Ask any pet parent about whether their dog has personality quirks and a certain level of individuality, and you will likely receive a resounding yes. Our dogs have an entire spectrum of traits and varying dispositions, much like humans. For example, some dogs are social butterflies while others are more shy or introverted. Some dogs need activity and constant action, while others prefer a quieter, more routine daily life. Some of these traits may be based on a dog’s breed or age, but often each dog’s individual personality plays a role. For example, a Labrador may be a loyal, family-friendly dog based on his genes, but his penchant for getting excited and a little worried when things get too hectic (around our house we refer to the barking pup that results from this scenario as “Safety Dog”) may be all personality! Keeping that in mind, let’s take a look at a few fun facts about dogs and their personalities that current research has uncovered.
DON’T BE JELLY, PUP!
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego have shown something many pet parents are already acutely aware of: our dogs get jealous. Whether it’s a new job, a new baby, or some other shiny new thing taking our attention off of our pups, they know when they’ve lost the spotlight, even a little bit! This behavior may be even more intense when that shiny object is another dog (aka an actual, canine rival – oh no!). The study illustrated the fact that when pet parents paid attention to a stuffed dog, a jack o’lantern pail, or a book, a higher percentage of the test dogs reacted to the stuffed dogs. That is, they knew when a rival for their attention was actually a rival. Test dogs exhibited a wide range of behaviors, from sniffing the rival to actively snapping at it or positioning themselves between their owner and the interloper.
DOGS AND THEIR PET PARENTS – MORE IN COMMON THAN WE THINK?
In a study published in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science, researchers compared the traits of owners and dogs in five categories (also known as the “big five” in psychology): extraversion, openness, neuroticism, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. Because owners may be likely to project their own traits on to their pets, researchers also interviewed close family members to determine the perceived rankings of dogs and their owners in all categories. The findings? Owners and pets were typically quite similar in four out of the five categories, consistently! So although we don’t know if pet parents choose dogs that are similar to them or the dogs and owners adopt similar characteristics, it looks like you may be more like your pet than you realize!
THEY MATURE JUST LIKE US
In humans, some teens have a somewhat balanced disposition, but others are known for being a little more emotional and a little less responsible and more erratic on a regular basis. It turns out that young dogs may suffer the same fate! Researchers looked into the consistency of personality traits in dogs throughout various life stages, and found that traits such as submissiveness, fearfulness, responsiveness to training, activity, sociability, and aggressiveness were not consistent throughout dog’s lives, but rather consistency varied depending on how old a dog was when studied. That is, young dogs could have varying, inconsistent scores in various traits, while older dogs exhibited a more consistent score in the various categories. So a puppy initially perceived as aggressive may score lower in that area at another time, while an adult dog would be more likely to be consistently aggressive or non-aggressive based on his personality. The researchers posited that hormones may play a role in younger dogs’ variability…. That sounds familiar, yes? Overall, these studies are fun and interesting, but realistically are simply confirming what we as pet parents already know: our dogs truly are unique snowflakes, each and every one of them!
Images courtesy of Patch Attack and Jitze Couperus
In a previous post we talked about working dogs and the important roles they play in disaster and other emotionally charged situations, but in addition to the help working dogs provide us as search and rescue dogs, military dogs, and in their other high intensity roles, they also play an important role in improving our quality of life via our more routine, everyday activities.
For many children, reading out loud can be a frightening prospect; making mistakes in front of their peers and the adults that they either look up to or maybe don’t even know can be quite intimidating and can hinder their progress. Reading in front of an audience, young students may feel anxious or stumble on their words. One solution that has
proven quite viable is for readers to read to specially trained therapy dogs. These dogs provide a quiet (and snuggly!) audience for young readers and allow them to make mistakes without feeling the same level of intimidation or judgment that they feel when reading to fellow students. There are currently dog-assisted reading programs throughout the nation, including Michigan’s Reader Dog Program that is in its eleventh year.
NAVIGATING DAILY TASKS (SOMETIMES LITERALLY!)
Service dogs can be trained to help their companions with every aspect of daily life, including getting around walking, doing grocery shopping, and even carrying out household tasks. Service dogs can take on health related tasks such as carrying oxygen or other medications for their owners, can be trained to watch for (and smell for!) signs of low blood sugar in diabetics or blood changes that happen prior to seizures in epilepsy patients, and can help hearing-disabled companions with cues such as doorbells and pedestrian traffic signals. In fact, service dogs can even be trained to help their owners listen for babies and children that need assistance!
PROVIDING EMOTIONAL SUPPORT
Therapy dogs, another type of trained working dog, provide a comforting presence for their handlers. This service goes beyond the proven emotional support that dog ownership provides (dog owners have been shown to be both happier and healthier, although the direct cause of both of those effects has not been determined, i.e. more time outside, more affection, etc.) and allows those suffering from psychiatric disabilities to experience improved daily quality of life. For example, a dog trained to assist a patient suffering from PTSD may be taught to recognize the signs of anxiety and help to intervene before the situation escalates, or a dog trained to work for a handler that requires regular medication may be trained to remind him or her to take those meds. Overall, dogs are our best friends for a reason: they are kind, pure of intention, and can be an endless source of fulfillment and joy in our lives. It seems like a fitting extension that combining their compassionate nature and their intelligence with appropriate training can lead to such positive benefits for the humans around them!
Images courtesy of Andrew Gray and S Wong
Hot temperatures have been the norm for some time now, and with summer in full swing many common pests and bugs are also in their element as far as climate goes. In addition to good nutrition, adequate shelter and exercise, and lots of love and affection, our dogs need protection from these bugs and parasites! But where to start? In this case, prevention is key; preventing issues with pests is typically much easier and less resource intensive than trying to remove a pest that’s already snuck by us as pet parents!
EXTERNAL BUGS – NO THANKS!
Bugs and critters may vary based on the region within which you live, but common external offenders include fleas and ticks. In order to effectively prevent flea and tick infestation, pet owners can opt to provide regular preventative measures, including applying a preventative such as Frontline or Advantix. These preventatives are sold in doses based on your dog’s weight and vet offices often carry them at somewhat of a discount when compared to retailers. It may also be a good idea to get them at your vet’s office because you will have the opportunity to confirm which product meets your needs based on the season, your area, and your pet’s size and individual health history. Preventing fleas from ever taking hold is SO MUCH easier than trying to get rid of an infestation after it starts, and in addition to being a nuisance to pets and their owners, fleas and ticks carry serious health concerns. They can spread a variety of diseases and if left unchecked, multiple flea bites can wreak havoc on your dog’s wellbeing and overall health. He may even be severely allergic to them! Some preventative formulas also offer protection against mosquitoes and other bugs, so you can protect against multiple offenders in one shot!
INTERNAL PESTS – DOUBLE NO THANKS!
In addition to the fleas, ticks, and other bugs that like to hitch a ride on our pups outside, there are also internal pests that can be picked up a variety of ways. For example, heart worms are common in some regions and can be deadly for our pets. There are also several varieties of worms that seek to take up residence in our dog’s intestinal tract. That being said, just as with fleas and ticks there are preventative steps we can take to prevent such issues. There are monthly heartworm preventatives available for dogs; just be sure that before starting one you have your vet test for any current heartworm infestation. A dog that already has heartworms can get much worse if she is given a heartworm preventative. For intestinal worms, simple steps to maintain sanitary conditions may be prevention enough. Clean up your yard on a regular basis, and only frequent dog parks that are well maintained. Watch your dog for signs of intestinal distress such as vomiting and diarrhea, and when you go to your well-dog checkups make sure to ask about any parasites that may be an issue based on your dog’s specific risk factors (area in which you live, places you go together, etc.). And no matter what, remember that regular check-ins with your vet, following a preventative medicine schedule if needed, and just being an aware pet parent will prevent many issues before they start! These pests may all seem quite alarming but is possible to keep your dog happy and healthy simply by providing the love, care, and awareness that he needs. And worst case, if your dog does have an issue with a pest, the sooner you catch it and work with your vet to eradicate it, the better! The two of you can indeed enjoy the warm weather and the great outdoors together.
Images courtesy Joe Futrelle and Dave See
Social media has rapidly become a mainstay of modern culture, with businesses relying more on sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to both cultivate new customers and relay information to existing fans of their brands and products. This holds true for the animal advocacy world as well; as we previously discussed, animal shelters and even dog-conscious individuals are progressively learning how to harness the power of social media to do good for our furry best friends. Who can really speculate how many lost dogs have been reunited with their owners via Facebook and Twitter posts? And some animal shelters have become quite savvy at connecting potential pet parents with dogs desperately in need of a home. In fact, some animal shelters are upping their social media game and coming up with newer, more innovative ways to use the massive reach of social media to meet the needs of the dogs for whom they advocate.
