Your dog remembers what you did

People have a remarkable ability to remember and recall events from the past, even when those events didn’t hold any particular importance at the time they occurred. Now, researchers reporting in the journal Current Biology have evidence that dogs have that kind of “episodic memory” too.

The study found that dogs can recall a person’s complex actions even when they don’t expect to have their memory tested.

“The results of our study can be considered as a further step to break down artificially erected barriers between non-human animals and humans,” says Claudia Fugazza of MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group in Budapest, Hungary. “Dogs are among the few species that people consider ‘clever,’ and yet we are still surprised whenever a study reveals that dogs and their owners may share some mental abilities despite our distant evolutionary relationship.”

memory-research

This image shows Claudia Fugazza and her dog demonstrating the Do As I Do Method. Credit: Mirko Lui

Evidence that non-human animals use episodic-like memory has been hard to come by because you can’t just ask a dog what it remembers. In the new study, the researchers took advantage of a trick called “Do as I Do.” Dogs trained to “Do as I Do” can watch a person perform an action and then do the action themselves. For example, if their owner jumps in the air and then gives the “Do it!” command, the dog would jump in the air too.

The fact that dogs can be trained in this way alone wasn’t enough to prove episodic memory. That’s because it needed to be shown that dogs remember what they just saw a person do even when they weren’t expecting to be asked or rewarded. To get around this problem, the researchers first trained 17 dogs to imitate human actions with the “Do as I Do” training method. Next, they did another round of training in which dogs were trained to lie down after watching the human action, no matter what it was.

After the dogs had learned to lie down reliably, the researchers surprised them by saying “Do It” and the dogs did. In other words, the dogs recalled what they’d seen the person do even though they had no particular reason to think they’d need to remember. They showed episodic-like memory.

Dogs were tested in that way after one minute and after one hour. The results show they were able to recall the demonstrated actions after both short and long time intervals. However, their memory faded somewhat over time.

The researchers say that the same approach can most likely be used and adapted in a wide range of animal species, to better understand how animals’ minds process their own actions and that of others around them.

“From a broad evolutionary perspective, this implies that episodic-like memory is not unique and did not evolve only in primates but is a more widespread skill in the animal kingdom,” Fugazza says. “We suggest that dogs may provide a good model to study the complexity of episodic-like memory in a natural setting, especially because this species has the evolutionary and developmental advantage to live in human social groups.”

For all those dog owners out there: your dogs are paying attention and they’ll remember.

Source:  Science Daily

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Doggy quote of the month for December

“Children and dogs are as necessary to the welfare of the country as Wall Street and the railroads.”

– Harry S Truman, 33rd President of the United States

harry-truman

Cat TV

There’s a gap in the fence in our back yard.  And in the rental house next door, a new cat has moved in.  Izzy is fascinated.  Izzy watching cat tv

Unless it is raining, she enjoys watching Cat TV most days.

Izzy of course is not unique in this interest.  Cat TV is a favorite hobby of many dogs – so much so that the folks at PetPeek™ have created a window for your fence designed with your dog in mind.

The window is a 9.5 inch diameter acrylic dome that you install in your fence.

I’m not sure how much the neighbors would appreciate a noticeable window appearing in the fence…

There’s a product out there for every pet need.  Unfortunately, this product is not sold outside of the United States so I decide to buy one, I’ll have to use a freight forwarding service.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

The Last Will and Testament of an Extremely Distinguished Dog

For all those who have

loved and lost a beloved pet,

here is a dog’s life

beautifully remembered

…so says the dust cover on my edition of The Last Will and Testament of an Extremely Distinguished Dog, written by playwright Eugene O’Neill.

Written in the early 1940s about his dog Blemie, from Blemie’s point of view, this small book tells Blemie’s owner how he is feeling and what he wants for his owners after his passing…including things like having another dog and not to grieve for too long.

I see many owners who must face the grief over the loss of their dog (I deal with many older dogs in my massage practice); and I have lived through the loss of my own dogs.  I can relate.

Every pet parent needs support during the grieving process.  I highly recommend buying a copy of this book.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Prepared for emergencies

We (New Zealand) has been in the news this week for all of the wrong reasons.  A 7.8 magnitude quake in the South Island with rural communities like Waiau and Kaikoura hit the hardest.  Being only 2 1/2 hours south of the epicenter of the quake, those of us in Christchurch felt it strongly – shaking and rolling for almost a full 2 minutes.  We’ve been through this in 2010 and again in 2011 – and our city is still rebuilding.

I decided that the item on my TO DO list to refresh my emergency supplies had better go to the top.  We know that we have many fault lines in the country and shaking on one can trigger activity in another.  Basically all New Zealanders should be ready for quake activity at all times.

Emergency supplies

I have refilled my drinking water supplies (40 litres), for example.  I aim to do this every 6 months and so I have marked my calendar for when 6 months is up.  I bought new resealable containers this weekend and filled them with Izzy’s dry food., and I’ve taken the time to put more of my supplies in one place – the large plastic container is also new.

First aid kits for humans and dogs are in there.  Also a dog bowl, extra leash and collar.  Copies of Izzy’s vaccination record, microchip number and pet insurance are inside a zipped plastic bag and saved electronically in the cloud. We forget sometimes how much we rely on electronic records.  If the Big One hits, our power supplies will be down for some time.  Good old hard copies are worth keeping and updating.

I even realised that my email address on the NZ Companion Animal Register for Izzy’s microchip is outdated and so I’ll be phoning them in the morning to change it.

My water purification tablets have expired.  So a trip to the pharmacy this week is planned.

Izzy has a spare dog coat packed, along with a towel and temporary bed.  A new tennis ball for fun is also packed.  I’ve also ordered some more dehydrated dog food.

And one of the things that many emergency lists forget is a stake and chain – which I have had for years.  In a severe earthquake, fences will come down.  Your dog will need to be restrained safely wherever you are and you cannot rely on rope to tie them up.  A stressed dog can chew through that in minutes and be gone.

I also have an old dog tag that I’ve covered with a label.  A pen and paper are also in my kit.  I can leave notes if I need to but also write our temporary address on the dog tag because who knows where we may end up as temporary shelter…

From personal experience, I can tell you that during the first earthquake of 2010, I was much more calm knowing that I had supplies and was prepared.  I set about checking the safety of my house and setting up things like an emergency toilet…I was ready!

If you don’t prepare for yourself, then do it for your dog.  They rely on us for the care and safety.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

The Sound and the Furry – book review

In this 6th volume of the Chet and Bernie mysteries, the Little Detective Agency is hired to find Ralph Boutette, who has disappeared in Louisiana.

The Sound and the F

Ralph, an eccentric inventor, is part of the colourful Boutette family who seem constantly in conflict with another local family, the Robideaus.

Through their powers of investigation, Chet and Bernie uncover a story much larger than a family feud involving big oil and pending environmental disaster.

And Chet even tangles with a gator named Iko, to add to the authenticity of the bayou surrounds.

Not my favorite Chet and Bernie mystery, but still very entertaining.

Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand

Heroes Wear Fur

Retailer Orvis has published a very useful infographic concerning Working Military Dogs (WMDs).  Deployment of these dogs has increased 400% in the United States since the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Orvis Military Working Dogs Infographic