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September 28, 2014

Autumn Safety Tips, Great Words and Thoughts about Leash Aggression & How Hydrotherapy for Dogs Works & Why It’s Worth It!

Ernie

Greetings to all!  I am still not feeling 100%, but other Crate Escape dogs have rallied to help me put together this newsletter. Plus, those closest to me are sympathetic and I am getting LOTS of rubber toys to rip apart.

I am aware that the seasonal safety tips are repetitive, but I bet when you read them you learn or remember something important.  The leash aggression article is helpful too. It is amazing how many daycare dogs are not great on leash; it is really two different socializations.

The third article is on hydrotherapy. We are lucky to have Flowdog , with Chris Cranston, MPT, CCRP Physical Therapist & Owner, closeby in Waltham. Many of our dogs have used the therapy for various reasons, and it has a great success/ experience rating.

Since it’s not even October yet, I will reserve Halloween talk for the next couple of weeks. Start thinking about your costume!!

erniebradsfoot

Later, Ernestine

 

Autumn Safety Tips

ASPCA

Jack Russell poses in fall-colored leaf pile

Ah, fall—there’s nothing like crisp, cool air, the first months of school and luscious foliage to get you excited for the changing seasons. Your pet, too, is probably welcoming the break from hot, sticky weather. But pet parents, beware—fall is also a time of lurking dangers for our furry friends. From household poisons to cold weather hazards, the season is a minefield! Here are some tips to keep your pet snug and healthy during the autumn months.

  • The use of rodenticides increases in the fall as rodents seek shelter from the cooler temperatures by attempting to move indoors. Rodenticides are highly toxic to pets—if ingested, the results could be fatal. If you must use these products, do so with extreme caution and put them in places inaccessible to your pets.
  • It’s back-to-school time, and those of you with young children know that means stocking up on fun items like glue sticks, pencils and magic markers. These items are considered “low toxicity” to pets, which means they’re unlikely to cause serious problems unless large amounts are ingested. However, since gastrointestinal upset and blockages certainly are possible, be sure your children keep their school supplies out of paw’s reach.
  • Training tip: If you and your pooch haven’t been active outdoors in a while because of the summer heat, do some remedial recall training. Dogs, like people, get rusty on their skills if they aren’t using them.
  • Fall and spring and are mushroom seasons. While 99% of mushrooms have little or no toxicity, the 1% that are highly toxic can cause life-threatening problems in pets. Unfortunately, most of the highly toxic mushrooms are difficult to distinguish from the nontoxic ones, so the best way to keep pets from ingesting poisonous mushrooms is to keep them away from areas where any mushrooms are growing. Contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center immediately if you witness your pet eating a wild mushroom.
  • In order to generate body heat, pets who exercise heavily outdoors, or who live outdoors, should be given more food during colder seasons. Make sure horses and other outdoor animals have access to clean, fresh water that is not frozen.
  • Autumn is the season when snakes who are preparing for hibernation may be particularly “grumpy,” increasing the possibility of severe bites to those unlucky pups who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Pet owners should know what kinds of venomous snakes may be in their environment—and where these snakes are most likely to be found—so they can keep pets out of those areas.
  • Many people choose fall as the time to change their car’s engine coolant. Ethylene glycol-based coolants are highly toxic, so spills should be cleaned up immediately. Consider switching to propylene glycol-based coolants—though they aren’t completely nontoxic, they are much less toxic than other engine coolants.

 

How I Stopped My Dog’s Leash Aggression

from:  Positively, by Victoria Stillwell

If you’ve ever had a leash reactive dog, you have probably experienced the same feeling of dread that I did before going on a walk. My dog, Penny, was attacked on-leash by an off-leash dog on a hiking trail, and as an already anxious and insecure dog, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I now had on my hands an otherwise perfectly human and dog-friendly dog who turned into Cujo when she was attached to a leash.

