Dogs Act Jealously Even When They Don’t See Their Rival

Past surveys have shown that more than 80% of dog owners report observing jealous behaviors from their dogs—vocalizations, agitated behavior, pulling on a leash—when they give attention to other dogs. New research published in the journal Psychological Science supports these observations and finds that dogs also exhibit jealous behaviors when they merely imagine that their owner is interacting with a potential rival, in this case, a highly realistic artificial dog.

“Research has supported what many dog owners firmly believe—dogs exhibit jealous behavior when their human companion interacts with a potential rival,” said Amalia Bastos with the University of Auckland and lead author on the paper. “We wanted to study this behavior more fully to determine if dogs could, like humans, mentally represent a situation that evoked jealousy.”

Dogs appear to be one of the few species that might display jealous behaviors in ways similar to a human child showing jealousy when their mother gives affection to another child. In humans, jealousy is closely linked with self-awareness, which is one reason animal-cognition researchers are so interested in studying jealousy and other secondary emotions in animals.

To test how and when dogs display jealous behavior, the researchers presented 18 dogs with situations where they could imagine a social interaction between their human companion and either a realistic fake dog or a fleece cylinder. The fake dog served as a potential rival for attention while the cylinder served as a control.

In the experiment, the dogs observed the fake-dog rival positioned next to their owner. A barrier was then placed between the dog and the potential rival obscuring them from view. Despite blocking the line of sight, the dogs forcefully attempted to reach their owners when they appeared to stroke the rival fake dog behind the barrier. In a repeat experiment using a fleece cylinder rather than a fake dog, the dogs pulled on the lead with far less force.

Through their study, Bastos and her colleagues found that dogs showed three human-like signatures of jealous behavior. Jealous behavior emerged only when their owner interacted with a perceived social rival and not an inanimate object; occurred as a consequence of that interaction and not due to a potential rival’s mere presence; and emerged even for an out-of-sight interaction between their owner and a social rival.

“These results support claims that dogs display jealous behavior. They also provide the first evidence that dogs can mentally represent jealousy-inducing social interactions,” said Bastos. “Previous studies confounded jealous behavior with play, interest, or aggression, because they never tested the dogs’ reactions to the owner and the social rival being present in the same room but not interacting.”

“There is still plenty of work to do to establish the extent of the similarities between the minds of humans and other animals, especially in terms of understanding the nature of nonhuman animals’ emotional experiences,” said Bastos. “It is too early to say whether dogs experience jealousy as we do, but it is now clear that they react to jealousy-inducing situations, even if these occur out-of-sight.”

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Reference: Bastos, A. P. M., Neilands, P. D., Hassal, R. S., Lim, B. C., & Taylor A. H. (2021). Dogs mentally represent jealousy-inducing social interactions. Psychological Science. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797620979149

Source: Association for Psychological Science

Mike’s winning story

After interviewing Andrew Cotter for his book, our local independent bookseller, Scorpio Books, agreed to work with me to sponsor a competition to win a copy of the book. People entering the competition were asked to tell me about the love they have for their dogs (because Andrew’s book is all about his bond and love for Olive and Mabel).

This is Mike’s winning entry.

Loved the article on Andrew Cotter in NZ Dog World and decided to tell
you about my life’s journey with an incredible pack/mixture of dogs over
the last 76 years.

On my 10th birthday in England my parents gave me an Irish Setter puppy
(Shamus) who was just mine until I emigrated to NZ in 1956 and went
shepherding on a 7,000 acre back country block near Gisborne. I managed
to buy a Border Collie heading dog (Star) and a Huntaway (Mate) who
taught me all about mustering and how to handle stock.

A six year period on oil exploration in Africa and the Middle East saw me rescue a terrier
cross (Remus) from SPCA in Mombasa who was with me for 4 years.
Returning to NZ shepherding saw a succession of wonderful working dogs
until I was priested in 1984 – but still managed to rescue a German
Shepherd who fitted in well with my new wife’s Cavalier King Charles!!

