Tag: hal herzog
A couple of Psychology Today bloggers are arguing over whether dogs can indeed soothe the savage breast — or at least help keep the heart that’s ticking inside of it from imploding.
We’re not a scientist — we’re not even a we – but it’s our firm belief that dogs lower blood pressure, unlike blogs, which raise it.
So, in our view, Alex Korb and Hal Herzog, the dueling bloggers, would both be better off, healthwise, to quit looking up and reciting old studies and spend that time bonding with dogs.
Korb, a postdoctoral researcher at UCLA and a scientific consultant for BrainSonix, says scientific studies have clearly shown dogs are good for the human heart — not just in mushy romantic terms, but the actual pump itself, and all the conduits leading to and from it.
Herzog, a professor of psychology at Western Carolina University and author of “Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It’s So Hard To Think Straight About Animals,” says no they haven’t — at least not with any consistency.
Scientific studies, we will point out here, are like courtroom experts — you can usually find one that supports your cause (and, if not, you can always fund one).
We think studies have produced piles of evidence on the health benefits of dogs; we think further that — while such studies are important — they don’t tell us dog owners anything we don’t already know.
Studies have looked at how simply petting a dog can lower blood pressure, and how it can also lead to increased production of oxytocin, sometimes called the “love hormone.”
But I think it goes far beyond petting. Playing with a dog, observing a dog at play, even watching a dog peacefully snoozing, all do the same, I’d bet. And I’d suspect eye contact is even a bigger factor. When Ace looks into my eyes, I can sense my blood pressure dropping. I can almost feel the oxytocin gurgling through my .. whatever it is oxytocin gurgles through.
On his Psychology Today blog, “Pre-frontal Nudity” Korb cites several studies showing dogs reduce the likelihood of death by a second heart attack, lower blood pressure and prompt us to produce oxytocin.
Korb points out that rats produce oxytocin when they are licked by their mothers, and that rats that are licked a lot grow up to be more well adjusted rats — or at least less anxious and stressed.
“Oxytocin works similarly in humans, and while it may be particularly necessary in childhood, even during adulthood it is important. Oxytocin is released by physical touch (hugs, kisses, handshakes, massages, breast-feeding … that sort of thing), and possibly even through social interaction.
“Humans are social animals. So I guess it’s not that surprising that having support from other humans, and other animals, has positive health benefits. Hopefully you also take away from this article the fact that there is not always a clear divide between physical health and mental health.”
I’d add to that maybe there’s not such a clear divide, either, between the mushy romantic heart and the actual pump mechanism — that maybe what keeps the metaphoric one happy and content, also keeps the real one pumping.
“So if you have a heart attack, reach for your poodle,” Korb concludes. “Well, reach for the phone first (or your LifeAlert), then maybe reach for the aspirin, then reach for the poodle.”
Herzog doesn’t see it that way. ”It’s a nice tight package – just the sort of science writing that makes for a good Psychology Today blog post,” he writes in ”Animals and Us,” his blog for Psychology Today. ”The only problem is that the story is a little too good to be true.”
Herzog goes on to cite studies that found conflicting, and sometimes opposite results, and concludes that the evidence is not conclusive.
“The $50 billion dollar pet products industry wants you to believe that playing with a dog or cat will ward off depression, cure autism, and cause you to lose weight. Unfortunately, the evidence for these claims is not nearly as strong as “the pet industrial complex” would have you believe.
As for oxytocin, he adds, while a South African study showed impressive increases in oxytocin of subjects who had engaged in petting sessions (with dogs), other neurochemicals also spiked during tests of the subjects.
“Who is to say oxytocin was the critical hormone, rather than, say, dopamine or endorphin – neurotransmitters which are also associated with pleasure and reward?
“… The fact is that many studies of the positive effects of pets on people do not pass the replication test. Further, pop science writers (of which I am one) are often guilty of only covering the good stuff when it comes to the animals in our lives.
“So you might want to dig a little deeper the next time you read that playing with a poodle will unclog your arteries and heal a broken heart.”
Posted by jwoestendiek May 22nd, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alex korb, animals, animals and us, benefits, blog, bloggers, blogging, blood pressure, debate, dogs, hal herzog, health, heart, licking, love hormone, oxytocin, pets, pre-frontal nudity, psychology today, rats, science, scientific, studies, study
They haven’t saddled them up and landed them gigs at halftime shows, but a group of baboons in Saudi Arabia are reportedly “keeping dogs as pets.”
And, if this video is any indication, the baboons, like humans, can be alternately cruel and loving when it comes to the dogs with whom they co-exist, in this case in a garbage dump outside of Ta’if, not far from the Red Sea.
While the baboons seem to treat pups, or at least the unfortunate one in the beginning of this video, pretty roughly, rest assured nothing too awful happens, and the video goes on to show the two species living, playing and sleeping together, and even grooming each other.
The clip is from a British nature series called “Animals Like Us.”
It came to my attention via Hal Herzog, author of “Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It’s So Hard To Think Straight About Animals.”
