News: Guest Posts
Dogs and wolves share a similar genetic profile. So why are their behaviors so different?
The reasons aren’t clearly understood. In a recent paper in the journal Ethology , evolutionary biologist Kathryn Lord's doctoral research (University of Massachusetts, Amherst) suggests differences in later behaviors might be related to the pups' earliest sensory experiences during the critical period of socialization, the brief period when a puppy's exposure to novel things results in long-term familiarity.
Lord's research demonstrated that dog and wolf pups acquire their senses at the same time:
· Hearing: Onset 19 days, reliable by 28 days
· Seeing: Onset 26 days, reliable by 42 days
· Smelling: Reliable by 14 days (onset likely earlier)
· Dog pups wait until 28 days to explore their environment when all senses are operational.
· Wolf pups begin exploring the world at 14 days, relying solely on scent, when they are still blind and deaf.
Although wolves are tolerant of humans and things they were introduced to during the critical period, they don't generalize that familiarity to other people or novel things when they mature. Dogs on the other hand, can generalize, and if properly socialized are not spooked by novel sounds and sights.
Why do mature dogs and wolves behave so differently? Lord's conclusion is that at the gene level, the difference may be when the gene is switched on, not the gene itself.
What could that mean? Research has shown that the brain is capable or rewiring itself in dramatic ways. Early loss of a sense affects brain development. For instance, even though the developing auditory cortex of a profoundly deaf infant is not exposed to sound stimuli, it doesn't atrophy due to lack of use. Rather it adapts and takes on processing tasks of other senses including sight and touch. Perhaps wolves see the world in smell, and dogs see it a lot more like we do.
Click here to read the paper, A Comparison of the Sensory Development of Wolves (Canis lupus lupus) and Dogs (Canis lupus familiaris), by Kathryn Lord, Ethology, February, 2013.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
A Dangerous Job
As animal control officers, we put our lives on the line every day trying to make a difference. We go in with other law enforcement to dangerous situations, drug busts, domestic violence, murders and other crimes. We deal with aggressive animals and unstable people. Often we are called in because someone has lost everything, their money, their home, their pride. When we arrive to take their animals it can be the last straw.
The recent shooting death of a fellow animal control officer in the Sacramento area is a grim reminder of the dangers we face every day. Officer Roy Marcum was called to a home where the owner had been evicted the previous day and left some pets behind. I've lost count of how many similar calls I have responded to. As Officer Marcum approached the home, he was shot and killed by the former resident. Officer Marcum was described as a devoted animal lover and was there to help. What a loss for his family and the community.
I've been bitten, kicked, scratched and run over in my years in animal control, but the human encounters have been by far the scariest. I have been threatened, had the wall punched next to me and gone into homes with armed suspects, all to try and make life better for dogs and other animals. I wear a bullet proof vest and carry an asp, pepper spray, a shotgun and a rifle. I hope they will keep me safe.
Wellness: Health Care
Emergency help only a phone call away
ASPCA Poison Control Center, 888-426-4435: 10 digits every dog owner should know!
A number of calls we receive in the ER are inquires about whether or not a substance is toxic to their pets. These inquires can include questions about specific pet or people medications, vitamins and supplements, both common and unusual household items, as well as various food stuffs.
With literally thousands of medications and oddities that our pets can get into, it becomes nearly impossible to know what is toxic, at what dose toxicity becomes a concern, and the treatment for each of these substances. Because of this, when we receive a call, we frequently refer pet parents to the Animal Poison Control Center for further information regarding the “dietary indiscretion.” This amazing service provided by the ASPCA is truly invaluable when there are questions or concerns about the potential for toxicity of any given substance. The center is staffed 24/7 by veterinary toxicologists who have at their disposal an expansive data base that includes every imaginable substance ever to have been known to meet a dogs mouth.
There is a nominal fee of $65 for this service, but a call might actually save you a trip to the ER or to your veterinarian, as well as give priceless peace of mind. When you call from home, you will actually be able to find out whether or not your pet needs medical attention, if you can induce vomiting at home (this becomes especially important for those people who live far away from veterinary care), or if you can potentially give some other home treatment. At the completion of the call, owners are given a case number that can be referenced again later should your pets condition change or clinical signs develop. If your pet does happen to need medical attention, once you arrive at the hospital for treatment, your veterinarian can call the center, also referencing this number, and can continue your pets care based on the toxicologist's recommendations.
