Monday, June 29, 2015

The Los Angeles Pet Cemetery

The Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park opened in 1929 on a lovely piece of property in the suburb of Calabasas.  Dogs, cats, horses, birds, ferrets and pigs are memorialized there.

The most famous grave is Kabar's, Rudoph Valentino's faithful dog. It's said the Kabar haunts the cemetery but I didn't see him when I visited.
Valentino's dog, Kabar

Many markers are sentimental.

Some have a portrait of the dog.

Others are traditional.
That's a Boston Terrier on the stone.  I'm guessing all the
markers beneath the stone are Boston Terriers, too.

A lot  are  lighthearted and kitschy. 
It's obvious that some are maintained on a regular basis, 
otherwise who would dry clean the costume on the dog?
Note the laminated photos in back featuring the dog
when she was alive wearing the same costume.

It has a more festive feel than people cemeteries, 
with lots of whirly-gigs made up of dogs happily 
making their way to the rainbow bridge.

Some markers have messages included.
This marker says:
Beaver Shen, we miss you Dr. Dog. P.S. P J is wrong.

The earliest marker is 1928.

The original building, put up in 1929 has been recently restored.

If you want to visit:
5068 Old Scandia Lane, Calabasas, CA 91302

Monday, June 15, 2015

Bone Burying Behavior

Why does your dog bury bones and toys in the backyard?

The International Wolf Center in Ely Minnesota explains:

"The reason is simple: to store and protect the bone or food item from scavengers. Not many scavengers in your neighborhood? Well, most dogs will continue to exhibit this behavior because it is an instinct that has been transferred from over 12,000 years of breeding the current domestic dog away from gray wolves."

A professional burying a treasure. 
The wolf digs the hole with her front paws, 
then pushes dirt over it with her muzzle
and tamps it down.

An amateur having just buried a treasure. 
Lolly's instinct remains but her technique is lacking.

"In an attempt to protect food that cannot be consumed immediately, wolves have adopted a behavior known as caching. To cache is to bury food in a shallow depression thus preventing avian scavengers from detecting the item. Wolves then return and unearth the item later for a snack between kills.

The process of caching is simple. A wolf tears a small fragment from a carcass and trots off to a secluded area, usually with moderate to dense tree cover, digs a depression suitable for the item, then places the item in the hole and uses their nose to cover the meat with the freshly dug dirt. The wolf then tamps down the food grave with their nose. It is easy to see when individuals have been caching as they have the telltale "brown nose" from tamping down the cache site. So the next time your dog has dirt over their nose pad you now know why."

Monday, May 25, 2015

Remembering the Dogs of War

More than 500 U.S. military working dogs are deployed worldwide at any given time.  Read about combat canines and their handlers in Iraq and Afghanistan in this recent National Geographic article.

Major Cpl. John Dolezal poses with CChas, a Belgian Malinois,
at Twentynine Palms in California. Dogs bred at Lackland
Air Force Base in Texas, the military's primary canine
facility, are given names that begin with double letters.
You can adopt a retired military dog. Find answers to frequently asked questions on the official site.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Demise of the American Kennel Club Library

A good source for everything dog WAS the American Kennel Club Library located in New York City.  The library closed in 2009 when it let it's librarian of thirty years go, and put part of its catalog online. 
The Library's mission was to serve as a public reference collection and archive on matters relating to purebred dogs. When I did my dissertation research in 1999, I was privileged to handle and read books from the collection, some hundreds of years old like those below. 

I would add the link to the online collection, but the one featured on the AKC site is no good, so if you know a different link, please let me know.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Why Do Pointers Point?

Scientists have identified two genes that may contribute to pointing behavior.
Pointing behavior is fixed in some hunting dogs,
meaning it doesn't need to be taught.  The dog stops,
sometimes with the front leg suspended,
and directs to game with the muzzle. 

To investigate the genetic bases of the inherent trait, scientists compared the genomes of two pointing breeds (Weimaraner and Large Munsterlander) to the genome of livestock guarding dogs.

The Large Munsterlander inherently points
(and I might add, is inherently cute).

The Weimaranar does, too.
They found differences on chromosome 22. Then the team looked at other pointing breeds to see if they had the same unique genetic variant. They looked at the genomes of English Setters, German Longhaired Pointers, German Shorthaired Pointers, Gordon Setters and Irish Setters. Excepting the German Shorthaired Pointer, they all carry the same genetic regulator.

