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