I quickly grew tired of trying to avoid contact with all living creatures on walks, and I was determined to help Penny enjoy her walks again. Flash forward a few years and I now have a completely different dog on my hands. She’s not completely perfect on walks, and never will be, but she is completely manageable and we can now enjoy our time outside together.

How did I do it? How can you do the same with your leash reactive dog?

Check out my top 5 tips for curbing your dog’s leash reactivity. No two dogs are the same, but you can certainly tailor some of these ideas to your unique situation.

1)   Drop the quick fixes.

Having a leash reactive dog is frustrating. I get it. It’s embarrassing to have to apologize to other dog owners when your dog goes over threshold. But your ego should never get in the way of safe, humane training. Remember–this is a fear-based behavior. If you lose your temper, you’re only contributing to your dog’s fear.

  • I was able to eliminate Penny’s leash reactivity without the use of shock collars, prong collars, choke collars, or any other type of punitive device.
  • I never popped or jerked her on the leash, and I never raised my voice at her. I simply tried to understand her fear and worked to change the way she perceived the things that scared her.
  • I highly recommend a no-pull harness that clips both at the chest and on the back. This will help you better manage your dog, and I have found it is much less stressful for a reactive dog than a regular collar or a head halter. Try Victoria’s Positively No-Pull Harness. 

2)   Teach the “Look at That” Cue—and find a great trainer to help you!

I’m fortunate to have a wealth of incredible dog trainers in my circle. I have to give a few shoutouts to all the fabulous Atlanta-area trainers that have helped me with Penny along the way—Meredith Minkin, Mara Whitacre, Donna Elliott, and of course, Victoria.

So what techniques do I use to keep Penny’s leash reactivity in check? I use present-tense because any behavior that is rooted in insecurity and fear (as most aggression is) requires ongoing work.

The first technique I use is the “look at that” cue. The moment that Penny learned and understood this cue was the moment that I finally saw light at the end of the tunnel.

When she sees a stimulus (such as an approaching person or dog), her first instinct now is to look at me. This takes pressure off of her, and she doesn’t feel like she needs to control the situation by barking or lunging at them. I then give her the “look at that” cue, and she looks at the trigger, then back at me, where she is rewarded with praise or a high-value treat.

Most leash reactive dogs will not be able to focus entirely on you as the stimulus passes. That’s why the “look at that” cue is so valuable. It gives the dog a chance to keep an eye on the stimulus, but the dog doesn’t feel the need to control the situation using aggressive display.

I taught Penny to “look at that” with the help of a clicker, but you could use a word like “yes!” to mark the behavior you like. Here are the basics of the “look at that” training we did:

  • We started at extreme distances where she could barely see the other dog, and every time she looked in the direction of the dog, I clicked, would wait for her to look at me, and then reward her with a treat. We then walked away from the stimulus–most leash reactive dogs simply want distance put between them and the other dog or person. Timing is crucial here!
  • We gradually decreased the distance between Penny and the other dog, and continued the same exercise. If she reacted, we knew we had moved too quickly, and added distance again.
  • Penny is highly food-motivated, and her desire for a treat overpowered her fear of the stimulus. I highly recommend using high-value treats like hot dogs or veggie burgers, and heating them up before training. Your dog won’t be able to resist them!

3)   Know your dog’s triggers and limits.

Penny’s leash reactivity improved in phases. First, she stopped reacting to adults passing by. Then, she stopped reacting to children and unusual objects like strollers and bicycles. Then it was small dogs. Then larger dogs. I knew that I had made a breakthrough when she was able to walk past two lunging, leash reactive dogs without reacting herself.

  • Your dog may still have triggers for the rest of his life. Always be aware of your dog’s body language when a potential trigger approaches.
  • I know that Penny is much more comfortable on a wide hiking trail than she is on a walk on my neighborhood street. Your dog is going to have limitations and preferences–respect them.
  • There will be problem-solving and tweaking involved. I first tried to use the “look at that” cue with Penny in a “sit,” but she was extremely uncomfortable being still as a trigger approached. I was able to figure out that she was much more comfortable if we kept moving forward.

4)   Set your dog up for success.

Many owners get impatient during this type of training. It took years to get Penny to this point. There were days when I was close to tears because I was so frustrated with her setbacks. But if you set your dog up for success, these moments will happen much more infrequently.

  • Don’t push your dog farther than he’s ready to go. Start with short walks and enlist the help of a friend to practice your “look at that” cue from a distance.
  • Be cognizant of the people and dogs around you. Your dog will let you know if he’s uncomfortable.
  • Avoid your dog going over threshold when at all possible. This means being highly aware of your surroundings and your dog’s body language. It’s much better to turn around and avoid a trigger your dog isn’t ready for than it is to test the waters too soon.
  • If you do have a setback (and I promise that you will), don’t take your frustration out on your dog.

5)   Simplify.

One of the best pieces of advice that Meredith, one of the trainers I worked with, gave me was this–“trust your dog.” Trust your training and trust your dog. If you have dealt with leash aggression for a long time, your first instinct is likely going to be to tighten up the leash and brace for an explosion every time a stimulus passes. One of the hardest lessons for me was learning to pass potential triggers with a loose leash. Once I saw how much calmer Penny was when she saw that I was not phased, I was able to trust her and trust the training so much more. Your dog will never succeed if you don’t give him the chance to–I think it’s time give him that chance!

Find a great positive trainer to work with your leash reactive dog–your dog will thank you for it!

 

 

 

September 21, 2014

8 Autumn Dog Myths Debunked, and Why are You Grateful for Your Dog?

Ernestine

I have been a little under the weather lately. I have a coldsorelike thing on my lip that is kind of uncomfortable and sometimes causes people to comment. I tell them it’s a coldsorelike thing.

That doesn’t stop me from enjoying time with my family, and being my feisty self. And, I would enjoy a cheap rubber toy (my favorite!) if anyone feels the urge.

A couple of great articles below. One, reminding you of fall assumptions and watch outs! And Sunday, 9/21 was Gratitude Day. What better time to talk about why you are so grateful for us, (we?) canines!

Enjoy these beautiful days!

erniefall

Later, Ernestine

 

8 Dog Myths for the Autumn Season Debunked

Does my dog need flea treatment in the autumn months?

Pumpkins are seen everywhere in the fall— can I feed my dog pumpkin for tummy upset?

These are questions dog parents start thinking about as the seasons change. Separating the fact from the fiction can be a lot of work, so Dog Appeal takes the guesswork out of it all for you. Here are eight myths and the hard-core facts to keep your dogs happy, healthy, and falling into the season without any issues:

Myth: My dog is safe in the car during cooler months.

Fact: Do not, repeat: Do not leave your dog in a car unattended. Cars act like a refrigerator in the winter months and not only that, but a dog alone in a car is subject to theft. During the fall months, a sitting dog alone is subject to a variety of dangers. I read and research a lot in the dog world and news related to dogs, and I have read more stories about dog theft in the last 30 days than ever before. Please do not think “five minutes” is okay while running into a store or just for a quick “pit stop to see a friend.” From California to Maine, dogs are going missing and being stolen from cars. Worse yet, leaving a dog tied to a pole outside of a store while you run in is like asking for sharks not to bite a rump roast while you tap dance across town.

Myth: Fleas and ticks go away in the fall and winter.

Fact: Fall and winter months do not eradicate fleas and ticks. In fact, last winter a hiking friend of mine found two ticks on her dog in February. Fleas and ticks will make a home beneath piles of leaves, so proceed with caution. Although fleas may not survive in brutal winter temperatures outside, the warmth of home means fleas gravitate towards indoor comfort where they can affect pets. I am a fan of non-chemical ways to prevent nasty ticks and fleas.

Myth: A dog’s pads protect them from all elements of weather.

