Several years ago when I wrote for the puppies.about.com site (now TheSprucePets) I took issue with a promotion advertised by a big-name pet food company that encouraged people to post pictures of themselves hugging dogs. Hoo-boy…Oh dear heaven, by the comments I received you’d think that I said cute babies are evil, apple pie is poison and advocated BEATING YOUR DOG! Part of that has to do with folks reading only the title and ignoring the content of the message. Oh well. That drives home the importance of titles, I suppose.
The promo really struck a chord with pet lovers. After all, who doesn’t love a hug? Hugs mean love, hugs mean happy happy happy, hugs are tail-wagging expressions of the joy we share with dogs. Right? RIGHT?!
Uh, no. And glory be, the promotion lives on. Today, September 11, has been named “National Hug Your Hound Day.”
WHY HUGS CAN BE DANGEROUS
There’s a reason that veterinary behaviorists, dog trainers and savvy owners blanched when they learned about this promotion. Why is that? Because while hugs are a natural HUMAN expression of comfort and love, they can send the opposite signal to your dog.
Children get bitten in the face as a result of inappropriate dog interaction (often hugs). Learn ways to help prevent dog bites here. There are other safer, more appropriate ways to show affection to dogs that the dog actually prefers!
“Oh no, you stupid, clueless person–you’re wrong wrong wrong, because MY DOG loves hugs, and every dog I’ve ever had loves hugs and everyone that I know has dogs that hug them back and loves hugs and…”
Good. In this case, I would LOVE to be wrong! If you have a dog that loves hugs and hugs you back, bravo. But that also begs the question, how do you know your dog “loves hugs?”
DEFINING “HUGS” & WHY DOGS HUG
A hug is an embrace, right? Arms go around the body and squeeze–that’s a hug. When do dogs clasp forelegs around another creature and squeeze? I can think of three scenarios:
So when your dog “hugs” you, what is he saying? And what do your hugs tell him? As a vet tech years ago, I was taught the “hug-restraint” technique to immobilize dogs for treatment. I suspect the dogs were not fooled into thinking that expressed affection. Today, of course, we know better ways to reduce fear and anxiety in dogs so we don’t have to hold ’em down.
Thank heavens our dogs for the most part are very flexible and forgive humans our sometimes clueless nature, LOL! I know that I’m grateful Magical-Dawg made allowances when I didn’t understand what he tried to tell me. At least with people, you can explain your intentions. That can be a challenge with dogs.
FORCING HUGS—IS IT FAIR?
I don’t have two-legged children. But I’ve witnessed gatherings where babies and toddlers get passed around to strangers who hug, pinch cheeks, bounce up and down, and ooh-and-aw over the cuticity. I think we’ve all seen kids wail in protest or fall silent with fear while a clueless relative or acquaintance—or a pediatrician?–insists on continued “loving but unwanted attention.” When you were a kid, do you remember that certain relative who caused no end of angst because, as a kid, you had no choice but to put up with the hugs, smooches, and cheek pinches? At least with older children, parents can explain what’s going on and help guide the adult (hopefully) into less scary interactions.
As much as we want to believe they read our minds and understand our words, dogs misunderstand a lot—and we misunderstand an equal portion of what they say. Hugs are supposed to express affection and love. So if a hug causes stress, fear, discomfort to the dog you adore, is it fair to inflict those feelings because it “feels good” to the owner?
BUT—MY DOG LOVES HUGS!
Yes, many dogs can learn to tolerate–or even love hugs from a trusted human. For those who have taken the time to do this, BRAVO! Many dogs also can learn to tolerate or love tooth brushing–so is it responsible for a company with dental products to promote sticking your hands in the dog’s mouth, or is it better to explain how to do so safely?
Magical-dog loved close contact. He often pushed his head and shoulders into my lap or squeezed his face under my arm. Was he asking for a hug? Shadow-Pup does the same. I suspect it’s this type of behavior that confuses many of us–but see, he controls that interaction. My arms haven’t come down around him to capture/hold/prevent movement. So some of the confusion, I suspect, has to do with semantics and how people define a hug.
