How Wolves Help Us Choose a Pet


Wolf DNA varies from that of a domestic dog by just 0.2 per cent. Few of us will live with wolves, but an awful lot of us live with dogs, so it is useful to understand how the social structure of wolves applies to the dog world.

People think it’s good to have an alpha dog, believing it to be the bold one who comes to say hello when you go to choose your puppy from a litter. That is not the case. Alphas stay at the back of the kennel because they have a strong sense of self-preservation. They never put themselves in jeopardy.

If you take a true alpha puppy home with you, he will be a quick learner, easy to train so that one day, when he sees the time is right, he can take over the pack. And he’ll be looking for that day, for a sign of weakness in you that suggests you are no longer capable of doing the job. Unless you are constantly one step ahead of him, he will turn into a willful rebel who pays no attention to anything you tell him.

The beta, or what we now tend to call the enforcer, is the one who comes boldly over to you when you go to view the litter. He’s the disciplinarian, the bouncer, the bodyguard; he is pure aggression. He doesn’t think; he just weighs in.

If you choose this puppy to take home without being aware of what you have picked, it could be disastrous. You and he may differ in what you view as a perceived threat. It could be another dog in the park, a neighbor or a child.

Then there’s the tester within the pack, the quality controller, a very trying pet who will be pushing your ability daily, making sure you deserve to be the one who makes the decisions.

Mid- to low-ranking individuals make good pets because they have no need to discipline or teach anyone anything. These ranks don’t seek you out when you visit the litter.

Owners have been taught they must take on the role of the alpha dog but, despite the miraculous results in problem dogs seen on television, this doesn’t always work. If you have a nervous, low-ranking animal and you behave like an alpha, or even a beta, you could destroy him.

Many people, of course, don’t get their dogs as pups. Contrary to the saying, ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks’; I believe you can, by going back to that time in the dog’s life when he was at his most receptive.

A pup learns basic principles from his mother: he picks up her calming signals, discovers the reward system, and learns his pack value and how to communicate with his own kind. When he stumbles out into the world at five weeks and begins to mix mother’s milk with regurgitated meat, that circle of learning increases.

So to re-educate an adult dog you feed him on the sort of diet he had in his first few months of life: a mixture of milk and minced or finely chopped meat.

After a couple of months on that he should be pliable and ready to listen, whereupon you can train him more or less as you would a puppy, heavy on reward and light on punishment.


But Where Do They Keep Their Subway Tokens?

As urban areas extend further and further into rural areas, we know there is a loss of natural habitat for the native wildlife.  However, rather then taking leave, more often then not the wildlife learns to adapt to the world around them, learning to scavenge from human garbage, find refuge in roofs, garages and sheds, and generally just carry on with their lives.  So who would have ever thought that the creatures among us would learn to take public transit?  From cats a dogs, to opossums, pigeons and even a coyote, animals have been seen using subway trains for transportation, and not just by accident.Image

Birds on a train? Believe it. Pigeons have been known to take the A Line on the New York City subway. According to a 2002 New York Times article, when trains lay over at Far Rockaway Station at the end of the line, pigeons walk onto the trains in search of crumbs.

“But being pigeons, they do not listen for the announcement that the train is leaving, and the doors close on them. They ride generally for one stop, exiting as soon as the doors open again,” the Times reported.

But they’re not total bird brains: The article reported that a train conductor would see them promptly fly back to the Far Rockaway terminal for more free food.

In Russia, where feral dogs are common, they have learned to use the subway system as a way to get from the rural areas where they live to the urban areas where they scavenge for food.  It is quite common to see them curled up on a seat, resting after a long day of garbage picking!


In 2002, a coyote hopped on the light rail at the Portland, Oregon airport, and got comfortable on a seat—but wildlife specialists removed and released it before the train took off.



This cat looks like he does this on a regular basis.

So next time you get on the train, make sure to have a look around, and under your seat!  You never know who is riding with you.


If I had a million dollars, I’d buy you a monkey, haven’t you always wanted a monkey?

ImageCan someone please explain to me why on earth Justin Bieber has a pet monkey?  Is he studying to become a primatologist?  Is he training it to be a service animal?  Or is he just some spoiled kid with too many dollars and not enough sense?  I’m going to have to go with that last one, as his beloved pet sits in an animal shelter in Munich, Germany.  The capuchin monkey, named Malla was confiscated from the boy when both he and his handlers did not have the correct paperwork to be transporting a monkey.