Fact: Though a dog’s pads contain much fatty tissue that does not freeze as easily as other tissues, protection against scuffing, scraping, cutting, and ice damage is crucial in fall and winter months. Ice cubes and “snowballing” may occur in the delicate areas between toes and pads. Protective booties or a product like Musher’s Secret, which is used on sledding dogs, can help ease extreme conditions on sensitive pads.

Myth: Though a humidifier may help people, it does not do much for our pets during winter heating season.

Fact: Dry air in the home can make pets itchier, cause dry noses, upper respiratory infections, more dander, and dry throats. Consider a humidifier, talk to the veterinarian about skin conditioners and fatty acid supplements for healthy skin.

Myth: I can slack off on cleaning my dog’s teeth as we get into the fall and winter months.

Fact: According to the American Veterinary Dental Society (AVDS), 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats show signs of oral disease by age 3. If pet parents don’t attend to the dog’s teeth, oral disease can hit the kidneys, liver and heart, and seriously affect a dog’s quality of life. None of us want that.

My rule of thumb and paw: Brush my dog’s teeth as I would my own; so two times a day works famously. If you can only do it once, you just hit tartar where it counts. Be sure the toothpaste is made for dogs.  Dogs cannot spit, and the enzymes that make human toothpaste foam are bad for them. Smile and woof it up with Fido!

Myth: I don’t need to check my dog’s food since I store it properly.

Fact: Do a double check and ensure the dog’s food is fresh and properly stored. Just as we wouldn’t want to eat stale food (nor is it safe), the same holds true for our pooches. Here’s a go-to list for reference and guidelines:

Wet or Dry Dog Food: ALWAYS look for “best used by” or “sell by” date to ensure freshness.

Dry food: Store in sturdy plastic containers with a lid or in a clean, galvanized metal garbage can with a lid or even a large popcorn tin with lid. Make sure containers are sealed and airtight.

Unopened Cans of Wet Food: Store in a cool, dry place

Opened Can of Wet Food: Purchase plastic lids that fit over the can and store in refrigerator. Do not reuse after two or three days. Another option: Depending upon the amount of food Fido eats, the remainder of wet food can be divided into scoops in a ice cube tray and frozen. Before using it, scoop out needed portions and place each serving in a zip-lock bag and thaw in the refrigerator.

Uneaten Dehydrated Food: Store in an enamel or other airtight container with resealable plastic lid. Treat as you would fresh food. Store in zip-lock bags in the freezer or in the refrigerator for shorter periods of time. Most dog treats and snacks should be stored in ceramic jars or stainless steel containers with lids. Look for expiration dates, and throw away any expired treats. They can and do make dogs sick or worse.

Myth: I can feed my dog pumpkin pie filling for an upset tummy.

Fact: You can feed your dog canned pumpkin for stomach upset and discomfort but not the sugary, raw, spicy pumpkin pie filling. Generally speaking, a dog with soft or loose stool may find comfort in having a teaspoon to tablespoon (depending on size/weight) of canned pumpkin with their meal. A tablespoon or two of canned pumpkin added to food is a good source of fiber yet is low in calories.

Myth: My dog should gain some extra pounds in the cooler months to help keep warm.

Fact: Not all dogs are created equally and not all dogs should gain weight to “stay warm.” An overweight dog is more prone to heart disease, cancers, diabetes and a host of ailments, not to mention a decrease in metabolism. Dogs should stay active with indoor games, brisk walks, and activities to stimulate their bodies and minds all year long, despite the season.

 

For World Gratitude Day: Why We’re Grateful for Our Dogs

Dogster 9/2014

Sunday is World Gratitude Day, and like any self-respecting pup-centric publication, we’re taking it as our cue to talk about why we’re grateful to have dogs. I invited our writers to share the many reasons they’re grateful for their dogs (both past and present), and they sent me some of the sweetest notes I’ve received in my inbox in ages. We’ll get to those in a little bit — one of the perks of being the one tasked with compiling a roundup like this is I get to go first! And I could write a bloody novel about why I’m grateful for my dog this year.

