We have a new dog!

A while ago we adopted a dog from the local animal shelter. Hector is a large boy, a mix of many breeds, and he is delightful. But he was given up for adoption when he was just under a year old – the humans who had him first said he was too difficult to handle.

He is not difficult to handle. He is eager to please and full of bounce and joy.

Hector didn’t have much in the way of manners or training when he came to us, but we’ve been working on that. We use clicker training, which is so fun and efficient. Fortunately I have a pretty good background in dog training, so that helps. And I’ve learned some good tricks for working with this boy, whose needs are different from those of other dogs I’ve trained.

So sometimes now, there may be posts about dog training intermingled with whatever else I blog about.

If you happen to have a dog and need help with training techniques, I can suggest lots of good books to read and videos to watch.

Your enemy’s enemy is your dog, scientists find

From the Guardian: Your enemy’s enemy is your dog, scientists find.

Dogs do not like people who are mean to their owners and will refuse food offered by people who have snubbed their master, Japanese researchers have said.

The findings reveal that canines have the capacity to cooperate socially – a characteristic found in a relatively small number of species, including humans and some other primates. [continue]

Cameras for dogs

CNET reports of a camera that’s triggered by a dog’s heartbeat.

A black-and-white dog named Grizzler is capturing arty images using a new system from Nikon Asia. Heartography consists of a heartbeat monitor, a camera and a special housing that includes a shutter trigger activated when the dog’s heart rate rises. [continue]

I like Grizzler’s photos, and I’d love to see the photos my dog would take with such a system. Maybe I’d get a shot of the rat in the compost pile!

Dog food in classical Greece

From Wonders and Marvels: Ancient Puppy Chow: Dog Food in Classical Greece.

Chasing game (rabbits, deer, bear, boar) for food and sport was extremely popular in classical antiquity, and dog owners took good care of their hunting companions. Ancient hunting manuals by two Greek historians, Xenophon (b. 430 BC) and Arrian (AD 86) preserve lively practical advice on raising hounds.

So, if you lived in Athens at the time of Socrates and owned a Laconian hunting hound like those depicted on Greek vases, what would you feed them? Ordinary pups get barley bread softened with cow’s milk or whey. But more valuable puppies eat their bread soaked in sheep or goat milk. You might add a little blood from the animal you expect your puppy to hunt. At dinner with your family, you scoop soft chunks of bread from the center of a loaf to wipe grease from your fingers—and toss them to your dog, supplemented with bones and other table scraps, perhaps even a basin of meat broth. After a sacrifice or banquet, you make a special treat: a lump of ox liver dredged in barley meal and roasted in the coals. Naturally, as a matter of professional courtesy, you share any rabbits, stags, or boars with your faithful hunting partners. [continue]

No dogs allowed?

Ha! No problem. Look what Smartdogs’ Weblog found in a 1939 issue of Popular Science:

Signs reading "No Dogs Allowed" mean nothing to Miss Jeanne Lorraine, of New York City, since she taught her twelve-year-old pet toy collie, Jiggs, to drape himself around her neck and masquerade as a fur piece. The trick first worked on a clerk at a residential hotel that barred pets and Miss Lorraine has been using it ever since to take her dog through subways, past customs officers, on railroad coaches, and into other places where canine companions are not welcomed. [continue]

Baby monkey gets his own guard dog

From Ananova: Baby monkey gets his own guard dog.

A Chinese zoo has given an orphan monkey its own guard dog to stop it being bullied by bigger primates.

Keepers at Jiaozuo City Zoo said the monkey was always being bullied and they had intervened to save his life several times.

"So we put a dog in the monkey cage, hoping he can protect the orphan,” a zoo spokesman told the China News Network.

The zoo said the dog, Sai Hu, does his job very well.

"Whenever the baby monkey gets bullied, he [continue]

City uses DNA to fight dog poop

Wow, it’s not even an Onion article, nor is this April 1st. From Reuters: City uses DNA to fight dog poop. (Are they serious? Really?)

An Israeli city is using DNA analysis of dog droppings to reward and punish pet owners.

Under a six-month trial programme launched this week, the city of Petah Tikva, a suburb of Tel Aviv, is asking dog owners to take their animal to a municipal veterinarian, who then swabs its mouth and collects DNA.

The city will use the DNA database it is building to match faeces to a registered dog and identify its owner. [continue]

Sheesh. I’d rather deal with dog poop than Orwellian nonsense. But no matter, because isn’t this a great way to get back at those neighbours one doesn’t like? All one has to do is to steal a little dog poop from the the neighbours’ garbage, and leave that poop in front of the police station. Done!

But of course nobody would ever do that, so the DNA poop-analyis program is foolproof.

(Link found here at Scribal Terror.)

Why more offices are going to the dogs

From Why more offices are going to the dogs.

At Sermo, a Web company whose offices resemble a Romper Room for adults – complete with beanbags and arcade machines – finding the CEO is easy. Just look for his dogs. This particular afternoon, Daniel Palestrant’s two dachshunds act like draft stoppers outside their master’s conference-room door. Mr. Palestrant is something of a Pied Piper for dogs and instituted the office’s pet-friendly policy. As such, he loves to see employees playing with Lily, a Yorkshire terrier that treats a pink tennis ball like a homing beacon, or stroking Maddie, a woolly bichon frisé.

"What does it mean to work in a young, fast-growing start-up company? A little bit of chaos. A little bit of cleaning up everybody’s mess. And you can’t take yourself too seriously," says Palestrant, who founded Sermo as an online community for physicians. "We started finding that people who are most comfortable with dogs around are the one’s who gravitated toward the Sermo culture."

For many companies, Friday’s ninth annual Take Your Dog to Work Day will be the closest they get to experiencing Sermo’s roly-poly atmosphere. Yet pet-friendly workplaces are on the rise. They’re part of a broader axis shift: A younger generation is rejecting formal office culture in favor of fun workplaces that are fulfilling. [continue]

Moscow’s Metro, a Stray Dog’s Life Is Pretty Cushy, and Zoologists Notice

From the Wall Street Journal: In Moscow’s Metro, a Stray Dog’s Life Is Pretty Cushy, and Zoologists Notice.

MOSCOW — Like human commuters, this city’s stray dogs can often be spotted traveling on the subway, waiting patiently for a train to pull in and its doors to slide open.

In Soviet times, dogs were barred from Moscow’s metro. Today, however, they are so common there — curling up on empty seats, nuzzling their neighbors, lounging in stations — that there is even a Web site devoted to them: www.metrodog.ru.

A tiny group of zoologists study Moscow’s stray dogs and how they’re adapting to a rapidly changing city. Among them is Alexei Vereshchagin. He set out to study wolves — "such a romantic creature," he says — but as science funding crumbled with the Soviet government, he couldn’t.

So the 31-year-old, rust-bearded Mr. Vereshchagin started studying strays instead, and loved it. "The behavior of stray dogs is like theater," he says.

As the number of cars in Moscow has exploded, and their speed increased from the days of Soviet clunkers, strays have learned to cross the street with pedestrians. They can also be seen occasionally waiting for a green light. [continue]

Buried dogs were divine “escorts” for ancient Americans

From National Geographic: Buried dogs were divine “Escorts” for ancient Americans.

Hundreds of prehistoric dogs found buried throughout the southwestern United States show that canines played a key role in the spiritual beliefs of ancient Americans, new research suggests.

Throughout the region, dogs have been found buried with jewelry, alongside adults and children, carefully stacked in groups, or in positions that relate to important structures, said Dody Fugate, an assistant curator at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Fugate has conducted an ongoing survey of known dog burials in the area, and the findings suggest that the animals figured more prominently in their owners’ lives than simply as pets, she said.

"I’m suggesting that the dogs in the New World in the Southwest were used to escort people into the next world, and sometimes they were used in certain rituals in place of people," Fugate said.

To conduct her research, Fugate collected data on known dog burials and urged her archaeologist colleagues to note when canine remains were found during excavations.

"I have a database now of almost 700 dog burials, and a large number of them are either [continue]

A perfect career for dogs

From msnbc.com: These dogs have a nose for doo-doo.

Ally has a nose for wolves. Gator can sniff out grizzlies. And Tucker really knows his orcas. Or rather, what they’ve left behind.

Among the growing number of scat-detection dogs used to track wildlife by land or by sea, the canines employed by the University of Washington’s Center for Conservation Biology are showing that no technology can yet outdo their know-how for doo-doo.

Samuel Wasser, the center’s director, said feces is the easiest part of an animal to collect and a "treasure trove" of vital information. Apart from diet, scat can reveal the species, sex and identity of an individual through DNA, while released hormones can record an animal’s nutritional state, reproductive status and stress levels.

Dogs possess such an extraordinary sense of smell that they can distinguish among the feces of 18 species at once, Wasser said, making them ideal tracking aids for conservation biologists hoping to cover a lot of ground. Or water. Beyond helping document grizzly and black bear behavior in Alberta’s vast Jasper National Park, the dogs have located floating feces from endangered North Atlantic right whales in Canada’s Bay of Fundy and from the Pacific Northwest’s declining orca population. Remarkably, some of the poop snoopers perched on the bows of research vessels have tracked down whale scat more than one nautical mile away. [continue]

Dining with dogs in St Louis

I know almost nothing about St Louis, Missouri, but it’s just captured my attention. From ksdk.com: St. Louis Mayor Signs ‘Doggie Dining Bill’.

St. Louis has become the first city in Missouri to allow dog owners to bring their dogs along when they go to restaurant patios and sidewalk cafes.

The so-called "Doggie Dining Bill" was signed into law by Mayor Francis Slay, at Forest Park, Sunday. The measure does not allow dogs to occupy a chair or sit on the table, and they must remain on a leash. Still, under the table, they are masters of all they survey. [continue]

How stunningly sensible.

Why is the pet food industry killing our pets?

From Alternet: Why Is the Pet Food Industry Killing Our Pets?

The commercial pet foods industry rakes in billions of dollars annually. In exchange for our dollars, we trust the companies to provide our pets with quality nutrition. The recent pet food recall demonstrated that our trust has been misplaced. But while many were shocked by the tragic deaths of beloved pets, many more would be shocked to know that the pet food industry has a long history of mistreating our pets. I first began researching the industry in 1990, when my two dogs became ill after eating a well-known commercial food.

The first thing that came to light was the fact that the pet food industry is virtually self-regulated. The only requirement that the industry must meet is to adhere to the Labeling Act, which states that food must contain the name and address of the producing company, whether the product is intended for dogs or cats, the weight of the food, and the guaranteed analysis. The source of the protein included in the analysis can be anything: condemned material from slaughterhouses, road-kill, zoo animals and even euthanized companion animals. Of course, the industry denies all this, especially the use of dead dogs and cats in pet foods. However, a senior official from a large rendering conglomerate in the United States wrote to me, "I know of no rendering company in the U.S. that will segregate companion animals from the rest of the raw material they process." [continue]

Continue reading

Tail-wagging research

From the New York Times: If You Want to Know if Spot Loves You So, It’s in His Tail.

…there is another, newly discovered, feature of dog body language that may surprise attentive pet owners and experts in canine behavior. When dogs feel fundamentally positive about something or someone, their tails wag more to the right side of their rumps. When they have negative feelings, their tail wagging is biased to the left.

A study describing the phenomenon, "Asymmetric tail-wagging responses by dogs to different emotive stimuli," appeared in the March 20 issue of Current Biology. The authors are Giorgio Vallortigara, a neuroscientist at the University of Trieste in Italy, and two veterinarians, Angelo Quaranta and Marcello Siniscalchi, at the University of Bari, also in Italy.

"This is an intriguing observation," said Richard J. Davidson, director of the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. It fits with a large body of research showing emotional asymmetry in the brain, he said. [continue]

(You’ll probably need a password in order to read the full article.)

From wolves to dogs in half a century?

The Victoria Times Colonist notes that "an evolutionary biologist at the University of Victoria is working on the hypothesis that a kinder, gentler breed of wolf was developed in half a century." Here’s the article: We didn’t go to the dogs — canines went to the people.

That dogs descended from wolves is commonly accepted. So is the theory that this evolution took about 14,000 years.

Or did it? Crockford suggests the metamorphosis could have taken place over the span of a single human life — between 20 and 40 years.

Crockford points to a 40-year experiment by geneticist Dmitry K. Belyaev and his Siberian research group at the Institute of Cytology and Genetics, where silver foxes were selectively bred for gentleness.

As expected, each succeeding generation was more docile than the last.

What was not expected was that within 20 generations, changes in appearance emerged among the litters. Some pups displayed piebald markings, curled tails and drooping ears. Some also developed another distinctive dog behaviour: They barked.

Foxes breed annually, wolves every two years, so if a similar progression occurred on wolves’ journey toward domestication, it could have taken place over 40 years, still within a single human lifespan.

That, says Crockford, would explain a number of archeological findings from sites dating back between 4,000 and 14,000 years. At these sites, most of which are in the Americas, canines were buried atop humans, the dogs set in curled postures, as though asleep. [continue]

Continue reading

Safe food for carnivorous pets

By now you’ve heard about the pet food recall, yes? From ctv.ca: Owners fear for their pets after huge food recall.

Concern among pet owners is growing as officials look for the source of contamination that prompted the recall of more than 90 dog and cat foods across North America.

The recall by Menu Foods, based in Streetsville, Ont., involves 51 brands of dog food and 40 brands of cat food, including Iams, Nutro and Eukanuba. [continue]

Imagine how you’d feel if your dog or cat were to suffer serious kidney failure or die because of this. Just imagine! So here’s a note on pet diets, which you might think of as a public service announcement.

Why feed commercial pet foods to dogs and cats? Those animals are carnivores, so why not just feed them raw meat on the bone, plus a selection of veggies and fruits? This is what pet owners did for thousands of years before the commercial pet industry came along to sell us things our pets’ wild ancestors would never have considered eating. (How often do you hear of a wolf hunting the wild kibble, adding grains to his diet, or cooking his food?)

If you feed a biologically appropriate raw food diet you’ll know your pet is getting good quality food, and there’s no way that the pet food industry’s nonsense will hurt your pet. Plus you’re likely to have a way healthier animal. No need to believe me, though – check out some the links on this resource page.

We now return to reguarly scheduled programming.

Can your dog humanize the office?

From the New York Times: Can Your Dog Humanize the Office?.

Take Your Dog to Work began as a quirk of the dot-com boom — another perk that employers could offer to employees to persuade them to stay.

It had been thought that the patter of paws would go the way of casual Fridays and massages at your desk, but, alas, what has been disappearing instead are salary increases, fully funded pension plans and robust health insurance. The dogs, it seems, are here to stay, based on the volume of e-mail that I receive from readers.

This would come as a relief to Riley, my 6-year-old Wheaten, whose day job is to lie at my feet and gaze at me adoringly while I type. (His night job is to lie at the edge of the bed and do pretty much the same thing.) But while his work is in a home office, his comrades-in-paws are in office buildings across the country, and not just as watchdogs any more. [continue]

(I don’t think you’ll need a password to read the rest of this article.)