Feature Articles

Volume 1, Number 2

"Ask the Vet" by Carol M Roe, DVM

The Breeders Perspective

"Springer "Rage" -- The Non-Existant Syndrome" by Stephen C. Rafe

About the Author

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ASK THE VET

By: Carol M. Roe, DVM

Canine Brucellosis is a disease that seems to be surrounded by a lot of confusion and mystery. Dogs who are infected may show little to no clinical signs. The disease is not fatal to adult dogs. General clinical signs may include fever (rarely), generalized lymph node enlargement, splenomegaly, and possibly liver inflammation. Other systemic problems can be discospondylitis (infected vertebrae), eye inflammation or low grade meningitis. Most commonly there are either no signs or subtle signs of poor hair coats, listlessness or exercise intolerance.

The most common obvious clinical sign in an otherwise healthy bitch is abortion between 45 and 55 days of gestation. Abortion may occur as early as day 30 or the pups may be carried nearly to term and delivered as live and dead fetuses. If pups survive they carry Brucella canis in their blood from at least several months. Bitches may abort 2 or 3 liters in a row.

Infected bitches may also appear to not conceive. In most cases they resorb the fetuses early or embryonic death and abortion is not noticed by the owner. Brucellosis should always be considered when evaluating a bitch that as apparently failed to conceive.

Brucellosis may be transmitted during mating either from male to female or the opposite. It may also be transmitted from an aborting bitch to uninfected animals who come into contact with the placental tissues and fluids. Infected uterine discharge may be present for 4-6 weeks following an abortion. Breeders should be aware that the transmission of Brucella canis to humans is possible but not likely unless you are in a high contact area (laboratory worker or kennel attendant with repeated or massive exposure).

There are several tests available for Brucellosis. The most widely available test is the Slide Agglutination Test. This is a rapid presumptive test that absolutely identifies Brucellosis negative animals. The test is highly sensitive, meaning that it has almost zero false negative but is not very specific, meaning that as many as 60% produce false positives. If your dog test positive on the Slide Agglutination Test, you need to run the Tube Agglutination Test.

The Tube Agglutination Test gives you an actual numeric titer rather than just a positive or negative. One source feels that if the titer is less than or equal to 1:50 then the test is negative. A different source feels that tests less than 1:200 are negative. This test is more specific than the Slide Agglutination Test, but can also have the antibodies cross react to produce false positives. If you get a positive with a high titer, then you should have another test done.

The Agar Gel Immunodiffusion Test (AGID) is the most reliable test. It also takes the longest to run, is the most expensive and is not widely available. This test is more specific and so is not likely to produce false positives.

Suspect dogs can have blood, milk, urine, vaginal discharges, semen, lymph nodes or bone marrow cultured. If the culture is positive, you know the dog is infected. If the culture is negative, it does not clear the dog.

Treatment attempts can be heroic and expensive and offer little guarantee of success. Several antibiotics have been used alone or in combinations. Bacteremia commonly returns 1-3 months after stopping treatment. Infected bitches must be permanently separated from healthy dogs in kennel situations. Spaying or castration is recommended, although it is not curative. Owners must be aware of the potential threat to themselves. No vaccination is currently available.

Editors note: If you have further questions consult your Veterinarian or Veterinary Gestation Specialist.

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The Breeders Perspective

The Breeders Perspective is a personal interview with Springer Breeders to understand individual breeding programs. This interview is provided to inform and educate all of those who love the breed. The candid responses of breeders are invaluable for anyone considering breeding or cultivating their breeding program.

The Springer Showcase is proud to present an interview with Anthony and Rita J. Vasquez owners of Vasdon English Springer Spaniels .

SS - When did you get started with Springers?

RV - In 1976 we got our first purebred Springer, then in 1980 our first show Springer.

SS - When did you begin breeding Springers?

TV - We breed two litters with our stud dog "Solo", but what we found was that you have to have quality on both sides in order to get the result you want.

RV - That's what lead us to get "Nicki" [CH. Marjon's Nicolette of Vasdon] our foundation bitch in 1982.

TV - "Nicki" gave us the quality we needed so that we could go out looking for a stud dog who would compliment her and improve our breeding program .

SS - What do you breed for, when you breed?

TV - First - temperament.

RV - You have to be able to live with the animal, or why are you breeding?

TV - Then, I look for the overall appearance of the dog, its markings and a balanced look. I like to watch the dog move, look at its reach, topline, neck, bone and overall carriage.

RV - Structure and appearance - not just the markings.

