper landed at 130 kilometres an hour and a dog runs into him when he lands. It would be deadly for both a jumper and for the stray dog,” he said.

Yes, the odds for that happening — landing upon a dog upon completion of a ski jump — have got to be pretty high.

It’s not the first time a city has tried to purge its streets of all things unsightly and embarassing before international attention comes its way.

Stray dogs have been rounded up at previous Olympics, and soccer championships. In America, cities hosting political conventions have corraled their homeless to keep them out of the sight of visitors. And before yesterday’s hardly-worth-the-wait Super Bowl, officials in New York and New Jersey sought to crack down on packs of prostitutes they said were streaming into the area for the big event.

All those things cost money, often taxpayer money, so residents end up footing the bill for a city’s superficial makeover — all so a city can deceive the rest of the world for  a week or two.

That’s what it really is, deception — covering up its real face, putting on enough make-up so we can’t see its pimples, disguising, erasing, incarcerating or restricting the movements of those who might embarass it. Instead of addressing real problems, the city spends money on temporarily covering them up.

Then, to justify it all, they have to spin some more, often turning to fear tactics to do so.

The strays in Sochi might bite people, or might have rabies, or might bump into ski jumpers falling from the sky, officials say. So they’re being “culled,” which means killed, but sounds better. The dogs have broken no laws – other than being unwanted and unloved –  but they’re getting the death penalty anyway.

“I am for the right of people to walk the streets without fear of being attacked by packs of dogs … Dogs must be taken off the streets even if that means putting them to sleep,” said Sorokin, who says he is performing a needed public service. He described his company, which generally uses poisons and traps to rid the streets of dogs, as  the largest of its kind in Russia.

What’s really behind such purgings – whether it’s killing stray dogs, rounding up hookers, or cordoning off the homeless – isn’t civic pride. If it were civic pride, we’d be working on fixing the problem. When we’re working only on the appearance, it’s civic vanity.

Just as stray dogs haven’t suddenly become a bigger problem in Sochi, there’s no proof — despite the pronouncements of city and state officials — that prostitution surges to dangerous proportions during Super Bowls.  There might be more arrests during Super Bowls, but there generally are when law enforcement cracks down.

Even an advocate for victims of trafficking noted last week that New York and New Jersey, by cracking down on prostitution during the Super Bowl, weren’t solving any problems — and maybe were even doing a disservice.

“The annual oversimplification of the issue, in which we conflate all prostitution with trafficking, and then imply that arrest equals solution, does a disservice to year-round efforts to genuinely assist survivors of trafficking — with emergency housing, medical care and other crucial services,” Kate Mogulescu, founder and supervising attorney of the Trafficking Victims Advocacy Project at the Legal Aid Society, wrote in last week’s New York Times.

“When the discussion is dominated by fear-mongering, we fail to meaningfully address the actual causes of human trafficking. Remove the guise of ‘preventing’ human trafficking, and we are left with a cautionary tale of how efforts to clean up the town for a media event rely on criminalizing people, with long-lasting implications for those who are then trapped in the criminal justice system.”

There are better ways to fight crime, conquer homelessness and combat stray dog problems — none of which are quick fixes, none of which are simply cosmetic, all of which involve, as a first step, getting past the mindset expressed by Sorokin in Soshi.

“Let’s call things by their real name,” he said. “These dogs are biological trash.”

(Photo: A stray dog and its puppy outside Sochi; by Alexander Zemlianichenko / Associated Press)

How to get the dog’s attention

Injured soldiers, shelter dogs help each other

Soldiers recuperating at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and homeless dogs at the Washington Humane Society are helping each other out.

The arrangement — the dogs and soldiers get together twice a week at the Washington Humane Society — is producing benefits for both, according to an Army press release.

The soldiers get some time out of the hospital, and something to get their minds off their injuries. They take classes in animal behavior, learn grooming and practice training dogs. The dogs, meanwhile, get some attention and, through the training, become more adoptable.

The program got its start last spring when volunteers walking dogs for the Washington Humane Society — located across the street from Walter Reed’s main gate — noticed how patients would brighten up when the dogs came buy.

“They’re right across the street and we have an entire campus of recovering soldiers who have a lot of time in their days for the most part, and we have a lot of dogs and animals who need that extra human interaction and training and companionship,” Kevin Simpson of the Humane Society said. ”So it was just seeing that need and figuring out a way to put the two together.”

“We’ve learned how to make dogs sit, recognize their names, how to heel, how to leave things alone without bothering it. Just a lot of training of dogs and their reactions and personalities,” said Staff Sgt. Ladeaner Williams after completing a lesson in dog agility and guiding dogs through a series of obstacles.

Williams is undergoing treatment at Walter Reed for post traumatic stress disorder. She thought that working with the dogs would be a good way to develop her interest in becoming a veterinarian. The dogs also have the added benefit of helping her relax.

“I look forward to this every Tuesday and Thursday,” she explained. “The dogs look forward to it. It’s kind of sad. You train the dogs and you come back the next week and they may be adopted, so you don’t get to work with them again. But it’s nice to know that they are being adopted and that the training is paying off.”

(Footnote: A staff member at the Washington Humane Society reports that a dog she impounded was adopted by a graduate of the “Dog Tags” program. “They’re making each other’s lives better than they ever could have been otherwise. The dog was sure to die (as five of her puppies had) where she had been left before I found her, and her dad has found a new reason to get up in the morning.”)

 (US Army photo by Elizabeth M. Collins)

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