Showing posts with label Dogs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dogs. Show all posts

December 12, 2013

Does Your Dog Tilts His Head When You Talk to Him/Her?


I have fond memories of my Beagle, Darby, coming into the kitchen when I was preparing dinner. I would casually chat with him, and when I would turn to him to say something he would cock his head to the side in a most endearing manner. Many people report that when they are speaking to their dog their pet often tilts its head to the side, and some have asked me about why that happens.
dog pet canine head tilt shape muzzle communication human bond gaze voice

Unfortunately, up to now, there is not been much research on this issue, although there has been some speculation. Some people have suggested that dogs tilt their heads to the side when we speak to them so that one ear can hear more clearly what we are saying. Others have suggested that it is a social signal—perhaps the dog recognizes that we respond to that particular posture in a positive way (because it is so cute) and therefore the dog adopts this position because they are more likely to get smiles and rewards when they do.

I suppose it is because I worked and did research in the area of sensory perception for many years that it dawned upon me that the reason some dogs tilt their heads when we are speaking to them has to do more with vision, rather than hearing and social endearment. Try the following simple experiment; hold your fist up to your nose as in the figure here. Now, in effect, you are viewing the world with a head shape that has a muzzle like that of a dog. If you now look at a person's face you will find that the muzzle will some of your vision, and reduce your ability to see the lower part of the face. Remember it is this part of the face, particularly the mouth region, which is a vital component of human emotional expressions. Next, still with your muzzle in place, tilt your head when you are looking at the face. With this head posture you can now clearly see the mouth region.
 We know that dogs continually scan our faces for information and to read our emotional state. Hence it is likely that one reason why dogs may tilt their heads when we talk to them is because they want to see our faces better, and to compensate for the way in which their muzzles obscure part of their vision.
Of course this idea was simply speculation, and no data were available. However it suddenly dawned upon me that there was an easy way to at least get a bit of data to confirm or disprove this hypothesis. Some dogs have flatter faces. Technically they are said to havebrachycephalic heads. These would include dogs like Pugs, Boston Terriers and Pekingese. With a less prominent muzzle extension, there should be a reduced amount of visual obstruction, and these dogs would need to tilt their head less. To see if this was the case I conducted a survey on the Internet.
The survey was very brief, and people simply had to answer how often their dog tilted their heads when they were speaking to them, using a scale which ran: never, seldom, occasionallyfrequently, most of the time, oralways. When I scored the data I combined the responses of frequently, most of the time, and always, an indication of "head tilting dogs". I also asked the people who responded to tell me for the breed of their dog, and for people with mixed breeds to select the approximate head shape of their dog from a set of six photos.
I got a very good response to this survey since 582 people completed it. Of these, 62% reported that their dogs frequently to always tilted their heads when they spoke to them. In the overall sample 186 people had dogs with the flatter brachycephalic heads. When we divide the group into those dogs with the more pronounced muzzles (technically those dogs with longer narrower heads like collies or greyhounds are doclichocephalic, while those with a wider intermediate length muzzles, like retrievers or beagles are called mesaticephalic) versus those with the flatter faces, we do get a difference in the frequency of head tilting. 71% of the owners of the dogs with the larger muzzles report that their dogs often tilt their heads when spoken to. On the other hand only 52% of the owners of the flatter faced, brachycephalic dogs reported that their dogs often tilted their heads when spoken to. This is a statistically significant difference that clearly suggests that head shape, and size of the muzzle does influence head tilting in dogs.
Now, of course, 52% of head tilting in the brachycephalic pets is still a large number of dogs, and it may be that even the flatter muzzles do obscure the dog's vision to some degree. If so, these dogs can still benefit visually from tilting their heads. However it is more likely that the fact that a dog's muzzle blocks their vision of the lower part of the human faces that they are trying to look at is just one of the factors that cause dogs to tilt their heads when we talk to them. Nonetheless this is a first step toward finding the answer, and at least we now have a bit of data to work with.

November 16, 2013

Do you Know Where Your Fido Comes From?

