Monday, August 29, 2011

Book Review: Dog Sense by John Bradshaw

This excellent new non-fiction pick surveys the latest animal behavior research and makes recommendations for the future of dogs as companion animals.

First Bradshaw debunks the conventional wisdom that dogs are "little wolves" that seek to control their "packs" (households) through dominance. He attributes this misinterpretation to earlier wolf research that studied captive packs in zoos, where groups of unrelated wolves struggle to establish workable relationships and dominance and submission play important roles. Natural packs in the wild that are basically family units whose behavior is characterized by affiliation and cooperation.

After setting the record straight about how wolves actually behave, Bradshaw draws clear distinctions between dogs and their wild ancestors. He chronicles the way in which the domestication of dogs may have occurred, illustrating the many ways in which dogs endear themselves to us by providing not only practical services like guarding, herding, hunting and hauling, but affection, companionship and play.

Nevertheless, Bradshaw observes, just as dogs are not "little wolves", they're also not "little people" and most probably do not experience the range of emotions we are tempted to project onto them, such a guilt or revenge. Treating a dog like a child can put the dog in a baffling and frightening situation: Fifi almost certainly will not recognize a cause and effect relationship between the trash container she overturned and spread throughout the house earlier in the day and her owner's anger upon returning home.

Finally, the book explores how we should manage our relationship with dogs going forward. After all, inviting our furry pals into our houses and bedrooms raises expectations about their behavior that are increasingly hard for dogs to achieve. Such natural doggie pursuits as digging, barking, rolling in dead things and scavenging food are discouraged in household pets; dogs labeled as "wild" or "destructive" often find their way into rescue organizations where they face a lonely life or, considering the oversupply of dogs, eventual destruction.

Six do's and don'ts:

• Don't be an alpha: Trying to control dogs by acting dominant will just frighten them.

• Understand your dog's emotional limitations: The latest research suggests that dogs can feel love but not guilt.

• Avoid punishment: As a general rule, positive reinforcement is the best way to control a dog's behavior.

• Respect your dog's senses: Dogs have been extremely sensitive ears and noses, and intense stimuli can make them miserable.

• Look beyond breed: Personality and trainability should be the priorities when selecting a pet.

• Teach your dog to cope with being left alone. Dogs are emotionally dependent upon humans and can become distressed without us.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Lucky Cats! Adoption Fees Waived for Adult Cats August 27-28, 2011 at the Cape Cod MSPCA

Meet Jaxx, a polydactyl cat at the MSPCA. This cat has an extra toe on each of its front paws, a much beloved trait which many people consider lucky. There are a lot of these guys in New England and especially Boston, and they are known as Boston thumb cats and mitten cats because the extra toes look like a thumb and are used by some cats to catch objects with one paw, open latches and other feats of dexterity.

The trait was favored by sailors and spread throughout the Atlantic trade routes from Boston on ships. Sailors considered them lucky and since sailors needed all the luck they could get they took them on board where they performed as superior climbers, mousers and ratters.
Sadly, these cats were persecuted in Europe during medieval times because they were considered “witch cats” and destroyed, but they were welcomed in New England and have become quite common. One reference we found noted that they are especially common in Yarmouth. If so, yippee for Yarmouth! The trait is common in Maine Coon cats where it is thought that the extra toes act like snowshoes. Ernest Hemingway loved them and of the more than 50 cats who live on his Key West estate, more than half are polydactyl, giving rise to the term Hemingway cats.

Jaxx is available for adoption as well as many other charming felines at the MSPCA Centerville Adoption Center and that a special adoption event August 27 and 28 offers cats over 1 year old for free! Whether you find a polydactyl cat or not, you will be changing the luck of any cat you adopt. Come by the Adoption Center and take a look. Even if you can’t find room for a new kitty in your home, these wonderful critters will give you a smile.

Note that if you have a polydactyl cat, you have to make sure that cat is “sharpening” those extra claws or they can curl into the pad and hurt your kitty’s feet. If your thumb cat is too squirmy to trim those nails, call us for a “nails only” appointment.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

"Short But Not Too Short"

It seems this is what we most often hear requested by customers: "Short but not too short." Oh my gosh, can you imagine how hard it is to guess what someone else means by short? We group our clips into "functional" categories so it's easier to communicate with customers about what they have in mind.

A "buzz" or "shavedown" is the shortest clip we do, about 1/16th of an inch or a little longer. It creates a fine, silky texture on many soft haired dogs and cats - like a fine Persian carpet. This is the length we must clip when a pet's coat has tangles or mats, because we have to be able to get the clippers under the knots or mats, which lie close to the skin. We also clip lots of cats into lion cuts at this length. It takes about 3 months for a cat to re-grow a coat clipped this way. Amadeus, the labradoodle pictured here, received a buzz cut this weekend at Country Garden's Dog Days of Summer as a fundraiser for Barnstable Dog Parks.

A "summer" or "utility" clip is 3/8" - 3/4". These lengths give pets more coverage but are short enough to avoid matting and can help keep pets cooler during hot weather. Less hair on the pet also means less hair in the house. Pets with fluffy undercoats, such as huskies and many cat breeds, look better with tighter clips.

At about 1" many coat types will knot and mat so the choice to preserve a longer coat length involves a commitment to brush and demat regularly or arrange for professional grooming at least once every month.

At Aussie Pet Mobile Cape Cod, we offer "preferred customer" discounts for those who want to get on our schedule at least once per month. Call the office for pricing at 508 534 9875.