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News: Karen B. London
Drowning Dog Rescued
Sikh man uses his turban to save him

Breaking a religious taboo may upset many people, but occasionally, it results in near universal respect and praise. That’s true in the case of Sarwan Singh, a 28-year old Sikh man in Punjab, India. His heroic action and willingness to briefly violate an important rule of his religion allowed him to save a life. He removed his turban in public in order to use it as a rope to save a drowning dog from a canal.

Singh, who himself cannot swim, was driving when he saw a group of people pointing at the canal. He stopped his car and quickly took in the situation. A dog was in danger of drowning, but nobody was helping. He says that when he started to remove his turban, people around him were shocked, thinking he was showing great disrespect to his faith. Wearing a turban is an important article of faith in the Sikh religion and the doctrine states that it can only be removed at home or while bathing. He says, “But what was most important at that point was to save the animal’s life.” And that’s exactly what he did.

Singh says that the dog was very frightened, and did not want to come towards him. They moved about 200 meters along the canal before Singh was able to capture the dog with one part of his turban and use the other piece as a rope to keep himself from falling into the canal along with the dog. I cannot understand the language they are speaking, but I can certainly notice the change in tone of the speakers. Before the rescue, everyone is frantic, but afterwards, the great relief and joy is obvious in all the voices.

I appreciate the value placed on religion and the rules that come with each faith. Still, I feel comfortable saying that it’s a beautiful thing to put kindness, humanity and saving a life over guidelines of any sort—even sacred religious ones.

News: Guest Posts
Did Dogs Arise on Opposite Sides of Eurasia?
An international group of scientists proposes dual domestication from wolves.

Among the many hotly debated topics related to the appearance of dogs in the lives of humans is how often and where it first occurred. In their landmark 1997 paper on dog origins, Robert K. Wayne, Carles Vilá, and their colleagues made the case for multiple origins, but many other students of dog evolution, including Peter Savolainen, a co-author on that paper, have repeatedly and strongly argued for a single place of origin.

In this week’s Science magazine (June 3, 2016) [the article is available here, gratis], Laurent Frantz of Oxford University’s ancient dog program, writing for more than a score of his colleagues from institutions around the world, presents the case for dual domestication of Paleolithic wolves in Western Eurasia and Eastern Asia. According to this hypothesis, a now extinct ancestral wolf split into at least two genetically distinct populations on opposite sides of the Eurasian continent where they encountered and joined forces with humans to become dogs.

Frantz and his coauthors pin much of their argument on analysis and comparison of the fully sequenced genome of a 4,800- year old dog unearthed at Newgrange, Ireland, to other ancient and modern dogs and modern wolves. They found it retained “a degree of ancestry” different from modern dogs or modern wolves. Using that and other evidence the researchers argue that the most comprehensive model for the appearance of the dog involves at least two domestication events 15,000 or more years ago. Frantz writes: “The eastern dog population then dispersed westward alongside humans at some point between 6,400 and 14,000 years ago, into Western Europe (10,11, 20), where they partially replaced an indigenous Paleolithic dog population. Our hypothesis reconciles previous studies that have suggested that domestic dogs originated either in East Asia (9, 19) or in Europe (7).”

I asked Greger Larson, co-director of the Oxford project and corresponding author on the paper, just what were the boundaries of “Western Eurasia,” comprised apparently of Europe and the Middle East, and “Eastern Asia?” He answered in an email that the boundaries were left deliberately vague because where wolves became dogs remains unknown, like the date itself.

In Science, Frantz writes: [W]e calculated the divergence time between two modern Russian wolves used in the study and the modern dogs to be 60,000 to 20,000 years ago.” The first number puts the dog in the time when Neanderthal was still the big kid on the European block, raising the possibility that Neanderthal had protodogs or that early modern humans came to Europe with dogs or soon allied with wolves. Either of the first two  prospects must have set off alarms in some circles for Frantz cautions that those dates should not be taken as “a time frame for domestication” because the wolves they used may not have been “closely related to the population(s) that gave rise to dogs.”

Fundamentally, this paper is at once a bold attempt to come up with a workable hypothesis to explain the appearance of the dog in human affairs and a tentative step into troubled waters. Left unanswered are virtually all outstanding questions regarding the who, what, when, where, and why of the transformation of wolves to dogs. Geographically all it does is exclude Central Asia. Whether it does so wrongly may depend on how you define Central  Asia geographically.  

What makes it bold and radical even is the suggestion that early humans and wolves could have gotten together wherever and whenever they met on the trail of the big game they were following.  There are many reasons for that including similar social and familial cultures, but humans and wolves could have joined forces to have become more successful hunters. We learn from Wolves on the Hunt: The Behavior of Wolves Hunting Prey by L. David Mech, Douglas W. Smith, and Daniel R. MacNulty (Chicago, 2016) that while wolves appear excellent at finding and trailing game, they are not very good at making the kill, succeeding perhaps half the time. It is dangerous work at which humans with their weapons excel.

