Leave it to scientists to confirm what we already know, and to do so using words we don’t begin to understand.
Case in point: Nervous dogs often have nervous owners. This is not to say a nervous dog can’t have a cool as a cucumber (coolus cucumberus) owner. Nor is it to say some highly twitchy (humanus nervosa) folks can’t have calm dogs.
Only that, as anyone who visits a dog park knows, nervous owners tend to have nervous dog at the end of the leash.
The new study buttresses the concept that our dogs tend to take on our personalities, and that tension — while it may not actually “flow down the leash” — is picked up on by our dogs, and often reflected in their own behavior.
It looks at the chemistry behind that.
The study at the University of Vienna — published in the journal PLOS One “investigated dyadic psychobiological factors influencing intra-individual cortisol variability in response to different challenging situations by testing 132 owners and their dogs in a laboratory setting.”
You might understand that, or, you (like me) might not know spit — or that cortisol levels can be measured through it.
In the study, the researchers measured the levels of cortisol — and the variability of those levels — in the saliva of dogs and owners put through stressful situations.
In addition, they assessed the personality of both dog and human participants — ranging from highly sensitive and neurotic to secure and self confident.
“We calculated the individual coefficient of variance of cortisol (iCV = sd/mean*100) over the different test situations as a parameter representing individual variability of cortisol concentration,” the study’s authors wrote. “We hypothesized that high cortisol variability indicates efficient and adaptive coping and a balanced individual and dyadic social performance.”
For a more reader-friendly account of the study, check out Stanley Coren’s Psychology Today blog:
“You can think of people who are high in neuroticism as being sensitive and nervous while people who score low in neuroticism are secure and confident. In this study, the dog owners who scored high in neuroticism had dogs with low variability in their cortisol. This suggests that dogs with highly neurotic owners are less able to deal with pressure and stress.”
“Conversely, dog owners who were more laid back and agreeable had calmer dogs. Those folks have greater variability in their cortisol response, suggesting that they are better able to cope with situations involving tension and strain.”
The study says the male dogs of female owners often have less variability in their cortisol responses and are often generally less sociable and less relaxed than male dogs belonging to male owners.
(That’s the study saying that females generally score higher on measures of anxiety and neuroticism — not me. I would be way too nervous to say that.)
“Owners behave differently because they are pessimistic or neurotic, and perhaps dogs read the emotions of their owners and think the world is more dangerous — so they are more reactive to it,” the study says. “It looks like people who are pessimistic have dogs which are worse at coping with stress than others.”
Of course, where a dog was before ending up with its owner can play a pretty big role, too.
I, for example, am the cool as a cucumber owner of a nervous dog. He came from a farm in Korea where he was being raised to become meat. That would tend to instill some nervousness in anyone.
Three months after being adopted by me, he still gets pretty nervous — around large groups, when hearing loud noises. I don’t know about his cortisol levels, but at these times he whimpers, sheds profusely — is there such a thing as projectile shedding? — and pees in inappropriate places, such as on my leg.
He is making great strides in every way, but Jinjja still needs to chill, and get less worked up by new situations.
Of all the factors that shape our dogs — genetics, environment, owners — time (and its cousin, patience) may be the most important ones of all.
So my game plan is to provide him with plenty of both, expose him to new settings and situations, and show him that not all the world is a dangerous place — all while being a mellow role model.
In other words, impossible as it might be, I’m going to have to become EVEN cooler.
Posted by John Woestendiek February 21st, 2017 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adrenalin, animals, anxiety, cortisol, dog, dogs, environment, factors, farm, genetics, humans, jinjja, korea, levels, meat trade, nervous, owner, owners, personality, pets, research, science, shape, stress, study, university of vienna, variance
If we can trust the source of this study — and sleazy as the source may be, we probably should — dog owners are less likely to cheat on their partners.
IllicitEncounters.com, a dating website in the UK for married people, has found that of all the pet owners using its service to start an affair, dog owners are the least represented.
The website surveyed members, finding only about 10 percent of them own dogs — a far smaller portion than in the UK’s overall population.
“There has already been a plethora of scientific studies that claim that owning a dog, or dogs, makes you happier and healthier, and now you can add loyalty to that list,” said website spokesperson Christian Grant.
