Join us this week for a great episode on how to improve the bond with your fur kids! Today's episode features guests Steve Feldman, the president of The Human Animal Bond Research Institute and the founder of I Speak Dog, Tracy Krulik.
Human Animal Bond Research Institute
I Speak Dog
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00:00 Lorien Clemens
Hello pet lovers and welcome to Pet Lover Geek. I'm Lorien Clemons and today's From the Vault episode is all about the human-animal bond and we're going to start off the show with science that proves that having a pet in your life makes you healthier. I was really lucky a few months ago while I was attending VMX; It's a big huge veterinary show that happens once a year in Orlando. I got a chance to sit down with Steve Feldman. He runs a group called HABRI and you're going to get to meet him next and he is going to talk about the science behind the human-animal bond and then the entire rest of the show is going to be really great stuff about bonding more strongly with your pet. So without any further ado, my interview with Steve Feldman from HABRI.
00:48 Lorien Clemens
Steve let's just start off -- what is HABRI? -- and why do people need to know about it?
00:52 Steve Feldman
HABRI is the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute, kind of a mouthful, so we say HABRI. We do scientific research on the human health benefits of having pets.
01:02 Lorien Clemens
And I think all of us are kind of like, yeah, well duh like there's a huge benefit for having pets, but you guys do all your stuff with science, which of course is perfect for this audience. So tell me what do you mean? Like give me some examples of some of the research you guys have done.
01:15 Steve Feldman
Well, you're right, most pet lovers do know that pets are good for them, all you have to do is be greeted by your dog or your cat when you come home after a long day. What we do is look at specific health benefits for specific groups, so for example, we've funded a number of projects on children with autism. We know for example that autistic children undergoing social skills training do better when a therapy dog is incorporated in that training. We funded a long term study on pet dogs in the home that showed that there was more family harmony when in a family with a child with autism when there was a dog. One of the things it showed was that the primary caregiver, normally mom or dad was less stressed.
02:00 Lorien Clemens
Oh great, which of course makes the whole relationship better.
02:02 Steve Feldman
Sure. There's other research that looks at heart health and physical exercise. There's a number of studies even beyond what we've funded, which show that you're more likely to have lower blood pressure. You're more likely to get your recommended exercise, as a matter of fact, the American Heart Association has even said that pet ownership is associated with better heart health.
02:27 Lorien Clemens
Now we're here at VMX and I know that HABRI and NAVC has recently partnered. Tell me about this program that you've got. It's a certification program for veterinarians correct?
02:39 Steve Feldman
That's right. So HABRI has the science, right? A great deal of science to show that pets are good for us. We've also done some research to show that veterinarians are the trusted messengers for this information for pet parents and AVC has amazing technology to deliver online programming and education to veterinarians. So we have the content, they have this amazing platform, it's a great partnership to bring this information to the veterinary community.
03:10 Lorien Clemens
Okay, I find out that my veterinarian has been in a NAVC-HABRI certified right? What does this mean? What's the benefit for me as a pet parent?
03:20 Steve Feldman
So we hope pet parents will ask their veterinarian, "are you human-animal bond certified?" And here's what that means, the veterinarian goes through that training. They go through it online and they learn all about the science of the human-animal bond, and how to communicate that, and how to respect and honor the bond when they deal with their clients, with those pet parents, and their patients, the pets. So when you as a pet parent go to a veterinarian who is human-animal bond certified, you know they're always thinking about the relationship that you have with your pet, and it makes the medical care for your pet better, it makes your relationship with your veterinarian better -- better communication -- it usually means better care.
04:06 Lorien Clemens
Can you give me an example about -- because I mean -- there's part of me that I feel like inherently a veterinarian would get the bond that I have with an animal because they chose to go into veterinary care. They love animals. They know about that tight love that people can have for animals so don't they already get it? Quote unqoute. It's kind of the same thing you mentioned, like pet parents that already kind of know there's this bond, but the science by it. So what benefit then is the science. I mean I also understand intrinsically how the more educated you are will help, but can you give me some examples about what makes this extra training better for the veterinarian and you?