Imagine the scene: Human hunters locate wolves on the hunt by watching ravens who are known to follow them. Human hunters move in for the kill and take as many animals as they can. If smart, they might share immediately with the wolves. If not, the wolves might consume what the humans do not carry off or follow them back to their encampment to take what they can.

The rest is a tale of accommodation through socialization—the ability to bond with another being—and all that entails. 

 

This article originally appeared in Psychology Today's Dog's Best Friend, used with permission.

News: Karen B. London
Dogs Love Walks For Many Reasons
Do you have a runner, a sniffer or a greeter?

Being overjoyed about going for a walk is almost universal among the canine set. If you reach for that leash, lace up your shoes or do anything that suggests even the remote possibility that you are going for a walk, your dog is probably thrilled.

However, dogs are making use of the sacred walk time for different purposes. Though many dogs like everything about a walk, there are at least three categories of dogs, based on what they most love about their outings.

Some dogs are runners. What they want out of the walk is exercise, so they want to be moving, preferably as fast as possible. These are the dogs who need their daily (or twice daily or all day) activity. They often pull on the leash at first, but once they get into a rhythm, burned off some energy and released some endorphins, they settle down a bit. They still want to run or trot, but they are more flexible about whatever pace you choose.

It’s rare to find a dog who has no interest in sniffing on their walks, but for many of them, it is their top priority from start to finish. They have their nose to the ground much of the walk, suddenly getting incredibly interested in stretches of grass that look to us, the olfactory challenged humans, exactly like every other stretch of grass. These dogs seek mental stimulation on walks, and their minds are stimulated by the smells that are here! And there! And everywhere!

Even the most social of dogs are often distracted by their own desire to be active or to sniff all over the place. However, there are some dogs whose main purpose on walks is to meet-and-greet. These are the social butterfly, table-hopper types who simply want to say hello to other dogs, to people or even to the occasional cat. These greeters love to connect with others, and may even be slightly disappointed if there are few others out and about during walks. Related to the social dogs are the dogs whose purpose is marking their territory and patrolling the area. These dogs, like other social dogs, are highly interested in who is (and has been)out and about.

Many dogs are a combination of these traits. The love to run, sniff and say hello, but as a guardian, you probably know your dog well enough to understand which activity is most important.

Do you have a runner, a sniffer, a greeter or a dog with an entirely different priority?

Editor’s note
We posed the question to our Twitter followers: what kind of walking style does your dog possess? The results are in:

9% Runner
56% Sniffer
11% Greeter
24% Mixed

News: JoAnna Lou
Last Minute Discovery Saves a Dogs Life
A visiting medical student helps diagnose a rare tick related disease.
Last month Joelle Meteney noticed her Sheltie, Ollie, was lethargic following a trip to the Umpqua River in Oregon. Their veterinarian ran a range of tests, but couldn't figure out what was wrong.

Joelle was puzzled because on one hand Ollie didn't seem sick. The ten year old pup still had a sparkle in his eye and was responsive. However, he couldn't really move. A week later, it got to the point where Ollie was almost completely paralyzed and unable to eat or go to the bathroom.

When veterinarians told the Meteneys that there was no sign of recovery, they decided to have Ollie euthanized at DoveLewis emergency animal hospital. That's when things took an interesting twist.

Visiting medical student, Neena Golden, was assigned to assist Dr. Adam Stone on the procedure. While comforting Ollie, Neena felt a strange lump behind Ollie's ear, which turned out to be a tick. Ollie wore a tick collar on his vacation, but this bug managed to attach itself anyway, and was hidden by Ollie's fur. The tick was very bloated and had been attached for some time.

Dr. Stone then diagnosed Ollie with tick paralysis, a very rare condition that he had learned about in vet school, but had never seen in practice. The saliva secreted by the tick slowly got into Ollie's system, affecting his neurological system and causing paralysis. Fortunately this scary malady is completely curable.

The hospital staff removed the tick and just ten hours later, Ollie was already walking again. It was a miracle, especially because of the last minute diagnosis.

I'm so glad this story had a happy ending. It highlights just how dangerous these little bugs can be and how important it is to protect your dogs from ticks. Check out our previous blog post for more information on these pesky creatures!

News: JoAnna Lou
Georgia's Canine Hiking Challenge
The newly created Tails on Trails club encourages people and their pups to get outside.
Now that summer is quickly approaching, I've seen more dogs enjoying the outdoors.

Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites is hoping to encourage more people to hit the trails with their pups by creating Tails on Trails. The dog-walking club, which launches this weekend, features a seven-trail hiking challenge. To participate, a membership card can be purchased for $15 through one of the seven participating parks' visitor centers, or online. As people complete the hikes, they can get the card punched by park rangers to track their progress. Once all seven hikes are finished, the card can bed redeemed for a t-shirt and dog bandanna.

Georgia State Parks also offer dog friendly cottages for those who want to make it an overnight trip.

The seven trails on the Tails On Trails challenge are:

  • Fort Mountain State Park – Lake Trail (1.1-mile loop)
  • F.D. Roosevelt State Park – Mountain Creek Trail (3.2-mile loop)
  • Don Carter State Park– Woodland Loop and Lakeview Loop Trails (1.5 miles)
  • Sweetwater Creek State Park – Red Trail (2-mile loop) and White Trail (5.2-mile loop)
  • High Falls State Park - Falls Trail (1.5-mile loop)
  • Fort McAllister State Park – Redbird Creek Trail (3.1-mile loop)
  • Red Top Mountain State Park – White Tail Trail (1-mile loop)
Will you be hiking with your dogs this summer? Check out our article on how to prepare for a future trek.
News: Karen B. London
Little Luxuries
What non-essential dog items do you love?

As I get older I value my comfort just a little more. I appreciate cup holders, soft cozy blankets, and chairs whose designers were inspired by the human body rather than thoughts of fitting 100 chairs in a storage closet. When it comes to dogs, little luxuries mean more to me, too. Just today I walked dogs with leashes that have soft padding in the handle, and I realized that these are the leashes for me. It’s a little thing, that extra padding, but I just love the feel of it my hand. Even with dogs who have lovely leash manners (but especially if they are still working on them) that extra cushion protects my hands from any harshness, and I love it!

I felt the same way years ago when I first discovered the Chuck It. Okay, a little dog slobber never hurt anybody, but a quart of it on a tennis ball is not what I’m looking for in hand moisturizer, either. I’m also a big fan of the folding dog water bowl. To be able to hike with dogs and easily help them hydrate without having a big, clunky water bowl digging into my back through a backpack adds much joy to the outing.

While I am a huge fan of the stuffed Kong, sometimes it feels like a lot of work to stuff one. (I’m not proud of that, but it’s the truth.) When such an every day task seems hard, I’m grateful for Kong’s Marathon toys. They can keep a dog occupied for a long time but just take a moment for me to lock the compatible treat into the fitted slot.

Microfiber towels that absorb water and mud from a dog’s underbelly and paws are indispensable to me now. Sure, any basic towel works, but they don’t necessarily work as well as the microfiber ones. Even easier to use (and therefore better) are the microfiber mitts that dry dogs without slipping, which means that your hands don’t get wet and muddy.

There are so many items that I appreciate just because they make life a tiny bit easier and more convenient. Non-stick mats that go under food and water bowl keep bowls from sliding all over the floor are a huge plus—no scratches in the floor, easy clean-up of spills, and no racket from clanking bowls. Travel food bags that only take up as much room as the food you have left are a huge improvement over bulky plastic containers. Poop bag holders that attach to a belt loop or the leash free up my hands and pockets, and therefore belong on my list of non-essential dog items that make me happy.

What little luxuries in dog gear make your life just a little better?

News: JoAnna Lou
Dog Training by Computer
Researchers explore the possibilities of canine-computer interactions.

Anyone who has trained a dog knows the importance of speed and consistency when it comes to rewarding desired behaviors. But we're humans, and we're not perfect. Can a computer make up for our shortcomings?

North Carolina State University researchers have developed a customized suite of technologies that allows a computer to train a dog by responding to their body language.

The team designed a custom harness with built-in sensors that monitor the dog's posture and sends the information wirelessly to a computer. Then an algorithm recognizes a predetermined data pattern (for instance, the dog going from a standing to sitting position) and reinforces correct behavior by releasing dog treats from a nearby dispenser

According to computer science professor David Roberts, the computer is accurate, but it didn't come easily.

One of the challenges the researchers had to work through was the trade off between delivering reinforcement quickly and giving the algorithm enough time to ensure the behavior had been done correctly with 100 percent certainty. If the reinforcement was given immediately, there was a high rate of rewarding the wrong behavior—a dilemma us dog trainers know all too well!

To address this, the researchers worked with 16 volunteers and their dogs to optimize the algorithm, finding the best possible combination of speed and accuracy. The outcome was highly accurate, rewarding the appropriate behavior 96 percent of the time. While expert dog trainers can achieve a near 100 percent accuracy, the computer has a significant edge in time of response. Even an expert human trainer has a lot of variation in this area. The algorithm is incredibly consistent.

