Newsletter April 2018
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April 2018

Understanding Your Dog's Aggressive Behavior

(contributed by freelance writer Jane Wadsworth)




Every year, around 4.5 million dog bites occur. While this is statistically small compared to the 90 million dogs that are resident here, it is still an alarming number. Canine training for behavior can help dogs to not be aggressive, but it is your job as an owner to understand why they exhibit such behavior. All dogs, regardless of the breed, have the capacity to be either calm or aggressive, but none set out to be bad. Aggression is usually a result of fear and anxiety and, as an owner, you can help reduce these emotions.


Creating a Safe Environment

When it comes to safety, there are two aspects: the safety of the dog and the safety of the humans. In terms of the latter, you need to ensure you have close control at all times. Secure your backyard thoroughly to limit the harm your dog can do. Canines are territorial and will often act out if they feel their personal space is being invaded.

The other aspect of a secure environment is ensuring that your pet feels safe. Give them a place to hide, such as a kennel, if they feel nervous. You may have noticed that your dog acts out if there are fireworks, so provide somewhere small and quiet where they will feel protected. This can be filled with their favorite toys and treats to keep their mind occupied. You also need to take charge as leader of the pack. Dogs feel secure when in the presence of their pack boss.



 

Satisfying Exercise Needs

Another common cause of anxiety is a lack of exercise. Humans often create exercise routines to help with stress and to boost dopamine levels. These same effects can apply to your dog. Find out exactly how many hours of exercise your breed of dog should be getting each week and aim to hit this target consistently. Once they are exhausted and satisfied from outdoor play time, they will feel comfortable and relaxed. Aggression can be the result of built up energy that needs to be released.

If you worry about your dog’s aggressive behavior, then you are not alone. However, don’t feel helpless. Take the time to educate yourself on what causes aggression and identify any triggers in your own pet. Usually, they are feeling anxious or are under-exercised. You can take the simple steps listed above to help calm their fears, leaving them feeling relaxed and friendly.

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Three Things to Consider Before Adopting an Easter Bunny

Every spring, bunnies fly off the shelves as Easter approaches. Who wouldn’t want a bright-eyed baby bunny to surprise their loved one on Easter morning? But many rabbit adopters don’t stop to think about what it will actually be like to add a pet bunny into their lives. Rabbits are complex creatures with specific needs and should never be purchased on a whim. Before gifting Peter Rabbit to your family this season, take a moment to consider the following.


1.     Rabbits and toddlers don’t play well together 

Contrary to popular belief and adorable photos, bunnies do not make ideal pets for children. Many children are rambunctious, energetic and a bit clumsy. These traits are extremely stressful for rabbits. Because rabbits are prey animals, they are very sensitive and can become startled easily.

Furthermore, rabbits do not enjoy being picked up and cuddled, as children are inclined to do. They feel frightened and insecure when held and restrained, and prefer to stay on the ground where they feel safe. Toddlers are likely to think of a pet rabbit like a stuffed animal that they can hold, carry and cuddle. It would be difficult to give a rabbit a safe and comfortable home in this situation.


2.      Rabbits require almost as much work as a dog 

Many people think that rabbits are a low-maintenance pet. However, they require a considerable amount of time, energy and effort. Rabbits must be housetrained, a process that takes patience, commitment and time. They must be spayed or neutered, and they must live indoors as members of the family. Rabbits should never be kept in a confined space like a cage for long periods of time, and need at least four hours of exercise per day. The ideal situation is for a rabbit to roam freely in your home.

Rabbits should not be kept outdoors in hutches. Statistically, rabbits who live outdoors have an average lifespan of about one year, whereas rabbits who live indoors can live 8 to 10 years. Outdoor rabbits can easily become bored and depressed from isolation. A pet rabbit must be part of your daily routine. 

3.     Rabbits are a ten-year commitment

When purchasing your Easter present, you may only be thinking a few weeks into the future. But remember that bringing a rabbit into your home is a ten-year commitment. Are you going to love and care for this rabbit for the next ten years? Will you become bored after a few months? If the gift is for a child, consider what you are asking of that child. It is unreasonable to expect a toddler to make a ten-year commitment to anything. Children often lose interest and result in rabbits becoming neglected or abandoned.

Rabbits are the third most euthanized animal, and in the months following Easter, pet shelters are flooded with unwanted Easter bunnies. Before adopting a rabbit, be sure that you will not become a statistic adding to the growing numbers of abandoned rabbits. Instead, make a plan that will allow you to share the next ten years of your life with a sensitive, intelligent and social bunny. 

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Nursing Home Therapy Animals

When you think of therapy animals, you probably think of a seeing eye dog guiding someone across a busy intersection. But Animal Assisted Therapy can take many forms. In fact, one of the most beneficial uses of AAT is in nursing homes. The benefits of interacting with an animal even for a few hours cannot be understated, and the use of animals in nursing homes has had immense success in improving health and happiness.