04:40 Steve Feldman
So you've probably been in your veterinary exam room and there's a poster on the wall for maybe it's for a drug that you can't pronounce...
04:46 Lorien Clemens
Or heartworm or something scary.
04:49 Steve Feldman
Right, it's a name you can't pronounce or something like that. Do you have a conversation with your veterinarian about what's on that poster? Now imagine that there's a poster on the wall of the exam room that says here are the five things that your pets can do for your health. I bet you will have a conversation about that. So of course I will say that animal health companies play an important role in all of this and they're sponsors of HABRI and they're sponsors of NAVC, and they recognize and honor the bond. Which is why they're supporting this effort, but the idea is that you'll have a conversation, a meaningful conversation, not just about your pet's health, not just about vaccines or whatever you're there for, but you'll really be talking about how is your relationship and what's going on there.
05:35 Lorien Clemens
Just knowing more about the family that this pet is part of, I think can probably have a lot better care long-term for that pet.
05:43 Steve Feldman
Well, that's right, and you know the practice of veterinary medicine can strengthen or break the bond, right? If you really have trouble giving your pet a bath.
05:54 Lorien Clemens
Yes. One pet. Yes
05:57 Steve Feldman
And then the veterinarian says I need you to take this shampoo and bathe your animal twice a week, and it's stressful, and it's hard and you're frustrated. That creates a fracture in your bond with your pet. If the veterinarian knows and understands and asks about that and thinks about your bond, he might choose a different treatment. That strengthens the bond, he might choose a pill instead of a shampoo, and so they can think about all the tools in their toolbox to make sure that you have a strong bond with your pet.
06:33 Lorien Clemens
Yeah, that's a perfect example of like how that makes sense. We have four fur kids at home. They are all completely different personalities and some of them, for example, take pills very well. I can hide it in anything and she will eat it and the other one we find the pills on the floor, you know, across the room because -- so that type of thing. Whereas one might be great with pills and another one might need an oral suspension or something else like that.
06:59 Steve Feldman
Well, that's right. So when the veterinarian is thinking about the bond, it impacts how they practice medicine in a very positive way.
07:07 Lorien Clemens
So what's the response from veterinarians? I mean I know from the past from interviewing veterinarians about different new things that are out there and there's a lot coming at them all the time. A lot of new, a lot of, you know, this new thing and that new technique and all that. What's the response been from veterinarians about this new certification program?
07:25 Steve Feldman
What's great about the human-animal bond certification program is that veterinarians are on solid ground because they're scientists and they're used to science, so this gives them a safe way that they understand to interact with their clients because we're giving them the scientific information that shows that your pet is good for your heart, your pet is good for getting exercise, can reduce anxiety, depression, and stress. So they have these scientific studies at their disposal and they can communicate all of that in a way that veterinarians are used to, which is from a scientific perspective.
08:02 Lorien Clemens
Let me ask you this too, from what we have talked about in the past on this show, we had the folks from the fear-free program, Doctor Marty Becker, and they were talking about -- does this kind of go hand in hand? It feels like it goes hand in hand with what they're trying to do with fear-free.
08:17 Steve Feldman
I think that the human-animal bond certified program does go hand in hand with fear-free. In that case, you're really thinking about the comfort and stress levels of the pet as they come into the clinic, and these things will work really well together.
08:31 Lorien Clemens
08:32 Steve Feldman
You're thinking about the bond between the pet and the pet parent. You're thinking about how the pet is feeling. This also goes to how the pet parent is feeling. It's really two sides of the same coin. I have to say, the response from veterinarians to this has been tremendous. You know, we did an online sign-up prior to this conference at VMX so that we could see how much interest there was and thousands of veterinarians, vet techs, practice managers have all signed up to get more information, so it's going live and we're putting people through this online course. It's very exciting.
