Dog's Life: Lifestyle
I recently wrote about Take Your Dog to Work Day and how I enjoy having my dogs along with me on the job. Often they help me coax insecure stray dogs in so that they can be safely reunited with their owners or adopted out. I recently had the unique experience of having one of my dogs help me rescue a cat in distress.
I usually have Sundays off but a fellow officer, Justin, called me on a Sunday afternoon to ask for help with a call. He had a report of a cat with a jar on its head and when he arrived, the panicked animal ran into a culvert. It was too small for him to climb into and he knew that if he tried to push her out from one end she would run out the other and be lost. He was wondering if I could bring one of my dogs and help him? Of course I would. This is so much more than a job to me and I have always told my co-workers to call me anytime. I loaded up Hula the Golden Retriever and Breeze the Doberman and headed out. Half an hour later we pulled up behind Justin’s truck and he showed me the culvert. My flashlight beam found the unfortunate cat smack in the middle of the pipe, plastic jug still firmly attached.
With Justin situated on one end of the pipe and ready with a net, I took Hula to the other end. Hula is as mellow and easygoing as they come and she’s also gung ho for any adventure. I showed her the pipe and told her to “go get the kitty.” Hula isn’t very tall and the narrow pipe was a tight fit but in she went. Justin called to her from the other end as she made her way through. The kitty didn’t see her at first due to her jug and Hula walked right up and sniffed her before the cat realized it and went bonking down the pipe with her burden. Hula followed her as she darted right into the net and was safe.
I put Hula on a sit-stay as we dealt with the cat who acted quiet feral. She appeared healthy and had a tipped ear (meaning that she had been trapped and spayed) so we planned to just remove the jar and release her but I asked Justin to scan her first. To our surprise she had a microchip so we took her back to the shelter.
Once there we carefully removed the jug and settled her in while waiting to hear back about the chip. Soon the couple who had trapped her and had her spayed and chipped came for her. The cat was truly feral but had kind people to care for her and it was great to see her returned home safely.
I would love to hear how our reader’s dogs have helped another animal.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
It matters more than brightness
One of the most persistent errors about dogs is the claim that they are colorblind. It has been known for decades that dogs can see colors, but research into the details of how they use their color vision can still reveal new information. In a recent study called “Colour cues proved to be more informative for dogs than brightness”, researchers asked the simple question, “Do dogs attend to color or brightness when learning the cues that indicate the presence of food?
In the experiment, researchers trained dogs to make a choice between boxes concealing food. The boxes were each marked with a colored paper, and the dog had to learn which one indicated a piece of meat was inside. Dogs were trained to discriminate between either light yellow and dark blue or between dark yellow and light blue. Then the dogs were tested to see if the cue they used to make correct choices was the color of the paper or the brightness of the paper.
For example, a dog who had learned to choose the box marked by a dark yellow piece of paper was tested with a choice between a box marked by light yellow or a box marked by dark blue. The experimenters were asking whether the dog had learned that “dark” indicates the presence of meat or whether “yellow” does. They found that dogs were making choices based on color, not brightness, in the majority of cases. It was a small sample size of only 8 dogs, but it suggests that dogs not only see color, which has long been known, but that they pay attention to it more than to the depth of color.
It is not surprising that if dogs have the ability to see color that they would use that color functionally in various situations. Asking whether dogs distinguish dark from light when the opportunity to distinguish by color is also present may be an important preliminary step in understanding what dogs attend to. However, I would be even more interested to know whether dogs favor color over shape, color over size or even color over various sounds to make their choices, as all of these seem more biologically relevant to dogs seeking food than brightness does.
