Archive for the ‘Behavior and Training’ Category

Training Tip from the Whole Dog Journal

Saturday, November 11th, 2017

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Slow Down Your Tasmanian Devil

You contemplate taking your dog for a walk with mixed emotions. You love the idea of going for a companionable stroll through the neighborhood together, but when you pick up his leash he becomes the Tasmanian Devil.

Here are suggestions for turning this potential disaster into the enjoyable outing you dream of. Exercise first. Spend 15-20 minutes tossing a ball for your dog in the backyard, or providing intense mental exercise with a heavy duty shaping session. You’ll take the edge off his excitement, reduce his energy level, and make leashing-up and walking more relaxed and enjoyable for both of you.

Pick up his leash throughout the day. He gets amped up when you touch his leash because it always means the two of you are going for a walk. If you pick up his leash numerous times throughout the day, sometimes draping it over your neck and wearing it for a while, sometimes carrying it from room to room, sometimes picking it up and putting it back down, the leash will no longer be a reliable predictor of walks, and he won’t have any reason to get all excited about it.

Use negative punishment. Not a bonk on the head. It means setting up the situation so that doing the behavior you don’t want causes a good thing to go away. If, when you pick up the leash, he goes bonkers (the behavior you don’t want), say “Oops!” in a cheerful tone of voice (what’s known as a “no reward marker,” it simply tells him no reward is forthcoming), set the leash down, and walk away. When he settles down, pick the leash up again. You’re teaching him that getting excited makes the opportunity for a walk go away; staying calm makes walks happen.

For more information on how to reform a puller into a more pleasant walking companion, purchase Whole Dog Journal’s ebook Walking Your Dog.

The Myth of the Alpha Dog

Friday, October 20th, 2017

From the DogStar Foundation:  www.dogstarfoundation.com

 

Pack it in! the myth of the alpha dog

“He’s a alpha dog”, “She’s dominant”, “You have to be pack leader”

I’ve heard all these phrases this week – as I did last week and the week before! You only have to turn on the TV or look at the internet to find them, along with someone telling you that your dog is really just a wolf, needs a firm pack structure and that you have to be in charge otherwise your dog will think he is the pack leader and take over the household with disastrous consequences.

The problem is that all of this is nothing more than pop psychology based on false science. It continues because it is an easy concept for people with little knowledge to grasp and despite being totally disproven, there are enough grains of truth in there that people buy into it – and it is their dogs (and their relationship with their dogs) that suffer.

So let’s debunk this one!

First of all, dogs and wolves are totally different species. Think about humans and gorillas and you can kind of see what I mean! The best knowledge we have now is not that dogs descended from wolves but instead that dogs and wolves both descended from a common ancestor. Dogs threw  their lot in with man and evolved to live harmoniously with us and prosper from our success, while wolves developed as a wild species whose very existence depended on keeping as far from us as possible.

Even if (despite science!) you do still think that pack theory is a thing for dogs, its worth considering that wild wolves do not live in packs where a domineering pack leader constantly keeps everyone in line with displays of aggression and violence while everyone else battles for position (as was originally thought). Wild wolf packs are families. The alpha pair are indeed in charge but that is because they are the parents and all the rest are (quite rightly) guided by them.

Dogs do not live in a pack structure. Left to their own devices away from man and with adequate resources, they form loose social groups but not structured packs.

So for dogs, there is no such thing as an alpha dog – or a pack leader.

As for dominant dogs… The behaviours that most people think of as being ‘dominant’ are generally something totally different. Aggression is one of the behaviours that people categorise as a dog showing dominance. Aggression however is a high risk behaviour designed for one purpose and one purpose only – to make bad stuff go away. ‘Bad stuff’ for dogs are things that make them feel frightened, threatened, worried or stressed.

Dog to human aggression is fear of humans or what they will do
Dog to dog aggression is fear of strange dogs or what they will do
Resource guarding (guarding food or anything important to the dog) is fear of someone taking your stuff away
And sometimes aggression happens because a dog is sick or is in pain.

That means that the dogs that most people say are ‘dominant’ are actually the ones that are the most scared, frightened, worried, or anxious. And the methods used by people who don’t know any better to ‘stop a dog being dominant’ are generally things that make the dog feel even worse. Crazy isn’t it?

So let’s stop using pop psychology to try and understand our dogs, and instead spend time watching and really understanding them. Think about how they feel and how you can make them feel better.i

Don’t try to be a pack leader –  try to be a better guardian.

If you need help with your dog’s behaviour, look for a trainer who uses positive reward-based methods (where the dogs gets rewarded for doing things right, not punished when he does things wrong).