TV - I talk to the owner of a dog I'm looking at and let them know I'm interested, that's when I like to go over a dogs structure, to make sure the dog has the qualities I have seen. I'm looking for forechest, good rear, and bone.

SS - What helps you make a decision on a dog?

TV - I look at the old magazines and the pedigree . . . I like to go back about seven generations. Then I look at father, mother, grandfather and grandmother and any offspring the dog has produced to see what has been carried forward. This gives me a good idea of characteristics which have been repeated. If these are the traits I want then the dog is a good choice.

SS - What is the best breed advice you can give to others?

RV - Be prepared for the worst. We have had our share of C-sections, sick puppies, sick bitches and lost puppies.

TV - If you think you want to breed don't be in a hurry. Take a year or more to find a suitable dog to breed to. And, if you think it is going to be easy - think again.

RV - Try to breed to correct problems not to continue them. We have had our share of success with the limited number of breedings we have done, we have 22 Champions to our [Vasdon] name, but there are lines in our breeding that you won't see us continue.

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SPRINGER "RAGE" -- THE NON-EXISTANT SYNDROME

By: Stephen C. Rafe

Copyright, 1999, Stephen C. Rafe. All Rights Reserved.

If you've ever heard the term "Springer Rage Syndrome," erase it from your memory banks. It was a mistake; a poor choice of words. Furthermore, "rage syndrome" was originally intended to apply to Cocker Spaniels, not Springer Spaniels.

The term, "rage syndrome" is frequently attributed to Roger A. Mugford, an animal behavior consultant practicing in England. However, Dr. Mugford says he personally dislikes the term intensely because of the variations in behaviors and the apparent lack of "a unitary or precise physiological or neurological mechanism involved in all cases." Dr. Mugford uses the term, "low-threshold aggression" to define the aggressive behaviors previously attributed to the term "rage syndrome."

In Capers -- Canine Behavior and Psychology Newsletter (July/August, 1987), editor Barbara Bekker Ph.D., writes: "Current theories hold that rage syndrome is not a specific diagnostic category at all, but rather a description of a group of behaviors which are primarily dominant-aggressive."

Likely Candidates

In Capers, Mugford reports that he sees the problem starting in most dogs at about 7-1/2 months of age, on average, "although some dogs exhibited symptoms as early as three months and others as late as two years of age." At Starfire, the few cases we have seen were between one and three years of age. However, in both Mugford's experience and ours, many dogs first displayed the symptoms at or around one of the five critical learning periods we have identified in dogs. These occur at about 6 weeks of age, 12 weeks (plus or minus a week), 24 weeks or about 6 months of age (plus or minus two weeks), 12 months or about a year of age (plus or minus a month), and two years of age (plus or minus two months).

Says Dr. Bekker, "As is characteristic of dominance aggression in general, many more males than females were affected (68% vs. 32%) and symptoms in males were often more severe than those in females." In our work, most of our clients' dominant-aggressive dogs were intact males.

Other Possible Contributing Factors

Inbreeding may be a consideration but little is known about the mechanisms through which inbreeding could affect the problem. Other factors also need to be considered as possible causes or contributors to dominance aggression. Poor socialization with humans between seven and 12 weeks of age can lead to aggressive behavior toward people. Also excessive contact with littermates seems to cause some puppies to mature into dogs that go to the extreme in behaving toward people much as they did toward their littermates.

In addition, the dog may have also "learned" to act aggressively toward the family. In Aggression, Dr. J. P. Scott says that "aggression, in the strict sense of an unprovoked attack, can only be produced by training." The aggressive animal may have learned through experiences to act aggressively in certain situations. As Dr. Scott says, "all evidence points to the conclusion that learning and habit formation are very important and that any explanation of aggression based on other causes should be consistent with these facts and principles."

Other aspects of the environment can also be significant. A dog that is left alone too much can lack sufficient owner leadership. Since it is a social animal, it may also protest at being "abandoned" by the family "pack" as they go off to work each day.

Dogs kept on chains or behind fences or doors suffer tether or barrier frustration. This can heighten their aggressive tendencies toward people.

A poor diet can also affect a dog's stress levels and resultant behavior. In fact, various theories about aggression indicate that nutritional deficits may play a more important role in a dog's behavior than we may have realized.

Perhaps researchers will ultimately find a neurophysical cause for the behavior -- particularly in those dogs whose owners have reported a glazed or distant look in their dogs' eyes immediately before what seemed to be an unprovoked, spontaneous, and vicious attack from a dog that seems sociable at other times.

