Animal Health Foundation Blog

Archive for the ‘Human-Animal Bond’ Category

Household Substances That Can Harm Your Pet

Friday, April 2nd, 2021

From foods, medications, household cleaners and plants.  This article covers it all from Dr. Karen Becker

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Pet Pandemic National Survey

Tuesday, March 30th, 2021

This study of 1,300 pet owners nationally gives you insight on how people are dealing with their pets in the past COVID year.

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Puppy Mill Dogs – How Can You Help?

Thursday, March 18th, 2021

We can’t let up on Puppy Mill dogs.  They need your help.  Those who expose the industry need your help.  READ MORE by Dr. Karen Becker.

 

Money’s Top Picks for Best Pet Insurance of 2021

Tuesday, March 16th, 2021

Pet insurance helps pay for your pet’s medical care, with many policies covering up to 90 percent of your vet bill — assuming your pet’s procedure wasn’t excluded from coverage or didn’t surpass your annual expense cap.

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Prepare Your Home for an Earthquake and Keep You and Your Pets Safe

Tuesday, November 24th, 2020

From:  www.porch.com at:

https://porch.com/advice/prepare-home-earthquake-keep-pets-safe

November 2, 2020

While many homeowners are under the false impression that earthquakes are restricted to certain areas of the U.S., the reality is that an earthquake can strike any location at any time. Although states like California, Alaska, Washington, and Oregon are more prone to the risk of an earthquake, one can happen anywhere without warning. An earthquake can cause tsunamis, landslides, fires, and other disturbances that can wreak havoc on an entire region.

As with any natural disaster, the best time to prepare is before the unexpected happens. Read on to learn about earthquake preparedness tips you can use to safeguard your home, family, and pets.

Earthquake Preparedness Tips for Your Family

While natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and typhoons can be predicted beforehand, even with today’s advanced technology, there’s no fool-proof way for weather departments to detect the location and magnitude of an earthquake. Although scientists do have a general understanding of which areas of the United States are most prone to earthquakes, they’re unfortunately still unable to assess the exact time this type of catastrophe will occur. For that reason, the only way to minimize loss of life and property damage is to prepare beforehand.

No matter where you live, there are certain earthquake safety tips you can implement to ensure your family’s safety.

Earthquake Readiness Planning Begins Inside the Home

The best place to begin planning your family’s earthquake safety measures is within your home. Follow these five earthquake safety procedures to keep your family safe:

  1. Identify both the safest and most dangerous areas of your home. Review these areas with your family members so everyone understands where to go if disaster strikes.
  2. Designate a safe zone where you and other family members can meet if you get separated during or after an earthquake.
  3. Since fires often break out after earthquakes, make sure your family knows where the fire extinguisher is and how to use it properly.
  4. Run regular earthquake readiness drills with your family so they become more familiar with how to respond if a disaster occurs.
  5. Review your community’s earthquake preparedness plans. Identify your city’s safety zones and include an emergency meeting place in your family’s plan in case you get separated.

Build an Earthquake Emergency Kit

After an earthquake, you may have to survive for several days on your own until help arrives. Smart earthquake preparedness means you have enough food, water, and other essential supplies to last for several days. Build a collection of basic household items that you might need if you’re forced to evacuate your home quickly or if you’re unable to leave your home temporarily.

What to Include in an Earthquake Emergency Kit

When assembling your earthquake emergency kit, take your family’s unique needs into account. For example, consider the needs of your pets or senior citizens when building your kit. If you have a baby, don’t forget to pack formula, bottles, wipes, diapers, and other essentials. A basic disaster supply kit safety checklist should include:

  • A gallon of water per person per day to last several days
  • At least a three-day supply of non-perishable food that can be prepared without gas or electricity
  • Flashlights with extra batteries
  • A first aid kit
  • Waterproof matches
  • A battery-powered emergency radio so you can keep up with current information
  • A whistle to signal for help
  • A manual can opener
  • A map of your city
  • Hand sanitizer or moist towelettes
  • Prescription medications
  • Non-prescription medicines such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and antacids
  • Masks to help filter contaminated air
  • Copies of important documents such as ID cards, bank account information, and insurance policies
  • Sleeping bags or heavy blankets to stay warm

Create an Earthquake-Proof Home to Prevent Structural Damage

Prepare your home for an earthquake to keep your family and home safe from seismic activity. Use this home safety checklist to reduce property damage and help ensure safety:

Purchase Earthquake Insurance

If you live in a region that’s particularly prone to earthquakes, purchasing earthquake insurance is critical. Depending on the magnitude, an earthquake can cause extensive damage to property. Most homeowner’s insurance policies don’t cover earthquake-related damage. If disaster does strike, earthquake insurance can help cover the costs of repairing your home or purchasing a new one so you and your family can continue to live life as normal.

