Monday, March 08, 2010

Preventing Dog Bites: Software Aimed at Teaching Kids Respect for Pets - ABC News

A group of researchers who say that's almost never the case are now testing software aimed at teaching young children how to behave around animals in hopes of cutting down on the number of dog bites and maulings.

"This is not a small problem," said David Schwebel, professor and vice chairman of the psychology department at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

March 3, 2010 Full Article

Do you have a really old Rottweiler?

If so, you might wish to roll out your welcome mat for Dr. David J. Waters, who is launching "The Old Grey Muzzle Tour" this week.

During the 23-day tour, Waters, who is executive director of the Gerald P. Murphy Cancer Foundation, will be criss-crossing the country visiting the nation's oldest Rottweilers.

Bort, a 13-year-old pet Rottweiler from Holliston, Mass., will be the first dog visited by Waters, who is traveling all the way from Massachusetts to Washington state during the national tour. Waters begins his journey in Harrisburg, Pa., on Thursday (March 11) and will finish April 3 in Seattle.

The complete itinerary of the tour includes:

March 11, Harrisburg, Pa.
March 12, Holliston, Mass.
March 13, Philadelphia
March 15, Keysville, Va.
March 16, Columbia, Tenn.
March 19, Cambridge, Wis.
March 20, Riverside, Iowa
March 21, Alma, Kan.
March 23, Red Oak, Texas
March 24, Castle Rock, Colo.
March 27, Colorado Springs, Colo.
March 28, Tijeras, N.M.
March 29, Waddell, Ariz.
March 30, San Diego
April 1, Pacific Palisades, Calif.
April 3, Seattle, WA

Waters leads a research team that studies aging and cancer in pet dogs. The research includes the study of exceptionally long-lived Rottweilers - individuals that have lived to at least 13 years, which is equivalent to a human living to 100.

"These exceptional dogs have lived at least 30 percent longer than average for their breed," Waters said. "They have dodged cancer and other life-threatening diseases of aging. We believe studying them can shed light on what it takes to live well."

Over the years, Waters and his team have tracked the lives of more than 140 long-lived Rottweilers. Today, however, their database is down to just 15, hence the tour to meet these exceptionally aged canines.

"From questionnaires completed by owners and veterinarians, my team has validated dates of birth and collected a mountain of information about these dogs, including medical history, diet and dietary supplement usage, and parents' longevity," said Waters, who is also associate director of Purdue's Center on Aging and the Life Course and professor in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences.

At each stop, he will perform a physical examination, collect DNA samples, and record measurements such as height and chest and belly circumference. He will observe each dog in its home environment and query owners on what makes their dog exceptional.

Few veterinarians have ever come face-to-face with more than a single Rottweiler that has made it to such an advanced age. That is why Waters is motivated to accomplish this feat 15 times in less than a four-week span.

Jennifer Viegas | Mon Mar 8, 2010
Read Full Article Here

Why owning a dog is good for you

They boost happiness hormones and compensate for family breakdown – no wonder dog ownership is soaring

Deborah Ross - Read Complete article Here - March 6, 2010

What is this relationship I have with my dog? What is anybody’s relationship with their dog? To put it another way: just what is the status of humans and dogs these days?

Whatever else, dogs are doing something right. Heck, they’re so good even the Chinese are thinking about not eating them any more and, in the UK, the dog population has shot up from 6.4 million to 10.5 million in the past 20 years. There are still working dogs – dogs that flush, herd, retrieve, guard and merrily throttle rats – but almost all the increase has been in “companion dogs”

Dr James Serpell, director of the Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society at the University of Pennsylvania and he says that, whatever else, today’s dogs certainly perform an important human function. “We’ve seen an explosion in pet populations in all industrialized countries in the past two decades,” he says. “And I keep coming back to the notion that dogs are providing people with a form of non-human support where traditional support has broken down. People are turning to dogs to compensate for that loss.” And he adds: “If you look at all the demographic statistics people are getting divorced more, having fewer children and have fewer friends as well as less social contact. A graph showing this decline is almost a mirror image of the one showing the rise in pet ownership.” Is this healthy? “Some people would say dogs do the job better than other humans when it comes to relationships. People have few conflicts with their pets, whereas human relations can have a nasty side. You can get dogs with horrendous behavior problems, but the relationship is very complementary on the whole.”