This is truly priceless information, especially considering all the misinformation you can come across during a consult with Dr. Google. In fact, I have had to treat pets whose condition actually worsened because of an inappropriate treatment given at home. A situation that comes to mind was a good-intentioned owner who induced vomiting at home, based on what she read, after her dog ate Tide laundry detergent. Detergents can be very caustic (making vomiting a big no-no) and her dog subsequently suffered from erosive ulcers along the entire length of its esophagus as a result. Her pup required the placement of a feeding tube to bypass the esophagus, allowing it to heal.
I would also like to add that part of our responsibility as veterinarians is to call back the toxicologist and report the response to treatment. This follow-up information continues to help others in the future as each toxic exposure, treatment and response to treatment gets added and stored in the ever-growing data base.
I cannot say enough good things about this invaluable pet resource. Every pet owner should have the ASPCA Poison Control number (888-426-4435) on their speed dial or refrigerator—this number may save your pets life as well as help other pets in the process.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Feeding cookies remotely via e-mail.
When John created the NYC CNC Machining and Prototype Shop back in 2007, he started a video blog documenting the successes and failures he learned while mastering the art of machining. His latest project is a fun combination of many aspects of his work—CAD, machining, fabrication, powder coating, Raspberry Pi, electrical engineering, and programming—and his love of dogs. John used all of those skills to create an interactive automatic treat dispenser!
E-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org activates a treat dispenser which gives John's 2-year old Vizsla, Judd, a cookie. The program also takes a photo of Judd and sends a thank you e-mail in return. John's project became so popular that Google temporarily disabled Judd's original e-mail address due to high volume. Fortunately John runs with Judd anywhere from five to 30 miles a week, which should help to offset the frequent treats. The machine is also turned off at night and at other times of the day when John and Judd are busy.
If you'd like to create your own high tech treat dispenser, John made his venture an open sourced project, meaning that the Python code and CAD model are available for free on his web site. Very cool!
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
“The Voiceless Victims”
A temporary exhibit at the Crime Museum in Washington D.C. allows guests to see some of the equipment used by the illegal dog-fighting industry. Among the items in "The Voiceless Victims" exhibit are tools for conditioning dogs, for forcing breedings, and for antagonizing dogs through pain. There are also sticks used to force dogs to release other dogs, and an electrocution device used to kill dogs. It’s not a pretty topic, but it’s educational to see the true horror that is dog fighting.
Though dog fighting is illegal throughout the United States, it is happening all too often in far too many communities. Besides showing the tools of dog fighters, this exhibit also includes items that forensic scientists use to assess the suffering and deaths of dogs who are the victims of dog fighting.
The exhibit includes evidence that was taken from the Michael Vick dog fighting kennel as well as from a case in 2009 that was the largest dog fighting raid in our country’s history. The exhibit has been assembled by the ASPCA, and will be up through September 2013.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
A growing problem which has no easy solution.
A few years ago I wrote about people passing off their pets as service dogs so they could ride in the cabin together (thus avoiding the hazards of cargo and extra fees). Although the practice is unethical, and makes travel harder for people with legitimate service dogs, the problem seems to only be growing.
Heated discussions crop up every time there's a national dog competition. The latest discussion around the American Kennel Club’s Invitational event led some to call for organizations, such as the AKC and the United States Dog Agility Association, to get involved. There's also a lot of false information floating around (like that it's a felony to pass off a pet as a service dog or that a limited number of service dogs are allowed on any given plane--both untrue). Bottom line, it's a sensitive subject and the more I research the topic, the more I realize how complicated it is to regulate such behavior.
The biggest challenge is maintaining the privacy of those with legitimate service dogs. The law is intentionally open ended to allow for a large and growing number of disabilities. Most people with service dogs oppose any sort of registry because it's hard to figure out a fair and equitable way to determine criteria for eligibility.
Tightening laws and giving businesses more leeway for questioning people causes unfair scrutiny for those with legitimate service dogs.
I think it has to come down to people having a little more respect for true service dogs and compassion for those who have no choice but to rely on these animals.