Grant noted that, in a way, pet owners seem to reflect the personality of their pets, at least when it comes to dogs and cats.
Dogs are generally viewed as loyal, he said, while “a cat’s loyalty is a little more unclear. Often lazy, they’ve been known to drift to whomever is offering them more food, so it’s of little surprise to see that lack of loyalty reflected in our study.”
Fidelity is rarer among cat owners, if the study is to be believed. They make up 25 per cent of the website’s membership.
According to The Telegraph, the website surveyed 700 members of its members.
Apparently, even while juggling spouses and paramours these cheaters had time to take the survey. (We’ll assume they didn’t cheat on it.)
Of those member surveyed about 16 percent said they owned fish, 13 per cent hamsters or gerbils, 11 per cent rabbits and 11 per cent reptiles.
But the biggest disparity between the spouse cheaters — or at least hopeful spouse cheaters — and the general population was how few had dogs in their homes.
“Man’s best friend is the UK’s most popular pet, and has been for a very long time, but not among this particular community it seems,” Grant said.
The website claims it has had more than 1 million users since 2003, and it issues the following disclaimer on its opening page:
“WARNING: NOT EVERYONE IS SUITED TO HAVING AN AFFAIR. THEY ARE NOT AN ALTERNATIVE TO WORKING ON OR ENDING A MARRIAGE. NOT ALL AFFAIRS HAVE A POSITIVE EFFECT ON A MARRIAGE, SOME CAN BE VERY DAMAGING. ALWAYS CONSIDER OTHER PEOPLE AND IF YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE AN AFFAIR, PLEASE SELECT YOUR PARTNER WISELY.”
Posted by John Woestendiek September 7th, 2016 under Muttsblog.
Tags: affairs, animals, cat owners, cats, cheat, cheating, dog owners, dogs, fidelity, illicit encounters, infidelity, loyal, loyalty, members, owners, partners, personality, pets, sex, spouses, survey, types, uk, website
Once again, I’m app-rehensive.
Seems to me we’re turning to apps for just about everything these days — even to accomplish all the simple things that used to come naturally, in time, with a little effort.
Want all the ingredients to cook up a tasty dinner? Don’t go to the grocery store. Fire up an app and have them delivered. Want a ride from here to there, a date, a wife, a plumber, travel directions? Turn to an app.
Need an inspirational phrase or selection of scripture to get through your day? Need to know what the weather’s doing? Don’t open a Bible. Don’t step outside. Fire up an app.
There are, of course, plenty of apps you can use to buy or adopt a dog, or at least get pointed in the right direction. But now comes an app aimed at those who want a dog but can’t have one.
It matches up people who want to spend a limited time with a dog with dog owners who wouldn’t mind a little help — in other words, the app serves as a middle man, as apps often do, charging both sides, as apps often do.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m between dogs, and find myself seeking out a canine fix several times a week. I strongly believe that the joy of dogs should be spread among as many people as possible, and that it’s in a dog’s interest to hang out with as many new people in new situations as possible.
I’m all for those two groups — those with dogs and dog-less folks wanting to spend time with one — getting matched up, assuming all involved are sincere dog-loving sorts without evil agendas. But what’s to assure that?
All these start-up apps promise “screening” and “vetting,” but try to find one that actually describes what steps they take in that process, other than using a vague term like “background check.” You rarely, if ever, will.
My guess is that they all use a background check app for that.
So we end up with psycho Uber drivers, and getting matched up for dates with “millionaire bachelors” who are actually unemployed sex offenders, and plumbers who are only vaguely familiar with what a wrench does.
Bark’N’Borrow is the brainchild of 24-year-old Liam Berkeley.
Berkeley says the app is meant for people who wish they could have a dog, but can’t care for one full-time. It connects them with dog-owners who are willing or wanting to loan them their dog for playdates and sleepovers.
The app also caters to dog owners who are interested in trading dog sitting responsibilities with each other, thereby avoiding hiring a dog sitter or relying on a kennel.
The app had 70,000 users even before it debuted its 2.0 version on Friday, National Dog Day, according to Forbes.com. The new version includes a paid subscription model — users pay $7.99 for one month or $4.99 a month if they sign up for three months.