The researchers see endless possibilities in the area of animal-computer interaction. The next step in their work is to see how they can combine this technology with human directed training, to make us more efficient, and also apply the algorithm to training service dogs. One day they also want to explore allowing dogs to “use” computers. Imagine if a diabetic alert dog could use a trained behavior to call for help!

A computer will never replace the special bond that develops between person and dog, but it could be a very interesting tool that could help us more effectively train our pups.

News: JoAnna Lou
Mandatory Airport Potty Areas for Dogs
Transportation hubs add pet relief areas ahead of the August deadline.

Thanks to a federal regulation, all airports in the United States that service over 10,000 passengers per year will have a pet relief area in every terminal by this August. Many transportation hubs have added potty spaces in the last few years, but the looming deadline means many shiny new relief areas are popping up all over the country in 2016.

A major upgrade was recently unveiled at my local New York City airport—in John F. Kennedy International Airport's Terminal 4. This building already had a pre-security potty area, but this can be a logistical nightmare for dogs needing to take a quick potty break before a flight takes off. Imagine worrying about whether your pup has time for a last bathroom trip or if you'll get stuck waiting on the security line to get back to the gate. Having an area after security provides huge peace of mind for traveling pet lovers.

The new space, located between the men's and women's bathrooms near Gate B31, is behind a door marked with a pawprint. The relief area features a patch of artificial turf and a little red hydrant, as well as poop bags and a hose to aid in clean up.

Many professionals were consulted in the design, including the Guide Dog Foundation.

With an increase in traveling pets, these post-security relief areas are much needed. I hope that this is a sign that airlines are recognizing the importance of catering to animal lovers and their companions!

News: Karen B. London
Dogs in the Road
Modern Dangers

An adrenaline rush at the movies or on a roller coaster is fun, but not when the cause is seeing a dog dodging traffic. Yesterday, a dog raced across a busy road, right in front of our car, and then perilously close to oncoming traffic. He was running in a zigzag pattern and was clearly not experienced at crossing the street. I honked a few times, hoping to put all other drivers on alert so they could take evasive action to avoid this dog.

Fortunately, the dog made it safely across many lanes of traffic to the other side, but unfortunately, he immediately headed back across the road. There was more honking and braking, some skilled swerving and another blast of adrenaline all around. The dog survived his second crossing with help from a lot of drivers and a bit of luck thrown in. He was then in the grocery store parking that was the scene of his escape, where a woman grabbed his collar and held onto him.

I pulled into this parking lot just in case a spare leash would be helpful.(I usually have one in my car.) I arrived just as the dog’s guardian did, looking incredibly relieved and full of gratitude for the woman who had caught her dog. Thanks to a modern convenience, the dog had been released from the guardian’s car when she accidentally hit the release button for the back hatch instead of the one to unlock the doors. She was just exiting the store when it happened, so she was close enough to the car to activate it, but too far away to stop her dog from leaping out and going on his brief, but dangerous, escapade.

With this technology so commonplace, precautions against the dangers it presents to our dogs are in order. Securing our dogs with crates or barriers is an obvious option for avoiding this kind of trouble. There are so many arguments in favor of having our dogs in crates when they are in the car, and this is just another one.

The guardian of this dog was horrified about his near disaster, and will certainly have nightmares. (I probably will, too!) Even though her dog rides in the crate, she had let him out for a little more freedom while shopping, not considering the potential risk her new car posed.

Has an accidental hatch opening ever given your dog an unplanned adventure?

News: Karen B. London
Who Stole the Cookie?
A stressful situation for dogs

A canine whodunit is the set-up for this video. It’s not a murder mystery and there’s no butler, but still the crime must be solved. When two dogs are asked who took the cookie off the counter, one dog reaches out and puts his paw on the other dog. The gesture clearly says, “She did it.” I do like the use of a single behavior as the basis for an elaborate joke, and the idea is unquestionably adorable. Though it’s easy to have a little chuckle about it, it’s also easy to feel concern because both of these dogs show signs of stress.

The dogs appear to have quite a bit of training, and are probably on stays. The dog on our left is presumably responding to a visual cue to bop the other dog with his paw, though it is supposed to look like he is answering the speaker’s question about who is the cookie-taking culprit.

Neither of the dogs looks comfortable as both exhibit signs of anxiety. There are a lot of tongue flicks, constant worried expressions, multiple stress yawns, slightly cowering postures, and the closed-mouth look of dogs who are not relaxed. It may be that the dogs are stressed by the anticipation of the bop by one dog to the other. Neither dog seems too happy about it. The dog who paws at the other dog tongue flicks before or during every repetition of this action, and the dog on the receiving end often does the same afterwards.

Another possibility is that the camera is stressing them out, which is really common in dogs. Either way, although both dogs are obedient and the basic idea behind the skit is amusing, the emotional state of the dogs ruins it a bit for me.

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