Category Archives: Dogs

Before and after

Earlier this year, I entered a Facebook competition and won a professional photo shoot for Izzy with Little Things Photography.  This is the third time in the last few years that we have worked with a professional photographer.

One of the benefits of professional services is that they have access to editing software to smooth or remove details from photos.

This is a good example.  We were at the beach and Izzy was on her long-line which the photographer has edited out of the photo for the final print, also centering Izzy in the photo.

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

Unique Sled Dogs Helped the Inuit Thrive in the North American Arctic

Inuit sled dogs have changed little since people migrated with them to the North American Arctic across the Bering Strait from Siberia, according to researchers who have examined DNA from the dogs from that time span. The legacy of these Inuit dogs survives today in Arctic sled dogs, making them one of the last remaining descendant populations of indigenous, pre-European dog lineages in the Americas.

Inuit sled dogs

A team of Greenland sled dogs pulls in Greenland’s Disko Bay. The ancestors of these dogs arrived with the Inuit to the North American Arctic. (Courtesy/Tatiana Feuerborn)

The latest research is the result of nearly a decade’s work by University of California, Davis, researchers in anthropology and veterinary genetics, who analyzed the DNA of hundreds of dogs’ ancient skeletal remains to determine that the Inuit dog had significantly different DNA than other Arctic dogs, including malamutes and huskies.

Dogs continue to play role in Arctic communities

Qimmiit (dogs in Inuktitut) were viewed by the Inuit as particularly well-suited to long-distance hauling of people and their goods across the Arctic and consuming local resources, such as sea mammals, for food.

The unique group of dogs helped the Inuit conquer the tough terrain of the North American Arctic 2,000 years ago, researchers said. Inuit dogs are the direct ancestors of modern Arctic sled dogs, and although their appearance has continued to change over time, they continue to play an important role in Arctic communities.

Experts examined the DNA from 921 dogs and wolves who lived during the last 4,500 years. Analysis of the DNA, and the locations and time periods in which they were recovered archaeologically, shows dogs from Inuit sites occupied beginning around 2,000 years ago were genetically different from dogs already in the region.

According to Sacks “the genetic profiles of ancient dogs of the American Arctic dating to 2,000 years ago were nearly identical to those of older dogs from Siberia, but contrasted starkly with those of more ancient dogs in the Americas, providing an unusually clear and definitive picture of the canine replacement event that coincided with the expansion of Thule peoples across the American Arctic two millennia ago.”

Preserving an important history

Research confirms that native peoples maintained their own dogs. By analyzing the shape of elements from 391 dogs, the study also shows that the Inuit had larger dogs with a proportionally narrower cranium to earlier dogs belonging to pre-Inuit groups.

The National Science Foundation-funded portion of the research at UC Davis was inspired by Inuit activist and author Sheila Watt-Cloutier, who told Darwent about Inuit sled-dog culling undertaken by Canadian police in the 1950s and asked if there was a way to use scientific methods to tell the history and importance of sled dogs in the Arctic. Preservation of these distinctive Inuit dogs is likely a reflection of the highly specialized role that dogs played in both long-range transportation and daily subsistence practices in Inuit society.

The article, “Specialized sledge dogs accompanied the Inuit dispersal across the North American Arctic,” was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

Source:  UC Davis media release

Misplaced priorities (why does Giving Tuesday come last)?

When I was growing up, Thanksgiving Day was always the start of the holiday season.  In fact, Santa Claus would enter Macy’s Department Store at the end of the Thanksgiving Day parade to officially open Christmas shopping season.

The retail industry has changed a lot since then.

The 2019 holiday shopping season has officially begun with reports of traffic around every shopping mall in the area – shoppers taking advantage of Black Friday sales.  And it wasn’t just on Friday, of course.  These retail sales last the entire weekend through Monday.

Then someone came up with the idea of Small Business Saturday, contrived to help small business make some sales while customers may still have some money left to spend.