Worth tuning in
A friend of The Bark’s just told me about BBC Radio 4’s marvelous series called Dog Days. You have only a few days left to listen to them. Each runs around 15 minutes, and discusses various aspects of dogs behavior and dog culture. Interviews with researcher, John Bradshaw, and other British dog aficionados. From My Dog Tulip and Flush to current research on dog love. As the programs’ presenter, Robert Hanks (along with his Whippet Timmy), describes it, “When we tell stories about our dogs, we are also telling stories about ourselves.” Give a listen.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Sizzling pavement or sand can burn pads
At the moment New York is in the middle of a miserable heat wave. With humid temperatures soaring into the high 90's, I've been limiting the dogs' outside time to quick bathroom breaks in the backyard. However, when it came time to go to agility class on Wednesday, Scuttle took one step onto our driveway and jumped back onto the grass. Horrified, I touched the pavement and it was sizzling hot. It's easy to forget about protecting paw pads since we wear shoes and aren't aware of the ground temperature.Urban dogs are better prepared to deal with hot pavement, since their paw pads have been toughened by walking on the rough city streets. But during a heat wave, even the most hardened paws must be monitored. I was surprised to learn that swimming can soften a dog's pads and make them susceptible to burning on surfaces that they'd be normally okay on. In general it's a good idea to avoid walking your pups on pavement, metal surfaces, or sand during extremely hot weather. But that's not always possible. Look out for signs of burned pads, which include limping, refusing to walk, blisters or redness, loose flaps of skin, changes in pad color, and licking or chewing at the feet. If your dog's pads are sensitive, carry them over hot surfaces or have them wear booties to protect their feet. For minor burns, you can clean the pads and cover their paw with a loose bandage. For more serious burns, get your pup to the vet immediately.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Study finds similar dynamics in our relationships with dogs and infants
Many people, myself included, consider our dogs to be children. We feed them the best food, take them to (obedience) school, and even bring them with us on vacation. I often get a lot of slack for treating my pups like kids, but a new study seems to back up the relationship that we have. Scientists at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna set out to explore the bond between dogs and their human "parents." Interestingly, and perhaps no surprise to us dog lovers, they found striking similarities to human parent-child relationships.There's a term called the "secure base effect" which is used to describe infants using their caregivers as a sort of "safety net" when interacting with the environment. The researchers wanted to see if this behavior was present between people and their pets. The lead scientist, Lisa Horn, set up a situation where dogs could earn a food reward by playing with an interactive toy. She watched for their reaction under three different conditions: "absent owner," "silent owner," and "encouraging owner." Lisa's team found that the dogs were much less likely to work for the food when their person wasn't present. Staying silent or encouraging the pups had little influence on the animals' motivation level. The really interesting part came in the follow-up experiment where researchers put the dogs in a room with a stranger. They found that the dogs' motivation to play with the toy did not change whether the stranger was in the room or not. Since the increased interaction only occurred when their "human parent" was present, the scientists concluded that this was key in getting the dogs to behave in a confident manner. This study is the first to find the "secure base effect" in dog-caregiver relationships. To build on this research, Lisa's team plans to do direct comparative studies on dogs and children next--very cool!
Brilliant UK Ad Campaign
The UK mobile phone network O2 has lauched a new £10million campaign that encourages viewers to "embrace their inner dog" and shun their more cynical 'cat-like' side. Be sure to look this video, and otheres are their site, and create your own "dog bomb" like this one or this one
Gary Booker, O2 marketing and consumer director, told the Guardian: "We're living in one of the most exciting eras as far as technology goes... but somehow we've got a little jaded by it all.
"'Be more dog' is all about encouraging Britain to embrace the new, have a go with the unknown and dabble in innovation.
"We're also gearing up for our 4G launch later this summer, so it's the perfect time to get the nation trying more and being a little bit more dog."
The campaign, which features the slogan "Life's a stick - go chase it", has been developed by ad agency VCCP.
Being an unequivocal dog person, it’s sometimes difficult to understand the opposing sentiment—that not everybody loves dogs. But this point of view was made abundantly clear this past week as I caught up to the growing opposition to dogs in the San Francisco Bay Area, fueled by rants produced in local media. These claims suggest that the societal scales have tipped too far in favor of dogs and their human companions, and that dogs are pampered and over-indulged. Last week, the very popular call-in public radio show KQED’s “Forum” asked the question “Is the Bay Area Too Dog Friendly?”—the program description didn’t mince words: The Bay Area is known for being a dog-loving region, but has our canine adoration reached an unhealthy level? Dogs now accompany us into grocery stores, cafes, and even offices, but some argue that we’re excessively spoiling our dogs at the expense of others. We discuss whether our region really has a dog-coddling problem. The hour-long program can be heard online.
The show featured a local dog rights and off-leash activist; a representative from the SF Department of Health; and a tech writer from Slate.com whose recent article “No, I Do Not Want to Pet Your Dog” (with the tagline “It’s time to take America back”) inspired the program and blasts the untenable overindulgence of San Francisco dogs and their owners. Many examples of irresponsibility and misbehaving committed by dogs and people were cited—dogs damaging city parks, knocking over joggers while their owners remained unaware and unresponsive; attacking horses on trails, thoughtless, selfish dog owners who mislabel their pets as service dogs to gain unfettered access everywhere, aggressive dogs, untrained dogs, and unwanted invitations “to pet my dog.” The activist on the panel, and many of the dog-loving callers, also tried to add a more reasoned and balanced voice and pointed out all the enormous benefits that dogs bring to the community and individuals but recognized that a “few” bad apples do tend to spoil it for the many. The tech author of the Slate article, Farhad Manjoo, a father of a two-year-old boy and an avowed nondog person—argued that parents like himself “rein in” their children far more often than do dog owners. He fueled the heated discussion that veered to the “dogs are worse than children” comparison, and a debate on which Bay Area parent (canine or human) was more irresponsible. He goes on to lament:
But dog owners? They seem to suffer few qualms about their animals’ behavior. That’s why there are so many dogs running around at the park, jumping up on the bench beside you while you’re trying to read a book, the owner never asking if it’s OK with you. That’s why, when you’re at a café, the dog at the neighboring table feels free to curl up under your seat. That’s why there’s a dog at your office right at this moment and you’re having to pretend that he’s just the cutest.
Read the full article here.
It would be easy to dismiss these claims as the grumbling of a small but vocal anti-dog contingent, but to do so would be ignoring the fact that there do exist some serious issues with dogs in our community, such as uncontrollable dogs and their clueless guardians at parks, and dog walkers with far too many dogs, for examples. These public debates tend to exaggerate but who of us have not seen or been the victim of some incorrigible dog guardian’s behavior. Or witnessed the unsupervised “play” at parks that can cause harm to both dogs and people? As a community that has fought and lobbied to expand our rights and those of our dogs to have access to public and private space—it falls upon dog people to listen to these grievances, reach across the divide and understand the real problems that exist, and do our best to tone down the rancor and to find solutions. Wouldn’t it be a shame to backslide into the “old days” when dogs where an uncommon and unwelcome sight?
The Bay Area has always prided itself on being at the forefront of the “dog-friendly” trend, and, so, perhaps it is among the first communities to suffer the backlash of being “overly-permissive” to dogs. Reading the comments on Forum and Slate, it’s clear that dogs are not every person’s best friend. In fact, popular sentiment that dogs are out of control was running 3 to 1—not an encouraging sign. Is this a concern that is creeping into your community? Do you sense that dogs have worn out their welcome? What can dog people do to stem this outcry?
And imitate novel human actions and store them in memory
Researchers have shown that dogs can indeed not only mimic human actions, but can retain actions in their memory. According to a new study by Claudia Fugazza and Adám Miklósi, from Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary, this deferred imitation provides the first evidence of dogs' cognitive ability to both encode and recall actions. The research is published in Springer's journal Animal Cognition.
In order to test if dogs possess the cognitive ability of deferred imitation, Fugazza and Miklósi worked with eight pet dogs who had been trained in the “Do as I do method” by their guardians. While dogs are good at relying on human communication cues and learn by watching humans (and other dogs), what this study set out to test was if dogs can perform imitatively not directly after seeing a human do it, but some time after seeing the action.
So they made the dogs wait for short intervals before they were allowed to copy the observed human action. An example of the action done by the human and then performed by the dog was ringing a bell or walking around an object like a bucket.
“The researchers observed whether the dogs were able to imitate human actions after delays ranging from 40 seconds to 10 minutes, during which time the dogs were distracted by being encouraged to take part in other activities. The researchers were looking for evidence of the dogs' ability to encode and recall the demonstrated action after an interval.”
Fugazza described how one of the tests was carried out: “The owner, Valentina, made her dog, Adila, stay and pay attention to her, always in the same starting position. Three randomly chosen objects were set down, each at the same distance from Adila. When Adila was in position, Valentina demonstrated an object-related action, like ringing a bell with her hand.
“Then Valentina and Adila took a break and went behind a screen that was used to hide the objects, so that Adila could not keep her mind on the demonstration by looking at the object. During the break, Valentina and Adila either played with a ball or practiced a different training activity, for example, Valentina asked Adila to lie down. Or they both relaxed on the lawn and Adila was free to do whatever she wanted—sniff around, bark at people passing by, and so on.
“When the break was over, Valentina walked with her dog back to the original starting position and gave the command 'Do it!'. In a control condition, the ‘Do it!’ command was given by someone other than the owner, who did not know what action had previously been demonstrated by the owner. After the 'Do it!' command, Adila typically performed the action that was previously demonstrated.”
It is remarkable that the dogs were able to do this. But the length of time varied—with an action familiar to the dog, delays were as long as ten minutes. If the action/task was novel and the the dogs had not be exposed to it before, they were still able to perform it after a delay of one minute.
“The authors conclude: "The ability to encode and recall an action after a delay implies that the dogs have a mental representation of the human demonstration. In addition, the ability to imitate a novel action after a delay without previous practice suggests the presence of a specific type of long-term memory in dogs. This would be so-called ‘declarative memory,’ which refers to memories which can be consciously recalled, such as facts or knowledge."
To view more demonstration on the "Do as I do" method, see this, and the following demonstrations.
Fugazza C & Miklósi A (2013). Deferred imitation and declarative memory in domestic dogs. Animal Cognition; DOI 10.1007/s10071-013-0656-5
Mosaïcultures Internationales 2013
An amazing exhibit of Mosaiculture, including this living sculpture of Hachiko, the Loyal Dog, can be found at Montreal Botanical Garden this summer. I saw this article on Houzz, where it was noted that:
It's not an invasion from the zoo — it's mosaiculture, a type of horticultural art as wild as it sounds. Mosaiculture designers install carefully selected and pruned plants onto two- and three-dimensional designs, creating massive and surprisingly realistic living sculptures. In this exhibit visitors walk along a 2-kilometer (1¼-mile) path to see the work of 50 participants from more than 20 countries. Each designer worked with a set plant catalog to sculpt something from his or her country's culture.
Living Sculptures Delight at the Montreal Botanical Garden */ Architecture, interior design, and more ∨
Home improvement can start with something as minor as installing track lighting or a unique ceiling fan.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Jim Buck preferred dogs to office work
Best known for his dog walking business that cared for up to 150 dogs a day, Jim Buck is considered the first professional dog walker in New York City. (In New York, they often refer to him as the first professional dog walker, but as a person who lives elsewhere, I can’t help but notice how often “first” and “first in New York” are used synonymously. For example, his obituary says, “Mr. Buck . . . is widely described as the first person to professionalize dog walking in New York City and, by extension, the United States.”)
Buck came from a wealthy family, but chose a path different than most. He dropped out of college and chose to walk dogs rather than work at an electronics company, as he did for a while. He said he preferred walking his own dogs and other people’s dogs to suiting up and going to the office.
He was a tall, thin man, often described with a comparison to slender breeds of dogs such as the sight hounds. He was also an original thinker, realizing that there was a business opportunity in providing dog walking services to people working long days in the city. His business, Jim Buck’s School for Dogs, employed dozens of people to help him walk client’s dogs. When he started, his was the only such business in New York City, though now there are huge numbers of them.
Among the stories about Buck and his business is the tale that he used to test potential employees by having them walk an Otterhound nicknamed both Oliver the Artful and Oliver the Awful. Oliver regularly entered phone booths and refused to come out. Buck wanted people who would solve the problem by gently coaxing him out rather than attempting to use force. He claims to have preferred to hire women because he thought they were generally more compassionate to dogs who misbehaved.
It was a different era, and Buck dressed well, as was typical at that time. He wore through his fancy shoes every two weeks, employing the services of a cobbler to repair his shoes regularly. He could easily afford his expensive clothes and shoes because his income as a dog walker was around five times that of the average American and he made more through his business than he ever did at his office job.
Jim Buck retired about 10 years ago and died at the age of 81 on July 4, 2013.
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