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Guide Dogs Fine-Tune Training

Guide dogs have important jobs to do, and a pack of soon-to-be graduates from Guide Dogs for the Blind took to Muni Metro on a recent weekend for transportation training and socialization skills honing, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The 10 Labrador and golden retrievers, from 6 months to 15½ months old, rode from the Van Ness Station to the Embarcadero Station on the J-Church train, exiting with their puppy raisers who then paraded the well-behaved dogs around the Farmers Market at the Ferry Building.

The dogs acted like champs, navigating the pandemonium of mass transit as they practiced the skills necessary for serving blind and visually impaired commuters they may ultimately be assigned to assist.

“Every dog has a purpose,” Karen Woon, vice president of marketing for Guide Dogs for the Blind, told the Chronicle, citing Labs and goldens as being especially equipped to aid humans.

“They have a joy in service. They have great health and the right temperament. They are eager to please,” Woon said. “We find these breeds to be the most successful.”

Maia Scott, a visually impaired San Francisco artist and educator, said she brought her veteran guide dog, Fiddler, along to show support for the event. Fiddler, a 6-year-old golden retriever, is her third guide dog, Scott, 46, said. “All three of them have been amazing and taught me a lot about life.”

 

Puppy-Dog Eyes

Dogs apparently do use so-called “puppy-dog eyes” and make facial expressions to communicate with their humans, according to a study published in Scientific Reports.

The research indicated dogs use facial expressions—raised eyebrows and extended tongues, for example—when humans are around in an effort to communicate with them. Researchers at the University of Portsmouth’s Dog Cognition Center tested two dozen family pets of various breeds from a year to 12 years old. Each dog was tied to a lead near a person, and the dog’s facial expressions were filmed by DogFACS, which measures the minute movements.

“Dogs produced significantly more facial movements when the human was attentive than when she was not. The food, however, as a non-social but arousing stimulus, did not affect the dogs’ behavior,” the authors wrote.

“The findings appear to support evidence [that] dogs are sensitive to humans’ attention and that expressions are potentially active attempts to communicate, not simple emotional displays,” said Juliane Kaminski, the lead author.

 

Bart Gets a Home

Bart, the pit bull mix that stopped BART trains in late September, has been adopted by an East Bay family, NBC Bay Area reported recently.

Named for the trains he stopped, Bart the dog wandered onto the BART tracks near the Oakland Coliseum station and was then housed for a bit at Oakland Animal Services. A friendly, affectionate, mellow guy, he was adopted by a family who was unaware of the pretty pittie’s publicity stunt.

 

Empathy for Dogs

Researchers from Northeastern University in Boston recently published results of a study in the Society & Animals journal indicating humans can have more empathy for dogs than humans.

The research involved 256 undergraduates and looked at whether they were more upset by reports of abuse toward humans or dogs. Participations were told the “victim” had been beaten, unprovoked, “with a baseball bat by an unknown assailant” and were interviewed about their degree of empathy for each victim.

“Respondents were significantly less distressed when adult humans were victimized, in comparison with human babies, puppies and adult dogs,” the researchers said. “Only relative to the infant victim did the adult dog receive lower scores of empathy.”

Researches said participants considered dogs “fur babies” and family members. Age was a significant factor in how they gauged vulnerability, with more empathy reported for children, puppies, and adult dogs than adult humans.

 

PawGwarts

A Florida animal shelter has a novel approach for upping dog adoptions: Get Harry Potter with it, ABC News Radio and RocketCityNow.com reported recently.

The Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando is sorting dogs into Hogwarts houses based on personalities: “Gryffindogs” (Gryffindor), “Ravenpaw” (Ravenclaw), “Hufflefluff” (Hufflepuff), or “Slobberin” (Slytherin). Potential adopters read about the dogs’ characteristics rather than those associated with breeds.

“We want people to look at the dog for their behavior and personality and what their talents are,” said Stephen Bardy, the alliance’s executive director. “We really wanted people to take a look at dogs for the dogs.”

The alliance is a nonprofit shelter serving about 1,800 pets annually. Many are surrendered because owners move and new landlords ban some breeds.

“We want people to understand what they want in a dog and what will work in their lifestyle rather than going into a shelter and saying, ‘I want a black Lab,’” Bardy said.

The shelter has seen a significant spike in both foot and online traffic since launching the initiative this fall.