Last November, I wrote a Thanksgiving post detailing the reasons why I was thankful to have my own pup, Mr. Moxie, in my life. I didn’t think I could get more grateful, having been given the chance to keep him when my then-partner and I called it quits. But then Mox had to go and throw himself out a third story window in May. And now, seeing him dance around the apartment with what was a completely mangled leg four months ago, I have new reasons to be grateful. He’s finishing his rehab program, and his leg is finally out of the splint it was in for months. He’s gone from limping to putting weight on his limb, and though he’ll have to wear a brace from now on when he runs at the park, I know I’m going to bawl the day he’s ready for that. I will sometimes pick him up and press his forehead into mine and tell him how thankful and how terribly relieved I am. He is a ridiculous, sweet, one-woman dog, and I am so happy to be that woman.

From Dogster Writer Daisy Barringer:

Monkey is my first-ever dog. Yes, I got a Saint Bernard as my first dog. I live large. So does he. (Literally and metaphorically.) I knew that bringing a dog into my home would be a lot of work, but I don’t think I realized quite how much work. Still, it’s all worth it. The drool, the snoring, the tumbleweeds of hair. I wouldn’t trade any of it, because it’s all part of what makes Monkey, well, Monkey: a goofy, loving, stubborn, clumsy, lazy, loyal pup. Who just so happens to give me purpose every single day. (Even if sometimes that purpose is figuring out how to scoop a massive pile of poop into one tiny plastic bag.) But that face and those kisses … they make it all worth it. Discovering my heart is so much bigger than I ever thought? That’s the biggest gift anyone’s ever given me. I never would have thought it would come from a dog. I’m so lucky to have him in my life and I tell him every day. Via belly rubs, of course.

From Dogster Writer Crystal Gibson:

As an expat in France who has moved around quite a bit, I’m so grateful for my little dog, Pinch. At times, he’s been my only friend, my only company, and the only one I’ve let see me cry when the homesickness got really bad (and I’m grateful to him for licking the tears off my face). I don’t think I could have braved this expat life nearly as well without my little sausage-shaped sidekick, and my love for Pinch is matched only by the gratitude I have for him being in my life.

 

From Dogster Training Columnist Annie Phenix:

A reporter recently asked me to describe why we have dogs in one word. The word came to me easily: joy. There is no greater reason to have a dog than for the joy they bring to our lives, and they do so with no words -– just tail wags and happy feet. Dogs are joyous about things we have forgotten to be happy about: running outside at full speed or playing with our friends. Something as simple as a small piece of a hot dog makes a dog’s day. Dogs remind me to be in the present moment, to play, to be silly, and to give and accept love freely, without reservations or conditions.

From Dogster Writer Pam Mitchell:

I can’t imagine life without Dolly and Spot. My best friends for more than a decade, they make me smile and laugh and feel unconditionally loved. I am grateful for the excited greeting sweet D. gives me whenever I walk through the front door. I am thankful for the nightly scratchies for which Spotty crawls into my lap. I appreciate every sigh and snuggle, each wet kiss and stinky fart. Dolly and Spot are my loves.

 

From Dogster Writer Heather Marcoux:

A couple of weeks ago I was really sick. I ended up curling up in a ball on my kitchen floor waiting for my husband to come home. GhostBuster did not leave my side during this time. He stayed with me and licked the back of my head for 20 minutes. I know that’s gross, but I am grateful for my boy’s incredible love and loyalty. Even if it is gross.

From Dogster Writer Melvin Pena:

My last dog, Tina, and I had a comfortable, established routine when she passed away in April. I’ve had my new dog, Idris, for five of her 10 months on Earth, and we still don’t quite mesh; we still haven’t developed a routine that works for both of us. I’m grateful for her all the same. Why? Because Idris teaches me that any relationship worth committing to is worth patient investment.

 

 

September 14, 2014

Join us for the Doggy Fun Run & Walk! Please READ about Pitbulls! and What Happens When a Dog Breed is in a MOVIE?

