Tag Archives: human-animal bond

The evolution of puppy dog eyes

Dogs have evolved new muscles around the eyes to better communicate with humans. New research comparing the anatomy and behavior of dogs and wolves suggests dogs’ facial anatomy has changed over thousands of years specifically to allow them to better communicate with humans.

Puppy dog eyes

In the first detailed analysis comparing the anatomy and behavior of dogs and wolves, researchers found that the facial musculature of both species was similar, except above the eyes. Dogs have a small muscle, which allows them to intensely raise their inner eyebrow, which wolves do not.

The authors suggest that the inner eyebrow raising movement triggers a nurturing response in humans because it makes the dogs’ eyes appear larger, more infant like and also resembles a movement humans produce when they are sad.

The research team, led by comparative psychologist Dr Juliane Kaminski, at the University of Portsmouth, included a team of behavioural and anatomical experts in the UK and USA.

It is published in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).

Dr Kaminski said: “The evidence is compelling that dogs developed a muscle to raise the inner eyebrow after they were domesticated from wolves.

“We also studied dogs’ and wolves’ behavior, and when exposed to a human for two minutes, dogs raised their inner eyebrows more and at higher intensities than wolves.

“The findings suggest that expressive eyebrows in dogs may be a result of humans unconscious preferences that influenced selection during domestication. When dogs make the movement, it seems to elicit a strong desire in humans to look after them. This would give dogs, that move their eyebrows more, a selection advantage over others and reinforce the ‘puppy dog eyes’ trait for future generations.”

Dr Kaminski’s previous research showed dogs moved their eyebrows significantly more when humans were looking at them compared to when they were not looking at them.

She said: “The AU101 movement is significant in the human-dog bond because it might elicit a caring response from humans but also might create the illusion of human-like communication.”

Lead anatomist Professor Anne Burrows, at Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, USA, co-author of the paper, said: “To determine whether this eyebrow movement is a result of evolution, we compared the facial anatomy and behaviour of these two species and found the muscle that allows for the eyebrow raise in dogs was, in wolves, a scant, irregular cluster of fibres.

“The raised inner eyebrow movement in dogs is driven by a muscle which doesn’t consistently exist in their closest living relative, the wolf.

“This is a striking difference for species separated only 33,000 years ago and we think that the remarkably fast facial muscular changes can be directly linked to dogs’ enhanced social interaction with humans.”

Dr Kaminski and co-author, evolutionary psychologist Professor Bridget Waller, also at the University of Portsmouth, previously mapped the facial muscular structure of dogs, naming the movement responsible for a raised inner eyebrow the Action Unit (AU) 101.

Professor Waller said: “This movement makes a dogs’ eyes appear larger, giving them a childlike appearance. It could also mimic the facial movement humans make when they’re sad.

“Our findings show how important faces can be in capturing our attention, and how powerful facial expression can be in social interaction.”

Co-author and anatomist Adam Hartstone-Rose, at North Carolina State University, USA, said: “These muscles are so thin that you can literally see through them – and yet the movement that they allow seems to have such a powerful effect that it appears to have been under substantial evolutionary pressure. It is really remarkable that these simple differences in facial expression may have helped define the relationship between early dogs and humans.”

Co-author Rui Diogo, an anatomist at Howard University, Washington DC, USA, said: “I must admit that I was surprised to see the results myself because the gross anatomy of muscles is normally very slow to change in evolution, and this happened very fast indeed, in just some dozens of thousands of years.”

Soft tissue, including muscle, doesn’t tend to survive in the fossil record, making the study of this type of evolution harder.

The only dog species in the study that did not have the muscle was the Siberian husky, which is among more ancient dog breeds.

An alternative reason for the human-dog bond could be that humans have a preference for other individuals which have whites in the eye and that intense AU 101 movements exposes the white part of the dogs eyes.

It is not known why or precisely when humans first brought wolves in from the cold and the evolution from wolf to dog began, but this research helps us understand some of the likely mechanisms underlying dog domestication.

