Strap line

It started when two canine scientists decide to become pen pals in an era of digital media...

Thursday, 15 January 2015

2015: Puppy New Year! Get some science into your dog

2015 is a bright and shiny new year for canine science! 

But first, this face:

After being a dog-less household for eight months (you might remember we sadly farewelled Elke in 2013 and gut-wrenchingly, also old man Caleb, in the first half of 2014) we welcomed a new member to the family at the end of 2014. 

Those paws. Not photoshopped.
If I'm honest with you, I'd been stalking PetRescue quietly for a month or so, not really sure if the time was right, but also open to being inspired to make it the right time to welcome a new dog into our lives. I eventually made a call to a shelter a long, long way away about a dog I'd seen who looked like the kind of dog I thought would be a good fit for our family over the next fifteen years. His profile had been up for a few weeks and I was concerned he might be nearly out of time to be adopted. The lovely shelter staff let me know he'd actually just been adopted that morning - I was thrilled for him and his new family. Probably a good thing anyway, that shelter was 5 hours' drive away - no small distance. 

The following day I received a message from the shelter staff - there was another dog - a younger pup, similar type, would I be interested? "Send me some photos and a video clip of him" I said... and they did. I told Julie about the pup and how far away he was. "Love this story!! Keep it coming ;)" she said via email. Huh, I thought - what an adventure this could be to meet a new family member - and luckily, my partner agreed!

So a week later, coincidentally on my birthday, we headed off after lunch on a 400km (that's 250miles to those of you who prefer miles) drive to a faraway coastal town south west of Melbourne to meet this four month old pup. He had come into the regional shelter as a stray. Whether he was deliberately dumped, wandered off through an open gate, or actively strayed by jumping a fence - we'll never know. That's part of the shelter dog story - not necessarily knowing what came before. 

What we do know is this: 
  • He was not identified by microchip, had no collar with ID and was not desexed
  • No one came looking for him during his two weeks in the shelter
  • On meeting us, he was excitable, mouthy and jumpy, but calmed down fairly quickly
  • We have named him Rudy (roo-dee), inspired by Rudolph as it was Christmas week


What is he?
We've been asked that a lot! Rudy is a Staghound. Staghounds in Australia are similar to Lurchers and Longdogs in the UK - a 'type' of dog, rather than a breed. Staghounds are generally greyhound x deerhound with maybe a bit of whatever else was around the area in them too. They can vary widely in looks as they are bred with an emphasis on health, performance and longevity, rather than to a physical standard. They are generally bred to help with hunting in rural areas, but like greyhounds, can make excellent companions as well. As you'd expect, they are highly distracted by moving things.

A diet of science
Inevitably, we're feeding Rudy a daily dose of science. If you want to keep up with how he's going, you can follow the #RaisingRudy hashtag on Twitter, keep up with our Do you Believe in Dog? Facebook posts, or check in here at the blog for regular updates. I've never claimed to be a dog trainer, but I'm certainly aware of the importance of putting the wide array of scientific findings into practice with our dogs to help them have a great life and help us enjoy our time with them.

So far, over the first couple of weeks Rudy's been with us, this has looked a bit like this:
In these early days, we're focusing on socialisation (new experiences, places, people, surfaces, sounds, smells), basic training (toilet training, recall, sit, leash walking, house behaviour, independent time outside) and getting to know Rudy (learning how he responds to new places, loud noises, other dogs and people, etc.). We're marvelling at those ears. 

We're remembering what having a puppy in the house means (e.g. encouraging the puppy to splash its feet in a toddler pool is super funny and cute, until it starts repeating that behaviour in the indoor water bowl and floods your laundry!). We're a tidier household for it (Shoes go in cupboards! Pre-schooler's toys get put away! Remote controls go up high!).

If, like us, it's been a while since you raised a puppy, you might enjoy the back seat experience (sometimes hilarious, sometimes frustrating!) offered by the new BBC documentary series 'Six Puppies and Us' - Episode 1 linked here:
What science have you fed your dog recently? 
What should I be sure to feed mine? 

Let us know your thoughts by commenting on the blog, Facebook or Twitter - and join in #RaisingRudy.

Til next time, 

Mia

p.s. No, this hasn't turned into just a puppy blog! The Do You Believe in Dog? team will still be bringing you regular guest posts from fellow canine scientists, monthly updates on the science that's caught our attention and news on major events we attend in 2015.

Further reading:
Kidd A.H. & Kidd, R.M. (1989). Factors in Adults' Attitudes Toward Pets, Psychological Reports, 65 (3) 903-910. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2466/pr0.1989.65.3.903 

Hiby E.F., Rooney N.J. & Bradshaw J.W.S. (2004). Dog training methods: their use, effectiveness and interaction with behaviour and welfare. , Animal Welfare, 13 (1) 63-70. 

© Mia Cobb | Do You Believe in Dog? 2015