If they mention the phrases ‘pack leader’, ‘dominance’, ‘alpha’ – or suggest equipment that causes your dog pain such as choke chains, prong collars, electric shock collars etc – find another trainer. Your dog is your best friend – make sure you are his.

Carolyn Menteith KCAI (CDA), DipCAPT is a dog trainer, behaviourist and writer about all things canine.

As an internationally renowned dog expert and experienced broadcaster, she will be familiar to many in the UK from her appearances on TV in shows such as Top Dog, What’s Up Dog? and Celebrity Dog School. She is also a regular on radio programmes when a dog expert is needed

Carolyn gives seminars and teaches nationally and internationally on training and behaviour. dogtalk.co.uk 

 

Crate Training by Dr. Karen Becker

Saturday, August 26th, 2017

By Dr. Becker

I’m a big fan of crate training and recommend it to every dog parent, especially those who need to housetrain a puppy. Whether your canine companion is a puppy or a senior, a new member of your family or an old hand, providing him with his very own cozy space has a number of advantages for both of you. A crate can help not only with housetraining, but also car or plane travel, and overnight stays with friends, family or at a pet-friendly hotel.

Why I Recommend Crate Training for Dogs

Many people equate a crate with a jail cell, but if you understand a little about the nature of dogs, you know this isn’t true. If you don’t believe me, I encourage you to talk to some dog-loving friends who’ve crate trained their pups. Chances are they’ll tell you their dog seeks out her crate on her own for naps, at bedtime and whenever she just wants a little me time.

A crate allows you to work with your pet’s natural desire to be a den dweller. Dogs in the wild seek out small, dark, safe spots to inhabit. In fact, if you bring a new dog into your home and you don’t have a crate ready for her, chances are she’ll find a spot, such as under a table or chair or even behind the toilet in the bathroom, which answers her need for a secure, out-of-the-way “den” of her own.

If you leave her in her makeshift den, you’ll notice that she won’t relieve herself there. That’s because dogs are programmed by nature not to soil their dens. In the wild, nursing wolves and coyotes teach their pups to relieve themselves outside their dens. This keeps predators from investigating inside their little homes, and keeps messes outside the sleeping area.

And that is exactly why crates are so useful for dogs who haven’t yet been housetrained. A dog with her own den will not want to soil it, so by providing a crate for her, you’re working in harmony with her natural instinct to keep her little space clean. As long as your dog is getting consistent and frequent trips outside to relieve herself, nature will prompt her not to soil her den space in between potty trips.

Another benefit of crate training is that a dog accustomed to spending time alone in her own den even when you are home is much less likely to develop separation anxiety or other phobias/panic disorders.

Putting a puppy in her crate for a nap or some quiet time also helps her learn not to expect constant attention from human family members. This strategy coupled with basic obedience training will set the stage for a secure, balanced adult dog who is pleasant to be around.

How to Choose a Crate

When you’re purchasing a new crate for your dog, size is important. You want a space that is not too small, but also not too big. Your dog should be able to stand up, lie down and turn around in his crate. It should be large enough for him to move around in comfortably, but not so large that he can easily use one end as his bathroom and the other end for sleeping and snacking. If you need to housetrain your dog, a crate that large can actually slow down the process.

If you’re unsure what size crate you need, talk to a store employee about the size of your dog and what you want to accomplish, and he or she should be able to help you pick the right size enclosure. You can also talk to a breeder, your vet or another knowledgeable person about what size crate to buy. If you’re crate training a puppy, especially a medium to large breed dog, keep in mind you’ll most likely need to graduate to a bigger crate as your pup matures.

When you bring the new crate home, place it in an area where your family spends time — not in an isolated spot, or outdoors, or in a high traffic location, or where your dog will experience temperature extremes.

Make sure there’s nothing inside the crate that could cause him harm, including anything around his neck that could get tangled or hung up on a part of the enclosure. As necessary, clean the crate with hot water and a mild soap, or a vinegar/baking soda solution. Rinse and dry thoroughly.

Getting Your Dog Accustomed to Her Crate

If you’ve purchased a crate ahead of time and it’s there when your puppy or dog comes home, as long as she hasn’t had a bad experience with confinement in the past, it will be a snap in most cases to get her acclimated to his little den.

The first rule of crate training is to never, ever force your dog into his crate. You never want to introduce a crate, shove your confused pup into it, close the door and leave her. That’s how you wind up with a dog with an unmanageable case of separation anxiety or a pathological aversion to enclosed or small spaces.

It’s also important to try never to pull your dog out of her crate, either. The crate should represent a safe zone for your dog, so you never want to make her safe zone feel unsafe by forcing her into it or out of it.