Another Consideration

Dominant-aggressive dogs generally resist being forced to do anything. Thus, the dog may meet any form of physical force with counter-aggression. In a battle of wills, such dogs frequently become increasingly aggressive toward the person doing the training.

If the trainer then attempts to punish the dog, or put it in situations in which it has been punished -- particularly if the handler was the source of the punishment in the past -- the dog is even more likely to be aggressive.

A Word About Punishment

In "Aggression," Dr. Scott compares punishment against more valid behavior-modification methods and calls it "a less desirable method of control, since pain itself is a stimulus to fight." Adds Dr. Scott, "When fighting must be controlled by force, restraint is the most desirable method...." However, with the dominant-aggressive dog, even restraint -- especially physical restraint by the owner -- can be very risky.

A Closer Look at Dominance Aggression

What does "low-threshold, dominance-based aggression" actually mean? Essentially that the dog is easily aroused to bark, growl, snarl, snap, mouth, or bite, and these behaviors are usually directed toward its owners or immediate family. Such dogs are likely to be friendly toward strangers and others outside the immediate household.

Specific Behaviors

Under the heading of low-threshold aggression, Dr. Mugford reports such behaviors as guarding, non-directed growling, varying moodiness, biting primarily family members, increased aggression when punished physically, as well as apparent confusion during attack and "contrite" behavior afterward.

How Such Dogs Act

Dominant-aggressive dogs frequently jump up on family members, put their paws or heads on family members' laps, lean against them, and so on. They very often resist being rolled over, petted, groomed, physically moved from one place to another, or touched on certain parts of their bodies.

They often guard objects, food, or areas -- specially sleeping areas they have taken over. If disturbed when sleeping or resting, such dogs are also likely to respond with aggression.

Treatment

The first step in dealing with this, or any other type of canine aggression is to have your veterinarian rule out physical or health reasons as the cause of the problem. When that is done, ask him or her to refer you to a qualified behavior professional who can help you rehabilitate your dog. Your veterinarian may be called back into the picture again if the behavior counselor feels drug therapy may help bring a specific problem under control.

As Dr. Bekker writes, however, treatment "has been hampered by a lack of understanding of physiological, neurological, and even psychological mechanisms underlying this impaired behavior." There's a lot we don't know and considerably more research is needed.

Castration is frequently recommended, although its value in controlling a dog's dominance aggression has been questioned. In commenting on Dr. Mugford's cases, Dr. Bekker says, "Neither castration nor spaying had much effect on the behaviors, indicating that this pattern of dominance aggression was probably independent of hormonal activity in both cases (sexes).

The problem is not an easy one to correct, and the solutions are not simple. Dr. Mugford reports a success rate of about 50% with dogs who display dominance aggression.

Rehabilitating an Aggressive Dog

Owners of any aggressive dog need to cease all interaction with their animals until they can find professional help. To deal with the problem, most therapists start by recommending that the dog be kept away from all situations that have elicited the behavior in the past. Return to such situations should take place only under professional guidance, using behavior-modification techniques adapted for the specific dog.

What You Can Do in the Meantime

How can you redirect the dog's behavior if he needs to be stopped from doing something before you find a professional to guide you? Here are two relatively safe techniques to consider:

Extinguishing -- In effect, "Ignore it and it will go away." At least the risk of worsening the situation is reduced.

Orienting-reflex -- Create a surprise distraction (such as a bouncing a plastic bottle that contains coins) behind the dog. Do not shake it at him. When dogs have a history of jumping on owners, we have them sound a very small, compressed-air horn, being careful to not have the dog associate the sound with anything the owner did. This helps maintain the novelty of the distraction.

Some Observations

Here is how a professional behavior counselor might help. This information should not be construed as a "recipe" for curing aggression, any more than an article on open heart surgery should prompt the reader to pick up a scalpel.

The first step in dealing with aggression is to learn to anticipate when it might occur and prevent those situations from occurring at all -- at least until you have a proper foundation for proceeding with the dog's therapy.

Most situations are predictable. Most owners know what triggers their dog's aggression and can be taught to read their dog's body language signals for the onset of the problem. These are detailed in such books as Understanding Your Dog, by Dr. Michael Fox, The Wolf, by Dr. L. David Mech, and others.

Behavior Modification

The behavior-modification techniques that might be employed in rehabilitating a dominant-aggressive dog are relatively few and are easy enough to understand. The skill comes in knowing which ones go use and how to apply them in specific instances.

