Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Doggies at Play: Body Language

Winnie is recovering so well! It is almost like she never had surgery at all- her hair is growing back over her frankenstein scar and she is romping and rolling with Bruno all over the house. I don't know how it is possible for her to feel so little irritation or pain, but I chalk it up to the amazing work of Dr. Petraro at Twin Rivers and also to Winnie's fierce pain-tolerance.

She and Bruno can play forever- they get so tuckered out chasing each other around the house and gnawing at each others faces and legs. (Do your dogs do this too, or do they just sweetly cuddle together?) We figure they are pretty well suited for each other but every once in a while someone carries it a little too far and the other comes hiding behind my legs.

Bruno taking his turn making the first move...

My favorite part of watching them play is the elaborate little dances they do- and the funny little water breaks they take. All of a sudden, play will stop- they will go take a drink- catch their breath, and then one will do a play bow and it starts all over again!

Did you know that 20 minutes of dog play is about as much excersize as an hour long walk!? So glad to know our doggies are getting the stimulation they need even when Chip and I are busy. If you are interested in learning more about dog body language to see how fairly your dogs are playing, check out this video:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bruno's destruction...

So we have been trying to limit the amount of time Bruno spends in the crate by trying him out in different rooms in our new apartment. Winnie of course can be left anywhere because she does no harm to any of our belongings or the carpet, but as you may remember- whenever he is unsupervised (AND ONLY when he is unsupervised) he will reak havok by eating everything in sight and going to the bathroom all over the house.

We tried successfully for a while keeping him in the kitchen. It was small enough that she didn't want to be confined there with whatever mess he could make, and easily cleanable if an accident occured. However, within a few weeks he figured out how to somehow leap over the gates without toppeling them over- I'm imagining some sort of dear like elegant bound...

Next we tried leaving him in the Office- a room with a door. Here's what happened the very first day:

Bruno's destruction....
Look at that guilty face!! He must be super anxious when we leave.
So for now he is in the crate all day- which I'm sure he doesn't enjoy but we are not sure what to try next.
Any ideas?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Animal Farm Foundation Slideshow

PETsMART offered a phone/web based training on Pit Bull Adoption Basics/Training hosted by Kim Wolf of the Animal Farm Foundation.

These are some of the interesting slides shared with the participants.... These are a great resource if you are trying to explain pit bulls to your friends and family.

Kim said...Only 2-10% of a dog's DNA determines his DNA, and yet we are using that very small amount as a predictor of behavior, which is arbirtary and incorrect.
Don't imply more than you know or use terms incorrectly. Example, for a dog to be a bait dog- there has to be an aggressor dog, which is not a good image to conjure in adopters minds about pit bulls. Also, terriers tend to be "tenacious", but "pit bulls type dogs" can be lazy.

Don't imply more than you know- just because a dog barks at all brown dogs, doesn't mean it cannot be in a home with a brown dog. Fact: It is better to transfer ownership and get the dog back through legal channels if something goes wrong, rather than loaning the dog first- which opens you up to liability as a shelter or organization.

Having a separate area or policy for pit bull dogs sets the potential adopters up to think that pit bulls are different. You as the advocate should not create unnecessary fear. We should not assume anything about a dog's behavior from its arbitrary label.
There can be an unlikely match where you least expect it! Take time to get to know the potential homes.
Animal Farm Foundation does not give people a list of what may go wrong because they feel that they cannot list a comprehensive list of "what ifs".  People with children between 5-17 acquire 75% of dogs at any given time, so age-restrictions automatically restrict the adopter pool to 25%.

Advice from AFF to Shelters/Rescue Groups:

1) Place them next to a variety of dogs, don't segregate.
2) Put a friendly pit bull in your lobby as a greeter with a bandana!
3) Teach the dogs parlour tricks (pray, handshake, roll over, blow kisses)
4) Use enrichment toys to keep pits quieter and busier- they will present better to adopters
5) Think of your adopter as a customer-make the environment calm, cool and peaceful
6) Use playgroups to burn energy, learn more about the dog's personality, and engage volunteers
7) Have Rescue Brunches - invite local rescue groups and foster homes to watch play groups to pick dogs based on observation.
8) Some dogs do best with a job (agilty, disc, obedience, police, search and rescue, assistance, therapy)
9) Happiness Sells, Sadness repells. (Adoptions increase when you focus on the human/canine bond.)
10) Take pictures with other dogs or people, create a scene or tell a story, take pictures in front of landmarks or in costumes, even a hand or foot of a person in a picture increases the dog's chances of getting adopted. Take videos!
11) Use adopt me vests
12) Use business Cards
13) Don't forget the bling! (Cute tags, collars, bandanas!)
14) Don't forget the Elder dogs, they can be great additions to homes for years to come
15) Promote your staff that live with pit bulls to show you believe what you are selling
16) Promote your shelter as an "adoption option" rather than individual dogs.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Free Pit Bull training!

Responsible NYC pit owners, listen up!

Tricks for Pits is a FREE dog training class exclusively for pit bulls being offered on Sundays (next class September 11th) in Fort Tryon Park in Washington Heights. The training is sponsered by the Bully Project.

