The Doggone Data

I love dogs. I love science. And I especially love how science helps me love my pups better.  It’s incredible how far we’ve come in terms of nutrition, veterinary care and training for our dogs thanks to new data from a variety of fields.


Officially, dogs haven’t led any of these scientific studies. After he goes to college Eko hopes to change that

I try to keep up to date on the latest canine science, so I thought I’d share a few of my favorite recent studies here. One study from the University of California examined whether dogs exhibit jealous behavior.


Jealousy? Never around here. Eko was totally fine with puppy Penny getting all the attention.


Oh wait, no he wasn’t

A study from the Messerli Research Institute showed that not only can dogs distinguish between happy and angry faces, but they could also do so when only seeing part of the face (eyes, mouth, etc). 

Penny didn’t need to see my whole face to know it wasn’t happy at being woken up early

A study out of Kyoto University suggesting dogs can tell if you’re untrustworthy is one of my recent favorites. In this study they played the same cup game I do, but the heartless scientists lied about which cup the treat was in! Never fear, the pups quickly learned who the fibbers were and no longer took direction from them.


Luckily the pups trust me, both inside and outside the operating room

“Smell ya later,” takes on a whole new meaning with this study from Emory University. According to researchers, our pups love each of our signature scents. You know that crazy reaction you get from your pup when you walk in the door? Turns out it can be elicited in your pup even when you’re not around. All they need is a whiff of your scent and it elicits and powerful, positive emotional reaction.


Excuse me, are you wearing eau de Will? It’s simply divine 

As my mother once asked me, I often ask my pups, “Sounds good. How does it taste?” Eko and Penny are food crazy so I found this info from Dr. Ann Hohenhaus particularly interesting. Dogs have such a powerful nose, you would think they have an equally powerful sense of taste. However, it seems our pups might not have quite so discerning a palate. Thus explaining why my two might no be so concerned with savoring their food as much as inhaling it.


“Tough choice. Get me one of everything.”

A smaller study from the University of Sweden found that dogs prefer rewards (treats) more when they are earned than when they are freely given. Of course it’s tough to pin down the exact reason for this preference, but some aspect of having control over the reward certainly pleased the pups.


Sometimes, pups even work for rewards you thought were well hidden

I’m always fascinated by how animals of different species interact. Usually this means I’m fascinated by how Penny and Eko ignore me when it’s bath time, but there is a growing body of research about other cross-species interactions.

One of the more well known and successful experiments pairs zoo cheetahs (normally skittish) with puppy partners in order to build up the cheetah’s comfort with people.  (Note: In what might be the greatest scientific errors of our time, Penny was NOT the Ridgeback chosen to be paired with the cheetah at the San Diego zoo)

We haven’t had a ton of cross-species interaction, but this horse in Charleston had a grudge against Eko or me. Never got close enough to figure out which one of us it was. 

Of course none of these studies are bulletproof. And there is a certain, “Well, of course!” factor to some of the results. But what’s most important for me is that there are still lots of people around the world working to help man understand our best friend. A pretty worthy endeavour in my opinion.

The above studies only scratch the surface, so if you’ve seen or read about any interesting pet research please share in the comments. There’s always more to learn and I’d love to check out whatever you’ve got.

March Comes in Like a Lion(hound)

True to the old saying, March came in like a lion with one (hopefully) last glimpse of winter.

The pups enjoyed the snow, but I think we’re all ready for spring

But Mother Nature’s not the only one with lions in her employ…

Rhodesian Ridgeback, lion, lion hound, lion dog, marking our territory

These two fearsome beasts patrol the apartment savannah 

Rhodesian Ridgeback, lion, lion hound, lion dog, marking our territory

(Side note: If Eko and Penny ever start a band and release an album, this is the cover)

Rhodesian Ridgeback, lion, lion hound, lion dog, marking our territory

The Lion of March has nothing on these guys

But as you know, the natives have been getting restless lately and begun to hunt each other for sport.

Rhodesian Ridgeback, lion, lion hound, lion dog, marking our territory

The young lion stalks its unsuspecting big brother

Rhodesian Ridgeback, lion, lion hound, lion dog, marking our territory


Rhodesian Ridgeback, lion, lion hound, lion dog, marking our territory

If there is one face that sums up our experience stuck inside with Penny the past two weeks, this is it

But we have good news. Penny’s sumo-thong-diaper wearing days are over! (cue the parade music) To be safe we’re still keeping Penny on-leash for another couple days, but later this week we’ll make our triumphant return to the beach.  Can’t wait to run these lions ragged and have them sleep like lambs again.

[VIDEO] Draining the Energizer Puppy

Another week of house arrest in the books, so hopefully not much longer until we’re back to our regularly scheduled adventures. As always, you learn most when challenged so a challenging couple weeks has really helped me learn the most effective ways to tire out the pups indoors. Definitely useful info to keep in my back pocket.

Have a great weekend!


The Trick to Tiring a pup? Tricks.

Our bout with RPS (Restless Penny Syndrome) continues but we’re always up for a good challenge. And we’ve gotten quite creative with old and new ways to tire out our girl. Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, chicago, dogs, marking our territory

I know when Penny starts going after ears it means she needs an outlet for her energy

Playing with Eko has been a great outlet for Penny, as has playing with her new toys and puzzles. Our time indoors also offers an opportunity to give Penny a mental workout through training.

Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, chicago, dogs, marking our territory

When the treats come out, I quickly have everyone’s attention

Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, chicago, dogs, marking our territory

And all of a sudden the gang is eager to shake my hand

Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, chicago, dogs, marking our territory

I like to think they shake my hand because I’m a friendly guy but I’m starting to suspect it’s for the treats

Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, chicago, dogs, marking our territory

“Hey, buddy. Less photos and more treats”

Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, chicago, dogs, marking our territory

I always like to review the basic commands with both pups. It helps remind them we’re in working mode and it lets me catch when one of them tries to cheat. Eko knows a “down” only counts if his butt is on the ground but he still tries to sneak in a fake “down” every once in a while

Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, chicago, dogs, marking our territory Much better. Only proper form earns treats.

A solid review of basic commands is a good start, but the real mental workout comes when I teach Penny a new trick. I thought her excess energy might make the training difficult but instead she’s had a laser-like focus, eager to get to work.

I tried teaching Penny to play dead when she was younger but she was a bit too much of a jitterbug to stay down. Over the past couple days we’ve had some really good training time and Penny’s coming along quite nicely.

Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, chicago, dogs, marking our territory

She can stay still, miracles happen every day! 

The new tricks are nice, but the best part about training with Penny is that after she pretends to be knocked out, she hops up on the couch and is actually zonked.
Rhodesian Ridgeback, puppy, chicago, dogs, marking our territory

A tired Penny is a beautiful thing indeed

Between Eko, toys and training we’ve thrown just about everything at Penny except the kitchen sink. Luckily it seems to be working and we’re all getting along just fine. I grabbed some video of our training session so hopefully I’ll have some shots to share on Friday of Penny practicing her fun new tricks.

Puppy Karma

Someone once told me Rhodesian Ridgebacks usually fall into one of two categories; “hunters” and “guardians.” I’m not sure how true the adage is overall but it certainly fits nicely with my two. No surprise Penny’s my “hunter” and Eko my “guardian.”

Penny may be half Eko’s size, but what she lacks in size she certainly makes up for with tenacity. She’s a banner model for the “size of the fight in the dog” side of the old phrase. 25.1

Penny’s always on the prowl. She’s the first to run to the door, first to explore a new sound and definitely first in line when treats are around


My crazy hunter even tries to hunt treats straight out of Eko’s mouth! Brave? Foolish? A bit of both I’d say

As a guardian, Eko is stoic, even tempered and sticks close by even when off-leash. Penny knows Eko’s got a calmer disposition so she feels free to antagonize him at-will.


Most of the time Eko shrugs off Penny when she’s being annoying. But every so often he likes to remind her she should be more considerate of her elders


Penny thought she could swat Eko on the head without any consequences. As you can see in her face, she realized her miscalculation


“Hey, hey, I’m supposed to be the annoying one!”




The only injury Penny sustained was to her pride


“Oh man, I got my butt kicked…”

Thankfully, Eko and Penny have never actually fought. Not even close. So that means when Eko puts Penny in her place I can sit back and giggle like a schoolboy. It’s little bit of funny karma coming full circle. And it’s a good reminder to Penny that sometimes the size of the dog in the fight does in fact count.

Maybe Penny’s learned her lesson and will stop buggi…. sorry, I couldn’t finish that sentence with a straight face. We all need someone to help us keep our feet/paws on the ground. It’s nice Eko the guardian also guards against Penny’s ego getting too big!

Montrose Dog Beach Appreciation Day

It seems anyone can make up their own holiday these days (see: Tortilla Chip Day, Bathtub Day, etc) so at least in this apartment we’ve declared February 24th “Montrose Dog Beach Appreciation Day.”

We live such a short ride from the dog beach that I admit I’ve taken it for granted. You’d be hard pressed to find another major city with such a large dog beach just a few miles from downtown. With Penny’s temporary ban from off-leash activities, I’ve realized just how spoiled we are to have the dog beach in our backyard.

For the time being we’ll have to get by on memories of our last beach trip.

Every day is dog-beach appreciation day for Penny. It’s her absolute favorite place


There’s nowhere else in the city the pups can get up to top speed


Nothing makes me happier than watching these two race across the sand


Nothing makes them happier either!


And when they really get flying, it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins


I mean, I’m not even sure how this photo is possible. I’m pretty sure Eko shouldn’t have six legs…


Every day at Montrose Dog Beach is a good day

It could be another week or more until Penny gets the all-clear to return to off-leash activities. I imagine it’s going to be quite the homecoming for her. I might need to block off a whole day for that trip.

Absence certainly makes the heart grow fonder. We miss you Montrose and we promise to always appreciate you if you’ll take us back!

The Cavalry has Arrived

With Penny’s house arrest in full swing, my pup had plenty of restless energy. It mostly manifested itself in Penny bugging Eko non-stop.

The dog’s futon, normally used for naps more resembles a wrestling mat these days

Knowing Penny would come down with a case of cabin fever, I ordered a couple new toys to keep her occupied and keep Eko sane.


Friday afternoon the cavalry showed up. Along with a Valentine’s plush, I picked up an Omega treat ball and a Petsafe tug-a-jug


The new toys immediately caught Penny’s attention


Penny thankfully forgot about pestering Eko and instead invested her energy in testing out the new gear


The treat ball was a huge hit


And with Penny’s attention diverted, Eko got to enjoy some good chomping time of his own


I know Eko appreciated Penny chomping on someone else’s ear for once

Now, listen closely. Do you hear that? It’s the wonderful sound of nothing. The new toys have been a great outlet for Penny’s energy and the puzzle component of both helps tire her out even more.


When Penny finally does nap, Eko and I, like Elmer Fudd, try to be “vewy vewy quiet”

We’re hopefully in the homestretch of Penny’s sentence, but until off-leash privileges are reinstated, we’re getting by with a little help from our toy-friends.