Most commonly used are counter-conditioning, habituation, and systematic desensitization -- frequently in conjunction with drug therapy. Here is a thumbnail description of each:

Counterconditioning -- Teaching the dog a more appropriate response to the same stimuli, changing the dog's reaction to whatever prompted the aggression;

Habituation -- In effect, getting him bored with the situation that formerly triggered the aggression;

Systematic desensitization -- Gradually introducing situations that have triggered the aggression and reinforcing anything that even comes close to the new, desirable, behaviors, then slowly increasing the various components of the stimulus -- one at a time -- such as duration, intensity, and so on.

How Pack-Survival Instincts May Be Involved

The sad truth is that owners frequently misunderstand how the dog perceives what they intend to communicate. Dogs have their own sets of signals for taking charge -- including their own rules for giving and accepting affection. The dog that approaches the owner and offers affection may not be as much of a concern as the one that physically solicits or demands affection, so we'll concentrate on that here.

We all love our dogs -- sometimes too well. We tend to forget that dogs do not see life the way humans do. Dogs are animals -- animals with teeth that are used to correct or

protect, not just to chew. When we give our dogs the wrong signals of who's in charge, of what we are likely to do, or of what the outcome will be for them, the more dominant ones try to take over. They do it with their mouths -- by barking, howling, snarling, snapping and biting. It's just that simple.

If dogs could hang a needlepoint over their beds, it would probably quote the famous statesman who said, "Either lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way!" If dogs could also speak, they might interpret this to mean: "Either you lead me or I'll lead you. And, if that doesn't work, well go 'round and 'round until we get this all straightened out."

A Dog Tests for Status

For wolf packs to survive, they need a leader at all times. And dogs have the same strong pack instincts as do wolves. Most specimens in most breeds have an inner drive strong enough to cause them to at least go through the motions of being ready to rise to the top, should the leader become disabled or removed through some misfortune.

Although the drive may be weakened in some breeds when compared with wolves, and almost nonexistent in other breeds, it is, nonetheless, still present. In many spaniels, it is readily evident -- almost as much so as it is in terriers. Yet both kinds of dogs can, and do, make wonderful pets with proper socialization. In fact, we have bred, owned, trained, and competed Jack Russell Terriers since 1989. Our dogs are known for their friendly dispositions and strong desire and are frequently in the ribbons in field events as well as show.

Proper breeding and socialization are absolutely essential. And that is the key: Most dogs frequently test to determine who is in charge, yet these interactions are totally missed by their owners more often than not. Unfortunately, when we point these out to some owners, they tend to gloss over what we show them and try to compare their old dog with the aggressive one, saying "We did that with our other dog, and he never bit anyone."

All dogs are different, just as all people are different. It is unfair to the dog -- and of little value to the owner -- to compare a previous dog's behavior with a present one's.

How Owner Personalities Affect Dogs Behaviors

It is reasonable, however, to consider how owners' own personalities might lead to certain kinds of behaviors in their dogs. How they interact with their dogs profoundly influences what those dogs do, or try to do. When owners don't know the dogs' "behavior code" they can -- and often do -- inadvertently encourage, reinforce, heighten, and even provoke a dog's aggression.

Much of the problem occurs when owners do things that are extreme in terms of the dog's own standards for behavior. For example, a puppy that is allowed to "teethe" on owners' flesh, or make playful nipping attacks on their owners, can develop into an adult dog that uses its mouth in quite dangerous ways.

The Owner As the Source of the Dog's "Problems"

Several interactions' between dogs and owners help to determine what behaviors the dog will ultimately express. As a quick reference, we cluster owners into two groups: the disciplinarian owner and the over solicitous owner. Both tend to be overly physical and overly demonstrative. The disciplinarian tends to roughhouse and punish; the over- solicitous owner tends to coddle and bribe.

We have owners go over two checklists (disciplinarian/ over-solicitous) and answer each question honestly. If they check ten or more answers out of either group they may be looking at the root cause of their dog's problem. Themselves. In some cases, as few as two or three owner behaviors in either group may have been enough to initiate, maintain, or escalate the dog's aggressive behavior.

When there are disciplinarian and oversolicitous owners in the dog's household, or -- worse yet -- when one person in the family shows up on both lists, the dog is certain to be receiving mixed messages. This can lead to confusion, anxiety, frustration, and, frequently, one or more forms of aggression.