Retiring from the church in 1996 we were given a Border Collie bitch by
a friend moving overseas to help on our small 13 acre block. Discovering
she was pedigree we started breeding which we did until our last bitch
died in 2020. In 1999 my wife and I started competing with our Border
Collies in Championship Obedience and had a run of wonderful dogs but in
2015 having had a little health problem decided it was time to retire my
two old competition dogs. A year later I was offered a pup to rear and
train for a friend and believing it would be my last dog called him Mate
in memory of my first huntaway but not wanting to waste his talent
started competing again – his first 3 shows gave us 1st,2nd and 1st!.

In 2019 Mate got very ill with an auto immune sickness and thinking we may
lose him and having got back into competition decided to accept a pup
from a friend I had done some breeding with. Again believing this would
be my last dog (I had just had my 85th birthday!) I called this little
girl Star again in memory of my first working Border Collie. Last week
we went to a Champ show and in her first outing aged 14 months Star
achieved 2nd place in Novice while Mate won his Test B. Getting out each
day to play and work and compete with my kids seems to keep me
reasonably fit aged 86 and the gift I have been given with my wonderful
hairy mates has been a blessing and a gift all my life.

Mate and Star

Doggy quote of the month for April

“I look at dogs as furry Prozac”

-Rick Springfield, musician, author, actor and sufferer from depression

Sniffing in the name of science

The lists of Earth’s endangered animals and plants are getting increasingly longer. But in order to stop this trend, we require more information. It is often difficult to find out exactly where the individual species can be found and how their populations are developing. According to a new overview study published in Methods in Ecology and Evolution by Dr Annegret Grimm-Seyfarth from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and her colleagues, specially trained detection dogs can be indispensable in such cases. With the help of these dogs, the species sought can usually be found faster and more effectively than with other methods.

How many otters are there still in Germany? What habitats do threatened crested newts use on land? And do urban hedgehogs have to deal with different problems than their rural conspecifics? Anyone wishing to effectively protect a species should be able to answer such questions. But this is by no means easy. Many animals remain in hiding – even their droppings can be difficult to find. Thus, it is often difficult to know exactly whether and at what rate their stocks are shrinking or where the remaining survivors are. “We urgently need to know more about these species”, says Dr Annegret Grimm-Seyfarth of the UFZ. “But first we must find them”.

Annegret Grimm-Seyfarth with specially trained detection dog “Zammy”, a Border Collie.

Remote sensing with aerial and satellite images is useful for mapping open landscapes or detecting larger animals. But when it comes to densely overgrown areas and smaller, hidden species, experts often carry out the search themselves or work with cameras, hair traps, and similar tricks. Other techniques (e.g. analysing trace amounts of DNA) have also been attracting increasing interest worldwide. The use of specially trained detection dogs can also be particularly useful. After all, a dog’s sense of smell is virtually predestined to find the smallest traces of the target species. While humans have about six million olfactory receptors, a herding dog has more than 200 million – and a beagle even 300 million. This means that dogs can perceive an extremely wide range of odours, often in the tiniest concentrations. For example, they can easily find animal droppings in a forest or plants, mushrooms, and animals underground. 

At the UFZ, the detection dogs have already proven their abilities in several research projects. “In order to be able to better assess their potential, we wanted to know how detection dogs have previously been used around the world”, says Grimm-Seyfarth. Together with UFZ employee Wiebke Harms and Dr Anne Berger from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) in Berlin, she has evaluated 1220 publications documenting the use of such search dogs in more than 60 countries. “We were particularly interested in which breeds of dogs were used, which species they were supposed to track down, and how well they performed”, explains the researcher.

The longest experience with the detection dogs is in New Zealand, where dogs have been tracking threatened birds since around 1890. Since then, the idea has been implemented in many other regions, especially in North America and Europe. The studies analysed focused mainly on finding animals as well as their habitats and tracks. Dogs have been used to find more than 400 different animal species – most commonly mammals from the cat, dog, bear, and marten families. They have also been used to find birds and insects as well as 42 different plant species, 26 fungal species, and 6 bacterial species. These are not always endangered species. The dogs sometimes also sniff out pests such as bark beetles or invasive plants such as knotgrass and ragweed.

