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Tag: behavior

Kegstanding leads to animal cruelty charges

kegstanddogIf there’s one thing I’ve learned in my decades of writing about the two species, it’s that dogs keep getting smarter while humans seem to be going the other direction.

Last week we told you about the New York tattoo artist who decided his dog needed to be inked.

This week we learned that two college students in New York introduced a dog to the practice of kegstanding, or drinking beer from a keg while being held upside down.

File both stories under the category of people inflicting their own dopey and uniquely human behaviors on dogs.

The two 20-year-olds, who we’ll call Dumb and Dumber, posted a photo online of the dog being forced to kegstand.

Being college students, they were smart enough to do so anonymously. But one was wearing his College of Brockport T-shirt, which led authorities to  that institution, where it took little time to track down the party boys.

“Through a joint investigation between the SUNY Brockport Police, the Brockport Police Department and the Sweden Dog Warden, it was learned that a dog was held upside down, and apparently forced to consume beer from a keg during a party that occurred on Saturday March 8, 2014 at a house located on Monroe Avenue in the village of Brockport,” police said in a news release.

Shane Oliver, of Bergen, and Robert Yates, of West Seneca, were ordered to appear in Sweden Town Court next month to face charges of torturing and injuring an animal, according to the Post-Standard in Syracuse

They are both enrolled at the College at Brockport, part of the State University of New York (SUNY).

Brockport police said Oliver is the person pictured holding the dog, and that Yates took the photo and posted it.

The event occurred off the Brockport campus, authorities said.

The dog, a black Labrador retriever named Mya, belonged to someone else. She was taken by the local dog warden and is in good physical condition, according to the Democrat & Chronicle in Rochester.

The tweet was sent out from @SUNYPartyStories, a Twitter feed devoted to chronicling how hard hearty SUNY students party.

We have no problem with those who want to decorate their own skin with ink, or imbibe until they can no longer think straight. That’s every stupid human’s right. But keep it to your own species, boys.

Dashboard cam captures officer’s fatal shooting of an Idaho family’s dog

As a family in southern Idaho celebrated their son’s 9th birthday inside, a police officer pulled in front of their house, warned two unleashed and barking dogs to get away, then shot one of them, fearing it was going to attack him – all as his dashboard cam recorded the scene.

Warning: The video is disturbing and contains some profanity.

As the police car’s windshield wipers slap away, the officer can be heard telling the dogs to “get back … move!” as he gets out of his car. He can be seen kicking at one dog, then pointing his gun at him — as if a dog would understand that warning.

Then, almost casually it appears, he shoots the dog in the front yard before heading to the family’s front door, while telling dispatchers over the radio, in case they received reports of shots being fired, that it was him: ”I just shot the dog.”

In the four minutes that follow he can be heard, but not seen, informing the dog’s owner what happened — mostly by screaming at him:

“Is this your dog? … I just shot your dog because it tried to bite me. Okay? I come here for a f—ing call and it tried to bite me.”

It happened Saturday, when Filer police officer Tarek Hassani arrived to check on a complaint of dogs running at large. The dashboard video was obtained Monday by the Times-News in southern Idaho.

Rick Clubb said his son’s birthday party was wrapping up about 5:30 p.m. when the 7-year-old black Labrador retriever, named Hooch, was shot outside his home.

Clubb said he suffers Parkinson’s disease, and Hooch, who did not survive, was his trained service animal.

Clubb was he plans to fight the ticket Hassani issued him for an unleashed dog. He added, “He didn’t have to pull out his .45 and shoot my dog. It was right outside my son’s bedroom. What if it had ricocheted through the window?”

Filer Police Chief Tim Reeves said Hassani said that the officer had no choice but to shoot the Lab because it was behaving aggressively.

Clearly, Filer police could use some training on how to deal with dogs, other than using lethal force.

Judging from the one-sided conversation Hassani had with Clubb, they could use some training in being civil as well.

“It’s aggressing me. its’ growling at me,” Hassani can be heard telling Clubb minutes after the shooting. ” … I’m not going to get bit. The last time I got bit I ended up in the ER and I ended up with stitches in my hand … Your dog aggresses me … all of it’s teeth are showing, aggressing me, what am I supposed to think? I yelled at it, I even kicked it a couple of times to get it away from me. It kept charging toward me so I shot it … I love dogs, but I’m not going to be bit again.”