 

Tail Talk

Can you read your dog’s tail? A tail tucked between the legs conveys being scared or submissive, an aloft tail indicates alertness and interest, a slow wag likely means uncertainty, and a quick wag shows happiness. Those are among the most familiar.

But the SciShow recently reported, according to Thrillist, it’s more complicated, and tail movement can mean a lot of things. Show host Olivia Gordon noted the direction of the wag may carry importance.

One study showed dogs wagged their tails more on the right when they saw their owners, wagged just slightly to the right when they saw strangers or a cat, and wagged more to the left if they saw a dominant, unfamiliar dog. Apparently, dogs do more right wagging when they see something favorable and more left wagging when they see something they would rather avoid.

A later study had 40 dogs see videos of other dogs wagging tails on each side, and the dogs seemed to be able to read other dogs. When witnessing left-side wagging, they got anxious and experienced elevated heart rates; when they saw right wagging, they stayed calm.

 

Red-Green Color-Blindness

Dogs are color-blind and can’t distinguish between red and green, a new study in the Royal Society journal Open Science indicates.

Scientists have realized for awhile that dogs have poor vision—about eight times worse than humans at seeing things in detail—but not why.

A newly developed test for dogs showed they have difficulty telling red and green apart, like color-blind humans whose condition is called deuteranopia.

Wild dogs are crepuscular, which requires little to no color vision. Domesticated dogs, however, are awake mainly in the daytime, though their eyes have not yet evolved any differently.

“If at the park you want to get your dog to catch a flying Frisbee or to bring back a ball falling on the green grass, it would be better if you thought of using blue instead of red toys,” said Dr. Marcello Siniscalchi of the department of veterinary medicine at the University of Bari in Italy.

 

Health Benefits

Having a dog may be good for health, if new studies are correct.

A study reported recently by Medical News Today revealed children living in households with a dog had lower stress levels, and other research has shown that having a dog can boost owners’ physical activity levels—both good for your health.

Additionally, pet ownership has been linked to lower risks of allergies and asthma, particularly among children with dogs in their households. Now, two new studies are building on that research, after finding that exposure to dogs in early life could help stave off childhood eczema and ease asthma symptoms. The studies’ results were presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Annual Scientific Meeting in Boston.

 

Pet-Shop Sale Ban

Sandy Springs, Ga., may follow California’s lead to ban pet-shop sale of dogs and cats, Reporter Newspapers reported recently.

Under the proposal, local pet stores would be prohibited from selling dogs and cats from breeding facilities.

The planned ordinance drew city council support as a symbolic and preventative measure to promote adoption of rescue animals, even though no Sandy Springs pet stores sell such dogs or cats.

The ordinance would ban pet stores from selling dogs and cats and permit them only to host adoptions for rescue animals from government- or nonprofit-operated shelters. Stores would be required to post a sign showing what organization each animal came from. A pet store could be fined up to $500 per violation.

 

DogTV Rocks

A day after its cable TV launch, DogTV was featured on morning and late-night television, giving it a boost and nearly instant profits, NBC News reported recently.

Ron Levi is the founder and COO of DogTV, the first channel for dogs, and the DogTV CEO is Gilad Neumann. Together they have transformed their idea into a multimillion-dollar business.

DogTV offers 24/7 programming designed to reduce stress, anxiety, or depression that dogs may feel at home alone. For three years, Levi and Neumann did international studies and collected research, enlisting leading pet experts to assist with content. Their subscription-based service costs about $5 a month and is available through cable providers and can be streamed online or on Roku and Apple TV.

DogTV plays a continuous loop of short videos caterorized for relaxation, stimulation, and exposure. Recently, DogTV launched a series called The Adoption Show for pet owners, partnering with shelters and rescues organizations to find homes for rescues.

 

Service Dog Info

To clear up confusion about pets and the law, KGW.com in Portland recently detailed points worthwhile to know regarding the issue, according to Oregon law, which in general mimics other states’ laws.

First, dogs—unless they are service animals—are not allowed in grocery stores and restaurants. Second, service dogs are not pets; they are trained working animals, meaning they do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Therapy and companion dogs—even those that provide comfort or emotional support—are not service animals. Service dogs do not need identification. Business owners can only ask: Is this dog a service animal required because of a disability? What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?