The second rule of crate training is called “It’s All Good.” In other words, everything about the crate must be a good thing from your dog’s perspective. While you’re getting her used to her crate, everything she loves goes in there, including treats, treat release and food puzzle toys, chew toys, raw bones — basically anything she loves.

The goal is to have your dog voluntarily go into her crate. What I do with my dogs is drape a blanket over the back half of their crates to create a quiet, dark, den-like environment. My dogs use their crates as bedrooms — they go into them to sleep.

If your pup has had no bad experiences with a crate and you create a safe, dark little den for her inside, she might just go right in voluntarily as soon as you present her new space to her. But even if she takes to her crate right away, you still want to stick with the “it’s all good” rule and put treats, toys and other goodies in there for encouragement.

Crate Training a Fearful Dog

If your dog is nervous about his new little space or is fearful of it due to a bad past experience, you’ll have to take things slower. A dog who has been crated as a form of punishment or has been locked in a crate for inappropriately long periods will need to be gently and patiently reintroduced to his crate.

Obviously you want him to be in there comfortably with the door closed as soon as possible, especially if you’re in the process of potty training. But until he gets the “it’s all good” message about his crate, you’ll need to be extra vigilant about getting him outside to potty at frequent, regular intervals.

Make sure to leave the door to the crate open for a nervous dog. Put food rewards around the outside of the crate and inside as well so he can get comfortable going in and out of the crate without worrying about being “trapped” inside. Move his food and water bowlscloser to the crate as another way to associate good things with the crate.

Once you sense your dog is comfortable inside the crate at mealtime, try closing the door as soon as he starts to eat. Do it casually, without fanfare. Praise him in a calm, soothing tone and then get busy with something. Chances are he’ll finish his meal and then realize the door is closed and he’s not free to leave the crate.

He may look at you with an expectant or confused expression as if to say, “What’s the deal with the closed door?” You don’t need to ignore him completely, but you should keep doing what you’re doing and stay very calm as though there’s nothing out of the ordinary going on. Your dog may whine or cry a bit, but he should pretty quickly decide to lie down.

I recommend when you first start closing the crate door that you close it only for short periods of time. You’ll also want to leave a toy or treat inside the crate to keep him entertained. After a few minutes, when your dog has relaxed inside the crate, that’s your signal the crate has gone from being a bad thing to a neutral thing for your dog. Open the door so he can once again come and go as he likes.

Once your dog is associating only good things with the crate and feels comfortable inside it, you can close the door for longer periods of time. Don’t try leaving your house for short periods until he’s completely comfortable in the locked crate while you’re home.

You can gradually extend the amount of time you leave him in the crate, providing he’s getting consistent, frequent trips outside to potty. If you need to leave your dog for longer than four hours, I recommend you use a dog sitter or a doggy daycare facility rather than crating him for long stretches. You want him to view his crate as a safe place to rest and be calm, so when he’s in there and you’re home, resist the urge to energetically interact with him.

When you let your dog out of his crate, give him a sit command and plenty of calm praise when he follows the command. Make entry and exit from the crate a calm, neutral experience and unassociated with any of your dog’s behaviors.

Canines’ Cancer-Sniffing Snouts Showing 90%-Plus Accuracy

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014
By Angela Zimm May 18, 2014 9:00 PM PT
Source: the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School
Cancer detection dog McBaine

Which is better at detecting cancer, a laboratory or a Labrador retriever?

Consider the talents of Tsunami, a regal-looking dog with attentive eyes and an enthusiastic tail wag for her trainer friends. University of Pennsylvania researchers say she is more than 90 percent successful in identifying the scent of ovarian cancer in tissue samples, opening a new window on a disease with no effective test for early detection that kills 14,000 Americans a year. When found early, there’s a five-year survival rate of over 90 percent.

With 220 million olfactory cells in a canine snout, compared with 50 million for humans, dogs have long helped on search-and-rescue. Now, a growing body of evidence supports the possible use of canines by clinicians. The largest study ever done on cancer-sniffing dogs found they can detect prostate cancer by smelling urine samples with 98 percent accuracy. At least one application is in the works seeking U.S. approval of a kit using breath samples to find breast cancer.

“Our study demonstrates the use of dogs might represent in the future a real clinical opportunity if used together with common diagnostic tools,” said Gian Luigi Taverna, the author of the prostate cancer research reported yesterday at the American Urological Association in Boston.

While smaller studies have long shown dogs can sniff out a range of illnesses, the question of whether they can be used on a large-scale basis to find disease has drawn skepticism. Questions remain on whether one type of dog is better than another, how to systemize their use and the financial viability of any such system. As a result, most current research is looking at how to copy the canine abilty to smell disease either with a machine or a chemical test.