Source:  University of Portsmouth

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Owning a dog is influenced by our genetic make-up

A team of Swedish and British scientists have studied the heritability of dog ownership using information from 35,035 twin pairs from the Swedish Twin Registry. The results indicate that an individual’s genetic make-up has a great influence on whether they choose to acquire a dog. Genes appear to account for more than half of the difference in dog ownership.

Dog ownership

“Perhaps some people have a higher innate propensity to care for a pet than others” Photograph: Mikael Wallerstedt

Dogs were the first domesticated animal and have had a close relationship with humans for at least 15,000 years. Today, dogs are common pets in our society and are considered to increase the well-being and health of their owners. The team compared the genetic make-up of twins (using the Swedish Twin Registry – the largest of its kind in the world) with dog ownership. The results are published for the first time in Scientific Reports. The goal was to determine whether dog ownership has a heritable component.

“We were surprised to see that a person’s genetic make-up appears to be a significant influence in whether they own a dog. As such, these findings have major implications in several different fields related to understanding dog-human interaction throughout history and in modern times. Although dogs and other pets are common household members across the globe, little is known how they impact our daily life and health. Perhaps some people have a higher innate propensity to care for a pet than others,” says Tove Fall, lead author of the study, and Professor in Molecular Epidemiology at the Department of Medical Sciences and the Science for Life Laboratory, Uppsala University.

Health benefits of owning a dog

Carri Westgarth, Lecturer in Human-Animal interaction at the University of Liverpool and co-author of the study, adds: “These findings are important as they suggest that supposed health benefits of owning a dog reported in some studies may be partly explained by different genetics of the people studied”.

Studying twins is a well-known method for disentangling the influences of environment and genes on our biology and behaviour. Because identical twins share their entire genome, and non-identical twins on average share only half of the genetic variation, comparisons of the within-pair concordance of dog ownership between groups can reveal whether genetics play a role in owning a dog.

Genetics play a major role

The researchers found concordance rates of dog ownership to be much larger in identical twins than in non-identical ones – supporting the view that genetics indeed plays a major role in the choice of owning a dog.

“These kind of twin studies cannot tell us exactly which genes are involved, but at least demonstrate for the first time that genetics and environment play about equal roles in determining dog ownership. The next obvious step is to try to identify which genetic variants affect this choice and how they relate to personality traits and other factors such as allergy” says Patrik Magnusson, senior author of the study and Associate Professor in Epidemiology at the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Karolinska Insitutet, Sweden and Head of the Swedish Twin Registry.

“The study has major implications for understanding the deep and enigmatic history of dog domestication” says zooarchaeologist and co-author of the study Keith Dobney, Chair of Human Palaeoecology in the Department of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology at the University of Liverpool. “Decades of archaeological research have helped us construct a better picture of where and when dogs entered into the human world, but modern and ancient genetic data are now allowing us to directly explore why and how?”

Source:  Uppsala University

Rescue and Jessica

Rescue and Jessica

Children’s books featuring dogs are an integral part of educating children about the human-animal bond and dogs, generally (not to mention encouraging children to learn to read!)

In Rescue and Jessica:  A Life-Changing Friendship, service dog Rescue meets Jessica who is a double amputee.  Not only does he help her with everyday tasks, but he also helps her see a future for herself.

Although a work of fiction, authors Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes, a wife and husband who suffered the loss of limbs in the Boston Marathon bombing, have drawn on their own experiences with their black Labrador service dog, Rescue.  The book includes an endnote which explains how service dogs are trained.

The authors and their illustrator have been recently honored with a Christopher Award. Christopher Award founder Father James Keller created the awards to salute media that “affirm the highest values of the human spirit.”

Kensky & Downes

Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes (photo by Boston Globe)

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

Unleashing success

Pets bring joy, companionship and comfort to people’s lives every day, but new research found business leaders believe pet ownership contributed to their success. A survey conducted by Banfield Pet Hospital® discovered a correlation between pets and professional achievements: 93 percent of C-suite executives surveyed in the U.S. grew up with a pet, with 78 percent attributing their career success in part to owning a pet as a child.

“At Banfield Pet Hospital, we’ve long recognized the special bond between people and their pets, as well as the positive impact pets have on our society,” said Brian Garish, president of Banfield Pet Hospital. “From the pet ownership lessons we learned as children, to the ways our four-legged friends currently help us evolve, connect with others, and stay grounded, our latest research supports the notion we’ve had all along – that there may be a link between pets and their ability to help shape us as people.”

Unleashing success

WHETHER FELINE OR FEATHERY, PETS MAKE AN IMPACT
Banfield’s survey found childhood pet ownership may influence business success, and it isn’t just dogs and cats that have a positive impact. While more than four in five (83 percent) C-suite executives surveyed grew up with a dog, and almost three in five (59 percent) grew up with a cat, nearly two in five (37 percent) grew up with pets like birds, rabbits or rodents. Regardless of the pet, top business leaders agree their pet companions taught them valuable lessons as a child, such as responsibility, empathy and creativity – qualities they believe helped them to thrive as leaders in the workplace.

SIT, STAY AND SUCCEED
Nearly a quarter (24 percent) of those surveyed said their childhood pet taught them more valuable lessons than their first internship. C-suite executives feel their pets also helped them to develop other important leadership skills, including discipline (92 percent), organization (79 percent) and the ability to identify and anticipate business needs (38 percent).

CUT TO THE (CREATIVE) CHASE 
Many leaders surveyed also felt having a childhood pet unlocked vital lessons in creativity. Eighty-four percent of C-Suite executives who grew up with a pet said they’re creative, and almost three in five (59 percent) credit their childhood pet for having a positive impact on their ability to think outside the box. More than three in four (77 percent) C-suite executives said walking a pet helps them brainstorm business ideas and boosts creativity at work.

TEACHING AN OLD DOG NEW TRICKS
Didn’t grow up with a pet? Not to worry, as Banfield’s survey also suggests current pet ownership can go a long way in the workplace. Nearly all current pet owners surveyed reported they stick to a schedule or routine (86 percent), have better time management (86 percent) and are good at multitasking (86 percent) because of their pets. Sixty-two percent of C-suite executives surveyed believe pets had a positive impact on their ability to build relationships with co-workers and clients—and that’s true of both working professionals and C-suite executives, with 80 percent of those surveyed reporting they feel more connected to colleagues who are pet owners, and nearly the same number (79 percent) think co-workers with pets are hard workers.

A FUTURE WITH FIDO
When it comes to future generations, almost all (90 percent) of C-suite executives surveyed feel children would be more successful at school if they cared for a pet. And some business leaders shared they were responsible for taking care of their childhood pet, including grooming (54 percent), training (42 percent) and health needs (36 percent). Whether career-related or otherwise, it’s clear pets can make a huge impact on our lives, so it’s no wonder nearly one in five (19 percent) of C-suite executives who grew up with a pet would go back in time and add another to their pack. 

Source:  Banfield Animal Hospital

Purina’s pets and people survey

It turns out dogs are more than just man and woman’s best friend. They are also counselors, confidants, bunk mates, stress relievers, and overwhelmingly viewed as part of the family, according to the 2018 Pets and People Survey by Just Right® by Purina®.

The brand’s survey of more than 1,000 dog owners revealed fascinating details about the unique relationship and unbreakable bond people share with their dogs.

Purina owner survey

Among the key findings:

  • 95 percent view their dog as part of the family,
  • 62 percent said their dog helps them de-stress after a long day at work, and
  • 55 percent believe their dog provides emotional comfort after receiving bad news.

The survey also found dogs have helped 15 percent of men gain the attention of the opposite sex, while half of all women surveyed said they preferred time with their dog over time with their partner and/or other family members. Among Millennials age 18 to 34 years old, 56 percent said they have purchased birthday cakes for their dogs, and 77 percent said they feed their dogs before they feed themselves.