I'm also very disappointed by dog show/sport people who falsely pass of their pups as service animals. It looks really bad when planes headed towards a big show are filled with an unusual number of “service dogs.” I always think of dog show/sport people as being exemplars of responsible pet care and this kind of behavior casts a negative light on all exhibitors.
I understand that many people do it because it's safer for the dog to travel in the cabin, but it’s important to remember that getting to a national competition is not a necessity.
And finally, the root cause is a lack of safe and affordable air travel options for medium to large dog breeds. But until airlines cater to that need (which I doubt will be any time soon, if ever!), people have to consider the impact their actions have on others.
What do you think the ideal solution is to the faux service dog problem?
News: Guest Posts
“Where goeth the food, so goeth the dog.” (old proverb)
The earliest archeological evidence dates dogs to about 14,000 years ago. Remains of small dogs in Israel go back 12,000 years. When people settled down in agricultural communities, they began to tinker with the natural environment, bringing about modification, intentionally or accidentally, in plants and animals. Of course dogs joined the party. They always do.
Not everyone agrees about why, where, when or how dogs evolved. But we all believe this: Whether dog domestication was accidental or intentional, abrupt of slow, happened 10,000 years ago or 80,000, domestic dogs descended from wolves and evolved with people. Perhaps it’s no coincidence then that we ask the same questions about dogs that we do of ourselves: How are we unique? Where do we come from? And when did we get here?
On Wednesday, January 23, canine geneticists announced they have identified key mutations in three genetic regions that allowed the wolf, a traditional carnivore to thrive on a carbohydrate diet. This adaptation was surely useful for opportunistic animals that were scavenging waste near ancient farming communities.
How they did it
Geneticists Erik Axelsson and his team at Sweden’s Uppsala University looked at DNA from gray wolves and domestic dogs, searching for small differences that might have shown up early in evolution as wolves transitioned to dogs. They zeroed in on specific mutations that dogs have and wolves don’t. In all, researchers found 36 genomic regions that reveal differences. Nineteen of those have to do with brain function, eight are related to the nervous system, and the rest are linked to starch digestion and fat metabolism, three of which carry instructions for making a protein that’s necessary for the digestion of starch. One is an enzyme that turns starch into sugar maltose. Another is an enzyme that turns maltose into glucose. And the third makes a protein that moves glucose from the gut into the bloodstream.
What does it mean?
If you think it answers the question as to why, where, and when dogs were domesticated, you’d be misinformed. It’s really more interesting than that.
1. Dogs eat more starch than wolves. The mutation explains why. Keep in mind that just because you have a mutation that lets you digest grain, it doesn’t mean, when given the opportunity, you wouldn’t rather have pork chops than cheerios. Just ask my dog, or my spouse for that matter. Wolves, dogs or proto-dogs (depending on your position) could have had the mutation long before humans planted grains. The study doesn’t suggest a time line.
2. Because all the breeds in the study have the mutation, the mutation occurred before these breeds radiated out from their direct ancestor. However, don’t assume that our modern breeds are representative of any dogs older than 500 years. There is a ginormous gap, at least 8 thousand years, between the ancient agrarian gang of dumpster diver dogs and the not-so-old proto dog that begat our modern breeds. Scientists don’t know if the missing link dog is extinct, and if she isn’t, they don’t know what living dogs would represent her. There’s plenty more work to be done.
3. The birth of agriculture impacted canids. But it did the same to humans, birds, insects, pigs, cows, and goats to name a few.
4. The study is a vindication for all the veterinarians who are treating dogs with kidney ailments as a consequence of the strange trend toward very expensive low-carb, raw meat diets. There’s a reason dog food is only 20- 30 % protein and 40 to 50% carbohydrates.
What others are saying
“Dogs are not just ‘tame wolves’ but have clearly adapted in a host of different ways to a very novel niche over a relatively short evolutionary timescale," said Adam Boyko, an expert on canine genetics and assistant professor of biomedical science at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine and director of the Village Dog Diversity Project. “I think a lot of focus on dog domestication in the past centered on behavior and tameness. Clearly, they were important for domestication, but this paper also demonstrates genetic changes involved in diet adaptation.”