Pets provide happiness, unconditional love and comfort. And for many people, they have very real physical impacts too. In fact, in elderly people with dementia, depression consistently declines after interacting with a therapy animal. Animals provide a myriad of health benefits to their owners and the individuals they interact with.

People who regularly interact with animals are healthier, less stressed, and happier. Because it is not feasible for many residents of care facilities to own one, therapy animal visits can make a world of difference.

Regular contact with animals can improve cognitive functioning, balance emotional concerns, and increase feelings of enthusiasm and interest. Additionally, interacting with animals has been proven to combat loneliness, reduce feelings of hopelessness, instill a sense of purpose, boost activity levels, reduce stress, alleviate depression, and translate into positive interactions with other humans.


This video shows the effects that llamas can have on residents in a nursing home.

In nursing homes, the arrival of a therapy animal can lift the atmosphere and bring new energy and life. Some research even indicates that pets may actually delay the aging process. By interacting with animals, seniors are able to get more physical exercise and socialization. They also display increased mental functioning by feeling the responsibility of taking care of an animal. Dogs in particular help people keep an active routine and provide a reason to get up in the morning. Their benefits cannot be understated.

However, it is important to keep in mind that visiting pets are not for everyone. Seniors who love pets or have previously owned pets do well with visiting therapy animals. However, other seniors may be allergic to pet fur or afraid of animals. These individuals would be uncomfortable with therapy animals and should not be placed in groups interacting with animal visitors.


For the people that do love animals, there are many different animals and many different activities that can have immense success. Most people think of a dog or a cat visiting a nursing home. But recently there has been success using pot-bellied pigs! These animals are exciting and different, and energize even the least active residents. Plus, pot-bellied pigs are very social and friendly; they are the perfect friend to visit the elderly.

Research has shown that interacting with pets can also lead to visiting the doctor less often, using less medication, recovering more quickly from surgery and illness, and even lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Bringing animals into one’s life is like a magic medicine that helps in every aspect of mental and physical health. Pets can make seniors feel needed, and give them the ability to reminisce. The physical feeling of petting a dog can bring comfort and mental stimulation that goes a long way. Though this form of animal therapy is lesser known, its effects are changing lives in an unbelievable way.

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Most and Least Independent Baby Animals

Human parents raise their children for eighteen years, caring for them and teaching them how to be independent adults. As Spring approaches and babies of all species are born, what are animal mothers going through with their new offspring? Read on to see the most and least independent baby animals.

Orangutans: Supermoms

Winning the award for best animal mothers, Orangutans put all other animal parents to shame. They work as single mothers and look after their young for eight years, longer than any other single parent in the animal kingdom. In fact, they only have babies once every nine years because they take such a long time to raise each one. Rather than having multiple offspring at once, Orangutans focus on one baby at a time and build exceptionally strong social bonds with their children.


Enjoy this video of an Orangutan mother and her baby.

While raising their babies, Orangutan mothers much teach them where to find edible fruit and when fruit is ripe and good to eat. They also learn how to build a nest, starting lessons when they are only six months old. It takes about three or four years for baby Orangutans to perfect the art of building nests. By the time they are grown up and ready to go off on their own, Orangutans have learned vital survival skills and created an incredibly strong bond with their mothers.

Elephants: It Takes a Village

Elephants take a different parenting strategy: entire family groups work together to bring up the young. African elephants move as herds of females, led by a matriarch. They live for up to 70 years and give birth about every three to four years. Their pregnancies are extremely long, lasting almost two years. When the babies are born, all of the adults in the herd will help to bring up and protect the young.

If a threat presents itself, all of the older elephants in the herd will form an outward-facing circle with the vulnerable offspring in the middle. If a baby elephant is kidnapped by another herd, the baby’s entire herd will group together in order to look more powerful and threatening in order to get their baby back.

Snakes: Distant Parents

On the other end of the spectrum, snakes have almost no maternal instincts (with a few notable exceptions, such as the rock python). Snake mothers abandon their eggs soon after laying them and do not return. Newborn snakes hatch with the ability to take care of themselves completely, and do not need parents to look after them or teach them how to fend for themselves. Some snakes do give birth to live young, after incubating the eggs inside their bodies. However, even in these instances, the mother slithers away soon after her babies are born. Snake infants are strong and independent and they don’t need to take advice from anyone!


Lizards: Safety in Numbers

Like snakes, lizards abandon their children almost immediately. Female lizards typically lay a very high amount of eggs because most of the eggs and offspring do not survive into adulthood. Eggs may be eaten by predators before they hatch. Babies that do hatch could be attacked by a predator or die of starvation. By laying a large amount of eggs, lizards ensure that at least some of their offspring survive into adulthood. This unique strategy does not create strong parent-child bonds, but it does ensure the survival of the species, the one thing that all animal parenting techniques have in common.

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