09:08 Lorien Clemens
That is very exciting. So say that I want to encourage my vet clinic. How would I get them to learn more about this?
09:14 Steve Feldman
Well, the first thing you should do is ask them about it. Tell them they can go online. They can go to NAVC.com. They can go to Habri.org. We all have links back to how you can sign up and learn more about the course. Eventually, you'll be able to look for a window cling and brochures and those posters we talked about in your veterinarian's office, but the first thing you should do is ask them about it. Make sure they know about it. They can sign up and take the course. Tell them that that's something you're really interested in.
09:40 Lorien Clemens
Is there a big cost for them to do this?
09:43 Steve Feldman
Well, the price right now is $299.
09:46 Lorien Clemens
Oh okay that's it. Just like 300 bucks.
09:48 Steve Feldman
300 bucks. You get certified. You get a great kit of material that you can share with your clients, with your pet parents, and your community. One of the important things I'm glad you mentioned community. One of the modules is called community engagement and it's how you can take this important information about pets outside of the walls of the vet clinic to share it with your community. So whether as a veterinarian, you're helping a therapy animal organization or communicating with the doctors, the human medical doctors in your areas, that they know about all of this, we're giving the tools so veterinarians can share this because if you think about it, your pet helps make you and your family healthier and more responsible pet ownership in your community is actually been shown by science to make a more tight knit community.
10:38 Lorien Clemens
I was just thinking. I mean, I'm thinking like the Parks and Rec department as they're building more, you know, dog-friendly spaces for everybody and cat cafes coming into the town and all these different things I can think that this type of resource from the veterinarian side can only help those type of endeavors, so that's really, really cool stuff. Awesome, anything else that you want to add before we wrap it up.
11:01 Steve Feldman
Well, I like to say that we all know it's important to eat our vegetables, to be a healthy person. We all know we should get our exercise to be a healthy person. I like to say a pet belongs on the list. Get a pet. It's part of being a healthy person.
11:16 Lorien Clemens
Awesome, I love that and I'm sure our local Humane Society loves that too. Thank you so much Steve it is terrific getting to meet you. Thanks for taking the time. I know that you are incredibly busy while you're here. Really great to meet you and talk with you.
11:28 Lorien Clemens
Well, there you have it folks. Having a pet in your life is just as important as exercise and eating vegetables. Science says it's true. Now stick around because we've got some really great guests coming up on the show today. We're going to talk to folks that are experts in both cats and experts in dogs, and they're going to talk to us about really important things that you can do to solidify that bond, particularly if you're bringing in an animal that maybe is a little bit older, rehomed. Rescue a shelter pet because we all know that sometimes building that bond between those pets and yourself can be a little bit challenging at times. So I'm really excited about that. Stick around, we've got a lot more really great stuff on Pet Lover Geek brought to you by PetHub.
12:16 Lorien Clemens
It's no joke how important animals have become in our lives. In fact, did you know that according to research that was recently done by Science Direct, in the last 10 years, humans are spending more time and money on dogs and cats than ever before? In fact, dogs occupy a very significant role in our hearts and lives and dog owners, many of whom would consider themselves dog parents. Have reported that attachments to their dogs are as strong as, if not stronger than, their attachments to their best friends, their children, and even their spouses. But there are some things that you can actually do to increase that bond even more. Believe it or not, and one of the great ways to do that is to learn how to read your dog, how to understand their language that they're speaking, because they are speaking to you and to help us learn more about this, we have the founder of I Speak Dog, Tracy Krulik with us on the show today. Tracy, welcome to the show, we're so excited to have you.
13:14 Tracy Krulik
Hi, thanks, I'm really excited to be here.
13:18 Lorien Clemens
All right now let's start first by, you know, what does this mean? What exactly is I speak Dog and what you do?