‘Method Reproducible’

“Our standardized method is reproducible, low cost and noninvasive for the patients and for the dogs,” said Taverna, the head of urology pathology at Istituto Clinico Humanitas in Rozzano, Italy, in an e-mail.

Taverna tested the ability of two professionally trained explosive detection dogs, Zoe and Liu, in 677 cases to assess their accuracy, according to his paper. The next step, according to Taverna, will be to extend the research into prostate cancer subgroups and to other urological malignancies.

The results may one day be used to help develop an electronic nose that follows nature’s lead in how a canine snout works, he said.

Taverna’s finding comes at a time when use of standard PSA testing for prostate cancer is being challenged as not accurate enough, with false positives leading to unnecessary treatment.

In 2012, the Preventive Services Task Force, which reports on medical issues to the U.S. Congress, recommended that healthy men shouldn’t be screened for prostate cancer using PSA tests after research showed that false positive rates of men tested may be as high as 80 percent. The test measures a protein made by prostate cells called prostate-specific antigen.

Volatile Compounds

When dogs sniff for cancer, they are detecting the chemicals emitted by a tumor. These chemicals are referred to as volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. VOCs have been found in the breath of lung cancer patients and colon cancer patients, as well as in the urine of prostate cancer patients. The most recent findings have spurred increased interest in dog cancer-detection research, including efforts to develop devices that can mimic the animal’s exquisite olfactory system.

Dina Zaphiris, a nationally recognized dog trainer who works with canines on federally funded studies in detecting early cancer in humans, is leading the charge for U.S. Food and Drug Administration clearance of a system that would use the unique olfactory talents of dogs in medical care.

In 2009, Zaphiris, a dog trainer for 25 years with an extensive list of celebrity clients and an education in biology, founded the In Situ Foundation, a nonprofit organization that trains cancer-sniffing dogs and conducts research in the field.

‘Early Warning’

Her organization is in the process of submitting an FDA application for approval of a canine medical scent detection kit. In her system, patients exhale through a tube on to a cloth, which captures molecules, or VOCs, of a malignancy. Trained dogs would then sniff the cloths for their presence.

The dog screening would be an “early warning test,” she said, possibly used in connection with a mammogram for reviewing results before proceeding to a biopsy.

“You should see the amount of e-mails I get saying ‘I got an unclear mammogram and I don’t know if I want a biopsy so could I have dogs screen my breath sample?’,” Zaphiris said.

Zaphiris’s interest in the issue began in 2003 when she worked with a research group on a study to detect breast and lung cancer. A paper on that limited study, published in 2006 in the Journal of Integrative Cancer Therapies, found that dogs could detect lung tumors with 99 percent sensitivity and 99 percent specificity; for breast tumors, results were 88 percent sensitivity and 98 percent specificity.

Training Time

Now Zaphiris is working with Jeffrey Marks, an associate professor of surgery and pathology at Duke University to train dogs to detect breast cancer, she said. It takes about six weeks to teach a dog for a study, and Zaphiris says she usually trains a new team of canines for each one, working at her 3-acre facility in West Hills, California.

Zaphiris isn’t alone in her quest to get dogs involved in medical care. At the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, researchers are studying whether dogs can find ovarian cancer in tissue and blood samples. If so, it would be a breakthrough for a difficult disease.

“We’re trying a multiprong approach,” including the dogs and laboratory efforts, “to determine if there’s some signature in blood in women with ovarian cancer so we can develop a detection system,” said Cindy Otto, director of the university’s Penn Vet Working Dog Center in Philadelphia. “We’re using the dogs because we know the dogs are much more sensitive than any of our chemical techniques.”

The goal of the research is to one day produce a new screening system or electronic sensor to detect ovarian cancer’s odor signature, Otto said.

Blood Samples

The project, which began last year, is now focused on training the dogs using tissue samples from both cancerous ovaries and ovaries with benign disease. Although the three dogs in the research learned to recognize cancerous samples, the researchers have recently turned to studying the dogs’ reaction to blood samples because of lack of tissue.

The german sherpherd named Tsunami, named for her tendency to come happily at you when you least expect it, has been particularly successful early in her training, Otto said. When she’s working, she becomes a quiet, pensive animal. She works very slowly, circling a wheel containing blocks of samples. She sniffs, she stops, she thinks, Otto said.

When she identifies cancer, she sits; that’s the sign.

“She’s very serious about it all,” Otto said.

Electronic Nose

The research effort is a collaboration among chemists, doctors and physicists at the university, with a primary focus of developing an “electronic nose” that duplicates a dog’s ability to smell disease. Otto said she doesn’t think using dogs in a clinical setting may be practical.

