Category Archives: dog breeds

Domestication Syndrome

More than 140 years ago, Charles Darwin noticed something peculiar about domesticated mammals. Compared to their wild ancestors, domestic species are more tame, and they also tend to display a suite of other characteristic features, including floppier ears, patches of white fur, and more juvenile faces with smaller jaws. Since Darwin’s observations, the explanation for this pattern has proved elusive, but now, in a Perspectives article published in the journal GENETICS, a new hypothesis has been proposed that could explain why breeding for tameness causes changes in such diverse traits.

Photo courtesy of Lucky Dog Animal Rescue

Helios, an approximately 3-year-old cattle dog/greyhound mix with Lucky Dog Animal Rescue. Photo courtesy Lucky Dog Animal Rescue

The underlying link between these features could be the group of embryonic stem cells called the neural crest, suggests the research team.

“Because Darwin made his observations just as the science of genetics was beginning, the domestication syndrome is one of the oldest problems in the field. So it was tremendously exciting when we realized that the neural crest hypothesis neatly ties together this hodge-podge of traits,” says Adam Wilkins, from the Humboldt University of Berlin – one of the study’s authors.

Neural crest cells are formed near the developing spinal cord of early vertebrate embryos. As the embryo matures, the cells migrate to different parts of the body and give rise to many tissue types. These tissues include pigment cells and parts of the skull, jaws, teeth, and ears—as well as the adrenal glands, which are the center of the “fight-or-flight” response. Neural crest cells also indirectly affect brain development.

In the hypothesis proposed by Wilkins and co-authors Richard Wrangham of Harvard University and Tecumseh Fitch of the University of Vienna, domesticated mammals may show impaired development or migration of neural crest cells compared to their wild ancestors.

“When humans bred these animals for tameness, they may have inadvertently selected those with mild neural crest deficits, resulting in smaller or slow-maturing adrenal glands,” Wilkins says. “So, these animals were less fearful.”

The authors also suggest that the reduced forebrain size of most domestic mammals could be an indirect effect of neural crest changes, because a chemical signal sent by these cells is critical for proper brain development.

The hypothesis will require testing, which will be able to be done once genetic mapping of domesticated species like the dog, fox and rat are completed.

Full journal article details:  The “Domestication Syndrome” in Mammals: A Unified Explanation Based on Neural Crest Cell Behavior and Genetics
Adam S. Wilkins, Richard W. Wrangham, and W. Tecumseh Fitch. GENETICS July 2014, 197:795-808, doi: 10.1534/genetics.114.165423
http://www.genetics.org/content/197/3/795.full

Source:  Genetics Society of America media release

 

Urine may be the saviour of wild dog populations

Africa’s endangered wild dogs are very clever:  no traditional fence can keep them out.  A doctoral researcher at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Craig R. Jackson, has explored ways to save the species.

Photo by Craig R. Jackson

Photo by Craig R. Jackson

African wild dogs are a distinct species that cannot inter-breed with other dogs.   The populations of these dogs were in good shape until a few decades ago. In the middle of the last century, there were 500,000 of them in 39 countries. But the species is in decline across nearly its entire range south of the Sahara. Today there are somewhere between 3000 and 5500 left, in fewer than 25 countries. That’s roughly one per cent remaining – and that’s the best case scenario.

Wild dog packs are loath to intrude into the territories of other packs. These territories are defined by urine scent trails. So the researchers and their colleagues collected sand that had been sprayed with urine by wild dogs and moved it near to other packs to keep them inside a certain area – with success.

The use of the scent markings helps to keep wild dogs out of areas where they think there are other dog packs.  But, collection of the urine needed for the scent trails is a problem.  So the next step is re-creating the urine artificially.

The conclusion of the thesis:  urine may be the best bet for saving the African wild dog population; that urine may have to be artificially produced.

Source:  NTNU media release

 

A new use for Border Collies

Researchers from Central Michigan University presented their research at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology this week.

They’ve found that Border Collies are effective at reducing seagull congregation on recreational beaches, resulting in lower E. coli abundance in the sand

A Border Collie on beach patrol, photo by Elizabeth Alm

A Border Collie on beach patrol, photo by Elizabeth Alm

Gull droppings may be one source of the indicator bacterium Escherichia coli to beach water, which can lead to swim advisories and beach closings. In addition, gull droppings may contain bacteria with the potential to cause human disease, according to Elizabeth Alm, one of the researchers on the study.

At the beginning of the summer, 200-meter sections of beach were arbitrarily assigned to be dog-treated beaches or control beaches. Half way through the summer, the beach sections were swapped, so that dogs were moved to the control beaches and the dog-treated beaches were then left to be untreated controls.

During the summers of 2012 and 2013, researchers recorded the number of gulls at each beach section. Once each week samples of beach water and beach sand were collected and the numbers of E. coli in the samples counted. In early summer, samples from beaches where dogs had excluded gulls had significantly lower E. coli counts compared to control beaches.

“Border collies are intelligent dogs that love to work and could be used by beach managers as part of a comprehensive management strategy to reduce bacterial contamination at public beaches,” said Alm.

Source:  American Society for Microbiology media release

 

Albino Dobermans

Michigan State University researchers have identified a genetic mutation in Doberman pinschers that causes albinism in the breed, a discovery that has eluded veterinarians and breeders worldwide up until now.

Michigan State University photo

Michigan State University photo

Paige Winkler, a doctoral student at the College of Veterinary Medicine, says that the researchers found a gene mutation that results in a missing protein responsible for the pigmentation of cells.

Albino Dobermans possess a pink nose, white or very light colored coats, and pale irises in the eyes.  These characteristics are similar to human albinos who have light skin, eye discoloration and often experience visual problems.

Like human albinos, the albino Dobermans are sensitive to light and have an increased risk of skin tumors.

Winkler says that this discovery will help Doberman breeders in the future where breeding lines carrying the defective gene can be identified.

Source:  Michigan State University media statement

Golden Retrievers Bring Joy, Healing to Boston

DoggyMom.com:

The Golden Retriever comfort dogs are returning to Boston, one year on…great story!

See last year’s story in this blog post:  Luther and Ruthie go to Boston

Originally posted on The Daily Golden:

6 Golden Retrievers from the Lutheran Church Charities K9 Comfort Dogs will be in Boston to help bring joy and comfort to the thousands of people attending the area for the Boston Marathon on Monday, April 21st.  2 of the comfort dogs,  Addie and Maggie are already in Boston.  They also plan to visit hospitals and first responders.

lcc3Luther, Ruthie, Hannah and Rufus will arrive in Boston tomorrow and will be stationed at the First Lutheran Church of Boston, 299 Berkley St.- just a few blocks away from where the bombings occurred last year.  The dogs work for about 3 hours at a time and then are given a break.

Here they are with LCC president Tim Hetzner and their wonderful handlers, preparing to leave.

Photo - LCC Charities K-9 Comfort Dogs - Facebook

Photo – LCC Charities K-9 Comfort Dogs – Facebook

President of LCC Charities Tim Hetzner says

Our goal is to bring mercy…

View original 105 more words

If a pit bull could talk

Pit bull poster

DoggyMom.com and Canine Catering do not support breed specific legislation in any form!

The facts about pit bulls

The facts about pit bullsSource:  National Geographic

Image

Wordless Wednesday, part 23

German Shepherd in Snow

Your dog may have a permanent headache

Through selective breeding, toy breeds including the Griffon Bruxellois, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Chihuahuas and their crosses may have to live with a permanent headache and other maladies.

A Griffon Bruxellois Photo by © Vincent / Fotolia

A Griffon Bruxellois
Photo by © Vincent / Fotolia

Research published in the journal PloS One by researchers at the University of Surrey has identified the specific effect Chiari malformation has on the shape of a dog’s skull and brain.

Researchers took brain, skull and vertebrae measurements of 155 Griffon Bruxellois and compared dogs affected by the condition, with normal Griffons. They discovered that Griffons with the disease had taller foreheads and that it had also caused the shape of the brain to change, with severely affected animals having their cerebellum pushed underneath the main part of the brain.

The taller forehead makes some toy breeds look like a doll, making them more attractive to people looking to purchase a dog.

Although it can be asymptomatic, in many dogs Chiari malformation can cause headaches, problems with walking or even paralysis.

Lead author, Dr Clare Rusbridge says: “Chiari malformation can be described as trying to fit a big foot into a small shoe. It can be very painful, causing headaches and pressure on the brain and can result in fluid filled cavities in the spinal cord. Our latest discoveries will be significant in driving this research forward and hopefully allow us to identify which genes may be associated with the condition. Our next steps will be to apply our technique to other breeds with Chiari malformation and investigate more sophisticated ways of screening, so that risk of disease can be detected more easily, at an earlier age and with a single MRI scan.”

The research team wants to work with responsible breeders to use scanning technology so they can remove the condition from the breeding population.

Source:  AlphaGalileo press release

No correlation between breed and aggression

Researchers from the University of Bristol’s School of Veterinary Sciences have investigated the occurrence of dog aggression towards people with a survey of UK dog owners.

The 4,000 responses revealed:

  • aggression towards unfamiliar people was reported more commonly by owners than aggression to family members
  • 7 per cent of owners responded that their dog barked, lunged, growled or actually bit when people came to the house
  • 5 per cent of owners said that these things happened when out on walks
  • 3 per cent of owners reported aggression towards family members

Dog bearing teeth

The study highlighted that the majority of dogs showing aggression do so in just one type of situation. This indicates that the tendency to categorise dogs as either generally ‘safe’ or ‘vicious’ is a misconception, and that most dogs show aggression as a learnt response to particular situations.  (A lot of trainers working in animal shelters probably already knew this.)

The research also highlighted that although general characteristics, such as breed type, are significant risk factors across large populations they explain only a small amount of the overall difference between aggressive and non-aggressive dogs.   Therefore, it is not appropriate to evaluate the risk of aggressive behaviour in an individual dog using characteristics such as breed type.

That’s another black mark for supporters of breed specific legislation!

The results of this research have been published in the journal of Applied Animal Behaviour Science.

Source:  University of Bristol media release