Working with Elaine Ostrander, a canine genomicist at the National Human Genome Research Institute, postdoc student Jaemin Kim has identified genes that seem to predispose some dogs to become canine Michael Jordans. His study, which compared the DNA of 10 sporting breeds (Pointers, Setters, Retrievers) with nine terrier breeds, found that 59 genes linked to traits including blood flow, heart rate, muscle strength and even pain perception were more common in the sporting-breed dogs. Looking for differences in those 59 genes, Kim went on to examine the DNA of breeds (mostly herding dogs) who excel at agility … basically, canine point guards (think basketball great Steph Curry). Only one—ROBO1, which affects a dog’s ability to learn— proved to be significant. At least when it comes to agility, Kim said, a mental attribute may matter more than physical makeup.
Researchers observing dogs at a dog park found that most of the action takes place during the first 666 seconds after they entered. Also: newcomers tended to initiate snout-muzzle rather than anogenital contacts with dogs already present. Older dogs generally spent more time alone, and older females spent the least amount of time interacting with other dogs. Males eliminated (peed and pooped) more than females, and older dogs eliminated more than younger dogs. Smaller dogs were more likely than larger dogs to receive running/leaping approaches from other dogs. Mounting was 16 times more frequent in male-male pairs as compared to female pairs. Muzzle bites and licks were exclusive to female-female. Female dogs engaged in more femaleto-female play than male dogs did, but young male dogs were more playful than females. Across the board, time spent with other dogs dropped quickly after the first few minutes.
A 10-minute walk can buoy our outlook on life and cheer us up; schedule a short walk or a quick play session with your dog and improve your cardiovascular health as well. (Imagine the benefits derived from an hour of dog fun each day!)
Researchers have recently confirmed that a quiet, 15minute petting session can relax a shelter dog and result in positive behavioral and physiological changes.
Dedicated education campaigns by animal protection organizations are beginning to move the needle toward dog adoption. A recent article by Andrew Rowan and Tamara Kartal in in the journal Animals revealed that in the past decade, the percentage of owned dogs adopted from shelters and rescues has increased from 15 percent to over 35 percent; during the same period, the percentage of pet dogs bred at home has dropped from 5 percent to under 1 percent.
1,405 DOG-FRIENDLY RACE EVENTS
We can save our energy for running: self-described “nerdy academic” Bethany Merillat has spared us the tedium of data aggregation by doing it for us. Earlier this year, after six months of research and conversations with more than 2,000 race directors, she released her searchable “Dog-Race Database: Fido, Fitness and Fun,” with its 1,405 entries running (no pun intended) through April 2019. The paper in which the database is embedded provides an engrossing range of information, including the connections between dogs and health.
An academic exercise with real-world application, the database is easy to use. Click on a state and a list comes up; the races can be further sorted by city or by date. Race types vary, from straightforward dog-friendly walk/runs (94.66 percent) to the more, shall we say, esoteric dog “color” and mud runs (.48 percent). Some are exclusively dog-oriented events— fundraisers sponsored by humane societies and rescue groups, or in support of dog-specific issues, such as canine cancer. Merillat says she’ll be maintaining the database, updating it as new events turn up.
Read more about the project and access the database at thebark.com/dog-race
The number of Americans infected by mosquito, tick and flea bites has tripled. With the planet heating up and a new summer season upon us, we need to double down on our efforts to protect both ourselves and our dogs. After each outing, give yourself and your dog a rigorous body check, and examine your clothes carefully, including the seams. Even in warm weather, wear long pants, long sleeves, and shoes and socks, and tuck your pants into your socks to avoid exposed skin around the ankles. Ticks live on grasses and they can’t jump, so staying in the center of a trail when walking in the woods and avoiding brushy areas and grasslands cuts down their opportunities to dig in; also, don’t sit on downed logs (ticks like to nestle in them). Do consult with your veterinarian before using a topical or ingestible flea/tick medication with your dog. There have been reports of some medications losing their potency in certain areas, so make sure the medication you use is the best one for your part of the country.