“The challenge is the expense,” she said. “If you’re talking about screening every woman from 25 to 90, that’s a lot of samples.”

Zaphiris said the medical system shouldn’t wait for the development of technology that can accurately sense cancer with the ability of a dog. Her goal is to open canine scent detection centers that will make her animals accessible beyond just their use for research.

“If there is a machine as accurate as a dog, I say do it,” Zaphiris said. “It’s highly impractical to wait until the machines can catch up.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Angela Zimm in Boston at azimm@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Reg Gale at rgale5@bloomberg.net Andrew Pollack

Animal Behaviour and Welfare – FREE Online Course

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

 The University of Edinburgh logo

SIGN UP ONLINE:  https://www.coursera.org/course/animal

Course at a Glance

5 weeks
1-3 hours of work / week
English
English subtitles

Animal welfare has been described as a complex, multi-faceted public policy issue which includes important scientific, ethical, and other dimensions. Improving our understanding of animal welfare, involves the fascinating study of animal behavior as well as the challenge of accessing the emotions of animals.


About the Course

Animals occupy a huge part of the planet and our lives, and although we rely on them for all aspects of our own wellbeing – food, draught power, medical advances, clothing, sport as well as pleasure, protection and comfort – often their quality of life is questionable. Appreciating how animal’s experience the world they live in and the different behavioural needs of the various species we interact with, enables us to gain a better understanding of their welfare requirements, so that long term improvements to animal lives can be made.

There are now more than 60 billion land animals raised for meat each year around the world, and with increasing human populations and a rise in meat consumption in many parts of the world, these figures are set to double by 2050. Added to this is a huge and growing world population of dogs and cats, many of whom are strays with associated health and welfare issues.  International concern for animal welfare continues to grow with rising demand for measures to protect animals and improve their care and wellbeing. The link between animal welfare and human wellbeing is clear, and yet we still have a long way to go if we are to address welfare needs globally. Finding ways to achieve higher standards of animal welfare, is therefore a key priority for any developed and developing nation. Due to gaining in importance internationally, there is increasing recognition of the need for animal welfare issues to be addressed objectively in a scientifically credible manner.

In this animal behaviour and welfare course, you will learn about animal welfare and why it matters, develop an understanding of some of the main welfare issues animals have to cope with as well as gaining an insight into the behavioural needs and the emotions of dogs, cats, farmed animals and captive wildlife.

 

This course is delivered collaboratively by academics from the University of Edinburgh and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC).

 

Human Body Language and Dogs by Nicole Wilde via Whole Dog Journal

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Work That Body! Seven Ways to Whittle Away Fear
Information excerpted from Nicole Wilde’s book Help For Your Fearful Dog.

The following tips on human’s body language are applicable when interacting with any dog, but are especially important when dealing with a fearful dog. Adopt mannerisms and teach others who interact with your dog to do so as well.
1. Let the dog come to you. If your dog is frightened, she must be allowed to decide whether or not to approach. Don’t restrain your dog and force her to accept contact from others. Remember the “fight or flight” response; if you take away the opportunity for flight, your dog’s choices are limited.
2. Turn to the side. Facing a dog directly is more confrontational than keeping your body turned partially or completely to the side; even turning your head to the side will make a frightened dog feel less anxious.

3. No staring, please! A direct stare is a threat in the animal kingdom (and on New York Subways!). It is perfectly fine to look at your dog; just soften your expression and don’t hard stare directly into her eyes. Do not allow children to put their faces near your dog’s face or to stare into her eyes.

4. Don’t hover. Leaning over a dog can cause the dog to become afraid and possibly defensive. The one time I was bitten while working in a Los Angeles city animal shelter happened when I went to return an adorable, fluffy white dog to her pen. While placing her on the ground, I inadvertently reached over an equally adorable little pen mate – who jumped up and bit me in the face.

5. Pet appropriately. Approaching dogs by patting them on the head is ill-advised. Envision the interaction from the dog’s point of view; a palm approaching from above can be alarming. I do a demonstration with kids to teach them how to pet dogs properly. The child plays the role of the dog; I tell the child that I will pet him in two different ways, and he is to tell me which is nicer. First, I reach my hand slowly towards the child’s cheek and stroke it, smiling and softly saying, “Good dog!” Next, I bring my hand brusquely palm-down over the child’s head and repeatedly, while loudly saying, “good dog, good dog!” Kids almost invariably like the first method better. If dogs could answer for themselves, nine out of ten dogs would vote for the first method as well! It’s not that dogs should never be petted on top of the head, but that head-patting (or petting over the dog’s shoulders, back, or rump) should not be used as an initial approach. It is wiser to make a fist, hold it under the dog’s nose to allow her to sniff, then pet the dog on the chest, moving gradually to the sides of the face and other body parts, assuming the dog is comfortable. Likewise, a hand moving in quickly to grab for a dog’s collar is more potentially fear-inducing than a hand moving slowly to a dog’s chest, scratching it, then moving up to take hold of the collar.

