Monthly Archives: October 2007

Dog or Breed?

It is pretty much axiomatic in the dog world that there are no dangerous breeds, only dangerous dogs.  And it is also increasingly understood that aggression is not abnormal behaviour for dogs, and that dogs who aggress are not ‘vicious’ or ‘bad’ in comparison to some mythical ‘normal’ dog. 

Having said that, though, the issue of dog bites is a huge one and one which cannot be ignored or minimised.  This document is work in progress, but will attempt to address some of the issues around this very difficult area. 

A Commmunity Barking Protocol

Since barking has been the most emotive issue around the bylaw so far, one of the things we will be attempting to develop is a barking protocol which communities can adopt.  Dogs do not necessarily understand suburbia or human manners, and a willingness to ‘think  dog’ a bit is vital for successful control of nuisance barking, whether you are a dog lover or not! 

Topics will include:

  • reasons for barking,  including boredom and separation distress
  • teaching ‘quiet’
  • how to make your neighbour’s dog worse 
  • implications of dogs being a crepuscular species (most active at dawn and dusk)
  • anti-barking devices (a contentious topic)
  • surgical de-barking (an even more contentious topic!)

…and many others.

If you have an article you would like to contribute, please either register and then email the webmaster and request author permission, or send me the article directly, preferably in plain text, together with your details so we can attribute it correctly.

Me at 6 weeks

I’ve been too busy to write much – I’ve learned Doggy Zen, Watch Me and Puttle, which means look at motherperson and ignore distractions (you can see how I learned this here).  And I’m playing tug and learning Out, which Dudley is going to help teach me when he can be distracted from Great Danes for long enough.  (Motherperson should teach Dudley the Puttle word too!)

But motherperson thought I should post some baby videos, to show what a shy, gentle little creature I was.

Here I am at 6 weeks old with all the other dogs in the household.


Why you are your dog’s best friend

(This article was very kindly contributed by distinguished ethologist Professor Johannes Odendaal, who has virtually single-handedly put animal behaviour as a career on the map in South Africa, and who now runs the Ethology Academy ).

For a long time we were told that our dogs are our best friends. This belief was rarely challenged, because we know how we feel about our own dogs. What was questioned was whether the dogs get as much from the companionship as we do. Yes, we do provide food and shelter, but do the dogs really enjoy the emotional bonding in the same way we experience it? I think many people who know dogs well, will say – "of course"! However, there are people in this world who see pet dogs as "slaves". The "slavery" is defined in terms of the assumption that the dog has to do what the owner wants and that for a minimum reward, namely food. What we interpret as "love" from our dogs is actually a submissive serviceability in order to fulfill a basic need.

So, in science we often say, "what is measurable convinces". The question is how on earth does one measure your dogs’ happiness? Does one count how many times its tail is moving from side to side, how far does the tail swing from side to side or how fast does the tail move when the dog wags its tail? No, what we really want to know is simply whether dogs enjoy our friendship as much as we enjoy theirs.

Recently an experiment was conducted to evaluate just that. Physiological reactions indicated that we not only can measure happiness and friendship, but we can also establish who is gaining what from whom. The experiment included 18 people who love dogs and 18 well-tempered dogs. The two groups had to interact in a positive way, i.e., the people had to sit down and stroke the dogs and talking softly to them for a few minutes.

The next question was when does one take blood samples in order to establish whether the chemicals involved in "love" behaviour, did indeed change in the "right" direction. Well, we did know that if you stroke a dog, that your blood pressure would drop. In a pilot study we found that the dogs’ blood pressure will also drop during the same interaction. So a decreased blood pressure could be an indicator that the chemicals have also changed and that is exactly what we found. Baseline values were taken before interaction and after an average of 15 minutes of positive interaction. The blood pressure of both humans and dogs dropped with about 10 %.

From the six neurochemicals investigated, we found that endorphin, oxytocin, prolactin, phenylethylamine and dopamine increased significantly and cortisol decreased. The first three chemicals are associated with short- and long-term affiliation, or bonding, between two parties. When this experiment was compared to changes that occur during quiet book reading these neurochemicals increased significantly more during dog interaction, indicating that humans bond better with dogs than books! Cortisol, a stress hormone, has decreased as expected during positive interaction.

The results have the following implications. Love for and from our dogs can be measured in normal physiological terms. Although other studies indicated the same chemicals in affiliation behaviour among members of the same species, this was the first time that results were obtained on an interspecies (across the species) basis. Other studies also only investigated the effect of a single chemical at a time, whilst this study compiled a neurochemical profile of positive human-dog interaction. What is, however, of more importance to us as dog people is that the dog experiences the same positive feelings than we do when we are interacting positively with our dogs. The fulfillment of these social or attention needs, could be the main reason why human and dog relationships are so successful over such a long time and among so many human societies. No wonder the dog is seen as the "prototype" of companion animals. They are not our slaves, we are our best friend’s, best friend.

Bylaw controversy

It looks as though we have a chance to get a really animal-friendly bylaw through in Cape Town.  The Dog Zone supports this effort wholeheartedly and we’ve set up an entire section for discussing items for which legislation is on the cards.  Click on the Dog Bylaw link or see the section here, and add your voice to the petition for an equitable bylaw. This will also get you onto a mailing list so you can be kept up to date with progress.

Model bylaw on cards

It’s clear from recent events that Cape Town is in great shape to end up with a model for well constructed, equitable animal bylaws which take the requirements of all stakeholders into account. Councillor JP Smith, the person behind the intiative, was done a disservice by the Argus, which misreported what he said and sensationalised the issue of removing barking dogs.