Eloquent Ernestine

Calling all runners!! September 21 at NOON come out with (or without) your pup to run or walk a 5K at Mystic River Reservation in Medford. All money raised will be used to build a new dog park in Medford! The Crate Escape runners will be there! For details, check out the event on Crate Escape’s facebook page!

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I am sharing an article on pitbulls. Throughout our 10 years at Crate Escape, we have become truly knowledgeable. It certainly is not about looks (altho a 100 lb. male who is all muscle, would have to be an angel to come to daycare.)  We have closely followed the breed discrimination issues, and we would never not consider a dog for Crate Escape because of his breed. But! pitbulls are strong – so they have to be about mellow and fun with no aggression. Without a doubt, some of our favorite pups are pitties.

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When you see a particular dog breed in a movie, think it has any lasting consequences? Check out article below! I think we should start a petition to only cast rescue dogs!

ernie-am-walk2

Later, Ernestine

 

Why Pitbulls Aren’t What You Think They Are

by Ben Guarino

Ask 10 people what makes a pit bull a pit bull, and you’re apt to get as many different answers. (Or, simply, “I know pit when I see pit.”) Take a peek under the pit bull umbrella, and you can find English bulldogs frolicking with bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers and Bullmastiff- hound mixes.

There’s plenty of regional variation, too, regarding what characteristics make a pit bull. Even canine experts have different definitions, as Cristy Hoff,   a professor at Canisus University,  in Buffalo, N.Y., found firsthand. Hoffman was flipping through pictures of shelter dogs on her phone — “Here’s a pit bull, here’s a pit bull” — when her colleague, Carri Westgartha scientist at the University of Liverpool.remarked that in the U.K., none of those pups would be considered pits.

Their scientific interest piqued, Hoffman, Westgarth and fellow researchers set out to determine the way animal shelter workers label certain dogs. The scientists found a with so-called Breed Specific Legislation, or BSL, playing a role. The U.K., as well as parts of the U.S., have laws that prohibit — or at least make it much harder to own — certain types of dogs. There is a significant regional difference between the US and the UK> Under the U.K.’s 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act, for example, dogs with a set number of ‘pitbull type’ charastics are outlawed.

The scientists asked 416 U.S. and 54 U.K. animal shelter employees and volunteers to identify 20 dogs by photo; of the dogs, 11 were bull breeds or mixes, with two each that were “highly probable pit bull examplesfrom the U.K. and U.S, respectively, the authors write. The responses were varied — out of the 20 dogs, more than half of the U.S. participants reported that seven were pit bulls or a mix. In the U.K., on the other hand, a majority of the shelter workers called only one dog a pit bull.

Nine of the dogs shelter workers were asked to identify.

 

Although U.K. workers seemed to underreport pit bulls more frequently, in the U.S., the reluctance to classify a dog as a pit bull may be intentional. For shelters in areas where breed-specific laws apply, 40 percent of workers said they would purposefully identify a dog as something other than a pit bull or other banned breed. Even in places without BSL, where renters and homeowners might run into problems with landlords and insurance, Hoffman says, shelter workers may have an incentive to keep “pit bull” off of a dog’s tag.

The intent isn’t to trick would-be adopters — it’s to get these dogs to more homes. Not only are pitbulls euthanized in disproportionate numbers, but pet owners are less likely to pick a pit bull up from a shelter. One U.S. rescue worker wrote: “I would put Lab mix because they get adopted easier – he looks like he could be Staffie (Staffordshire bull terrier).”

“It’s kind of scary that decisions are being made on individual dogs based on BSL,” Hoffman says to The Dodo, “when we don’t have a clear definition of what a pit bull is.”

Rachel Orritt, a graduate student at the University of Lincoln, studying dog aggression,  who was not involved in the research, calls the study “preliminary” but “very interesting from a cultural point of view.” She cautions that the small sample of workers in the U.K. may not have intentionally mislabeled dogs, however, but were simply unfamiliar with pit bulls. “It is likely that a large portion of the U.K. rescue centre workers and volunteers in this study have never seen a pit bull type dog ‘in the flesh,’ ” Orritt writes in an email to The Dodo.