8,500-year-old dog remains from Koster site, Greene County, IllinoisThe story of how dogs came to be so closely associated with humans is open to debate

The results of a DNA study suggest that dogs were domesticated in Europe.
No-one doubts that "man's best friend" is an evolutionary off-shoot of the grey wolf, but scientists have long argued over the precise timing and location for their emergence.
The new research, based on a genetic analysis of ancient and modern dog and wolf samples, points to a European origin at least 18,000 years ago.
Olaf Thalmann and colleagues report the investigation in Science magazine.
It adds a further layer of complexity to the story.
Earlier DNA studies have suggested the modern pooch - in all its shapes and sizes - could track its beginnings back to wolves that attached themselves to human societies in the Middle East or perhaps in East Asia as recently as 15,000 years ago.
The problem with these claims is that palaeontologists have found fossils of distinctly dog-looking animals that are 30,000 years old or more.
Dr Thalmann, from Finland's University of Turku, and his team, have had another go at trying to sort through the conflicting DNA evidence.
They compared genetic sequences from a wide range of ancient animals - both dogs and wolves - with material taken from living canines - again, from both dogs and wolves.
This analysis reveals modern dogs to be most closely related to ancient European wolves or dogs - not to any of the wolf groups from outside Europe, nor even to modern European wolves (suggesting the link is with old European wolves that are now extinct). And because the dog remains used in the research are dated to be more than 18,000 years old, it indicates a timing for domestication that is much older than some researchers have previously argued.
If correct, it means dogs started to diverge from wolf populations when humans had yet to settle into fixed, agricultural communities and were still hunting and gathering.
It is possible there were wolves that would follow these hunters, may be at a distance at first, living off the scraps and discards from the humans' big-game kills such as mammoth, before eventually being incorporated into the human groups as they became less wary.
"You can see how wolves benefitted from living near humans because they got these carcases, but humans too would have benefitted," said Dr Thalmann.
"You have to remember that 18,800-32,000 years ago, Europe had much bigger predators than even wolves, such as bears and hyenas. And you can imagine that having wolves living close to you might be a very useful alarm system," he told BBC News. "It's a plausible scenario for the origin of the domestication of dogs."
The latest study is unlikely to be the last word on the subject, however.
Using DNA - and the subtle changes it undergoes over time - to examine animal origins and relationships is a very powerful tool, but far from fool-proof.
One of the problems scientists have is that dog populations have become very mixed over time, as a result of being moved around by their human owners. This complicates the genetic signal.
The difficulty is further amplified by the fact that some dogs have at times also clearly back-bred with wild wolves. Teasing all this apart is very difficult.
A resolution will require more sampling and more analysis, particularly of the core, or nuclear, DNA of ancient animals.
This and many of the previous studies have relied on so-called mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), a small sub-packet of genetic material in cells that, although incredibly useful, does not represent the fullest information possible.
The larger nuclear DNA material could provide the more compelling answers but it is far harder to retrieve, especially in very old bones or fossils. A number of research groups around the world are trying, though.

September 1, 2013

For Those Selfish Gays Not Backing Gay Marriage" I will Not Trust them with baby sitting my dog"

When same-sex marriage was legalized in New York State, it put pressure on gay and lesbian couples to marry, the author says.
All legally wed gay couples, no matter which state they live in, are entitled to the same U.S. federal tax benefits as married heterosexual couples, the Obama administration said on Thursday.
It seems to me that we have reached the point with a gay friendly president and administration, including the people he has appointed for major departments, that gay married couples in which ever state can obtain most if not all of the federal benefits given to heterosexual married couples by the government. All that was on it’s way was DOMA and then to have enough states offering gay marriage for this to be possible and it is today.
We continue the fight that every state honors those marriages but more than that so that it’s citizens that are gay are not discriminated from getting married.

 This is in thanks to the gays that wanted to be married but most of the weight against DOMA came from straights and gays singles like myself who do not see marriage in the cards. We are fighting for it because it is the right thing and because we don’t want discrimination attached to being gay. Those 
gays that oppose it on self serving reason are just that selfish and are not the type of people that I would want to baby sit my dog (if I had one now). At times we have to see the better good particularly when we talk about history breaking chains that have bound us for centuries and with is there comes a bunch of other binds that attaches everyone.

The U.S. Treasury ruling, following a landmark Supreme Court decision in June, means that whether a married gay couple lives in New York, which recognizes gay marriage, or Oklahoma, which does not, federal tax benefits and responsibilities apply.
The Supreme Court on June 26 invalidated a key portion of a 1996 federal law, known as the Defense of Marriage Act, which had defined marriage as between a man and a woman.
There was some uncertainty after the Supreme Court ruling about how the tax status of gay married couples would be treated in dozens of states that have laws against gay marriage.
"Today's ruling provides certainty and clear, coherent tax filing guidance for all legally married same-sex couples nationwide. It provides access to benefits, responsibilities and protections under federal tax law that all Americans deserve," Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said.
There are about 130,000 same-sex married couples in the United States, according to estimates from the Census Bureau.
Gay rights backers said the ruling could prompt same-sex couples in states where gay marriage is not legal to travel to states where it is recognized to wed.
"We will see many more couples from the more than 30 states without marriage equality come to New York," said Nathan Schaeffer, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda.
Under the ruling, effective September 16, gay married couples may file amended tax returns to change their filing status going back to tax years 2010, 2011 and 2012 to seek possible tax refunds, the Treasury Department said in a statement.
A Supreme Court ruling in June made California the 13th of the 50 U.S. states to recognize gay marriage. The District of Columbia also recognizes gay marriage. Thirty-five U.S. states have laws on their books restricting marriage to a man and a woman.
"With today's ruling, committed and loving gay and lesbian married couples will now be treated equally under our nation's federal tax laws, regardless of what state they call home," said Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin.
The ruling means legally married same-sex couples may choose to file their federal taxes as married filing jointly or married filing separately.
Marriage status under federal tax law brings both benefits and penalties. On the plus side, legally married spouses are exempted from the federal estate tax. On the other hand, some gay couples above a certain income threshold may face the "marriage penalty" that some heterosexual couples confront.
An anti-gay marriage group denounced the ruling.
"The Obama administration is intent on forcing same-sex 'marriage' on an unwilling public," said Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage.
While the ruling brings clarity to federal tax returns, it could cause confusion for state returns filed by gay married couples in states that do not recognize their marriages.
In 24 of the states that do not recognize gay marriage, the law requires taxpayers to refer to federal tax returns, setting up a clash between state and federal authorities, the Tax Foundation, a conservative leaning think tank said in a report.
"Today's ruling will likely create administrative headaches for state taxing authorities in states that do not recognize same-sex marriages, because most state income tax regimes begin with federal taxable income as the starting point," Marvin Kirsner, a tax attorney at Greenberg Traurig, wrote in an email.
"States are going to have to issue guidance and I do think political opposition will arise," said Elizabeth Malm, an economist at the Tax Foundation, a free market think tank.
President Barack Obama and many of his fellow Democrats back gay marriage, but the number of supporters in both parties has been increasing in recent years. Republicans were parties to the Supreme Court lawsuit over the Defense of Marriage Act, but were mostly quiet after the court ruled.
A spokesman for John Boehner, the Republican speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, said he had no comment on the latest ruling announced by the Treasury Department.
Separately on Thursday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said same-sex spouses would have access to coverage in the nursing home where their spouse lives under privately run Medicare health insurance plans.
Other government agencies are expected to make announcements soon to square their policies with the Supreme Court ruling.
For example, the Social Security and Veterans administrations have statutes that turn to state law in defining marriage. Gay marriage backers are awaiting clarification from those agencies on treatment of legally married gay couples.
Adam Gonzalez
(also source and Reporting by Kevin Drawbaugh and Kim Dixon; Additional reporting by Edith Honan)

April 1, 2013

Dad Cuts Open Dog To Retrieve Son’s Finger

Dad Shoots Dog To Retrieve Son's Finger

To Luis Brignoni Sr., it was either his son's pinky finger or Sassy, the family dog. He picked the pinky.

Eleven-year-old Fernando Brignoni had stuck his finger in Sassy's cage. The Malamute-wolf mix bit down and refused to let go until she had severed the finger and swallowed it.

The incident happened last week in Bradenton. After the family realized what had happened to the finger, the elder Brignoni, an experienced hunter, grabbed his gun and shot Sassy. With Fernando and another son in the room, Brignoni then dissected the dog.

"So I start cutting her open and they're helping me look for the finger inside the stomach," he told WTSP.

The gruesome effort turned out to be all for naught. Fernando was airlifted to a nearby hospital, but doctors were unable to reattach the finger. Instead they had to attach grafted skin from the boy's arm to cover the remaining stub.

"He might be missing a finger, but his other four are good. 'Cause God is good, you know, he still has four fingers to do everything that he can do with five. He can do with four," the father told the news station.

Local sheriff's officers investigated, but didn't press charges. The incident was deemed an accident.

  Miami New Times  

December 18, 2012

10Golden Retrievers are Coming to Console and Give Warmth to SandyHook

Image: A golden retriever puppy
Like the legendary Saint Bernard who travels through the frozen Alps with a cask of warming brandy attached to its collar, a team of golden retrievers set out from Chicago this weekend with a mission: To help comfort people affected by the shootings Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Lutheran Church Charities, who runs the comfort-dog initiative, sent out the team of 10 golden retrievers with the hope that warm hearts and cold noses could offer some comfort to the residents of Newtown, still reeling from the tragedy that claimed the lives of 20 young students and eight adults, including the shooter. “Dogs are nonjudgmental. They are loving. They are accepting of anyone,” said Tim Hetzner, president of the Addison, Ill., organization, speaking to the ChicagoTribune. “It creates the atmosphere for people to share.” The presence of the dog opens the door for residents who want to pet them while they talk or pray with the dog’s handler.
 The first stop for the dogs was Christ the King Lutheran Church in Newtown, where funerals are planned this week for two of the young victims of the mass shooting. “You could tell which ones …were really struggling with their grief because they were quiet,” Hetzner told the Tribune. “They would pet the dog, and they would just be quiet.”
Sadly, providing solace to victims and survivors of mass shootings is nothing new for the dogs or the organization. The Lutheran Church Charities comfort-dog initiative first started in 2008 at Northern Illinois University, after a mass shooting there in which five students were killed.

October 2, 2012

Good Doggie Bad Mitt, Mutts Vs. Mitt

The meanest political PAC
You think you're upset over how Mitt Romney's been smack-talking about the poor. Dog lovers across the Bay Area are even more disturbed by the way he treats pups.

Because this is the Bay Area, where people like dogs more than kids, a group of canines and their owners are planning to gather at the dog sanctuary of Point Isabel this weekend to protest Romney's treatment of his Irish Settler, Seamus. As Obama noted this election season, the adorable family pup rode in a carrier which was strapped on top of the Romney's Chevrolet during the family's 12-hour drive to Canada.

While the Romneys relaxed up front, Seamus was apparently stressed out by the family vacation, enough so that he got sick in his carrier. Romney defended his actions to a Boston Globe reporter, explaining that he had no clue it was illegal to tie your pup to the top of a car while driving on the highway.

Well, the Good Dog, Bad Romney folks are here to help educate the Republican presidential candidate and anyone else who believes strapping their dog on top of a moving car is a good idea.The crew plans to walk the paths at the Richmond-based park on Saturday morning, passing out information about dog safety, and T-shirts, of course.

But more importantly, they'll be out there reminding folks to bark for Barack come Election Day.


