Taking a Walk on the Wild Side – The Bengal Breed

By Deborah Barnes

It is no wonder the Bengal cat has taken the top spot as the number one most popular breed by TICA (The International Cat Association) for two years in a row. This miniature inspired leopard with its glossy coat and spotted fur is nothing less than stunning, and there is nothing ordinary about this breed whose claim to fame is a walk on the wild side.

It is for that very reason, that this cat also sparks some controversy and is not recognized as a registered breed with the CFA (Cat Fanciers Association).  They consider this domesticated hybrid that descends from the Asian Leopard Cat to be “wild” (therefore with an unpredictable temperament) and that is why they don't accept the breed or allow it to be shown at CFA sanctioned shows.

The first Bengal was created in California in 1963 by an unplanned mating between a female Asian Leopard Cat and a domestic shorthair male. Fascinated with the concept, Jean Mill, the originator of the Bengal as we know it today, began a planned breeding program in 1980 to create a cat that looked like the Asian Leopard Cat, but had a domestic’s temperament. Leopard cats were originally bred to domestic shorthairs, Ocicats, Egyptian Maus, Abyssinian and Burmese, until the Bengal’s unique appearance of today was achieved.

The Bengal is a sleek and powerful cat with an athletic frame and a gait like its ancestors in the jungle – they prowl low to the ground with a fluidity of motion like a big cat in pursuit of prey. Despite that, because these remarkable creatures are a domesticated breed, they are actually very friendly and make a personable companion. They are amazing athletes, jumping two to three times higher than your typical cat, and are extremely intelligent, active, lively, graceful, strong, agile, curious and vocal.

A Bengal comes in a variety of colors and patterns, each one equally as beautiful as the next. The shape of the head, ears, eyes, nose, neck, torso, tail, legs, feet, texture, color, pattern and contrast are typically what distinguishes a pet quality cat versus show or breeding quality. Accepted colors are brown tabby, seal lynx point, seal sepia tabby and seal mink tabby. The spots can be a splendid palette of blacks, rusts and cinnamons, and some Bengals possess a recessive “glitter gene” that gives the rosette pattern on the fur an iridescent glow, as if covered with warm frost. There are also silver and snow Bengal’s that have markings in whites, grays and blacks, or marbled Bengal’s in a unique scroll pattern that can be found in leopard or snow leopard colors.

Bengals are classified in a range of generational types, from F1 to F4, with F1 cats being the closest to their wild ancestry, and F4 being the closest to the domestic. This changes the price and personality of the cat significantly and F1 cats should not be purchased without serious consideration, as they require informed owners who are equipped to take care of them and their special needs. They can be very difficult to socialize and tame, and do not always bond with a person as hoped or expected.

On the other hand, an F4 Bengal cat is generally very social and devoted to its family, forming strong, emotional bonds with their human friends. Because of this deep attachment and their high activity level, they need more human interaction than some other breeds. If you cannot handle an active cat or will be away from your home for prolonged periods of time, you should reconsider getting this breed. A Bengal must be provided with plenty of high spaces to safely jump up and down from, and can often be trained to perform tricks, as they are quick learners. They also enjoy water and take quite well to a harness and leash for walking outdoors.

If you want a docile lap cat, this breed is probably not for you. Besides being extremely active, a Bengal can be a noisy cat, with a very loud and unique yelping, bleating kind of sound, along with a tendency to growl. This is merely a form a communication, as they enjoy a good conversation with their humans, but not everyone will find this trait endearing in the early morning hours. Bengals require little to no grooming and are a very healthy cat with the exception of a few who are prone to heart murmurs.

Common Dog Behavior Myths Debunked

By Linda Cole

When it comes to dog behavior, myths are misleading and downright hurtful to the dog. We train dogs to help establish a bond and teach acceptable behavior. However, if you believe behavior myths and follow them, you can harm your dog and jeopardize your relationship with him. Most dog owners have heard all kinds of common dog myths, and some people still believe them. Here are seven myths that relate specifically to dog behavior.

Dog Behavior Myth #1: Dogs know when they've done something wrong and that's why they have a ‘guilty’ look.

