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Dog Friendships that Defy Nature

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Animal shelters often try to adopt out "bonded pairs," dogs that have been living together or have a strong connection. But the Humane Society of Silicon Valley (HSSV) in California didn't quite know how to handle an unusual twosome that ended up in its care recently. Mama, a 7-year-old Shetland sheep dog mix, and her best buddy Kiki, a 7-year-old short-haired gray and white cat, had grown up together. "They had been living together for seven years," says Beth Ward, vice president of animal and customer care at HSSV. "They slept together. They ate together. They played together. They were the perfect odd couple." Mama and Kiki had to be separated initially because the shelter houses cats and dogs in different facilities. But they were eventually reunited when the shelter found a family willing to adopt a pair of pet friends that defies nature.

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Dogs and Jealousy

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For ages, many animal experts held that all dog behavior, including possible jealous tendencies, stemmed from instinct rather than emotions, but new research is proving that theory wrong. So, if you recently brought a new friend or another pet into your life, and your dog suddenly seems less than friendly, you may just have a jealous pooch on your hands.

Paul Morris, Ph.D., a psychologist and animal behavior expert at the University of Portsmouth in England, determined that certain animals, including dogs, experience a wide array of emotions. Along with jealousy, these emotions include anger, anxiety, surprise, pride, embarrassment and shame.

While cats, pigs, horses, rabbits and hamsters also seem to get jealous, dogs appear to feel this emotion more often and with greater intensity. Dog owners who were included in the study consistently reported that their dogs pushed in between themselves and third party rivals for their attention.

Scientists as of yet can't communicate with dogs to know what they are truly feeling, but the evidence so far suggests that canine emotions -- including jealousy -- are comparable to what we experience.

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Teach Your Dog to Swim

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Dock diving -- jumping off a dock into a body of water -- is something you might think a water-loving dog would do at a lake on a hot summer day, but it’s actually a certified canine sport. Tournaments have even been broadcast on ESPN, with champion dog divers breaking world records for the canine with the longest leap from a dock into a pool or other body of water. Your dog doesn’t have to be the next swimming superstar to splash in on the fun, however. A quiet afternoon doggie paddle can be just as enjoyable and rewarding. "Water is an excellent means of exercising your dog," says Deborah Lee Miller-Riley, founder and director of Connecticut-based Canine Water Sports, which teaches dogs to swim and hosts water-based competitions, including such feats as retrieving submerged articles and towing a swimmer on a life ring.

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Dog Park Safety

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I never saw them coming. I was chatting in a park with a friend while his two boxers played with my golden retriever, Allie. The next minute, I felt myself being hit from behind by all three dogs, catapulting me backwards and causing me to hit my head on the ground where I landed. Still, I felt alright. After a minute or two of lying on the ground and checking to make sure I hadn’t broken any bones, I stood up without assistance and drove Allie and myself home. But six weeks later, I no longer felt OK.

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When Good Dogs Turn Bad

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A dog's bite may be worse than its bark -- especially if the pooch isn't feeling well. A new study has determined that dogs brought to a veterinary behavior clinic for biting children most often didn't have a previous history of biting.

The research, which was conducted by a team of experts from the University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine and The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, found that about half of the 111 dogs in the study had preexisting medical conditions that may have triggered the lash out.

The Medical ailments that triggered lashing out included hip dysplasia (and the associated arthritic pain), compromised vision, itchiness and ear pain, says one of the study's authors, Ilana R. Reisner, DVM, PhD, DACVB, a professor of veterinary medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Reisner cautions that the association between bad behavior and illness in half of the dogs in the study doesn't imply that medical problems were the cause of the bad behavior.

Some dogs are aggressive, and that needs to be treated as a behavioral issue. But veterinary experts say it's quite common for canines that have never shown any aggressive traits to snap, bite and show other signs of agitation when they are ill -- and particularly when they have chronic conditions.

Since your pet can't speak, here's how you can read the signs that something is physically wrong with your dog before it, too, may snap.

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