Reinforce the Structural Elements of Your Home

Many new properties are built on a strong foundation, but older homes may be held in place simply by their weight. If your home isn’t fixed firmly to the ground, it may be prone to wobbling, cracking, or crumbling if an earthquake occurs. Here are a few ways you can create an earthquake-proof home:

  • Repair any cracks in your walls or roof.
  • Reinforce the cripple wall of your home, which is located between the foundation and the first floor of your home.
  • Reinforce attached structures such as your garage, chimney, and joint shed.
  • Secure anchor bolts or steel plates between the foundation and the house. This small investment can prevent your home from sliding or being overturned during an earthquake.

Secure Items within Your House

After an earthquake, gas leaks can be even more dangerous than the natural disaster itself. Consider investing in automatic shut-off devices or breakaway gas shut-off devices so you can easily turn the gas off. Then, follow these safety precautions to prepare the inside of your home for an earthquake:

  • Fasten taller furniture like wardrobes, armoires, and bookcases to the wall with straps or safety cables.
  • Hang heavier objects such as mirrors and artwork away from couches, beds, or any other furniture where people sit.
  • On shelves, place heavier objects and breakables as low as possible.
  • Secure your water heater to the wall.
  • Install safety film on glass doors and windows.
  • Secure ceiling fixtures like chandeliers and ceiling lights to the permanent structure of your home.
  • Install latches on cabinet doors and drawers to prevent items from spilling out.
  • Identify the locations of your circuit breaker or electrical fuse box and water shut-off valve so you can quickly turn them off if needed.

If you’re unsure about how earthquake-proof your home is, a professional engineer can evaluate your structure. Don’t hesitate to ask about home safety repair and strengthening tips for features like your porch, deck, sliding glass doors, carport, garage door, or other structures.

Earthquake Pet Safety Tips to Practice During and After an Earthquake

After an earthquake, it’s not uncommon for families to deal with the grief of a missing pet that became separated during the catastrophe. Unfortunately, many pets may never be reunited with their family members due to poor earthquake preparedness. In an emergency like an earthquake, your pet will be even more dependent on you for its well-being and safety. Your family’s earthquake disaster preparedness plan should also include the needs of your pet.

What to Include in an Emergency Kit for Pets

Make sure your furry family members are also ready for a major disaster like an earthquake by following these earthquake pet safety tips. When building a disaster preparedness kit for your pets, follow these safety procedures:

  • Pack enough food and water to last for at least five days for each pet. Don’t forget to pack your pet’s bowl and a manual can opener.
  • Make sure your pet is properly identified by a tag, collar, or microchip. Your pet should always wear an ID, even when indoors.
  • Become aware of your pet’s favorite hiding places. If your pet becomes frightened, it may try to hide.
  • Keep a list of your pet’s medical records and medications and store this information in a waterproof container.
  • Keep a leash, harness, and secure carrier close by in case you need to suddenly leave your home.
  • Take current photos of your pet to help others identify it if you become separated.
  • Display a pet alert window sticker on your house to let first responders know there’s an animal inside.
  • Write down information about your pet’s feeding schedule or medical conditions along with the contact information of your veterinarian in case you have to temporarily board your pet or place it in a shelter.
  • Include your pet’s favorite toy and blanket in the kit for increased comfort.

The above guide is primarily about common household pets such as cats and dogs. If you’re looking for earthquake disaster preparedness tips for other animals such as reptiles, birds, or small animals like hamsters or gerbils, follow these recommendations from the ASPCA.

Prepare Now for an Earthquake

Since earthquakes are more unpredictable than other natural disasters, they can be extremely dangerous. The likelihood of aftershocks following an earthquake can make matters even worse. While there’s no way to know when an earthquake will occur, you can do your part to prepare for one beforehand. Keeping every member of your family educated about earthquake readiness is important. Hopefully, these earthquake safety measures will help you keep you, your family, and your pets safe before, during, and after an earthquake.

Making sense of genetic disease in dogs and cats

Thursday, October 15th, 2020

From Journal of the American Veternary Medical Association (JAVMA)

Making sense of genetic disease in dogs and cats

Published on October 14, 2020

Understanding genetic disease in mixed-breed and purebred dogs and cats can bring about more effective treatments and better client service, says clinical geneticist and general practitioner Dr. Jerold Bell.

French bulldog

“If we understand the genetic background of our patients, we’re better positioned to prevent, to mitigate, or to alter the expression of genetic disease, allowing our patients to be healthier in their lifetimes as well as to breed healthier dogs and cats,” Dr. Bell said.

An adjunct professor at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, Dr. Bell spoke about genetic diseases during the AVMA Virtual Convention 2020 this August. In addition to his teaching duties, Dr. Bell works as a solo practitioner, and he sees “dogs and cats all day long and sees genetic disease in our patients all day long.”

