Sunday, April 28, 2013

What are dog whiskers for?

What are whiskers for?  New research indicates that rats sense texture with their whiskers, the same way humans use their fingertips.

When you stick your hand in your purse or backpack, and fish around for a specific object, you use your tactile sense.  Rats use their whiskers to do the same thing.

Although the study looked only at rats, it's likely that other mammals, including dogs, use their whiskers in a similar fashion.

Read about the study at Science Daily.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Hug a shelter worker today

New science shows that animals do, in fact, overcome past abuse and neglect with rehabilitation at animal sanctuaries.
Shelter staff and volunteers - unsung heroes
The study looked at goats, but it likely has application to all animal welfare agencies providing special care for abused dogs and other companion animals.  An unexpected outcome was that female goats were more likely to benefit than males.  Draw your own conclusions.

Read more details about the study here.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Bomb Sniffing Dogs

After 9/11, the U. S. Army Special Ops began using specially trained dogs to detect explosives. Although most of the dogs' work is classified, you can learn more about these amazing animals, from this 60 Minutes piece:  Sniffing out Bombs: Meet America's Most Elite Dogs

Saturday, April 20, 2013

How Dogs Drink

It may look like your dog curls her tongue upward when she drinks.

But she does the opposite. A dog picks up liquid with the back of the tongue and tosses it into the mouth. Watch this very cool slow motion video of a dog doing just that.

It takes three laps to begin pushing liquid down the gullet.  Why do some dogs drip water from the bowl to your lap?  Water on one side of the tongue goes into the dog, while water on the other side goes back into the bowl.  It also has to do with how far the tongue reaches into the liquid.

Long tongue?
Read the article that explains the science behind dog lapping at Global Animal.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Wet dog shake-off

Dogs and other mammals shake water off to prevent hypothermia.  

Some smart guys at Georgia Institute of Technology did the math:  Large dogs can rid themselves of 70% of the water in their fur with a four second shake-off episode.

Shaking speed varies by size. The smaller the animal the faster the shake. A mouse shakes 18 times per second.

  A 65 pound dogs shakes 4.3 times in a second.

Watch the 2 minute video produced by Georgia Tech.  It's poetry in motion set to Strauss' Blue Danube.

Read the science behind the wet dog shake: Wet Mammals Shake at Tuned Frequencies to Dry.   Why the dog seeks you out before she shakes the water off is still unknown.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Belyaev fox farm experiment

The weirdest thing about dogs is that so many of their multitudinous traits come in pre-packaged bundles. For instance, if you select for herding behaviors, you get a dog that looks shepherd-like.

Select instead for olfactory, and you get a dog that looks like a scent hound.

The Legendary Fox Farm Experiment
Some biologists in Russia decided to do an experiment with silver foxes.

Foxes are by nature aggressive. Biologists began to breed only the least aggressive animals.

In about twenty generations they ended up with a friendly, docile population of foxes that were piebald (spotted), some with floppy ears, curly tails and shorter legs.

This doesn't mean foxes are the ancestors of some dogs.  All modern dogs come from an extinct wolf.  It means that in the canine family, tameness is related to many morphological traits.  Choose one, and the others come along for the ride.

Click here to read more about the fox farm experiment.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Dog people with April birthdays

My birthday is in April.
Doctor Barkman and Will, 1989
Yes. We often dressed alike.

What other dog lovers were born in April?

Dressing like your dog (or furniture)
isn't a new trend. 
April 1, Debbie Reynolds

April 2, Emmy Lou Harris

April 3, Marlon Brando

April 5, Bettie Davis
April 15 Billie Holiday

April 18, Conan O'Brien

April 23, Shirley Temple

Did I forget anyone?