The truth is, dogs don't equate things they do with wrongdoing or guilt. The so-called guilty look we see is just a reaction by the dog to your body language and tone of voice. When you walk into the kitchen and find the trash spread out on the floor, your dog isn't hiding in the corner because of what he did. He's hiding there because he knows how you'll react and is showing you submission in an attempt to please you and relieve your tension.

Dog Behavior Myth #2: My dog is trying to take charge when he won't listen to me.

If you don't teach a dog how to behave, he won't listen to you for the simple reason that he doesn't understand what you want. Even a stubborn dog will follow, as long as you lead and teach. You have to motivate a dog just like a teacher needs to motivate their students. ‘Come’ is one of the harder basic commands for dogs to learn because there is no motivation to come. Calling him usually means playtime is over or he's in trouble. Never punish a dog for coming to you. Calling him to come and then punishing him when he does is the best way to teach him not to come when called.

Dog Behavior Myth #3: If your dog has an accident in the house, you should rub his nose in it to teach him he was bad.

Punishing a dog for doing something natural, like going potty, only teaches him you can't be trusted. Just because he's housebroken doesn't mean he knows it's wrong to go inside. If you're late getting home, or if he's not feeling well, accidents can happen. Instead of freaking out and making a scene, quietly and calmly clean up the mess. You may need to reevaluate your schedule. If accidents continue, a vet check up may be needed, or more housebreaking sessions may be needed.

Dog Behavior Myth #4: Dogs need to be around other dogs and like to play with each other.

Some canines would rather not be around other dogs, nor do they feel a need to play with dogs they don't know. Dog parks are great places to help keep dogs socialized with other dogs and people. However, some dogs don't like strange dogs invading their space and don't want to play with them. There's nothing wrong with a dog that’s comfortable with a small circle of his own friends. Dogs are as individual as we are, and some don't want to be the life of the party.

Dog Behavior Myth #5: A cowering dog means he's been abused.

Even a friendly dog that's never been abused may cower when a stranger reaches down to pet him. Most dogs don't like it when we reach down towards their head. The better way to pet any dog is to kneel down, turn your body to the side and let the dog come to you. Then move your hand towards his chest and move up to pet him on the head. A dog with a fearful or shy personality might cower, as will a dog that wasn't properly socialized, and one that doesn't like someone grabbing his collar.

Dog Behavior Myth #6: Shelter dogs come with a lot of baggage.

This myth is so not true. You can find great dogs in shelters (purebreds, puppies, older dogs and mixed breeds) and most of them are well socialized, well mannered, healthy, friendly and housebroken; some are even well trained. Owners surrender dogs to shelters for a variety of reasons, and most of them have nothing to do with a dog's bad behavior.

Dog Behavior Myth #7: You can't teach an old dog new tricks.

As long as you have the time and patience, you can teach basic commands or tricks to any dog, regardless of his age. All it takes is some CANIDAE dog treats, and staying calm, dedicated and consistent. Dogs enjoy being with their owner, and training is one of the best ways to earn their respect and grow the bond between you and your dog, no matter how old he is.

Should You Let Your Dog On the Furniture?

By Tamara McRill

I'll be the first to admit we spend an inordinate amount of time vacuuming, shampooing, and unearthing socks and other 'finds' from the furniture we share with our three dogs. For us, the extra cuddle time is worth the extra time spent cleaning. But should our pets – lovable as they are – really be allowed on the furniture?

The correct, but vague, answer is: it depends. Not very helpful, right? Fortunately, there are some specific considerations and tips you can think through before deciding whether your pet should be allowed on the couch or bed.

Washing Away Health Concerns

There are some valid concerns with the healthiness of letting your furry friend up on your furniture. Dogs can transmit some diseases to humans, such as parasite or fungal infections. A lot of these risks can be minimized by being a responsible pet owner and making sure your pet has regular checkups and vaccinations from the vet.

Keep germs and other nasties dogs tend to drag in from the outdoors at bay by gently wiping their paws when they come indoors. Regular coat checks and bathing your dog will also help keep their fur free of anything you don't want transferred to your furniture.

If someone in your home is allergic to dogs, keeping cushions and bedding clean might not be enough to allow the furniture to be safe for that person to sit on. In this case, you may want to keep your pet off of any furniture they might use.

What About Bugs?