“Dog sharing connects you with people and puts your dog in a happier place,” Berkeley said. “There’s more love to be shared.”
With the app, dog owners can browse potential borrowers, and borrowers can flip through borrow-able dogs, seeing where they are located, their breed, size, personality, breed and training level.
On the plus side, Bark’N’Borrow is donating 5% of all subscription fees to the Best Friends Animal Society.
It also says it is insuring every subscriber — both dog owner and dog borrower — for accidents up to $2 million, just to be on the safe side. (That insurance only applies to dog dates that are scheduled on the app’s platform.)
Berkeley points out that dog owners hire dog walkers they don’t know all the time. “Your dog sitter and dog walker are a stranger until they become your dog sitter or dog walker,” he said. “We do a very good job of vetting each individual. We try to create the safest, most responsible community possible.”
The website does not describe what’s involved in that “vetting.”
Berkeley, originally from Sydney, moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in entertainment and launched the site in 2014. He said he came up with the app idea when he and his then-girlfriend wanted to adopt a dog but knew they couldn’t look after one with their busy schedules.
Instead, they played with neighbors’ dogs, which helped Berkeley realized many people — those with dogs and those without them — would like an arrangement like that.
It is a wonderful thing, when it happens naturally.
To coax it into place by remote control, and on a nationwide scale, strikes me as problematic — just like those dog rental companies that popped up a few years ago and, thankfully, went away.
For a non-dog owner seeking some dog time, there might be better ways:
Go for walks and see who you run into. Strike up conversations (an exchange of words that occurs verbally and face to face, without the use of a device). Volunteer at your local shelter or with a rescue group. Go to a dog park, even though you don’t have a dog. (It’s allowed.) Attend dog-related functions.
For dog owners, good old-fashioned friends are probably a preferable, and less pimp-like, alternative, to turning your dog’s leash over to a stranger and saying “OK, have fun, see ya in a few hours.”
I won’t go so far as to say one should never use this app.
I’d just say use it carefully, as you might use Craigslist. If you do meet with a listed dog borrower (or even an owner), do it in public, with a friend along. And don’t rely on your first impression, or all that vetting the app promises.
In other words, do like they did in the old days and get to know that person first.
Before you turn your dog over to a stranger, make sure he or she is not a stranger anymore.
Posted by John Woestendiek August 30th, 2016 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, app, apps, background checks, barknborrow, borrow, dog, dogs, friends, insurance, loan, loaner, owners, pets, screening, strangers, time, vetting, visits
An animal control officer in Durham declined to free a dog from a hot parked car for about two hours Saturday, despite the pleas of the woman who reported the situation.
As temperatures inside the car climbed to 117 degrees, Jennifer Miller urged the officer to take action, angrily posted pictures on her Facebook page, and pushed ice cubes through the cracked window of the car to the panting pit bull inside.
Miller, of Danville, Virginia, had called animal control Saturday afternoon after seeing the dog in the car, parked at The Streets of Southpoint Mall.
The officer who arrived checked the car, stuck a probe inside to take the temperature, but declined to take any action to remove the dog.
Instead, Miller said, he sat in his air conditioned vehicle and waited for the owners to return.
Miller, who serves on the board of a wildlife rehab center and volunteers with a humane society, said the dog, about six months old, was showing signs of heat stroke, but the animal control officer seemed unswayed by her opinion.
“He (the dog) was panting. His gums had actually already started to turn white,” she said. “It looked like he was kind of foaming at the mouth, that really thick saliva. And he was unsteady.”
The owners of the car, which had Maryland license plates, finally showed up about 4 p.m. The officer filed no charges, but told them to take the dog to a vet to be checked out.
Miller wasn’t satisfied with that ending. She continued to complain about how the incident was handled — and it paid off.
On Monday evening, the Durham County Sheriff’s Office announced a change in policy concerning animals left in vehicles.
Officers will no longer have to wait for animals to show signs of distress.
Under the revised policy, deputies will document the interior and exterior temperatures of a vehicle at least twice, and the deputy will use his or her discretion in determining whether the animal should be removed from the vehicle.
The new policy also allows deputies to decide whether to return the pet to its owner or pursue criminal charges after taking the animal to the local shelter.