6. Stoop, don’t swoop. Small dogs in particular are often swooped down upon when people want to pick them up. Fast, direct, overhead movements are much more frightening than slow, indirect ones. To lift a small dog, crouch down, pet the dog for a moment, then gently slip your hands under her belly and chest, and lift.

7. Watch your smile. While humans interpret a smile as friendly, a dog might not be as fond of seeing your pearly whites. A show of teeth is, after all, a threat in the animal kingdom. A friend of mine once accompanied me to visit the wolves at a rescue center. She patiently sat on the ground, motionless. Finally, a large, black wolf approached to investigate. Unable to contain herself, she broke out in a huge, toothy grin. The wolf darted away as though she had raised a hand to hit him. The lesson? Save the dazzling toothpaste grin for charming your dates and accepting rewards. Smile at canines with a closed mouth.

For more on owning and training a fearful dog, purchase Help For Your Fearful Dog:  A Step By Step Guide to Helping Your Dog Conquer His Fear by Nicole Wilde, CPDT.

Dogs trained to detect human cancers using scent

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

Dogs have been trained to use their noses to detect human cancers including lung and ovarian cancer with reliability, and one U.K. organization is training dogs to detect bladder cancer by sniffing urine samples. Dogs have a keen sense of smell thanks to their abundant olfactory cells, and since they can communicate with humans better than animals such as mice, they are useful for detecting cancers, said veterinarian Cynthia Otto, director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center. CBS News

A dog’s sense of smell might be one of his or her best, innate abilities. And an increasing number of researchers are using that nose to help humans detect cancer.

Claire Guest of Berkshire, England runs a charity called “Medical Detection Dogs”that trains dogs how to detect cancer. One project involves teaching animals how to find out which patients have bladder cancer using only urine samples.

Guest’s connection to the project is a personal one. She was letting her dogs out one day when Daisy started jumping and nuzzling her head on Guest’s chest. She went to the doctor, and was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“Without any question I would not be as well and perhaps alive today had Daisy not drawn my attention to it,” she told CBS News’ Alphonso Marsh.

Dogs trained to detect ovarian cancer have 90 percent accuracy rate

The science of dogs sniffing out cancer is emerging. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Working Dog Center are currentlytraining three dogs how to smell ovarian cancer in different samples.

“Mice can do a better job at sniffing out things (than dogs),” Dr. Cynthia Otto, director of the Working Dog Center and associate professor of critical care at Penn Vet, previously told CBSNews.com. “But, there is an ability to communicate between a dog and a human so they can tell us what they are finding.”

Dogs are also up to the task because they have a larger number of olfactory or smell sensors than humans do, Otto explained. In addition, the area of the forebrain that processes smell information is larger than a human’s.

Additional studies of dogs detecting cancer include a 2011 German paper that showed that dogs were able to detect people with lung cancer with 71 percent accuracy, and correctly distinguish people without lung cancer in 93 percent of the cases. Another West Hills, Calif. trainer is working with researchers to teach dogs how to detect ovarian cancer using breath samples.

Scientists are also trying to come up with technology that mimics the dogs’ natural abilities. Some companies are making electronic “noses” that can pick up on these cancer smells.

Researchers are also testing a “mechanical dog” that sniff’s a patient’s breath to tell if they have cancer markers. They hope that if all tests continue to go well the tool could be used to diagnose cancer within five years.

Dangerous breed debate fueled by recent media stories on dog attacks

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

Pit BullPit bull attacks on humans are often news-grabbing events, but they don’t represent the disposition of all dogs included in this breed category, according to the National Canine Research Council’s Don Cleary. A 2012 AVMA report on dog bite incidents concluded that no single breed is inherently more dangerous than another, Cleary said. Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)

By Tom Barnidge

Contra Costa Times Columnist

Pit bulls are in the news, and that’s rarely a good thing.

A 10-year-old boy mauled in Antioch this month had to undergo skin graft surgery and have his right ear reattached.

A Concord man, whose pit bulls fatally attacked his 2-year-old step-grandson three years ago, is standing trial for manslaughter and child endangerment.

A 6-year-old Union City boy died two months ago after being bitten while playing with a family pit bull that was described as “good with kids.”

Before the National Association of Pit Bull Huggers pickets in my front yard, let’s make one thing clear: Not all pit bulls are alike, and they don’t all attack children.

“I can safely say there are many more pit bulls that are wonderful, loving companion animals than there are pit bulls that have caused damage,” said Rick Golphin, deputy director of Contra Costa County Animal Service. “We adopt out a lot of pit bulls.”

One of the problems with trying to generalize about the breed is … well, pit bull isn’t a breed.

“The term is applied over a very broad range of dogs that aren’t defined by pedigree,” said Don Cleary of the National Canine Research Council. Pit bulls can be bull terriers, Staffordshire terriers, cane corsos or a mixture of those breeds and more. What matters more than the definition is the image the term conveys — a ticking time bomb with powerful jaws and sharp teeth that can turn savage in an instant.

Those who love the dogs point to the findings of the American Temperament Test Society, which I hadn’t heard of until two days ago. It subjects all breeds to pass-fail exams that measure their ability to interact with humans and their environment. You may be surprised to learn that pit bull terriers (86.8 percent) score higher than Dalmatians (82.7), beagles (80.0) and dachshunds (68.8), although that won’t comfort a 10-year-old whose ear has been ripped off.

Opponents point to the hundreds of cities nationwide that have outlawed ownership of such dogs, beginning with Denver in 1989. Even in anything-goes San Francisco, an ordinance passed in 2005 requires “pit bulls” — the legal definition spans 99 words — be spayed or neutered to curtail aggressiveness.

One thing all can agree on is the important role owners play. A dog’s behavior generally is a product of the training and treatment it receives. Find a neglectful pit bull owner, and you’ll find an ill-behaved dog at the end of his leash.

“Socialization is important with any companion animal,” Golphin said, “especially with one that has the potential for causing as much damage as large canines can.”

Cleary believes too many factors affect a dog’s disposition to blame the breed or pass sweeping laws. He cited a 2012 report by the American Veterinary Medical Association that surveyed 40 years of dog-bite studies in Europe and North America: “They reported there is no breed or kind of dog that we should consider disproportionately dangerous.”

He thinks the media focus excessive attention on sporadic attacks. (You know how the media is.) Circumstance and environment shapes a dog’s temperament, not genetics. You’re just as likely to get bitten by a Yorkshire terrier as a pit bull.

Maybe that’s so. But the results of those bites can be terrifyingly different. That’s why the pit bull debate won’t go soon away.

Contact Tom Barnidge at tbarnidge@bayareanewsgroup.com.

Pet deposits, and how to put landlords’ minds at ease

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

BonnieComerRenters with pets typically pay an additional deposit to cover damage or cleaning fees. Rental expert Niccole Schreck advises pet owners to provide evidence of their animals’ good behavior, such as obedience school certificates or letters from previous neighbors and landlords, and even bring their pet in for an “interview.” She advises owners to resist any temptation to conceal their pet, or they may find themselves looking for a new home for the animal or the whole family. U.S. News & World Report/My Money blog (7/17)

In a recent Rent.com survey of 500 U.S. renters with pets, 48 percent said the pet deposit was the biggest headache when moving with a pet. Pet deposits are usually charged in addition to your security deposit before you move in to cover any damages that may be caused by your pet during your lease term. At the end of your lease, some landlords will refund your pet deposit if your rental is undamaged, while others will keep all or part of the pet deposit as a cleaning fee.

Why do landlords charge a pet deposit? Most landlords have legitimate concerns when it comes to renting to pet owners. Though you may be a responsible pet owner who takes care of your rental home, there are plenty of people who do not, so allowing animals can be risky for a landlord. Many property owners are reluctant because they fear pets will damage the unit, make too much noise or inconvenience other renters.

How much is a typical pet deposit? On a one-year lease, 71 percent of the pet owners Rent.com surveyed said they would expect to spend $200 or less on a pet deposit, while nearly a third (29 percent) said they would typically spend more than $200. In general, there is no typical pet deposit. Deposit amounts will vary depending on how many and what kinds of pets you have, the size, the breed, where you live and even the landlord’s past experiences.

Can I negotiate a pet deposit? Given the inconsistency in pet deposits, they can be negotiable depending on the landlord. The best way to barter for a lower pet deposit is to build the landlord’s comfort level with you and your pets, which can be done in several ways:

• Recommendation letters: You know that your cat isn’t going to scratch at the walls, but your potential landlord can’t be sure. Put his or her mind to rest with recommendation letters from past landlords stating that your four-legged friends were well behaved and left your previous rentals in good shape. You can also obtain letters from previous neighbors to reassure the landlord that your pets won’t bother or harm other renters, as well as a letter from your veterinarian stating that your pet is spayed/neutered and up to date on vaccinations.

