Happy New Year from The Science Dog! (The 2017 Pet Blogger Challenge)

Happy New Year from The Science Dog!

To start the year off, I am participating for the first time in The Pet Blogger Challenge that is organized by the travel site, Go Pet Friendly. Many thanks to my friend Eileen Anderson for alerting me to this annual event. Below are this year’s queries and my responses. I hope you enjoy learning a bit more about The Science Dog!

  1. When did you start your blog and, for anyone who is just seeing it for first time, please provide a description of your site. Would you say your blog focuses more on sharing stories with your readers, or providing a resource for your audience? Answer: I created The Science Dog in September of 2013, shortly before the publication of my fifth book, “Dog Food Logic“. The purpose of The Science Dog is to provide up-to-date, evidence-based information to dog folks and pet professionals about dog training, behavior and nutrition. My focus is primarily on original scientific research that has been published in peer-reviewed journals. I try to find studies whose results are relevant to trainers and dog owners and then summarize these in what I hope is a “user-friendly” style. Oh, and yeah, sometimes I editorialize a bit.

    soapbox

    GETTIN’ UP ON THE OL’ BOX

  2. What was your proudest blogging moment of 2016? Answer: I published the second Science Dog book in July of 2016, entitled “Only Have Eyes for You“. Both writing and promoting it has been a lot of fun! My husband Mike designed the cover for the book (as he did for “Beware the Straw Man“), and I was especially tickled that he used a photo of four of our dogs, posed in our garden. The oldest girl, Cadie, has since passed away, so this photo is very near and dear to my heart.

    Cadie Chip Vinny Cooper May 2013

    CHIPPY, VINNY, CADIE AND COOPER

  3. Which of your blog posts was your favorite this year and why? (Please include a link.) Answer: I enjoyed writing all of the posts, especially the nutrition essays, as I had focused the first two years of the blog on topics related to behavior and training. In 2015, I started to include more essays about nutrition and feeding practices. However, my personal favorite of 2016 has to be “The Perfect Dog“, because it reviews two recent papers that provide some insight into the gap between what people think a dog should be versus who dogs actually are (and also, to some degree, places the responsibility for this exactly where it lies).       Unrealistic Expectations
  4. Year after year, one goal that we all seem to share is that we want to reach more people. What one tool did you use or action did you take this year that had the most impact on increasing traffic to your blog? Answer: I use FaceBook quite a bit, and have a FB Science Dog page that gives dog folks access to the blog and allows readers to chat and to contact me directly. I love to hear from readers, especially when they have ideas for new science-based topics for the blog! (hint-hint).
  5. Which of your blog posts got the most traffic this year? (Please include a link.) Have you noticed any themes across your most popular posts? Answer: The essay that received the largest number of hits (~ 18,000) was “When Sit Doesn’t Mean S*it“. Catchy  little title aside, I think that it resonated with shelter professionals because it presents a set of research studies conducted by Alexandra Protopopova’s team that both challenged a prevailing belief about training and adoption rates and presented some unique solutions that may be more effective as predictors of dogs’ chances for adoption.   Sit Ubu
  6. What blog do you find most inspirational and how has it influenced your blog? (Please include a link.) Answer: There are a number of dog-related blogs that I follow regularly and enjoy. Two that are among the best are Eileen Anderson’s not-to-be-missed essays about dog training at EileenandDogs and Julie Hecht’s excellent research summaries at Dog Spies.
  7. What is one thing your readers don’t know about you or your pets that would surprise them? Answer: What my readers may not know (but all of my friends do) is that while I hold a Masters Degree in Canine/Feline Nutrition, I cannot cook a human food meal to save my life. I started volunteering two years ago at our local soup kitchen, The Daily Bread, and the other volunteers quickly learned this little secret. I am now a designated dish-washer and happily report that I excel at that particular task, keeping everyone safe (and well fed).

    daily-bread-people-2

    SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SOUP KITCHEN! 

  8. What is something you’ve learned this year that could help other bloggers? Answer: Not to point any political fingers (interpret this as you like), but my advice to other writers (and citizens) is: Don’t lie and stick to the facts that have evidence to support them.    just-the-facts-maam-2
  9. What would you like to accomplish on your blog in 2017? Answer: The biggest challenge that I may have in 2017 is finding enough time to work on all of the writing and dog training projects that I am excited about. I am currently writing a new dog training book that presents evidence-based training and the applications that we use at our training school, AutumnGold, plus developing a few new training courses with several of AutumnGold’s instructors and writing essays for The Science Dog (many of which will appear, in some form, in the new book). Add in training and enjoying time with my own dogs, and it looks like it will be a busy and fun year!