“In principle, you can train all dog breeds for such tasks”, says Grimm-Seyfarth. “But some of them may require more work than others”. Pinschers and Schnauzers, for example, are now more likely to be bred as companion dogs and are therefore less motivated to track down species. And terriers tend to immediately snatch their targets – which is, of course, not desirable. 

Pointers and setters, on the other hand, have been specially bred to find and point out game – but not to hunt it. This is why these breeds are often used in research and conservation projects in North America, Great Britain, and Scandinavia in order to detect ground-breeding birds such as ptarmigans and wood grouse. Retrievers and herding dogs also have qualities that make them good at tracking species. They are eager to learn, easy to motivate, enjoy working with people, and generally do not have a strong hunting instinct. That is why Labrador Retrievers, Border Collies, and German Shepherds are among the most popular detection dogs worldwide. 

Grimm-Seyfarth’s Border Collie Zammy, for example, learned as a puppy how to track down the droppings of otters. This is a valuable contribution to research because the droppings can be genetically analysed to find out which individual it comes from, how it is related to other conspecifics, and what it has eaten. However, even for experienced experts, these revealing traces are not so easy to find. Especially small and dark coloured droppings are easy to overlook. Dogs, on the other hand, sniff even the most unremarkable droppings without distinction. In an earlier UFZ study, they found four times as many droppings as human investigators alone. And the fact that Zammy is now also looking for crested newts makes his efforts even more rewarding.

According to the overview study, many other teams around the world have had similarly good experiences. In almost 90% of cases, the dogs worked much more effectively than other detection methods. Compared with camera traps, for example, they detected between 3.7 and 4.7 fold more black bears, pied martens, and bobcats. They are also often reach their destination particularly quickly. “They can find a single plant on a football field in a very short time”, says Grimm-Seyfarth. They are even able to discover underground parts of plants.

However, there are also cases where the use of detection dogs is not the method of choice. Rhinos, for example, leave their large piles of excrement clearly visible on paths so that humans can easily find them on their own. And animal species that know feral dogs as enemies are more likely to find (and fight) the detection dogs than to be found. “However, in most cases where the dogs did not perform so well, poor training is to blame”, says Grimm-Seyfarth. She believes that good training of the animal is the most important recipe for success for detection dogs. “If you select the right dog, know enough about the target species, and design the study accordingly, this can be an excellent detection method”. She and her colleagues are already planning further applications for the useful detection dogs. A new project that involves tracking down invasive plant species will soon be launched.

Publication: 
Annegret Grimm-Seyfarth, Wiebke Harms, Anne Berger: Detection dogs in nature conservation: A database on their worldwide deployment with a review on breeds used and their performance compared to other methods. Methods in Ecology and Evolution (2020), DOI: 10.1111/2041-210X.13560. https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/2041-210X.13560

Source: Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)

Dogs play together to please us humans suggests new study

Sure, your dog plays with other pooches to have some fun and let off a little steam. But what if their decisions on when and how to play is largely based on making you happy?

Kobe (left) and Ian (right) play. Photo courtesy of Lindsay Mehrkam

New research published by a Monmouth University scientist suggests our dogs base their playful behaviors on what they believe their owners expect of them.

Lindsay Mehrkam, the director of Monmouth’s Human and Animal Wellness Collaboratory, conducted the research as part of her dissertation. The study was published in February in the journal Animal Cognition.

“The goal of the study was whether or not owner attention could promote play between dogs,” Mehrkam said.

The experiment involved 10 pairs of dogs who lived together with their owners. Each pair was filmed during three separate, 15-minute-long play sessions. Those sessions were subdivided so that five minutes would have the owner be present, attentive and encouraging play, then five minutes with the owner not paying attention, and close with five minutes of the owner not being in the room.

“We saw that overall as a group, the dogs played more when the owners paid attention to them, which isn’t terribly surprising,” Mehrkam said. “The things that made it interesting was trying to figure out the why.”

One thing the study doesn’t do, according to Mehrkam, is definitively say that dogs are only playing with each other if they think it makes their owners happy.

“If you look back at the research on play, it’s pretty well regarded that dog-dog play is a self-rewarding behavior,” she said.

Still, the effect of an owner’s presence is undeniable.

“There’s something about our attention that seems to indicate ‘this is an appropriate time to play’ or that may enrich the environment,” Mehrkam said.

The new research lays the groundwork for further study of dog psychology. Mehrkam said her team is looking into long-standing questions about the relationships between dogs and their owners, and more contemporary questions posed by life under lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic — like if dogs can perceive a virtual audience, or if they’re made more anxious by an owner’s constant presence at home.

Source: NJ.com

Do Dogs Increase Your Attractiveness and Matches on Dating Apps?

Honest Paws, manufacturer of organic CBD products for pets, surveyed 600 U.S. singles seasoned in the art of online dating, to find out if dog ownership is the secret to success on dating apps and to uncover which apps are most ideal for meeting fellow dog lovers.

Do dogs improve your chances on dating apps? U.S. singles certainly think so. 70% of respondents, overall, and 72% of millennials think having a dog in their profile photos helps them get more matches, while 63% of respondents are more tempted to match with someone who has a dog in their profile. 

Samantha Ross, the editor at Romantific, offers a solid rationale for this:

“Men, in particular, can be seen as committed and trustworthy when they are seen with a pet. In some case studies, men with dogs are more likely to be approached as they are found to be charming and appealing. Having a pet also assures a potential partner that you are capable of taking care of another creature.”

In many cases, pets take on the role of wingman (or wing-woman) in addition to man’s best friend. According to survey results, 50% of singles have no issue using their dog as a ploy to meet someone they’re attracted to while out and about. Sometimes ditching the canned pick-up lines and leaving the ice-breaking to the dogs is your best bet for success – a real-life “meet-cute.” 

Tractive, a real-time GPS for pets, agrees, calling doggos our “fearless, filter-free socializers, who not only boost our happiness levels but encourage us to interact with new people.”

When asked which dog breeds singles love seeing most on dating app profile photos, a few lead the pack. German Shepherds, Pitbulls, Huskies, Labs, and Golden Retrievers were named favorites by the largest percentage of respondents.

Other beloved breeds like Chihuahuas, American Bulldogs, Pomeranians, and Poodles followed closely behind.

More respondents who are dog owners would rather quarantine with their dogs (55%) over a romantic partner (45%). Pandemic stress and countless more hours at home with significant others certainly exacerbate the willingness of couples to take some time apart. But overall, most dog parents can’t bear to be away from their pets for too long. 

Almost half of respondents say they would break up with someone they were dating if their dog did not like them, and a quarter of respondents even admit to staying in a relationship because they didn’t want to risk losing the dog – proof that the bond between humans and our canine partners runs deep. 

21% of Gen Z respondents and 24% of male respondents would even go as far as borrowing a friend’s dog for their dating profile photos – even though (eventually) they will be found out. And when they are, the outlook isn’t promising. 64% of respondents would cut ties with someone who lied about owning a dog on their dating app profile. 

Source: Honest Paws

Dog’s body size and shape could indicate a greater bone tumor risk

Osteosarcoma is a painful and aggressive bone tumour in dogs that is known to be more common in certain breeds than others. New research has now confirmed that larger breeds, such as Rottweiler, Great Dane and Rhodesian Ridgeback, have a greater risk of osteosarcoma than smaller breeds, as well as showing that breeds with shorter skulls and legs have lower osteosarcoma risk. The findings could inform future breed health reforms as well as studies into the way tumours develop from normal bone.

The study led by the University of Bristol Veterinary School in collaboration with Cardiff University and Royal Veterinary College (RVC) London, and using data from VetCompass™ and Veterinary Pathology Group (VPG) histology, looked at the epidemiology surrounding which dog breeds get osteosarcoma, and what this means for canine welfare. This study also shows the huge benefits from studying  dogs as a model to study this cancer.  The findings are published in Canine Medicine and Genetics on 10 March 2021.