How do you know your dog “loves” hugs? What does your dog do when s/he receives a hug? Do you know what each of these signals mean? Are you sure? Click on a link or two to see if you’re right!
Perhaps your dog loves hugs. That’s great. But my entire purpose with these blogs, my books, pet advocacy and more is to EMPOWER PET OWNERS TO MAKE INFORMED CHOICES.
To stand silent and do nothing hurts my soul. I was an expert witness more than a decade ago in a trial where a dog tragically attacked and severely injured a child—and they adored each other. We don’t know why (no witnesses to the attack), but I remember this case every time a clueless cute-and-fuzzy promo makes the rounds. Read about that in this blog post.
If hissing off some readers saves one child from the trauma of a bite, or one family from the heartbreak of losing a beloved dog by mis-reading intent—I’m fine with that.
Now then, I’ll don my flame-resistant sparkles and prepare for comments. Do your dogs like hugs? How do you know? For trainers and behavior folks out there, how do you help people understand safe dog handling? Do tell!
Dan Kohler introduces the summit, wearing the Purina signature red sneakers.
This post is sponsored by Nestle Purina. I am being compensated for helping spread the word about the Purina Better With Pets Summit, but BLING, BITCHES & BLOOD only shares information I feel is relevant to my readers. Purina is not responsible for the content of this article.
Angie Bailey, Janiss Garza and I at the event.
I was honored to again be invited to attend and write about the Purina Better with Pets Summit held October 18 in New York. What fun that I also got to connect with some of my friends and colleagues, including Steve Dale and Dr. Marty Becker. One of the highlights was meeting several of the researchers I’ve interviewed over the years, including Dr. Steven Hannah, Dr. Dottie Laflamme, and Dr. Lisa Freeman. Woot! I know famous peeps!
One of my fav Purina peeps, Dr. Dottie Laflamme.
There was a lot covered at the event, with probably a few hundred bloggers and media in attendance. I tried to type fast as I could, but balancing a laptop AND shooting pictures/video with my phone required juggling skills. So I hope these videos and recaps whet your appetite (pun intended!) to learn more.
Experts Everywhere…I’m In Heaven!
I arrived Monday Oct. 17 at the hotel and checked in just in time for an informal rooftop reception. Yes, there were four-footers and two-footers in attendance. We shared biz cards, pet stories and pictures, and enjoyed the view of the NYC skyline.
The next morning, we walked a few blocks to the event venue, and were treated to a lovely breakfast. Daniel Kohler (bloggers will recognize that name…and his red shoes!) introduced the president of Purina, Nina Leigh Kreuger, who opened with fascinating information about how Purina is shaping the future of Petcare.
Opening panel, moderated by Steve Dale: Demystifying Quality & Safety. With John Bear (senior vp of manufacturing) and Shaun Kennedy (assoc prof, Dept of Vet. Population Medicine, University of Minnesota)
The content and the speakers impressed me–not just from Purina, but from universities and organizations around the country (Mayo Clinic, North Shore Animal League, St. Louis Children’s Hospital, Urban Resource Institute). One of the most inspiring panels, “How A Passion for Pets Builds A Better World,” covered partnerships with hospitals and shelters (people and pet shelters). Check out the videos for more details.
Here’s a very brief recap of the whole day (including what Karma-Kat thought!) but please watch the others for more details. I promise, you don’t want to miss them.
PURINA BETTER WITH PETS IN LESS THAN 2 MINUTES…
After the first two panels, we had lunch, and checked out the kitten and puppy therapy booths. Yes, Karma-Kat, Magical-Dawg and Seren-Kitty were thrilled to receive samples (treats & more!) when I returned home.
This year, one of the stations engraved ID tags while we waited. So Karma and Magic both got shiny new tags when I got home.