13:25 Tracy Krulik
Okay, so I speak dog is a website that I created with some incredibly talented people last year to help people better understand why their dogs do what they do and what different emotions look like. Essentially, you know, we as people, when you know you walk into a room at a party and you know you go through the door and people turn your way and you suddenly get, you know, self-conscious like is there something in my teeth? Why are they all staring at me? You know you start projecting all of these these thoughts in your head onto these people where they may not even have noticed you. They just kind of turned that way or maybe they actually think, "oh I love her hair. I want to see who does her hair." And so it's sort of just in our nature as people to to kind of project stuff onto each other and so when it comes to our dogs, it's really easy to do that because they don't speak to us. We have to infer what's going on. So I Speak Dog exists to help people kind of like, you know, get out of their heads a little bit and really be able to break it down and go, okay, my dog just chewed the couch. Why did that happen? You know what the heck is going on there and what could I do about it?
14:52 Lorien Clemens
I'm reminded like the anthropomorphizing of animals. I do this constantly and I know that that's not fair to them, so this is your -- kind of helping us like okay, step back. The human speak is not the same as the dog speak, so go ahead, give us an example you were saying about the couch.
15:09 Tracy Krulik
Well okay, so the way that I like to explain it is that it's kind of like the words there, their and they're in English -- that they all sound exactly the same, but if you saw them on paper, they're written differently, and they have different meanings, right? Well, dog behaviors are all the same kind of a pattern, so chewing may be a dog who loves to chew because dogs -- many dogs love to chew -- It's in their DNA, so if you have a dog who's chewing, you need to figure out what does that chewing mean. Is it because he enjoys chewing or is he chewing because he's scared, he's left home alone, and he's chewing the door frame because he's trying to get out? He's scared. So we have this same behavior, but if we're going to do something about it, if we're going to stop the chewing if it falls under the bucket of dog being a dog, we're going to train it one way, and if it falls under the bucket of it's happening because the dog is scared, we're gonna approach it a totally different way. So by understanding that we can help our dogs live more harmoniously with us and everybody can be happier.
16:22 Lorien Clemens
Well and dogs do have a language. I mean anybody that's had a dog, been around a talk for a long time knows that there are certain cues that they give us all the time. Sometimes we don't necessarily watch for those cues, but like I'm going to talk about my two pups. So I have two dogs that are vastly different and the way that they approach strangers, for example. To me, the way I look at them, I'm like wow. They approach people totally differently. Both look though to the stranger like they're wagging their tail. One is wagging his tail because he's really excited to see you and he can't wait to meet you. The other one is wagging her tail. I'm not exactly sure what she's saying with that wagtail, but it is not 'cause she wants to meet you. So can you talk a little bit? This is kind of the same thing, like the chewing, like they're different meanings to that seemingly same word that's being spoken by the dogs body.
17:14 Tracy Krulik
Yeah, so what we do on I Speak Dog, is we actually break it down to a really simple three step formula. It's our how to speak dog formula and the three steps are one, what is the dog doing? So, in this case, it's you know greeting somebody or, you know, approaching someone or you know just by somebody coming up to them. So it's that kind of a context. Step two is, what is the dogs body language? So that's when we take a look and we break it down. What's going on? Is the dog leaning forward? Are they pulling back? Are they jumping on people? Do they look stiff or do we see a lot of eye white showing? And then the third one is what is the context you know? Is it a bunch of kids there? Is it a new person? Somebody that's familiar with? And so we take those three questions and we use the website kind of like an encyclopedia, sort of, you click on what the dog is doing and it takes you to a bunch of different buttons that you can press like, jumping on people, or barking, or growling or different things, and then you would go to what is the dog's body language? You would go to the I Speak Dog body language gallery where you see images of dogs that are happy, and dogs that are scared, and dogs that are aggressive, and dogs that are submissive and you think okay what is my dog look like in this situation? And compare it to those pictures and then you take the third one -- the context to kind of put everything together. So one of the things we talked about on I Speak Dog is what's called pro-social behavior. I think everybody has heard the term antisocial, which means they don't want anything to do with others. Pro social is really happy to meet other dogs, other people, right? So one of your dogs. Sounds to be more pro-social, like doesn't have a fear of people, is eager to say hi, and is doing common pro-social behaviors like I'm guessing maybe a little jumping up. Do you see that?