“Is he dead?” Clubb finally asks.

“I think so, yes,” Hassani says.

You’re the cutest little human I ever did see

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Earlier this week, I asked – only semi-whimsically — if the day might come when dogs start speaking, actually speaking.

I wondered what dogs might say, and whether, once dogs became verbal, we humans would actually listen, as opposed to just giggling and taking video and posting it on YouTube.

It would probably be far in the future when that happens — and only assuming we humans can keep the planet together that long.

But it’s not too early to start thinking about it, at least semi-whimsically, including the very real possibility that – given dogs tend to reflect us more and more as time goes by — they could end up talking to us as we’ve been talking to them all these years.

And wouldn’t that be awful?

These, as I see it, are the two worst-case scenarios:

One, they will be bossy-assed nags, telling us, far more often than necessary, what to do: “No!” “Stop that!” “Leave it!” Hush!” “Get down!” “Sit!”  “Stay!”

Two, they will be sappy, high-pitched baby talkers: “You’re such a cute human. Yes, you are! You’re the cutest little mushy face human in the world, with your mushy-mush-mush little face. It’s the mushiest little face I ever did see. Yes it is! You’re a good little human. Aren’t you? Yes! Yee-ess! Yes you are!”

Those, while annoying extremes, are highly common approaches when it comes to how we humans speak to our dogs.

Some of us are order-dispensing dictators who only talk to our dogs when issuing commands.

Some of us are babblers, spewing a non-stop stream of syrupy praise and meaningless drivel.

A lot of us are both, myself included, especially in the privacy of my home. Sometimes, I have to stop myself from saying things like “Who’s the handsomest dog in the land?  Who’s a big boy? Who’s a genius? Ace is. Yes, Acey is.”

Sometimes, I realize several days have gone by when the only words I’ve voiced to Ace are orders, at which point I lapse into baby talk to make up for it.

He is probably convinced I am passive-aggressive, if not bi-polar.

horowitzThere are, thankfully, some in-betweens when it comes to talking to one’s dog, and one of our favorite dog writers — by which we mean a human who writes about dogs — took a look at some of those variations in an essay posted recently on TheDodo.com, a website that looks at how we can better understand animals and improve our relationships with them.

Alexandra Horowitz is the author of “Inside of a Dog” and runs the the Dog Cognition Lab at Barnard College, Columbia University. She has spent 15 years studying what dogs might be trying to say to us, but recently she did some cursory research into what we say to them.

“… (O)ver the last months I have been doing some top-secret quasi-science. That is, I’ve been gathering data in my neighborhood in New York City by eavesdropping on the things people say to their dogs. Humans are a species which anthropomorphizes dogs to incredible degrees (as can be attested to by anyone who has seen a pug forced to dress like Winston Churchill). Sure, we know they aren’t really small, furry people (well, most of us seem to know this), but great numbers of people would willingly attest to their dogs being “their children” — or at least claim to think of them as members of their family. But do we really treat them like little people? I figured that some clue to that would come in how we speak to them.”

Horowitz  did some eavesdropping on people out with their dogs in public, making notes of the one-sided conversations she overheard at parks and on sidewalks.

“And, oh, there were many utterances: on every walk I’ve taken in the last months, on a commute, to the store, or out with my own pups, I encountered people with dogs. Some pass silently, but many are in apparent constant dialogue with the pup at the end of the leash. What the dog-talk I’ve gathered shows is not how much we talk to dogs, nor the percentage of people who do so talk, but the kinds of things we say to dogs.”

She wrote that, based on what she heard, how we talk to dogs falls into five categories:

1. The “Almost Realistic,” or talking to a dog as if he mostly understands what you are saying (with grown-up words, but not words so big he needs a dictionary),  as in “Do you want another treat?” (The question that never needs asking.)

2. “Momentarily Confusing Dog With A 2-Year-Old Kid,” as in “Who wants a treatie-weetie? Who does? Who? Who?” (For some reason, no matter how old dogs get, many of us keep talking to them this way, probably because it makes their tails wag.)

3. “Assuming Extravagant Powers Of Understanding:” This is another one I engage in simply because you never know how much they might be taking in: “C’mon Ace, we’re going to stop at the drug store, visit grandma, and go to the park. The duration of the last stop might be limited, because Doppler radar says a storm might be approaching the area.

