Animal behaviour in its own proper context.
July 26, 2017 8:53 AM   Subscribe

Why Animals Do The Thing is a Tumblr blog focused on animal science education.
They often explain animal news articles and debunk anthropomorphic beliefs about nature.
Topics: Cats, Dogs: training, expressions, toxic food. Horses and Goats, Wolf packs, Snakes, Zoos and the AZA. They also have some cute pictures. posted by Lanark (14 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
oh my god this is amazing and everything I could ever want

!!!!!! lemme go roll in this, I love it almost as much as a dog loves a dead fox and I want to bury myself in it in a similar way
posted by sciatrix at 9:03 AM on July 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

That giraffe piece... there is a visible giraffe-sized door available to the giraffe. C'mon HuffPo!
posted by Emmy Rae at 9:10 AM on July 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Fuck, but this piece on dog aggressive dogs is spot on.

If you have a truly dog-aggressive dog, the first thing you must do to help your dog is accept that it may never like or be safe around other dogs and that you will have to adjust your life to accommodate that. [....]

It always breaks my heart a little when those asks come in because a dog-aggressive dog is not a bad dog. A dog-aggressive dog is a dog that feels so unsafe around other dogs, for whatever reason, that it automatically decides to defend itself. A dog-aggressive dog is a dog that simply does not like other dogs and will very forcefully keep them away through attacking. Those are valid reasons for your dog to be dog-aggressive. Are they safe? No. Are they hard to live with? Yes. But your dog is not broken, your dog is not bad, your dog is not wrong. Dog-aggressive dogs have preferences and needs like every other dog, and that might just involve accepting that they can never be around other dogs safely.

My own dog isn't dog aggressive but is dog selective--she does not like bearded dogs, she tenses up around strange dogs she thinks might not respect her boundaries, and she's generally an easily worried and tense dog. She's never quite sure if someone else might take her valuables and whether her needs will still be met if other strange dogs take something that's 'hers'--and that's not ever going to be something that changes with her. She likes other dogs fine and will solicit play if she decides another dog will be respectful and play with her the way she wants them to, but she prefers to hang out with her own specific dog friends (both dogs she's known from puppyhood) and ignore most strangers past a cursory sniff.

And that is okay. She gets to have opinions and desires about the social interactions she wants to have. She's not sure about little kids, so we give her positive interactions with them and we manage her worrying so she can relax, and we let her move on if she isn't having fun. It's about knowing each other and finding ways for everyone to be comfortable, and living with the dog I have and not some kind of weird dog who doesn't exist except in my head.

That's probably why she's not dog aggressive, to be honest--because we've worked so hard on helping her feel in control of her surroundings. We've found places she can do the things she likes and meet other dogs that don't require her to interact for long with dogs she decides she doesn't like, and lets her spend a little longer with dogs that play nicely. (Off leash hiking trails are the best things ever, and so is swimming.) We practice trickwork and training to help confidence building. We never allow other animals to violate the sanctuary of her crate, so she doesn't have to worry about protecting that resource. We're careful about resources.

It's not that hard. It's not the end of the world, either, to manage something like that. It's just... knowing my dog, and knowing what makes her comfortable.
posted by sciatrix at 9:19 AM on July 26, 2017 [17 favorites]

she does not like bearded dogs

I have never seen a clean shaven dog and I hope to never see one.
posted by hippybear at 9:21 AM on July 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

Also: don't anthropomorphize the animals. They hate that.
posted by hippybear at 9:24 AM on July 26, 2017 [10 favorites]

Heh. I'm referring to dogs with long hair on the face like rough-coated terriers, Yorkies, bearded collies, that sort of thing--bearded being an actual technical term for that. In her case, she had a couple of bad associations with Scottish and Cairn terriers as an adolescent and apparently decided those dogs were all jerks. (When I say this, I am not anthropomorphizing: what I'm actually doing is describing a pattern of behavior wherein she overreacts to minor potential insults or threats while playing with dogs who have these characteristics. For example, she dislikes being body slammed--first response to a dog who tries that that is not a bearded dog is usually to freeze, provide a hard stare, and wrinkle her eyebrows, maybe bare teeth. To a bearded dog, she's more likely to scream and lunge at the other dog while air-snapping, which is not a reaction anyone appreciates. Fortunately she is perfectly comfortable ignoring those other dogs as long as she's not interacting with them, so I encourage her to just move on by quickly and things are generally fine.)

