Animal Health Foundation Blog

The Runaway Concept of an Emotional Support Animal

December 18th, 2019 by Animal Health Foundation

From:  https://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2019/12/15/emotional-support-animal-certification.aspx

Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker               December 15, 2019

STORY AT-A-GLANCE

  • Emotional support animals (ESAs) seem to be everywhere these days, but the issue is not without controversy
  • Researchers at the University of New Mexico have developed a standard assessment for therapists asked to provide patients with ESA certificates
  • The proposal answers the need for ethical guidelines around ESAs
  • If the proposal is adopted as an industry standard, it will become more difficult for individuals to receive ESA certifications, but will benefit society as a whole from the standpoint of safety

By now almost everyone is familiar with the concept of an emotional support animal (ESA), and chances are, many of you have already encountered an ESA in a formerly “animal-free zone.” Or perhaps you or someone in your family or circle of friends has a dog, cat, bird, or other animal companion who serves as an ESA.

How ESAs Differ From Service Animals

Emotional support animals, according to the Fair Housing Act and Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA), can be any species of animal, who must fulfill a disability-related need and whose use is supported by a physician, psychiatrist or mental health professional.

ESAs don’t qualify as service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Service animals are highly trained and can receive certifications as psychiatric service dogs to help people who suffer from depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), schizophrenia and other mental conditions.

Emotional support animals, on the other hand, don’t require specific training to provide assistance to someone with a psychological disability. However, they may be permitted in housing facilities that would otherwise prohibit animals, and the ACAA allows some ESAs to travel on airlines at no extra cost, often with supportive documentation required.

As you might expect, there’s growing controversy surrounding the appearance of ESAs in ever-increasing numbers in locations that have traditionally been off-limits to animals. Sadly, the backlash isn’t surprising given that more than a few people have taken advantage of the special access granted to ESAs, falsely claiming their pet is necessary for emotional support.

Researchers Propose a Standard Assessment to Certify ESAs

Recently, researchers at the University of New Mexico published an article in the journal Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, outlining the ethical challenges therapists face when asked to certify emotional support animals for their patients, and offering possible solutions to better serve both people who feel they need ESAs and those who must comply with the animals, such as landlords and airlines.1

The research team developed and is proposing a four-prong standard assessment for therapists when asked by patients to provide an ESA certificate:

  1. Understanding, recognizing and applying the laws regulating ESAs.
  2. A thorough valid assessment of the individual requesting an ESA certification.
  3. An assessment of the animal in question to ensure it actually performs the valid functions of an ESA.
  4. An assessment of the interaction between the animal and the individual to determine whether the animal’s presence has a demonstrably beneficial effect on that individual.

Assessment Will Address Whether the ESA Is Able to Do What It’s Being Asked to Do

The proposed assessment involves not just the patient, but the animal as well.

“Somebody has to certify that the animal is able to do what you’re asking it to do,” says lead article author Jeffrey Younggren, a forensic psychologist and clinical professor at the University of New Mexico’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. “And there are avenues by which animals can be evaluated regarding their capacity for these kinds of experiences.”2

There’s no shortage of horror stories of encounters with emotional support animals, especially during air travel, and Younggren and his colleagues believe that implementing standardized guidelines and practices will reduce the number of incidents.

“Our research has nothing to do with service animals,” Younggren clarifies. “Seeing eye dogs and therapy dogs are animals that help individuals manage their disabilities in certain situations — but that’s not what an ESA is. An ESA is an example of a well-intended idea that has metastasized and developed into a world of nonsense.”

Proposal Answers the Need for Ethical Guidelines Around ESAs

Paper co-author Cassandra Boness, a University of Missouri Ph.D. candidate, says the proposed assessment will better align ESA certifications with professional and legal practices, while also providing guidelines for mental health therapists.

“One of our biggest goals is to disseminate this information in order to better educate mental health providers, as well as policy writers, about the need for ethical guidelines around ESAs,” Boness said.3

Importantly, mental health practitioners who aren’t knowledgeable about the law may not realize that when they write an ESA certification letter for a patient, legally it constitutes a disability determination that becomes part of the patient’s permanent medical record. Per the UNM Newsroom publication:

“Currently, in order to receive waivers for housing or travel purposes where animals are banned, the law requires patients must have a mental or emotional condition diagnosable by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

If patients are given certifications for an ESA, it means they, and the therapist signing the certification, are declaring the patient to be psychologically disabled with significant impairment in functioning.”4

The proposed assessment will require ESA certifiers to perform a comprehensive evaluation of the person requesting the certification to determine if they have a disability under the DSM-5, according to Younggren.

“That disability has to substantially interfere with the patient’s ability to function, which is what the ADA requires,” he explains. “And the presence of the animal has to ameliorate the condition, which means you have to see the person with the animal.”

If the proposal is adopted as an industry standard, it will become more difficult for individuals to receive ESA certifications, but will benefit society as a whole from a safety perspective.

Moving Forward

The researchers are hopeful their work will spur more research on the impact of emotional support animals on patients in order to build a larger body of scientific evidence.

The important takeaway here is that no one is arguing that pets provide both physical and mental health benefits to humans — those facts are well-estab­lished and backed up with an ever-growing library of scientific studies.

The human-animal bond is real and describes the powerful, positive interaction that exists between people and animals. It’s not just about companionship — it’s about a deep connection that enhances the quality of life of both humans and animals.

The issue is that in a civilized society, it’s necessary to develop and enforce guidelines and standards that benefit the many rather than the few. It’s also important to evaluate current trends, in this case the growing use of ESAs, for potential short and long-term consequences to the animals and humans involved in these pairings, as well as society as a whole.

The Invisible Emotional Burden of Caring for a Sick Pet

December 18th, 2019 by Animal Health Foundation
from: https://www.thecut.com/2017/10/the-invisible-emotional-burden-of-caring-for-a-sick-pet.html
Earlier this year, kindergarten teacher Jessica Wiles, 35, found herself faced with a choice: her boyfriend or her dog, Mia. The problem had been brewing for some time: Two years into Wiles’s relationship, Mia was diagnosed with Cushing syndrome, an endocrine disorder that can cause lethargy, weakness, and frequent infections. Wiles began staying home more often to take care of her; as time wore on, she says, her boyfriend became frustrated, accusing her of neglecting him to be with her dog. This past June, he reached a breaking point: “He actually ended the relationship because he said the dog took precedence over him,” Wiles says. “He didn’t understand that it’s not just a piece of property. They are living, breathing things.”

When Wiles told other people about her situation, she says, she was often met with bafflement and scorn rather than sympathy, and questions about why she didn’t just put Mia down. But Cushing, while chronic, is manageable. “I have a problem deciding to kill my dog just because of health issues. I don’t understand the mind-set of, ‘She’s got a health problem, we’re going to put her down,’” Wiles says. “If the dog was suffering, it would be one thing, but she is still interested in life.”

There’s no question, though, that caring for her has made Wiles’s own life more difficult — emotionally, socially, financially. It’s well known that people caring for ill relatives can suffer from caregiver burden, negatively impacting the health and well-being of the caregiver, but the toll of taking care of a sick pet is often minimized or overlooked. According to a new study, that’s a mistake.

