Recently, I came across a news piece debunking common animal myths. I thought I was pretty knowledgeable about most animal myths (I’m kind of a nerd when it comes to animals), but it turns out I had more to learn.
For instance, did you know that touching a baby bird does not mean the mother won’t take it back? Or that porcupines don’t shoot their quills at a predator? You can read more about these common myths at Animal Facts & Myths Debunked By Wildlife Experts.
Reading some of the myths we have about wild animals made me wonder what kinds of dog myths I may have fallen for that turned out not to be true. So, off I went a-Googling to see what I could find. It turns out there are quite a lot of dog myths out there. Who knew? (Just kidding. Given how many myths there are in the dog training world, I had to figure there were a lot more myths about dogs.)
Here are some of the more interesting ones I found:
Dogs are sick when their noses are warm – It turns out this is a myth (one I actually believed). “The temperature of a dogs nose does not indicate health or illness or if they have a fever. The only accurate method to access a dog’s temperature is to take it with a thermometer. Normal dog temperature is 100.5 to 102.5 degrees F.”
Dogs like to be petted on their heads – Past experience has taught me that this is definitely a myth. While some dogs may not mind it, most dogs DO NOT like to be pet on the head. In fact, a hand coming at them over their head can be quite an intimidating thing to a dog and can be seen as a threat.
Happy dogs wag their tails – Another one that so many people think is true. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but a wagging tail does not always mean a dog is happy. “A wagging tail can mean agitation or excitement. A dog that wags his tail slowly and moves his all rear end or crouches down in the classic “play bow” position is usually a friendly wag. Tails that are wagged when held higher, twitches or wagging while held over the back may be associated with aggression.”
Dogs eat grass when they are sick – Haven’t you always wondered why your dog eats grass? I know have. I actually believed this one was true. but according to Dr. Debra Primovic, “Dogs descended from wild wolves and foxes that ate all parts of their “kill.” This included the stomach contents of many animals that ate berries and grass. Many scientists believe grass was once part of their normal diet and eating small amounts is normal.”
Dogs destroy furniture and other items in the house because they are angry – This is actually one of my favorite myths. So many people believe that their dog takes out their anger on them when they are gone. How do they know this? Why their dog looks guilty of course! Afraid not. More and more studies are showing that the guilty look your dog gives you is in response to you (your tone of voice, body posture, etc.) NOT because they actually felt guilty for doing something they knew was wrong. You can read more about a study done in 2009 here.
You should never comfort a scared dog – This is one of those old myths I heard growing up as a kid. My dog Indy was fearful of thunderstorms and we were told to ignore the behavior or it would reinforce it. We did. It didn’t. Her fear just got worse with time. Poor Indy. Now I know better and I comfort Daisy when there is a thunderstorm or fireworks are going off in the neighborhood. Why? Because I finally met someone who understands and works with fearful dogs, Debbie Jacobs. According to Debbie, “One of the first things someone working with a fearful dog needs to understand is that it’s ok to comfort a dog that is afraid. It’s ok to give them a piece of cheese or take them away from what is scaring them.” Daisy is the lucky recipient of this wisdom and I am so grateful. So is Daisy.
Dog growling is always a bad thing – I used to believe this one until I got my dog Indy. Have you ever had a dog who was vocal? Well, Indy was and she loved nothing more than to growl when playing tug or wrestling with another dog. As shared by Eric Goebelbecker of Dog Spelled Forward, “Dogs have a very limited vocal range, and like reading body language, making a judgement based on a single indicator like a growl is a bad idea. Growling during play, such as a game of tug, is perfectly fine.”
Using head collars will cause neck/spinal injury – I recently came across this one when someone I know on Facebook admonished a foster mom for using a Gentle Leader on her foster dog. According to the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT), a well-recognized and respected dog-training association, “This is an oft-repeated claim that can be found all over the Internet. In fact there are no documented cases of dogs getting neck and/or spinal injuries from head collars. Proper use of these types of collars should have no ill physical effects on your dog.”
Dogs are descendents of wolves and therefore training should be based on how wolf packs interact with each other – Ah yes. The whole “pack theory” approach to dog training. You can read my friend Pamela’s post Why is the Dominance Theory of Dog Training Still So Darn Popular? but you may also want to read what APDT has to say on this… “Dogs are not wolves and there are many significant differences between dog and wolf behavior such that wolf behavior is completely irrelevant to how we live and interact with our dogs. Moreover, when wolf behavior is mentioned as a model for dog training, the understanding of wolf behavior used is often incorrect and based on studies that have long since been disproven by research scientists who study wolves extensively.”
