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Tag: behavior

The rat-hunting dogs of New York City

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They are respectable pets by day — upstanding AKC members, dog show winners, a therapy dog and even an actor among them.

At night, though, about once a week, they hit the grimy streets and trash-filled alleys of New York — terriers and dachshunds, along with their owners — tracking, cornering, capturing and killing rats.

You can call them superheroes, you can call them vigilantes, you can call them (as PETA has) participants in a “twisted blood sport.”

For its part, the The Ryder’s Alley Trencher-fed Society, or RATS, describes itself as a group of New York dog owners who are simply letting their dogs pursue what has been bred into them.

“Terriers have an innate sense to do this, it’s in their genes,” said Richard Reynolds, who founded the group. It has been around more than 25 years, and has its own Facebook page.

The group goes out as often as possible, sometimes invited to problem areas by citizens, sometimes responding to informal requests from city officials, The New York Post reported last week. The service is provided for free.

As the dog owners see it, they are giving their dogs a chance to fulfill what they were born to do.

“They think hunting is just fabulous,” Dr. Trudy Kawami, who started taking her wire-haired dachshunds to Prospect Park 30 years ago to sniff out rodents with the group, told

rats1The dogs are trained to kill rats by shaking them until their necks break. Despite that, it can get pretty bloody, observers say.

Usually, about eight dogs take part in the hunt. The dachshunds tend to go into closed areas and flush rats out of garbage bags, while the larger terriers seem more interested in the actual attack.

Reynolds told The Post that half the dogs are show champions, one is a therapy dog and another has a role in the film “Five Flights Up,” alongside Diane Keaton and Morgan Freeman.

There is always a veterinary technician present, since rat bites are common.

“It’s all about keeping happy, healthy working dogs, and as long as we do that, everything is fine,” Reynolds said.

(Photos: RATS Facebook page)

A party in the Bay of Dogs

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The townhouse community in which I live is divided into bays.

On my bay — Bay 8 — there are 20 housing units. There are two or three children. And there are 27 dogs.

DSC05942(Let me repeat that for your burglars: There are 27 dogs.)

Every once in a while when the weather gets nice and the neighbors get coordinated, a dog party is scheduled — held at the bay’s dead end, right in front of my house.

Everybody brings beverages and appetizers and lawn chairs and their dogs.

And then the festivities begin.

With only a few exceptions, the dogs behaved exceptionally well.

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One (not mine) got into the apple pie somebody brought. Another (mine) peed in the middle of the seating area. Otherwise, they behaved in an exemplary manner.

The humans did OK, too.

DSC05915The only rowdiness came when a couple of cars pulled up in front of a home recently listed for sale.

Based on their luxury cars, some neighbors assumed they were investors, who would buy the house and rent it. (Owner-occupied homes are preferred.) So there was some talk of sending all the dogs to that house to bark and poop and generally create a bad impression. (The dogs did not oblige.)

There were big dogs and small dogs, puppies and elderly dogs, the vast majority of them having come from shelters and rescues.

At least two of my neighbors have five dogs. They would bring one or two to the party at a time, return them to their houses, and then come back with more.

The plethora of pooches is one of the things that attracted me to the community, and Bay 8 in particular.

DSC06038If ever a neighborhood needed a dog park, it is this one. There’s enough demand that the homeowner’s association recently gave the OK, at least unofficially, to letting people and their dogs use the fenced-in tennis courts, which are seldom used for tennis.

Everybody knows socialization is good for dogs, and good for humans. In communities like mine, where residents can often keep to themselves, dogs are probably the main way that people come together. And — though I’ve only been to one — dogs are far less boring and far more fun than homeowner’s association meetings.

If you’d like to see more photos of the dog party, you can check out the album I posted to the ohmidog! Facebook page.

For one rescued Korean “meat dog,” a good night’s sleep comes at last

The 200 dogs freed in the latest closure of a Korean dog farm continue to arrive in the U.S. — and for one of them, it has meant learning a new way of sleeping.

Harriet is one of more than a dozen dogs brought to the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, where the staff quickly noticed she never laid down — not even to sleep.

Apparently, having spent her life in a cage too small to lay down in, she’d learned and grown accustomed to sleeping in a sitting position.

“Harriet had no idea what a bed was,” Sherry Silk, CEO of the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, told WFLA.

Harriet was one of about two dozen dogs to arrive in Florida from Korea recently. In the weeks and months ahead, more will be arriving in other cities in the U.S., Canada and the U.K.

