Monthly Archives: December 2015

Dogs Are Even More Like Us Than We Thought

Dogs Are Even More Like Us Than We Thought

For one, canines shun people who are mean to their owners, a new study says.

Picture of a man fishing with dog in foreground

A fly fisherman and his golden retriever enjoy the Provo River in Utah. Canines, emerging research suggests, are more like humans than we ever imagined.


Dogs can read facial expressions, communicate jealousy, display empathy, and even watch TV, studies have shown. They’ve picked up these people-like traits during their evolution from wolves to domesticated pets, which occurred between 11,000 and 16,000 years ago, experts say.

In particular, “paying attention to us, getting along with us, [and] tolerating us” has led to particular characteristics that often mirror ours, says Laurie Santos, director of the Yale Comparative Cognition Laboratory. (Read more about how dogs evolved in National Geographic magazine.)

Here are a few of the latest studies showing the human side of our canine companions.

Picture of 2 kids and a dog

A pug watches humans in Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park in Alaska. Dogs are very observant of their owners’ interactions with other people, new research suggests.


Eavesdropping Dogs

Social eavesdropping—or people-watching—is central to human social interactions, since it allows us to figure out who’s nice and who’s mean.

In a new study, scientists tested 54 dogs that each watched their owners struggle to retrieve a roll of tape from a container. The dogs were divided into three groups: helper, non-helper, and control.

In the helper group, the owner requested help from another person, who held the container. In the non-helper group, the owner asked for help from a person, who then turned their back without helping. In the control group, the additional person turned his or her back without being asked for help. In all experiments, a third, “neutral” person sat in the room.

After the first round of experiments, the neutral person and the helper or non-helper both offered treats to the dog.

In the non-helper group, canines most frequently favored the neutral person’s treat, shunning the non-helper. However, in the helper group, the dogs did not favor either the helper or the neutral person over the other. Scientists have previously observed similar results in human infants and tufted capuchin monkeys. (See “Can Dogs Feel Our Emotions? Yawn Study Suggests Yes.”)

So are dogs taking sides by ignoring the people who are mean to their owners? Only future research will tell.

 An experiment shows how dogs can empathize with human emotions.

Made You Look

Gaze following is instinctual for many animals—including humans, chimps, goats, dolphins, and even the red-footed tortoise—because it alerts animals to everything from immediate threats to “a particularly tasty berry bush,” says Lisa Wallis, a doctoral student at the Messerli Research Institute in Vienna, Austria.

Dogs were previously thought to follow human gazes only when food or toys were involved. Now, a new study suggests dogs also follow human gazes into blank space—but only if they’re untrained. (See “5 Amazing Stories of Devoted Dogs.”)

“We know they should be able to do it,” says Wallis, leader of the research published in August in the journal Animal Behaviour, but training was the “missing piece of the puzzle.”

In recent experiments, Wallis and her colleagues recruited 145 pet border collies with a range of training levels and ages. The researchers wanted to see if age, habituation, or training influenced the dog’s tendency to follow a human’s gaze.

Wallis then observed the dogs’ reactions as she gazed toward a door. Surprisingly, only the untrained border collies followed her gaze—the trained animals ignored it. That may be because trained dogs learn to focus on a person’s face, and not where the person is looking.

When Wallis and colleagues spent just five minutes teaching the untrained dogs to look at her face, they began ignoring the instinct to follow her gaze.

Even more surprising is that the untrained dogs often glanced back and forth between her and the door, baffled at what she was looking at. The behavior, only seen before in humans and chimps, is called “check backs” or “double looking,” she said. (Read about war dogs in National Geographic magazine.)

“It’s a lesson for us all that we should always examine whether training has an effect in these types of studies,” says Wallis.

Next Steps in Dog Research

In humans, aging hastens declines in short-term memory and logical reasoning skills, making it more difficult to learn new tasks. Previous research has found similar declines in dogs, but long-term memory is a little-known aspect of dog biology. (See “Many Animals—Including Your Dog—May Have Horrible Short-Term Memories.”)

That’s why Wallis and colleagues are studying how dogs both young and old memorize tasks, and whether the animals can remember them months later.

The results are still in the works, but Wallis expects to discover that it’s tough—but not impossible—to teach old dogs new tricks.

How to Soothe Your Dog’s Achy Joints

How to Soothe Your Dog's Achy Joints
Does your dog no longer bound up the steps? Does he appear stiff in the morning or perhaps even limps? If so, there’s a good chance your dog has arthritis, also called osteoarthritis or degenerative bone disease. The Arthritis Foundation conservatively reports one in five dogs suffer from this chronic joint pain condition. The good news is there are ways you can make your dog more comfortable.

Step 1
Schedule an appointment with your vet. She can determine if your dog’s stiffness or reluctance to play is in fact a symptom of joint pain, and not a torn ligament or even cancer. They can also advise if your dog ought to be on pain medication.

Step 2
Lose the extra weight. Dogs, like people, have a tendency to pack on some extra pounds as they age. This extra weight puts considerable added strain on already sore joints. Your dog will be happier—and healthier—at his optimal weight.