There also were several “partner” exhibits, with opportunity to pick up information and learn more. I took the opportunity to sneak a couple of speakers outside for a quick interview. This is something you do NOT want to miss…and probably will want to get a similar program started in your neck of the woods.
CO-SHELTER INITIATIVE: ABUSED PEOPLE SHELTER WITH THEIR PETS!
Experts Inspired & Inspiring
One of the best parts of the Summit was hearing the scientists get just a wee bit emotional and gushy. Pets do that to you–and when you discover that you’ve made a difference, a personal connection and impact–what could be better?
What Does The Future Hold?
Don’t you love predictions? How about this…LET’S EAT BUGS! (Karma is ahead of the curve, already munching crickets).
Share It With #LetsLiveBig — How YOUR Pet Allows You to Live Bigger, Together?
I’m sort of a science geek, at least when it comes to my pets. So the “Science of Innovative Nutrition for Pets” panels was my fave. Last year, I wrote about Bright Mind dog food–my Magic began munching that last fall after we received samples, and he’s done so well on it.
This year, I again interviewed a wonderful scientist about MCT fatty acids and the benefits to the brain, but the noise level in the hall prevented the interview from being usable. That said, I was fascinated by the promising studies mentioned regarding reduction of seizure activity in dogs fed diets containing experimental levels of these ingredients. I’m encouraged that further research into the direct effect nutrition plays in disease will have a positive, and lasting impact on our pets’ lives and those who love them. That old saying, “you are what you eat” is actually TRUE!
While at the summit, attendees were encouraged to share our experiences with the hashtag #LetsLiveBig so now it’s your turn. If you’re reading this blog, I know that YOU believe pets make our lives better (and vice versa). Share how your pets help you live bigger lives together…ready, set, GO!
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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE:Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and everyone knows what that means–NATIONAL DOG SHOW! The Kennel Club of Philadelphia for the past several years have held this show the weekend before Thanksgiving, and then NBC televised the production after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It’s become an annual favorite of dog people. And because I’m at the Cat Writers Association Annual Conference during the actual event, I’m pleased to see the show up-close-and-personal courtesy of Purina sponsorship.
My colleague David Frei is a longtime breeder, exhibitor and dog expert/author who co-hosts the show with dog lover, author and actor John O’Hurley. Interestingly, the inspiration for televising the show can from a tongue-in-furry-cheek movie fave of dog people everywhere titled ‘Best In Show.’ The two-hour special offers over 160-plus breeds and crowns a Best in Show champion before football takes over the day.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) has sanctioned six new breeds for 2011 and they will be introduced to America in their national television debuts on Thanksgiving Day during the show. Thanks to the National Dog Show, you’ll get a sneak peak, below.
And don’t miss the ASK AMY video at the bottom of the blog with some comments about dog show grooming.
AMERICAN ENGLISH COONHOUND
The American English Coonhound evolved from Virginia Hounds, descendants of English Foxhounds. Originally these hounds were used to hunt fox by day and raccoons by night and were named the English Fox and Coonhound. Today’s American English Coonhound is a wide-ranging hunter that possesses tremendous speed and endurance, and excellent voice. A strong and graceful athlete, he needs regular exercise to stay in peak shape. The breed’s hard, protective coat is of medium length and can be red and white ticked, blue and white ticked, tri-colored with ticking, red and white, and white and black. The breed is pleasant, alert, confident and sociable with both humans and dogs.
Search on Facebook: American English Coonhound Association
The Cesky Terrier was developed to be a well-muscled, short legged and well-pigmented hunting terrier that could be worked in packs. The Cesky Terrier has natural drop ears and a natural tail. The Cesky is longer than it is tall and has a topline that rises slightly higher over the loin and rump. It sports a soft, long, silky coat in shades of gray from Charcoal to Platinum. The correct coat is clipped to emphasize a slim impression. The hallmarks of the breed should be unique unto itself with a lean body and graceful movement. They are reserved towards strangers, loyal to their owners, but ever keen and alert during the hunt.
