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Weekly Smilers 9-1-14
Smiling Dogs
Ursa

Our featured smilers of the week. See more in our Smiling Dogs Gallery.

This week: Kate, Maddie, Mako, Porky, and Ursa.

Jealousy in Dogs
Study shows the desire to protect social bonds between humans and canines.

Do our dogs get jealous? My pups definitely react when I pay more attention to one over the other, but is it right to call it jealousy? While scientists have long wondered whether the emotion requires complex cognition, two researchers at UC San Diego believe that dogs may exhibit a more basic form of jealousy, which evolved to protect social bonds.

For the first experiment of jealous behaviors in canines, Psychology professor Christine Harris and student Caroline Prouvost adapted a test used with 6-month old human infants. The team worked with 36 dogs in their own homes, running through different scenarios with their owner's attention--having the person show affection to a plush dog (that barked, whined, and wagged its tail), engage with a plastic pumpkin pail, and read a book that played music.

The researchers took note of aggressive, disruptive, and attention-seeking behaviors. They found that the dogs were more likely to exhibit behaviors like snapping, pushing, and getting between their owner and the other dog when the interaction was with the plush pup as opposed to the plastic pail (as high as 78 percent to 42 percent). The dogs were even less likely to exhibit the behaviors with the book reading (22 percent).

Christine believes we can label these behaviors as jealousy and that the study suggests the dogs were seeking to break up the connection between the owner and a rival to protect an important social relationship. Because the majority of research is on jealousy between human mates, this study is an interesting insight into the dynamic between siblings, friends, and even people and dogs.

Do you think that your pup exhibits jealousy?

 

A Dog in Front and a Dog Behind
Different speeds affect multiple-dog walks

When our friends Ian and Emily told us that walking their two dogs together would mean that we would have one arm in front and one behind and demonstrated the posture, I did not take it literally, but I should have. I thought they were just cleverly saying that Super Bee would want to go faster and that Zoroaster would be a bit slower. I didn’t realize that we would, in fact, have our arms open wide to accommodate the dogs’ different speeds on walks.

Both of these dogs are quite biddable, so it was not difficult to ask Super Bee to wait up sometimes or to encourage Zoroaster to pick it up at other times. Neither puts much pressure on the leash, so it was easy enough to hold the leashes in one hand so our arms were not spread out. Overall, the difference in their walking tendencies was more amusing to us than it was problematic. Still, it made me consider the options for walking dogs together when they tend to go at different speeds because of age, breed, size or personality.

An obvious option that is not always available is to have one person walk each dog. If my husband and I walked the dogs together, whoever had Super Bee could go out ahead and then loop back for the person with Zoroaster. Being separated for a short time made them both more likely to adjust their speed and stay together for a brief period afterwards.

Similarly, it’s always possible to walk each dog separately. While I am hugely in favor of quality one-on-one time with each dog, walking one dog at a time has its drawbacks. With active athletic dogs like Super Bee and Zoroaster, we were already working pretty hard to give them enough exercise, so walking them separately would have meant cutting the length of each of their walks.

Sometimes the time of day can make a difference. Super Bee is more affected by the heat than Zoroaster, so if we walked them when it was hotter, she slowed down a bit and the difference in the dogs’ speeds diminished. That helped keep the dogs at the same speed, but the drawback is that because of the heat, the walk was shorter for both dogs.

If you have dogs who walk at different paces, how do you handle it?

Resembling Our Dogs
It’s all in the eyes

If you are among the many people who have always thought that people looked like their dogs, you have probably enjoyed hearing recent research supporting the claim. Now there’s new information to allow you to bask in being officially correct. Research by Sadahiko Nakajima (Dogs and Owners Resemble Each Other in the Eye Region) not only provides additional evidence for the resemblance between dogs and their people, but narrows it down to one specific facial area—the eye region.

In this study, over 500 undergraduate students were shown photographs of people and dogs. One set of 20 photos was of people and their own dogs, but the other set contained photos of a person with a dog belonging to someone else in the study. There were a variety of breeds represented, and the people were all Japanese men and women.

Over two-thirds of the participants in the study said that the set of photographs of fake pairs of dogs and people showed individuals with less resemblance to each other than the set of photographs that contained the actual dog-person pairs. This level of proper identification was possible even when the mouths of the people were covered by black bars. The students were just as accurate when the only part of the dogs and people they could see was the eye region.

However, if the eye areas of dogs and people were masked by black bars, there was a decline in their ability to determine which set of photographs contained real dog-person pairs, and which were made up of dogs and people who did not go together. In fact, with the eyes obscured, participants in the study did no better at identifying dogs and people who belonged together than if they were just guessing. That is, their success rate dropped to about 50 percent—exactly what would be predicted by chance. This study suggests that dogs and their people resemble each other in the region of their eyes.

An interesting question related to this study is how dogs and people come to resemble each other in this way. Do people tend to choose dogs whose eyes resemble their own, or is there a similarity in expressions such as the type or intensity of emotion that can be seen in them?

I once had a dog whose eyes looked so much like mine that many people who saw us together commented on it, but I never thought about it as a regular pattern. Do you and your dog’s eyes look the same?

Shelter Pets at the Emmys
Award show swag booth promoted homeless animals.
Jorja Fox of CSI at the Emmy Awards swag booth benefiting The Shelter Pet Project.

Award shows are known for celebrity sightings and elaborate swag bags, made up of free products fishing for endorsements from the rich and famous.

This year, the Emmy Awards featured a gifting suite that also benefited homeless animals. Part of the proceeds from Secret Room Events' Red Carpet Style Lounge went to The Shelter Pet Project, a collaboration between Maddie's Fund, the Humane Society of the United States, and the Ad Council to increase adoption rates.

The Red Carpet Style Lounge didn't just raise money for a good cause. It also featured pets for adoption, photographed celebrities proclaiming their love for shelter pets, and hosted a “yappy hour” with canine gifts.

The Shelter Pet Project's presence at the Emmys was a great way to use the celebrity gathering to get the word out about adopting an animal in need. I also hope that some of the dogs and cats found a new home in the process! Check out The Shelter Pet Project web site for more celebrity photos form the event.

Making Tumors Glow
Human and canine doctors team up increase successful surgeries.

Between 20 and 50 percent of human cancer patients will experience a local recurrence due to malignant cells left behind after tumor removal surgery. Surgeons (for both animals and humans) typically rely on sight and touch, which can be difficult.

Now researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have made progress on a technique that will increase successful tumor removals and decrease the likelihood of recurrence.

The collaboration between the veterinary and medical school explored using an injectable dye (indocyanine green or ICG) that accumulates in cancerous tissues more than normal tissues. This concentration occurs because the blood vessels of tumors have “leaky walls” from growing so rapidly. When a near-infrared light (NIR imaging) is shined, the tumor glows making removal easier.

The technique was first tested on mice, and then on eight dogs and five people at the University's hospitals. The surgeries were successful in making the process easier. In one of the human patients, NIR imaging revealed glowing areas that were thought to be healthy areas of the lung. The patient went on to receive chemotherapy and survived, thanks in large part to the new technique.

So far the limiting factor has been that ICG also absorbs into inflamed tissue, which can complicate its use. To avoid this problem, the researchers are working to identify an alternative targeted contrast agent specific to a tumor cell marker.

Glowing tumors are very impressive, but it's even cooler to see animal and human medicine come together to develop mutually beneficial advancements!

Weekly Smilers 8-25-14
Smiling Dogs
Bodie

Our featured smilers of the week. See more in our Smiling Dogs Gallery.

This week: Bodie, Buddy, Einstein, Mimi, and Sam.

Favorite Facial Expressions
Which do you love most?

The dogs in my life always look adorable to me, whether they are soaking wet from rain, slobbering on a toy that is past its prime or even eating something earthy in the great outdoors. When I love a dog, that dog’s face is always perfect, even if the term “classic beauty” may not be an apt description.

Even though I always love dogs’ faces, there is one facial expression that is always my favorite, for any dog, at any age, in any circumstance. That expression is the one of happy anticipation. No dog ever looks better to me than when she is eagerly expecting something that she really wants. For a lot of dogs, that “something” is food, which may involve drooling that some people find unappealing. Not me! If the dog is excited about what’s to come, I’m going to love the look.

For many dogs, the happiest anticipation occurs when it’s clear that a walk is about to happen. Get out that leash or reach for your running shoes and dogs’ faces become animated with a special kind of bliss. It’s beautiful to me, and I make a point of observing it every time.

For Super Bee and Zoroaster, the moment before I toss a tennis ball is the moment that their faces look the very most dear to me. This is especially true before the first throw of a play session. When they even suspect a fetch game is about to happen, their faces show expressions of delight that make me want to freeze the moment forever.

What does it take for your dog to display your favorite facial expression?

3-D Printed Dog Cart
Design company helps a tiny handicapped pup.

There seems to be no limit to what 3-D printers can create, with people making everything from costume props to guns. I've even heard that printing human organs may be next! In the meantime one Chihuahua puppy is benefiting from this new technology as he learns to navigate the world with two legs.

Back in July, TurboRoo (Turbo for short) was brought to The Downtown Veterinarian in Indianapolis after being born with a genetic defect that left him without front legs. His former family assumed that the pup would have to be euthanized, but the mobility issue aside, Turbo was perfectly healthy. Ashley Looper, a vet tech at the clinic, ended up adopting Turbo and the staff rallied together to make a makeshift dog cart using a Fisher-Price toy helicopter, a toy welding kit, and a ferret harness. The contraption allows Turbo to use his back legs to push the front wheels in order to move around.

The team's invention was successful, but it's hard to keep up with a puppy's growth spurts. Turbo can be fitted for a professional cart once he is full grown, but Team Turbo needed a solution until then.

As pictures of the tiny pup in his cart made the internet rounds, people from all over the world contacted the veterinarian clinic with their support. One of those Turbo fans included Mark Deadrick, owner of San Diego-based design company 3dyn, who contacted Ashley about making a cart via 3-D printer.

Ashley barely had time to say yes before Mark sent over two miniature dog carts created by estimating Turbo's measurements from photos. Both 3-D printed designs worked, but the sizing wasn't exactly right. Ashley has since sent a mold of Turbo's body so they can get to work on the perfect fit. Turbo's impact has also inspired Ashley to start a charity raising money to buy carts for dogs in need.

I'm certainly eager to see the future of 3-D printing and what it has in store for helping both canines and humans!

Learn How To Train Dogs at ClickerExpo 2015

If you’ve ever dreamed of becoming a dog trainer or are already a dog trainer looking to further your education, you won’t want to miss the world’s largest all-positive training conference: ClickerExpo 2015!

Held every year in January and March, ClickerExpo features leading-edge training seminars taught by top trainers from premier animal institutions and schools from all over the world, all brought together by training innovator and author Karen Pryor. Learn the all-positive training techniques used by top animal trainers to teach any animal almost anything. At ClickerExpo you can practice teaching your dog to retrieve (not eat!) a hot dog and watch live training sessions by the faculty.

In addition to courses focusing directly on obedience, agility, service, and behavior management and science, you’ll find a wealth of in-depth courses that apply across disciplines. Teachers and attendees listen, practice, and learn from each other for up to three days of unparalleled interaction in over 60 Sessions and Learning Labs.

ClickerExpo is coming to Portland, Oregon January 23-25, 2015 at the Red Lion Hotel and Dearborn, Michigan March 20-22, 2015 at the beautiful Adoba Hotel. For more information or to register, visit www.clickerexpo.com.

“I thought ClickerExpo was a fantastic experience to connect with other trainers with like-minded styles and to hear new ideas that people are working on.”

Handler Stress Improves Dog Performance
Detection dogs find explosives faster

Scent detection dogs and their handlers work as a team and the behavior of both of them influences the outcome. It has long been known that dogs take cues from their human handlers and may mistakenly identify a target scent (a false positive) based on the person’s behavior. They may also search in patterns based on instructions from the handler rather than according to their own inclinations.

A recent study (Human-animal interface: The effects of handler’s stress on the performance of canines in an explosive detection task) in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science shows that the handler’s stress level has an impact on the search. Specifically, researchers found that when the people were stressed, the dogs performed better, detecting the explosives more quickly.

In the study, handlers in the Israeli army were presented with two different types of stressors in a random experimental design in which every handler faced the same stressors. One stressor was related to the handling task. Observers, including commanders, were present during a detection session, and as part of the experimental design, they pointed at the handler from a distance and pretended to write down comments during the session. The other stressor was not related to the task. Before those sessions, a handler was told by the commander that the handler would be transferred to another military unit and need to face a military police investigation. Each team also had a control session with no stressors.

Handlers were monitored during their sessions to determine physiological measures of stress. Stressors decreased the handlers’ attention and increased their anxiety levels compared to control sessions.

Dogs found the explosives more quickly when their handlers were stressed, especially by factors unrelated to the task. The dogs also showed more activity in general under this experimental condition. These results support the hypothesis that handlers’ emotional states have an impact on the performance of working dogs.

The researchers propose one possibility for the dogs’ improved performance when their handlers were stressed: Perhaps they were less attentive to the task at hand, allowing the dogs to behave in a less “handler-dependent manner.” They propose that there may be benefits to allowing dogs more control over their own behavior during detection work.

Weekly Smilers 8-18-14
Smiling Dogs
Buddy

Our featured smilers of the week. See more in our Smiling Dogs Gallery.

This week: Buddy, Coco, Mufasa, Karla, and Kaih.

Greeting Old Friends
Sometimes dogs are extra excited

When my family visited relatives and friends in Portland, Ore. recently, everyone was glad to see us. However, nobody expressed their exuberance more than Nick and Margaret’s dogs Zuma, Keeper and Radar.

These dogs have always liked us and been happy to see us. During this visit, though, they really outdid themselves with their wags, wiggles, spins and general enthusiasm. It’s certainly possible that this was simply because it had been a long time—several months—since we had seen them. (We felt pretty excited to see them, too, after such a long absence.)

Ever since our happy reunion, though, I’ve been contemplating another reason for their especially upbeat greeting. Because they moved from Arizona to Oregon several months ago, these dogs have not seen many familiar people lately. Most of their interactions have been with strangers or with people they don’t know that well yet. So, it’s possible that seeing old friends for the first time in a long while was especially exciting for them.

After our initial hellos, all three dogs solicited attention and petting more than usual. They went onto their backs and gratefully accepted belly rubs. They put their heads in our laps and looked up at us longingly until the petting commenced. They wanted to be near us and oozed happiness in response to any physical contact. They’ve always been friendly with us, but this exceeded their usual signs of love and friendship considerably.

Has anyone else had a similar experience?

New Sport: UpDog
Disc dog/agility hybrid makes for a more accessible activity.

Anyone who participates in a dog sport, like agility or rally obedience, knows that there are numerous benefits. Not only do you get fun exercise, but you develop a deep bond with your pup. However, it can be hard to "get into" activities like agility. As much as I've tried to get my non-"dog competition" friends into the sport, it's difficult because the time, cost, and skill required.

Five disc doggers in Florida set out to minimize the barrier to entry by making their favorite sport more accessible. Kat and Jack Fahle, Andrea and Jason Rigler, and Babz Mahony created UpDog because they found that disc dog was largely limited to extremely athletic pups and handlers that were good at throwing discs long distances (if you've seen me throw a ball, you'd know why I don't participate!).

Their goal was to design a sport that was more beginner friendly. UpDog, which incorporates elements of both agility and disc dog, features games that allow for short tosses, a wider range of disc types, and playing with multiple discs. This helps open the games up to more diverse participation. For example, for dogs that will only return a disc if you have another one in your hand, UpDog has games that allow multiple discs to be in play. If you can't throw more than six feet away (like me!), there are games where you only have to throw discs shorter distances. UpDog also allows the rolling of discs to let people without throwing skills work on distance tricks.

Unlike in disc dog, winning is not necessary to advance. In UpDog, you work towards your own personal best by earning points to move up in level (similar to agility). Each level brings new skills to learn and master. However, the UpDog team emphasizes that extensive training in agility or disc dog is not required. If your pup can catch a disc (even one rolled on the ground) and can do simple agility jumps and tunnels, you can have a great time at an UpDog event.

UpDog classes have only been offered since the spring, but events are already filling up all around the country. Look for competitions, which are open to spectators, in Illinois, New Hampshire, and even Canada. I hope that this activity gets more people to discover the wonderful world of dog sports!

For more information on this budding sport, visit the UpDog web site.

A Sweet Good-bye

Just about every Monday morning finds me at the local off-leash dog beach with a group of dogs and a friend or two. It is such a welcome break from my demanding and stressful job as an animal control officer. The dogs I see at the beach are beautiful, happy and loved. Old and young, large and small, they are having a blast getting exercise, playtime and social interaction. It’s a delightful change from some of the heartbreak I see at work.

On a recent beach day I came across a scene which touched me deeply. A couple stood looking out at the ocean. Between them was a canvas stretcher with a handle that could be pulled across the sand. There was a thick dog bed on the stretcher and a very old dog lay flat on the bed. I paused for a moment, gazing at the gray muzzle and alert but cloudy eyes of the old dog. One of my dogs came up and before I could call her, the two dogs sniffed noses. The old dog was unable to even lift his head, but I could see that he was aware of what was happening around him and seemed to enjoy the interaction. I called my dog and apologized to the couple for the intrusion.

The dog and his people were calm and accepting and I continued on my way with a lump in my throat. I’m guessing that this was good-bye and that the people wanted the dog to have a last visit to a place he loved. To smell the salt air and feel the sweet ocean breeze.  It was so obvious that this dog was adored, cherished, beloved. I teared up at the thought of what was coming and yet, in my world, I found it to be a beautiful scene. I’ve seen the old dogs, abandoned and alone in the shelter. I’ve held those unwanted dogs and tenderly stroked their gray muzzles. I’ve told them they were loved and kissed them as they drew their last breath.

This is what every dog deserves, I thought, as I took a final backward glance at the little family. All three were gazing out to sea.

I would love to hear how readers have made good-bye special for an adored companion.

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