Gee, that sounds like a responsible pet owner to me.  And lets just look at a few facts here;  

1. No primate species should ever be kept as a pet. They have very special needs. These are highly social animals. They need to be kept with others of their own kind; that’s just critical to their psychological well-being.

2. All primate species can become aggressive. A lot of times when the primate reaches sexual maturity, it becomes extremely aggressive, unpredictable—bouncing off the walls in the house, destroying everything. It ends up being confined for the rest of its life in a little cage in the basement, or [the owner] looks to dump it—maybe at a roadside zoo or a pseudo-sanctuary

3. A lot of monkey owners go to a vet and say, “Take his teeth out.” Sometimes they do a full dental extraction because the animals bite.

4.What people don’t appreciate is that all primate species can carry zoonotic diseases [infectious diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans].

5. People want to emulate celebrities they admire. When somebody like Justin Bieber is irresponsible and goes out and gets a pet monkey, he sets a very bad example.

The bottom line is, that nobody should own a monkey as a pet.  This is a highly intelligent species that cannot ever be fully tamed.  Don’t believe me?  Have a look at this little video created by a primatologist!

Worst TV Show Ever!

Being an animal lover, I do have a soft spot for wildlife TV shows.  Yes, I subscribe to Animal Planet, Discovery, National Geographic, and of course National Geographic Wild, and unless I am outvoted by an NHL game, this is mostly what I watch.  The other evening my son mentioned a new TV show that he thought I might like called ‘Urban Tarzan’.



The following statement from would seem to be true “He is fearless and lives an exciting and dangerous life, often risking his own to  save the lives of people and animals from injury and death.”  He, however, is not the problem.  The problem lies in the people he is trying to help.  I don’t know if these are re-enactments, but if so, the show should state that.  Each and every person he tried to help appeared to be an acting school drop out.  Their inane comments and actions made me feel like I was watching a sixth grade play.

During this episode, good ole’ Tarzan rescued a chimp who was all hopped up on cough syrup, an alligator who was thrown into a swimming pool by an irate ex-husband, and a pretty large sized bull trapped in a corn maze.  And while he made great rescues, and saved the world for another day, the show was entirely ruined by the poorly scripted acting and third rate cast.  I guess there is a reason this show is on Spike TV and not a more reputable station.

I thought my house was safe!

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I have a German Shepherd as part of my family.  Before we had this charming little lady, we had another Shepherd.  In the 13 years I have been with my husband, we have always had a German Shepherd.  As our family has grown, and our houses have changed, one thing has remained the same; every time I want to get a home alarm system, I am told not to waste my money.  There is no better alarm in the world than a good guard dog.  This is a fact.  She will bark to tell us when friends arrive, she will bark to let us know the neighbours have let their dog out, she will bark when the mail arrives, and she will bark especially fiercely when my in-laws walk in.  (I swear I had nothing to do with that)  The truth is, our door is hardly ever locked, because I always figure that if someone can make it past our shep, then they have earned whatever ill gotten gain they can find!  And then it happened.  The one thing that none of us ever expected.  A break in!

We were sitting in the family room two nights ago when the dog suddenly ran down the stairs to the basement.  She went so quickly in fact, that I thought she fell down the stairs, possibly having had a seizure.  When I asked my son, who was sitting much closer to the dog than I was, what happened, he said that it looked like she was chasing something.  After a minute or two, she came back upstairs and lay down in her usual spot, so we figured that maybe it was one of those hideous bugs with the 10,000 legs.  Five minutes later the exact same thing happened.  Being a big believer in letting the men be the heros, I sent my husband and son down to the basement to see what all the fuss was about


And there they found it, right underneath my work desk, a little field mouse.  Apparently there is a tiny hole on either side of the stairs where the baseboards don’t quite fit, and if you were to get into the skeletons of my home you would see that those walls lead directly to the garage.  Well, as much of an animal lover as I am, I am not a fan or rodents, especially in my house, but man, that little bugger could move!  As fast as he was, my husband and son did manage to corner him, eventually removing him from the premises.

As for my big, brave, watchdog?  Well, I think we’ll let her stay at her post.  She may not have caught the intruder, but at least she alerted us to his presence.  As she sits waiting expectantly at the top of the stairs like she has since the incident, I’m glad she doesn’t realize the holes are plugged and her friend is not coming back!