Fleas aren't the only pests you have to worry about when dogs are allowed on the furniture. Ants and other bugs drawn by food crumbs are also a possibility, but not more so than if you eat in the living room or in bed. With one dog who refuses to eat unless he gets to take his food to a fabric surface, and two others who enjoy their CANIDAE Snap-Biscuit treats on the loveseat, I can attest to the effectiveness of vacuuming the crumbs up to keep pests away.

Bad Behavior Fears

If you're afraid that letting your pet sit or sleep with you will cause dominance or aggression issues, this isn't necessarily the case. A lot depends on if you correct the 'bad' behavior the first – and every – time it occurs. Your dog should get up when you wish to sit where they are, and not hog all the space when you are sharing a piece of furniture.

The biggest issue we have with our dogs is occasional jealously. Every once in awhile, one will get snippy if another wants to sit on an empty cushion when they are already sitting with us. More often, one will try to jump up with us, when there is clearly no room left, landing on the other dog. In both instances, the dog in the wrong is told to get down.

Do You Love Your Couch?

The same question goes for whatever you are letting your dog sit on. If you love it and they are too young or can't be trusted not to destroy it, then think twice about letting your pet up on that piece of furniture. I learned this the hard way with a chocolate lab puppy and a beloved living room set. It didn't take long to teach him not to shred the backs of the cushions, but the couch and loveseat backs never looked right afterward.

Regardless of if you let your dog claim her own spot on the furniture or not, remember that they too need a comfy spot to call their own, whether it's up next to you or on a nice dog bed at your feet.

Do you let your dog up on the couch? How about in bed?

The Importance of a Pet’s Bond

By Linda Cole

I wrote an article awhile back on how pets find their way back home. Some pet owners claim their dogs and cats are psychic, and there have been a number of studies and experiments using mazes to see if pets can connect with us telepathically. There was an interesting study done in the early 1950s by parapsychologist Dr. Karlis Osis, who experimented with his cats in a maze. There is one researcher, however, who believes the bond we share with our pets may go much deeper than we realize, and it's our bond that may make it possible for some lost pets to find their way back home. Bonding is what binds us together, and understanding a pet's love just might make you see them in a whole new light. We should never take for granted the importance of a pet's bond.

Rupert Sheldrake is a biologist and author who has an interesting theory on the connection some pets have with their owners. He believes pets have the ability to connect with their owners telepathically, and conducted experiments to prove it. Sheldrake filmed pets waiting at home for their owner to return. Pet owners assume their pet knows when they are close to home because they can recognize the sound of their owner's vehicle, but not all pet owners have a car. Some people use public transportation. To eliminate the possibility of a pet recognizing the familiar sound of a car engine, Sheldrake asked pet owners to think about going home at random times and then travel there by taxi. In each instance, the moment the owner thought about heading home, that was when the pet moved to a window or door to wait for their owner to return. Sheldrake believes this proves the telepathic connection our pets have with us.

He also says morphic fields exists in all mammals and links groups of social animals, including us, together at the cellular level; pets may actually bond with their owner at the very core of who we are. According to Sheldrake, a pet that has formed a strong bond with their owner feels a physical link. When that link is broken, there's a disruption in the rhythm the pet feels, which may be one of the ways some pets are able to find their owner over long distances. When they go in search of someone they love, they begin to feel more in balance as they close the distance between the person or another animal they are looking for.

I find this theory interesting – I want to believe that it's possible to have such a deep and strong bond with our pets. We know how important building a bond is, but the importance of it should not be taken for granted. Why is it pets have the ability to give us unconditional love and give it willingly, without question? We have to earn their trust, and once we have it a pet never asks for anything more. They accept us as is, and will forever honor their end of the unsigned contract we make with them.

A pet's bond isn't always with just us. Sometimes it's with another pet and it can also be with a wild animal. Many people don't give animals credit for having a caring soul. We can get so wrapped up in the ‘it's not possible’ way of thinking that we don't see what's right in front of our noses. Our pets have the ability to form lifelong relationships with humans and other animals, just like we do. Dogs and cats have walked hundreds and even thousands of miles to get back to someone they held a strong connection with. There's no mistaking the power and importance of a pet's bond.

Sheldrake has done extensive research to prove his theory concerning our pets' telepathic abilities. This is probably one of the best explanations on how pets know when we're coming home and how some pets can find their owner over long distances. Of course, there are critics who discount any notion of pets having psychic abilities.