According to researchers at the University of Japan, dog owners experience a surge in the hormone oxytocin after periods of playing with their dogs or simply being gazed at by them. Oxytocin has been nicknamed the “cuddle chemical” for the role it plays in the mother-child bond. It produces positive, warm feelings and because it’s a serious stress reducer – it dampens down the area of the brain associated with anxiety – may also help explain the myriad health benefits associated with dog ownership.

So the things dog-owners have felt intuitively all along, that dog’s have a sixth sense and know how you’re feeling, might be true? “The thing we consistently find about dogs is that they are incredibly perceptive. While they may not have some of the human capabilities, they can behave as if they have because they are so perceptive about what is going on.” This makes sense biologically. If the dog is dependent on us, it needs to know where our behavior is going. Are we in a bad mood? Should it keep out of our way? Further, research in Hungary is showing that if a dog is trained to understand the pointing gesture and two bowls are put out – one containing food and one not – the dog will over-ride what his nose is telling him and go to the empty bowl if the human is pointing at it. “The dog always wants to be where the human is,” says Professor Mills, “and is just so incredibly tuned into our body language.”

The study of domestic dogs is a new discipline – previously, domestic dogs were considered too “artificial” to be worth the bother – and there are, he says, exciting discoveries to come. Work is being done in social cognition, language cognition and the role of dogs in child development. “If you look at family psychology, which has been going on for 50 years, the role of the pet has hardly been considered. In some cities, mainly associated with poverty, a child is more likely to grow up with a dog than it is a father. That’s really quite a shocking statistic, and psychology hasn’t even thought about it.” So it’s not all about being the dog’s boss then? “That,” he says, “is rubbish. And such a primate way to think. There is no evidence dogs can use social status to motivate behavior. It’s a really good example of anthropomorphism. Humans may think in terms of being motivated by a hierarchy, but there is no evidence a dog’s brain is capable of that.” How would he, then, describe the relationship between man and dog today? “It’s like a family friendship,” he says.

Domestic dogs are phenomenal. They look to us, are in tune with us and want to know us even when we are not worth knowing. You may say that the average dog’s life isn’t “natural”, but who is to say what nature intended? At some point in their history, wolves attached themselves to humans and became dogs. And as Rowlands notes: “To the extent that nature has intentions at all, this was part of her intentions no more and no less than wolves remaining wolves.” I ask Professor Mills if he feels sorry for the average urban pooch and he says no, not at all. Dogs are endlessly adaptable, and as long as you don’t forget the dog in the dog, and offer exercise, stimulation and company, a dog can have a good life anywhere.

Chicken adopts Rottweiler puppies

A chicken named Mabel has taken its love of extreme sports to the max, and has adopted a litter of Rottweiler puppies. This it did after losing a fight with a horse that resulted in it injuring its foot, causing its owners to allow it to sleep inside the house – where it found the puppies.

Mabel, and her puppies, live on a farm in Shrewsbury. Mabel keeps her new charges warm by ‘sitting’ on them while they are asleep in her basket. Mabel is dicing with death because the puppies aren’t actually orphans; they have a mother named Nettle. Mable waits for Nettle to leave them before entering their basket and sitting on them.

The owners of the courageous chicken, and the Rottweiler puppies, are Ros and Edward Tate.

Edward Tate explains the bizarre situation:

Mabel was hatched here about a year ago. She would have gone onto someone’s dinner plate but we saved her and brought her into the house.

Unfortunately, she got into an accident with a horse, which accidentally trod on her foot. Because of that, she gets terribly cold during the winter so we decided to bring her into the house.

And then we had puppies about three weeks ago. Mabel observed Nettle’s behaviour and, as soon as there was a chance, she hopped into the dog basket to roost on the pups. She keeps them and herself warm, while Nettle is outside on the yard.

It seems that Mabel isn’t at all concerned that Nettle could be a protective mother, as most dogs are with their pups. Mabel is determined to help out, regardless of the risks to her own personal safety.

It was within a week Mabel was jumping in the box with them and brooding over them. She took to them like they were her own chicks.

Nettle was a bit startled to say the least – but she didn’t mind too much eventually. She’s happy to have a helping pair of wings.

We were amazed when we first it happen – my 13-year-old daughter first saw it happen and called us to come and have a look. And when we saw Mabel here roosting on the pups – we just laughed.

We’re hoping that soon Mabel will have her own chicks to look after but I don’t think Nettle will be returning the favour when that happens.

A lot of dogs love chicken, but Mabel and the puppies are taking this love to extremes.

Full Article Here -