The study included 1,756 laboratory-confirmed osteosarcoma cases in dogs compared with 905,211 dogs under veterinary care in the VetCompass™ database during 2016.

The research team found twenty-seven breeds, mainly larger breeds, had an increased risk of osteosarcoma compared to crossbreeds. Thirty breeds, mainly smaller breeds, including Jack Russell, Border Terrier, Bichon Frise, French Bulldog, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, had reduced risk of osteosarcoma compared to crossbreeds.  

The study also compared various measures of body mass and leg length, and confirmed previous findings that heavier dogs with longer legs and longer skull shapes are at greatest risk of bone tumours. The results could inform breed health reforms, especially in predisposed breeds such as the Rottweiler, Great Dane and Rhodesian Ridgeback, Mastiff and German Pointer. Whereas previous studies have identified high-risk breeds for bone tumours, this paper is novel by being able to identify breeds at lowest risk because of the huge size of the study population. The breeds identified here could be researched and compared to recognise novel genetic differences which cause bone tumours.

The findings that bone tumours are more common in certain breeds and conformations indicates that a dog’s genetics play a role in bone tumour development. This link between the biology of conformation and the biology of bone tumours in dogs provides valuable opportunities for further study into what causes bone tumours to develop, and how they could be treated in the future.

Osteosarcoma can affect any dog breed. However, owners of high-risk breeds should be especially alert for signs of the disease. These include lameness and painful, bony swelling and dog owners should contact their vet if concerned.

Dr Grace Edmunds, Clinical Veterinary Research Fellow and lead author at Bristol Veterinary School, said: “As a vet, I am always focussed on improving animal welfare by looking outwards to find new treatments for their diseases. As osteosarcoma also affects adolescents, it is hugely exciting that by understanding the biology of bone tumours, and working with my collaborators in human cancer research, we may make a difference to both canine and human cancer patients.”

Dr Dan O’Neill, Senior Lecturer in Companion Animals Epidemiology at the RVC, added: “There are increasing concerns about the wisdom of breeding dogs with extreme body shapes such as flat-faced breeds like French Bulldogs or breeds with long backs such as Dachshunds.

“This study highlights the health risks from another extreme body shape – large body size. The breeds at highest risk of osteosarcoma were large-sized breeds such as Rottweiler, Great Dane and Mastiff. To reduce the risks of picking a dog that may develop bone cancer, owners may need to consider choosing puppies from smaller-sized parents of these giant breeds or opting for different smaller breeds instead.”

Professor Rachel Errington at Cardiff University explained: “As a human cancer researcher at the School of Medicine this study shows that we can propose similar questions in human and canine disease with the aim of determining new therapies and diagnostics for both and this provides an exciting opportunity of joining forces across a diverse group of expertise.”

The research team is currently developing a project that will sequence certain genes in at-risk and protected breeds for osteosarcoma, with the aim of identifying those genetic pathways that cause bone tumours to develop from normal bone. Identifying such pathways will allow new drugs, or older, repurposed drugs, to be used to see if the outcomes when treating bone tumours in dogs can be improved.

Drs Grace Edmunds and Helen Winter, members of the study team, will be engaging with owners of dogs with cancer and younger patients who have had cancer as part of a One Health approach, and they would welcome contact from patients or dog owners who would like to participate in this research. 

Paper

Dog breeds and body conformations with predisposition to osteosarcoma in the UK: a case-control study‘ by G. Edmunds et al. (2021) in Canine Medicine and Genetics

Source: University of Bristol

Dog friendly = people friendly

As parts of the world begin to re-open thanks to an unprecedented rollout of Covid-19 vaccines, employees must again return their attention to the care of their dogs during work hours.

In case you haven’t followed me before, I’m a HUGE SUPPORTER of both working from home and the dog-friendly workplace. From a sustainability perspective, I think that office-based roles should embrace work-from-home. Working from home is good for the environment (no emissions from commuting), good for workers who have less time pressures – easily gaining the hours spent commuting to give to their families, added sleep, and other activitieis – and great for dogs.

Dogs benefit from a stay-at-home parent.

