Home
blog
News: Guest Posts
English Bulldogs Face Extinction
English Bulldogs

Not surprisingly, a study published July 29, 2016 found that the English Bulldog no longer retains enough genetic diversity to correct life-threatening physical and genomic abnormalities. This means breeders cannot use the established population of purebred dogs to reverse the trend in extreme and painful exaggerations such as crippling dwarfism and respiratory deformities - traits that uninformed pet-owners find appealing.

In the early 1800s Bulldogs were trained for bull-baiting, a particularly cruel and vicious sport. In 1835 the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals convinced Parliament to enact the first animal cruelty law for the protection of domestic animals, including outlawing bull baiting. 

As such, the Bulldog had outlived its usefulness. Like the pre-19th century Wolfhound that disappeared with the eradication of wolves in the British Isles, and the Tumbler whose demise was the invention of hunting firearms, the Bulldog was destined for extinction.

English Bulldog from 1890

But it was not to be. Beginning about 1840, the Victorian dog fancy's unabashed sentimentality was a catalyst for saving even the most formidable working breeds from their inevitable demise. Like many others, such as the Dachshund and Mastiff, Bulldogs went from working hard to hardly working.

Utility dogs were "refined" and transformed to fill jobs they weren't originally bred for - as show dogs and companions. Altered physical and behavior characteristics along with decreased levels of aggression were more compatible for their augmented duties as house pets.

English Bulldogs from 1920s

Beginning in the late 1890s, Bulldog breeders (and other breeders as well) selected small groups of genes from a diverse genome and created new breed-types. They were in effect increasing the odds that genetic anomalies would more likely be expressed to bring out exaggerated traits, like the Bulldog's baby-like face, corkscrew tail and affable personality.

As "desirable" aesthetic traits were selected for, other genetic variants including beneficial genes that contribute to overall health were eliminated from the gene pool, never to be reclaimed.

In the last few decades the most exaggerated traits in the Bulldog - the extreme brachycephalic skull and deformed skeleton- have become increasingly pronounced because naive consumers want that type of dog and consequently that's what many breeders select for.

Driven by economics, fashion, and uninformed decisions, breeders and buyers either ignore or are unaware of the genetic problems that have spread throughout the population.

The demise of the breed may not be a good thing for Bulldog-lovers, but it will thankfully put an end to the malformed and painfully crippled modern Bulldog we recognize today.

The good news is that some breeders are intent on bringing back the "Olde-Fashioned-Bulldogge". 

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Dogs as Model for Emotional Expression by Robots
Using canine ethology to improve interactions
Belgian Malinois / Dog Robot

An understanding of canine emotional expressions and human responses to them are a promising avenue to pursue in developing the best social robots. Social robots are machines that interact and communicate with humans by following social behaviors and rules that go along with their roles. People want more out of them than simply performing tasks to make our lives easier. They want their Interactions with these robots to feel as natural as possible, which means minimizing the disturbing feeling many people experience with robots. For that to happen, social robots must act in a manner that is socially appropriate, which includes exhibiting the right emotions for the situation.

Much of the work on developing emotionally expressive robots has focused on human facial expressions, with some emphasis on gestures and tone of voice. These subtle forms of communication are difficult to create in an artificial system, and researchers are exploring other options. One promising line of study is to consider interactions between humans and robots as an interaction between two different species that must communicate, and to use a non-human species as a model for the robots.

Dogs are a natural choice because of the ability of humans, even without a lot of experience, to identify the emotional content of dogs’ behavior. Children can correctly identify the emotional content of dogs barks, people tend to ascribe emotions to their dogs, and these two species are able to cooperate and communicate with remarkable success. People are able to understand dogs, which is likely a result of our long-standing relationship and shared evolutionary history.

In a recent paper (“Humans attribute emotions to a robot that shows simple behavioral patterns borrowed from dog behavior”), a group of canine ethologists show that people are capable of understanding the emotions of robots when their actions are based on the behavior of dogs. Using a robot that was not shaped like a dog and could not alter its basic posture, this experiment asked the question, “Can even simple expressions of emotional behavior elicit an acceptable level of emotional attribution by people to the robot?” If so, such behaviors in a robot could lessen the need to develop robots capable of communicating complex emotions through behavior based on human facial expressions.