The German Shorthaired Pointer deviates from the norm.
(There's always one in every crowd.)
Because not all pointing breeds carry the two genes, the researchers concluded that genetic and environmental factors likely contribute to pointing behavior, as well.

On another note, researchers were surprised to find that nearby genes appear to be related to side preference. This made me wonder if dogs always point with the right leg. I asked one of the scientists who told me, "I do not think that there would be any side preference in pointing. The dog "freezes" just in the moment of scenting, [abruptly] pointing to where the game is hiding.  [However] certainly there is laterality in dogs in regard to other behaviors like paw usage, listening, etc."

Read more about side preference in dogs.

Read the journal article: Homozygosity mapping and sequencing identify two genes that might contribute to pointing behavior in hunting dogs. Denis A Akkad, Wanda M Gerding, Robin B Gasser, and Jorg T. Epplen.

Friday, May 1, 2015

National Purebred Dog Day

May first is the day to celebrate purebred dogs!  It may not be a national holiday yet, as Colorado is the first state to recognize purebred dog day.  But it's worth celebrating everywhere.  There are close to 400 purebred dogs worldwide.  In addition to our favorite lap dogs, this is how the numbers break down:

  • 23 flock guards
  • 67 gun dogs
  • 48 herding dogs
  • 82 hounds
  • 35 mastiffs
  • 37 northern (spitz type)
  • 37 southern (sight hound type)
  • 43 terriers

Here are a few of my favorite purebred dogs:
Irish Setter

English Setter

English Setter
1979 - 1992

English Setter

Golden Retriever

Auggie (second from left)
Pembroke Welsh Corgi
1997 - 2008

Monday, April 27, 2015

Popular Dog Breeds 1900 to 1945

Since the early 1900s, the American Kennel Club has published lists of the most popular breeds.  But dogs that weren’t purebred, or that were not registered won’t show up on that roster.  
Four all-American dogs, the Rat Terrier, American Bull Terrier, Boston Terrier, and American Cocker Spaniel were commonly seen on porches of new suburban bungalows built with yards and gardens to accommodated a family dog, something of a new concept.  
Typical small working/companion dog,
the ubiquitous Rat Terrier
The Rat Terrier:  Until about 1900, any small dog that killed vermin for its keep was by default known as a rat terrier.  The loyal little dog, snubbed by UK Victorian era fanciers as nothing more than a "vermin killer of little consequence" was an American favorite.  

Boston Terriers looked a lot tougher in 1920
Collection: Library of Congress
The Boston Terrier was the first breed actually developed in America to be recognized by the AKC. The Boston Terrier was the most popular dog beginning1905 although he'd moved to second place by 1935.

The American Bull Terrier was a popular pooch at the turn of the last century, prized by the rich and famous, poor and not so poor alike. 

It’s ancestral stock was brought to the US in the 19th century by UK immigrants.  It was bred from terriers and bulldogs.  There are many dogs that are similar today. They’re informally grouped together and called bully breeds.  

Three guys just having a good time

Nationalism leading up to World War I made the breed a favorite. The American Bull Terrier represented the USA, and patriotic sentiment intensified our attachment to the breed.  
The American Cocker Spaniel took over first place in 1936 leading the way as the most popular dog from 1936 through 1952.

The American Cocker was perhaps the
first working dog eventually bred
solely for companionship.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Autoimmune System and Cesarian Section Birth in Dogs

An number of dog breeds with excessively large heads must deliver pups via Cesarean birth. Breed clubs admit that 80% of births in the Boston Terrier, Bulldog and French Bulldog are by C-section. 

Because of the size  and shape
of the skull, most Boston Terriers
 are delivered by C-section.

Boston Terrier puppy compared to a Jack Russell Terrier
 In vaginal birth, the fetus departs the womb completely sterile without a single microbe. Passing through the mother’s birth canal covers the baby with colonies of bacteria that kick-start the immune system.  Cesarean deliveries may contribute to an increase in autoimmune weaknesses because newborns lack the appropriate microbes.
Bulldog and Labrador Retriever pups.
Note differences in skull size.
An infant's diverse microbial community is essential to establish a healthy digestive tract, help shape the growing brain, and even protect from psychiatric disorders.  (
French Bulldog and Dalmatian
Even big dogs have skulls
relative to the size of their bodies. 

Do C-section pups start life lacking the microbes they would normally have picked up from vaginal delivery delaying the colonization of healthy microbes?
In 2009 the United Kingdom Kennel Club
 banned the breeding of traits
 that are cruel and disabling for dogs.
This includes the hallmark
deformed skull of the Bulldog.  