They’re coming from the sixth farm that Humane Society International has closed by cutting deals with their operators to release the dogs and find other occupations.

The dogs — raised, like livestock, to be slaughtered for their meat — are being relocated to other countries for adoption in part because there is little interest in them in Korea, where many prefer small dogs and have the misconception that “meat dogs” don’t make good pets.

Additionally, HSI hopes the program will raise awareness about the dog meat trade and increase pressure on Korea to ban it.

The dogs most recently shipped will likely be up for adoption in the next few weeks.

About a week ago, after 14 of them arrived in Orlando, the Humane Society of Tampa Bay posted a video on its Facebook page of Harriet falling asleep while in the sitting position, which they theorized was because she’d never had the space to lay down.

They’ve also learned that one of the Korean arrivals is pregnant.

Staff worked to show Harriet how to get in a laying down position, and she now regularly curls up on her bed.

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To see all our stories on Jinjja, my Korean rescue dog, and the dog meat trade, click here.

Study finds dogs prefer reggae

A new study by the Scotland SPCA and the University of Glasgow reveals that dogs have a preference for reggae music.

The study concluded that, while each dog has its own musical preferences, reggae and soft rock were the two most favored genres of the five that shelter dogs were exposed to during the tests.

“Overall, the response to different genres was mixed highlighting the possibility that like humans, our canine friends have their own individual music preferences,” said Neil Evans, professor of integrative physiology at the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine.

“That being said, reggae music and soft rock showed the highest positive changes in behavior,” he added.

Five types of music were played for the shelter dogs used in the experiment — Motown, pop, classical, soft rock and reggae, according to the BBC.

The dogs’ heart rates showed a decrease in stress levels while listening to soft rock and reggae, and researchers suspect that could have something to do with the tempo and repetitive themes of those genres.

The experiments were conducted at a rehoming center in Dumbarton, and based on its findings the Scottish SPCA says it plans to invest in sounds systems for all its kennels.

“At present both our Glasgow and Edinburgh centers are able to pipe music into their kennels,” said Gilly Mendes Ferreira, education and research manager. In the future every center will be able to offer our four-footed friends a canine-approved playlist, with the view to extending this research to other species in our care.”

Scotland’s animal welfare charity released research in 2015 that showed classical music led dogs to become more relaxed, but that those effects were only short term.

Both that study and the new one were published in the journal Physiology and Behaviour.

(The video above, showing a dog howling along with a Bob Marely song, is unconnected to the study and not presented here as either anecdotal or scientific proof of absolutely anything)

About that $80,000 …

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Dear financial institution:

As you can see, my dog got to the piece of mail you sent me before I did.

He’s a fairly new dog, and he’s still working out some behavioral issues, such as barking when mail comes through the slot in my door and lands on my floor.

He picks one piece of mail and then chews it up. I’m not sure how he decides which to chew up, but this time he chose the letter from you over such offerings as a lovely note from my mortgage company, an electric bill and coupons offering me a discount on pizza.

It’s particularly regrettable in this case because what remains of what you sent has all the markings of a check made out to me for $80,000.

dsc05674-2I mean it says “pay to the order of” and everything.

If that is the case, please cancel payment and send me another one.

If it’s something else, such as a loan offer disguised as a gift, a loan for which I have been “pre-qualified,” don’t worry about sending it again, and you might want to check how good a job your pre-qualifying department is doing.

I get quite a lot of those offers from companies that suggest I “consolidate” my debt, but that would require adding up all my debt, and that would likely result in cardiac arrest.

A lot of dog owners — those with mail slots — experience this issue, and commonly they put up an outside mailbox so their pets don’t eat their mail.

I’m thinking it might not really be a problem after all, especially if my dog has the ability to detect junk mail and/or offers from sleazy companies hell-bent on deceiving me.

To be honest, before I got the dog a couple of months ago, I was toying with attaching a paper shredder to the mail slot so it could consume all this crap the second it shattered the solace of my home.

The chewed remains of what you sent are now in the trash, where quite possibly they rightfully belong — with soggy coffee grounds, snot-filled tissues, stinky Alpo cans, dead bugs and all the other contents of my vacuum cleaner cannister.

dsc05678My dog still barks when the mail slot opens and spews its daily missives. I’m sure, not being accustomed to household life, he’s still trying to figure out why it does that.

Given 90 percent of what comes through that slot is trash, it’s hard for me get too upset about it.

In the unlikely event that really was a check for $80,000, well, easy come easy go.

