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Shelter Tests Are Flawed

Researchers are questioning whether aggression tests long in place at animal shelters are true predictors of aggressive behavior later on in homes or outside of shelters, The New York Times reported recently.

Such tests often thrust a humanlike arm with a hand on a pole at caged shelter dog hungrily wolfing down his food. If the dog attacks the prop, he is deemed aggressive and thus unsuitable for adoption and likely euthanized. Researchers, however, are beginning to think such tests are too arbitrary, unreliable, and unpredictable in part because dogs are in a stressful setting already and are purposely being pushed toward reactive behavior—situations that would probably be quite different in a home.

Some animal behaviorists have stopped using such tests or refuse to use the results to unilaterally determine a shelter dog’s fate. Experts are suggesting instead that observers watch dogs interact in an environment more like what they would encounter in their daily routine beyond a shelter.

 

Ignore Vs. Smother

What kind of dog parenting is best for dogs? It depends on what the dog will be doing as an adult. Wannabe guide dogs, for instance, did better with “tough love” as puppies while ordinary pets tended to be better adjusted and more sociable as adults if they were raised by more doting mothers during puppyhood, dog expert author Stanley Coren recently reported in Psychology Today’s Canine Corner.

Emily Bray at the Arizona Canine Cognition Study at the University of Arizona studied parenting styles of mother dogs with their pups by embedding a team at a guide dog breeding facility. She theorized that success could be measured because the guide dogs she observed would either pass or fail the program tests; in other words, they would be a natural and reliable study group.

Her team observed 23 moms and 98 pups for their first five weeks, focusing on German shepherds, Labrador retrievers, and golden retrievers, and noted factors such as nursing practices and puppy-mom interactions. Two years later, researchers found the dogs and determined the grown dogs whose mothers were most attentive didn’t graduate the programs as often as their tough-loved mates. That method was good for working dogs that need to be independent. However, other research seemed to indicate pups of super-loving, mother-smothering moms might be better for typical pets, with such an upbringing making them more social and affectionate, not necessarily attributes needed for a working dog.

 

Pit Bull Fans

The misunderstood, maligned pit bull has a growing cadre of advocates, including the Pit Bull Crew, which Jeanette Jolly founded to show how lovable the blockheaded lugs are, the Naples Daily News reported recently,

To dispel myths in a time when dog fighting sadly can still be sport, the crew organized a summer dog wash in Bonita Springs, Fla., attracting onlookers who were impressed by and won over by the patient, panting canines.

“People love to play with the dogs when we bring them out,” Pit Bull Crew President Carey Kendzior said. “Many get adopted right there.”

When it can, the Pit Bull Crew pitches in when pitties (as well as Dobermans and Rottweilers), come into shelters, aiding with spaying, neutering, or injuries caused from fighting.

 

Audiobooks for Dogs

You listen to books, and now your dog can, too. Mashable reported that Amazon subsidiary Audible and Cesar Millan, aka “The Dog Whisperer,” have launched audiobooks for dogs.

The idea is that you turn one on when your dog is alone at home, and it becomes his new best friend—or a least as a decent substitute until you get home. It’s like your pooch is listening to your voice, a calming distraction to keep him company, while you are away.

Millan, Mashable said, researched 100 dogs at his Dog Psychology Center and determined that a majority of dog owners who used audiobooks for their dogs found them more chill than their non-audiobook listening pals.

Millan chose the audioboks, which include The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah, A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron, and The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.

 

Montana Dogs Sickened

A severe unidentified canine respiratory disease has sickened an estimated 250 dogs in Montana, the Missoulian reported in August.

The sick dogs, mostly youngish, appeared initially to have symptoms similar to severe kennel cough despite having been vaccinated against that disease. Some dogs were afflicted with severe coughs, had difficulty breathing, presented fever, or came down with pneumonia. Veterinarians have been collecting samples to identify the illness, which may be canine influenza, and are working with diagnostic labs. The United Sates has suffered three outbreaks of canine influenza, the Missoulian reported, noting outbreaks in Chicago in 2015 and later in California and the southeastern United States.

Officials recommended being cautious about any boarding facilities and also suggested avoiding areas where there are lots of dogs; pet guardians should work with a veterinarian. Knowing what makes the dogs ill will help veterinarians reduce the spread of the illness and improve treatment or lead to vaccinations or a new vaccine to prevent it.