    Cooper and Alice Standing Platforms

    PLATFORM TRAINING AT AUTUMNGOLD!

  10. Now it’s your turn! You have the attention of the pet blogging community – is there a question you’d like answered, or an aspect of your blog that you’d like input on? Answer: Thanks to GoPetFriendly for sponsoring this blog challenge and hop! This is a Blog Hop!

Why Dogs Need Science

Hello and Welcome to The Science Dog!

This first blog provides a short introduction of me (Linda Case), and my reasons for writing a blog entitled “The Science Dog”. I am a science writer specializing in canine health, nutrition, behavior and training .  My academic training is in animal sciences, specifically in canine/feline nutrition, behavior, and training. Following graduate school, I taught companion animal science at the University of Illinois Department of Animal Sciences and the College of Veterinary Medicine for 17 years. During my time there, I wrote 4 books and a bunch of academic journal papers. My husband and I also have spent a lot of our life together training dogs and operating AutumnGold Dog Training Center.  I left university teaching a few years ago to develop my science writing business,  AutumnGold Consulting  and to expand our training classes at AutumnGold.  Currently, my husband Mike and I live with and love four dogs; Vinny, Chip, Cooper and our newest addition, Alice (Ally).

Ally, Cooper, Chip, Vinny on Pause Table

CHIP, ALLY, VINNY AND COOPER

Plus Pete, the formerly feral kitty (who does not yet know that this blog is dedicated primarily to animals of the canis genus…..let’s keep the secret for a bit).

Cooper Kissing Pete

In a nutshell, my work, my life and my happiness revolve fully and completely around dogs. I write about dogs, train dogs, teach other folks about dogs, play, run, hike and cuddle with dogs, and am fully capable of talking for hours on end  about……you guessed it,,,,,,,dogs.  I consider myself to be a card-carrying, lifetime, proud member of the “dog person” club.

If you are reading this blog and have gotten this far, I am reasonably certain that you too are a dog person and that you too love your dog (most probably in the plural form), have friends who love dogs, enjoy dog-related activities and/or sports, and if you are lucky, may even be able to count a dog-related profession or volunteer effort as part of your life.

So, what does all of this dog adoration have to do with science? Well, a whole lot actually. Even though I am aware that  the word “science” may bring to mind this image for some:

mad scientist

And, for others, who may be thinking back to high school chemistry, this may be where your mind goes when you hear the word “science”:

Yawning Dog

However, the real image for science that you may want to consider if you love dogs, is this one:

Golden Retriever and Science

We need science to make evidence-based decisions for our dogs because, well, they cannot do it for themselves. (Really, Goldens are smart, but they still suck at science). The scientific method provides us with a systematic, testable (i.e. verifiable) approach to studying dogs’ health, nutrient needs, illnesses, responses to medications and novel nutrients, behaviors, and responses to different training methods. In recent years, scientific study has also provided information that aids in our understanding of how the human mind works  when we make decisions and how we are all susceptible to errors in judgment that occur expressly because we love our dogs so much.

Science is needed because without it, we are susceptible to making decisions for our dogs based upon conjecture, testimony, tradition, myth, and sometimes even based upon what Joe next door (who happens to know a lot about dogs) tells us. And even though Joe may be very sincere when he informs you that dogs eat grass because their diet is lacking in vitamin C, fiber, B-vitamins (insert any nutrient here), Joe’s recommendation is often based upon a belief rather than upon actual evidence.

In this blog, we look for the evidence. So, while I am always willing and happy to explore all new ideas about nutrition, health, behavior, and training, my mantra is and will continue to be:  “SHOW ME THE DATA”

Data

Without science, we are at increased risk of making bad decisions for our dogs; choices that may not help them and could potentially harm them. And, as we will see in future blogs, we are required in this day and age to make a LOT of decisions  for our dogs. Science helps us to sort truth from fiction and evidence-based choices from fanciful myths.  My hope, in this journey, is to show how science is not only necessary and helpful, but also very cool!

fun science

I hope you (and your dogs) will join me for the ride!