“I wouldn’t equate pet caregiving with human, and certainly don’t want to minimize what family caregivers go through,” said lead author Mary Beth Spitznagel, a clinical neuropsychologist at Kent State University, but “we are seeing similar patterns in terms of a greater level of burden, higher level of stress, depressive symptoms, and a lower quality of life.”

Spitznagel, who had previously worked with caregivers of relatives with dementia, says she got the idea for the study while caring for her dog Allo, who had recently been diagnosed with bladder cancer. “It was a daily challenge trying to fix the problems that sprang up.
And that was kind of when I realized the similarity,” she says. “When we see a burdened caregiver, oftentimes the burden is kind of the constant problem solving, because new problems are always emerging when you are caring for someone who is sick.”

Compared to participants with healthy pets, study subjects caring for chronic or terminally ill animals scored higher on scales of depression, anxiety and lower on well-being, and a psychometric test called the Zarit Burden Interview used to measure burden in human caregivers (the study authors adapted the test by replacing the word “relative” with “pet”). In itself, the finding that people with sick pets feel more of a burden isn’t surprising — but the intensity of that burden was. “It’s meeting this threshold for what we would consider to be concerning if someone were in a human caregiving relationship,” Spitznagel says.

In humans, a score of 20 or higher on the Zarit — which contains items related to feeling strained about your pet, having your social life suffer, and financial stress — indicates “significant burden.” Caregivers of sick pets scored 25.42 on average, compared to 13.96 for owners of healthy pets.

A few caveats: Participants in the current study were almost exclusively educated, wealthy, white women, with an average age of 48. The skewed sampling is likely a limitation — but “at the same time, this might be exactly who the population is,” Spitznagel says. After all, caregiving in humans typically falls to women, and veterinary care, which typically comes out of pocket, is unaffordable to many. Beyond replicating the results in a more diverse group, Spitznahel adds, the next step in her research would be to investigate the “ramifications of burden and the impact on the pet.”

Pet owners go into more detail, describing serious negative impacts to their finances, mental and physical health, social and employment status, and relationships. Wiles, who works two side jobs to help pay for vet treatments, says she has become physically ill from the stress of caring for Mia, compounded by the fact that she now helps her mother care for her grandmother as well.

Emotionally, caring for Mia and caring for her grandmother didn’t feel very different, Wiles says. “The biggest difference is with my grandma there was someone to relieve me,” Wiles said. “Other family members would come and help, but when it’s a dog people aren’t willing to do that.”

“I felt really trapped, ” said Petra Lee, 40, who at one point last year was caring for blind dog, a dog with allergies, an epileptic dog, and a cat with cancer. “I’ve lost a lot of sleep. There was a point where I was really stressed out just having to function with all this and I was having to take a lot of time off of work. I had a hard time making food for myself.” Lee’s caregiving also caused fights with her ex-girlfriend, she says, although overall her ex was very helpful.

But “the biggest thing for me,” Lee says, “is financial.” She felt a lot of guilt last year when she had to balance caring for her cat against her other animals, and also encountered a lot of people who question her choices. “I think I have a lot of privilege, I can afford it,” Lee explains. “I don’t make a lot of money, but I have pretty good salary. And I don’t have children and my dogs are my life.”

“We have our good days, our bad days, and our horrible days,” says Ana Sakuta, 37, whose dog, Roxy, became paralyzed a few years ago. Surgery fixed the problem — Roxy recovered and things went back to normal for a while. But soon, new issues emerged: Roxy stopped eating, became lethargic, and wouldn’t take her medicine.

At that point, Sakuta, who has been the main caregiver for the dogs, brought up euthanasia to her husband, which caused a fight — an added stressor she didn’t need. “It’s really rough. I’m crying, calling the vet all the time,” Sakuta says. “You try to talk to somebody about it and they don’t understand.” Sakuta has asked others in her family for help looking after Roxy, she says, but people tell her they don’t feel comfortable watching the dog due to the amount of work involved.

Although Spitznagel’s is the first study to formally document pet caregiver burden, veterinary social workers have long been aware of the issue. Susan Cohen, a support group facilitator at the ASPCA, estimates she has counseled thousands of pet owners over the years.
The most common issues she hears are “constant vigilance, isolation, and guilt,” she says, and the never-ending problem solving also take a toll: “They’re trying to decide all the time whether the pet is getting worse or getting better, and they often don’t have anyone to talk to about it,” she explains.

“I am so pleased that that study was done,” Cohen adds, noting that she’s tried to get vets to recognize caregiver burden and set up systems to address it. A few large veterinary practices have counselors on staff and offer support groups, but the practice isn’t widespread, and she often gets pushback about the lack of research.

In the meantime, Cohen works with pet owners to ease the decision-making load as much as possible, helping them establish boundaries and a treatment plan early on. Most people say that they will care for their pet so long as they have the means. “I want to figure out what their limits are,” Cohen says, which often involves naming a dollar amount or cap. Whether it’s money or quality of life, it’s helpful for pet owners to be able to answer one simple, and painful, question: “What are you trading it for?”

Warning Letter to Hills Pet Nutrition from FDA

December 14th, 2019 by Animal Health Foundation

WARNING LETTER

Hill’s Pet Nutrition Inc.MARCS-CMS 576564 —

Delivery Method:
VIA UNITED PARCEL SERVICE
Product:
Animal & Veterinary

Recipient:
Peter Brons-Poulsen
President and CEO
Hill’s Pet Nutrition Inc.

400 SW 8th Ave.TopekaKS 66603United States

Issuing Office:
Office of Human and Animal Foods Division II West

United States

 913-495-5100

Dear Mr. Brons-Poulsen:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducted inspections of your pet food manufacturing facility located at 320 NE Crane St., Topeka, Kansas on February 1 through February 19, 2019 and March 25 through 27, 2019.  These inspections were conducted in response to a Reportable Food Registry report (RFR) event (EON-378261) filed by your firm and in response to your recall of products marketed with toxic levels of vitamin D. FDA also conducted a complaint investigation from February 11 through February 12, 2019, during which FDA obtained samples of your canned dog food.

The inspections and the investigation confirmed that animal food products with unsafe levels of vitamin D were manufactured and marketed by your firm.  You determined the unsafe levels of vitamin D were the result of an ingredient that you received and accepted in a manner not in accordance with your receiving procedures, and that was subsequently incorporated in the animal food products. The unsafe amounts of vitamin D cause your products listed below to be adulterated because they bear or contain a food additive that is unsafe within the meaning of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act).1

Furthermore, the inspection revealed violations of FDA’s Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls requirements for animal food found in Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations, part 507, subpart C (21 CFR part 507, subpart C). This causes your products to be adulterated within the meaning of the FD&C Act.2

The introduction or delivery for introduction into interstate commerce of any food that is adulterated is a prohibited act under the FD&C Act.3 Furthermore, the failure to follow the hazard analysis and risk-based preventive controls requirements is also a prohibited act under the FD&C Act.4 You may find the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and FDA’s regulations through links on the FDA’s website at www.fda.gov.

At the close of the February 1 through February 19, 2019 inspection, you were issued a Form FDA 483, Inspectional Observations.  We received your written responses dated March 12, 2019, May 23, 2019 and August 30, 2019.  We have reviewed your responses and we discuss your violations and your corrective actions below.

We acknowledge that your firm initiated several voluntary recalls for excessive amounts of vitamin D in various finished products. On January 31, 2019 your firm initiated a recall (RES# 82018) of twenty-five (25) different canned dog food products manufactured by your firm. On March 20, 2019 your firm determined that additional products were affected. As a result, approximately twenty (20) additional lots of product previously listed in the original recall were added, and the recall was expanded to include eight (8) new products of canned dog food. On May 20, 2019 your recall was expanded yet again to include an additional lot. A comprehensive list of your recalled products can be found on FDA’s website at www.fda.gov.

Adulterated Animal Food – Unapproved Food Additive
On February 11 and 12, 2019, during a complaint investigation, FDA collected for vitamin D analysis two samples of your Hills Prescription Diet Digestive Care i/d Low Fat (SKU Number 10423) canned dog food. These samples were part of the lots covered by your recall. Testing of the products revealed the following results:

  • Lot code BEST BEFORE 10 2020, T1911124 3912, found 100,170 to 107,282 IU/kg of vitamin D in your canned dog food.
  • Lot code BEST BEFORE 10 2020, T1911125 3912, found 102,829 to 102,346 IU/kg of vitamin D in your canned dog food.

A food additive is a substance that becomes a component of food unless it is generally recognized, among experts qualified by scientific training and experience to evaluate its safety, as having been adequately shown through scientific procedures to be safe under the conditions of its intended use.5 According to scientific literature reviewed and summarized by scientific committees in the National Research Council, and the 2017 Official Publication of the Association of American Feed Control Officials on pages 149-162, vitamin D in dog food is safe in the amount of 500 to 3,000 IU/kg.7 According to the scientific literature, concentrations of vitamin D in dog food above 4,000 IU/kg dry matter cause signs of vitamin D toxicosis, with severity of signs increasing with increasing concentrations of the vitamin.7 Although vitamin D is an essential nutrient that allows dogs to regulate the balance and retention of calcium and phosphorus, when high levels of vitamin D are consumed, excessive amounts are not excreted but are stored in fat tissue and the liver.  The adverse health consequences from consuming excessive levels of vitamin D can lead to kidney failure and even death.8

The above-referenced dog food samples contained vitamin D at levels in excess of 33 times the recommended safe upper limit. At these levels, vitamin D is not generally recognized as safe; therefore, it is a food additive. Under section 409 of the Act (21 U.S.C. § 348), a food additive is unsafe unless a regulation is in effect that prescribes the conditions under which the additive may be safely used, and the additive and its use or intended use are in conformity with that regulation. We are not aware of any regulation that would allow the use of vitamin D at the levels found in the above-referenced canned dog food. Therefore, the vitamin D is an unsafe food additive and the canned dog food containing these elevated levels of vitamin D is adulterated under section 402(a)(2)(C)(i) of the FD&C Act [21 U.S.C. § 342(a)(2)(C)(i)].

Adulterated Animal Food – Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls Requirements
During our inspection of your facility, FDA Investigators noted violations of the Hazard Analysis and Risk- Based Preventive Controls requirements for animal food found in Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations, part 507, subpart C (21 CFR part 507, subpart C).  These violations render your animal food products adulterated under the FD&C Act.9 Violations observed during the inspection include, but are not limited to, the following:

Your firm did not sufficiently assess the probability that a vitamin D toxicity or deficiency hazard will occur in the absence of a preventive control as required by 21 CFR 507.33(c)(1).

Specifically, your firm uses vitamin premix in the manufacture of animal food products, but your firm failed to implement your prerequisite program to ensure that the vitamin premix did not contain an excess of vitamin D, which is a known or reasonably foreseeable hazard that could occur in the absence of a preventive control.  As stated in your food safety plan’s risk assessment matrix for your vitamin premix, you were relying on a (b)(4) to prevent nutrient deficiencies and toxicity hazards (b)(4), which you classified as a high risk chemical hazard. You noted that “[i]f the raw materials or other ingredients do not contain nutrients at the expected levels, this may result in either a nutrient deficiency or toxicity hazard when the ingredient is incorporated into the animal food based on a preset formulation.” Your food safety plan also stated that “[c]hemical hazards identified as high risk require the hazard be analyzed and be within acceptable limits prior to unloading the specific raw material into the manufacturing facility.”

However, the vitamin premix was not analyzed and subsequently reviewed to ensure that the vitamin D added to final products from the premix would meet your firm’s pre-set formulation. Your ingredient specification for the vitamin premix included a target specification for vitamin D and states that the “Supplier must include Certificate of Analysis (b)(4),” but your firm did not obtain Certificates of Analysis (COA) upon receipt (b)(4) of vitamin premix from your supplier. Your firm also failed to test, evaluate against your specification, and subsequently reject the vitamin premix containing excess vitamin D, as required by your food safety plan.  As a result, you used vitamin premix containing a concentration of vitamin D that was outside your specification.

As a result of your failure to follow your food safety plan, the hazard of vitamin D toxicity was not adequately managed at your receiving step.  Therefore, you did not reduce the probability that the hazard would occur in the absence of a preventive control. As a result of your failure to consistently implement your pre-requisite program, a systematic failure of your food safety plan occurred that resulted in the recall of canned dog food as identified above.  The systematic failure also resulted in adulterated animal food, as described above.

Corrective Actions

We acknowledge your promised corrective actions in your written responses dated March 12, 2019, May 23, 2019, and August 30, 2019 to the Form FDA 483, which include implementing a (b)(4) Certificate of Analysis (COA) requirement for vitamin premixes and trace mineral premixes, revising the Receiving Procedure to address the need for (b)(4) COAs (b)(4), training personnel on the revised Receiving Procedure, integrating COA requirements into an internal system so that incoming vitamin and trace mineral premix ingredients cannot be received without conforming COAs, conducting an onsite audit of your supplier’s facility, revising your Food Safety Plan, and implementing a process preventive control for the (b)(4) steps to enhance control of the misformulation hazard.

We are unable to assess the adequacy of your corrective actions because many are preexisting procedures that were not followed consistently prior to the recall event. For example, your requirement for vitamin premixes with vitamin D to have a COA (b)(4) was documented in your ingredient specification before the recall.  This was further confirmed by your firm’s special instructions to your supplier (b)(4).  In your response to the Form FDA 483, you stated that your food safety plan was not intended to cover “misformulation” by your supplier. (b)(4) and noted that “[n]utrient deficiency or toxicity hazards can be the result of incorrect levels of nutrients in incoming raw materials or ingredients.”

Your response states that your firm is now implementing a process preventive control at the (b)(4) step; however, you did not provide adequate documentation demonstrating the implementation and effectiveness of the preventive control to include the associated management components as required by 21 CFR 507.39 and therefore we are unable to determine the adequacy of this corrective action.

The corrective action of a “process preventive control” at your (b)(4) step (b)(4). However, it does not address the root cause of this incident, which was accepting an ingredient without confirming that it contained vitamin levels that were within specification as required by your procedures.

FDA will verify your proposed voluntary corrective actions during a future inspection of your firm.

Conclusions

The violations cited in this letter are not intended to be an all-inclusive list of violations that exist at your facility.  You are responsible for investigating and determining the causes of the violations identified above and for preventing their recurrence or the occurrence of other violations.  It is your responsibility to ensure your firm complies with all requirements of federal law, including FDA regulations.  You should take prompt action to correct the violation cited in this letter. Failure to promptly correct this violation may result in legal action without further notice, including, without limitation, seizure and injunction.

Within fifteen working days of receipt of this letter, please notify this office in writing of the specific steps that you have taken to correct violations.  Include an explanation of each step being taken to prevent the recurrence of violations, as well as copies of related documentation.  If you cannot complete corrective action within fifteen working days, state the reason for the delay and the time frame within which you will complete the correction.  If you do not believe that your products are in violation of the FD&C Act, include your reasoning and any supporting information for our consideration.

Section 743 of the FD&C Act [21 U.S.C. § 379j-31] authorizes FDA to assess and collect fees to cover FDA’s costs for certain activities, including reinspection-related costs.  A reinspection is one or more inspections conducted subsequent to an inspection that identified non-compliance materially related to a food safety requirement of the FD&C Act, specifically to determine whether compliance has been achieved.  Reinspection-related costs means all expenses, including administrative expenses incurred in connection with FDA’s arranging, conducting, and evaluating the results of the reinspection and assessing and collecting the reinspection fees [21 U.S.C. § 379j-31(a)(2)(B)]. For a domestic facility, FDA will assess and collect fees for reinspection-related costs from the responsible party for the domestic facility. The inspection noted in this letter identified non-compliance materially related to a food safety requirement of the FD&C Act.  Accordingly, FDA may assess fees to cover any reinspection-related costs.

Your firm’s response should be sent to Danial S. Hutchison, Compliance Officer, 8050 Marshall Drive, Suite 205, Lenexa, Kansas 66214.  If you have any questions about this letter, please contact Compliance Officer Hutchison at (913) 495-5154 or Danial.Hutchison@fda.hhs.gov.

Sincerely,
/S/
Cheryl A Bigham District Director
Program Division Director
Office of Human and Animal Foods Division II West

Therapy Dove, Cloud, Visits UCI

December 12th, 2019 by Animal Health Foundation

AHF’s Caring Creatures’ Therapy Dove, Cloud, and his partner, Daleen Comer, visited student at UCI

this past week to help with stress relief during finals week.

How to Bring Your Dog on a Plane

December 9th, 2019 by Animal Health Foundation

Wouldn’t trips be more exciting with your best furry buddy in tow?

 

 

It is perhaps every pet owner’s dream to travel with their dog. However, bringing a dog on a plane comes with several challenges. You need to be prepared and ensure that your dog is fit for travel.

Is It Safe for Dogs to Travel on Planes?

This is one of the most common questions pet parents have. Is it safe for a dog to fly?

Any new environment can potentially cause stress to your dog. Just as how humans sometimes feel uncomfortable on board a plane, dogs may also feel anxious. For one, their ears are more sensitive. Any loud or unusual sound may cause them to feel stressed.

If your dog can fit under the chair, then you may be able to take him to the cabin with you. But if your dog is large, the only option is to have him as cargo.

There are cases when dogs get injured or worse, die, during flights, And it’s a lot harder if your dog is on cargo as you can’t check on him.

Also, you’ll want to consider your dog’s temperament. If he loves barking, then it may not be a good idea to take him on a plane ride with you.

Reminders: Plane Travels with Dogs

1. Check airline restrictions

Rules vary from one carrier to another. Ensure that the airline allows pets in their flights. Check as well their height and weight restrictions. Since there are airlines that require health certificates for your dog, it may be best to see you veterinarian before your flight. Keep a soft copy of all important documents so when needed, you can present them to authorities with ease.

2. Find out how much it costs

The costs involved in air travels with a dog vary per airline. Other factors, such as the weight of your dog and his kennel, can also affect the fees. Note that if you’re able to take your dog in the cabin, he and his carrier will serve as your carry-on. That means you will only be allowed one more bag to take with you on the plane. The rest has to go through the cargo.

3. Choose the right kennel size

Don’t force your dog to fit in a small kennel just so you can take him to the cabin with you. Always consider the height, weight, and width of your furry buddy. Also, invest in a high-quality kennel that will help keep your dog protected. See if there’s adequate ventilation, too.

4. Label your dog’s kennel

If your dog has to be in a kennel and loaded in cargo, you’ll want to label the kennel with your information and your dog’s too. Attach a photo of your dog outside the kennel so the airline personnel will find him faster in case he gets lost (better to be prepared). Also, put a clear sign that says there’s a live animal on the kennel. Write instructions, too, on how the kennel should be handled. Lay an absorbent material on the kennel floor in case your dog has accidents.

5. Choose a direct flight

Shorten the travel time, if possible. Choose a direct flight for you and your dog. It’ll probably cost more, but this will also prevent your dog from getting lost in transit. Rather than getting transported from one cargo to another, your furry baby will only have to stay in a single place throughout your travel. Also, you’ll want to reduce the tendencies of your dog being mishandled.

6. Avoid sedating your dog

Think of sedation as a last resort, something you need not do if your dog seems well. Sedation may cause your dog breathing problems and may only make the flight uncomfortable for him. Also, if a dog is under sedation, you need to keep an eye on him, which, you will be unable to do if you’re separated.

7. Take your dog to long walks before your flight

Hours before your flight, take your dog to long walks with you. This will help exhaust their energy so once you get on the plane, they’ll only rest and sleep. You’ll want to keep track of the time, though. You need to get to the airport early to give yourself and your dog time for last minute arrangements.

8. Avoid feeding your dog

This may sound cruel, but your dog should be able to do fine without anything to eat or drink for a few hours. If you want, you can give them an ice cube or frozen water. If your dog is too full during a flight, this may only lead to discomfort.

Wouldn’t it be fun to travel with your dog? Yes, it is. But you and your dog need to be well-prepared for it. If you can’t bring your dog, consider hiring a dog sitter. Your dog will not be alone and you can always check on him anytime you want.

About the Author Amber

Hi, I’m Amber! iPetCompanion cares about your relationship with your pets. I realize how hard it is to leave them behind especially when you have an out-of-town trip schedule so I made this blog to help!

2019 Holiday Pet Shopping Report

December 2nd, 2019 by Animal Health Foundation

The New No-Grain Ingredient Coming to Your Pet Food Aisle

November 18th, 2019 by Animal Health Foundation

Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

Story at-a-glance

  • Despite growing concerns about the connection between grain-free formulas containing pulse crops and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs, the processed pet food industry continues to talk up the use of fava beans in grain-free pet food
  • In addition to the DCM connection, there are many other reasons pulse crops such as fava beans don’t belong in dog and cat food, e.g., they contain substances pets’ bodies can’t digest, that also interfere with mineral absorption

Despite the much-publicized suspected link between grain-free diets high in legumes and diet-related dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs, the processed pet food industry remains very committed to searching out biologically inappropriate pulse crops for potential use in dog and cat food.