“The Durham County Sheriff’s Office appreciates and listens to feedback from concerned citizens,” said the statement from the sheriff’s office statement.
Miller, despite winning a victory of sorts, sounds like she continues to be disturbed by it all.
“It is very clear that they could have charged this person. They did not have to wait two hours to get the dog out,” Miller told ABC11. “But the officers were not listening. They were very rude and belligerent. And it was very sad the dog suffered for two hours at least.”
Posted by John Woestendiek August 11th, 2016 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal, animal control, animal control officer, county, cruelty, deputies, dog, dogs, durham, heat, heat stroke, hot cars, law, mall, north carolina, owners, parked, policy, sheriff, southpoint, suffering, unattended
In most big city animal control departments, dogs who are brought in often don’t come out alive.
But here’s a story with a different twist — of a dog in Philadelphia who was brought into animal control by a good Samaritan, but apparently given away by staff before he got much past the front counter.
If you need some idea before you continue of whether this is going to have a happy ending, be advised, yes, sort of. The pit bull mix who was given away before he was fully taken in is still alive, but slightly the worse for wear.
Most fingers are pointing at the front desk staff of the city’s Animal Care and Control Team, which apparently decided to make an exception to its 48-hour hold policy.
Chris Ferraro, 30, was walking his dog near his home in Manayunk when a pit bull mix wandered up. He played with Ferraro’s dog, but when no owner showed up, Ferraro took him to the city’s animal control office.
As columnist Stu Bykofsky explains in the Philadelphia Daily News, Ferraro was filling out the necessary paperwork to turn a dog in when another man approached the desk and asked if Jake was his dog.
When Ferraro said no, the other man asked if he could have him.
“No,” Ferraro replied. “He’s someone else’s dog.”
An ACCT kennel attendant interrupted the exchange, and told the man he could have the dog — after the owner had a chance to reclaim him.
By policy, the office holds dogs 48 hours before allowing them to be adopted.
But, as Ferraro watched, and protested, that policy was apparently violated. The second man’s information was taken by ACCT and Jake — who had no tags or microchip — was later allowed to leave with the man.
Meanwhile, Jake’s owners, Vickie and Mark Remolde, were working to find him. They’d checked with the Montgomery County SPCA, and put up fliers when he disappeared July 13.
On July 15, Mark went to ACCT, looked for Jake among the animals sheltered there and left some fliers.
As it turns out, that visit was within the 48-hour window for owners to reclaim their dogs. But Jake was long gone — given to that other man, who from the sound of it, was not too thoroughly vetted.
It wasn’t until a few days later that the Remoldes heard that Ferraro had turned a dog that looked like Jake into ACCT, made contact with him, and returned, twice, to the animal control office.
ACCT staff, this time, was able to locate the man who had Jake and, unable to reach him, went to the address he had provided.
He wasn’t there.
“I started crying,” said Vickie. “This guy took him for purposes that were not good, and how could you give my dog to a man in the lobby who was there to intercept dogs?”
Several days later, the man brought Jake in.
According to Vickie Remolde, “Jake is 10 to 15 pounds lighter; he had a red rash on his neck; and something was wrong with his tail … It was black, like charcoal.”
ACCT executive director Vincent Medley told the Daily News that Ferraro had left before completing the intake form. Ferraro denies that and says he was told he was no longer needed.
The new owner’s form was being processed when he left, Ferraro said.
Medley said that if Ferraro was uncomfortable with the proceedings, he should have asked for a supervisor.
Spoken like a true bureaucrat, right?
Rather than shift the blame and cover its butt, ACCT should be investigating that second man, and what happened to Jake, and why staff didn’t follow the agency’s own policy.
Posted by John Woestendiek August 4th, 2016 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 48 hour, adopt, adopted, adoptions, animal care and control, animal control, animals, dog, dogs, hold, holding, intercepted, jake, owners, period, pets, philadelphia, pit bull mix, shelters
Devices claiming to translate what your dog is thinking into human words have been popping up on the Internet for a good five years now, and some of the more gullible among us have bought them — and even contributed to campaigns to bring them to market.
There’s No More Woof an electronic device — still in the testing stages, of course — that Swedish scientists say will be able to analyze dogs’ brain waves and translate their thoughts into rudimentary English.