September 22, 2012

Do Dogs Dream? - Four Legged Ones


Dogs dream like humans and about similar things.
 by Stanley Coren, Ph.D., F.R.S.C. in Canine Corner

Many people believe that dogs do dream. Most dog owners have noticed that at various times during their sleep, some dogs may quiver, make leg twitches or may even growl or snap at some sleep-created phantom, giving the impression that they are dreaming about something. At the structural level, the brains of dogs are similar to those of humans. Also, during sleep the brain wave patterns of dogs are similar that of people, and go through the same stages of electrical activity observed in humans, all of which is consistent with the idea that dogs are dreaming.

dog dream puppy canine sleep
Actually if dogs didn't dream this would be a much greater surprise given that recent evidence suggests that animals that are simpler and less intelligent than dogs seem to dream. Matthew Wilson and Kenway Louie of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have evidence that the brains of sleeping rats are functioning in a way that irresistibly suggests dreaming. Much of the dreaming that you do at night is associated with the activities that you engaged in that day. The same seems to be the case in rats. Thus if a rat ran a complex maze during the day he might be expected to dream about it at night. While a rat was awake and learning the maze, electrical recordings were taken from its hippocampus (an area of the brain associated with memory formation and storage). Researchers found that some of these electrical patterns were quite specific and identifiable depending upon what the rat was doing. Later, when the rats were asleep and their brain waves indicated that they had entered the stage where humans normally dream, these same patterns of brain waves appeared. In fact the patterns were so clear and specific that the researchers were able to tell where in the maze the rat would be if it were awake, and whether it would be moving or standing still. Wilson cautiously described the results, saying, "The animal is certainly recalling memories of those events as they occurred during the awake state, and it is doing so during dream sleep and that's just what people do when they dream."

Since a dog's brain is more complex and shows the same electrical sequences, it is reasonable to assume that dogs are dreaming, as well. There is also evidence that they dream about common dog activities. This kind of research takes advantage of the fact that there is a special structure in the brainstem (the pons) that keeps all of us from acting out our dreams. When scientists removed or inactivated the part of the brain that suppresses acting out of dreams in dogs, they observed that they began to move around, despite the fact that electrical recordings of their brains indicated that the dogs were still fast asleep. The dogs only started to move when the brain entered that stage of sleep associated with dreaming. During the course of a dream episode these dogs actually began to execute the actions that they were performing in their dreams. Thus researchers found that a dreaming pointer may immediately start searching for game and may even go on point, a sleeping Springer Spaniel may flush an imaginary bird in his dreams, while a dreaming Doberman pincher may pick a fight with a dream burglar.
It is really quite easy to determine when your dog is dreaming without resorting to brain surgery or electrical recordings. All that you have to do is to watch him from the time he starts to doze off. As the dog's sleep becomes deeper his breathing will become more regular. After a period of about 20 minutes for an average-sized dog his first dream should start. You will recognize the change because his breathing will become shallow and irregular. There may be odd muscle twitches, and you can even see the dog's eyes moving behind its closed lids if you look closely enough. The eyes are moving because the dog is actually looking at the dream images as if they were real images of the world. These eye movements are most characteristic of dreaming sleep. When human beings are awakened during this rapid eye movement or REM sleep phase, they virtually always report that they were dreaming.
I recently received a letter from Joseph Baker, which seems to confirm the idea of dogs having dreams about their everyday activities. I have taken the liberty of reproducing part of it here.
"I have an anecdote that you may find interesting, however it requires some back story. About three years ago I heard a story on the radio about a cognitive scientist who was trying to understand sleep and dreams. He had a hypothesis describing how sensory memories replay themselves during early REM sleep. The study he published had subjects play Tetris [a computer game where you try to line up falling blocks of various colors] and then report whether or not they saw the little Tetris bricks in their dreams. This stuck with me because the previous night I had very vivid dreams involving a hike I had been on earlier. I could feel the snow and smell the air as though it were real.
"This brings me to my dog. Goober is a basenji, and like many basenjis he hates water and being bathed. As soon as my wife finishes bathing him he bolts out of the bathroom door, finds me, and tries to hide behind me or under me. So one day Goober was forced to be cleaned and underwent his ritual of hiding behind me. Later that night he was sleep running. He awoke with a start, and then bolted to my location to hide under my legs. This was very awkward as I was sitting on the toilet at the time. I believe that he was dreaming, and I believe that he was dreaming about having a bath. I believe this because he only engages in this behavior when a bath is involved."

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