Vol. 12, No. 14 – Apr 10 – Apr 23, 2019 – The Pet Page

∙Twenty-six animals from the Santa Paula Animal Rescue Center (SPARC) were transported to a rescue in Northern California. SPARC, a no-kill, non-profit animal shelter, has been receiving so many stray and surrendered animals since the beginning of 2019 that the shelter had run out of space and adoptions were not keeping up with animal intakes.

A generous business, Holt Transport, which usually shuttles horses statewide, provided a huge horse trailer and driver for free and donations from SPARC supporters covered the rest of the costs.

“The community came together to help us get our animals to rescue to free-up space for the new animals arriving. Transporting animals is always an emotional time for the staff, but it was the best choice for the animals,” said SPARC Executive director Nicky Gore-Jones.

Eight big dogs, two little dogs, 10 cats and six rabbits made up the roster of transported animals and all arrived safely, ready to luxuriate in the green grass of Fortuna, California, where their new rescue home is located. Due to stricter spay and neuter laws, Humboldt County has fewer strays so the rescue organization there is able to find homes for SPARC’s rescued animals faster than homes could be found in Ventura County, Gore-Jones said.

Santa Paula Animal Rescue Center’s no-kill mission is to give every animal arriving at the shelter a second chance at life. SPARC relies heavily on donations from the public to provide food, shelter and medical care for every single animal arriving. Donations can be made at www.santapaulaarc.org/donate.

∙By Nicole Karlis

Human sociologists have been long fascinated by the “nature versus nurture” debate over human behavior — meaning, whether human behavior is determined by the environment, or by their genes, or a mix.

Though it may sound unconventional to apply this debate to dogs, researchers from Michigan State University published a study in the Journal of Research in Personality asking whether dogs have fixed personalities or if they change during their lives. The findings have implications for the unproven aphorism that pet owners come to resemble their dogs, and vice-versa.

“When humans go through big changes in life, their personality traits can change. We found that this also happens with dogs – and to a surprisingly large degree,” said William Chopik, professor of psychology at Michigan State University and lead author of the study. “We expected the dogs’ personalities to be fairly stable because they don’t have wild lifestyle changes like humans do, but they actually change a lot.”

The research is the largest study of its kind that sought to examine changes in dogs’ personalities. Chopik and his collaborators surveyed owners of more than 1,600 dogs, inquiring after their dogs’ personalities and their own. The mix of the 1,600 dogs included 50 different breeds; approximately 50 percent were purebreds. Researchers found correlations in three areas: age and personality, the effect a dog’s personality has on the quality of its relationship with its owner, and human-to-dog personality similarities. Interestingly, researchers also found a “sweet spot” for training a dog: at the age of six.

This finding seems to have caught the attention of researchers the most. Chopik argues that learning more about personality changes in dogs can help researchers learn more about personality changes in humans — as well as other species. For dogs, Chopik says, researchers have a good understanding of their genetic history and environment, which makes this easier to test. Obviously, that is not the case for humans.

“Say you adopt a dog from a shelter. Some traits are likely tied to biology and resistant to change, but you then put it in a new environment where it’s loved, walked and entertained often. The dog then might become a little more relaxed and sociable,” Chopik said. “Now that we know dogs’ personalities can change, next we want to make strong connection to understand why dogs act — and change — the way they do.”

∙Three more New Year’s resolutions for the pet buddy:

I will provide my pet with exercise as appropriate to her breed, physical condition and personality. I will move in concert with my pet, understanding that movement for me is as healthy as it is for her. With my dog, I will try to increase her walking time by 10 percent from last year. With my cat, I will invest in interactive toys that can get her leaping and climbing as I am moving the toy around for her.

I will play with my pet every day. We will run around together, chase a ball together, whip a fishing pole toy around together, run around an obstacle course together, and share in the joy that comes from play. I will remember that sharing play with cats and dogs is one of the reasons we humans love them so, and one of the reasons they love us.

I will show my pet the love and care that he deserves. I will be sensitive to his medical needs, his behavioral needs, his play and enrichment needs, and his need for loving contact. I will remember that while my pet is lucky to have me to care for him, I am equally lucky to share my life with him.

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