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Tag: contact

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) 

Texas town approves shooting stray dogs

The rural North Texas town of Ferris — about 20 miles south of Dallas — has approved a policy that allows authorities to shoot “wild” roaming dogs.

Ferris City Manager David Chavez said the Ellis County town approved the policy because it was becoming a dumping ground for unwanted pets. People drive out to the country to release pets they no longer want, but the starving animals breed, form packs and wind up scavenging for food, he said.

Ferris Police Chief Frank Mooney said the city would shoot only “potentially violent dogs,” and only as a last resort — after attempts to humanely capture the animal had failed.

This is a case, once again, of dogs being punished for the acts of humans; it’s the sort of thing you might expect in Baghdad, or maybe Alaska; and it’s full of faulty reasoning.

Every dog (like every human) is “potentially violent,” especially when it sees a lynch mob coming after it. My dog once roamed the streets himself, and gentle as he is, I’m sure he might have given indications otherwise if someone came after him with a rope or pole, much less a shotgun, which the new policy permits. I’m not entirely sure smalltown Texas lawmen should be acting as judge, jury and executioner.

As you might expect, the new policy has enraged animal welfare advocates.

“It’s unfathomable to me that the city of Ferris just outlandishly wants to go out and shoot these stray dogs,” Niloofar Asgharian, a board member of the nonprofit Animal Connection of Texas, said in a story in the Dallas Morning News. “It doesn’t do anything except that these dogs end up dying a slow, miserable death.”

Animal welfare advocates have suggested trapping the animals and better enforcing laws that prohibit dumping dogs.

“It seems like a cruel punishment to the animal when the blame is on people,” said Sherwin Daryani, the executive director of Operation Kindness.

There are 50 to 100 feral dogs roaming Ferris’ streets, said Misty Clark, the city’s lone animal control officer.

The town of Ferris can be reached through this contact form.

(Image: From dallasartsreview.com, ”Stray Dog,” a painting by Roger Winter, an artist and teacher from Denison, Texas, who served on the faculty of SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts)

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