Because most of the health issues in these breed are due to their physical structure, the study of medical disorders connected to the slow introduction of protective bacteria is not well studied. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Victorian Puppies

A vintage photo with everything:
good composition, great hat, a palm tree
 and three adorable puppies!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Golden Retriever Cancer

Five of these eight Golden Retriever puppies will likely die of cancer, some by the age of nine.

The most common cause of death in Golden Retrievers is cancer.

The average incidence of cancer deaths in purebred dogs is about 32%. (In humans it's around 20%.) For some unknown reason 60% to 65% of Goldens from the US and Canada are likely to die of cancer.
The cancer rate in Goldens bred in Europe hovers around 30% - 35%.

So what's going on? Morris Animal Foundation wants to know.  Four years ago they received funding to do a longitudinal Golden Retriever study to look at not only cancer and it's many forms, but to also tease out causes.  Is it genetic, environmental, and/or food related?

MAF announced that they've successfully signed up their last recruit - Golden Retriever  #3000.  The study began four years ago. It will track the life style of enrolled dogs from birth to death. For more information about the study, go to Morris Animal Foundation. Or better yet, send a donation.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Lurcher - Another Point of View

Gracie Jones
Dr. Barkman's favorite Lurcher
The Lurcher is a hybrid that has two purebred parents of different breeds (like a Labradoodle).
A handsome Lurcher indeed.

What's the history behind the mysterious Lurcher? 

Up to no good?
The most commonly told story is that the Lurcher was a poacher's dog, favored by Roma people.  The name is a combination of the ancient Romany word  "lur" which means thief and "cur" which means a mixed breed dog. Over the centuries it became one word - Lurcher.  I guess it would translate to thieving mutt. But this old tale has a lot more to do with discrimination against Roma gypsies than it does with dog breed history.  
A den of thieves?
Another commonly told tale is this one: In the 14th through 16th centuries, English and Scottish governments banned the lower class (mostly Irish) from owning sighthounds lest they be tempted to steal game animals from the King's private preserve.   So they created a clever mongrel using a sighthound as one of the parents. The Lurcher was bred to poach the King's rabbits and birds. My guess is this fable has to do with discrimination too, but against the Irish.

Denigrating the Irish (Punch Magazine)
What else would you expect of an Irish dog?
If you look at the etymology of the word Lurcher, it could be interpreted to mean thieving dog.  But the middle English meaning of the word is also "to lie hidden, lie in ambush." This makes more sense to me.  Hunting dogs were originally used to net game. The dog would freeze or set the animal to allow the hunter to throw the net over it. 

This is how Giles Jacobs used the word Lurcher in his 1718 treatise on hunting dogs (The compleat sportsman.  London:  Eliz. Nutt and R. Colling)  "Your setting dog, you may chose [sic] either a land spaniel, water spaniel or mongrel of them both, the Lurcher. (p. 6)
Just a good ol' huntin' dog?

From what Jacobs said, the Lurcher was any combination of two hunting dogs.  By crossing them, you could create a dog that was a little less hyper than either high-strung parent. It could be a a hybrid of a sighthound, herding dog, setter or spaniel.

Greyhound x Collie mix = Lurcher
Today the traditional Lurcher is mostly represented by Greyhound hybrids. Ruth Horter's The Lurcher is a good contemporary history with lots of pictures of Lurcher combos. (Dr. Barkman would like one of each please.) This is a good website too - Celtic Lurchers

Monday, March 9, 2015

Chemical BPA in Dog Toys

Dogs that chew on certain kinds of plastic toys and bird-dog training bumpers containing the additive BPA may be exposed to chemicals that are toxic, according to research conducted at Texas Tech University. And a new study (3-2-2015) reports an association between BPA and autism spectrum disorder in children. (Scientists wouldn't be able to identify it in dogs although I swear I knew a dog that was autistic.)
It's always something

BPA is a chemical added to plastics to increase softening, flexibility, transparency, durability and longevity. In humans and lab rodents BPA has been linked to a number of health issues including impaired development of reproductive organs, decreased fertility and cancers.  

In July 2012 the U.S. Food and Drug administration banned BPA in baby bottles, zippy cups, and other containers used by children, but there are no restrictions on dog products.   (Dr. Barkman says "If it's not good for babies it's not good for dogs.")
Look for BPA-free toys.

If you're looking for BPA-free dog products you can find them at Planet Dog, West Paw Design, Jolly Pet, Premium Pets and Chewber.  Look for products that say "BPA free" or made in the USA from 100% natural rubber.