4. “Totally Inexplicable:” The example Horowitz cites is “Be a man.” (That’s a phrase that bugs me almost as much as “man up” and, worse yet, ”grow a pair.” I think a man is the last thing a dog should want to be, and for man to tell a dog to “grow a pair” is just too full of irony to even comment on. I have no problem, however, with “Grow a pear,” and consider it to be legitimate advice.)

5. “Ongoing (One-way) Conversation:” These are those non-stop talkers who conduct a monologue as they walk through the park with their dogs, as in, “Let’s go down the hill and see if your friend Max is there. It would be nice to see Max, wouldn’t it? Remember the time you and Max went swimming? What fun you had. Speaking of fun, do you want to play some tug of war when we get back home? Oh look, there’s Max!”

As Horowitz notes, all of us dog-talkers, and especially that last group, are really talking to ourselves, providing an ongoing narrative of what we are doing and what’s going on in our heads. We are thinking out loud, and our dogs are the victims/beneficiaries of that.

“We talk to dogs not as if they are people, but as if they are the invisible person inside of our own heads. Our remarks to them are our thoughts, articulated… Many of our thoughts while we walk our dogs are not so profound, but they are a running commentary on our days, which serves to lend meaning to ordinary activities …”

(Sounds kind of like Facebook, doesn’t it?)

As with that earlier post that got me started talking about dog talking, this one reminds me of a song, too. I used it in a video I made for a photo exhibit about Baltimore dogs a few years back. The song is called “Talkin’ to the Dog.”

(Top photo and video by John Woestendiek / ohmidog!; photo of Horowitz by Vegar Abelsnes)

What part of “no” don’t you understand?

You know how frustrated you get when you have to tell your dog something over and over again?

Come here. Come HERE. Listen to me. Get over here right now. Don’t make me say it again. COME HERE!

In this video, the shoe is sort of on the other paw.

John Ventresco, of New Hampshire, is trying to persuade his 11-month-old husky, Blaze, to get into her crate.

Not only does Blaze physically (but peacefully) resist, refusing to budge, but she says what sounds like “no” — 30 times by my count, at least 10 of those quite clearly:

“Noooooo!”

Posted on YouTube just two weeks ago, the video is approaching 5 million views, meaning a lot of people are getting a chuckle, and learning how not to train a dog, and debating whether Ventresco — as gentle and good-humored as his urging is — is going to get bitten one of these days, and, if so, will he have deserved it.

Eventually one of them will have the other properly trained, I’m just not sure if it will be Ventresco or Blaze. Right now, it appears to be a draw.

The bigger question it raises, to me, anyway, is whether the day will come when dogs really do talk. I predict it will — that they will someday talk, on their own, without the aid of implants, headsets, devices that monitor their brain waves and apps that translate what they’re thinking into words.

Several projects are underway that do just that — because we humans want to know what’s going on in their heads, and we want to know now, and somebody somewhere thinks it might make some money.

We’ll take advantage of technology to bring that about and get it on the market as soon as possible, rather than wait a few hundred or thousand more years when, I’d venture, dogs will have evolved to the point that they’re talking on their own anyway.

It’s only natural for that to happen, with them living so closely to us, observing us around the clock,  and watching too much TV. They will continue to pick up our skills – learning to operate a remote control, warming up some chicken nuggets, uttering words, then entire phrases.

Mark my words. By the year 2525 (and that’s just a wild guess), dogs will be saying “yes” and “no,” and more:

Feed me.

I want to go outside for a while.

But wait, there’s more. Details at 11. Ohmigod, they killed Kenny. Live from New York, it’s Saturday night.

Put me in that damn crate again and, I swear,  I’m going to call my attorney.

They may never have as sophisticated a vocabulary as us, may never be as erudite, snotty, self-promoting and adept at making barbed comments as us. But the day will come that they use words.

The question is not whether dogs will someday learn to talk. It’s whether, when they do, we’ll listen.

We already stink at that — in terms of listening to our fellow humans, and in terms of hearing what our dogs are silently saying. We’re so dependent on words we don’t hone our wordless communication skills, even though that mode is often more honest and meaningful.

My fear is that, through continued domicile-sharing with humans, dogs are going to learn to talk, but also – like Blaze, like Ventresco — not to listen.

It all brings to mind some lyrics from a song that has nothing to do with dogs — Don McLean’s “Vincent.” When you think about it, the misunderstood artist and modern day dog have much in common. We wonder what they’re trying to say, fail to see their brilliance, and don’t appreciate them fully until they’re gone.

Instead, often, we taunt, ridicule and shame them.

How much shorter might Van Gogh’s career have been, how many appendages might he have lopped off,  were he around in the Internet age, reading nasty comments from people about his paintings?

How much quicker might the civil rights movement have progressed if people had shut up and listened to Martin Luther King, Jr., the first time?

Are we getting any better at listening, or quicker to turn a deaf ear?

As the song “Vincent” says:

They would not listen, they’re not listening still.
Perhaps they never will…

Let’s give it a listen.

Why beagles will one day rule the world

The reason dogs are still around — and probably will still be when we’re not — is their uncanny ability to adapt.

Since wolves were first domesticated, becoming dogs, they’ve been on a continuous learning curve, learning how to live alongside man, and taking advantage of everything from his good nature to his furniture to his kitchen appliances.

Perhaps no breed is more adept at working these angles than beagles. They are master escape artists, wily hunters and accomplished problem solvers whose cuteness and charm trumps those occasions when they are — dare we say it — pains in the ass.

This one found a way to get chicken nuggets out of a toaster oven on the kitchen counter.

And his owner caught her in the act.

After Lucy came under suspicion for the disappearance of a roast that had been cooking in the oven, her owner set up a hidden camera. It caught Lucy as she nudged a chair next to the counter, jumped up on said counter, opened the toaster oven, removed some chicken nuggets, and enjoyed a snack.

 ”A few weeks before she took a roast out of the oven that had been cooking for a few hours … So I set her up. I put some nuggets in the oven… Pressed record and left,” her owner, Rodd Scheinerman, said on his YouTube post. “This was 7 minutes into the video.”

We present this as proof positive that dogs just keep getting more clever while we humans … well, I’ll refrain from badmouthing an entire species.

But given Lucy’s kitchen skills, and the possibility she could be injured, we think her owner might want to consider limiting her access to the room when he’s not there and the oven is on, maybe with a dog-proof barricade.

A very dog-proof barricade.

Dung shui: Do dogs line up with the earth’s axis to do their business?

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I’ve often wondered why my dog Ace circles before he poops. He’ll go into a semi-squat, then, like a lazy Susan, make two or three revolutions before unloading.

Could it be he has an “inner compass” and is getting himself in line with the earth’s axis?

A new study suggests that canines line up along magnetic field lines to do their business. How they do that remains a mystery; why they do that perhaps an even bigger one.

Maybe they know something we don’t — we being so far removed from the natural world that we mindlessly let our toilets dictate the direction we face while defecating.

Who knows how much better off our digestive health might be, how much better aligned our chakras might be, if we all voided while facing directly north or south?

Whether there are benefits to parallel pooping — for humans or dogs — are not matters the Czech and German researchers addressed in their paper, recently published in Frontiers in Zoology.

Instead, the research focused on whether dogs – like cattle, deer and foxes – line up parallel to the earth’s axis when they defecate.

Over a two-year period, the researchers observed 70 dogs, of 37 different breeds, as they went on outings, and duly logged each urination (5,582) and defecation (1,893), as well as the direction the dogs were facing while doing the deed.

They say the results lend credence to the suggestion that dogs and other animals have some sort of internal mechanism that helps guide them in matters of pooping, and likely much more — at least when the earth’s magnetic field is stable.

The earth’s magnetic field is stable is only about 20 percent of the time during daylight, they note. But when looking only at those periods, dogs off leash seemed to prefer to poop with their bodies oriented along the north-south axis, the study said — facing either directly north or south. As for peeing, female dogs did that while aligned with the north-south axis, while male dogs preferred a northwest heading.

The researchers say that if dogs are capable of “magnetoreception,” it would open “totally new horizons for magnetobiological research.”

As for why the dogs do it in the first place, the authors said, “An answer may lie in the biological meaning of the behavior: If dogs would use a visual … magnetic map to aid general orientation in space, as has been proposed for rodents, they might have the need to center/calibrate the map now and then with regard to landmarks or a magnetic reference …We might think of this the same way as a human is stopping during a hike to read a map.”