Step 3
Add natural supplements. Turmeric and the omega-3’s found in fish oil have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce joint pain. Turn to page 84 for dosage information. \

Step 4
Get comfortable. A supportive dog bed that cushions sore joints is a must. A high-quality, super-comfortable dog bed that cushions painful joints and that is easy to get into and out of is a great investment. Dogs spend an average of 12–14 hours a day sleeping. Why not make them dreamy ones? Check out the Dormeo Octaspring Bolster Bed by Buddyrest.

Step 5
Massage your dog. Not only does canine massage ease pain, it’s a wonderful way to deepen your bond and show your dog how much you love her. For canine massage technique how-to, go to

Step 6
If your buddy is starting to have a really hard time climbing the steps or getting up to his favourite spot on the couch, invest in ramps or floor runners to improve traction. builds awesome, Martha Stewart-approved steps in a variety of styles to assist pets getting onto places they can no longer jump up or down to without help. makes amazing dog booties that provide traction on slippery surfaces like hardwood, making a huge difference in your dog’s stability.

– See more at:

14 Things That Have Changed for Dogs for the Better in 2015

Puplifting Moments: 14 Things That Have Changed For Dogs For The Better In 2015

2015 was a dogtastic year for pups. We still have a long way to go as far as making sure dogs are treated fairly by people and the law in all aspects of their life, but seeing all the changes that have taken place in 2015 alone is incredibly encouraging.

1. Missouri passed a law making it illegal to tether a dog for more than 30 minutes.


Source: Dogster

Just last week, Missouri lawmakers passed a law requiring owners to leave their dogs untethered for any period of time longer than 30 minutes. Hopefully, this will deter people from permanently tethering or chaining their dogs outside, which is not only very inhumane, it also can create many negative behaviors in dogs.

2. Larger sentences are being dished out to convicted dogfighting criminals.

dog fighing

Source: Press Unleashed

In light of the disturbing 2007 Michael Vick dogfighting case, many activists have taken up a new zeal to fight against dogfighting rings. Over the course of the past 8 years, criminals charged with this crime have been facing significantly longer prison sentences. Michael Vick spent less than 2 years in prison for his crimes, whereas the most recent convict, a man named Hewitt Grant, was sentenced to 20 years for running a dogfighting ring. Finally, justice is being served.

3. Illinois made it illegal to leave dogs outside in extreme weather.


Source: Life In The Dog Lane

Although the legislation doesn’t take effect until January 1, 2016, the state of Illinois recently took a great step toward protecting dogs against the elements. Owners in the state who leave their pups outside in any kind of extreme weather can be sentenced to jail time or fined up to $2,500.

4. The National Defense Authorization Act passed making it necessary for all military dogs to be brought home after finishing their tour.

military puppp

Source: @tech_ninja_productions

It’s no secret how important military dogs are to our service men and women. Between bomb-sniffing dogs and dogs trained as trackers, their utility to our country’s safety is only becoming more apparent. As of recently, military dogs were sometimes left on foreign soil when troops were withdrawn, and reports were not kept about their whereabouts.

On October 7th of this year, Congress passed a law making sure all military dogs were returned to US soil after they were finished serving their country. In addition, all veteran soldiers who worked with these dogs are given the first opportunity to adopt them, which has been proven to help with PTSD and adaptation back into society.

5. Quebec and New Zealand now recognize all animals as “sentient beings.”

new zealand dogs

Source: @felicas_family

It’s hard to believe, but people are still in the process of grasping the idea that animals can think and feel. Your jaw just dropped, right? Yeah. In New Zealand and Quebec, however, all animals are now recognized as fully sentient beings, which means people convicted of crimes against animals in these countries can now be punished much more severely. The rest of the world needs to catch up with these two, but it’s a great start!

6. New York & Los Angeles pups are now allowed to dine outdoors.

pomeranian outside

Source: @sir_calvin

If eating with your pooch is the only way you know how to enjoy a meal, you had a lucky year in 2015. As of October, New York State joined the list of states which permit dogs to join their humans at restaurants with outdoor seating areas. This legislation will make an impact on the quality of life for dogs in these cities, as previously only service dogs were allowed to join their owners.

7. People in Tennessee can now legally free dogs trapped in hot cars.

dog in hot car

Source: One Green Planet

People who save dogs from being stuck in a hot car are heroes. Hands down. No question. Up until recently, these people weren’t legally protected for saving these dogs as breaking into someone else’s car – regardless of the reason – was considered a crime. As of July of this year, residents of Tennessee who break into a car to rescue a dog from the heat will no longer face criminal charges. Hooray for pup vigilantism!

8. Amtrak is now required to have a car for dogs on every train.


Source: Geofffox

Earlier this year, Amtrak tested allowing animals to ride on their trains in the Northeast region of the United States. Due to the overwhelming success of the venture and a serious push for the passing of the Pets On Trains Act over the past few years from legislators, dogs are finally allowed to be the jet-setting pups they were born to be. Although owners still have to abide by certain rules and regulations which allow for only certain sized breeds to ride on the trains, this is still a major win for dogs across the country.

