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Asheville: Dog City, USA?


Asheville has been dubbed Beer City,  Bee City and even Climate City.  In the future, Dog City may be added to that title.  A local dog behavior specialist is on a mission to make the area the most dog friendly place in the country. 

But this isn’t a campaign to encourage more water bowls and dog biscuits, it’s about retraining people.  WCQS’s Helen Chickering explains.

Kim Brophey, “I’ve got the Elmo voice down,   Look at the little puppy!”

HC: That’s what I do                                                                                                       

Credit WCQS
Certified behavior consultant Kim Brophey, with her dog Rocky. Brophey is on a mission to help pet owners understand the science behind their dog's behavior.

“And some dogs like it and other dogs hate it, " says Kim Brophey

HC: Why do we always talk like a baby when we are talking to a dog?    

Kim Brophey, “It’s the oxytocin, it’s just all of that pumping through our veins, which is the feel good hormone, the nurturing hormone.

Kim Brophey is  a certified behavior consultant, her specialty,  dogs.

" So when we nurture it has the same chemical effect on our body as when we’re being nurtured.  It’s a maternal thing, it makes us love our babies, and so we do it to our dogs when we’re hopelessly stroking their soft fuzzy hair, " says Brophey.

Which is just what Brophey is doing to her Border Collie Rocky, as she explains the science behind the bond between people and their pets and how she is using that science to help pet owners rethink how they interact with their four legged friends.  

“Bless You!” says Brophey to Rocky, who just sneezed, “Sneezing he’s doing,  is an anticipatory calming signal, a lot of times dogs will do that when they like something it’s sort of revving up to something they are anticipating, he does it a lot.”

Does a yawn mean your dog is tired? What about shaking it off? In this clip, Kim Brophey discusses what's behind some of the common dog behaviors.

Along with her training background, Brophey has a degree in Applied Ethology, that’s the study of animal behavior

“In particular, what happens when you take a captive domesticated animal and put it in a human environment and how human behavior interacts with that animal behavior,” says Brophey.                              It’s an interdisciplinary approach that considers everything from genetics to the environment, and Brophey is using it in her campaign to help make Asheville the Dog Friendliest city in the country. To do that, she says the city needs to be more like Germany.                                                                                                                                      “I’m really aiming one of the first cities in theUnited States, which we’re trying to stake a claim as Dog City USA,  here in Asheville,  modeling after places like Germany where people take their dogs everywhere, restaurants, stores, dogs don’t interact with other dogs and the people don’t pet other people’s dogs,” saysBrophey.

HC: Not the case here in the U.S., where all that nurturing oxytocin seeking dog friendly behavior has created a culture of oversocialized dogs says Brophey.

“One of my favorites, is the practice that we have the right to pet everyone’s dog and that a good dog wants everyone to pet them. We treat them in a way, like fuzzy prostitutes, that we have somehow been globally entitled to manhandle, “says Brophey, “The idea that we stop and pet everyone’s dog or that all dogs should stop an socialize in the middle of the street is what has created mass problem we’re having with leash reactivity and unmanageability, that is the number one problem behavior consultants are seeing.”

Behavior problems, say Brophey that often lead to labels like bad dog, lazy owner.   Understanding your dog’s behavior, she says, is an important first step.

“It’s a relationship and is just as complicated as a human relationship,  oversimplifying that dog is not going to help anything. We have to approach this as an almost family therapy perspective,                                               helping everybody getting on the same page and have a contract of a relationship,” she says. 

Brophey is writing a book on the subject, and is working to educate pet owners and local business owners, with hopes that when it comes to man’s best friend, Asheville will be a bit more like Germany. For WCQS news I’m Helen Chickering

Want to learn more?

Kim Brophey is giving a presentation about the science behind dog behavior on Friday, January 27, at a special Beer City Science Pub hosted by the Asheville Museum of Science, The Collider, the Asheville Humane Society and The Dog Door.     The event is free and open to the public. Click here for more information.

In addition, on Friday afternoon there will be a special Science Pup adoption event at the Asheville Museum of Science, click here for more information.

The full interview with Kim Brophey who talks about the science behind animal behavior, the oversocialization of dogs, and her mission to help Asheville become Dog City, USA.

Helen Chickering is a host and reporter on Blue Ridge Public Radio. She joined the station in November 2014.