A recent favorite is fava beans (also called faba and broad beans), which “may be the next new grain-free ingredient in the pet food aisle,” according to a recent article in a pet food industry publication.1 Last year the same publication promoted a 2017 study that suggests fava beans are an “effective ingredient for use in a commercial dog diet.”2

“It appears fava beans were well tolerated at all levels tested and only influenced digestibility at higher levels,” reported study co-author Greg Aldrich, PhD. “The dehulled fava beans in our study processed well in extrusion. They would be a solid contributor as an ingredient choice in modern pet foods.”3

This study is typical of pet food industry scientific research designed to see how much of a biologically inappropriate ingredient pets can ingest before it interferes with their digestion in an immediately measurable way. The dogs in the study didn’t develop noticeable digestive issues until they were subjected to higher levels of fava beans.

This is a considered a win by the industry, because they now have yet another inexpensive, plentiful, plant-based (i.e., biologically inappropriate) ingredient they can use to inflate the protein percentage in their formulas, and also potentially use to replace meat protein in vegetarian or vegan pet foods.

Why Pulse Crops Don’t Belong in Pet Food

Pulse crops, also called pulses or legumes, are plants with a pod. “Pulse” is the term used to identify the edible seeds of legumes, and is derived from the Latin word puls, meaning thick soup. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)4 recognizes 11 primary pulses:5

Dry beans (kidney, lima, azuki, mung, black gram, scarlet runner, ricebean, moth, and tepary) Lentil
Dry broad beans (fava, horse, broad, field) Bambara groundnut
Dry peas (garden, protein) Vetch
Chickpea Lupins
Dry cowpea Minor pulses (lablab, jack, winged, velvet, and yam beans)
Pigeon pea

Because they are high in fiber, folate, iron (when eaten with a source of vitamin C), and complex carbohydrates, and are also low in fat, pulse crops are considered nutritious for humans by some nutritionists, and not by others. Some experts advise keeping legume intake minimal for the same reason I recommend avoiding feeding these foods to pets — the presence of phytates and lectins that are naturally found in legumes.

Phytates are substances that carnivores can’t break down because they lack phytase, the enzyme necessary to process phytic acid. Phytates bind minerals (including zinc, iron, calcium and magnesium), leeching them out of your pet’s body. Lectins are sticky proteins that when consumed in large quantities may contribute to gastrointestinal (GI) disturbances and leaky gut.

Pet food producers and their ingredient suppliers are aware that many pet parents tend to believe foods that are healthy for humans are also healthy for dogs and cats. In fact, they use pet owners’ lack of knowledge about pet food ingredients to create and market biologically inappropriate diets. For example, one of the marketing approaches used to promote pet foods containing bean meal is weight loss.

The nutrient profile in beans may benefit some humans and other omnivores and herbivores, but carnivores thrive on animal — not plant — protein, and they don’t benefit physiologically from starch or high levels of dietary fiber. Cats are true carnivores and dogs are facultative carnivores, not omnivores or herbivores, but that pesky little fact certainly hasn’t diminished the pet food industry’s love affair with ingredients nature didn’t design dogs and cats to eat.

Most Pet Food Research is Conducted for the Benefit of Pet Food Companies, Not Dogs and Cats

Also good news for pet food producers is that fava beans “processed well in extrusion.” Extrusion, as we know, is a manufacturing method that has been used by the pet food industry for decades. About 95% of dry pet diets are produced using the extrusion process.

Batches of raw ingredients are mixed, sheared and heated under high pressure, forced through a spiral shaped screw and then through the die of the extruder machine. Extrudate is the result — a ribbon-like product that is then knife-cut and dried.

The high temperature used in extrusion (nearly 400°F) and the short time frame to process (under 5 minutes) creates continuous chemical and physical alterations to the ingredient mixture. This not only changes the molecular activity of the food, but also potentially contributes to a heavier carcinogenic load and profound levels of advanced glycation end products (AGEs). So, to review, the pet food industry’s takeaways from the study are:

  • Fava beans hold up well in the extrusion process
  • Fava beans in moderate amounts can be tolerated by dogs
  • Fava beans can be used to boost the protein percentages (misleadingly, in my opinion) in pet food formulas

Honestly, the simple fact that an ingredient such as fava beans must be tested in pets to see how much they can tolerate before they become ill is all the proof anyone should need that they didn’t evolve to eat that ingredient. Therefore, the intent and result of this study is 100% for the benefit of big pet food, and 0% for the benefit of the dogs and cats who will at some point be fed processed diets containing fava beans.

Legumes and Grain-Free Pet Food

As I mentioned earlier, there’s also cause for concern now that a link has been established between grain-free dog food containing legumes and a growing number of cases of the heart disease dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs. Of the DCM cases the FDA reviewed for its report published in June, 91% of the diets were grain-free and 93% contained peas and/or lentils.

It’s important to note that while legumes are being singled out as a potential problematic ingredient, no definitive test results have been released. However, grain-free kibble is often much higher in both whole carbohydrates and purified starches (e.g., pea starch, potato starch and tapioca starch) than grain-based dry dog food.

The higher the starch level in any pet food, the less protein is included (hence my suggestion to avoid both grains and other sources of unnecessary starch in all pet food). You can find my most recent update on the grain-free kibble/DCM issue, including feeding recommendations, here.

Pet Cremation: Practical First Steps & Memorial Ideas (2019 Edition)

November 15th, 2019 by Animal Health Foundation

 

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened. ” – Anatole France

Introduction

I’ve noticed my little Shih Tzu is failing. She hides under my bed or stays outside in the rain. When I call for her, she turns toward me in confusion. Her eyes are blank and searching, for she is blind. In the mornings, I regretfully leave her hoping that when I return, she will greet me excitedly at the door. I dread the days when I have to hunt her down as though we are playing hide and seek. I’m never sure of what I will find, and that makes my stomach flip nervously and my heart race.

Our pets are our family, and our family is our world.

For this reason, it’s important to begin thinking about a pet’s death and how we would like to honor and memorialize our companion before our pet passes.

Suggested ReadSay A Meaningful Goodbye To Your Pet

Pet Cremation Services

Before losing my last pet, I never thought about what I would do with his remains. I regret not preplanning for my pet’s death because I put myself in a position to make a hasty decision–one I would later regret. We have options as pet owners, and it’s important to know what those options are.

If you choose to leave your pet with the veterinarian, make sure you ask your vet how he or she disposes of an animal. It could mean that your pet will be included in a mass cremation process or taken to a landfill. If this is not your desire, make sure to speak up.

Pet Cremation Cost

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, at least 17% of funeral homes in the U.S. now offer pet cremation services, and another 13% plan to do so. As of 2016, there were over 800 pet cemeteries and crematoriums in the United States, and the pet funeral industry continues to grow. 90% of pet owners choose cremation while less than 10% choose burial when their beloved pet passes.

Depending on your pet’s size and weight and the market where you reside, cremation costs can vary substantially. The price can range between $30 – $250. In addition, there are add-on services that can influence the price like memorials or funeral ceremonies. The good news is that most crematoriums have options that fit the budget of the owner.

Private or Individual Cremation

Private or individual creation is the most costly option. Your pet will be placed in the cremation chamber alone, ensuring that it will not be mixed with other animals’ remains. Some people request to view the cremation of their pet to help with closure and provide comfort that the pet’s remains were, indeed, cremated individually. There may be an added fee for this service.