In fact, Cllr Smith’s concern was that dogs left tied out and unattended for days would only be discovered if they barked and barked, and that severely neglected animals like this needed to be removed.  He is clearly an animal lover who would like to see animals regarded as sentient in the eyes of the law, and was more than willing to separate the issue of abuse and neglect from that of nuisance barking, which, while often constituting a serious problem, should not require the removal of the dog.

Alan Perrins, CEO of the Cape of Good Hope SPCA, came out strongly in support of Cllr Smith in a letter to the Weekend Argus last weekend, and the Dog Zone can only second his endorsement of Cllr Smith’s efforts.

Please stay involved in the campaign to get really constructive debate going around the proposed bylaw.  This site is supporting the effort to the hilt.  We have set up an entire section devoted to the topics which affect dogs and dog owners (we’d love to do the fish, boa constrictors, birds and bees as well but there just aren’t enough hours in the day!).  We will be setting up discussion forums, adding articles, and inviting various interested parties to author content on the subject.

Please sign the petition if you haven’t already and pass it on to people you know.  It will get you onto a mailing list and keep you informed, and means we can communicate quickly and effectively if something controversial comes up. 

Brief Bio

Caroline Barnard, who owns and runs the Dog Zone, has had Dobermanns for 32 years.  She worked her first Dobe at  a club run by South African Police Dog Unit reservists, and handled him right through police training, including obedience, obstacle work, tracking and attack training which included crowd control, attack over obstacles, attack under continuous fire and multiple assailant work, as well as exercises such as pulling an assailant out of a getaway car and water attacks.  She drew the line at bomb detection work, being only 15 at the time!

CarolineHer original qualifications were in Pure Mathematics (an Honours Degree from the University of Cape Town) and she taught and tutored Mathematics for some years before moving into Information technology, in which she specialised in data management, including a stint with IBM, and which still pays a fair portion of the rent.

During this period she became interested in psychology, and completed Psychology I and II at UNISA, both with distinction.  She also spent three years as a Lifeline counsellor, and was (and still is) a keen amateur classical singer who used to sing in the CAPAB ad-hoc Opera Chorus.

At this stage she also began breeding Dobermanns (which she still does very occasionally) in syndication with Barbara Preece and her late partner Sharlene Sutherland of Sharbara Dobermanns.  Caroline handled Ch Pandemonium Falstaff "Slug", the male she kept from her first litter, through to a Best Puppy in Show in Port Elizabeth in 1998.  He took 3rd place in KUSA National Puppy in the same year, and she went on to take Reserve Supreme Puppy with him at the very prestigious Vets Choice Supreme Puppy competition in 1998 (pipped to the post by a Toy Poodle!)

After opting to reduce her involvement in corporate Information Technology, she moved to McGregor, where she completed her Certification in Companion Animal Behaviour (with the highest marks in her year) through the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Pretoria (Onderstepoort).  She ran a small behaviour practice in McGregor and as far afield as Worcester, Swellendam and Barrydale, as well as consulting via the internet. 

She served on the committee of the Dobermann Club of the Cape as the consultant behaviourist and editor of Dobe Capers, the club magazine, for several years.  Her article on Sauer, the South African Police Force Dobermann who set the World Tracking Record over 80 years ago, has been reprinted in UDC Focus, the magazine of the United Doberman club of America.

She is a keen clicker trainer and ran a clicker class in McGregor with a group of underprivileged children from the local orphanage, as well as several adults who saw a chance to get their dogs to behave a bit better!

She is fascinated by learning theory and behaviourism, although she objects to the neo-behaviourist notion of the dog as a tabula rasa, or blank slate, and her original dog behaviour website,, has been cited as a source in various dog and academic internet publications, including the proceedings of an international conference on, of all things, Polar Bear husbandry!

She also enjoys ethology, behavioural genetics, behavioural pharmacology, and cognition, and believes in a multi-disciplinary approach to resolving dog behaviour problems.  Being involved in the guarding breed world, she has gravitated naturally to specialising in aggression cases. 

She currently runs a small weekly clicker workshop and operates a limited practice (as time allows) and is interested in finding unusual case study material.  She is also extensively involved in developing this site as an educational resource.  She has bought a property which is ideal for use as a behaviour facility in Kalbaskraal, near Cape Town, and plans to offer remedial socialisation and growl classes in addition to her other activities.   She also hopes to be able to start an M.Sc. degree in canid cognition in the next year or two.

She is an accredited member of SABCAP (the South African Board of Companion Animal Professionals.)  

On a more personal note, she is a Royal Air Force brat and Dobermanns are inextricably linked with her family history.  Her first Dobermann, Billy Black, was named after a brown and tan Dobe called Billy Brown, who was owned by her father, the late Squadron Leader Barny Barnard of the Royal Air Force (Transport Command).  Billy Brown was given to Barny and his younger brother Flight Lieutenant Philip Barnard, also of the RAF (Fighter Command) by world-famous Battle of Britain Hurricane ace Group Captain Billy Drake.  

Her love of dogs is an expression of a wider commitment to green politics, feminism and respect for the miraculous nature of all life, not just human life.  She feels this is most beautifully expressed by the following quote from The Outermost House, Henry Beston’s wonderful account of a year spent living in a beach cottage on Cape Cod in the 1920s:

"We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals.  Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilisation surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion.  We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves.  And therein we err, and greatly err.  For the animal shall not be measured by man.  In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear.  They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth."