sealPurdue Lifestyles Briefs

February 1998

Choose a puppy based on its breeder, veterinarian advises

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: A color photo of Andrew Luescher working with a dog to help overcome behavior problems is available. The photo is called Luescher/Puppies.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- When selecting a puppy for a pet, choosing the breeder may be more important than choosing the breed, suggests a Purdue University animal behaviorist.

"Not all breeds of dogs may be suited to you or your family's lifestyle, but for certain you want an animal that comes from a good breeder," says Dr. Andrew Luescher. He is a veterinarian and head of the Purdue Animal Behavior Clinic, which treats problem pets, horses and herd animals.

He suggests getting information on a number of breeds of dogs and narrowing your choice to a few possibilities. Then visit breeders, and select one you trust and can go back to for help if problems occur. "Take a look at both parent animals, and ask the breeder if they have been tested for problems that may be common to that breed," he says. "A good breeder will also give you references to others who have purchased puppies with a similar genetic background."

Some behaviorists have proposed procedures to test puppies for dominance, because a dominant animal may become more aggressive toward its master. However, studies show that dominance can't be detected in animals that young. "I suggest people choose a puppy that is friendly, one that doesn't show fear, and one that's outgoing and interested in you," he says.

He says one of the best ways for owners to avoid behavior problems is by enrolling their new pups in puppy classes as early as possible. "Puppy classes teach animals how to interact with humans and other dogs. They also teach obedience," he says.

Luescher says the window of opportunity for animals to learn to socialize with humans is up to about 12 weeks of age. He says puppies should be handled a lot while they are young, but should not be sold before they are 7 to 8 weeks old.

He also advises owners to be aware of another important stage in a dog's development. "Between 8 and 10 weeks, puppies go through a fear period," he says. "If something significantly scares them during this time, they may be ruined for life."

Luescher estimates that between 40 percent and 50 percent of pets have some form of a behavioral problem. He says behavior problems account for a significant number of the animals surrendered to humane shelters each year.

Among the most common behavior problems are aggression toward the owner or strangers, separation anxiety, fear, and house soiling. He says all of these problems can be treated with behavioral modification techniques such as desensitization and counter-conditioning. "Overall, behavioral modification techniques curb animals of their behavioral problems with a 65 percent success rate," he says.

CONTACT: Luescher, (765) 494-8775; e-mail,

Purdue professor: Consumers in constant search of a sale

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- A Purdue University marketing professor says consumer purchasing behavior is changing thanks to corporate emphasis on short-term profits.

"We've long suspected that repeated exposure to short bursts of special price reductions and promotional activity such as couponing and special offers would weaken brand loyalty among consumers and eventually harm long-term profits within individual categories," says Doug Bowman, assistant professor of management at Purdue's Krannert Graduate School of Management. "But it's been only recently that we've had enough data to confirm our suspicions."

A category is a specific type of product such as laundry soap or furniture polish.

Bowman and Carl F. Mela, assistant professor in the College of Business Administration at the University of Notre Dame, and Kamel Jedidi, associate professor in the Graduate School of Business at Columbia University, collaborated on the consumer behavior research. Their study examined the purchasing behavior of more than 1,500 Midwestern households over an eight-year period. The results will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Marketing Research.

Bowman says past research has typically held that years of consumer exposure to promotions had not changed buying behavior.

"Our research finds the contrary," he says. "We find that consumers now 'lie-in-wait' for a good sale on a product before they buy. They may buy more of an item during the sales period, or stockpile items, and that makes a short-term spike in product revenue, but when the item returns to regular price, it's likely to sit on the shelf."

CONTACT: Bowman, (765) 494-4446; e-mail,

Separation anxiety No. 1 childhood anxiety, experts say

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Many children fear the boogie man and the monster under the bed, but some children's fears have nothing to do with make-believe creatures. For them, separating from their parents -- even for a short time -- creates great physical or emotional distress.

"More children suffer from anxiety disorders than any other psychological problem," says Wendy Nilsen, graduate therapist in the Purdue University Anxiety Clinic. "The most common type of anxiety in children is fear of being separated from their parents." These children fear that they will become hurt or lost while away from their parents or that their parents will be in danger.

Nilsen says a child's natural temperament can play a part in separation anxiety. Also, many children go through a developmental stage where they fear strangers or separation from their parents -- usually starting at about age 9 months and ending about age 2, says Scott Vrana, associate professor of psychological sciences and director of the Anxiety Clinic. However, for some children the problem persists throughout childhood, even causing problems in adolescence and adulthood.

"Very often, it is not seen until the child starts preschool, or a parent takes a job outside the home for the first time," Vrana says. "Sometimes life stresses, such as a serious illness or changing schools, can trigger separation anxiety."

How do you know if your child needs help dealing with the problem? "If the child doesn't calm down within 10 minutes after you leave, or if the anxiety goes on for weeks -- those are signs that your child may need counseling for the problem," Vrana says. Other signals: A child who worries to the point of becoming sick or who refuses to play or sleep-over away from home.

Although parents generally don't cause the problem, they can contribute to it, Vrana says. "If children say they don't want to go to school or day care, and you let them stay home and play games and watch videos, then you aren't helping the situation," he says.

Vrana and Nilsen offer tips for all parents faced with children upset about being apart from them for a period of time:

CONTACTS: Vrana and Nilsen, (765) 494-6996; e-mail,

New history course explores the space age

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- The symbol of tomorrow has become a subject of yesterday.

A few universities have started teaching space exploration as history. At Purdue University, often called the "mother of astronauts," this history is taught with a global perspective.

"Certainly we'll be dealing with some of the science and technology that was developed through space exploration," says Michael Smith, the assistant professor of history who designed the course. "But our greatest concentration will be on the politics and culture of space travel; how governments use it and how people appreciate it as a feat of modern science."

Twenty-one Purdue graduates have been selected for space flight, including the first and last men to walk on the moon, and two of the six American astronauts who have served on board Mir, the Russian space station. Smith's research in developing the curriculum put him in contact with historians at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration who say the course is one of only a couple dozen of its kind in the nation.

Smith says he expects the subject matter to draw students from a variety of disciplines.

"Naturally, we're going to get a lot of history majors, but I think it also could be an attractive option for engineering students as well as liberal arts majors with a general interest in space," he says.

Smith says the course fits into the recent trend to create history courses that defy national boundaries. "Historians tend to teach the history of a single country, but this course offers a much more global perspective," Smith explains. "We're starting to see more and more of this type of instruction at the college level."

Smith's interest in the topic developed out of his studies of 20th century Russian and Soviet history.

"Space exploration is a very good topic for comparative Soviet and American historical studies," Smith says. "The two space programs have been very much the same in terms of achievement and technology, but their institutional frameworks are very different."

The course, which is being offered for the first time this semester, cover such topics as the interaction between human values and space exploration; the implications of satellite technology for international relations, the global economy and ecology; and the "cold war" in space between the United States and the former Soviet Union.

"The cultural values, scientific institutions, military imperatives and public policies of these two countries are very different, and it's all reflected in their space programs," Smith explains.

CONTACT: Smith, (765) 494-4122; e-mail,

Compiled by Beth Forbes, (765) 494-9723; e-mail,
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,


Purdue animal behaviorist Andrew Luescher (far right) walks Tuggy past an assistant holding a German shepherd in an effort to correct Tuggy's aggression problems. Luescher says behavior modification efforts work in about 65 percent of cases. Owner Drago Panich of Lafayette looks on in the background. (Purdue News Service Photo by David Umberger)
Color photo, electronic transmission, and Web and ftp download available. Photo ID: Luescher.puppies
Download here.

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