Semi-Private or Partitioned Cremation

During a semi-private or partitioned cremation, pets are cremated at the same time with other animals. Even though crematoriums do their best to keep the remains separated in the chamber, there is a chance that part pf the remains could be comingled or mixed together which makes this choice less costly. Some crematoriums may refer to a partitioned cremation as individual, so be sure to ask specific questions.

Communal or Group Cremation

Communal or group cremation involves the cremation of multiple animals in the same chamber at once. The remains cannot be separated, and therefore, will not be returned.

Pet Funeral Plaque

Pet Funeral

Practical First Steps

There is no right or wrong way to announce a pet’s death. Some people turn to social media and find comfort in reading comments and responses. Others send an email or post card notification to their closest friends. Still others prefer to keep the news private and limit an announcement to family and close friends. Today, anything goes.

In fact, as I’m writing this, the news is announcing the death of a celebrity’s dog. It has become socially acceptable to acknowledge the suffering and despair that accompany the loss of a pet. It’s important that the owner do what is most comfortable for them.

If an owner chooses to write a death announcement or obituary, they have creative freedom, as there is no prescribed way to compose a pet obituary. Including a picture of a pet, sharing a fond memory, or writing about a pet’s personality is common. However, the tone of an obituary can be sad, humorous, inspiring, or serious. Every pet’s personality is unique, and this can be reflected in how one tells the story of their pet’s life.

Organizing a Funeral Service or Ceremony

Holding a pet funeral is a cathartic means to gain closure after the loss of a pet. The funeral can reflect the pet’s personality or its owner’s. Funerals can be fun, quirky, serious, elaborate, or simple. From backyard ceremonies to procuring the services of a pet funeral home and cemetery, there are many choices that can adapt to your budget and taste.

People in the pet industry understand that losing a pet can be as devastating as losing a beloved family member; therefore, they are there to assist you. Not only do pet cemeteries and funeral homes offer burial and cremation services, but they also sell caskets, urns, and grave markers specifically created for pets.

As noted above, some traditional funeral homes are now providing pet services. Funeralwise.com is an excellent resource to search for pet cemeteries and cremation services in your area.

Choosing a Location

If you choose to have a funeral for your pet, the first decision to make is where to hold the ceremony. It could be at a favorite park, a beach, or a cat’s favorite place to sun itself. Choose a location that reminds you of spending joyous moments with your pet.

Ideas to Include In Your Ceremony

Below are some common features to include in your ceremony:

  • Displaying photographs and videos to memorialize your pet
  • Sharing memories with the attendees
  • Reading poems and/or religious passages
  • Offering prayers and blessings
  • Holding a candle lighting ceremony
  • Concluding and saying goodbye and thank you to guests

Some popular prayers include:

Pet Loss Prayer

Dear God, we bring our grief in the loss of (pet’s name) to you and ask for the courage to move through our grief. We bring you all our thanks for (pet’s name) who we were blessed to have as our precious pet. She/he gave so freely of his/her love to all those who she’d meet. We commit our beloved pet and companion into your loving hands. Surround us with your love and give us others to support us as we mourn.

Amen

Good-bye Prayer of a Beloved Pet

We gather today joining hearts as we honor the loss of our beloved pet (pet’s name) who made our days and our lives more enjoyable. Someday we hope to meet with you again (pet’s name) in eternity with hugs, kisses and tears. We miss your daily presence and unending love in our daily lives. Death ends a life but our relationship still lives on in my heart and in my memory of times we spent together. You are now free running the fields where we will meet again. You are restored to complete health. You are in God’s loving care forever.

Amen

Prayer for a Candle Lighting Ceremony

We honor the memory of our precious pet with the warm light of this candle, sending to all our beloved pets a message of peace and love. We, as pet caregivers, bring our loss and sorrow to this place and together we ask that day by day our grief will be lessened. Each day let us continue to see how the relationship we had with our beloved pet still impacts our lives today.

Amen

Additional popular poems and prayers

Below is a further list of popular poems and prayers:

More like This: Mourning The Loss Of A Pet With A Pet Funeral

8 Pet Memorial Ideas

8 Pet Memorial Ideas

The final farewell to a pet can be simple to elaborate.

It could be a verbal, “Goodbye, my friend. You will be missed.” While other people may choose to complete the ceremony by releasing lanterns, butterflies, or even setting off fireworks. One could even choose to give away a favorite book about a dog or present a heartwarming movie like “A Dog’s Purpose” to their guests. The celebration of a pet does not have to end with the funeral. It can be everlasting with a permanent memorial.

Suggested Read: Establishing A Permanent Memorial

1. Offer Donations

A charitable way to memorialize a pet is to offer a donation to a preferred animal shelter or rescue. I love the idea of holding an annual party in your dog’s name where friends and family are asked to bring blankets, treats, or food to offer as a donation.

2. Volunteer at an Animal Shelter

Another philanthropic way to remember a pet is to offer your time at a local shelter. Volunteering can help relieve the pain that accompanies a pet’s death. It is difficult to be sad when you are bringing joy to other animals.

3. Framing The Rainbow Bridge Poem

The Rainbow Bridge poem is a beautiful reminder that your pet lives on after their earthly life. Framing it can provide comfort and reassurance that one day you will be reunited with your pet again.

4. Plant a Memorial Tree

Planting a tree or flowers to remember a pet will keep their memory alive; however, I like the idea of putting a beautiful plant or picture of a pet in their favorite indoor spot.

5. Add Memorial Stones to Your Garden

A mosaic portrait stone for the garden is another beautiful way to memorialize a pet, or commissioning an artist to paint a portrait of a beloved pet is another way to pay tribute to a loyal companion.

6. Incorporate Their Memory into Jewelry

There are many ways to incorporate jewelry into memorializing your pet. There are charms, bracelets, rings, and pendants that can hold remains, incorporate paw prints, or be imprinted with photos.

7. Create a Stuffed Animal

Companies exist that will create a stuffed animal from a picture of a pet. This is a comforting way for a child to remember a cherished pet.

8. Get a Tattoo

Finally, tattoos are becoming a popular way to memorialize both people and pets. A person can ink a pet’s paw print, name and/or date of birth and death, or a full pet portrait.

Pet Cremation

Conclusion

Pets greet us with enthusiasm, love us unconditionally, and are able to overlook our greatest flaws. Even when we are irritable and cranky, they still want to snuggle up next to us. I think this is why we mourn these loyal companions so deeply when they pass. The bond we share with a pet is the one relationship we can count on day in and day out. When our world falls apart and human challenges befall us, our pets are right there to provide comfort.

Our human relationships can be complicated and difficult while the relationship we have with a pet is seemingly simple and easy. For these reasons, it is important that we allow ourselves to mourn these beautiful creatures. In fact, grieving the loss of a pet in a way that makes sense to us is an act of kindness we can do for ourselves during this very difficult time.

Everdays sends important service details and updates, finds support in private condolences with family and friends, and celebrates the life of your loved one (including pets 🐾) with a dedicated tribute of shared photos with keepsake video. To learn more, visit our website or download our app, available on both iOS and Android. 