He explained that common genetic disorders are caused by ancient disease liability genes that preceded breed formation. Since these mutations occurred long before the separation of breeds, these diseases are seen across all breeds and in mixed breeds.

The most common hereditary diseases in dogs are allergies, followed by hip and elbow dysplasia; inherited cancers such as lymphoma, hemangiosarcoma, mast cell tumor, and osteosarcoma; patella luxation; nonstruvite bladder stones; hypothyroidism; mitral valve disease; inflammatory bowel disease; diabetes mellitus; retained testicles; and umbilical hernias.

In cats, the most prevalent genetic diseases are inflammatory cystitis, then feline urological syndrome, diabetes mellitus, lymphoplasmocytic gingivostomatitis, nonstruvite bladder stones, allergies, eosinophilic skin disease, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Disease is not a function of homozygosity, which happens when identical DNA sequences for a particular gene are inherited from both biological parents, nor is it a consequence of inbreeding. Rather, Dr. Bell explained, hereditary diseases are a result of the accumulation and propagation of specific disease liability genes. Breed-related deleterious genes accumulate in various ways, including direct selection for disease-associated phenotypes, linkage to selected traits, carriage by popular sires, genetic drift, and—most importantly—the absence of selection against deleterious phenotypes.

“If we don’t select for healthy parents to produce offspring, then we have no expectation of health in those offspring,” Dr. Bell said. “Not selecting for health is selecting for disease, and we need to understand that and pass that on to our breeder clients.”

On the topic of disease and extreme phenotypes, Dr. Bell said brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome is frequently diagnosed at veterinary clinics on account of the popularity of certain brachycephalic dog breeds, namely Pugs, French Bulldogs, and Bulldogs. Most breed standards do not call for the expression of extreme phenotypes, he said, nor do they select for the most extreme size or the most extreme brachycephalic trait.

“Moderation away from extremes that cause disease should be the guiding principle in breeding,” Dr. Bell noted, and in judging dog shows.

Common genetic diseases seen in mixed-breed dogs and cats occur randomly because of dispersed ancient liability genes, according to Dr. Bell. Uncommon and breed-specific recessive or complexly inherited disease is far less likely to occur in mixed-breed individuals.

Dr. Bell said designer-bred dogs and cats often have inherited diseases common in random-bred populations. They can also inherit disease liability genes shared by the parent breeds or parent species. “So if you’re breeding short-statured breeds together, it wouldn’t be surprising to see patellar luxation, or in smaller toy size breeds, to see mitral valve disease,” he said.

Hereditary disease manifests as a result of anatomical mismatch between parent breeds. “We see a lot of this in dental disease, where we see crowding of teeth and malocclusions and misplaced teeth,” Dr. Bell continued. “Even in the musculoskeletal, if you breed two breeds with different body types together, we may see degenerative joint disease and poor joints. All of these things, all need to be monitored.”

Death of a Pet Can Hit Children Hard

Thursday, September 24th, 2020

 

By Serena McNiff
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 23, 2020 (HealthDay News) — The loss of a pet may be a child’s first encounter with death, and new research suggests no one should underestimate the psychological trauma that the loss can bring.

Previous studies have found that kids form deep emotional attachments to their pets and having a furry companion in your youth has been linked to greater empathy, self-esteem and social skills.

“The effects of pet loss were unique,” said study co-author Erin Dunn, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Center for Genomic Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

To learn more, she and her hospital colleagues looked at a sample of more than 6,000 British children. Almost 9 out of 10 had owned a pet during their youth, and more than half had lost one during their first seven years of life.

Information was collected as a part a long-term study of parents and kids in Britain. When kids were 8 years old, their mothers filled out questionnaires about their youngsters’ mental health symptoms.

“For example, how often does your child feel sad, depressed or anxious — these are the kind of emotional and behavioral indicators that are used to identify and characterize children who might be experiencing some mental health-related challenges,” said Dunn.

The research team found that kids who lost a pet were more likely to have poor mental health. And the link held true after accounting for other distressing factors, including financial hardship, parental physical or emotional abuse, and physical or sexual abuse by anyone.

While a child’s mental well-being can be affected by many other adversities, the effects of pet loss “were not explained by these other hardships,” Dunn said.

And boys seemed to be affected more deeply than girls, the study found.

“The boys had more psychopathology symptoms — or a greater effect of the pet death, as compared to their female counterparts,” said co-author Katherine Crawford, who worked on the study while at Massachusetts General Hospital. She’s now a genetic counselor at Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island in Providence.

Crawford added that the questionnaire used to evaluate well-being does not serve as a definitive diagnosis of any mental health disorder. But, she said, it asks “a lot of the same questions that one might when evaluating those mental health concerns.”

While the study did not examine how best to help a child cope with losing a furry friend, researchers suggested that being aware and recognizing a child’s emotions is a good start.

George Holden is chairman of the psychology department at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. He advised parents to talk frankly with their children regarding the loss of a pet.

“All too often parents think, erroneously, that if they don’t mention something, it’s better — it will go away,” said Holden, who wasn’t part of the study. “That’s absolutely wrong. It’s much better to directly recognize what’s going on, talk about it, and hear the child’s perspective.”

He also suggested being proactive and preparing a child for the inevitable if a pet is old or sick.

Struggling with the loss of a pet is entirely normal, Holden added, as they are often very well-loved family members.

Despite the emotional toll of losing a pet, researchers are not suggesting that parents avoid getting one.

Dunn suggested that further research should explore the “positive benefits of pet ownership because that kind of information would help parents in weighing the cost-benefit ratio of having pets.”

The findings were recently published online in the journal European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

More information

There’s more about coping with the loss of a pet at the American Veterinary Medical Association.

SOURCES: Erin Dunn, Sc.D., M.P.H., assistant professor, psychiatry, Center for Genomic Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston; Katherine Crawford, M.S., genetic counselor, Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, Providence, and former senior researcher, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston; George Holden, Ph.D., professor and chairman, psychology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas; European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, online, Sept. 10, 2020

Last Updated: 

 

 

How to Disinfect Your Home Without Harming Your Pet

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020

By Dr. Karen Becker for Mercola

STORY AT-A-GLANCE

  • Since the COVID-19 pandemic, some people are more concerned than ever about keeping their spaces clean, but some may forget to read and heed warning labels on cleaners
  • The Pet Poison Helpline reported a 100% increase in phone traffic from panicked pet owners due to pets inhaling, ingesting or having skin contact with common but poisonous household cleaners
  • Bleach and ammonia are common cleaners that are potentially lethal to pets, but mixing them with other substances can make them even worse
  • Experts say highly reactive chemicals may be effective in killing bacteria and viruses, but that’s also what makes them respond to others, creating new toxic chemicals
  • While large dogs may also be affected, small dogs and cats are much closer to the source of toxins on the floor after cleaning, disinfecting or deodorizing, and may be increasingly harmed over time

Since the first warnings of the dangers of COVID-19 emerged, the U.S. has been inundated with advice from doctors, scientists and government officials regarding how people should behave to avoid contamination.

Besides the handwashing, social distancing and mask wearing that humans have been advised to practice, it only makes sense for pet owners to think about how to protect their pets’ sensitive skin, organs and nasal passages if you’re using harsh cleaners in your home.

But some have forgotten to read and heed the warning labels on cleaning and sanitizing agents, and pets as well as humans have been harmed because of it. Remember, a dog’s sense of smell is thousands of times greater than a human’s, and their chemical sensitivity potentially much greater (they don’t shower regularly to remove the accumulated chemicals).

In fact, since the first reports of what’s been termed a pandemic, Pet Poison Helpline has reported a 100% increase in phone traffic from panicked pet owners due to exposure to common household products that ended up injuring a vulnerable pet, from cats and dogs to birds, reptiles and numerous other exotic species.

Sadly, that can happen more easily than some people may think, especially when it comes to bleach, hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes, observed Bluefield Daily Telegraph, based in West Virginia. According to Ahna Brutlag, DVM, a senior veterinary toxicologist:

“People are very concerned about their families during this COVID-19 crisis. That includes their pets. When we started receiving calls from panicked pet parents regarding possible poisonings related to COVID-19 cleaning fears, we felt we needed to educate the pet loving community on the safest way to do it.”1

Everybody wants their home to be clean, but harsh and even toxic chemicals are being used on a more frequent basis in more households, and accidents do happen. For example, someone with an open jug of bleach on the floor next to their washing machine might not realize how easy it would be to knock over.

Brutlag says if a dog or cat walks through the spilled substance, it could cause skin irritation since it can be absorbed so easily into their paw pads. But if the animal licked its paws while self grooming, the chemical’s contact with their delicate internal organs could lead to stomach irritation, diarrhea, vomiting and worse.

Some Cleaners Are Harsh, but Mixing Them Can Be Deadly

Bleach is potentially toxic on its own, but mixing it with many other cleaners can create noxious fumes. Potentially deadly combinations include bleach with ammonia, which creates chlorine gas; bleach with vinegar, which creates a chlorine gas so toxic it was used in World War I; and bleach with rubbing alcohol, says Vy Dong, professor at the University of California Irvine and head of the Dong Research Group.2

Alexander Lu from Dong Research Group notes that bleach is comprised of “highly reactive chemicals that make it effective at killing bacteria and viruses, but its high reactivity is also what makes it respond to other chemicals, which can result in new toxic chemicals.”3

While both toilet bowl cleaner and bleach are commonly used in the bathroom, they can be a lethal combination due to the fumes created. Use one or the other, and again, make sure you have good ventilation and that your pet isn’t in the room. Dong had this to say about various chemical combinations:

“Molecules are like people with their own personalities and how they behave depends on who they are around … unless you understand the personalities of all the molecules in your bottle, don’t try this at home.”4

They may seem tame in comparison, but even a combination of hydrogen peroxide and vinegar forms a chemical called peracetic acid, which is corrosive enough to break down surfaces, as well as being toxic.

Hand sanitizer can become a hazard because of its high alcohol content, Brutlag says. If an animal should swallow enough of it, symptoms could arise in as little as a half hour, necessitating a call to either the animal’s veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline.

Rubbing alcohol, especially concentrated alcohol levels from 70% to 99%, may be good for cleaning, but mixed with bleach it turns into chloroform, which can cause unconsciousness, and chloroacetone, another tear gas. Both are described as “toxic and dangerous.”5


Many Cleaners Are Potentially Dangerous

Steps you can take to avoid problems include placing your dog in his crate (and your cat in a closed room) while using chemical-based cleaning products on your floors, bathrooms or laundry. But some might use such cleaners on the cages themselves. The ASPCA notes that it’s the dilution of bleach in water that’s important:

“Pet parents are often curious about the risks associated with cleaning their pets’ cages and toys with bleach. The bottom line is this: cleaning your pet’s cage or toy with a properly diluted bleach solution, followed by a thorough rinsing and airing out, is not expected to cause harm. If the odor of bleach seems overwhelming, open windows and use fans to air the room.”6

One reason pets are so susceptible to chemical odors is because their systems are more sensitive, so the level of exposure for them is much higher than it is for humans. Even if you have a large dog — and especially if you have a cat or small dog — they’re much closer to the source of the toxins that are on the floor. Breathing them constantly would be not only unpleasant, but increasingly harmful over time.

Other substances many homeowners with pets wouldn’t think twice about using include carpet deodorizers that are shaken or sprayed on and left to sit for a period of time before vacuuming. Pets can easily walk through the room and inhale it or get it on their paws, and ingest it secondarily to grooming.

One way to protect both you and your pets is to make sure you thoroughly wipe down any surface with pure water after using conventional disinfectants. I use a medical-grade colloidal silver product around my house (proven to address aggressive viruses and bacteria) to safely address bacteria and viruses without risk to me or my furry family members.

If you opt for conventional chemical cleaning agents with poison control warnings on the label, make sure you (and your pets) have plenty of ventilation. Further:

“While we’re stuck at home trying to sanitize everything in sight, it might be tempting to get creative with mixing household chemicals to try to get your home as clean as possible. However, mixing household cleaners can be dangerous due to the chemical makeup of the unique cleaners … It’s highly recommended to stick to using one household cleaner at a time per surface to avoid mixing chemicals.”7

Better yet, opt for only natural cleaning products in your home, here’s a link to a Facebook Live I did about effective and non-toxic household cleaning products you can feel good about using around animals.

If you are still using conventional chemical cleaning products and notice changes in your pets, don’t hesitate to call the Pet Poison Helpline8 at 800-213-6680, seven days a week, 24 hours a day, for information regarding potential poisoning of all animal species.

Study: Dogs Understand Spoken Words Better Than We Thought

Friday, May 1st, 2020

From Healthy Pets

Mercola

By Dr. Karen Becker

https://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2020/05/01/dogs-understand-spoken-words.aspx?cid_source=petsnl&cid_medium=email&cid_content=art1HL&cid=20200501Z1&et_cid=DM521245&et_rid=862360194

STORY AT-A-GLANCE

  • New study results suggest that dogs understand spoken words even better than we thought
  • Researchers concluded that dogs recognize spoken words regardless of the speaker, and they do it instinctively
  • The study proves that despite previous assumptions, this spontaneous ability is not uniquely human and that dogs share this linguistic talent
  • Earlier research indicates that dogs hear not only what we say, but how we say it
  • Similar to us, our dogs use the left hemisphere of their brains to process meaningful words, and the right hemisphere to process vocal tones

The ability to recognize specific word sounds (e.g., vowels) in human speech is assumed to be a uniquely human trait. After all, small differences in sound frequencies can completely change the meaning of a word, for example, “had”, “hid” and “who’d,” or “mat”, “mitt”, and “met.” The sound changes between these groups of words are so minor that word recognition software often misinterprets them.

In addition, the sound of words changes depending on the speaker — his or her age, body size, mouth shape, and other factors. For all these reasons, many researchers have held the opinion that instinctive recognition of word sounds is uniquely human, and that animals such as dogs would need training, at a minimum, to develop the skill.

However, if you’re a dog parent or spend time around dogs, you’ve probably seen for yourself that dogs can and do learn words from one person and recognize those words when they’re spoken by someone else. I’d venture to guess the vast majority of family dogs recognize the word “treat” no matter who says it!