Given the confusion about which dogs should be defined as pit bulls, this study underlines the fact that BSL is a flawed way to prevent dog bites. Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the White House point out that owner behavior not breed, ultimately leads to more dangerous dogs.

The Dangerous Dogs Act, likewise, relies on 15 physical characteristics “to identify pit bull type dogs,” Orritt says. “A Labrador of the right size and shape could meet these criteria, and therein lies the flaw of breed specific legislation.”

 

Impact of movies on dog breed popularity

 

Collies. The 1943 hit Lassie Come Home is associated, in the following two years, with a 40 per cent increase of Collie registrations in the American Kennel Club.

The effect of movies featuring dogs on the popularity of dog breeds can last up to ten years and is correlated with the general success of the movies, according to new research from the University of Bristol, the City University of New York, and Western Carolina University.

The study, published today in PLOS ONE, also found that movies’ influence was strongest in the early twentieth century and has declined since.

The researchers used data from the American Kennel Club, which maintains the world’s largest dog registry totalling over 65 million dogs, and analyzed a total of 87 movies featuring dogs. They found that the release of movies is often associated to an increase in popularity of featured breeds over periods of one, two, five, and ten years.

Additionally, they found that these trend changes correlated significantly with the number of viewers during the movie’s opening weekend, considered as a proxy of the movie’s reach among the general public.

This suggests that viewing a movie may cause a long-lasting preference for a breed that can be expressed years later, when the time comes to buy a new dog.

The impact of movies has been large. The ten movies with the strongest ten years effect were associated, the authors found, with changes in registration trends such that over 800,000 more dogs were registered in the ten years after movie release than would have been expected from pre-release trend.

The 1943 hit Lassie Come Home is associated, in the following two years, with a 40 per cent increase of Collie registrations in the American Kennel Club. An even more dramatic example is the 100-fold increase in Old English Sheepdog registrations following the 1959 Disney movie The Shaggy Dog.

Professor Stefano Ghirlanda, lead author of the study said: “We focused on changes in trend popularity rather than on popularity itself to avoid attributing to movies trends that were already ongoing before movie release, as up-trending breeds may have been chosen more often for movies.”

The team also discovered a general decrease during the century of movies’ influence on the success of dog breeds. Earlier movies are associated with generally larger trend changes than later movies. This might be due to an increased competition with other media, such as television, and more recently, the internet, but also to an increased competition among movies. Movies featuring dogs were released at a rate of less than one per year until about 1940 but a rate of more than seven per year by 2005.

The authors had previously shown how dynamics in dog breed popularity are subject to the erratic fluctuations typical of fashion and fads. For example, they discovered that the more rapidly puppy registrations increased, the more rapidly their popularity declined, a phenomena also found for baby names popularity.

Additionally, they showed that popularity of breeds is unrelated to breed temperament and health. Hal Herzog, co-author of the paper said: “On the whole, breeds with more desirable behaviours, greater longevity, and fewer inherited genetic disorders did not become more popular than other breeds. In short, cultural shifts in types of pets largely reflect ephemeral changes in fashion rather than selection for functional traits.”

Cultural dynamics are often considered too whimsical to be subject of scientific enquiry but, the authors argue, studies like this demonstrate that influences on popular culture can be detected and quantified, given the right data.

But what are the consequences for the dogs? Dr Alberto Acerbi, a Newton Fellow in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Bristol and co-author of the paper said: “If people buy en masse dogs because they appear in movies the consequences can be negative for the dogs themselves. Our previous study found that the most popular breeds had the greatest number of inherited disorders.

“It’s not surprising that we tend to follow social cues and fashions, as this is a quite effective strategy in many situations. However, in particular cases the outcomes can be negative. When choosing a new pet, we may want to act differently.”

 

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