I just really like this blogger's mix of sensibility and compassion, okay:

Should you be concerned? Well, that’s up to you but I don’t think so. somehow we’ve got this weird mythology in America that to be a ‘good dog’, a dog has to like all people and all other dogs and tolerate any sort of handling without batting an eyelash, and that’s just silly to me. Dogs have preferences, just like people. Some humans hate cats, but like dogs. Some people hate other people and only like animals. I see no reason to force a dog to love other dogs or all people. They should be able to safely interact in situations that arise (like the dumb off-leash dog), but past that, I feel you should let your dog be your dog. It’s sometimes hard to come to terms with if you’ve always had a lab that loved all other people, or if you got a dog you really wanted to be able to hike with off-leash with your friends’ dogs, etc, but I feel it’s most important to not force dogs to engage in situations they barely can tolerate just because we have an unrealistic ideal for their socialization in our heads.
posted by sciatrix at 9:34 AM on July 26, 2017 [5 favorites]

That stuff about aggression and reactivity in dogs is just *kisses fingers* mwah. I love it. It's so important.

I had a dog with special behavioral needs for 9 years and getting people to understand that not all dogs are Lassie and that's okay was a daily battle. He made a lot of progress during his time with us, because I put in a lot of hours training, but he was never going to be 100% reliable and my highest responsibility was everyone's safety. Balancing that with giving him a good quality of life was often difficult. The lack of understanding out there about dog behavior did not help us at all. He was a good dog. He really tried, but he had anxieties up the yin-yang. I miss booping his giant wrinkly noggin.
posted by soren_lorensen at 10:04 AM on July 26, 2017 [6 favorites]

I love Why Animals Do The Thing. I've thought about posting something about the zoos vs. animal rights orgs controversy she's been talking about, but I don't know enough about the subject to do it justice, I don't think.

(also she answered my question about whether whales can get rabies one time)
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:44 AM on July 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

I have to say, the first thing I clicked on was Emmy Rae's giraffe link, and that has turned me off pretty fucking hard on the blog. Because there's nothing lying about the first photograph; they don't edit out the door, they include the food basket. To claim that *your* highly saturated photograph is truth, and *their* low-saturation photo is a lie is, well, a lie in itself. To the extent that a photograph can be designed to serve an agenda, they *both* are.
posted by tavella at 11:28 AM on July 26, 2017

A lot of the posts about cats make me furious, not because of the excellent commentary provided by the blog owners, but the situations that people put cats of all kinds in just because they think it's funny. The notes about declawing actually make me physically ill. Were I ever confronted with someone who is doing anything abusive to a cat, that person might not survive that interaction with me. Same for anyone abusing or harassing dogs.
posted by Hermione Granger at 11:45 AM on July 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

the first thing I clicked on was Emmy Rae's giraffe link...

The Zoo in question is London Zoo - pictures via Google
The original HuffPo article is here [x] a detailed response from The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) and the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) is here [x] pdf
posted by Lanark at 12:16 PM on July 26, 2017 [6 favorites]

I had a dog with special behavioral needs for 9 years...

This is my life now, and it's sure been a learning experience (especially since my prior dog experience was almost universally with well-adjusted, easygoing dogs). The biggest thing that irks me is that if I manage a situation well, he'll never pitch a fit or display any signs of aggression so I get a lot of "I don't know what you were so worried about! He's fine!" which is just so...ugh. People love to call themselves dog people without knowing the first thing about dogs. They spend more time learning to identify obscure breeds than they do signs of stress or unhealthy play. It's so, so hard to put up with, especially when it becomes a safety issue. Don't even get me started on the reactions to Lena Dunham's dog...
posted by R a c h e l at 12:20 PM on July 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

Ugh, a lot of the posts against animal rights are some hardcore bullshit, and I say this as someone who has a pretty mixed stance on animal rights overall. It's a shame, because there's plenty of other good stuff on there, but it's also clearly veering into polemics in support of pretty much all animal captivity, regardless of the broader ethical issues. It's a bit like a geology blog from an oil company, where you might find all sorts of cool stuff about the earth if you can tolerate the sneering tone toward environmentalists.
posted by klangklangston at 12:17 PM on July 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

"there is a visible giraffe-sized door available to the giraffe"

A committee I was on was very tangentially involved in our local zoo's expansion to include a very state-of-the-art Africa exhibit, including giraffes, and to my total delight a whole section of the people-walkway lifts off (via crane) to reveal that the viewing window for the giraffes is actually a full-giraffe-height door into the giraffe barn, and the giraffe transport truck backs up to the giraffe barn and they lift off the walkway and open the full-height barn door and it is great. When I take people to see the zoo, and we're on the giraffe walkway area, I can point out to them where the joints are that allow the entire walkway section to be lifted off. It always kinda blows their minds. It's super-obvious once you know that that's what it's for!

"(also she answered my question about whether whales can get rabies one time)"

Oh man, great question! And the answer is totally in line with my HORRIFYING RABIES EXPOSURE EXPERIENCE where doctors were mostly like, "Well, if you were bitten it could take a year for symptoms, but if your baby was bitten, it'll only take like three months because it's totally about how far the bite is from the spine and you're quite large compared to the baby or a cat." THANKS EVER SO, DOCTORS.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:44 PM on July 27, 2017

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