Dogs & Wolves: Diet and Sociability

Arlo

We all know that dogs are wolves in one sense (can reproduce and their young are reproductively viable) and, as importantly, that dogs aren't wolves at all. Just try to teach a wolf "leave it" if you happen upon a dead rabbit. Here are two new studies that shed light on the social systems of the domestic dog, and might help some of us decide what we need to be feeding our dogs. First, Erik Axelsson and colleagues compared the genes of wolves and domestic dogs and found some very interesting differences. One of the differences is related to diet: dogs have three genes that wolves do not that play an important role in the digestion of starch (for those of you who are interested, the genes are AMY2B, MGAM and SGLT1). This result supports the "village dog" hypothesis, (of Coppinger and Read More

The Black Dog Syndrome – Fact or Fiction?

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We all know about the "Black Dog Syndrome," the belief that all black dogs are harder to place from shelters and rescues than dogs of other colorations. I'll admit that when I first heard about it I didn't question whether it was true. For one thing, when I bred Border Collie puppies I saw a strong bias for pups with white on them and against all black pups. Every once in a while a buyer would tell me that they especially loved the looks of the "plain," all black pup, but they were the exception, not the rule. The second reason I assumed the Black Dog syndrome was true was that so many people in shelters told me they experienced it at their facility, that indeed, in their experience, all black dogs were harder to place than others. However, I just read an interesting blog on the ASPCA Read More

Safe Off Leash?

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Last weekend Jim, Willie, Tootsie and I stayed in a lovely log cabin owned by friends in the woods in eastern Wisconsin. I mention that because for the first time in her nine years of life, Tootsie got to run off leash in an unfenced area off the farm. Wooo Hooo! Some people might not understand what a huge step that was for a little puppy mill dog, but I'm guessing that many of you get it completely. I was over the moon with happiness that I could unsnap the lead, and trust that she would stop when told, come when called, and as importantly, get to sniff and explore with more freedom than she's ever had in her nine years of life. The decision I made got me thinking about the issue in general: When IS it safe to let a dog off leash? What do you need to know to evaluate the risk and Read More

New Research on Dogs and Music

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I recently read an interesting study about the effect of different types of music on kenneled dogs. ("Behavioral effect of auditory stimulation on kenneled dogs," by Kogan, Schoenfeld-Tacher & Simon, J of Veterinary Behavior 7, 2012, 268-275.) The authors' goal was to determine if different types of music, as has been reported in other species, had different types of effects on dogs, and the results indeed confirmed that this was true. The results suggested that 1) "classical music" increases the amount of time the dogs spent sleeping, and 2) "heavy metal" music increased body shaking (or trembling). Surprisingly however, "psychoacoustically designed" music, a piano piece specifically designed to calm dogs, resulted in no statistically significant change in behavior from Read More