19:31 Lorien Clemens
Yes, we do? Although we're getting better with that, we're working through those not acceptable social behaviors.
19:40 Tracy Krulik
Well, I have to tell you when I meet a dog -- you know -- when somebody calls me up and they say, "ahg my dog is jumping on people it's making me crazy." I'm like congratulations. You have a happy, friendly dog, you know.
19:51 Lorien Clemens
Yes, we do.
19:52 Tracy Krulik
That's really great news because we can teach a dog that's jumping up to do a really solid sit-stay.
19:58 Lorien Clemens
19:59 Tracy Krulik
And wait to be petted, but to teach a dog who's afraid of people, who's exhibiting antisocial behaviors, like they're pulling away, they're leaning away. They stiffen. They get a lot of eye whites showing, some antisocial dogs will even growl or snap. It's a lot harder to help that dog overcome the fear, so we've got two different dogs, greeting people in two totally different ways. One is an easy fix to just teach this dog to control its happy instincts and the other one, now we've got a fearful dog and it's going to take, you know, a lot longer and a lot more patience to help that dog greet people in a better way.
20:41 Lorien Clemens
Now I want to talk about folks using the site because you know -- if I'm in -- obviously when I'm in the situation, I'm not going to be pulling it up on my smartphone and trying to figure out, okay, what is he doing now? Because that's obviously a little bit too late, so let's talk about the best way to approach using I Speak Dog?
20:59 Tracy Krulik
Well, what we had -- so if you went in order on the website -- first we introduce the how to speak dog formula. So that would be the first tab just to kind of get the idea for what this formula is. Then you would go to the next tab, which is let's speak dog and what we've done there is, we've broken out nine different examples, actually ten because there's an example on the example page. So ten different common situations that occur. Puppy-biting, dog doesn't listen when you call them, barking, pulling on leash, jumping on guests, are they fighting or playing? These kinds of things and we walk you through the formula and show you how to use the website, teach you how to use the website from there, and then once you've gone through all of those and you really get it. Okay, I get what I'm doing. I totally get it. I totally get it. Then you can on your own, go back and you know, play through any kind of scenario. My dog does this or my dog does that, and you can go through it and figure things out. What I'll say is, once you get into the habit of asking these three questions, it's pretty amazing when you're out in the field and you're out with your dog and you start to think, oh my dog is being so stubborn, that becomes like a que. Wait a minute, I've gotta ask my three questions, and you can stop yourself and really figure things out right on the spot once you're used to asking those questions.
22:28 Lorien Clemens
So it's about studying the process and the way of approaching it first, and then you can start to put it into action, and have you actually, and I'm sure you have, like how people are able to better bond with their dog if they're actually able to start reading and understanding the language that their dog is using?
22:48 Tracy Krulik
Well, it's just there's less of a struggle, there's less of a power struggle, and there's less of, you know when my dog starts barking or pulling or whatever. I don't think. I mean I used to I'm human, I'm like everybody else right? So I used to just get frustrated and why won't she listen? And whatever, I don't have those thoughts anymore because I know she's being a dog and we gotta work together. We gotta figure things out together so I know friends and family and others who've used this website who are like just stunned that how much happier they are with their dog and how much happier their dog seems to be.
23:27 Lorien Clemens
Awesome. Tell people where they can find out more about I Speak Dog.
23:30 Tracy Krulik
It is ISpeakDog.org.
23:33 Lorien Clemens
Fantastic. Thank you so much for your time Tracy. This is really great stuff.
23:36 Tracy Krulik
Thank you. I'm glad to be here.
23:38 Lorien Clemens
And to our listeners, thanks for joining us today. Make sure you leave a comment below for any cool or geeky ideas that you want us to cover in future episodes, and like always, give those fur babies a hug from me. I'm Lorien Clemens and this has been Pet Lover Geek powered by PetHub.