The Smartest and Not-So-Smartest Dog Breeds

Cat Fight:
City Ought to Stay Out
of Vet-Pet Owner Affairs

POOR kitties! Cruel vets and ignorant and intolerant owners are conspiring to have their toe-tips snipped off - and have even gotten a state law to protect their rights to do so!

Good thing that there are moral government bodies like that Los Angeles City Council taking a stand on such an important issue like cat declawing.

Equating the procedure to human torture (though, generally, anesthesia is not part of the waterboarding experience), the council on Friday took a preliminary vote to ban declawing cats within the city. There's a rush to do so as the Legislature has adopted a law that would ban cities from banning declawing starting in January.

At first glance it seems like a reasonable move. Why cause Fluffy medically unnecessary pain and leave it defenseless just because the owner is tired of being slashed or is disgusted with having his furniture or children shredded? Frankly, it doesn't sound like a humane thing to do.

But neither does castration, a mutilating procedure that the same council has actually enforced on all the male dogs and cats of the city. Ask any human man, and he will surely offer up his fingertips before undergoing that particularly emasculating procedure.

The people behind the declawing ban are for the most part a decent bunch, and they mean only the best for animals - but they are a special interest group nonetheless. Decent or no, what they are doing is no different from what the religious fundamentalists are trying to do: force the rest of us to live by their beliefs.

Declawing your cat is not much different than neutering or spaying dogs and cats. Indeed, we have laws demanding that you spay or neuter your pets, or pay a yearly penalty for not doing so.

No matter that it's painful to the pets or that they suffer. It is inconvenient and expensive to the city to have the streets overrun by abandoned and feral cats and dogs. In addition, it is expensive - and unpleasant - to dispose of the many unwanted puppies and kittens.

In that same way, it is expensive, unpleasant and inconvenient for individual cat owners to have their furniture destroyed, faces and hands and arms shredded and our children bloodied by pets that really can't help what they are doing.

Taking away the declawing option will leave cat owners with a tougher decision - whether to have the animal euthanized, drop it off at the pound, abandon it somewhere or continue to live with the animal.

We think the cat would prefer being declawed.

Cutting the claws and first bones from Tiger's paws is far from ideal, and no loving pet owner would consider it a light decision. But we think it should remain an option in a time when the recession has overloaded shelters with unwanted pets. How many of the kitties stuck in a shelter cage might still be in their homes, purring on the laps of their loved ones, if their owners could have solved their problems with a simple procedure at the vet's office? For many cats, declawing is the last-ditch effort at domestic peace before a one-way trip to the pound.

If the council has its way, loving animal owners would have to become outlaws to have it.

Great job. In Los Angeles, thousands of unwanted animals die every year. This won't help.

Opinion: Friendly Dog Makes
Road Hunting Even More Fun
By: Luke Hagen, The Daily Republic

If I had one piece of advice for Barry Betts, I’d tell him to make sure to keep an extra bottle of Windex and an extra roll of paper towels in his hunting rig.

Ranger — his fun-loving, brilliant hunting dog — sure leaves a wide mass of nose prints on the windshield.

Betts, a Chamberlain resident, invited me for a road hunting trip last week that I gladly accepted. In his phone message to me at the office, Betts proclaimed, “Luke, I have the best road-hunting dog in the world. I’d love to take you out for a hunt this fall.”

Rather intrigued, I returned the call and we planned the trip.

Ranger — 4½ years old — introduced himself to me the moment I walked into Betts’ store, Downtown Antiques, in Chamberlain.

A friendly brown and black dog, Ranger is a part-lab, part-Brittany mix. Betts actually wasn’t sure of Ragner’s species until a few years ago, when he sent a DNA sample in to be tested. Now, he understands where some of Ranger’s pointing comes from.

And Ranger’s pointing isn’t exactly like any average dog.

Once we arrived to our destination for our road hunt, which Betts describes as a great South Dakota tradition, Ranger immediately forced his way to the center console in the truck and started his search.

His nose pressed up against the windshield repeatedly, and then he’d swirl around, slap me in the face with his tail and head to the backseat to stick his head out the window for a different viewing angle.

“You might get whapped in the face a few times,” Betts said.