Herzog, a professor of psychology at Western Carolina University, has been studying human interactions with other species for two decades — and says he has never run across a species other than humans that truly can be described as keeping pets. So he was stunned when he came upon the video of the Hamadryas baboons and what seem to be their pet dogs.
At least that’s how the documentary’s narrator explains the relationship. The baboons and dogs eat and sleep together, and travel as a pack. The dogs chase off predators and the baboons treat them as members of the family, he says.
Herzog, as he explains in Animals and Us, his blog for Psychology Today, doesn’t seem to totally buy it. He did some quick research, but thinks a lot more is needed before being certain the dogs and baboons of Ta’if have a pet-and-petkeeper relationship.
“In short, are the Ta’if baboons really keeping dogs as their personal pets or is the YouTube clip just another example of Animal Planet type TV bullshit?
“… Some authorities are doubtful. The anthrozoologist Boria Sax, author of the wonderful new book City of Ravens, wrote … ‘You can’t tell just what is happening from the video alone, and we have only the word of the narrator that the dogs are kept as pets. I am skeptical.’
“Eniko Kubinyi, a canine ethologist at the Family Dog Project in Budapest was more blunt, ‘Dogs as pets of baboons? Science fiction. Baboons and dogs share the same environment, and they are socially plastic, so they enjoy the company of others…’
“I am skeptical, too,” Herzog said. “But I have been obsessed by the video for a week. It raises a host of questions in my mind.”
Might the relationship, for example, be less peaceful if there wasn’t abundant food for all in their shared environment, he wonders.
I wonder whether the baboons use any positive reinforcement to keep the dogs in line, or, as the early part of the video indicates, they opt for the dominant, Millan-esque, pack-leader approach.
Desolate as the landscape looks, the connection between the baboons and dogs in a desert garbage dump seems some fertile ground for research.
Posted by jwoestendiek December 27th, 2011 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, animals and us, animals like us, baboons, behavior, chimps, dogs, dump, environment, hal herzog, humans, interaction, monkeys, nature, pet-keeping, petkeeping, pets, psychology, psychology today, saudi arabia, shared, some we eat, some we hate, some we love, species, ta'if, video, youtube
I eat meat.
According to an article in the upcoming issue of ESPN magazine, by senior writer David Fleming, that makes me a hypocrite.
Or so he seems to be saying as he ponders why so many people continue to criticize the quarterback, as opposed to getting on the Michael Vick bandwagon to root root root for the dog killer and his amazing on-field comeback.
Fleming attempts to get to the root of the lingering resentment against Vick by examining psychological and sociological factors that he says have resulted in an “uniquely American ethos — one that has transformed dogs into our version of Hindu’s sacred cows and one that exposes a deep-seated hypocrisy regarding animal cruelty.”
Certainly, the status of dogs has risen in the past 50 years. Maybe, as he suggests, suburbanization, the rise of technology and human loneliness had something to do with it. But it’s not a strictly American phenomenon, and it has nothing to do with religion.
What it does have to do with — and Fleming totally neglects this — is that dogs have earned their place. There is a heirarchy in the animal kingdom, and dogs have, by virtue of their record of accomplishment, risen to the top of it. Research has shown, despite what Fleming says, the many ways dogs benefit us, that their cognitive skills go beyond anything we ever expected, and their service to humanity far exceeds that of any other species.
But, to hear Fleming tell it, it’s as if dogs, with no underlying reason, suddenly and unexplicably became the most loved of animals:
“Never mind that there are no definitive studies for or against the idea that having pets makes for happier people or that many anthrozoologists question whether dogs are capable of feeling or sharing what we cherish the most about them — unconditional love. Our pooches do make us feel loved, and that easily trumps fact or reason.”
But dogs, in case he hasn’t noticed, do far more than make us feel loved. They have, to put it bluntly, risen above the herd.
Maybe it’s politically incorrect, or worse, to say that dogs occupy a level above the rest of the animal kingdom. But, in truth, how many seeing-eye chickens do you see out there? How many search and rescue turtles do you know, or seizure-detecting turkeys, or bomb-sniffing pigs?
As George Orwell wrote in Animal Farm: “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”
Some animal rights purists don’t see it that way, and maintain the value of all animals is the same. In the article, Peter Singer — seen by some as the founder of the modern day animal rights movement — backs up what seems to be the author’s point: People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, and if you eat McNuggets or Big Macs, or any meat, you’re a glass house dweller.
In the reasoning of Fleming and the experts he quotes: (A) If you eat meat you have no right to criticize Michael Vick for killing dogs; (B) People who care about the welfare of dogs have no compassion for the welfare of people; and (C) Dog lovers should be helping the needy humans of the world.
Fleming’s article, like the book it quotes from — Hal Herzog’s “Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It’s so Hard to Think Straight About Animals” — sees society as having put dogs on a pedestal, and sees that as a symptom of our moral ambiguity when it comes to animals.
It’s all a bit reminiscent of the alarm sounded in “Petishism, Pet Cults of the Western World,” the 1968 book by Kathleen Szasz that looked at our preoccupation with dogs as something close to a psychiatric disorder.