Then Cyber Monday.  Another date created by retailers to encourage people to shop online.

And at the end of the line – Giving Tuesday – a day designed to be the international day of charitable giving.  Animal shelters and re-homing agencies always need your donations and hopefully, you will have some left over.

Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday banner from the Michigan Humane Society

It seems to me that the priorities are backwards.  I’d rather see the Friday after Thanksgiving be the day of giving.  Give thanks and then give to others who are more in need…

(All of this focus on buying stuff does my head in)

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 December

pets-like-owners-expand-over-christmas-fanny-wright

Fanny Wright was born in Scotland and was a lecturer, social reformer and feminist.

If you are concerned about your dog’s caloric intake over Christmas, I strongly recommend a massage voucher for a gift – no calories, and we will get your dog moving better so they actually burn more calories which helps with weight loss.

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

Detection Dogs and DNA on the Trail of Endangered Lizards

Detection dogs trained to sniff out the scat of an endangered lizard in California’s San Joaquin Valley, combined with genetic species identification, could represent a new, noninvasive sampling technique for lizard conservation worldwide. That is according to a study published by the University of California, Davis, in partnership with the nonprofit Working Dogs for Conservation, U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Scientists have used trained conservation dogs to locate scat and collect DNA samples for everything from bears and foxes to gorillas and whales. But the technique had not been used for reptiles until this study, for which scientists developed a novel approach to identify the presence of the blunt-nosed leopard lizard in the Panoche Hills Recreation Area and Carrizo Plain National Monument, both managed by BLM.

They developed new methods to recover DNA from feces and genetically identify lizard species in the same area. The study, published in the Journal of Wildlife Management, is a proof of concept for a host of reptiles.

Lizard detection dog

Seamus, a trained detection dog, alerts his handler to the presence of scat. (Mike Westphal, Bureau of Land Management)

“So many reptilian species have been hit so hard,” said lead author Mark Statham, an associate researcher with the Mammalian Ecology and Conservation Unit of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. “A large proportion of them are endangered or threatened. This is a really valuable way for people to be able to survey them.”

No direct contact needed

Current methods for surveying lizard species typically rely on live capture or visual surveys. Scat sampling allows biologists to study elusive, rare or dangerous animals without the need for direct contact. In addition to informing about the presence, habitat and genetics of an animal, scat can also be analyzed to inform researchers about diet, hormones, parasites and other health factors.

Using the new method, the authors genetically identified specific species for 78 percent of the 327 samples collected by dog-handler teams across four years. Most (82 percent) of those identified were confirmed as being from blunt-nosed leopard lizards.

To meet regulatory monitoring requirements, more research is needed to assess the viability of using detection dogs to recover usable DNA at larger scales. But the research highlights the broad potential this method holds for surveying and monitoring reptiles.

Funding was provided by the Bureau of Land Management.

Source:  UC Davis media release

The housewarming

This weekend we were invited to Ben the Greyhound’s housewarming (his parents were there, too).  This was a chance to get together with some of our closest hound friends in a dog-friendly and informal setting.  Of course, I brought the treats for the dogs:  salmon squares and my newest recipe:  a frozen yoghurt treat with peanut butter, banana and honey.

There is nothing more enjoyable than being able to relax and talk and you don’t have to leave your dog at home alone.

Since dogs are family, I think it’s important to include them in special moments.

The next day, I had to attend an event called the Miniature Schnauzer Christmas Picnic which I had agreed to sponsor.  At our stall, we were signing dogs up for our Birthday Club.  Membership is free – and qualifies dogs for special offers when their birthday comes around.  We will help the parents book their dog’s massage, order a cake, organise a massage party for the birthday dog and guests, or schedule a bake-your-own dog treat party.

Both my friend and I were speechless when a woman told us, “Oh, I don’t celebrate any of those things with my dogs.  I don’t know their birthdays and we’ve never celebrated on a certain day.  I don’t give them Christmas gifts, either”

As she walked away, we both found our voices and asked each other why anyone would have a dog and not mark anniversaries, birthdays, and other special occasions? Dogs are such simple creatures, that almost anything can be special and a reward for them.

So my advice is get celebrating – with your dog and their friends – because it is these special moments that you will remember.

Bens housewarming

Ben the host and guests

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

Does training method matter?: Evidence for the negative impact of aversive-based methods on companion dog welfare

Your dog may be the apple of your eye, but let’s be honest: she is an animal, with her own instincts and idiosyncrasies, and there are going to be times when she makes you want to tear your hair out.

Much you want to, however, new research suggests that you should never yell at or otherwise punish a mischievous mutt.

No Yelloing

Photo ref: smrm1977/iStock

According to a new study uploaded to pre-print server bioRxiv, aversive training such as positive punishment and negative reinforcement can have long-term negative effects on your dog’s mental state.

“Our results show that companion dogs trained using aversive-based methods experienced poorer welfare as compared to companion dogs trained using reward-based methods, at both the short- and the long-term level,” the researchers write in their paper.

“Specifically, dogs attending schools using aversive-based methods displayed more stress-related behaviours and body postures during training, higher elevations in cortisol levels after training, and were more ‘pessimistic’ in a cognitive bias task.”

This sort of research has been conducted before, and found that aversive training has negative effects, but it’s primarily been on police and laboratory dogs. In addition, the aversive training tends to be shock collar training, which is only one of several tools used.

So, led by biologist Ana Catarina Vieira de Castro of the Universidade do Porto in Portugal, the international team of researchers conducted their new study on companion dogs.

The animals were recruited from a number of training schools in Porto – 42 dogs from three schools that use reward-based training like food treats or play, and 50 dogs from four schools that use aversive-based training, such as yelling, physically manipulating the dog, or leash-jerking.

Each dog was filmed during the first 15 minutes of three training sessions, and saliva samples were taken to assess stress levels from training – three from each dog relaxing at home to establish baseline levels of stress hormone cortisol, and three from each dog after training.

The researchers also analysed the dogs’ behaviour during training to look for stress behaviours, such as yawning, lip-licking, paw-raising and yelping.

Unsurprisingly, the dogs in the aversive training classes showed elevated stress behaviours, particularly yawning and lip-licking. Their saliva also had significantly increased levels of cortisol compared to when they were relaxing at home.

By contrast, the positive reinforcement dogs were pretty chill – far fewer stress behaviours, and much more normal cortisol levels.

The next step was to assess the longer term effects of this stress. A month after the dogs were assessed at training, 79 of them were then trained to associate a bowl on one side of a room with a sausage snack. If the bowl was on that side, it always held a delicious treat; if located on the other side, the bowl never had the treat. (All bowls were rubbed with sausage to ensure the smell didn’t give the game away.)

Then, the researchers moved the bowls around the room to ambiguous locations to see how quickly the dogs would approach in search of the treat. Higher speed was interpreted to mean the dog was anticipating a mouthful of deliciousness, whereas a slower speed meant the dog was more pessimistic about the bowl’s contents.

Sure enough, the more aversive training a dog had received, the more slowly it approached the bowl. Interestingly, dogs from the reward-based training group actually learnt the bowl location task faster than the aversive-training dogs.

This suggests that reward-based training may actually be more effective, although the researchers suggest this may be because the dogs already understand treat-based training methods. It’s possible that the other group would learn more quickly were an aversive method applied – more research needs to be done to determine this.

Overall, though, the results seem to imply that aversive training doesn’t necessarily have an edge over reward training, and that reward training is much better for your dog’s happiness.

“Critically,” the researchers said, “our study points to the fact that the welfare of companion dogs trained with aversive-based methods appears to be at risk.”

The full paper is available on bioRxiv ahead of peer review.

Source:  Sciencealert