What to Do

In addressing all forms of behavior problems, Starfire has owners start with my Rapport Skills(c) exercise program. This is published, with photographs, in my book, Training Your Dog for BIRDWORK. It is also available in our manual, How to Be A Dog's Leader. These procedures offer a sound way to reestablish owner leadership, safely and humanely. In fact, the first seven chapters of the BIRDWORK book provide a solid foundation for the successful training of any dog of any breed for any purpose. The Rapport Skills(c) are based upon my studies of wolf behavior and how leader wolves establish or maintain control over their packs.

From that, I examined the leadership and "followership" behaviors that still survive in domesticated dogs and then developed an even briefer list of human approximations of the same behaviors. Then I developed these so that owners can follow them to either assume leadership or reinforce their dog's subordinate role.

Owners who carry out the Rapport Skills(c) and other techniques found in the book's first seven chapters usually achieve a successfully changed relationship in about ten days. Once an aggressive dog of any type is accepting its owners' leadership well, progress with behavior modification is usually rapid.

What Else Can Be Done?

More than four million dogs are put to death each year because owners were unable to take charge of their dogs' behaviors. Owners of aggressive dogs need a better understanding of what dogs do and why, and how people's behaviors affect their dogs. They need to learn how to give the proper kind of love and affection, and they need to practice consistency and a proper measure of "tough love." Dogs' lives are lost for the following reasons as much as any others: Self-indulgent "love" by owners, an attitude that dogs should be left "natural" and untrained, or the belief that dogs misbehave out of "spite."

Properly rearing a dog is akin to raising a child correctly. It requires reasonable restrictions in the dog's activities, and giving the dog some semblance of responsibility, even if the owners simply require the dog to comply with basic obedience commands periodically.

Obedience training also requires, among other things, keeping each task short and simple so the dog has a chance to succeed, and an understanding of the rules of positive reinforcement as opposed to "bribing" the dog. Patience and consistency are also important. Owning a dog is a responsibility: it is your job to be your dog's leader -- he's not cut out for the task of running your household. Seek professional guidance at the first sign of aggression, because the quicker you get help with a dominant-aggressive dog, the more likely his successful rehabilitation will be.

Keep in mind that this article is not intended as a therapy program. It offers none of the detailed, specific guidance needed to rehabilitate any given aggressive dog. This article is published to inform, not to instruct. Neither the author nor the editor/publisher can be held responsible for the outcome of any reader's use of the information it contains.


The material contained in this article is intended to provide accurate and authoritative information on the subject covered. By its nature, the article can not provide the complete and detailed guidance required by every individual in every situation. The material is thereby offered with the proviso that it is not the intent of the publisher, the editors or the author to render professional counsel on the matter covered and said persons can not be help liable for any use thereof. If special assistance is required, the services of an expert authority should be sought.

Stephen C. Rafe has trained, hunted and competed bird dogs -- and has helped owners train their dogs -- for nearly 20 years. His book, Training Your Dog for BIRDWORK, was nominated as 1988 Training Book of the Year by the Dog Writers Association of America. His cure systems for dogs that fear gunfire, thunder or fireworks are considered by professionals and owners to be the most effective available. Steve is also the author of Your New Baby and Bowser and numerous manuals and pamphlets on training and behavior. He responds to all questions without charge at: Starfire, P.O. Box 3119, Warrenton, VA, 20188-1819. Tel / Fax: (540) 349-1039, E-mail: steve-rafe@erols.com.

FOR ADDITIONAL READING:

Canine and Feline Behavioral Therapy, Lea & Febiger, 1985

Pet News, Vol., 1, No. 6, pp. 18-20, July/Aug., 1976

Animal Behavior Consultant Newsletter, Vol. 3, No.2, April, 1986

Animal Health Newsletter, Vol. 2, No. 9, Cornell University, 1985

The Veterinary Annual, "Aggressive Behavior in the English Cocker Spaniel," 24th issue, John C. Wright, Ltd., Bristol, England

Applied Animal Ethology, 10:45-61, "Aggressive Behavior of Dogs Kept as Companion Animals: Classification and Influence of Sex, Reproductive Status and Breed"

Commun. Behav. Biology, Part A, 2:65, 1968, "Kinds of Aggression and Their Physiological Basis"


About the Author

STEPHEN C. RAFE is the founder of Starfire, an organization which has specialized in the study and teaching of behavior-based communications in animals and humans since 1984. His website can be seen at: http://starfire.safsoft.net. He has done comparative studies of the behaviors of dogs and wolves and has developed a model of human personality based upon approach and avoidance behaviors and applied it effectively to dogs. Rafe is also the developer of noiseshyness cure systems acclaimed by veterinarians at U.S. and Canadian conferences and in veterinary publications. It has been featured in Cornell University's Animal Health Newsletter, Capers - Canine Behavior Newsletter, and elsewhere. Cornell has offered to study Rafe's method to determine what makes it more effective than others.