“The bigger question about the paper, said behavioral ecologist Ray Coppinger, is whether it sheds any light on the evolution of the dog -- whether they were domesticated "purposefully" by humans, or were they a result of humans creating a new niche which several species (including some Canis species) moved in and adapted to.” He added, “The researchers have done a great job showing that dogs and wolves genetically differ in their potential ability to digest starch. But it’s a fallacy to assume that the genes of the modern dogs included in the study are descended from original dogs. Thus the paper, sheds little light on the original dog, and does nothing to answer the question of artificial verses natural selection as the prime cause.”
What’s important about the study is not that it indicates when or where dogs originated. Rather, it’s a new tool that will help us understand how dogs and wolves are different. The research is groundbreaking, but it represents analysis of only 10 of the 36 genomic regions that the team identified. That means more exciting news is just around the corner.
Scholarly study takes on issues that are controversial. The dog origin debate continues to be particularly provocative. As for me, I just want to know who to thank.
Mark Derr, author of When the Dog Became the Dog has a very interesting post on this subject as well.
The genomic signature of dog domestication reveals adaptation to a starch-rich diet, Journal Nature, published on-line, January 23, 2013.
News: Guest Posts
Gratitude and honor prompt participation
WASHINGTON — The 2013 Presidential Inaugural Parade played host to another inaugural event.
Santa Rosa, Calif. based Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) made their inaugural debut in the parade, which also marked the first time a dog organization participated.
According to CCI National Director of Marketing Jeanine Konopelski the mother of a Skilled Companion Team from Virginia was the catalyst for the organization’s involvement.
Carina Elgin said her daughter Caroline’s Service Dog, Sajen changed her life and she wanted to show her gratitude to CCI and provide a platform for people to learn about the organization.
The Labrador - Golden Retriever mix black dog was partnered with Caroline 9 years ago.
The now 19 year old has grown up with her 11-year-old dog. Cerebral Palsy has limited Caroline Elgin’s mobility and impaired her speech.
And through the years, Sajen has opened more than just threshold doors for his partner.
He opened the door to a world of opportunity through his unconditional love that bridged barriers to socialization and resulted in building Caroline’s self confidence and independence.
As a young girl with a young Service Dog, Caroline joined a 4H Dog Club.
Despite her limited verbal ability and restricted hand motion, Caroline was able to command Sajen as she took him through Rally Obedience and Agility Trials.
She and Sajen earned a rainbow of ribbons each year in the annual Virginia Dog Show. Though she paced her dog through the rings from her joystick controlled wheelchair, she never asked for any special consideration and competed on equal ground with the other 4H dog handlers.
But Sajen’s ability to help open the door for CCI participation in the 2013 Inaugural Parade is perhaps his biggest achievement to date.
“I was so proud to be walking with Sajen. He has been my best friend and helper for nine years and will be retiring soon, but it was so special to walk with him down Pennsylvania Ave.,” said Caroline Elgin. “ He trotted along and wagged his tail the whole time like he knew this was something special.”
The inaugural parade includes representatives from all 50 states. Though CCI didn’t have a representative from each state, they had participants that stretched from the Atlantic to Pacific coast and included all five CCI Regions.
All four types of CCI Dogs were represented, including Skilled Companion Teams, Hearing Dogs, Facility Dogs, and a CCI Wounded Veteran Initiative Service Dog.
Puppy raisers from around the country also marched in the parade. The youngest puppy in the parade was 4-month old Shyla who is being raised by the Slater family in Upperville, Va. Sajen was the oldest dog in the parade.
“It was amazing how good all the dogs, even the little puppies were, but they are CCI dogs and just really know how to behave,” said Caroline Elgin.
The puppies were wearing their yellow training vests and the graduate dogs were wearing their blue CCI vests. However their human counterparts were all dressed in matching yellow hats and jackets with the organization logo on the back.
Caroline Elgin said some people commented that the outfits made them look like bananas, “but they were warm.”
CCI introduced their balloon dog mascot “Independence” who rode on the parade float with some of the participants. The large yellow dog wore a blue CCI vest and collar.
Caroline Elgin said, “I thought the float was "Labrador able"!
Event though the teams had a long day, she said it was great to be with all the other CCI participants.
She noted that it was already dark as they headed up the street, but when they turned the corner towards the White House reviewing stand the parade route was flooded with bright lights.
Caroline Elgin was on the side of the float closest to the President’s reviewing stand
“Vice-President Biden got really excited when he saw us,” said Carline Elgin. “He knows about CCI and his face really lit up when he saw us. He gave us the “thumbs up”.
She said President Barack Obama was busy having his picture taken, but turned around and got a huge smile on his face and waved when he saw them.
With Sajen by her side, Caroline Elgin matured from a young girl into a young woman. She is a currently a second year Graphic and Web Design student at the Art Institute of Virginia-Dulles and designer at www.labradorabledesigns.com. Her company makes a donation to CCI for each item sold.
Though Sajen’s paws help in many ways, she used modern technology to provide her first hand account of their participation in the 57th Inaugural Parade.
The day after the parade Caroline Elgin and Sajen were both pretty tired, but she said, “It was so exciting to represent CCI and people with disabilities. It was history.”
CCI was one of about 60 applicants chosen from nearly 3,000 parade applicants. Even though CCI made history marching in the 57th Presidential Inaugural Parade, the dogs trained by CCI to assist persons with disabilities make history on an individual basis every day.
“We’re so grateful for this chance for the world to know about Canine Companions for Independence,” said Carina Elgin. “The volunteers are thrilled to show everyone that this opportunity is out there to help enrich the lives of people with disabilities. I want more people like my daughter Caroline to be able to have a dog change their lives.”
CCI was founded in 1975 by Dr. Bonita Bergin and is the largest non-profit provider of trained Service Dogs. They have five regional training centers in the United States and are recognized worldwide for the excellence of their dogs and programs.
CCI provides Service, Hearing, Facility, and Skilled Companion Team dogs free of charge to approved applicants.
For more information, visit cci.org or call 1-800-572-BARK.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Happy ending for dog left on a mountain
Last summer I wrote about Missy, a German Shepherd who got caught up in a custody battle between Anthony Ortolani, the man who left her to die 13,500 feet up on a mountain, and her rescuers.
In the end Anthony entered a guilty plea for cruelty to animals and was recently sentenced to a year of probation and 30 hours of community service. In addition, John Steed, one of the rescuers, was allowed to adopt Missy as part of the plea deal.
Missy now goes by Lucky and has two canine siblings at home with John. The German Shepherd even received a lifetime membership to 14ers.com, the climbing group that organized her rescue.
The men who saved Lucky were so inspired by the experience that they created The Brothers of Lucky Search and Rescue (BOLSAR) dedicated to high alpine search and rescue in the Colorado Rocky Mountain region. It took two days for them to organize Lucky's rescue effort. BOLSAR will allow for faster coordination of volunteers, which means quicker rescues. Since park forest rangers aren't allowed to send search parties for animals, BOLSAR is necessary for the safety of dogs who love to hike.
In addition to the rescue work, BOLSAR plans to conduct community outreach programs to raise awareness on how to safely hike with pets.
What a happy ending to Missy's story!
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Kids launch a Facebook campaign to convince their parents
When I was a kid, I desperately tried to convince my parents to get a puppy by creating presentations on how responsible I was and assembling mock schedules showing how all the chores would be completed. Unfortunately I was never successful and ended up having to wait until after college to get my first dog.
Now children these days have technology on their side. When the Cordell family in Massachusetts lost their dog of ten years last August, the five kids instantly started begging for a new puppy to fill the void. However, their parents, Ryan and Evie, were reluctant to get a new pet so soon.
Then their two daughters, Cadence and Emerson, came up with a plan. After reading about two kids who convinced their parents to get a cat after their Facebook photo got 1,000 likes, Cadence and Emerson proposed a similar deal with their dad. Not believing it was possible, Ryan agreed to get a new puppy if their photo got one million Facebook likes.
The kids quickly posted a photo holding a sign that read, "Hi World, We want a puppy. Our dad said we can get one if we get 1 million Likes! So LIKE this! He doesn't think we can do it!"
After three hours they had 10,000 likes and then by the seven hour mark they reached their goal. Never underestimate the power of social media!
Adding to the good news is that the Cordells are planning to adopt their new pup from a rescue group or shelter. They’ve already started searching Petfinder.com and are hoping to have their new addition soon. Like their Facebook page for updates on their journey.
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