Newsletter January 2018

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January 2018

ABI in 2017: A Year in Review

From the students who graduated from the Animal Behavior Institute in 2017 to those who enrolled in their very first classes, ABI students were thriving last year. Graduates have gone on to pursue their dreams in working with animals around the globe. In 2017, ABI brought its students new classes, programs and professors, and we cant wait to see what 2018 will bring.

ABI started the year by being named to Victory Medias 2017 Military Friendly® Schools List, and hiring Professor Jennifer Celli. Professor Celli is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Registered Play Therapist specializing in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). She is intensively trained in Animal Assisted Therapy and certified as a Mental Health Professional through EAALA (Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association). At ABI, she provides students with exceptional training in Animal Assisted Therapy based on her years of training and experience. 

In Fall 2017, ABI created a new certificate program called Exotic Animal Training, designed to teach students how to train wild animals and understand their behavior. The program focuses on wildlife, rather than domestic species such as dogs and cats, and involves courses in animal training and behavioral enrichment. In this program, students can learn about carnivores, birds, primates or marine animals, and will be prepared to work at zoos, aquariums, wildlife clinics, and educational centers. Graduates of this program may use the designation CEATP, Certified Exotic Animal Training Professional. Many of them have started their own businesses, or found positions in zoos and aquariums. 

To complement this program, ABI introduced a new course entitled Carnivore Training & Behavior this year. It serves as an elective in both the Exotic Animal Training program as well as the Zoo & Aquarium Science program. It addresses the behavioral needs of large carnivores such as wild canids and big cats. The course introduces students to training, management and behavior of carnivores in captivity. Students will learn about animal husbandry, educational programming, and weight management. Additionally, they will develop the skills required to train new behaviors and manage undesirable behaviors. 

ABI finished the year by introducing another new program in Equine Behavior & Management. It is designed for horse trainers, owners and enthusiasts interested in developing a deeper understanding of equine behavior. Students of the program learn about training, cognition, emotions, health and nutrition. Courses include Equine Health & Nutrition, Equine Behavior, and Equine Minds & Emotions. The program aims to improve the management of horses, enhancing their welfare and producing a stronger human-equine bond. Upon graduation, Equine Behavior & Management students may begin using the designation CEBMS, Certified Equine Behavior and Management Specialist. May graduates start their own businesses, work at riding stables, training facilities, or equestrian centers.

In 2017, the Animal Behavior Institute created new programs and opportunities for our students, and they continued to achieve success both during their education at ABI and after graduation. Last year, ABI grads became leaders in zoos, aquariums, animal shelters, training programs, education centers, rehabilitation centers, and more. We look forward to the success our students will continue to find as they follow their dream careers into 2018. 

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Healing with Horses

The world of Animal Assisted Therapy is vast and full of different treatments and programs that help humans heal through interaction with a wide variety of animals. ABI will feature a new article each month presenting one of the many programs possible in the realm of AAT.

A relatively new type of therapy called Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) was developed in the 1980s by Marsha M. Linehan, a psychology researcher at the University of Washington. DBT is a modified form of cognitive behavioral therapy that was originally intended to treat people with borderline personality disorder and chronically suicidal individuals. It is now recognized as the gold standard psychological treatment for this population. Additionally, it is effective in treating a wide range of other disorders such as substance dependence, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and eating disorders.

DBT emphasizes individual psychotherapy and group skills training classes to help people learn and use new skills and strategies These skills include mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness. The term dialectical means a synthesis or integration of opposites: DBT incorporates the seemingly opposite strategies of acceptance and change. For example, mindfulness and distress tolerance are acceptance-oriented skills, and emotion regulation and interpersonal effectiveness are change-oriented skills.

Many organizations have begun to incorporate animals into DBT programs for the various ways in which animals can help teach the skills that DBT emphasizes. Trillium Family Services uses horses in DBT in a program called Equine Dialectical Behavior Therapy. This program enables youth of all ages to develop a deeper understanding of the skills learned in DBT by practicing specific lessons alongside the horses.

One of the ways that horses are used to teach DBT skills is by demonstrating the wise mind. The wise mind is defined as a balance between the emotional mind and the logical mind. Horses are great at demonstrating what each of these minds looks like in action. For example, horses demonstrate the emotional mind when they respond to something strange looking, such as a pool noodle, by perking their ears, turning, and running away. Because they dont know what the object is, they simply get away from it. They demonstrate the logical mind by producing a response that does not involve much emotion. For example, trainers might bring food to the horses, and the horses would eat it without being too concerned about their surroundings.

The wise mind is a combination of the emotional and logical minds. Horses can demonstrate this by reacting to the combination of food and the previously scary object. Horses will often run away, come back to try to get the food, investigate the object, observe, and eventually eat the food right next to the scary object. Eating the food demonstrates the way that the horses were able to balance their emotional response and their logical response without one completely taking over. When clients see this, they have a much better understanding of their own logical and emotional minds, and they can better understand when they are using each mind, and how to combine the two to use the wise mind.