• Obedience training: The more evidence you can provide that you’re a responsible pet owner, the better your chance of lowering the pet deposit. Written proof that your dog has completed obedience training will show your new landlord that your dog is well-behaved and socialized.

• Renters insurance: Renters insurance is always a good idea, but having a rental insurance policy – especially one that covers pet-related damages and has liability coverage – can be a helpful tool when discussing pet deposits. Your willingness to be financially responsible for your pet shows the landlord that you are respectful of their concerns and feel a sense of responsibility for your rental.

• Pet interview: Ask your landlord if he or she is willing to do a pet interview, so you can demonstrate that your pet is not aggressive, destructive or too energetic for an apartment. If you opt for an interview, make sure your pet has been walked, fed and relaxed so he or she is on their best behavior.

The bottom line: Don’t be like the 10 percent of renters surveyed who have hidden a pet from a landlord. You could put yourself at risk for eviction or have to find a new home for your pet. Your best bet is to be honest and find an apartment that is happy to have you and your furry companion.

Niccole Schreck is the rental experience expert for Rent.com, a free rental site that helps you find an affordable apartment, gives you tips on how to move and then says, “thank you” with a prepaid $100 reward card.

Proper pet care keeps us all healthy and happy

Monday, July 15th, 2013

person walking with dogsHappy, healthy pets are key to human and animal health, according to this article. Veterinarian Joan Hendricks, dean of veterinary medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, explains how owners can ensure good health and well-being for their animals and themselves. It’s important to start by researching the species and breed of pet that best fits your family, Dr. Hendricks points out. Pets need proper training to prevent injuries to people, regular veterinary care and good nutrition, and it’s essential to properly handle animal waste to prevent disease, Dr. Hendricks explains. U.S. News & World Report (7/3)

Sudden outbreaks like swine or bird flu remind us all too well that humans are not immune to diseases animals carry. These particular illnesses are most likely to affect people who work with animals regularly, like in a farm setting, but being at risk to an animal’s health hazards can happen in your own home. Improper care for a pet can lead to diseases, and a misbehaved pet can be dangerous to families.

At the same time, being around animals has been shown to increase a person’s well-being. The American Heart Association released a study this year that showed people who own pets have improved cardiovascular health. Animals often are used to help children with special needs or in visits to hospitals. Their presence can abate loneliness, increase altruism and reduce anxiety.

With pet ownership at 62 percent among American households, according to the American Pet Products Association, it is important people understand their risks and benefits. Having a healthy pet requires first learning about the animal you want, then caring and providing for it accordingly, says Joan Hendricks, the Gilbert S. Kahn dean of veterinary medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. U.S. News turned to Hendricks for advice about pet and family dynamics.

Understand your pet’s natural tendencies. Before you adopt a pet, know what role you want it to have in your family. Do you want a pet for companionship or to guard the house? Do you expect that your pet will join you on your morning run? Do you have the finances to pay someone to take care of your pet while you work or while you’re on business trips?

“People should know enough about their animal when they get it and after they get it,” Hendricks says. “They also must be open to the idea that they may not know as much as they thought.” Even dog breeds vary in terms of what they need from people, Hendricks says. Some dogs are meant to work, some need intellectual stimulation and some need little exercise. Bulldogs, for instance, are happy to lie at home sleeping a lot and show affection when you return from work. Great Danes also don’t need to run around much.

“If a pet’s specific needs are not attended to then they will not be good pets,” Hendricks says. They can even get sick with gastrointestinal upsets and develop behavior disorders – which could lead to wrecking furniture – if a family is not the right match. There are cases when pets aren’t the right fit for the family, she says, which is why it’s important to become informed before you adopt.

When it comes to exotic animals, such as tarantulas or pythons, there isn’t as much information available for pet owners. “There’s always a health concern for veterinarians that anyone who has one of these animals doesn’t know how to take care of them,” she says.

Train your pet properly. Animal bites are the single biggest health risk to kids when it comes to pets, Hendricks says. Avoiding this danger returns to the first principle of understanding your pet’s needs.

“People treat animals as if they were people, and they treat us as if we were their species,” she says. For example, dogs often bite each other out of play, but owners must reinforce that this kind of behavior isn’t acceptable when playing with people. Work with your pet to manage its behavior so everyone is happy. Make sure your children show mutual respect by not teasing or harming the pet, she says.

An irritated cat, for instance, could scratch its owner and spread bartonellosis, commonly called “cat scratch disease,” which causes swollen lymph nodes in people as well as possible fever, headache and fatigue, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.