In other words, maybe dogs use pooping as an opportunity to take stock, get their bearings, plot their next step and better understand their place in the universe.

Humans sometimes do that on the toilet, too, I’d venture, especially when they run out of magazines to read.

And while most humans don’t put much thought into what direction they’re facing during the act, or whether they’re aligned with the earth’s axis, there are  some who advise taking that under consideration.

In a cursory — highly cursory — search of the Internet, we found a website called Vaastu NaresH, which suggests a water closet that faces north or south will lead to increased health and happiness. Another feng shui-related website advised one’s entire bathroom face north — not so much to align with the earth’s axis, but because that’s where the malevolent spirits are.

(I’m not sure the malevolent spirits appreciate being honored that way, whether they might prefer that you, instead of offering a full view, shut the door and turn on the exhaust fan. Then again, they are malevolent.)

As for dogs, I’ve never noticed any consistent alignment when it comes to defecating. My dog Ace seems to be an omni-directional pooper, basing his stance on whether the sun is in his eyes, whether there’s something interesting to watch off in the distance in some particular direction, how urgent the situation is, or simply what point he’s at in his urgent and dervish-like pre-poop spin when nature finally calls.

Then again, what do I know? My toilet faces southeast.

Puparazzi: Celebrity’s dogs are fair game

finn seyfried

Are members of the paparazzi shifting their focus?

These days they seem to be shooting lower — if indeed it’s possible for them to go any lower — and focusing more and more on celebrity dogs.

It’s ridiculous, but understandable: Dogs, unlike celebrities, have to go out. Dogs, unlike celebrities, don’t object to photos being taken of them in an ungroomed state. Dogs, unlike celebrities, don’t file lawsuits.

But the even bigger reason is this: Dogs are more instinctual and spontaneous than most humans, and thus are more likely to do something outrageous — or at least something that the photographer sees as outrageous.

That, when you come right down to it, is what a paparazzo is after.

So when Amanda Seyfried’s dog, Finn, appeared to be humping another dog at the park, the image was captured and published on numerous tabloid websites (and now, for scholarly discussion purposes, on this one.)

On TMZ.com, the photo was under the headline: “AMANDA SEYFRIED’S DOG RAPES OTHER DOG.”

(Maybe dogs should file lawsuits.)

When a dog humps another dog, it’s generally not news, just as it’s generally not news — not even tabloid news — when a dog poops, pees, drools or scratches him or herself.

True enough, Anne Hathaway made the news (or at least the Huffington Post) when her dog pooped — but that was because the actress promptly packed up the poopage and placed it on the windshield of the car belonging to the photographer who was following her and Esmerelda as they went for what was supposed to be a leisurely walk.

Hathaway may have felt she’d gotten vengeance, but she actually fell straight into the trap.

A celebrity doing something outlandish makes for a much better photo than a celebrity just walking down the street.

That’s the biggest reason celebrities are stalked with cameras — either because they have just done something outrageous or embarassing, or in hopes they will, once spotting the photographer, do something outrageous or embarassing.

I, for the record, have great respect for photographers. Some of my best friends are photographers. But photographers whose sole purpose is to track down, follow and provoke celebrities are even worse than humping dogs. They are annoyances, hard to shake off and best avoided, getting their kicks, and paychecks, by exploiting other people’s fame and America’s seemingly incurable addiction to celebrity.

As the paparazzi becomes more puparazzi (or pawparazzi, your choice), a celebrity’s dog, it seems, is falling under the same category as a celebrity’s unfashionable sweat pants, overflowing bikini/Speedo, or botched plastic surgery — fair game.

And while I have no major problem with them aiming their cameras at celebrity dogs out in public, the photographers and those who publish their images ought to keep in mind that, when it comes to dogs, pooping, peeing and humping are mostly natural behaviors that – while maybe one requires some slight correcting — don’t call for felony charges or 30 days in rehab.

One of the foibles of humans is that we like to build people up and then see them get knocked down — enjoying both their rise to glory and their fall from it.

We do it all the time with members of our own species, and especially with celebrities.

Let’s not do it to our dogs.

(Photo: SplashNewsOnline.com)