Tag Archives: Border Collie

The seagull dog at the Australian National Maritime Museum

A former working dog left in foster care secured a job at the Australian National Maritime Museum three months ago.  Dog and employer are very happy with the results.

Meet Bailey, a Border Collie.

Bailey the seagull dog

Photo credit: 702 ABC Sydney, Robbie Buck

Bailey’s job is to scare away the seagulls that soil the Pyrmont Wharf and the vessels that are docked at the museum.  He’s very enthusiastic about his work and, since he’s officially an employee, he’s wears a flotation jacket for safety.

When Bailey isn’t on duty, he sleeps in the Museum’s security control room.

Another dog with a job!

Source:  ABC News

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Study demonstrates rapid decline in male dog fertility, with potential link to environmental contaminants

A study led by researchers at The University of Nottingham has discovered that the fertility of dogs may have suffered a sharp decline over the past three decades.

The research, published in the academic journal Scientific Reports, found that sperm quality in a population of stud dogs studied over a 26-year period had fallen significantly.

The work has highlighted a potential link to environmental contaminants, after they were able to demonstrate that chemicals found in the sperm and testes of adult dogs – and in some commercially available pet foods – had a detrimental effect on sperm function at the concentrations detected.

Semen study

Researchers believe that the latest results showing that dogs’ quality of semen has diminished may offer a new piece of the puzzle over the reported significant decline in human semen quality. Credit: © jurra8 / Fotolia

As ‘man’s best friend’ and closest companion animal, the researchers believe that the latest results may offer a new piece of the puzzle over the reported significant decline in human semen quality – a controversial subject which scientists continue to debate.

Dr Richard Lea, Reader in Reproductive Biology in the University’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, who led the research said: “This is the first time that such a decline in male fertility has been reported in the dog and we believe this is due to environmental contaminants, some of which we have detected in dog food and in the sperm and testes of the animals themselves.

“While further research is needed to conclusively demonstrate a link, the dog may indeed be a sentinel for humans – it shares the same environment, exhibits the same range of diseases, many with the same frequency and responds in a similar way to therapies.”

The study centred on samples taken from stud dogs at an assistance dogs breeding centre over the course of 26 years. Professor Gary England, Foundation Dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science and Professor of Comparative Veterinary Reproduction, who oversaw the collection of semen said: “The strength of the study is that all samples were processed and analysed by the same laboratory using the same protocols during that time and consequently the data generated is robust.”

The work centred on five specific breeds of dogs – Labrador retriever, golden retriever, curly coat retriever, border collie and German shepherd – with between 42 and 97 dogs studied every year.

Semen was collected from the dogs and analysed to assess the percentage of sperm that showed a normal forward progressive pattern of motility and that appeared normal under a microscope (morphology).

Over the 26 years of the study, they found a striking decrease in the percentage of normal motile sperm. Between 1988 and 1998, sperm motility declined by 2.5 per cent per year and following a short period when stud dogs of compromised fertility were retired from the study, sperm motility from 2002 to 2014 continued to decline at a rate of 1.2% per year.

In addition, the team discovered that the male pups generated from the stud dogs with declining semen quality, had an increased incidence of cryptorchidism, a condition in which the testes of pups fail to correctly descend into the scrotum.

Sperm collected from the same breeding population of dogs, and testes recovered from dogs undergoing routine castration, were found to contain environmental contaminants at concentrations able to disrupt sperm motility and viability when tested.

The same chemicals that disrupted sperm quality, were also discovered in a range of commercially available dog foods – including brands specifically marketed for puppies.

Dr Lea added: “We looked at other factors which may also play a part, for example, some genetic conditions do have an impact on fertility. However, we discounted that because 26 years is simply too rapid a decline to be associated with a genetic problem.”

Over the past 70 years, studies have suggested a significant decline in human semen quality and a cluster of issues called ‘testicular dysgenesis syndrome’ that impact on male fertility which also include increased incidence of testicular cancer, the birth defect hypospadias and undescended testes.

However, declining human semen quality remains a controversial issue – many have criticised the variability of the data of the studies on the basis of changes in laboratory methods, training of laboratory personnel and improved quality control over the years.