The couple leading the project (Kelly and Lee Neal) have fostered more than 45 pit bulls and are sponsering the trainings to deal with the root of the shelter-crisis and prevent dogs from dying.

The training will focus on issues like dog-to-dog reactivity, dog aggression, and basic training. This fantastic approach will theoretically help people keep their pets who are too strong and out-of-control rather than giving them up to the shelter, as well as help improve the reputation of pits. Read more.
Source: Bully Project

Friday, September 2, 2011

Reader Mail!

This is my very first issue of Reader Mail- If there is a particular question you have about pit bulls, please drop me a line at passion4pits@gmail.com, I'd be more than happy to answer any and all questions!

This first one comes from Haney. She writes that she has one pit bull and is considering adding another to their family. She says that she has heard that pit bulls-even in the same family-should not be left alone at home together and asked my opinion on this and whether or not it is necessary to crate them while away....

                                                                                     Thanks for writing in, Haney:
We have a male and a female as you may already know- which I believe to be the best combination- that's not to say that it cannot work between to females or two males, but it is much harder.

We read a lot about multi-dog homes before we made any decisions on how/where to keep them while we are away. This is a great resource by the way--Pit Bull Rescue Central and other sites will tell you that they absolutely should not be kept alone together.  

They write, "Never Leave Your Dog Unsupervised With Other Animals
We can't emphasize this enough. If no one is around to keep an eye on them, dogs should be safely crated or in separate rooms, even if they are best friends. Dogs can fight for many reasons—status, food, toys, or rawhides—and if you’re not there to manage them, things could escalate. Your dog does not need “company” when home alone, and the routine of going into a crate every time you leave can be quite comforting for your dog. It also provides you with total piece of mind. There is no chance that your dogs will fight, and they won’t chew up your favorite pair of shoes! "

For these reasons, we do keep our dogs separated during the day. I Winnie and Bruno get along fantastically, and have only had a couple spats in the year they have been together-- the longer dogs have been together, the more they work out their status in the family structure and their relationship, so that the possibility of fights breaking out among two dogs that know eachother very well is very low, but not impossible.

While we feel that Bruno and Winnie have an almost 0% chance of having a bad fight, we do know that they are rough with eachother. When playing (even supervised) they come away with small bloody scratches around the ears and knees. This of course is not because they want to hurt eachother- but because pit bulls play more roughly with each other than other dogs do. However, they are capable of inflicting much more damage on each other than other breeds of dogs. Once you have had your dogs for a long time, you probably will be able to pick up easily on their body language to know whether or not they are feeling playful, social, uncomfortable, iritable etc- but as long as both of your dogs are somewhat social- they will transmit these clues to one another as well, and you shouldn't have any problems. (I suggest reading Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz to learn more about dog interactions.)

On the issue of crating-I do not think it is the best solution, although we have a crate and bring it with us on trips because Bruno loves it. We crated Bruno for some time because we felt that he liked it there and felt safe (he would go there with the door open when we were home anyway) and because he would have accidents and chew up things in the house if we gave him any more room (such as a whole box of oreos the other day!).

Recently, we came up with a good solution, although your specific solution will depend on how many rooms are in your home and its layout. We keep Winnie in the bedroom with the door closed. She is trustworthy around leather, shoes, and personal items, so she is well-behaved there and doesn't need to be crated. Bruno, on the other hand, is a more difficult problem. We tried different solutions and he was able to escape places we put him and reeked havoc in the rest of the house. Finally, we found very sturdy baby gates at Target for less than $50 a piece and blocked off the Kitchen for him. He seems to like it there and cannot knock the gates over as he had done to previous gates because they are actually screwed into the wall. He also cannot destroy anything because we keep the counters clear, and if he has an accident, at least it is not on the carpet and it is easy to clean up when we get home. I suggest trying this in your kitchen before crating and only use crating as a last resort as it can drive some dogs crazy if left for too long. If it is possible not to keep the dogs on either side of a gate- that is also preferable so that they don't feel the desire to jump the gate to get to each other.

Again, I would recommend always having the dogs together when you are home so that they can develop their relationship- and leaving them together for short periods of time once you are sure they are compatible, but for long periods away- keeping them in separate rooms has been a good solution for us.

I'm so glad to hear that you are considering a second dog! I hope that the process of adding to your family is as wonderful as ours was and that your pitties become best friends!

Best of luck!!

Thanks for reading and for giving your time to animals in need,


Pittie of the Week: AC&C Litter

There is currently an adorable litter of pit bull puppies at the Brooklyn Animal Care and Control. It is very dangerous for dogs this young to be in a dirty shelter environment due to the weakness of their immune systems.

The sooner they leave the facility, the better, as many puppies contract kennel cough or parvo virus and do not make it out.

The litter has 3 fawn puppies, one brown, and two black. Two girls and four boys.

Click here to get more info.

Moral Inconsistencies about Animals

Moral Inconsistencies...
That is what I want to write about today.

