Thursday, March 27, 2014

Why Do Dogs Play?

 Playing isn't all fun and games; it's an evolutionary strategy.
Branch manager and her assistant

One thing (among many) we have in common with dogs is that we both play. What makes both species unusual is that we play throughout our lives.  Although many animals play in adolescence, few continue to play into adulthood. 
Two adults just goofing around
Lifelong play is unique. Most animals stop playing
after adolescence.

Play behavior extends learning throughout life, a characteristic that’s crucial to evolutionary adaptation. And in a fast changing environment it might be the difference between extinction and survival.
Playing is a problem-solving exercise,
a necessary part of learning new things.
Playing is not only fun, it’s an indication that a species has the ability to learn ways of adapting. 
Canids and Humans
Two of the most adaptable species on the planet
Play is one of the reasons.

This is list of five games that dogs play with each other:

Mouth Sparring
Clashing teeth while making threatening sounds,
a form of wrestling

Needs no explanation

Chase Game
You chase me then I'll chase you

Keep Away
Withholding an object from the other player

Friday, March 21, 2014

Five Unheralded Dog Cemeteries

When I travel, I look for dog cemeteries.  Here are a few off the beaten path.
Pet cemetery at Manzanar,  an interment camp where Japanese Americans
 were incarcerated during World War II.  Today it is State of California Historical Landmark #850 and
 is maintained by the National Park Service.   It appears that pets continue to be
memorialized here, but why is a a mystery to me. 

Fort MacArthur K-9 Command Cemetery in San Pedro, California. The military dogs buried here were killed in the
line of duty during World War II. Records are intentionally spotty as to what the dogs were actually used for,
but it's clear that they were trained at Fort MacArthur.

Havana's famous Colon Cemetery features a poignant memorial to the woman who founded the first animal welfare
organization along with her loyal dog Rinti, who guarded her grave site until he too died.  On the right, one of the many not so famous  dogs who live inside the gated cemetery and can be seen lounging on sun-warmed sarcophagi. They  seem well  taken care of by the staff who work there.  

Also in Havana, a small memorial to beloved cats and dogs at  Finca Vigia.
the home of Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gelhorn,

Theodore Roosevelt's home, Sagamore Hill, features a pet cemetery where
the family's many horses and dogs are buried.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Why Do Dogs Scratch the Ground After They Pee?

Who hasn't wondered why dogs sometimes scratch the ground after they urinate?  What's more interesting to me is why they do, and sometimes don't. The truth is, scientists don't know much about scent marking because people can't see it, and we surely can't smell it.  But researchers suspect that ground scratching disperses odor, like a primitive perfume atomizer.

One reason is to indicate territory.  It's been noted that dogs scratch the ground more often when they're introduced to new locations, and as they become familiar with the area (or perhaps claim it), they lesson the amount of ground scratching.

Sometimes dogs will smell a spot where another dog has peed, then scratch up a storm without ever urinating themselves. Dogs have scent glands on the bottoms of their paw pads, so scratching the dirt and disturbing the air sends information that may be different than from that of their urine.

Read my post that presents detailed facts about olfaction.