Pitbulls have jaws that lock, thus making them more dangerous than other dog breeds – False. False. False. I wish I knew where these myths got started. Somewhere I imagine a dog fighter bragging to his dog fighter scumbag buddy that his pitbull has a jaw that locks. Can’t you just see it? According to the Pitbull Rescue Center’s (PBRC) Media Center page “there is NO SUCH THING AS “JAW LOCKING” IN ANY BREED.” And this, from several veterinarians who were consulted on this matter. The whole “pitbulls have a 1600 PSI bite pressure”myth is also false. PBRC shared some very interesting information on animals and bite pressure:
- Humans: 120 pounds of bite pressure
- Domestic dogs: 320 LBS of pressure on avg. A German Shepard, American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT) and Rottweiler were tested using a bite sleeve equipped with a specialized computer instrument. The APBT had the least amount of pressure of the 3 dogs tested.
- Wild dogs: 310 lbs
- Lions: 600 lbs
- White sharks: 600 lbs
- Hyenas: 1000 lbs
- Snapping turtles: 1000 lbs
- Crocodiles: 2500 lbs
Pretty interesting isn’t it?
I look back at when I first became a dog owner and shake my head. What I knew then and what I know now are ages and ages apart. How many of these myths did I believe when I was younger? Probably all of them. It’s amazing what you learn as you grow as a person.
So what myths did you have as a kid that you have since learned were untrue? Did any of the myths listed above surprise you? I would love to hear your thoughts.
For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated by animal behavior. When I was a child I would sit for hours observing the Canadian geese that lived in the pond across from my house. I even took an animal behavior class in high school. Dog behavior is just one more area in which I am often fascinated. I love watching my dogs figure things out or adjust their behavior to a new circumstance or puzzle.
When my friend Debbie over at FearfulDogs.com shared this piece on Neophobia (fear of new things) in dogs, I immediately went to check it out. Not just because it was about dog behavior, but because it was one more piece to the puzzle in understanding my own dog’s behavior.
When Jasper was about a year old (I adopted him at 9 months), I took him to training class at the shelter where I volunteered. During our weekly training sessions, it soon became clear Jasper was frightened by everything new that was introduced into his environment. He refused to go near a dish full of food because he had never seen it before. He refused to go near any of the dividers or other equipment because they were something new he had not seen before. He was easily startled if something new was brought into class and would often freeze in fear or back up or look for an escape route to get away from it.
Unlike most puppies, Jasper was not curious about new things. In fact, he was outright fearful of all of them and would shut down as soon as they appeared. I remember our instructor, a friend of mine, mentioning that maybe he suffered from something called “brittle dog syndrom,” or neophobia, as a result of not being exposed to a lot of new things when he was a puppy. I had never heard of such a thing, but I now know she was right on.
So what is Neophobia?
Some of the behaviors dogs display when they are confronted with something new in their environment are:
- avoidance or attempts at escape when around new things (In Jasper’s case, he avoids and barks what I call his “chicken little bark.” The sky is falling! The sky is falling! Alarm! Alarm!)
Many dogs who display neophobic behaviors were not socialized as puppies. In Jasper’s case, he spent the majority of his early life in a puppy mill, and then in a pet shop store window. He was “rescued” from that environment at around 8 1/2 months. Before coming to our shelter and then to me, he had very little opportunity to be exposed to many new things, except people, which he has no fear of at all.
Some neophobic dogs can also be so as a result of genetics or breed disposition (i.e., some breeds appear to display it more than others). Although I have no expertise in this area, I would not be surprised to discover that Shelties are a breed who falls into this category. One only has to look at the number of lost Shelties who were lost, after they bolted in fear, to suspect this to be the case.
Since Jasper is a Sheltie and had little socialization as a puppy, he has two strikes against him. However, I have been able to manage his fear of new things by removing him from the object he fears and/or rewarding him with treats when he examines it with curiosity. It takes work, time and patience, but a neophobic dog can learn to live a fairly normal life, depending on how bad the fear is and how well you manage it.
If you have a dog you think may suffer from Neophobia, check out the great article on the ASPCA site. It’s definitely worth the read. My thanks to Debbie Jacobs for sharing it.
I love personality tests and questionnaires that give you some insight into yourself. When I volunteered at our local shelter, we introduced the Meet Your Match program to help improve dog retention numbers for adopted dogs and cats. I took the short questionnaire and was surprised to find out that I prefer “Green” dogs. I was also surprised to learn that I was not all that common amongst the group of volunteers I worked with every day. Most of my friends preferred the Orange or Purple dogs. It sure gave me insight into myself and the dogs I preferred. I’m not sure I knew that I liked the really busy and active dogs as much as I did. Now? I totally recognize it. I gravitate towards the busy ones the most.
Maybe that’s why I was so interested in this story when I saw it. “What Your Dog’s Breed Says About You” highlights a new study on the correlation between personality and dog breed preferences. It seems pretty similar to Meet Your Match, but reveals new information that may help with pet adoption in the future.