There’s the slightly more real but far more rudimentary Bow-Lingual, which claims to be able to translate your dog’s barks into emotions, currently unavailable on Amazon.com
There are apps — real and prank ones — that offer dog-to-human translations, virtually all of which have disclaimers saying that they should be used primarily for entertainment purposes.
And there are legitimate research projects underway around the world, with real scientists and animal behaviorists seeking to determine and give voice to what is going on in the heads of dogs.
But wait a minute. Do we really want to know?
As this bit of satire shows, we might not like the result.
It was produced by Los Angeles-based Rogue Kite Productions, an independent film company created by writer/producer/director Michelle Boley and camera operator/editor Taylor Gill, who pursue projects of their liking when not doing their day jobs.
Their spoof depicts a speech articulating device much like one a group in Sweden claims to actually be working on.
No More Woof aims to “break the language barrier between animals and humans,” the Sweden-based Nordic Society for Invention and Discovery (NSID) says on its Indiegogo page.
NSID says the device records electroencephalogram (EEG) readings from a dog that are then analyzed by a Raspberry Pi microcomputer and translated, through a small speaker, into simple phrases like, “I’m hungry,” or “Who is that person?”
Popular Science declared the project almost certainly bogus — and yet money keeps pouring in from donors.
The No More Woof indiegogo page says more than $22,000 has been contributed to the project.
Not to cast aspersions on the Swedish group’s attempt to move technology ahead, but I think Rogue Kite Productions could put that money to better use.
Posted by John Woestendiek May 31st, 2016 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, apps, articulating, bow-lingual, bowlingual, communicate, communications, devices, dog, dogs, emotions, funny, humans, humor, minds, no more woof, owners, pets, reading, rogue kite productions, speech, thinking, thoughts, translate, translation, video, words
How quickly your dog responds to you has a lot to do with the look on your face and the tone of your voice, according to a study at Brigham Young University.
Your dog may not respond more quickly if you use a positive tone, but he’s likely to respond much more slowly if you’re using a negative one, according to the study, published in the journal Animal Cognition.
Brigham Young psychology professor Ross Flom and his research team conducted two experiments examining how dogs reacted to both positive and negative emotions.
“We know that dogs are sensitive to our emotional cues,” Flom said, “but we wanted to know: do they use these emotional cues?” he said.
The experiments measured how quickly dogs responded to an adult’s pointing gesture.
Some of the adults exhibited positive behaviors while making the gestures, such as smiling and speaking in a pleasant tone; others exhibited negative behaviors, such as frowning, furrowing their brow or speaking harshly.
As most dog owners could have predicted, the negative behaviors made dogs a little less cooperative and slow to react — proving yet again (as we also already know) you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
(Has anyone actually done a study on that?)
While dogs who sensed the pointing adults were angry reacted more slowly, dogs whose pointing adults reflected a positive attitude didn’t react any more speedily than those in a control group.
We can only assume those in the control group were issued orders by adults whose faces were expressionless and who spoke like Ben Stein.
Flom concluded that dogs use our tone and emotion to determine how fast to follow an order — or, to put it more scientifically …
“Together these results suggest that the addition of affective information does not significantly increase or decrease dogs’ point-following behavior. Rather these results demonstrate that the presence or absence of affective expressions influences a dog’s exploratory behavior and the presence or absence of reward affects whether they will follow an unfamiliar adult’s attention-directing gesture.”
Apparently, random human strangers were doing the gesturing in the study, as opposed to the owners of the dogs involved.
That, we suspect, would have made a big difference in a dog’s level of trust and eagerness to respond.
That dogs will take off and explore a new area or object based on a stranger’s request shows that dogs generally trust humans.
That dogs — or any animals for that matter — are slow to react to one who appears angry is really no big surprise, either.
That’s generally true in the human arena as well, with the exception of those being yelled at by drill sergeants, prison guards or junior high gym coaches.
Posted by John Woestendiek May 25th, 2016 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: adults, anger, angry, animals, attitude, behaviors, brigham young university, cognition, directing, dog, dogs, emotions, experiment, face, gestures, harsh, humans, negative, owners, pets, pointing, positive, psychology, study, tones, voice