ENTLEBUCHER MOUNTAIN DOG
The Entlebucher Mountain Dog is a native of Switzerland, and the smallest of the four Swiss breeds. A medium-sized drover, he has a short, tri-colored coat with symmetrical markings. Purpose and heritage have resulted in an unusually intense bonding between the Entlebucher and his master. Prized for his work ethic and ease of training, he can transform from a high-spirited playmate to a serious, self-assured dog of commanding presence. The Entlebucher should not be considered a breed for the casual owner. The guardian traits of this breed require thorough socialization, and he will remain an active, energetic dog for his entire lifetime.
The Finnish Lapphund is a reindeer herding dog from the northern parts of Scandinavia. The breed is thought to have existed for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, as the helper dog of the native tribes. In modern day, Lapphunds are popular as family pets in their native Finland. They are devoted to their family, friendly with all people, highly intelligent and eager to learn. The dogs have a thick, dense coat that comes in a variety of colors and beautiful, soft, expressive faces. They are strong but very agile.
The Norwegian Lundehund – or Puffin Dog — spent centuries on the rocky cliffs and high fields of arctic Norway hunting and retrieving puffin birds, an important meat and feather crop to local farmers. Uniquely equipped for their task, this little Spitz-type dog has at least six toes on each foot for stability in the near vertical environs where puffins nest. A flexible skeletal structure enables the dog to squirm out of tight spots or spread-eagle to prevent slips and falls. Lundehunds have a protective double coat, reddish-brown, often with white collar and feet and a white tip on the tail. Today puffin birds are protected and the puffin dog has taken up its new role as an alert, cheerful and somewhat mischievous companion.
The Xoloitzcuintli – “show-low” as it is commonly called – is the national dog of Mexico. Previously known as the Mexican Hairless, it comes in three sizes as well as a coated version – seen in the show ring only in the US and Canada. These dogs descend from hairless dogs prized by the Aztecs and revered as guardians of the dead. Over 400 years later, these dogs were still to be found in the Mexican jungles. Shaped by the environment rather than by man, their keen intelligence, trainability and natural cleanliness have made them a unique and valued pet today.
BIG HAIRY DEAL & MOVING TOPIARY?
So what’s up with all the special grooming that show dogs endure–or do they like it? What do YOU think? Do you share your life with a show dog, or maybe a hunting companion? How do you handle their coat care? Does your Cock-a-dach-a-poo get a Poodle cut? Or does the Lab prefer a regular hosing off?
Do you have a show dog? Have you ever attended a dog show–you gotta do it! The best dog of all, of course, paws down–whether they have ribbons or not–is the canine companion who shares your heart.
This month as a special “thank you” to all my furry-fantastic-followers, I’ll give away a paw-tographed copy of Complete Care for Your Aging Cat and Complete Care for Your Aging Dog. To get in the running, simply post a comment in the blog about your special pet (old fogey or not) and I’ll draw two names at the end of the month. You can use these award-winning updated books as a resource for yourself or wrap up for a pet-friendly holiday gift to a fur-loving friend. And as an EXTRA-special incentive–and to encourage all of y’all to mentor each other and spread the blogging/twitter/Facebook love–the two winners get to name one purr-son who gives them wags of support and deserves a book, too!
#AskAmy Sweet Tweets
Folks who “follow” me on Twitter @amyshojai and @About_Puppies are the most awesome Sweet Tweets around–they love #cats and #dogs and #pets, many #amwriting. We’ve become a great community including those in the #MyWANA social network twibe hosted by the awesome @KristenLambTX. So I’m stealing borrowing Kristen’s methods and creating my own hashtag. Just follow and include the #AskAmy in your tweets if’n you’re interested in pithy links to articles, books, blogs, experts, fictioning and sparkle-icity!
I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!