Probably not the cure for snoring

This may work as comedy, but I don’t think it’s going curtail this Cavalier King Charles Spaniel’s snoring.

The video was posted on YouTube this week by Tal Solomon, who describes himself as a comedian.

Judging from the comments the post has received, not everybody’s laughing.

“Typical male behavior,” one comment reads, “his dog is probably a female and since the male in this video doesn’t have a wife to harass he abuses his female dog with sleep deprivation. It’s so sad what the male population is up to nowadays, the patriarchy, which we can see in it’s clearest form in this video, is disgusting!”

Whoa. I don’t know how the comment-maker reads all that into the video.

I doubt this method will work on dogs, or people.

But my bigger question is, if a recording of the dog’s snoring wakes him (or her) up, why doesn’t his (or her) snoring wake him (or her) up?

And that pumping up of the volume? We wouldn’t call it abusive, but it’s pretty unfair.

What it means when your dog pees on you

dsc05666Christmas was kind to me this year. I got some gift cards, some underwear, some cookies, a hummingbird feeder and a drill.

And from my dog, I got peed on.

This was actually the day after Christmas. Out for the afternoon walk, we saw some neighbors and their dogs, all of whom we’d met before, approaching.

With Jinjja being the new guy on the block the other dogs were pretty excited to see him.

So three of my neighbor’s poodles, and the giant schnauzer down the street swarmed around him, barking and sniffing.

That was when Jinjja — either because he was stressed out or wanted to show all those other dogs that I belonged to him — lifted his leg and enjoyed a nice long pee on my pants leg.

I didn’t notice until the neighbor shouted, “Hey he’s peeing on you,” which was about the same time my leg started getting warm.

dsc05447I’ve been on the lookout for strange behaviors in the dog I’ve had about a month now. He was rescued from a dog meat farm in South Korea, so I expected to face some unique behavior, in addition to all the other new dog issues.

Other than his initial skittishness and getting accustomed to new surroundings and what seemed, to him, novel things like television, there haven’t been that many.

Other than one small pee the first night home, his record is spotless, and so are my carpets.

But this one surfaced over the weekend — first when I, against my better judgment, brought him over to a party at my neighbor’s house. The one with the five dogs.

He’d met a couple of them by then, and they all greeted him in a friendly manner. But it wasn’t long before Jinjja decided he should leave a mark, or 20, on this new home he was visiting.

He’d been well drained before we entered, but peed by the door anyway. Then about five more times he started to lift his leg, but stopped when I yelled at him. When all five dogs went out on the back patio, Jinjja went into a peeing frenzy, dashing from spot to spot and, if not actually peeing, going through the motions.

He’d also peed a week earlier in the exam room at the vet’s office — despite having peed repeatedly outside before entering.

Whether it’s stress, or turf-marking, I can’t say for sure.

My kindest interpretation, though, is that he was passing on information to the other dogs — for in one good squirt of urine a dog reveals much of himself, to other dogs at least.

It’s like, “sure you can smell my butt, but that is ephemeral, a quickly passing pleasure.” By peeing in the home of five dogs, though, he could have figured, “I’ll just leave this and you can get to know me better after I leave.”

dsc05464That’s the generous view, and one that’s hard to see when you’ve just been peed on.

The more immediate reaction is more like, “Dammit, you peed on me!”

(I’m sure I’ll laugh about it later. My neighbors laughed about it right away.)

Many experts will tell you a dog who pees is marking his territory, and when he pees on a person, there may be some dominance issues involved.

With Jinjja, I think the bigger issue is insecurity, and that he is still figuring out his place in the social order. (Happily, it is no longer as meat.)

I’m, in a way, doing the same thing, being new to the townhome neighborhood. On my street there are 20 homes, and 26 dogs. I am pretty sure the dogs outnumber the people. Part of the reason I moved here was because it seemed so dog friendly, and because I thought it would be a good place for my previous dog, Ace, and myself, to enjoy our golden years.

He died before I made the move, and six months later, I met Jinjja.

The neighbors have welcomed Jinjja with open arms. My neighbor Trish with the five dogs was even smiling as she mopped us his pee from her entryway Friday night — in the middle of her retirement party.

I’m glad I’m on a street of dog lovers. I’m glad to be among all those dogs. I’m glad Jinjja is now one of them.

I’m not so glad about being peed on, or the prospect that whenever Jinjja visits someone’s house, he will feel the need to christen it.

Oh well, something to work in the New Year.