The simple fact is our pets want to be with us, no matter where we are. They would be happy living in a tent, if that's where we were. We want what's best for them and purchase high-quality healthy pet food, like CANIDAE, and we walk miles with our dogs to make sure they stay fit in mind and body. I've always thought my pets were unique and special, but now I do look at them in a new light, and I realize how deep our bond can go. The love we share with our pets really is priceless and forever.

Living with a Deaf Dog

By Langley Cornwell

When we rescued an all-white dog, we had no idea that white dogs are prone to certain health issues that other dogs are not troubled with. One problem these dogs face is the potential of being born deaf. The shelter told us to be on alert, but we didn’t understand what a dog’s color had to do with whether he could hear or not.

According to the WebMD website, researchers have not been able to determine the specific causes of congenital deafness but they can explain why it’s more common in dogs with white or mostly white heads.

Why white dogs in particular?

WebMD’s source, George M. Strain (a leading veterinary researcher on the causes of deafness in dogs and a professor of neuroscience at the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine) explains why congenital deafness is more common in white dogs: "The lack of pigment on the head causes the pigment cells in the inner ear to fail to develop, or they may be lacking entirely. The lack of pigment cells causes the death of the nerve cells that need to develop for hearing to occur."

Are certain dogs at risk of being born deaf?

Due to lack of pigment, there are a number of dog breeds with a fairly high likelihood of being born deaf. Dalmatians are at most risk; 30% of Dalmatian puppies are born deaf in one or both ears. Other dog breeds with high incidents of congenital deafness include Jack Russell terriers, Catahoula Leopard dogs, Bull terriers, English setters, Whippets and Australian cattle dogs.

What causes deafness in dogs that aren’t born that way?

Some dogs are born with full hearing but go deaf at some point. Chronic ear infections, especially if left untreated, are a major culprit of this. So is drug toxicity, injury or overexposure to loud noises. In fact, many hunting dogs go deaf later in life due to guns being fired too close to their heads. And some dogs go deaf simply from old age.

How can you tell if a dog is deaf?

Holly Newstead and her husband John founded the Deaf Dog Education Action Fund in the mid 1990s after they adopted a young, deaf Dalmatian. If you question your dog’s hearing, the Newsteads recommend these home tests:

Stand still so your dog can’t see your movement or feel the vibrations of your walk. Make a loud noise behind him and see if he reacts. Try making this same noise when your dog is sleeping and notice if he reacts or not.

When conducting these experiments, use different sounds to test for different ranges of hearing. For example, blow a whistle to test your dog’s high range of hearing, clap your hands to test his mid-range, and beat a drum or the bottom of a plastic bucket to test his low range. According to the Newsteads, many dogs that seem completely deaf still have limited hearing in one or both ears.

Also notice if your dog begins to ignore commands that he’s usually on top of, or if sounds he used to acknowledge no longer elicit a reaction (i.e., the sound of his CANIDAE food being poured into his bowl). These are indications that he may be losing his hearing. For a conclusive answer, there are hearing tests that can be performed by your veterinarian.

Do deaf dogs require special training?

People who live with deaf dogs say they are as easy to train as any other dog. The only difference is that you use voice commands for hearing dogs and you use hand signals for deaf dogs.

With deaf dogs, it’s imperative to be consistent with your hand signals, whatever they are. Before beginning any training process, determine what signal will indicate what command. Use signals that you and your family understand and feel comfortable with so the dog always knows what he is being asked to do.

Additional considerations

It’s a good idea to condition a deaf dog to wake up in a calm manner; when startled awake he may respond poorly. One easy trick is to wake him up at random times and give him a dog treat every time. The dog will quickly associate being awakened with a positive experience. You can also bump the bed he’s sleeping in or stomp your feet near his dog bed so the vibrations wake him up.

It goes without saying, but a deaf dog can’t hear. Therefore, they can’t hear danger approaching like cars or other animals. For this reason, it’s important to always keep deaf dogs on a leash or in a fenced yard. It’s also advisable to add the word ‘DEAF’ to your dog’s tag, along with your current contact information.

Our dog can hear fine. Still, if she happens to lose her hearing I’m not concerned. With knowledge and love, she will thrive.