Photo from “Humans attribute emotions to a robot that shows simple behavioural
patterns borrowed from dog behavior” (Gásci et al. 2016)

 

The subjects in the experiment watched videos of a trained dog and of the robot and were asked to attribute emotions to them. The dog was a Belgian Malinois and the robot was a touchscreen mounted on a base with wheels. The body of the robot had arm-like limbs attached to it, one of which was capable of moving in a variety of ways and one of which was not movable. The touchscreen, or head-like part of the robot, could not move independently and had no face. The robot made sounds, which were considered vocalizations. The emotions expressed by the dog and by the robot were fear, joy, anger, sadness and neutral (no emotion). Both the dog and the robot made sounds to accompany other aspects of their behavior.

The behaviors of the dog for expressing joy were approaching, wagging his tail and sidling, while in the robot, joy was represented by approaching, lifting one arm and moving the fingers and spinning. Anger in the dog involved approaching and wagging the tail as well as moving the head up and down dynamically, barking and showing his teeth. The angry robot approached, moved its arm high and swung it several times. Sadness in the dog meant sitting followed by lying down with his head down and then not moving. The robot showed sadness by backing away and turning away, lowering its arm and remaining motionless.

People more often attributed emotions to the dogs than to the robots, but the type of emotion was correctly identified with similar levels of success. The amount of experience people had with dogs was not a factor in their ability to identify emotions in either the dog or the robot.

The goal of this study was to investigate the possibility that simple canine behaviors can provide a way to facilitate the understanding of emotional expressions of robots. The robot is not designed to resemble a dog, and indeed a strength of this approach is that robots do not have to match their animal models. That is an advantage because the robots can be built with their function in mind without the extra expense and constraints of creating a specific form in order to maximize emotional expression.

General behaviors such as approaching, backing away, turning to the side, being in motion or staying still can all be performed by a robot of any shape. These behaviors, though based on canine models, are hardly specific to dogs, but apply across a large range of mammals. It is possible that creating the most emotionally expressive and natural-seeming social robots may require developers to consider a number of universal actions that are easily understood by humans as well as by other mammals.

Because human facial expressions are often considered too complex or confusing to mimic in social robots, the use of simple behaviors that convey emotions may provide a better way to make robots that are capable of emotional expression. Future work will explore ways that dogs (and perhaps other mammals) can serve as models for combining functionality with sociality. This approach will allow researchers to develop better social robots that people consider more like companions and with which they are more comfortable.

Dog's Life: Home & Garden
15 Doggone-Good Tips for a Pet Washing Station
Turn a dreaded chore into an easier task with a handheld sprayer, an elevated sink or even a dedicated doggie tub

This is going to sound harsh, but your dog stinks. Don't feel bad — it's natural, and you are nice to let him swim in that creek and run in the mud and roll around in yucky things. You don't notice anymore, because your schnoz is used to it. But when I come over to visit, the smell of your dog's bed and the smell on my hand after I pet him is very noticeable, so chances are, the same smell is in your carpets, car and any furniture Fido lounges on. 

You probably mean to wash the dog more often, but it's a pain in the neck. Large dogs are tough to get into bathtubs, the big shake afterward makes a mess, and the whole thing can be quite an ordeal. 

Now that we've got that out of the way, a home pet washing station isn't looking so crazy. In fact, you can use them for other things, too. A builder who's been adding them for years, Vincent Longo, says that one client uses his pet care station for cleaning dirty golf clubs, gardening tools and even the kids after a busy day making mud pies. 

Whatever your thoughts about pet wash stations, there's no denying their popularity. If you're thinking about adding one, here are some ideas to consider.

Incorporate the washing station into the mudroom. Mudrooms are a very popular spot for dog wash stations. Dogs enter from the back or side door, and their muddy paws never make it into the rest of the house.

 

Photo by Orren Pickell Building Group - Search traditional laundry room design ideas

 

Include a handheld showerhead or sprayer. Not only will it help you get your dog's entire bod nice and clean, but it will also let you do a quick paws-only wash.

Be prepared for the big shake. Anyone who has ever washed dogs knows that afterward they shake off the water with gusto and get the entire area wet (including the person doing the washing). Having a surround and floor that can stand up to water will keep the big shake from damaging drywall and floors. 

If your dog is the type that runs around the house in crazy circles after a bath, all I can recommend is shutting the mudroom door until Sparky dries off and calms down, or else letting him into the garage for the runaround.

 

Photo by Angelini and Associates Architects - Discover traditional laundry room design ideas

 

Go bigger with the drain. Longo recommends using a 3-inch drain in a pet washing station. It will handle dog hair better than the standard 1½- to 2-inch shower drain. He also recommends adding a hair filter over the drain.

Clearly, this dog loves the pet wash station and is just begging for a rinse.

 

Photo by Designs Dell'Ario Interiors - Search contemporary laundry room design ideas

 

Consider an elevated dog bath for smaller pets. It will be easier on your back and knees in the long run, as long as your dog is willing and able to jump into it, or you don't have a problem lifting your pet into place.

Step it up. In this clever design, the counters double as steps up to the basin. The middle step serves as a drying station and has room for a cozy pet bed underneath.

For smaller dogs a large utility sink plus a sprayer is all you need.

 

Photo by Direct Home Design - Browse traditional shed photos

 

Use what the pros use. You can find professional bathing stations complete with ladders or ramps at places like ProGroom.

 

Photo by BACK Construction - Search traditional laundry room pictures

 

Combine gardening and pet grooming. Pet washers are also great places to water plants, rinse off mucky Wellies and clean your gardening tools.

 

Photo by Smith & Vansant Architects PC - Browse traditional laundry room ideas

 

Incorporate your own style. This custom dog bath utilizes vintage tiles that the homeowner had been collecting for years.

 

Photo by Morning Star Builders LTD - Search traditional laundry room pictures

 

Have drying towels handy. An overhead drying rack is a handy spot for drying dog towels as well as laundry. If you utilize this kind of system, be sure to remove your people laundry before the big shake.

 

Photo by Witt Construction - More traditional home design photos

 

Embrace the theme. This area celebrates dogs in the wallpaper and has plenty of shelves for dog supplies.

 

contemporary bathtubs

 

Hydro Systems Petopia - $1,643.25

Consider going high-end. Do you and your pet have luxurious tastes? If so, try a dog-specific tub. When family-owned company Hydro Systems decided to dip into dog bath design, the owners collaborated with their groomer of more than 20 years, adding features like skidproofing to prevent slips and slides, and even an optional jetted whirlpool system. 

Is your dog the spa type? Do tell, because this idea is certainly new to me, and I can't quite wrap my head around it. Unless the dog's name is Zsa Zsa. Then it makes sense. (Seriously, though, the folks who designed this tub and added the spa option say it's a matter of personality on a case-by-case basis.)

Hydro Systems Petopia II - $377.25

This model is for smaller dogs. I included it because a photo of a dog sitting in its own personal bath wearing a bling-bling necklace simply must be shared.

 

Photo by Schachne Architects & Builders - Browse traditional bathroom ideas

 

Think about storage for supplies. Just like a human shower area, this one has handy shelves for dog shampoo and sponges.

 

Photo by Phil Kean Designs - More contemporary patio photos

 

Take it outside. Homeowners are increasingly incorporating pet washing stations into their outdoor showers. All it takes is a handheld sprayer or showerhead that can reach down to the ground. Rinse off muddy paws here before they can get inside and muck up your rugs.

A second, lower handheld spay is good for pets and for rinsing off your own feet before going indoors.

Provide a clean path to the door. A concrete, gravel or stone walkway will prevent your dog from dirtying up his paws on the way in from an outdoor wash. Unless, of course, the dog breaks free and does that crazy circle thing out in the yard.