9. Utah has rejected all BSL laws in the state.


Source: Petfinder

Three cheers for Pibbles in Utah! As of the beginning of this year, all breed specific laws in the state have been revoked. Pit Bulls have always been a deeply misunderstood breed, and the battle to build awareness about this misunderstanding is far from over. The passing of this legislation, however, helps to open doors for other states to follow suit. Currently, there are still 32 states in the US that have BSL laws.

10. A new study shows hope for dogs with anxiety issues.


Source: PetMD

A recent study conducted in London, England has shown that dogs with anxiety issues, specifically separation anxiety, who are given a prescription of fluoxetine are more inclined to feel optimistic when separated from their owner than pessimistic. This development is hugely significant for dogs who suffer from behavioral issues due to this anxiety, as the study showed dogs can be weaned off the medication after a few years of treatment and retain their optimistic mindset.

11. 16 states now have laws to protect dogs who are left in hot cars.


Source: Little Things

Although all states have dealt with animal cruelty cases in which owners have been charged for leaving their dogs in hot cars, legitimate legislation making this heinous act a crime punishable by law has been slow moving. As of 2015, the United States officially has 16 states where this act is considered a crime. The number may seem small, but other states (like Pennsylvania) are rapidly working toward passing their own legislation as this issue becomes a larger conversation nationwide.

12. New military body armor helps to further protect our military and police dogs.


Source: The Star

Protective gear for service dogs is not a new concept. After the story of Diesel the bomb-sniffing dog who died in a raid against terrorists in Paris went viral, people have been voicing their concern about the precautions taken to protect these dogs. A company named “Nord Body Armour” has been working on this issue for years, and thankfully they have come out with new equipment to help save our dogs in the line of duty.

13. Medical breakthroughs allow for better care of seriously sick dogs.


Source: Dog Health News

2015 was a great year for doggy medicine. It’s no secret how stressful sending your dog to the vet can be, but recent improvements in canine cancer treatments, the understanding of how anesthesia affects dogs, and the rapidly increasing availability of important medical equipment have all made treatment for dogs with serious medical conditions easier for humans and dogs alike.

14. O’Hare International Airport now has a doggy bathrooms in all of their terminals.


Source: Dog Time

In what is easily the most significant breakthrough of 2015 (jokes), O’Hare International Airport has built specially designated bathrooms for dogs in all of their terminals. This decision not only sets a precedent for all other airports, but it helps make traveling an infinitely less stressful experience for dogs, especially older dogs and dogs with some medical issues. In addition, humans with disabilities no longer will have to exit the airport so their animal can relieve themselves.

Feature image via Puppy Toob

14 Airports With Therapy Dogs to Ease Holiday Travel Stress

14 Airports With Therapy Dogs To Ease Your Holiday Travel Woes

Traveling during the holidays can be stressful is a stressful and soul-sucking experience. People who “love flying” during the holidays are also the kinds of people who love “setting fires for fun”. Although this is merely a personal assumption, and admittedly a bold one at that, it is fair to say that people can have a ton of anxiety when they are flying.

To remedy this all too common travel affliction, some airports have been implementing a policy of allowing therapy dogs in terminals. These pups help calm anxious travelers before a flight, after a flight, during, oh say 7 hour layovers where you get to learn the people working at the JFK Terminal 4 Dunkin’ Donuts way too well (we’re Facebook friends now, shout out to Kevin). And btw, dogs are just great to have around in general. This is always true.
1. Mineta San Jose International Airport

Casey San Jose


Who wouldn’t want to be greeted at the airport by this handsome guy?
2. Miami International Airport



The only thing better than being in Miami? Petting a therapy dog in Miami.
3. San Antonio International Airport

Therapy Dog*750


“Welcome to San Antonio International Airport. I’m here to help.” – this stoic creature
4. Will Rogers World Airport

will rodgers


This dynamic duo is sure to ease all anxiety with one slobbery kiss.
5. Los Angeles International Airport

chance LAX


*doesn’t care about seeing famous people* *only cares about finding therapy dogs*
6. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport

ft lauderdale


Anxious about flying AND the daunting humidity in Florida? We’ve got you covered.
7. Reno-Tahoe International Airport



Is there room for one more? Pretty please?
8. San Francisco International Airport



This is how to travel first class regardless of what kind of plane ticket you have.
9. Denver International Airport



The Denver International Airport straight up has profiles of all of its therapy dogs. #micdrop
10. Charlotte-Douglas Airport

Screen Shot 2015-12-18 at 4.58.32 PM


This pup’s ear has the same amount of anxiety reducing power as an *entire bottle of Xanax.

*this is a factually unproven claim.
11. Sacramento Airport



12. Salt Lake City International Airport

salt lake city


“Mom, you’re leaving me at this airport. I’m not letting go of this dog. I love you.” – this little girl.

13. Halifax International Airport
salt lake


A literal row of anxiety reducing puppy power. Props for the pups, Halifax International.
14. Edmonton International Airport



NOTHING and we mean NOTHING is more anxiety reducing than scratching the head of an equally elated and squishy bulldog.