Horses are also useful for teaching awareness about body language, and the difference between being assertive, passive, and aggressive. Clients can get feedback from horses while practicing these different skills: passively asking a horse to walk forward will not work, but after changing body language to be more assertive, a client can be successful in getting their horse to complete the task. Particularly for young people, horses can be instrumental in the effectiveness of DBT treatments. By interacting with clients, they can help people to heal and grow in ways they could not accomplish on their own. 

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Eight New Years Resolutions Your Pet Will Thank You For

1.     Measure Your Pets Food

Many pet owners overestimate their pets food when feeding them every day, which often results in overfeeding and weight gain. To boost your pets health this year, use a measuring cup to make sure your pet gets the right amount of food.

2.     Set Up Play Dates

Do you know anyone with a similarly sized pet? Call and ask for a playdate! Interacting with other animals is great for your pets mental health and social skills. Plan to meet at the park or at someones house.

3.     Update Their Name Tags

If any of your contact information has changed, dont wait to update your pets tags and microchip. Your pet will thank you if they get lost and need to find their way home! By keeping your pets ID tags up to date, you can ensure your pet will be returned to you as quickly as possible. This will alleviate stress down the line!

4.     Try a New Activity

If youre bored with your day to day routine, so is your pet! Spice it up with a new activity that you can both enjoy together. It is easier now than ever for humans and animals to participate in outdoor activities together. Try swimming, hiking, or even kayaking! This will give you both exercise, and allow you to bond. Try a meet-up group to find other pet owners to join you and keep you motivated!

5.     Clear Out Old Toys

If you made a resolution to clean out your own clutter in the house, clean out your pets too. Old, beat up toys are less stimulating over time, and can become infested with germs. Toss them in the trash and give your pet something new to play with!

6.     Make Time to Play

If you don’t want to do a whole new activity together, at least make time each week to devote entirely to spending time with your pet. Animals love spending time with their owners. Making them a priority this year will make you and your pet happier and more bonded. This can also give your pet the exercise they need. It can be as simple as a game of fetch for a dog, or a laser chasing toy for a cat. Toys that trigger an animals predatory instincts get them engaged and keep their minds enriched.

7.     Teach Them a New Trick

Teaching your pet a new trick can be great for stimulating their brain. It can even help reduce cognitive deterioration in aging animals. Old dogs can learn new tricks, and it can help them stay active and healthy despite their age. You can also keep your pets mind engaged by using a puzzle feeder, which forces animals to think through a task in order to get a treat.

8.     Practice Good Hygiene

Lastly, keep the vet away by helping your pet practice good hygiene. One of the best ways to do this is by brushing teeth daily to help prevent tartar and plaque. There are many brands of toothpaste meant for dogs and cats. Additionally, many pet stores sell treats designed to reduce tartar that act like a toothbrush as your dog eats them. 

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Do Monkeys Grieve?

When Thomas the chimpanzee passed away at the Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage Trust in the Copperbelt region of northwestern Zambia, the other chimpanzees that he lived with chose to stay with him even though it was their feeding time. Many of the chimpanzees that knew him, including his closest companion, Pan, touched his body. One dominant female brushed his teeth with grass before his corpse was taken away. These last acts of compassion indicate that the chimpanzees felt the loss of Thomas and needed to express their grief. Although monkeys do not share all human emotions, there is substantial evidence that they may grieve their dead and feel the loss of another animal with whom they forged a strong bond.

Thomass death was one of many instances where monkeys have been observed apparently grieving for lost companions. Other species of monkeys have been observed behaving similarly in the wild, where they seemed to acknowledge and mourn their dead. Macaques have been observed screaming and showing signs of distress such as yawning and scratching following the death of an animal they had a close relationship with.

Often grieving behaviors can make monkeys more vulnerable to predators. Other times, monkeys spend entire days with corpses, rather than their usual schedule of feeding for most of the day. These animals sacrifice their own wellbeing simply to be with the body of a loved one, evidence that they do in fact grieve.

Anthropologist Barbara King of the College of William & Mary has studied animal grief extensively. She says that these reports offer compelling evidence of grief. She stated, My definition requires that we know theres been a change in the survivors behavior after some friend, companion or relative dies. Im looking for evidence of emotional distress, change in behavioral patterns that last for a while, some evidence of response from an animal that has a particularly strong relationship with the dead. All that is there.

In these cases, monkeys often take a responsibility for gate-keeping the body of a loved one, and elicit some type of sustained emotional response. In a 2006 study, researchers found that levels of the stress hormone glucocorticoid were significantly increased in monkeys who had recently lost a group member. Monkeys who did not experience loss did not have this same increase in glucocorticoid. Glucocorticoid is the same hormone associated with bereavement in humans.

Evidence such as this indicates that monkeys are aware that companions have died, and the loss has a powerful impact on their lives. It seems chimpanzees and other monkeys are more affected by the death of older individuals with whom they have formed more meaningful relationships and closer social ties. Additionally, apes are more impacted by the death of their friends: friends behave much more compassionately to the body of a deceased animal than non-friends. 

All of this tells us that monkeys experience complex emotions and strong social bonds with friends and family members. Although they may not grieve in exactly the same way humans do, there is significant evidence that they experience loss as the result of the compassionate relationships they make with others.

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