True, we humans do some outlandishly wacky things in the name of love for our dogs, but to view the status dogs have achieved — sometimes with our help, sometimes despite it — as something fraudulent, unearned, or not to be believed is both superficial and uninformed.
There seems to be a rising tide of those who, like Szasz four decades ago, fret about the standing and privileges dogs have been afforded in western culture. Why, it’s almost as if — they say, as if it boggles their minds — we’re treating them as children.
Well, think about it. We created them. We domesticated them. We insisted they no longer be wild. We usurped them of their survival skills. We bred them into shapes we liked. We made them do chores, and put them in our handbags, and entered them in contests. We made them what they are (dependent on us), and elevated them to where they are (in our beds, on our sofas and atop the animal heap).
Given that, in my view, we have an obligation to rear them properly, much like children — and not to drown them, bludgeon them, electrocute them, shoot them, dispose of them in Dumpsters when they become inconvenient, or make them fight each other until death.
If that belief is is outlandish, call me an outlandish, politically incorrect, meat-eating hypocrite.
“People should look at what they’re eating and what they’re spending their dollars on and what kind of animal abuse they themselves are supporting,” says Singer. “And if they haven’t taken a good look at that, I don’t think they have much right to criticize Vick.”
I hate to argue with a hero, but they have every right. You don’t have to be a saint to point out a sin. Sometimes, if something enrages you to the extent you must speak out — no matter how long ago it happened, or what kind of house you live in — you’re going to hurl a stone or two.
You don’t have to be Mother Teresa to be entitled to do so.
If there are any sacred cows in this whole big picture, in my opinion, they would be the professional athletes, particularly the ones who consider themselves above the law. They, with help and repeated stroking from outfits like ESPN — Vick not only appears on the cover of the magazine, but the entire issue is devoted to him — are turned into mythical heroes, bestowed with untouchable status, and glorified out of all proportion, all for playing silly games for exorbitant salaries.
I have absolutely no problem idolizing dogs more than them.
Posted by jwoestendiek August 26th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal rights, animal welfare, animals, article, breeds, david fleming, dogfighting, dogs, domestication, espn, evolution, george orwell, hal herzog, heirarchy, hypocrisy, idolatry, image, kathleen szasz, lingering, magazine, meat, michael vick, news, nfl, peter singer, petishism, pets, place, resentment, sacred cows, society, sports, status
Hal Herzog, in an opinion piece in yesterday’s Washington Post, makes a couple of good points — and a couple with which we disagree. Chief among them is that the north, because of aggressive spay-neuter campaigns, has been left with a shortage of adoptable dogs.
“… The rush to pluck the reproductive organs from every household pet in America has been so successful that we may be running out of dogs,” he writes. ” … The more successful a region’s efforts are at controlling pet overpopulation, the more aggressive — and less adoptable — the dogs in their local animal shelter tend to be.”
As a result, he says, in the south — where spaying and neutering have been pursued less wholeheartedly and where shelter dogs are less likely to have rubbed elbows with nasty urban pit bulls — dogs are likely to be friendlier.
We disagree. Southern dogs aren’t any friendlier than northern dogs. Southern people? Maybe (Disclaimer: I’m from North Carolina). But not southern dogs.
For one thing, dogs in the south are certainly not any less likely to have been abused or neglected. And dogfighting operations are certainly not a northern phenomenon, nor strictly an urban one — as the cases of both Michael Vick, of Virginia, and Ed Faron, of North Carolina, attest.
Herzog, a professor of psychology at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, N.C., is a nice guy (I interviewed him a while back) who knows his stuff – his stuff being societal attitudes and behavior toward animals.
He’s correct in pointing out there is a greater supply of shelter dogs in the south, and a greater demand for them in north — and that there is an informal pipeline in operation, shuttling southern dogs north. He notes that the animal rescue group in his rural North Carolina county ships 200 dogs a year to shelters in Connecticut, and that, since 2004, the Rescue Waggin’ program operated by PetSmart has transported 20,000 abandoned dogs from states such as Tennessee and Kentucky to places, mostly northern, where they are snapped up by grateful owners.
But to proclaim that southern dogs are, like southern iced tea, sweeter is a leap — one that disregards why so many of them end up in shelters there in the first place and ignores why shelters and rescue groups up north accept them. It’s largely because they know what will happen to them if they don’t. No kill/low kill shelters are less prevalent in the south.
And to suggest that there might be a shortage of adoptable dogs, anywhere, is off the mark, especially since the economy’s recent downturn. As he points out, there were 24 million dogs and cats put to death in animal shelters in the United States in 1970. By 2007, the number had fallen to 4 million.
Four million is still a whole lot of dogs.
(Photo from mooncostumes.com)
Posted by jwoestendiek January 27th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adoptable, dog, dog for obama, dogs, euthanasia, first dog, first family, friendlier, geographical, hal herzog, news, no-kill, northern, northern dogs, obama, obama dog, ohmidog!, pipeline, pit bull, psychologist, rescue, shelter, southern, southern dogs, temperament, transport, violence, washington post, western carolina university