Study: Dogs Understand Spoken Words Better Than We Thought

Recently, a team of U.K. researchers decided to see if dogs are able to recognize the same little sounds (called phonemes) that make up words, when the words are spoken by different people with varying accents and pronunciation.1

The researchers chose words that began with an “h” and ended with a “d” but had different vowels —such as “had”, “head”, “hid” and “hood” — and that would also have no meaning to the dogs. The words were recorded by 14 female and 13 male speakers of varying ages and different accents, none of whom were familiar to the dogs in the study.

Each dog sat with his or her owner near an audio speaker while a sequence of six recorded words played with six seconds of silence between each word. The dog’s responses were videotaped.

Psychology professor and neuropsychological researcher Stanley Coren, Ph.D., author of the best-selling book “The Intelligence of Dogs,” in an article for Psychology Today, describes a likely testing scenario:

“One experimental trial might have run this way. The dog to be tested is presented with a string of repetitions of the word ‘had’ through the speaker. Suppose that in this instance the word was spoken by a woman.

Typically, when the dog first hears this new word spoken by this female voice he would point his ears forward, or move toward the speaker, or flick his eyes in the direction that the sound was coming from, all of which are signs of attention and engagement.

“However, as other women with different accents repeat the word ‘had’ the dog loses interest indicating that he knows that they are all saying the same thing. On the other hand, when a female speaker in the sequence says a new word, one with a different vowel, like ‘hid’, the dog now perks up again, indicating that he noticed the difference. But when the next woman’s voice returns to saying ‘had’ his attention will again flag.”2

After evaluating the videotaped sessions, the researchers concluded that dogs recognize spoken words regardless of the speaker, and they do it instinctively.

“These results are significant because they confirm two important aspects of speech recognition in dogs,” Coren writes. “First, they can distinguish between subtle changes in vowel sounds that identify particular words. Second, dogs isolate the important word sounds from all of the changes in sound quality associated with different speakers.”

Lead study author Dr. Holly Root-Gutteridge, a postdoctoral researcher with the Mammal Vocal Communication and Cognition Research Group in the School of Psychology at the University of Sussex made this observation in an interview with Sci-News:

“The ability to recognize words as the same when spoken by different people is critical to speech, as otherwise people wouldn’t be able to recognize words as the same when spoken by different people.

This research shows that, despite previous assumptions, this spontaneous ability is not uniquely human and that dogs share this linguistic talent, suggesting that speech perception may not be as special to humans as we previously thought.”3

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Dogs’ Brains Work Similar to Ours to Process What We Say

In 2016, researchers in Budapest published a study that looked at how dogs’ brains process human speech.4 They came to the conclusion that our canine friends listen not only to what we say, but how we say it.

The scientists discovered that when we praise our dogs, the reward centers in their brains perk up if the words we use match our tone of voice. These findings suggest the ability to process words evolved much earlier than was originally thought and may not be unique to humans.

According to Phys.org, the study shows “… that if an environment is rich in speech, as is the case of family dogs, word meaning representations can arise in the brain, even in a non-primate mammal that is not able to speak.”5

For the study, the researchers recruited 13 family dogs — primarily Border Collies and Golden Retrievers — who excelled at lying completely still in an fMRI scanner, facilitating analysis of their brain activity. The dogs were volunteer study participants, were never restrained inside the scanner and could leave at any time.

The researchers recorded a trainer’s voice saying certain phrases with varying types of intonation. In the recordings, the trainer praised the dogs using Hungarian words and phrases that in English translate to “good boy,” “super,” and “well done.”

The words were spoken in both an upbeat tone and a neutral tone. The trainer also used neutral words like “however,” and “nevertheless” that meant nothing to the dogs.

While the recording played, the researchers studied the scans for regions of the dogs’ brains that were differentiating between the praise and meaningless words, as well as praise and neutral tones of voice. They observed that the dogs used the left hemisphere to process meaningful (but not meaningless) words, and the right hemisphere to process vocal tones.

Per Phys.org, “This was the same auditory brain region that this group of researchers previously found in dogs for processing emotional non-speech sounds from both dogs and humans, suggesting that intonation processing mechanisms are not specific to speech.”

Lead researcher Attila Andics of Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest explains:

“During speech processing, there is a well-known distribution of labor in the human brain. It is mainly the left hemisphere’s job to process word meaning, and the right hemisphere’s job to process intonation.

The human brain not only separately analyzes what we say and how we say it, but also integrates the two types of information, to arrive at a unified meaning. Our findings suggest that dogs can also do all that, and they use very similar brain mechanisms.”6

Processing Words Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Understanding Them

“One important thing is that we don’t claim that dogs understand everything we say, of course,” Andics told HuffPost in an email.7

There can be a difference between a dog processing words for their familiarity and actually understanding the words as we intend. As study co-author Adam Miklosi, head of the Family Dog Project told Scientific American magazine:

“‘Understanding’ is a tricky word. Studies using brain imaging technology cannot firmly say that the activation of a specific brain area indicates ‘understanding.’

“For sure, dogs in this study reacted to the meaningful words, that is, to those words that their owners often use when they want to attract the dog’s attention or provide a positive feedback for the dog. So in this sense our dogs recognized these words as familiar and probably meaning something good.”8

An important result of the study is that it demonstrates the left hemisphere of dogs’ brains processes meaningful words separate from the vocal tone. This suggests your dog may understand that “good dog” is praise regardless of the tone of voice you use when you say it, because he recognizes those words as meaningful vs. meaningless.

“We think that intonation is important,” says Miklosi. “Owners should learn how to praise a dog, and then use the same expression in similar way. Consistency in praising and in general in communication with the dog is important.”

The researchers suspect they would have similar results in studies of other domestic animals like cats and horses, as long as the animals had lived among humans. They hope this study and subsequent research can be used to enhance communication and cooperation between dogs and humans.

12 Games for Dogs to Keep Your Pup Entertained and Healthy

Saturday, April 25th, 2020
  • From ApartmentGuide
  • We have 12 games you can try playing with your dog
  • Stuck indoors? Try out the indoor games and puzzles
  • Looking to get some exercise in the yard? We’ve included outdoor activities as well

Similar to humans, dogs need their exercise to stay healthy. While walking your dog can be a good way to release energy, sometimes you don’t have the time or space to go on a long walk. In these situations, use these games for dogs to tire your pup out.

Whether it’s a sunny day and you can spend time in the yard or you’re confined to your small apartment, we have a variety of games for your pup. When playing, be sure to consider your dog’s size and age. Bigger dogs tend to have more energy and might need longer games. Small dogs may tire more easily. When considering age, older dogs are more prone to hurting themselves. This means you may want to choose games that are easier on their joints.

No matter your dog’s breed, size or age, we have twelve games for dogs to keep them healthy and happy.

DIY puzzles for dogs

You’ve found the perfect pet-friendly apartment and now you need games to entertain your dog throughout the day. Luckily there are plenty of indoor puzzles for dogs that you can try out in the comfort of your home.

graphic showing dog doing a scent experiment

1. Scent experiment

Try out a scent experiment with your dog to test its snout. This can be played in a variety of ways. In the most basic version, you’ll hide a treat somewhere and have them find it.

Muffin tray tennis ball game

For this activity, you’ll need a muffin tray, four tennis balls and treats.

  • Step 1: Start by having your dog sit. Place a few treats in different cups of the muffin tray as they wait patiently.
  • Step 2: Instruct them to find the treats.
  • Step 3: Now that they are familiar with the game, repeat step one but this time put tennis balls over the treats.
  • Step 4: Instruct your dog to find the treats. See if they can sniff them out and figure out how to move the tennis balls out of the way to retrieve them.
  • Step 5: As your dog gets better at sniffing out the treats, set up some decoy tennis balls with no treats under them.

This game can last as long as you’d like it to. For variety, try changing which treats you are using or use a more difficult treat to gobble up like peanut butter.

graphic showing dog with treat dispenser

2. Treat dispenser fun

Give your dog a treat puzzle to figure out. You can either buy a treat dispenser like the popular Kong toys or make your own.

How to DIY a dog treat dispenser

For this project, you’ll need a water bottle, dog treats and a drill.

  • Step 1: Wash the bottle so that it’s clean and remove any labels.
  • Step 2: Drill a hole in the side of the bottle. The size of the hole will depend on the size of your treats. The hole should be a little smaller than your treats so they don’t easily fall out.
  • Step 3: Put the treats in the bottle and screw on the top.
  • Step 4: Give the treat dispenser to your dog and see how long it takes them to solve the puzzle.

Be sure you are supervising your pup when they play with this toy. If they manage to chew off the lid or tear through the plastic, you’ll want to take it away.

Active indoor games for dogs

Just because you are confined to your apartment, doesn’t mean your dog can’t release some energy. Try out one of these active indoor games to keep from going stir crazy.

graphic of dog playing hide and seek

3. Hide and seek

A fun indoor game to play with your dog is hide and seek. Have your pup sit and stay. Then go hide somewhere in the house. When you are hidden, tell them to come. When they find you, reward them with a treat.

graphic of dog racing up the stairs

4. Stairway race

Release some energy by having an indoor race with your dog. This is best for homes that have carpeted stairways to prevent any injuries. Have someone say, “On your marks, get set, go!” Race up the stairs and see who can make it to the top first. Have everyone in the family race in different heats to determine who is the champion.

Training challenges to try with your dog

While you might have taken a training class when your dog was a puppy, you may not have kept up with teaching them as they grew. Test their mental strength by practicing new skills and learning agility.

graphic showing hand signals for training dogs

5. Practice skills

Test your dog’s memory and obedience by teaching them some basic skills. These can include sit, stay, shake and roll over. Skills are good for a dog of any age to practice. Use their favorite treat as an incentive. Be sure to only reward them if they are successful in completing the action.

If your canine has already mastered these basics, try some more advanced skills. Some advanced dog skills include:

  • Play dead
  • Crawl
  • Kiss
  • Hug
  • Spin
  • Sit pretty
  • Bow
  • Leash

Practicing these skills will create a deeper bond between you and your pup as well as lead to them being more obedient.

graphic showing an indoor agility course

6. Create an indoor agility course

If you are practicing agility with your dog, you can make an agility course with basic home furniture. Learning agility can help solve dog behavior problems, improve their off-leash reliability, build your bond and gain some skills you can show off.

Make a scorecard and see how your pup would fare in a real competition. To learn more about agility, check out the American Kennel Club scoring guide.

Homemade dog agility course

Create your own agility course at home to learn these skills.

  • Weave: Set up laundry baskets in a row. Have your dog practice weaving in and out of them.
  • Jump up: Have them jump up on a chair or your bed. Practice with different heights.
  • Jump through: Hold up a hula hoop and have them jump through.
  • Under: Practice going under a few chairs that are lined up in a row.
  • Crawl: Get a box and open the ends. Have your dog practice crawling through.
  • Over: Rest a pole or broom over two stools. Work on their ability to jump over the pole.

infographic of games for dogs

Additional classic games for dogs

These are the games that your dog knows and loves. When you’re at a loss for what to play, try one of these classic games for dogs.

7. Clean up

If you have toys scattered throughout your apartment, clean up is the game for you. A game of clean up will entertain your pup as well as get rid of some of the clutter in your home.

Have them pick up one of their toys and lead them to the toy bin. When their head is over the bin, instruct them to “drop it.” Praise them with words or treats. This process may take a little longer for them to understand so be patient as they are learning. In the end, you’ll be rewarded with a tidy space.

8. Fetch

Fetch is a classic for a reason. This game may seem repetitive to you, but to your dog, it’s endless entertainment. To play, throw a ball of some sort. Typically tennis balls work best because they fit in your dog’s mouth, can be thrown far distances and their color is easy to spot. Your dog will chase after it and return the ball, panting and ready for more.

Many play fetch with sticks they find in the backyard, but this can be dangerous. The stick can easily break down when chewed and the splinters can be harmful to your dog’s mouth or stomach. Be sure you are using soft, pet-safe toys when playing fetch.

photo showing dog with frisbee

9. Frisbee

Another crowd favorite is a frisbee. Frisbee is similar to fetch, but oftentimes your dog is content playing with it alone for hours. Since frisbees have rounded sides, they often roll away. This turns into a game of chase and then a wild battle until your pup comes out of it victorious.

There are two types of frisbees you can purchase. The classic plastic kind is durable, but be sure to keep an eye on how it’s holding up. Sharp teeth can cause the plastic to crack, making it dangerous for dogs to play with and humans to throw. Another option is to get a softer, cloth frisbee. These are good for dogs with more sensitive gums like puppies who are teething.

10. Water games

On a hot summer day, there’s nothing better than cooling off with some water games. Get sprinklers and attach them to the hose in your yard. Be sure you’re using a garden hose that is lead-free. If it’s been sitting out in the sun, run it for a little bit to clear out any bacteria that may have formed.

Set up the sprinkler in an area of your yard that needs some hydration. Turn it on and encourage your dog to jump over it with you. For more dynamic entertainment, get an oscillating sprinkler so your dog can chase it back and forth.

11. Soccer

A game for the whole family, soccer can be an excellent way to release some energy. Get a soccer ball and be sure it’s fully inflated. If a dog’s sharp teeth puncture it, your match will be over.

Familiarize your dog with the ball. Reward them with treats when they push it with their nose. Once they are comfortable with the new toy, try playing pass. Lightly kick the ball towards them and see if they can return it to you. Another option is to set up a goal (could be two sticks that serve as goal markers) and have your dog play defense.

photo showing tug of war

12. Tug of war

Your dog may naturally try to play tug of war with you with something you’re holding. To be sure they don’t destroy your couch pillow or shoelaces it’s important to give them an item they are allowed to play with. Create a tug of war toy with some natural cotton rope. Tie knots in the rope so your pet has something to grab onto.

Many pet parents are worried that this type of game will bring out aggression in their dog. To avoid this, be sure you are playing on your terms. Keep the toy stored out of reach and bring it out when you want to play. When playing, be sure that your dog never touches you. If they do, the game is temporarily over. This will teach them boundaries. In addition to learning these boundaries, they should know how to “drop it” when instructed to. If they haven’t learned this command, it’s a skill you should work on.

Spending quality time with your dog

Partaking in these games for dogs will create a stronger bond between you and your four-legged friend. Be sure to add these skills to your dog’s pet resume when moving to a new apartment.

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