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The Cognitive Dog: Savant or Slacker

Here’s an interesting article about a course being offered by the Harvard Extension School called The Cognitive Dog: Savant or Slacker. What I found intriguing about this is that the course’s creator, Bruce Blumberg, works in animation and began studying his dogs in an attempt to understand their behavior. As a result, students gain the insights of someone who has objectively observed the way dogs behave in real-life situations. Compare this to the view of dogs we gain from observing a movie in which dogs have been trained to do what people want them to do in specific situations.

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Whale Gratitude

Here’s a fascinating article about a group of people who freed a massive humpbacked whale who had become entangled in ropes and weights that were threatening to drag the animal down. Once again the dreaded a-word–anthropomorphism–is mentioned in the usual, apologetic “I don’t want be anthropomorphic, but…” manner as one of those involved described the whale’s behavior after being freed. Whenever this happens, I can’t help wondering if people likewise would feel a need to question the meaning of such behavior had it been displayed by a person incapable of verbal communication who instead used body language to communicate

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Domestic Violence and Animal Abuse

Here’s a link to an interesting story about Maine’s new domestic violence law that covers both people and animals. It’s long been known that abusers will target animals belonging to others as a way of indirectly abusing those people, too. It’s also long been known that people will stay in abusive relationships if they can’t take their animals with them. Although this often elicits images of family pets, as the woman interviewed in this article makes clear, it also can affect farm animals. Read article here

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Working Dogs and Devilish Bargains

This is another one of those articles that demonstrates the Faustian bargain that sometimes (many times?) underlies the proposed salvation of working dog breeds. In this case, Chinese conservationist Wong How Man scours the mountains of Tibet seeking the sturdy and highly aggressive mastiffs used by nomads to guard their herds in the harsh and dangerous environment. However, doing so costs money and promoting his quest worldwide to gain funding naturally attracts dog-lovers. Unfortunately, the more affluent and naive among see Tibetan mastiffs as a perfect image pet, i.e., one which communicates that person’s wealth to others. Whether the

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Wiley in NYC

A March article on yahoo.com (and unfortunately no longer available for those who missed this blog first time around) about a coyote trapped in Central Park reminded me of how often we humans foolishly believe we can experience nature on our terms, as if it were some piece of yard art we can add or delete as the mood strikes us. We fill our feeders or leave pet food outside with the naive idea that only those animals for whom we intend it will be attracted to it. We fling our garbage by the roadside or fill our garbage

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Canine Math Genius or Normal Dog?

Click here for more evidence illustrating the elegance underlying normal animal behavior. This article is about a mathematician who mathematically analyzed his dog’s path to retrieve thrown sticks. I’m passing it along because of both its bond and behavioral elements. Among the bond ones, we see a man who is enchanted by his dog’s perfectly doglike behavior and seeks to translate these into the language of his profession. People who see a shared human-animal experience in terms of what it means to the animal as well as themselves are becoming increasing rare in our society. In a tribute to balanced

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Of Wolves and Energy-Efficiency

A website I often recommend to clients who are struggling to shed their reactivity in a favor of a more canine-calming one are the notes of a wildlife biologist describing her observations of an alpha female wolf training two generations of younger animals. When you read this, notice how subtle the communications are, and how much the alpha wolf apparently communicates while seeming to do nothing at all. Then compare this to how the average person communicates with his or her pets. It truly is amazing!

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