I see you….no, really….I see you

If your home has WiFi and you have a tablet or smartphone to spare, you can buy an innovative product called the iCPooch.

The unit allows you to video chat with your dog and to deliver a treat through remote control.  The product is being marketed with the message ‘no more lonely days for your dog.’  Simply dial up, talk to your dog through the tablet or smartphone that you will mount on the front of the unit (the tablet/phone are not included in the purchase price of $149.99) and hit the switch on the app to have the unit deliver a treat.

IcPooch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wonder if this product will really take off – most dogs and owners I know want to spend time together and I doubt dogs get the oxytocin boost of interacting with this unit they way the would when interacting with their owner.  The same goes for the owner…

Here’s a short video about how the iCPooch works:

The product is only available (and wired for) the United States at present.  I think this start-up will need to see how their market develops before taking the product to a wider audience.

Jealousy in dogs is real

Dogs can act jealous (is this really news to most dog owners?).  Well, researchers have taken steps to scientifically prove that jealousy exists.  They undertook this research because researchers studying emotion have argued for years whether jealousy requires complex cognition or that jealousy is a social construct not linked to physiology and psychology the way emotions like fear and anger are…

Emotion researcher Christine Harris, professor of psychology at UC San Diego, with Samwise, one of three border collies to inspire the study on dog jealousy. Photo by Steve Harris.

Emotion researcher Christine Harris, professor of psychology at UC San Diego, with Samwise, one of three border collies to inspire the study on dog jealousy. Photo by Steve Harris.

The research, published in the journal PLoS ONE, by University of California San Diego psychology professor Christine Harris and former honors student Caroline Prouvost is the first experimental test of jealous behaviors in dogs.

The findings support the view that there may be a more basic form of jealousy, which evolved to protect social bonds from interlopers.

Harris and Prouvost show that dogs exhibit more jealous behaviors, like snapping and pushing at their owner or the rival, when the owner showed affection to what appeared to be another dog (actually a stuffed dog that barked, whined and wagged its tail). Dogs exhibited these behaviors more than if the same affection was showered on a novel object and much more than when the owner’s attention was simply diverted by reading a book.

“Our study suggests not only that dogs do engage in what appear to be jealous behaviors but also that they were seeking to break up the connection between the owner and a seeming rival,” Harris said. “We can’t really speak to the dogs’ subjective experiences, of course, but it looks as though they were motivated to protect an important social relationship.”

Since there had been no prior experiments on dog jealousy, the researchers adapted a test used with 6-month-old human infants. They worked with 36 dogs in their own homes and videotaped the owners ignoring them in favor of a stuffed, animated dog or a jack-o-lantern pail. In both these conditions, the owners were instructed to treat the objects as though they were real dogs – petting them, talking to them sweetly, etc. In the third scenario, the owners were asked to read aloud a pop-up book that played melodies. Two independent raters then coded the videos for a variety of aggressive, disruptive and attention-seeking behaviors.

Dogs were about twice as likely to push or touch the owner when the owner was interacting with the faux dog (78 percent) as when the owner was attending to the pail (42 percent). Even fewer (22 percent) did this in the book condition. About 30 percent of the dogs also tried to get between their owner and the stuffed animal. And while 25 percent snapped at the “other dog,” only one did so at the pail and book.

The “other dog” – the stuffed, animated pooch used in the experiment. Photo by Caroline Prouvost.

The “other dog” – the stuffed, animated pooch used in the experiment. Photo by Caroline Prouvost.

Did the dogs believe the stuffed animal was a real rival? Harris and Prouvost write that their aggression suggests they did. They also cite as additional evidence that 86 percent of the dogs sniffed the toy dog’s rear end during the experiment or post-experiment phase.

“Many people have assumed that jealousy is a social construction of human beings – or that it’s an emotion specifically tied to sexual and romantic relationships,” Harris said. “Our results challenge these ideas, showing that animals besides ourselves display strong distress whenever a rival usurps a loved one’s affection.”

Source:  UCSD media release

Space bubbles

Have you ever been to a party and someone comes in really close to you and you don’t like it?  And you step back….only to have that person step forward again?  That’s the concept of personal space and comfort.

Dogs have it too!

Here’s a great video showing dogs with different degrees of comfort and personal space.  It shows you how to train a shy dog to become more accustomed to getting close to you as the owner.

More evidence against breed specific legislation

UK legislation that targets ‘dangerous dogs’ has not been shown to reduce dog bites and policies should be based on evidence and risk assessment, suggests a new article.

Rachel Orritt, a PhD student of psychology at the University of Lincoln says that dog bites present a “public health risk of unknown magnitude but no scientific evidence upon which to base a reliable UK estimate has been obtained in the past two decades.”

She also says that discussion by medical professionals about the impact of dog-human interactions “sometimes ignores the health benefits concomitant with dog ownership” with one writer in The British Medical Journal suggesting that “the only way to stop dog bites will be to ban dogs.”

Orritt says there are several studies that show owning a dog is associated with increased physical activity, better self esteem and fewer annual visits to the doctor. She adds that “eradicating dogs would have negative consequences for human health.”

She argues that the British news media “confound the matter further through inaccurate representation of the risk posed by dogs.”

Inaccurate reporting of dog bites, coupled with public pressure “have contributed to the drafting of legislation,” she writes. The Dangerous Dog Act 1991 has been amended in an effort to improve this legislation “but has been shown to be ineffective at reducing dog bite incidence.”

Orritt says that to reduce dog bite incidence, “academics and medical and veterinary practitioners need to cooperate to develop effective, scientifically sound risk management strategies. These should be evidence based and should not depend on politically driven initiatives such as the current legislation.”

Risk assessment for human violence has proved to be accurate and reliable and Orritt says this “might be a practical preventative measure to reduce injury from dog bite” along with medical and veterinary professionals “familiarising themselves with evidence based resources.”

She says that attention must also be given to the psychological health of patients after trauma.

Orritt believes that research is needed to improve care and an “estimate of dog bite incidence” but until this is done, “the scale of the problem is entirely unknown.”

She concludes that evidence based measures to inform ongoing risk management, such as developing effective risk assessments, “should result in the reduction in dog bite injuries that punitive legislation has not achieved.”

Source:    EurekAlert! media statement

Journal Reference

R. Orritt. Dog ownership has unknown risks but known health benefits: we need evidence based policy. BMJ, 2014; 349 (jul17 7): g4081 DOI: 10.1136/bmj.g4081

Wordless Wednesday, part 44

Photo courtesy of Karen Eckstein Han

Photo courtesy of Karen Eckstein Han

Blog Hop

Goodbye, friend

Goodbye, friend
With Daisy’s passing, it is probably not surprising that I reached for a book on grief and – more specifically – a book about grief over the loss of a pet.

I purchased this book in 2013, but when I started to read it then, it didn’t feel right.  Although aging, Daisy was still in good health and I felt like I was somehow ‘jumping the gun.’  The book went to the bottom of my ‘to read’ pile until last week when I found myself at loose ends in my empty house.

One of the biggest things about loss of a pet is, although deep down we know that our dog has a short lifespan, there is nothing that can prepare you for the emotional tidal wave that comes on the day of your dog’s death.  So, having a book to turn to for guidance is useful.

This book is written in simple terms, with some historic references to cultures and how they view death, dying and the role of pets.  It discusses the decision we face when euthanizing a sick pet, how to deal with children’s grief, understanding the need to care for yourself when grieving, and deciding when it is right to take steps that allow you to move on.

Since Kowalski is a clergyman, he has used his background to prepare a section on readings and poems that can be used in a memorial service for a lost pet.

I’m glad I had this book handy for when I had to suddenly face the loss of Daisy and, based on my experience, I would recommend to all my readers to have a book about pet grief in your ‘tool box’ for when you have to face the sad occasion of saying goodbye.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, Canine Catering Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand

Female dogs are better navigators

New data from Dognition shows that female dogs tend to be more flexible navigators than males. This is the opposite of trends in humans, and gives us important insight into how dogs see the world.

Map reading dog

In the navigation game, part of the monthly Dognition subscription, owners hid food inside two bowls, and taught their dog that the treat was always on one side, for example always on the left. Then the owner brought their dog around to the opposite side and recorded which bowl their dog chose.

Brain

Female dogs were more likely to use an allocentric, or a landmark based strategy. They used objects in the room to figure out which bowl to choose. For instance, in the beginning, perhaps the bowl with the treats was near a door, or a lamp. When the females were brought around to the opposite side, they still looked for those landmarks, which means no matter which way they were oriented, they would always go back to the bowl they learned was ‘correct’ in the beginning.

In people, this is called forming a mental map, or using a ‘bird’s eye’ view. Using allocentric navigation means the dogs were mostly relying on their hippocampus, a part of the brain that mediates spatial awareness and memory. This strategy is particularly effective in large and unfamiliar environments, and is the more flexible of the two strategies. Not surprisingly, humans who rely on environmental navigation are good at reading maps.

Male dogs were more likely to be egocentric navigators. They learned the association by thinking ‘the treat is on my right’. When owners brought the dogs around to the opposite side, these dogs chose the bowl on their right, which was the opposite bowl that they had chosen before. By using this strategy, the dogs were mostly relying on their basal ganglia, a part of the brain that mediates motor skills.

Before there were maps or navigational instruments, Pacific islanders used egocentric navigation for long sea voyages. They used the position of the stars in relation to themselves, (e.g. to get to this island, the Milky Way should be on my right). People who rely on egocentric navigation tend to make good cinematographers – they have a special talent for allowing others to see the world as they do.

The results are exactly the opposite as in humans, where men are usually allocentric navigators and women are egocentric navigators. Perhaps male dogs just need to get better at asking for directions.

Source:  Dognition news