Debunking the “Alpha Dog” Theory

November 13th, 2019 by Animal Health Foundation

From the Whole Dog Journal   By   Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA

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Exerting “dominance” over your dog is the wrong way to build a good relationship.

The alpha myth is everywhere. Google “alpha dog” on the Internet and you get more than 85 million hits. Really. While not all the sites are about dominating your dog, there are literally millions of resources out there – websites, books, blogs, television shows, veterinarians, trainers and behavior professionals – instructing you to use force and intimidation to overpower your dog into submission. They say that you, the human, must be the alpha. They’re all wrong. Every single one of them.

The erroneous approach to canine social behavior known as dominance theory (two million-plus Google hits) is based on a study of captive zoo wolves conducted in the 1930s and 1940s by Swiss animal behaviorist Rudolph Schenkel, in which the scientist concluded that wolves in a pack fight to gain dominance, and the winner is the alpha wolf.

The Origin’s of the “Alpha” Dog Theory

Schenkel’s observations of captive wolf behavior were erroneously extrapolated to wild wolf behavior, and then to domestic dogs. It was postulated that wolves were in constant competition for higher rank in the hierarchy, and only the aggressive actions of the alpha male and female held the contenders in check. Other behaviorists following Schenkel’s lead also studied captive wolves and confirmed his findings: groups of unrelated wolves brought together in artificial captive environments do, indeed, engage in often-violent and bloody social struggles.

The problem is, that’s not normal wolf behavior. As David Mech stated in the introduction to his study of wild wolves (Mech, 2000), “Attempting to apply information about the behavior of assemblages of unrelated captive wolves to the familial structure of natural packs has resulted in considerable confusion. Such an approach is analogous to trying to draw inferences about human family dynamics by studying humans in refugee camps. The concept of the alpha wolf as a ‘top dog’ ruling a group of similar-aged compatriots (Schenkel 1947; Rabb et al. 1967; Fox 1971a; Zimen 1975, 1982; Lockwood 1979; van Hooff et al. 1987) is particularly misleading.”

What we know now, thanks to Mech and others, is that in the wild, a wolf pack is a family, consisting of a mated pair and their offspring of the past one to three years. Occasionally two or three families may group together. As the offspring mature they disperse from the pack; the only long-term members of the group are the breeding pair. By contrast, in captivity unrelated wolves are forced to live together for many years, creating tension between mature adults that doesn’t happen in a natural, wild pack.

Dominance-Based Training is Disrespectful to Your Dog

But that’s all about wolves anyway, not dogs. How did it happen that dog owners and trainers started thinking all that information (and misinformation) about wolf behavior had anything to do with dogs and dog behavior? The logic went something like, “Dogs are descended from wolves. Wolves live in hierarchical packs in which the aggressive alpha male rules over everyone else. Therefore, humans need to dominate their pet dogs to get them to behave.”

Perhaps the most popular advocate of this inaccurate concept, Cesar Millan, is only the latest in a long line of dominance-based trainers who advocate forceful techniques such as the alpha roll. Much of this style of training has roots in the military – which explains the emphasis on punishment.

As far back as 1906, Colonel Konrad Most was using heavy-handed techniques to train dogs in the German army, then police and service dogs. He was joined by William Koehler after the end of World War II.

Koehler also initially trained dogs for the military prior to his civilian dog-training career, and his writings advocated techniques that included hanging and helicoptering a dog into submission (into unconsciousness, if necessary). For example, to stop a dog from digging, Koehler suggested filling the hole with water and submerging the dog’s head in the water-filed hole until he was nearly drowned.

Fast-forward several years to 1978 and the emergence of the Monks of New Skete as the new model for dog training, asserting a philosophy that “understanding is the key to communication, compassion, and communion” with your dog. Sounds great, yes? The Monks were considered cutting edge at the time – but contrary to their benevolent image, they were in fact responsible for the widespread popularization of the “Alpha-Wolf Roll-Over” (now shortened to the alpha roll). Reviewing the early observations of captive wolves, the Monks concluded that the alpha roll is a useful tool for demonstrating one’s authority over a dog. Unfortunately, this is  a complete and utter misinterpretation of the submissive roll-over that is voluntarily offered by less assertive dogs, not forcibly commanded by stronger ones.

The Monks also advocated the frequent use of other physical punishments such as the scruff shake (grab both sides of the dog’s face and shake, lifting the dog off the ground) and cuffing under the dog’s chin with an open hand several times, hard enough to cause the dog to yelp.

While professing that “training dogs is about building a relationship that is based on respect and love and understanding,” even their most recent book, Divine Canine: The Monks’ Way to a Happy, Obedient Dog (2007), is still heavy on outdated, erroneous dominance theory. Immediately following their suggestion that “a kindly, gentle look tells the dog she is loved and accepted,” they say “But it is just as vital to communicate a stern reaction to bad behavior. A piercing, sustained stare into a dog’s eyes tells her who’s in charge; it establishes the proper hierarchy of dominance between person and pet.” (It’s also a great way to unwittingly elicit a strong aggressive response if you choose the wrong dog as the subject for your piercing, sustained stare.)

Despite the strong emergence of positive reinforcement-based training in the last 20 years, the Monks don’t seem to have grasped that the “respect” part needs to go both ways for a truly compassionate communion with your dog. Perhaps one of these days . . .

The Birth of Positive-Reinforcement Training

Just when it seemed that dog training had completely stagnated in turn-of-the-century military-style dominance-theory training, marine mammal trainer Karen Pryor wrote her seminal book, Don’t Shoot the Dog. Published in 1985, this small, unassuming volume was intended as a self-help book for human behavior. The author never dreamed that her modest book, paired with a small plastic box that made a clicking sound, would launch a massive paradigm shift in the world of dog training and behavior. But it did.

Forward progress was slow until 1993, when veterinary behaviorist Dr. Ian Dunbar founded the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. Dunbar’s vision of a forum for trainer education and networking has developed into an organization that now boasts nearly 6,000 members worldwide. While membership in the APDT is not restricted to positive reinforcement-based trainers, included in its guiding principles is this statement:

“We promote the use of reward-based training methods, thereby minimizing the use of aversive techniques.”

The establishment of this forum facilitated the rapid spread of information in the dog training world, enhanced by the creation of an online discussion list where members could compare notes and offer support for a scientific and dog-friendly approach to training.

Things were starting to look quite rosy for our dogs. The positive market literally mushroomed with books and videos from dozens of quality training and behavior professionals, including Jean Donaldson, Dr. Patricia McConnell, Dr. Karen Overall, Suzanne Hetts, and others. With advances in positive training and an increasingly educated dog training profession embracing the science of behavior and learning and passing good information on to their clients, pain-causing, abusive methods such as the alpha roll, scruff shake, hanging, drowning, and cuffing appeared to be headed the way of the passenger pigeon.

A Step-Backward for Positive-Reinforcement Training Techniques

Then, in the fall of 2004, the National Geographic Channel launched its soon-to-be wildly popular show, The Dog Whisperer. Dominance theory was back in vogue, with a vengeance. Today, everything from housetraining mistakes to jumping up to counter surfing to all forms of aggression is likely to be attributed to “dominance” by followers of the alpha-resurgence.