The researchers wanted to see how personality traits would influence real-world behavior and preferences.What they found out was interesting.
“We go for dogs that are a bit like us, just as we go for a romantic partner who is a bit like us,” study researcher Lance Workman, a psychologist at Bath Spa University in the United Kingdom, told LiveScience.
Here’s a quick highlight of what was shared in the article:
They researchers asked 1000 purebreed dog owners to take an online survey that measured these personality traits:
The researchers also split the dog breeds into categories using the seven Kennel Club breed groups:
- Gun dogs (e.g., Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, English Setter, Brittany Spaniel, Weimaraner, etc.))
- Hound dogs (e.g., Greyhound, Afghan, Bloodhound, Saluki, Basenji, Borzoi, Dachshund, etc.)
- Pastoral breeds (e.g., German shepherd, Collis, Anatolian Shepherd, Shetland Sheepdog, Border Collie, etc.)
- Terriers (e.g., Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Airedale Terrier, Norfolk Terrier, Soft-coated Wheaton Terrier, etc.)
- Toy breeds (e.g., Chihuahua, Bichon Frise, King Charles Spaniel, Papillon, Havanese, etc.)
- Utility breeds (includes Bulldog, Boston Terrier, Lhasa Apso, Poodle, Schnauzer, etc.)
- Working breeds (e.g., Doberman, Boxer, Newfoundland, Bernese Mountain Dog, Great Dane, Mastiff, etc.)
They found that there were some correlations between personality types and dog breed preferences.
- Extroverts were more likely to own pastoral or utility breeds
- Owners of gun dogs and toy dogs were most agreeable.
- Hound owners tend to be the most emotionally stable people.
- Toy dog owners were the most open and imaginative.
The researchers presented their results to the British Psychological Society Annual Conference in London. Their hope is that this new information will help people pick the right breed the first time and lessen the chances that a dog ends up in an animal shelter.
What do you think? If you could identify which dog breed, or mix of dog breeds, best fits your personality would you want to know? Would you use it to help you select your next dog?
Recently, Minnesota Sheltie Rescue shared a blog post by Dr. Sophia Yin, titled, Coprophagia: The Scoop on Poop Eating in Dogs. I am not embarrassed to say that it caught my attention right away. After all, with two poop-eaters right here at Casa del Mel, it’s pretty hard not to be curious about it.
In her post, Dr. Yin shares information from “a study presented at the annual ACVB/AVSAB Behavior Symposium in San Diego” just last month. I thought the information she shared was quite fascinating. (Okay. Maybe not fascinating, but certainly interesting.) I would encourage you to read the full post yourself. It’s a quick read, but chock full of information.
Among the information she shared was:
- Up to 16% of dog owners have dogs who eat poop
- Poop-eaters are more likely to be found in dual dog households (24%) and multiple dog households (30% more likely with 3 dogs in the home)
- Only 15% of dogs in the study ate their own poop, 85% ate other dogs’ poop
- Neutered males were more likely to eat poop than intact males
- 38% of border collies had a history of eating poop and 40% of shelties did as well
- Poop-eating could not be traced to issues with their diet.
- 52% of the stool eaters would steal food off a table
- All the “easy” solutions to stop poop-eating don’t work (e.g., products claiming to stop poop-eating, putting a chili pepper or pineapple in the food, yelling, using a shock collar, etc.)
- Immediately picking up after your dog is the one thing that does work
Interesting isn’t it?
I have to admit that some of the information was spot on for us:
- 3 dog household = increased likelihood of having poop-eaters
- Neutered males more likely to eat poop
- Shelties more likely to eat poop
- Picking up the poop immediately helps (a lot)
Bu some to the information was not:
- The poop-eaters in our household are not the food-grabbers of the family
- One of the poop eaters is a neutered male, but one is a spayed female (listed in the study as least likely to eat poop)
- (I am embarrassed to admit this, but…) one of our poop-eaters prefers to eat it right away. The fresher the better. (I know. It grosses me out terribly. Trust me. It happens a lot less now.)
I have a sneaking suspicion I know why some of my dogs don’t fit the norm, but it would take too long to explain. So instead I’ll ask you – do you have poop-eaters in your household? How accurate were the study results for you?
More than half of the dogs in the U.S. are mutts, and yet, many of us can only guess at what breeds are in their make up. A story ( First mutt census reveals strong dog DNA trends, ) first published last year on the Today Show may provide us some clues as to what breeds are more common in today’s mixed-breed dogs.