Most dogs need to sleep during the day. There is no better and restful environment than a parent who works from home, quietly offering security while the dog rests (commercial day cares can’t do this nearly as effectively!). Break times offer the immediate opportunity for a walk – good for canine and human fitness and mental health.

But if working from home is not an option, Mars Petcare, as part of its Better Cities for Pets program, has created a number of resources for workplaces to help guide them to becoming dog-friendly.

Visit the Better Cities for Pets website to download these resources:

Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Doggy quote of the month for March

“Fall in love with a dog, and in many ways you enter a new orbit, a universe that features not just new colors but new rituals, new rules, a new way of experiencing attachment.”

– the late Caroline Knapp, author of Pack of Two (one of my favourite books)

Olive, Mabel & Me – book review

It seems fitting that, on the eve of March 2021 – one year to the month since the world and our lives became dominated by Covid-19, I have finished reading Olive, Mabel & Me (Life and Adventures with Two Very Good Dogs) by Andrew Cotter.

If you’re a dog lover, you must know about Mr Cotter by now and the narrated antics of his black Labrador, Olive, and her little sister, yellow Labrador Mabel which entertained many of us while we were locked down (with new videos still being shared). What started as a bit of a laugh, a sports commentator with nothing to comment on but his dogs, The Dog’s Breakfast Grand Final became an Internet sensation thanks to a video uploaded on Twitter which went viral. The public demanded more videos and Mr Cotter obliged with Game of Bones….and the list goes on.

Thankfully, while this book talks about the videos and the circumstances of their production, it goes beyond that to talk more deeply about Andrew’s life with his dogs (and a period when he was also dog-less thanks to career demands). We see pictures of a much-younger Andrew with his family dogs, for example. Andrew loves the mountains and takes his dogs with him on long walks in all seasons while his partner, Caroline, usually remains at home.

Olive and Mabel have contributed in their own words The Foreward to the book, but the rest is all Andrew.

Andrew has written this book as if he were sitting in our lounge talking to us directly. I could hear his voice as I read the pages of his words which share tales of his life with his dogs and his wit, more generally.

Some examples:

  • On Labradors: “A Labrador is a velvet cushion in animal form – short coat, perfect domed head and ears made from the softest material known to man, woman or beast. As if created for therapy and designed for stroking.
  • On Walkkies: “Let’s get one thing straight. Dogs are happy with any walks. Through the lofty pine trees of Yosemite or down a filthy inner-city pavement – it’s all good.
  • On the Vets – a chapter entitled “The Place That Shall Not Be Named
  • On staying in a dog-friendly hotel: “Unable to leave them alone, I was restricted to a room-service dinner, with both dogs agreeing that it was quite the most brilliant thing in the world that food should simply appear – but only after the poor member of staff who had knocked on the door was forced to hear what Olive thought about his mother.
  • On seeing a dog in Tokyo: “Once when out for a jog in Yoyogi Park, near where we were staying in Tokyo, I saw a dog – not running around, catching a frisbee, chewing on a stick or sniffing other dogs. Rather, this proud and noble descendant of the wolf was being pushed around in a buggy while wearing a Superman costume. Everyone there who saw it seemed to consider it perfectly normal behaviour, while the dog itself looked as royally pissed off as you might imagine. Perhaps he had really wanted to be Spider-Man.

Because I want you to buy this book, I’m going to leave it to you to find the passage in the book which deals with the topic of pulling grass out of your dog’s bottom…we’ve all been there, haven’t we?

I don’t follow sports and so even though I live in a country which regularly carries broadcasts of the BBC, I would never have heard Andrew Cotter if it wasn’t for his work with Olive and Mabel. And I am truly grateful for the humour he shared when I (and many of us) most needed it. Buy this book and reward Mr Cotter for his talents. You’ll be rewarded because it’s really an excellent and entertaining read.

I’ll leave the final words to Andrew:

“The power of love for dogs is a curious thing. The connection you have with these creatures is so very strong and one that can’t really be explained to those who don’t share it. But there are millions of people who do. Not that I didn’t know it already, but the whole success of Olive and Mabel has shown me just how far-reaching that love for dogs is.


Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand