Newsletter November 2016

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 November 2016

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Do you have a topic you'd like us to address in our monthly newsletter? Curious about natural behaviors? Wondering about an interesting or unusual habit in your pet? Send in your requests to and you may just see your question answered in an upcoming newsletter.

Animal Elections

cat in the hatIn a small Minnesota town, Duke, a nine-year-old Great Pyrenees, was elected mayor by a landslide this year. But his victory didn’t come as a surprise to the residents; it would be his third consecutive term in office. Not only that, but the dog was so popular, no one had even run against him. In fact, Duke is expected to run again next year as well. First elected in 2014, when he won by twelve write-in votes, Duke has one of the highest approval ratings in the country. Duke’s owner, Dave Rick, serves as his Chief of Staff. Though this adorable politician may seem like an anomaly, he is only one of many animals holding positions of power in society.

In 1997, the town of Talkeetna, Alaska elected a cat named Stubbs as mayor. Stubbs began his career when Lauri Stec, manager of Nagley’s General Store, found him in a box full of kittens in her parking lot. Stec chose Stubbs because he did not have a tail. A popular rumor states that Stubbs was elected following a successful write-in campaign by voters who opposed the human candidates. Stubbs has one of the longest animal careers, as he still holds office today. Stubbs is a tourist attraction, drawing 30 to 40 daily. However, because the tiny town is only an historical district, Stubb’s position is purely honorary.

However, fame and glory are not always in an animal’s best interest. In Lajitas, Texas, Mayor Clay Henry III, a goat, held office for years. Mayor Henry first became famous in the town of Lajitas, Texas for his love of beer. People would come from all over to visit Clay Henry and feed him beer in his pen. In fact, his father, Clay Henry, Jr., and grandfather, Clay Henry Sr., were beer drinkers too, despite the fact that this was horrendous for the goats’ health. Because the famous goat increased tourism in the town of Lajitas, he was beloved by the residents, and was elected for the first time in 1986. Posters and postcards were made with the mayor on them; although he has since passed away, he is an icon of the town to this day.

One of the most important and respected animals holding a position of power is Brigadier Sir Nils Olav. Sir Nils Olav is a king penguin who resides in the Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland. He is the mascot and Colonel-in-Chief of the Norwegian King’s Guard. The military ranks have been passed down through three king penguins since 1972 - the current holder is Nils Olav III. The tradition of awarding a penguin a rank in the military began when Norway presented the Edinburgh Zoo with its first king penguin in 1913. When the Norwegian King’s Guard visited Edinburgh in 1961 for a drill display, a lieutenant named Nils Egelien became interested in the Edinburgh Zoo’s penguin colony. When the Guards returned again in 1972, he arranged for the unit to adopt a penguin. The penguin was named Nils Olav in honor of Nils Egelien and King Olav V of Norway. Sir Nils Olav was given the rank of visekoporal and has been promoted each time the King’s Guard has returned to the zoo.

In 1982, Nils Olav was made corporal, and was promoted to sergeant in 1987. Nils Olav passed away shortly after, and was succeeded by Nils Olav II. Nils Olav II was promoted in 1993 to the rank of regimental sergeant major and appointed to Colonel-in-Chief in 2005. In 2008, he was awarded a knighthood and became the first penguin to receive such an honor in the Norwegian Army. A third penguin, Nils Olav III, took over between 2008 and 2016, and on August 22, 2016, was promoted to Brigadier. Today, Brigadier Sir Nils Olav III is a symbol of the close collaboration between Scotland and Norway.

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Why Do Dogs Dig in the Yard?

dog diggingDoes your dog dig up your flowers and gardens? Is your yard a mess after Fido comes through and rips the soil to shreds? You’re not alone; digging is a common behavior in dogs. You may wonder whether your dog is trying to escape or even seeking revenge for some slight, real or imagined. The truth is that there are a variety of reasons that dogs dig in backyards. If your dog is digging around the edge of the yard and under the fence, she is probably trying to escape. This is not to be ignored; it is often a sign that your dog  isn't receiving sufficient exercise, stimulation and attention. Interactive games and enrichment can help you improve the situation.

Most dogs naturally like to explore their surroundings, which leads them to dig in the yard and try to escape. However, they may also be digging in order to get to something outside of the fence or to escape something stressful. For example, a dog might dig under the fence in order to get to his owner if he is experiencing separation anxiety. Alternatively, during a thunderstorm or a fireworks display a fearful dog might dig to escape what they perceive as a threat. Furthermore, some dogs that are not fixed may try to escape in order to find a mate.

How do you get your dog to stop digging? Exercise can be the solution. If your dog exercises every day and gets enough mental stimulation, she will be less likely to want to escape your yard. Try walking your dog more often or playing with her in the yard. Even teaching your dog basic commands and spending time training together can help her get the enrichment she needs. Bored dogs get into trouble. Make sure there are toys and things to do in the yard when you let your dog out.

If you’re addressing these issues and are still concerned about your dog tunneling out of the yard, try placing chicken wire at the base of the fence, rolling the edges away so that your dog won’t hurt herself on it. Placing buried rocks along the fence or burying the fence itself can also prevent dogs from tunneling out. As a security measure, it is always a good idea to have your dog wear identification with your phone number in case she escapes. However, keep in mind that these measures address the symptom and not the underlying problem. Simply barricading your dog in will not fix the fact that she is digging due to some other issue. If your dog is digging out of boredom, she will continue to dig in other places in the yard, and will still crave the attention, enrichment and exercise she needed in the first place.

Read more about the causes and solutions to digging in dogs.

Idog hugf your dog is simply digging up the flowers and is not trying to Houndini her way out of the place, there may be other roots to the problem. Some dogs dig to follow the scent of insects or other pests. Others dig in order to create pits that they can lie in to feel cooler when it’s hot out. Determining the real reason that your dog is digging is a key step in eliminating the behavior and providing your dog with what she needs to be happy and comfortable. If there’s little to no shade in your yard, your dog is more likely to become overheated. Try providing a shady area or a way to get out of the sun to a cooler area.

Some dogs just truly love to dig. Unfortunately, in this case, there isn’t much you can do to stop them from digging. However, you can try to control where they dig – sandboxes aren’t just for children! For some dogs, providing a sandbox or other approved place for digging can help save your yard while allowing your dog to dig happily. Encouraging the dog to dig in the approved place whenever you see him digging up your garden can quickly teach her what you want her to do. Buried treats, bones and toys can also encourage digging and exploration in these areas.

While digging is a very natural canine behavior, it can also indicate that you’re not meeting all of your dog’s needs. If your dog is digging, don’t simply yell at her. Do your homework, diagnose the underlying problem, and create a solution that you both can live with.

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Unusual Hibernation

When the temperature begins to drop you may be ready for an afternoon nap; or perhaps you'd even like to nap for days? Unfortunately, you probably have more pressing things to do. However, for many animals during the winter, several-month-long naps are a reality. Because of extreme weather conditions, animals often find it impossible to find enough food during winter months. As a result, they are forced into hibernation, where they store food and use minimal bodily functions resulting in a lower heart rate and reduced respiration rates to conserve energy. You probably already knew that. What you may not know is that alternate forms of hibernation are used by a diverse group of animals reaping different benefits.

wood frogIf you’re a member of your local Polar bear club, you might know what it’s like to be undressed in winter, in the cold, in the water. While you might be proud that you can stand such cold for a few moments, your stunt is nothing compared to that of the Wood Frog. Wood Frogs have some of the most extreme hibernation habits: 65% of the water in their bodies freezes into ice while they sleep. Not only that, some of these frozen frogs remain icy for seven months out of the year! For more than half of their lives, they act like living ice cubes, and yet thaw out just fine when it’s time to wake up.

Equally impressive are the species of bear that give birth during hibernation. Rather than hibernating, they enter torpor, a lighter sleep from which they can sometimes be woken up. The difference between torpor and “traditional” hibernation is that torpor is driven by reduced food availability coupled with environmental temperature. Hibernation, on the other hand, is driven by day length and hormonal changes. In bears, torpor can last a few months, but other animals, such as prairie dogs, can enter torpor for just a few days.

Ever wonder how some aquatic animals, such as huge, Mugger crocodiles, are able to survive long periods without water? They aestivate rather than hibernate. Aestivation refers to dormancy during periods of drought and heat, rather than periods of cold and lack of food. Hedgehogs, salamanders, and lungfish all aestivate. When the environment becomes dry and hot, they enter a similar deep rest in order to survive extreme conditions and conserve energy.

Watch Mugger crocodiles enter aestivation - BBC

lemurIt’s clear how the Fat-Tailed Dwarf Lemur got its name. During hibernation, this lemur lives off only the fat in its tail. For about seven months until the rain returns to Madagascar, these animals lose about 50% of their body weight. Snails are another surprising hibernator. Snails simply retreat into their shells during hibernation. They close the door using a skin made of chalk and slime that keeps moisture inside. During hibernation, snails use almost no energy and fast completely. In some areas where there is limited rain, snails have been known to hibernate for years!

Hibernation has been shown to repair brain and cell damage in animals while maintaining skeletal muscles. In the future, researchers hope to use a lower body temperature and slower metabolism to induce human hibernation. Human hibernation could not only be useful in recovery from strokes, but also assist in long-term space travel. While we wouldn’t recommend hibernation as a weight-loss method, clearly it has the potential to provide other benefits. Would you want to hibernate, if you could?

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Play More - Art Made for Dogs

dog artistHistory was made in London when the first art exhibit made exclusively for dogs was created. Much like the Please Touch Museums designed for children, this exhibit is an interactive creation made for dogs to enjoy. The exhibit features installations based on all of a dog’s favorite things - such as food treats, riding in the car, and interactive games. It was made to encourage people to spend more time engaging with their pets; it was on display this year from August 19-20. The artist, Dominic Wilcox, titled the exhibition “Play More.”

Dogs from all over came to enjoy the contemporary art piece in London and played with their owners, having the time of their lives. The pieces helped stimulate the dogs both mentally and physically. The most popular events included a giant bowl-shaped pool filled with balls that looked like treats, an open car window simulator, and a screen that simulates a Frisbee bouncing around. The exhibition also featured paintings that used colors within a dog’s visual spectrum, hung at a dog’s eye level, dancing water jets jumping from one dog bowl to another, a giant fan blowing the scents of old shoes and raw meat, and a series of statues of meat, placed at different levels to accommodate different dog heights. 

Watch dogs in action at Play More

 Wilcox stated that play is important for a dog’s mental and physical health, and that his piece was intended to emphasize this aspect of a pet’s life. The exhibition was groundbreaking in more ways than one: though contemporary art has invoked inspiration from humans for years, never before has a piece of art been created to invoke that same response from an animal. While animals have created art before, this was the first instance of art being created for animals.

dog_windowThe six paintings and drawings were particularly thought provoking (for both humans and dogs) as they act as an existential musing on the canine experience. They explored topics such as the unknown of a deep forest, the temptation of a chicken drumstick, and the joy of a walk in the park. In fact, the curatorial staff did their homework by consulting veterinary professionals to ensure that the exhibition would provide mental and physical stimuli for dogs. The organization donated one pound to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) for every person that pledged to spend more time with their dog during the exhibition. Their goal was to reach 20,000 pledges in order to donate £20,000, enough to build a sensory garden for rescue dogs.

Wilcox wants to repeat the exhibit and expand the scope. Many are hoping that the exhibit is just the beginning of more museums for dogs and art made for animals. Wilcox also said that an exhibit for cats is not out of the question, and could feature exhibits placed up high so that the cats could jump in order to see them. The dog exhibit already features scents accompanying each piece, such as the scent of chicken with a piece depicting a chicken drumstick. This plays on dogs’ increased use of their sense of smell.

Other artists created works that appeared in the exhibition as well, including Claire Mallison, Joanne Hummel-Newell, Robert Nicol and Michelle Thompson. Together, they created a completely unique collection. Dogs and their owners are hoping that the exhibition, commissioned by More Than Pet Insurance, is just the beginning of a world of animal art to come.  


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