News: Guest Posts
Herding in Glacier National Park
This summer a Border Collie is attempting to move goats and sheep from crowded visitor areas.
This year the National Parks Service has gotten a lot of attention as they're celebrating their Centennial. I'm planning a trip to Glacier National Park later this month and, besides the breathtaking landscapes, one of the highlights I hope to see is the mountain goats. Over two million people visited the 10th most popular national park last year causing the mountain goats and bighorn sheep to become unnaturally accustomed to humans, particularly around the Logan Pass visitors center.

Mark Biel, the park's natural resources program manager, says that the sheep and goats are highly attracted to salt and even lick sweaty backpacks that people leave near the trails. The herd animals also started using people as a shield against predators, since bears and wolves won't come near crowded places. In the past, park employees have used methods like arm waving, shouting, sirens, shaking cans of rocks, and moving vehicles to get goats and sheep out of the visitor center parking lot, but none have been effective in the long term.

So this summer the park has initiated a pilot program where Mark's Border Collie, Gracie, will herd sheep and goats off the pavement and condition them to stay a safe distance from crowded visitor areas. Gracie is the first employee-owned dog trained for work in a national park.

Starting in April, Gracie went to the Wind River Bear Institute, to learn basic banners, off-leash work, manners in crowds, and sheep herding. Allyson Cowan, the Wind River dog training program coordinator, says that Gracie was discouraged by the sheep at first, but now absolutely loves it. Allyson over prepared Gracie for her new job by putting her in more challenging situations than she'll ever be in at the park. For instance, using a round pen in training creates a confined environment that can be stressful for the sheep and the dog because there's nowhere to go. At the park, there will be open spaces where Gracie will have more room to push the sheep and have increased control.

When Gracie isn't herding, she'll be an interpretive learning tool for visitors, teaching them the importance of minimizing their impact on the environment and keeping a safe distance away from wildlife.

I hope to see Gracie during my visit later this month!

 
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Has a Dog Saved Your Life?

In recent years, I’ve had more clients than ever with service dogs, especially psychiatric service dogs. Most of these cases involve veterans with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and TBI (traumatic brain injury). Almost every one of these clients has said, “This dog saved my life.” What they mean is that they were suicidal until receiving the dog. The fact that these dogs have collectively saved so many lives is one of those truths that makes me love my work.

Of course, there are lots of other ways that dogs can save lives besides preventing suicides. They have kept runaway and lost children warm through dangerously cold nights, they have stopped people from stepping onto train tracks, they have led disoriented people home, and they have taken down would-be attackers. They have gone for help or barked to get attention when a person has fallen or is trapped after a car accident, they have woken people up just in time to get out of a house on fire or with high levels of carbon monoxide, and alerted parents that a child has fallen in the pool.

I know of one man whose dog fought off a grizzly bear when they were camping together in Alaska for several months while he conducted field studies for his graduate work. Later, when he returned to the university to write his dissertation, he and his new girlfriend fought about the dog. Specifically, she did not want the dog on the bed because he tended to push her out of it on purpose.

His response? “This dog saved my life and has been with me longer than you have. Once you have literally saved me from death, you will have priority on the bed, but not until that happens.” That relationship did not last, but he soon found a woman who loved being with the dog at night and who the dog did NOT kick out of bed, and they are happily married.

Has a dog ever saved your life?

News: Guest Posts
Volunteering is a Family Tradition
Long-time shelter volunteers (l to r) Felicia Hoyle, Rachael and Kaya Salyers walking Knox County, Ohio shelter dogs on the Kokosing Gap Trail in Mount Vernon, Ohio.

It’s a family thing. A tradition. Handed down from generation to generation. And thousands of dogs are grateful.

In 2006, Rachael Hoyle Salyers stopped in at the Knox County Animal Shelter (in Mount Vernon, Ohio) and saw all the dogs and how desperate they were to get out. Rachael described the participation in the volunteer program back then as not good. “There was only one other volunteer besides my mom and me. My dad, Ed Hoyle, volunteered too. A couple of years ago he had to retire from shelter volunteer work due to a shoulder injury.”

Now keeping the family tradition alive is mom, Felicia, her daughter, Rachael, and granddaughter, Kaya, walking dogs at the shelter every week. The family has been volunteering an astonishing 8-plus years every week.

 “I have always been a huge animal lover,” Rachael explained. “Dogs are my favorite animal because they listen and love unconditionally with all their soul. As a little girl growing up in Massachusetts, I was always bringing home strays.”

“I find it very rewarding, giving back to the community,” Rachael continued, “and especially not giving up on the forgotten and less fortunate. I enjoy seeing a dog get adopted and helping with the process. It is a heartfelt experience.”

Felicia remarked about “the happiness of getting a dog out for a walk, to play or pet, and talk to. It is something you just have to come see for yourself. It feels great and makes our shelter better because the dogs aren't isolated completely and can be socialized and loved, increasing their chances of being adopted.”

“Shelter dogs are the best dogs,” Kaya added.

The Knox County Animal Shelter is located at 285 Columbus Road in Mount Vernon, Ohio. Adoptable dogs are on the shelter’s Facebook page.

Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Licking the Bowl
I’m more like dogs than I care to admit

It’s usually with great pride that I take note of similarities between myself and dogs. If I greet someone with genuine enthusiasm or consider how well I am living in the moment or if I choose a delicious nap instead dealing with some of my paperwork, I pat myself on the back. We all know that everything we need to know we learned in Puppy Kindergarten, right?

Recently, though, I realized that I share a behavioral pattern with dogs that is not so special or admirable: I lick my plate. I’m not saying that I’m a member of the clean plate club or bragging that I eat my vegetables. No, there are occasions when I literally lick my plate.  We expect this sort of behavior from dogs. Most of them are extremely enthusiastic about food, but not picky about it and not into savoring it. They are not discussing the oaky overtones or the interesting way that the duck flavor blends with the sweet potato. They are just making sure they haven’t missed a morsel.

Concern about missing a speck of food is important to me only once in a while. I don’t lick my plate every time I eat, but rather only after one particular meal, and I have a good reason for it. Still, I felt sheepish when members of my family joked that I must have become a plate licker because of my personal and professional relationship with dogs.

So, here’s what’s going on with me. I used to overeat every time we had pancakes. I would eat a few pancakes, and then realize I had some extra maple syrup. I lived in New England for years, I adore real maple syrup, and I couldn’t stand the thought of wasting even a drop of this precious commodity. So, I would take another pancake to avoid wasting the syrup, but sometimes there wouldn’t be enough syrup, and I’d add more. Basically, I ended up eating to excess in my attempt to match up syrup and pancake. Finally, I realized that I could solve the problem by licking the syrup after my initial serving of pancakes. Of course, it’s inelegant, but it is healthier because I don’t eat as much. My kids—who as young children loved to lick water out of bowls to pretend that they were dogs—are so repulsed by my plate-licking behavior that I always sneak into the kitchen to do it so nobody has to watch.

There are so many traits we could share with dogs that would make us better people—loyalty, enjoyment of life, fairness to all people, emotional perceptiveness—but licking the plate is far from the most commendable, and it is certainly not the classiest.

Do you share something with dogs that nobody considers one of their most admirable traits?

News: Editors
Clear the Shelters Event Proves Successful

This past Saturday, July 23—“Clear the Shelters” brought together over 650 animal shelters, rescue organizations and media outlets to address the overcrowding issues that local animal facilities experience in the summer months because of spring litters. In events around the country, shelters waived adoption fees, offered training lessons and free dog and cat food to encourage as many adoptions as possible. The day’s results show 45,252 shelter pets were adopted. That number more than doubles the tally from 2015, the first year of the nationwide effort. Our local event in Berkeley, CA, reported 135 adoptions. Kudos to the organizers and all of the participants, and most of all—congratulations to everybody who welcomed a new animal into their home!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
The Canine Role in Near Extinct Koala Populations
Experts weigh banning dogs in areas with threatened koalas.

We've written before about dogs that help conservation efforts for endangered species around the world. But in some south-east Queensland, Australia suburbs, dogs are hurting the at-risk koala population.

Following a mandate this month from Environment Minister Steven Miles, a group of koala experts—University of Queensland's Professor Jonathan Rhodes, Central Queensland's Dr. Alistair Melzer, and Dreamworld's Al Mucci--have been working on possible last-ditch solutions to stop koala extinction in Redlands, Pine Rivers, and other critical areas collectively known as the “Koala Coast.”

They found that past government policies to protect the koala's environment were not enough to manage the main threats--dogs (both domestic and wild), cars, disease and habitat loss.

One past study found that seventy percent of the 15,644 South East Queensland koalas that died between 1997 and 2011 were struck by cars, mauled by dogs, or killed by stress-related disease. As many as 80 percent of koalas have disappeared from the Koala Coast, causing some to fear that it's already too late.

According to the expert panel, koalas are found in small numbers, so the massive declines they've been seeing recently is likely to result in local extinctions for some populations within a small number of generations.

The group has come up with a number of potential solutions, one being a dog ban in these critical areas. I'm certainly not a koala expert, so I can't say if there might be a way to save koalas without eliminating dogs (also not all of the pups in question are pets, some are wild). But this issue does raise the importance of any of us with dogs to be aware of the effect our pets have on others and the world around us. I see this including everything from preventing our pets from jumping on strangers to not letting our pups run into bird nesting areas when playing on the beach. This is an important responsibility we have as our dogs' guardians.

News: Guest Posts
Dogs Are Marathoners, Cat Are Sprinters

Have you ever thought about the athletic difference between dogs and cats? We already know that nutritional needs and personalities differ greatly between the two species, but what about their athletic prowess? We know they are both runners, but how long can they go? How fast? As it turns out, there are some interesting anatomic differences between the two, and it starts with a little-known tendon in the neck called the nuchal ligament.

The nuchal ligament attaches the head to the spine and is an adaptation designed to stabilize the head in animals that run fast and far. The nuchal ligament that dogs have is like the one that horses have. It supports the head without using muscles, thus saving energy and making the animal more efficient. Early canids like the extinct euycon canid show elongation of the leg bones, which also maximizes the efficiency of the dog’s stride.

We also know dogs relied upon a scent trail to hunt prey over long distances, while felines use hearing and eyesight to locate and hunt prey up close. Dogs must ‘follow their noses.’ As early dogs evolved longer legs, noses and necks, they needed the nuchal ligament to save energy while keeping their ‘nose to the ground’ posture, run and follow scent trails over miles and miles. And while dogs lost dexterity of their front limbs and evolved relatively weaker neck muscles needed to take down prey alone, they compensated by evolving group hunting techniques, according to Tedford Wang’s “Dogs: Their Fossil History and Evolutionary History.”

Dogs, humans and horses have nuchal ligaments and are unique long distance runners. You know who doesn’t have a nuchal ligament?

Cats.

Cats, as we know, don’t hunt in packs, nor do they run their prey to exhaustion. Cats are solitary hunters and rely on stealth, explosive power and flexibility. From a sitting crouch, a cat can jump up to nine times their height, and in a split-second they can make sudden changes in direction and twist their spines mid-fall to land on all fours, according to the Cornell Feline Health Center. It’s true: cats almost always do land on their feet. Why can they do this?

A cat’s spine is much more flexible than that of a dog. Their vertebral bones have increased elasticity in the disc between bones when compared to a dog, which is why cats don’t have the back problems that dogs tend to have. A cat’s vertebrae also is less tightly connected than a dog’s, making the spine far more flexible, and a cat’s pelvis and shoulders are more loosely attached to its backbone than dogs. A cat can stretch their body and run with a stride length of three times their body length. A cat’s flexible spine, powerful muscles and retractable/extendable claws that provide traction like runner’s spikes all contribute to top speeds of 30 miles per hour. There’s a reason the cheetah is the fastest animal in the world. However, a cat can only sustain this kind of anaerobic activity for very short periods of time, which makes a cat a fantastic sprinter but a terrible distance runner.

The next time you see your dog or cat running, watch how they are different: Whether your companion animals are sprinting to pounce on a cat toy, jogging 10 miles with you, or prefer the strenuous athletic activity of couch surfing, all adult dogs and cats can benefit from daily exercise, a healthy weight and a high-quality joint supplement.

Pages