Dr Lea added: “The Nottingham study presents a unique set of reliable data from a controlled population which is free from these factors. This raises the tantalising prospect that the decline in canine semen quality has an environmental cause and begs the question whether a similar effect could also be observed in human male fertility.”

Source:  University of Nottingham media release

Izzy & Lenore – book review

Izzy and Lenore by Jon Katz

Over this Easter weekend, I have finished reading Izzy & Lenore, another great dog book by Jon Katz.

Although Katz’s earlier books talk about his life establishing Bedlam Farm in upstate New York,  and his menagerie of animals, this book gives us some depth into who Jon Katz is as a person, and he’s honest about his own battle with depression.

Izzy is a Border Collie that is rescued by Katz and he’s intelligent, with the seeming ability to connect to people in all circumstances.  This dog seems to have an infinite amount of compassion, despite being abandoned by his previous owners.  Katz and Izzy become trained as hospice volunteers and so throughout the book, there are tales of hospice cases that the two become involved in.  If you have ever had a loved one experience a terminal illness, dealt with the effects of old age and infirmity, these stories will resonate with you.

Lenore is a congenial Labrador puppy who joins the pack.

In this book, Katz faces his own battle with depression and he explains some of the dark secrets that he and his sister share.

I recommend this book, as I have all the others I have read by Jon Katz.  I wish I had his talent for storytelling and – perhaps best of all – unlike previous stories of Bedlam Farm, no dogs die during the course of this story.

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

 

 

Inhibitory control in dogs

Inhibitory control may be an indicator of a dog’s ability to solve a problem, according to a study published February 10, 2016 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.

Playing with objects may help dogs learn about their environment, similar to how it helps human infants. Scientists think dogs’ inhibitory control, or the ability to inhibit or regulate attentional or emotional responses, may play a role in their individual differences in physical problem-solving task performance.

Wait for it border collie

A Border Collie during the wait-for-treat task.Credit Clever Dog Lab/Vetmeduni Vienna

The authors of this study investigated the effects of pet dogs’ experiences interacting with the physical environment and their individual differences in inhibitory control on their physical problem-solving ability. A cohort of ~40 pet Border Collie dogs were assigned to three different conditions, and tested in an intensive series of inhibitory control tasks, such as wait-for-treat, and cognitive measures, such as size constancy over a period of 18 months.

The authors found that differences in previous object-related experiences do not explain variability in performance in problem solving tasks. Depending on the cognitive task, inhibitory control had a positive or a negative effect on performance and turned out to be the best predictors of individual performance in the different tasks.

The authors think that dogs likely do not transfer knowledge about physical rules from one physical problem-solving task to another, but rather approach each task as a novel problem. In addition, individual performance in these tasks may be influenced by the subject’s level of inhibitory control. The authors suggest that studying the interplay between inhibitory control and problem-solving performance may make an important contribution to our understanding of individual and species differences in physical problem-solving performance.

Journal article may be found here.

Source:  EurekAlert! media release

Mensa dogs

Dogs have measurable IQs, like people, suggests new research from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and the University of Edinburgh.

The research, published in the journal Intelligence, looked at whether dog intelligence is structured in a similar way as in humans. When IQ, or ‘general intelligence’, is tested in people, individuals tend to perform comparably across different types of cognitive tasks –  those who do well in one type of task, tend to do well in others.

Dog intelligence test

The researchers created a proto-type dog ‘IQ test’ which they used to assess the intelligence of 68 working border collies. These tests included: navigation, tested by timing how long it took the dogs to get food that was behind different types of barriers; assessing whether they could tell the difference between quantities of food and; their ability to follow a human pointing gesture to an object.

The researchers found that dogs that did well on one test tended be better at the other tests. Furthermore, dogs that did tests faster were likely to do them more accurately.

Dr Rosalind Arden, a Research Associate at LSE, said: “Just as people vary in their problem solving abilities, so do dogs, even within one breed. This is significant because in humans there is a small but measurable tendency for people who are brighter to be healthier and live longer.  So if, as our research suggests, dog intelligence is structured similarly to ours, studying a species that doesn’t smoke, drink, use recreational drugs and does not have large differences in education and income, may help us understand this link between intelligence and health better.