“Having dogs myself, I know firsthand that the emotional connection between dog owners and their pets runs deep,” said Julia Pitlyk, brand manager for Just Right by Purina. “We conducted this survey to learn more about what exactly the owner-dog relationship looks like and while each relationship provides that deep connection, the results really support our belief that every dog is unique – some may be confidants while others are effective wingmen.”

About the Survey

Research Now SSI conducted an online survey on behalf of Just Right by Purina among adults ages 18+ who are dog owners and have some responsibility over the well-being of their pet. A total of 1,010 responses were collected between March 26 and March 29, 2018. The online surveys are not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

Source:  PR newswire

Dogs understand what’s written all over your face

Dogs can understand

Dogs can understand emotional expressions of humans. Credit: © ZoomTeam / Fotolia

Dogs are capable of understanding the emotions behind an expression on a human face. For example, if a dog turns its head to the left, it could be picking up that someone is angry, fearful or happy. If there is a look of surprise on a person’s face, dogs tend to turn their head to the right. The heart rates of dogs also go up when they see someone who is having a bad day, say Marcello Siniscalchi, Serenella d’Ingeo and Angelo Quaranta of the University of Bari Aldo Moro in Italy.

The study in Springer’s journal Learning & Behavior is the latest to reveal just how connected dogs are with people. The research also provides evidence that dogs use different parts of their brains to process human emotions.

By living in close contact with humans, dogs have developed specific skills that enable them to interact and communicate efficiently with people. Recent studies have shown that the canine brain can pick up on emotional cues contained in a person’s voice, body odour and posture, and read their faces.

In this study, the authors watched what happened when they presented photographs of the same two adults’ faces (a man and a woman) to 26 feeding dogs. The images were placed strategically to the sides of the animals’ line of sight and the photos showed a human face expressing one of the six basic human emotions: anger, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise, disgust or being neutral.

The dogs showed greater response and cardiac activity when shown photographs that expressed arousing emotional states such as anger, fear and happiness. They also took longer to resume feeding after seeing these images. The dogs’ increased heart rate indicated that in these cases they experienced higher levels of stress.

In addition, dogs tended to turn their heads to the left when they saw human faces expressing anger, fear or happiness. The reverse happened when the faces looked surprised, possibly because dogs view it as a non-threatening, relaxed expression. These findings therefore support the existence of an asymmetrical emotional modulation of dogs’ brains to process basic human emotions.

“Clearly arousing, negative emotions seem to be processed by the right hemisphere of a dog’s brain, and more positive emotions by the left side,” says Siniscalchi.

The results support that of other studies done on dogs and other mammals. These show that the right side of the brain plays a more important part in regulating the sympathetic outflow to the heart. This is a fundamental organ for the control of the ‘fight or flight’ behavioural response necessary for survival.

Source:  Springer.com

Older Adults and Animal Programming

The Human-Animal Bond Research Initiative and the National Council on Aging have published a new guide to assist senior centers in implementing animal programmes.

There’s a large and growing body of evidence on the value of animals (especially dogs and other companion animals) in combating obesity, loneliness, mental health issues and inspiring memory recall in dementia patients.  In the western world, we also have a growing population of senior citizens and so there’s a strong rationale for rolling out animal programs in senior centers.

The guide cites real-life policy examples and literature in an easy-to-read guide.

Key recommendations on getting started include:

• Establish clear and measurable goals for your senior center
• Develop policies, protocols, and training programs for staff, volunteers, and animals
• Gain acceptance of your program and ensure participant awareness of policies and programming, including the benefits
• Assess risk and develop appropriate procedures to mitigate risk
• Measure successes and failures of your programs through record keeping, questionnaires, and other research

Back in the late 1990s, my Labrador Ebony and I were a therapy team at a local rest home as part of Canine Friends.  I saw first hand the faces of our human friends who looked forward to our visits, with conversations about pets they had in their lives.  The power of a dog sitting at their feet was strong!

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