Rafe is the author of two highly acclaimed dog books that emphasize on behavior-based training. The first is: Training Your Dog for BIRDWORK (Denlinger's Publishers, 1988). It was nominated as 1988 Training Book of the Year by the Dog Writers Association of America and is now in its fourth printing. One of its sections was endorsed by Dr. J.P. Scott who also collaborated with Rafe in the development of this work. The second book, Your New Baby and Bowser (Denlinger's Publishers, 1991) was endorsed by Dr. Richard Lore.

His leading-edge writings have also appeared frequently in publications of the Animal Behavior Society. In all, he has published more than 200 by-lined articles in major national and international publications for dog owners, professional trainers and canine behaviorists. These include: Dog World, Dog Fancy, Dogs of Canada, Off-Lead, Capers -- Canine Behavior Newsletter, Animal Behavior Consultant Newsletter, Kennel Doctor, several outdoors and sporting publications, and numerous national breed publications. He has been a Contributing Editor (dog behavior and training) for Quail Unlimited magazine since 1987 and is a regular Contributing Writer to Off-Lead magazine which serves owners, trainers and behaviorists nationally and internationally. His articles on canine aggression, separation anxiety, and other complex issues appear frequently in leading publications for dog owners.

Together with Kathleen Rafe, his wife, he has a commissioned book in progress on Jack Russell Terriers. Professionally, Kathy is head of The Learning Center at Notre Dame Academy where she specializes in working with college-bound high-school students who have learning differences. She has an extensive background in behavior and psychology both in academia and in education. Currently she is completing a masters-degree program in education -- with honors -- at the University of Virginia.

Rafe has designed and conducted seminars on canine behavior and training throughout the United States and in South America -- including a week-long program for the largest dog-training club in Venezuela. His topics include: Understanding Canine Behavior, Solving Canine Behavior Problems, Puppy Socialization, Canine Aggression, Leashwork, and Field Dog Training. Rafe has also designed and conducted canine-behavior seminars for shelter personnel and volunteers, and for dog owners with children. The latter were sponsored by St. Hubert's Giralda and The Regional Office of the Humane Society of the United States.

His background includes six years of psychology and sociology courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. In addition, he is a master practitioner in the science of neurolinguistics. His original research in canine behavior has contributed extensively to this field and several of its leaders have endorsed his work. These include:

Dr. J. P. Scott -- internationally known authority on canine behavior and genetics, for Rafe's development of human approximations of canine interactions to establish and maintain leadership over dogs,

Dr. Michael Fox -- Scientific Director of the Humane Society of the United States, for Rafe's study of the impact of owner interactions on canine behavior,

Dr. David Mech -- internationally known researcher and ethologist in wolf behavior, for Rafe's practical application of the understanding of signaling systems in canines,

Dr. Richard Lore -- one of the nation's foremost authorities on animal behavior and Vice Chair of Graduate Studies in the School of Psychology at Rutgers University (Ret.), for Rafe's procedures for socializing dogs with children,

Dr. Paul Ekman -- four-time recipient of the National Institute of Mental Health Research Scientist of the Year award, for Rafe's development of physiological procedures for changing dogs' dispositions.

Dr. Joseph Yeager -- a pioneer and leader in the field of neuro-linguistics, for Rafe's ability to bring about behavioral change rapidly in both dogs and humans.

Formerly an active member of the Animal Behavior Society, Rafe is currently an active member of the Dog Writers' Association of America. Canine behavior is an avocation for Rafe who takes no personal income from his work in this field. It helps fund an extensive outreach program for dogs and their owners that now reaches four continents. Professionally, he works with clients throughout the world to prepare their spokespersons for many of the key issues of the day. His clients have included Johnson & Johnson during the Tylenol Crisis, AT&T during its divestiture, Dow for the Agent Orange issue, NASA for the Challenger, and President Reagan's Committee on Strategic Forces for the MX Missile Debates.

Since Starfire's inception, the organization has received and responded to referrals from some 200 veterinarians. They have sought out the organization to work with owners whose dogs have had behavior problems ranging from the routine right through severe aggression.

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