According to the story, Mars Veterinary, a division of Mars, Incorporated, conducted the first ever National Mutt Census to find out what breeds make up today’s mutts. Using an online survey, they collected information from pet owners from across the United States regarding their dog’s size, weight, place of origin, feeding and exercise habits, and health. In addition, they collected DNA samples from over 36,000 dogs to see what breeds would be most prevalent.
The results shared in the story were fascinating.
The dog most commonly found at the grandparent or great-grandparent level is the Chow Chow
American Staffordshire terrier mixes are becoming much more common
Large breeds (over 80 lbs.) were less likely to appear in mixed-breed dogs ( only 11%)
German Shepherds are a popular breed found in many mutts and are also a popular AKC breed
The 10 most popular breeds found in mixed dogs are:
1) German Shepherds
2) Labrador Retriever
3) Chow Chow
7) American Staffordshire Terrier
8) Golden Retriever
9) Cocker Spaniel
10) Siberian Husky
The Today Show also reported that Mars had discovered:
Most mixed-breed dogs are adopted from a shelter (46%)
Most people feed their dogs kibble (65%)
48% of us let our dogs sleep on our beds with us
89% of mutts are spayed or neutered
I encourage you to read the full story, and even though the National Mutt census is over (it was conducted in 2010), you can find out more about the survey and the at http://www.muttcensus.com/, including what breeds are most common in the mixed-breed dogs in your state.
In Minnesota, the following breeds were more frequently detected in our mutts:
What breeds are most common in yours?
I decided to take a stab at guessing what the most popular breeds were first. Most of my guesses were based on some of my old doggie clients and some of our most popular friends at the dog park, but would I be right?
Here were my guesses:
1. Labrador Retriever
2. Golden Retriever (My most popular and plentiful doggie clients.)
3. Labradoodle (I see them everywhere here.)
4. Yorkshire Terrier
5. German Shepherd
6. Alaskan Husky (We do live in Minnesota after all!)
8. Pitbull Terrier (You wouldn’t think that an unpopular and much maligned breed would be on my list, but I think Minnesota may be a bit more progressive than most other states when it comes to pitbulls.)
10. German Shorthair Pointer
(P.S. I would have chosen Mutt if I could have done so. It’s by far the most common type of dog I see everywhere in Minnesota.)
So how close was I? Check it out.
1. Labrador Retriever
2. German Shepherd Dog
4. Golden Retriever
5. Shih Tzu
6. Yorkshire Terrier
7. American Pit Bull Terrier
9. Australian Shepherd
10. English Springer Spaniel
Oh well. Five out of ten isn’t bad. Is it?
So what breed was most popular in your state?
What surprised you most about your state’s Top 10 Popular Breeds list?
About a year ago, my brother adopted a dog from a pitbull rescue group here in Minnesota. Dozer isn’t actually a pitbull (as far as we can tell), but he does have an interesting story. The woman who fostered him had rescued him from a shelter in the south after the shelter manager begged her to take him. It seems that Dozer had been scheduled to put to sleep (i.e., he had run out of time) several times, but the shelter manager kept saving him because he had become really taken with him. He knew that it was only a matter of time before he would have to put him to sleep, so he begged Dozer’s foster mom to please take him, and even though she was there to rescue pitbulls, she did.
Dozer had spent some time with her, but still couldn’t seem to find that perfect family. In fact, she was thinking the cause was lost and she should just adopt him herself, when my brother and sister-in-law came across his picture on Pet Finder. It was love at first sight. Dozer had some behavioral issues to resolve, but a year later I can honestly say he is an awesome dog. My brother and sister-in-law have been amazing pet parents. They took him to basic training and even had him do a little agility (which he loved). It’s been wonderful to see his transformation under their loving care. There’s only one problem. NO ONE can seem to guess what he is - Vizsla? Rhodesian Rideback? Smooth Collie-mix? Hound-mix?
Here’s where you come in. I need your help. I need you dog aficionados to tell me what you think Dozer is mixed with. So, what’s your guess?
Additional details – Dozer is:
– Wicked smart. He can learn a new trick in seconds.
– Prey driven. Don’t ever think of getting between him and a squirrel!
– Tall. Dozer is about the same height as a Greyhound
– Long legged. In fact, he’s all legs.
– Big ears. I love, love, love his ears!
Welcome to the Saturday Pet Blogger Blog Hop. I encourage you to check out some of the other awesome pet bloggers out there. Much thanks to our most generous and interesting hosts, Life With Dogs, Two Little Cavaliers, and Confessions of the Plume!
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On the heels of my post from yesterday, I couldn’t help but share this adorable video of Labrador Retriever puppies running to the music of Chariots of Fire. I was going to save it for Favorite Video Friday, but I just couldn’t. It’s just too darn adorable to keep it to myself any longer.
Prepare for a smile to cross your face. Pure puppy cuteness is about to commence.
P.S. The last shot is my favorite.