“But,” some will argue, “look at all the dogs who have been successfully trained throughout the past century using the dominance model. Those trainers can’t be all wrong.”

In fact, harsh force-based methods (in technical parlance, “positive punishment”) are a piece of operant conditioning, and as the decades have proven, those methods can work. They are especially good at shutting down behaviors – convincing a dog that it’s not safe to do anything unless instructed to do something. And yes, that works with some dogs. With others, not so much.

My own personal, unscientific theory is that dog personalities lie on a continuum from very soft to very tough. Harsh, old-fashioned dominance-theory methods can effectively suppress behaviors without obvious fallout (although there is always behavioral fallout) with dogs nearest the center of the personality continuum – those who are resilient enough to withstand the punishment, but not so tough and assertive that they fight back. Under dominance theory, when a dog fights back, you must fight back harder until he submits, in order to assert yourself as the pack leader, or alpha.

Problem is, sometimes they don’t submit, and the level of violence escalates. Or they submit for the moment, but may erupt aggressively again the next time a human does something violent and inappropriate to them. Under dominance-theory training, those dogs are often deemed incorrigible, not suitable for the work they’re being trained for nor safe as a family companion, and sentenced to death. Had they never been treated inappropriately, many might have been perfectly fine.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, a very “soft” dog can be easily psychologically damaged by one enthusiastic inappropriate assertion of rank by a heavy-handed dominance trainer. This dog quickly shuts down – fearful and mistrusting of the humans in his world who are unpredictably and unfairly violent.

Most crossover trainers (those who used to train with old-fashioned methods and now are proud to promote positive reinforcement-based training) will tell you they successfully trained lots of dogs the old way. They loved their dogs and their dogs loved them.

I’m a crossover trainer and I know that’s true. I also would dearly love to be able to go back and redo all of that training, to be able to have an even better relationship with those dogs, to give them a less stressful life – one filled with even more joy than the one we shared together.

We Aren’t Dogs, and Our Dogs Know It

Finally, the very presumption that our dogs would even consider we humans to be members of their canine pack is simply ludicrous. They know how impossibly inept we are, for the most part, at reading and understanding the subtleties of canine body language. We are equally inept, if not even more so, at trying to mimic those subtleties. Any attempts on our part to somehow insert ourselves into their social structure and communicate meaningfully with them in this manner are simply doomed to failure. It’s about time we gave up trying to be dogs in a dog pack and accepted that we are humans co-existing with another species – and that we’re most successful doing so when we co-exist peacefully.

The fact is, successful social groups work because of voluntary deference, not because of aggressively enforced dominance. The whole point of social body language rituals is to avoid conflict and confrontation, not to cause it. Watch any group of dogs interacting. Time and time again you’ll see dogs deferring to each other. It’s not even always the same dog deferring:

Dog B: Hey, I’d really like to go first. Dog A: “By all means, be my guest.” Dog B passes down the narrow hallway.

Dog A: “I’d really like to have that bone.” Dog B: “Oh sure – I didn’t feel like chewing right now anyway.” Dog A gets the bone.

Social hierarchies do exist in groups of domesticated dogs and in many other species, including humans, and hierarchy can be fluid. As described above, one dog may be more assertive in one encounter, and more deferent in the next, depending on what’s at stake, and how strongly each dog feels about the outcome. There are a myriad of subtleties about how those hierarchies work, and how the members of a social group communicate – in any species.

Today, educated trainers are aware that canine-human interactions are not driven by social rank, but rather by reinforcement. Behaviors that are reinforced repeat and strengthen. If your dog repeats an inappropriate behavior such as counter surfing or getting on the sofa, it’s not because he’s trying to take over the world; it’s just because he’s been reinforced by finding food on the counter, or by being comfortable on the sofa. He’s a scavenger and an opportunist, and the goods are there for the taking. Figure out how to prevent him from being reinforced for the behaviors you don’t want, and reinforce him liberally for the ones you do, and you’re well on your way to having the relationship of mutual love, respect, communication, and communion that we all want to have with our dogs.

Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, is WDJ’s Training Editor. Author of numerous books on positive dog training, she lives in Fairplay, Maryland, site of her Peaceable Paws training center, where she offers dog training classes and courses for trainers.

Heart-Wrenching Study Shows The Long-Term Effect Yelling Can Have on Your Dog

November 11th, 2019 by Animal Health Foundation
From SCIENCEALERT.COM by MICHELLE STARR  7 NOV 2019

Your dog may be the apple of your eye, but let’s be honest: she is an animal, with her own instincts and idiosyncrasies, and there are going to be times when she makes you want to tear your hair out.

According to a new study uploaded to pre-print server bioRxiv, aversive training such as punishment and negative reinforcement can have long-term negative effects on your dog’s mental state.

“Our results show that companion dogs trained using aversive-based methods experienced poorer welfare as compared to companion dogs trained using reward-based methods, at both the short- and the long-term level,” the researchers write in their paper.

“Specifically, dogs attending schools using aversive-based methods displayed more stress-related behaviours and body postures during training, higher elevations in cortisol levels after training, and were more ‘pessimistic’ in a cognitive bias task.”

This sort of research has been conducted before, and found that aversive training has negative effects, but it’s primarily been on police and laboratory dogs. In addition, the aversive training tends to be shock collar training, which is only one of several tools used.

So, led by biologist Ana Catarina Vieira de Castro of the Universidade do Porto in Portugal, the international team of researchers conducted their new study on companion dogs.

Each dog was filmed during the first 15 minutes of three training sessions, and saliva samples were taken to assess stress levels from training – three from each dog relaxing at home to establish baseline levels of stress hormone cortisol, and three from each dog after training.

The researchers also analysed the dogs’ behaviour during training to look for stress behaviours, such as yawning, lip-licking, paw-raising and yelping.

Unsurprisingly, the dogs in the aversive training classes showed elevated stress behaviours, particularly yawning and lip-licking. Their saliva also had significantly increased levels of cortisol compared to when they were relaxing at home.

By contrast, the positive reinforcement dogs were pretty chill – far fewer stress behaviours, and much more normal cortisol levels.

The next step was to assess the longer term effects of this stress. A month after the dogs were assessed at training, 79 of them were then trained to associate a bowl on one side of a room with a sausage snack. If the bowl was on that side, it always held a delicious treat; if located on the other side, the bowl never had the treat. (All bowls were rubbed with sausage to ensure the smell didn’t give the game away.)

Sure enough, the more aversive training a dog had received, the more slowly it approached the bowl. Interestingly, dogs from the reward-based training group actually learnt the bowl location task faster than the aversive-training dogs.

This suggests that reward-based training may actually be more effective, although the researchers suggest this may be because the dogs already understand treat-based training methods. It’s possible that the other group would learn more quickly were an aversive method applied – more research needs to be done to determine this.

Overall, though, the results seem to imply that aversive training doesn’t necessarily have an edge over reward training, and that reward training is much better for your dog’s happiness.

“Critically,” the researchers said, “our study points to the fact that the welfare of companion dogs trained with aversive-based methods appears to be at risk.”

The full paper is available on bioRxiv ahead of peer review.