TINDER IS GOING TO THE DOGS
According to tech website Wired.com, the dating application Tinder currently has over 10 million daily users. The premise of the site is quite simple: users sign up using their Facebook account and then they simply swipe through profiles of other users and give them a “yes” or “no” based on whether they are interested in getting to know more about them. If both parties swipe to the direction for yes, they can start chatting. It’s like a game of sorts, and there is no rejection to be had. If someone swipes no, the other party never knows and simply carries on. However, things got a little more interesting for users in New York City recently when dogs started popping up on their Tinder matches! A local shelter created profiles for abandoned pups in need of rehoming and adjusted their ages so they’d show up in human users’ recommendations. Even if a Tinder user wasn’t currently in the market for a new pup, the whole premise is quite innovative. Dogs that need to be adopted first need to be noticed by potential pet parents, and what a great way to solicit that attention!
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ISSUE
Just as social media has given animal advocates and animal shelters a quick, far-reaching way to disseminate information about dogs in need of homes and other relevant information, social media has also made the distribution of personal information much more rapid. For example, a shelter in Great Britain ran into issues when the personal information of former owners listed on dog’s identification tags went viral. Photos of the shelter’s pups also occasionally included a phone number or address of the former pet parent(s), thus allowing angry animal lovers to contact the former owners and harass them about why they chose to surrender their dog. It seems that this is the exception rather than the rule when it comes to finding assistance for pups via social media, but it does illustrate that once unleashed the power of websites such as Facebook with their incredibly high daily traffic can be used for productive and non-productive activities. Once posted online, information is truly primed for public consumption, so if you do opt to use social media as an animal advocate or simply as a pet parent, be aware of ALL of the information that you may be including in your post!
Images courtesy Pink Sherbet Photography and Tony Alter
In Wisconsin last month, longtime pet parent Lois Matykowski noticed that her granddaughter’s ice cream pop had vanished. Naturally, all eyes turned to the family pup Tucker, a notorious food and snack snatcher. It turned out that Tucker had not only grabbed the ice cream, but he’d even ingested the stick! And the story gets better: when he got sick later, he also managed to cough up a wedding ring that had been missing from the family for FIVE years. Tucker’s vet thinks the stick may have loosened the ring up from wherever it was hiding. Luckily, Tucker was just fine, and other than a sad little one over an irretrievable ice cream treat, everyone else in the family came out unharmed as well. However, Tucker’s adventure highlights all too common issues that pet parents face: keeping their dogs away from choking hazards and knowing what to do in the event their dog does get into something they shouldn’t.
INDOORS AND OUT: REMOVING HAZARDS
Inside our homes, from the perspective of a mischievous dog off limits treats and treasures are quite abundant. This is where watching your dog and knowing his patterns may come in handy. For example, some dogs are quite fond of shoes, while others are more interested in anything made of leather. In contrast, some pups are quite interested in eating paper or photos. When your dog does show interest in things that aren’t his, try and track what his main targets are. You may be able to learn what you need to be extra careful about keeping out of reach. Additionally, if your dog is young or just never quite outgrows scavenging, watch out for the usual suspects: small articles of clothing, chicken bones in trash cans, and even smaller hazards like marbles and individual keys. Both outdoors and in, it is imperative that poisonous hazards are kept secure and out of reach, including pesticides, soaps, and motor vehicle fluids. Practicing good housekeeping can save you significant time, heartache, and money by keeping your pup out of things she shouldn’t be snacking on, so if in doubt, put an item up on a shelf or safely behind a cupboard door!
IF YOU GET SUSPICIOUS…
Realistically, if you come home to a spilled bottle of detergent in the laundry room you will have definite cause for concern. But what if you don’t directly witness any mischief and your pup seems off? If an item is inexplicably missing or your dog’s behavior has changed (he is sluggish, hasn’t gone to the bathroom, loses his appetite, or is having trouble keeping food down), you can take immediate steps to help him. In the case of suspected ingestion of a poisonous substance (such as rat poison or auto coolant), call poison control, an animal hotline, or your vet’s office immediately. Time is of the essence! If you suspect your dog may be experiencing blockage of some sort, call your vet! You may need to bring her in for imaging to see just what exactly she has gotten herself into. If necessary, call the after-hours care number for your vet. It is better to err on the side of caution when it comes to the health of your dog, and pups can be quite creative when they get themselves into trouble. Which also brings us to a final point on prevention: our dogs tend to get into trouble when they are bored or anxious, so keeping them happy and safe can help prevent incidents such as these. Even the most well cared for and happy dog will get into trouble at some point, but pet parents can consider crate training their dogs when they have to be out and making sure their pups are getting adequate attention, exercise, and supervision in order to keep them from eating all of the forbidden things!
Images courtesy of RPavich and Beanie1988