I didn’t mind. Eventually, I just set my hand on Ranger’s back and prepared myself for his tail, blocking it before it got me.

When Ranger stayed in the front, and when he’d see a bird up the road, the Brittany in him showed. His shoulders would get really high, his head would stay low and he’d stretch half of his body on top of Betts’ dash.

“Whatdya got, buddy?” said Betts, 68, and a current biologist for his own company, Biological Services Inc. based out of Chamberlain.

Before starting his own company in 1981, Betts worked for the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department from 1968-1971. Then, he moved to Utah, Montana and Washington, D.C., and worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Today, Betts’ company keys in on Indian reservation land, studying and preserving pheasants, deer, buffalo herds and endangered species, but when he’s not working, Betts loves to take people out with Ranger.

Just after Ranger spotted a pheasant running across the gravel, we did, too. Quickly, Betts drove over to the ditch, put the car in park and we hopped out.

Ranger knew the drill. He sprinted in the ditch and started flushing pheasants. Barry dropped one rooster at quite a distance, and I missed a couple shots. Down the road I saw a large pile of brush and a dead tree, so while Ranger was retrieving Betts’ bird, I walked over and flushed another pile of birds, only to miss the first time I pulled the trigger. Then, as it flew over the truck, both Barry and I shot at about the same time, crumpling the bird.

Two birds in the first 20 minutes — not too bad.

As we continued our journey, Betts told me stories of Ranger growing up and how people who travel to Chamberlain for pheasant hunting from across the U.S.

“Ranger has his own little following,” Betts said. “There’s even an old guy named Ronald McDonald who comes up every year and wants to hunt with Ranger.”

There wasn’t too much time that passed where we didn’t see a group of pheasants. We saw one real big mass of birds jumping from a cornfield to a patch of CRP grass and we pulled over and pursued it. I hopped out of the truck with Ranger, and we walked down toward Betts as we got some more birds out of the ditch. Soon, we had four of our six roosters, and it didn’t even take the entire golden hour — the last hour before sunset — as Betts likes to call it to finish our limit.

I shot both of the last two birds, as I did a lot of missing to start the hunt. I did redeem myself, though.

I had one pheasant walk within five feet of me after Ranger and Betts walked toward me, and I had to wait for it to fly out far enough so I didn’t turn it into ground chicken.

To close out the hunt, Barry and Ranger saw a rooster flying directly at the pickup, so I jumped out of the truck and made a 50-yard shot to impress my hunting partner.

“I’m a waterfowler,” I told Betts. “That’s the kind of shot I take when I’m shooting ducks — directly over the top.”

Even though we had all six of our birds, the ride home was still quite eventful. We easily saw 100 pheasants, and even had one fly into the pickup while we were cruising on the interstate. I glanced out my passenger window, and all of a sudden, whap! It had smashed itself right into Betts’ passenger-side window.

Barry and I shared a laugh about the rooster with a headache, and Ranger went to the back seat — and of course slapped me in the face one last time — to nap.

The road hunt with Ranger was great.

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My Pet World:
Canine Insulin Best Choice
for Diabetic Dogs
By Steve Dale - Twin Cities

Q. Can you use human insulin for dogs?

— K.T., Cyberspace

A. The short answer is yes. However, human insulin is not necessarily the best choice for dogs, explains Dr. Louise Murray, an internal medicine specialist and director of medicine at the ASPCA's Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in New York City.

If you had asked this question a few days earlier, Murray says, her answer for the insulin of choice for diabetic dogs would have been a product called Vetsulin.

But as I was interviewing Murray, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Center for Veterinary Medicine issued a warning Nov. 3 about using Vetsulin due to problems with the product having varying amounts of crystalline zinc insulin in the formulation, which may cause a delay of onset and duration of activity. This instability can be dangerous, resulting in unpredictable glucose fluctuations.

Pet owners using Vetsulin are encouraged to call their veterinarians, and perhaps transition to another insulin product until further notice.

Murray, author of "Vet Confidential: An Insider's Guide to Protecting Your Pet's Health" (Ballantine Books, 2008), says the second choice for insulin used in dogs is Levemir, which is a specific type of human insulin.

The concern is that you may be considering using your own human insulin for your dog and letting an insurance carrier pick up the tab. Ethically, I couldn't support that. But honestly, it could work. Keep in mind that different insulin products have a range of effectiveness for individual dogs. If you have your mind set on this approach, be sure to tell your veterinarian and watch your dog closely for any changes or signs of hyperglycemia (increased thirst, increased urination, weight loss and lethargy) or hypoglycemia (disorientation, unsteadiness, weakness and seizures).

Q. We adopted some goldfish at our school. They all died but one, which now has some black parasite growing on its head. Or is it more like an ammonia burn. Any suggestions for a treatment?

— K.D., Chicago

A. "Most of the time when there's a mass die-off, the problem is the water quality," says William Hana, collection manager of quarantine at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. "I don't know what the black spot is. Ammonia level is certainly a concern; you want that to be as close to zero as possible. But I don't know about an ammonia burn. And parasites would generally be white spots, not black spots."

Hana suggests taking the surviving fishy to an aquarist who understands how to identify fish disease and parasites or a veterinarian who treats fish.

Take extra tank water with you. When a fish veterinarian asks for a "sample," he won't hand you a tiny cup; he's looking for a water sample.

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Tips for Finding a Pet Sitter
For the Holidays
by Therese -

Have you scheduled your pet sitter for the holidays yet? If not, time is running out! With Thanksgiving only 2 weeks away, as far as pet sitters are concerned, the holidays have pretty much arrived. Many of them are completely booked by now, so if you’re still looking it’s time to step up your search. It’s still possible to find someone to care for your pets, but it may take quite a few phone calls to find a reliable person to care for your pets. Here are a few tips to help you find a pet care professional to keep your pets safe at home:

Check with established pet sitters. Chances are many of them are already booked up, but they may have extra help for the holidays. Keep in mind that a number of established pet sitting businesses will not take new clients for the holidays.
If a pet sitter you call is booked ask if they know of any pet sitters who are still scheduling clients for the holidays. Don’t be shy about asking! Many of the pet sitters in your area know each other and are happy to refer business to each other.
Consider hiring a newer pet sitter. For many pet sitters who are just starting out, the first holiday season isn’t all that busy, so they’re eager to sign on new clients.

Although they may be new to the pet sitting business, it’s quite possible they have extensive experience caring for cats, dogs, and other animals.
Use our pet sitter directory to search for a pet sitter. You can check with a pet sitter network if there’s one in your area. (There are a number of pet sitter networks around the country, which serve as a way for pet sitters to refer business to each other, learn more about the business, and help each other succeed.)
Ask other pet owners, your veterinarian, dog trainer, groomer, or other pet professional if they know a reliable pet sitter they can recommend.

Word of mouth goes a long way and many pet care professionals get much of their business this way.

Once you find a good pet sitter, be sure to contact them early next year to arrange for holiday pet care. That way you’ll be more likely to have your first choice pet sitter taking care of your pets and home while you’re celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the many other holidays this time of the year.

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Do Dogs Think Like We Do?
SF Gate

Dogs can alert us to panic attacks and plummeting blood-sugar levels. They can sniff out cancer, remind owners to take their medication, learn language, snap people out of dissociative states and, in the case of seizures, position themselves to cushion a fall.

Because of their legendary intelligence, Border Collies set the standard in obedience competitions.

Despite these proven feats, much skepticism has been bandied about concerning the intelligence of the canine mind. But according to some recent research results, it turns out we may have underestimated our perspicacious pooches.

In a study conducted last year, Hungarian researchers reported that a guide dog for a blind and epileptic person became anxious before its master suffered a seizure. The dog was taught to bark and lick the owner's face and upper arm when it detected an onset, three to five minutes before the seizure. It's still not completely understood exactly how dogs detect seizures, but several smaller studies have shown that their super sniffers can also detect lung and other types of cancer by identifying odors emitted by the disease.

German researchers reported in 2004 that a border collie named Rico could grasp the name of an object in one try, had 200 objects in his repertoire and remembered them all a month later. Even the most ardent skeptics were impressed.

Dr. Stanley Coren, a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia and an author of several books on dogs suggests that dogs do more than simply by mimicking the body language of their owners (as suggested by the enduring example of the horse Clever Hans from the early 1900s). He believes that dog brains process information similarly to the way people do.

The standard Poodle is highly intelligent and one of the easiest breeds to train.
Dr. Coren has devised an intelligence ranking of 100 breeds, with border collies at No. 1. He says the most intelligent breeds (poodles, retrievers, Labradors and shepherds) can learn as many as 250 words, signs and signals, while the others can learn 165. This means the average dog is about as intellectually advanced as a two-year-old child with an ability to understand some abstract concepts.

But Clive D. L. Wynne, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Florida who specializes in canine cognition says we shouldn't kid ourselves into thinking that dogs view the world in the same way that we do. He told the New York Times that he disagrees with close comparisons between human and canine brains, arguing that it is mainly a dogs' sensitivity to the humans around them and their desire to please (and be rewarded with treats and tummy rubs) that's behind their oft impressive capabilities.

Because of their intelligence, a German Shepherd needs a purpose or job in life to be truly happy.

To find out if your dog is Ivy League worthy or better off chasing squirrels and shedding on the couch, give them these six IQ tests courtesy of Dr. Coren. (And post your results here!)

Here's a list of the top 10 smartest dog breeds (which are not necessarily the same as the top 10 "easiest-to-train" breeds):

•1. Border Collie
•2. Poodle
•3. German Shepherd
•4. Golden Retriever
•5. Doberman Pinscher
•6. Shetland Sheepdog
•7. Labrador Retriever
•8. Papillon
•9. Rottweiler
•10. Australian Cattle Dog

And a list of the top 10 not-so-smart:

•1. Afghan Hound
•2. Basenji
•3. Bulldog
•4. Chow Chow
•5. Borzoi
•6. Bloodhound
•7. Pekingese
•8. Mastiff
•9. Beagle
•10. Basset Hound

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A Dog's Age

Using 'a dog's age' to indicate a lapse of time, as in "I haven't seen you in a dog's age!" is an expression that's been around since the mid-1800s. The origin is lost in the mists of time. I guess dogs are supposed to have a very long life, which may or may not be true, depending on circumstances.

So, what is a dog's age anyway? With people, most of us are on familiar ground. Approximating age gives us critical clues and we're pretty astute when it comes to making some assumptions when we know an approximate age. We can tell a child from an adult, or a young adult from an elderly person, and by refining our information, we can hone our generalizations even further. A child could be an infant, a toddler or an adolescent. An adult might be a 20- something or a 50-something.

We also know, from our own life experiences, there are typical age-related parameters for humans to achieve skills or behaviors, such as walk and talk, drive a car, drink in a bar, bear children or enjoy the fruits of lifetime labors in retirement.

When it comes to animals, though, few of us are that closely attuned to their developmental stages. Most of us can identify a puppy or kitten, recognize an adult or see the signs of age in a very old pet, yet most of us probably can't say when puppies or kittens are weaned, when they reach the age of reproduction, when they are middleaged or when to expect the physical signs of old age.

In order to simplify the calculation of a dog's age, myth has it that one human year roughly equates to seven years for a dog, or for a cat for that matter. Although incorrectly skewed by this formula, a pet's age and how it relates to our own, is still one of the most important bits of information we note about animals. Usually, my second question when meeting a new dog - after discerning gender - is to determine the pet's age.

The seven-year ration might be reasonably accurate in a pet's middle age, but it has been proved to be misleading and inaccurate for the beginning and end of a pet's lifespan. For instance, at 12 months, a dog is fully grown and sexually mature. Cats spend a relatively small proportion of their lives in an immature stage. Within their first year, both dogs and cats are capable of reproducing; obviously, a 7-year old child is not. An average house cat lives 15 years, or 105 in human years using the 7-1 ratio. But there are a lot more 15-year old cats, as well as dogs, around than 105-year old people.

As for the longevity of our pets, age is only a chronological measure; it fails to take other factors into consideration, such as small dogs generally living longer than large dogs. On average, small dogs have a life span 1.5 times that of a large dog. The breed of a dog also has a strong influence on the life expectancy, due to physical and medical issues that are associated with certain breeds, regardless of size. As with their humans, females tend to live 1-2 years longer than the male.

Neutered or spayed animals live longer than intact animals. Neutering greatly reduces the risk of cancer and spaying either a dog or cat eliminates the physical demands of pregnancy and giving birth. Pets that are well cared for, properly fed, housed and maintained live longer than those who are not.

As with people, some pets are born with good genes. Some pets will be healthy all their lives, while others, in spite of the best of care, can have problems which shorten the period of their healthy and active years. In order to maximize the probability of good health, pet owners can take some factors into consideration.

Some breeds are known to be predisposed to certain diseases such as hip dysplasia, allergies or tumors. Mixed breeds have a reputation for "hybrid vigor," but no one really knows. Each breed of dog, at some point, was developed for a specific purpose, and some breeds require more mental and physical stimulation than others. Matching these needs with your ability to provide them is critical for maximum pet health.

Getting a dog from a reputable breeder who certifies and screens their dogs can minimize unforeseen health problems, but even this is no guarantee. Any pet's life will be improved with a quality diet, regular exercise, good living conditions and periodic medical check ups, particularly as they age.

There are several sources for determining the pet-to-human age conversions. The above chart provides a rough idea of how our canine and feline friends age compared to the way we do. I

Jan Jaeger is owner of Geronimo's, Ltd., Nantucket's year round pet supply shop, Cold Noses downtown pet boutique and is a member of DWAA and CWA (Dog and Cat Writer's Associations of America). Her pets at home are Junior, a Chesapeake Bay Retriever, kitties Mr. Fish, Retd. and Priscilla. At the shop are Mr. Chips, Flower bunny and three budgies.

Dog Years = Human Years
1 year 15 years
2 years 24 years
4 years 32 years
7 years 45 years
10 years 56 years
15 years 76 years
20 years 98 years

Cat Years = Human Years
1 year 15 years
2 years 24 years
5 years 36 years
7 years 45 years
12 years 64 years
15 years 76 years
21 years 100 years

Naming a Cat:
A Serious Undertaking
By Jo Singer -

One of the most frequently asked questions appearing on many interactive pet- related websites are those requesting help naming a new kitten or cat. Many of the responders offer a long laundry list of "cute" names, depending on the cat's description or photograph provided by the asker.

However, I think that naming a kitten or cat should be considered a very serious undertaking and one that never should be done in haste, or taken lightly. After all, as the cat servant becomes more familiar with their new kitty and the name chosen proves to be totally inappropriate, think of the confusion that the poor feline may experience when names are changed rapidly. The naming of a kitten or cat carries a high degree of responsibility but many folks lack the patience to discover a suitable and appropriate name for their new kitty. This can cause some pretty disastrous results.

Rather than picking a name off a website, or choosing a name that someone else is suggesting, it is far better to wait and spend time getting to know the newcomer. Each kitten and cat has unique behavioral antics that endear us to them. A kitten may have a particularly unique appearance that may suggest a more suitable and catchy name as well.

For example: My husband and I were given an adorable seal point Siamese as a wedding gift, years ago. Even though he was 4 months old, he was the cutest tiny ball of fluff. We fell in love with him the minute we set eyes on him. He came to us with a fancy long registered name, "Brown Toast", prefixed by the name of the cattery. His name was longer than he was, in fact! As we gently let him out of the shipping carrier in which he arrived after his long airplane voyage, we instantly felt that the name that was given him was totally wrong.

After spending time with him and observing his little purrsonality quirks, with his endearing habit of licking us with his incredibly long tongue whenever he was petted, coupled with his diminutive size being the runt of the litter, his name came to us in a flash. As he was an oriental-type cat, and I am an avid pun-maker, the name "Mousie-Tongue", a play on Chairman Mao-Zedong nailed it. And not so amazingly he responded to the name immediately. The Vulcan "Mind Meld" had obviously been affective.

I always advise people be patient and wait for their kitten or cat to "reveal" his or her name. Keeping our ears and eyes open for the obvious hints being offered, letting our innate intuition guide us, will always lead us to that purrfect handle.
What method do you use to name your cats? Leave a comment and share your techniques.

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