Why is it that we eat cows, poison rats and let dogs sleep in our beds? Why do we care when a dog is humanely euthanized but not when a pig is slaughtered for food or a seal is clubbed for its fur? Why do we hate Michael Vick for abusing dogs when we sit on, carry around, and wear leather goods?

For some of you, it might be easy to answer these questions by simply saying, "Well, pets are different." But why? Why are we plagued with these moral inconsistencies? Why was Hitler a vegetarian, yet order the killing of millions of jews? Why do some Brazilian tribes both kill adult monkeys and personally breast feed their young monkey babies?  This is the subject of Hal Herzog's book "Some we love, Some we hate, Some we eat."

When we first brought Winnie home, it took me all of two months before I stopped eating mammal flesh. I had always had an aversion to handling animal flesh before it was magically converted into "food" via heat, but I wasn't convinced it was morally wrong until a strange thing happened.

While I was on vacation in the thousand islands a year ago, I witnessed a blue heron fish out a cat-fish from a shallow area and leave it hidden in some dry leaves and grass to suffocate. After it died, it came back and taken it away to eat, presumably to help feed itself and its young as many birds do, I noticed that near the catfish's shallow pool were baby catfish. I had been told that fish of course take very little responsibility for their young, although there is evidence that some fish and amphibians have evolved to do so. For example, the male seahorse holds eggs in his pouch until they hatch and some male frogs actually hold tadpols in their mouths until they are ready to leave. (Listen to this podcast to learn more about how various animals care for their young.)

This did not disturb me much. The young catfish would not be raised by their parents like a fox pup is raised by its mom and dad, but I took particular offense to the way the heron let the catfish die. To be honest, I anthopocentrized the catfish and imagined the agony it felt out of the water- something many children do when they experience fishing with their Dads for the first time- imploring them to throw the fish right back and feeling the guilt associated with yanking these animals in and out of the water for our pleasure.

I was told to forget the fish, that it was part of the nature, and that I truthfully would not want the heron to die of starvation. Of course, I felt that I needed to hold myself to a higher level. My closeness with my dog- the first animal I was ever completely responsible for- led me to feel a closeness intrinsically with other mammals like us.

How should I proceed with this moral quandary? Well, I stopped eating mammals, and am happy to say that in 1 full year I haven't eaten any mammal flesh. I do, however, still eat fish and poultry. My reasoning for this first began with my both practical concerns and my emotional feelings-- I don't really feel so close to a chicken or a fish and I don't necessary believe that my consumption of them is morally wrong.

At first, free-range poultry and wild-caught fish seemed logical, although there is some evidence that chickens actually prefer to be clusterred together- and given the chance to run free- will huddle under each others wings. (Read about other problems associated with anthropocentrizing animals in A. Horowitz's book, Inside of a Dog.) Recently, after much thought, I found a better justification for my eating habits. If forced to live in the woods for years- or on a deserted island, I would forage and eat fruits, nuts, vegetables and whatever else I could find, but I would also be comfortable collecting insects, spearing fish and catching them with my own hands, or if need be- breaking a bird's neck so that I could eat it.

On the other hand, I would be completely unable to trap and eat any mammal of any kind, not under any circumstances. Whatever genetic code brought me to adore my dogs, whether it be due to my affinity for baby-like creatures to secure the future of my own children- or my ability to sympathize with mammals in order to better hunt them (called theory of mind by philosophers and psychologists), something went wrong somewhere- and I could no longer be able to personally kill a mammal or cut up its flesh. Hence, no mammal meat, and if I can avoid it, no leather.

Nor would I be able to hurt any creature (mammal or not) intentionally and without good reason. In ESPN's recent Michael Vick special issue, author David Fleming raises these exact inconsistencies in the moral behaviors of Vick haters.

Jay Paul/ Getty Images/ESPN.go.com

He writes,  
"From factory farming to horse racing, a multibillion dollar sport where two-thirds of all washed-up thoroughbreds are either abandoned or slaughtered, our perspective regarding animal cruelty is significantly altered depending on the degree of intimacy involved. We don't have to witness the stomach-turning horrors inside a farm factory in order to get chicken nuggets for lunch. They're handed to us through a drive-through window, wrapped inside a clean, colorful package. Theoretically, our hands remain clean, whereas an exhaustive report by the Department of Agriculture revealed that Vick drowned, electrocuted and hung dogs with his bare hands. "The American population may not be guilty of carrying it out with their own hands as Vick did," says Singer. "But it's certainly guilty of supporting animal cruelty through their purchases. It's not any worse to make a dog suffer than to make a pig or a chicken or a cow suffer. If you look at factory farms and if you support them, you can't say 'Vick made animals suffer and I don't.'"

As a dog lover, and a pit bull lover, I found that I was unable to place pits above other dogs, dogs above other mammals, and my own desire for tasty bacon over the pain and suffering of pigs etc. I urge you to think about these issues- about the possible presence of inconsistencies in your own moral code. While euthanasia of dogs in major cities in the U.S. is a huge problem, and a problem that outrages us because of our feelings that dogs are like people- less kind killing of other animals happens every day, on a massive scale, for our indulgences. It is worth ruminating on, isn't it?
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