“In addition, dogs are one of the few animals that reproduce many of the key features of dementia, so understanding their cognitive abilities could be valuable in helping us to understand the causes this disorder in humans and possibly test treatments for it.”

The suite of tests was conducted in under an hour per dog, which is comparable with the time it takes a person to do an IQ-type test.  Previous research on canine cognitive abilities has taken much longer to administer.

Dr Mark Adams, Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, said: “This is only a first step, but we are aiming to create a dog IQ test that is reliable, valid and can be administered quickly.  Such a test could rapidly improve our understanding of the connection between dog intelligence, health, even lifespan, and be the foundation of ‘dognitive epidemiology’

“Dogs are excellent for this kind of work because they are willing to participate and seem to enjoy taking part.”

In order to get a large sample of dogs from similar backgrounds the researchers recruited working border collies, which meant that there weren’t big differences in how they were raised.

Source:  London School of Economics and Political Science media release

Personal comment:  Dogs must be a popular research topic if even the London School of Economics is getting into the act!

Leisa & Indy’s NZ Charity Cycleway Journey

Leisa McNaughton and her dog Indy, a Border Collie/Bernese Mountain Dog cross, will commence a 4-month journey on 1st October 2015 to travel the length of New Zealand.

Their journey will begin in Cape Reinga and travel using tracks that are part of Nga Haerenga The New Zealand Cycle Trail and connector routes.

On her Facebook page, Leisa says, “My aim is to encourage others to join me in the sights and sounds of our wonderful country while cycling the length of NZ and fundraising for my 13 chosen charities.”  These charities , all regional, will include:

  • Sport Northland Whangarei
  • Auckland Rescue Helicopter Auckland
  • Cambridge Riding for the Disabled Cambridge
  • Cranford Hospice Hastings
  • The Capital Performing Arts Wellington
  • Marlborough Falcon Conservation Trust Blenheim
  • Menzshed Waimea
  • The Tasman Environmental Trust Richmond, Nelson
  • Westcoast Coastguard Greymouth
  • Canterbury SPCA Christchurch
  • Otago Medical Research Foundation Dunedin
  • Number 10 Invercargill
Indy tests his trailer before the big journey starts (photo by Leisa)

Indy tests his trailer before the big journey starts (photo by Leisa)

Leisa says she and Indy “chose each other” at the SPCA about six years ago.  She attributes her recovery from severe depression and burnout to, in part, Indy’s non-judgmental support and companionship.

Indy will ride in a specially designed trailer during the pair’s journey together.

You can follow Leisa and Indy on their Facebook page.

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

Border collies patrol at airports

In today’s Christchurch Press, comes news that Christchurch Airport has employed its first Border Collie, Jet, to scare away geese and other birds from the runway areas.

14-week old Jet, Christchurch Airport's newest employee, will undergo training to get her used to the noisy runways at the airport (Photo by The Press)

14-week old Jet, Christchurch Airport’s newest employee, will undergo training to get her used to the noisy runways at the airport (Photo by The Press)

Bird strike is a major hazard for modern aviation.  Bird strike was the cause of the engine failure on US Airways Flight 1549 in 2009, for example.  That plane landed safely in New York’s Hudson River in what was called the “Miracle on the Hudson.”  Bird strike can also cause damage to aircraft windscreens and fuselages, not just engines.

Jet’s arrival in Christchurch is a first for New Zealand but Border Collies have been patrolling airports in other countries for many years.

Birds view the dogs as natural predators and so, where they may become accustomed to other scare tactics like sirens, the birds will always be wary of being chased by a dog.

Airports that use Border Collie patrols include Southwest Florida International Airport, Vancouver International Airport, New Bedford Regional Airport (Massachusetts), Dover Air Force Base (US Air Force), Ramat David Air Force Base (Israel), Cold Lake Air Force Base (Canada), and Augusta Regional Airport (Georgia).

A Border Collie at the Southwest International Airport in Fort Myers, Fla. By Marc Beaudin, The (Ft. Myers, Fla.) News-Press

A Border Collie at the Southwest International Airport in Fort Myers, Fla.
By Marc Beaudin, The (Ft. Myers, Fla.) News-Press

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