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Tag: dog

How our dogs read our faces

dogsprocessf

If you’re wondering how your dog is able to magically sense when you are sad, take a look in the mirror.

(And quit moping, you might be bringing your dog down.)

A new study suggests dogs have a specialized region in their brains for processing faces, and that face-reading region in the temporal cortex may help explain how they’ve become so adept at reading human social cues — a skill that up to now has, at least in the eyes of scientists, only been well-documented in humans and other primates.

Dogs have “neural machinery” that has been “hard-wired through cognitive evolution,” says Gregory Berns, a neuroscientist at Emory University and the senior author of the study.

Berns heads the Dog Project in Emory’s Department of Psychology, which is researching evolutionary questions surrounding man’s best friend.

The project was the first to train dogs to voluntarily enter a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner and remain motionless during scanning, without restraint or sedation.

In previous research, the Dog Project identified a region of the canine brain that served as a reward center, and showed that region was responsible for a dog’s brain responding more strongly to the scents of familiar humans than to the scents of other humans, or even to those of familiar dogs.

In the current study, the researchers focused on how dogs respond to faces versus everyday objects, reports Phys.org.

“Dogs are obviously highly social animals,” Berns says, “so it makes sense that they would respond to faces. We wanted to know whether that response is learned or innate.”

The answer appears to be it’s a little of both — it was there to begin with, but has been honed over centuries of socializing with humans.

The study involved dogs viewing both static images and video images on a screen while undergoing an MRI.

Since dogs do not normally interact with two-dimensional images, they had to undergo training to learn to pay attention to the screen. Only six of the eight dogs enrolled in the study were able to hold a gaze for at least 30 seconds on each of the images, but for each of those six a region in their temporal lobe responded significantly more to movies of human faces.

The researchers have dubbed the canine face-processing region they identified the dog face area, or DFA.

(We assume they came up with that using that area of the human brain that is not too imaginative and wants to give everything an acronym.)

A previous study, decades ago, using electrophysiology, found sheep had facial recognition skills, but only a few face-selective cells were identified, as opposed to an entire region of the cortex, said Daniel Dilks, an Emory assistant professor of psychology and author of the study.

Humans, by the way, have at least three face processing regions in the brain.

“Dogs have been cohabitating with humans for longer than any other animal,” Dilks said. “They are incredibly social, not just with other members of their pack, but across species. Understanding more about canine cognition and perception may tell us more about social cognition and perception in general.”

(Photo courtesy of Gregory Berns, Emory University)

State senator’s dogs seized after attack

curd

Two Tibetan mastiffs owned by a South Dakota state senator were seized by animal control officials after they attacked a woman in the senator’s Sioux Falls neighborhood.

The mastiffs, a large, protective and powerful breed that has been called the world’s most expensive dog, belong to Sen. Blake Curd, who is also a prominent orthopedist who specializes in hand surgery and reconstruction.

The victim was walking near the 1300 block of South Elmwood Avenue Friday morning when she encountered the dogs, who were running loose in the ritzy Riverview Heights neighborhood.

She received bites to both legs and her right arm, and was treated at a local hospital.

Curd (1)Curd and his wife, Debbie, issued a statement to the Argus Leader after the incident.

“We are distraught over what has happened and thankful it wasn’t worse. We hope for all to recover quickly and applaud the quick actions of the Sioux Falls Police Department, EMS personnel and Milo the animal control officer who responded to render assistance in this unfortunate circumstance.”

One of the police officers responding to the call was bitten on the thigh, but shook himself free and fired two warning shots when one of the dogs approached him again. Neither dog was hit by the gunshots.

The woman managed to escape by running into a garage.

“It occurred to a few of us that had she not managed to get into my garage, she could very easily have been killed,” said Jon Arneson. “There is virtually no way she could have defended herself.”

“It was a pretty unnerving experience for anybody who loves dogs,” said Arneson, who is a lawyer for the Argus Leader. “I obviously have no idea what triggered the dogs’ reaction this morning, but I assume they hadn’t shown any vicious tendencies before this. I doubt Dr. Curd would have risked keeping them if they had.”

Both dogs are now in the custody of animal control. Both were up to date on vaccinations. The police chief will determine if they are vicious, a finding that could lead to restrictions on their owners, including having to display a dangerous dog sign on their property.

It will be interesting to see how this case plays out, given some Internet commenters are already raising questions about whether Curd is receiving special treatment — or at least less than heavy-handed treatment — from police.

“The cop must have been told who the dogs belong to,” reads one comment on DakotaFreePress.com. “Otherwise if this had happened in the ‘hood, I’m sure both dogs would’ve been shot dead on the spot.”

(Photo at top by Megan Raposa / Argus Leader)

Flashdance star Jennifer Beals confronted over leaving her dog in parked car

Actress Jennifer Beals was confronted by a citizen for leaving her dog in a parked car in West Vancouver.

The 51-year-old actress, best known for her starring role in 1983′s “Flashdance,” left the dog in her Ford Escape Wednesday, reports Canada’s Global News.

A passerby saw the dog in the vehicle, with a passenger-side window open a few inches, and called authorities.

When Beals returned after about five minutes, before police arrived, the man told her leaving the dog in the car wasn’t safe.

Beals, who is in Vancouver shooting a TV series, assured the man everything was fine and drove off.

She later defended her actions. “I am not only a loving dog owner but a discerning one,” she told USA TODAY in a statement.

“The morning was a cool 73 degrees. I, and others, were wearing jackets. I rolled all four windows down and left the car for five minutes to pick up my laundry with my car visible to me the entire time.”

She says she was curious when she returned to find a crowd milling around her car.

“I wondered why two people congregated around my car taking pictures of my (dog). Proud mama thought it was because she’s so gorgeous. While I appreciate their vigilance and what must have felt like courage on their part, they were barking up the wrong tree.”

Marcie Moriarty of the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said, even on a day when temperatures reached no more than 77 degrees, dogs shouldn’t be left in parked cars.

“Definitely not. Not in this sort of heat,” she said. “That’s a German Shepard-type dog it looks like … they’re already carrying a coat on them. In this temperature, I don’t think that would necessarily create the type of cooling effect that would ever be sufficient.”

White God: It’s not the nerds getting revenge in this haunting Hungarian film

In terms of its story line, White God isn’t too different from any other movie in which the bullied rise up and get even with the bullies.

What makes it different — and makes it shine — is that in this case the bullied are abused and mistreated dogs, a species that already knows (perhaps better and more instinctively than us) that there is strength in numbers.

Perhaps the most talked about scene in the much talked about Hungarian film — winner of the Cannes Film Festival’s Prize Un Certain Regard Award and an official selection of Sundance Film Festival — is when a pack of 250 dogs, all mutts, stampede through the streets.

And what makes that scene even more impressive is that it was achieved not through computer graphics, but with dogs.

Director Kornel Mundruczo first issued a casting call for 100 dogs for the scene, then decided bigger would be better. More than 200 dogs ended up being involved, many of them from local animal shelters.

The scene serves as the movie’s climax, and it was a first of its kind achievement for the dog trainers involved.

Under the leadership of Hungarian dog trainer Árpád Halász, a team of humans was able to train the dogs to stampede in a pack in what was, in reality, a massive rush for treats.

One of the dog trainers involved, Teresa Ann Miller — daughter of a trainer who worked on films like Beethoven and Cujo — was interviewed about the movie on NPR this week.

Miller helped cast and train the two dogs who shared the role of Hagen.

The movie’s story begins when a young girl is forced to give up her dog, Hagen, because it is of mixed-breed heritage. Her father, unwilling to pay the fee required to keep a mutt, abandons Hagen in the streets.

Young Lili tries to find him, and Hagen tries to find her, but eventually he joins forces with, and becomes the leader of, hundreds of other abandoned, abused and mistreated dogs living in the streets.

As a pack, they rise up to seek revenge for the indignities they’ve suffered at the hands of humans.

(If the film has one fault, it’s the notion that dogs would seek revenge. They’re better than that.)

Miller told NPR that director Mundruczó wanted the stampede scene to look as real as possible — a goal complicated by the fact that no one has ever seen hundreds of domestic dogs running as a pack.

It was first rehearsed with 100 dogs running together.

Trainer Halász watched and then said, “What about 150?” Miller recounted. “And 150 looked so good that he says, What about 200? And each time Árpád learned, as he acquired the dogs and introduced other dogs into the pack, that it was possible.”

It took four months to prepare for the scene, she added.

“And that was amazing to see; that was fascinating. I’ve never seen it done. I’ve never seen such a large pack of dogs run together. And, quite honestly, I don’t think we’d ever do it here (in the U.S.) just for the time that it takes. It’s so much easier just to CGI it, but the director didn’t want that effect at all.”

How endangered is that doggy on a rooftop?

bojo1

They get about five calls a day at the Farm and Garden Store in Forest Grove, Oregon, about the dog on the roof.

But rest assured, store employees say, he’s not going to jump.

Bojo, a white American bulldog, lives above the store with his, and its, owner, Dennis Crowell.

Crowell commonly leaves a sliding door to the roof open, and Bojo regularly ventures out there — all the way to the edge so he can keep an eye on his owner and anything else he deems worth watching.

Whenever Crowell goes out on an errand, Bojo assumes the position, dutifully awaiting his return.

It’s all cool, store employees say, but those unfamiliar with Bojo’s habits don’t know that.

So hardly a day goes by that the store, or the fire department, or the police department, doesn’t get a call from someone concerned that the dog is in danger, the News-Times reports.

bojo2“Everybody thinks he is going to jump because he always sits at the edge,” said store manager Jesse Wong. “That’s why I think people freak out about it.”

“I don’t think he’ll jump down from there. I’ve been here since he was a puppy, and I think he’s 4 or 5 years old now.”

When Bojo is not on the roof, he can be seen roaming the store, which also has a mural of his likeness on its front wall.

(Photos by Travis Loose / News-Times)

What trash should we cash?

seussWhen an author pens some words

Then decides to abort ‘em

Is it right to dig them up

And publish them post mortem?

When an artist abandons or otherwise trashes a work in progress — be that artist a musician, painter or writer — it’s usually for good reasons

When an heir, agent or publisher digs up the discarded work of a dead or incapacitated artist it, and seeks to package it for public consumption, it’s usually for one:

Profit.

That — more than paying homage, more than fleshing out the historical record — is what’ I’d guess is behind the publication of “new” books by two of America’s most beloved authors.

Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman — essentially the trashed first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird — was released this summer, even though some say, given Ms. Lee’s mental state, she isn’t likely to have endorsed the project.

What Pet Should I Get, by Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel), hit bookstores today — 24 years after his death.

Fifty years after Seuss and Lee became part of popular culture, their respective publishing houses are saying, in effect — and like an infomercial — “But wait … There’s more.”

The new Seuss book is based materials found in the author’s San Diego home in 2013 by Geisel’s widow, Audrey.

According to Random House, when Audrey Geisel was remodeling her home after his death, she found a box filled with pages of text and sketches and set it aside with some of her husband’s other materials. Twenty-two years later, she and Seuss’s secretary revisited the box.

They found the full text and sketches for What Pet Should I Get? – a project that, seemingly, Seuss didn’t feel good enough about to pursue.

As reincarnated books go, Go Set a Watchman has proven far more contentious.

On top of questions over whether Lee wanted the work published, it’s first-version portrayal of Atticus Finch as a bigot is hard for some readers to take, especially those who read Mockingbird.

What Pet Should I Get? hasn’t entirely escaped controversy.

The story line is simple:  A brother and sister (the same ones featured in One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish) go to the pet store with permission from their parents to pick out a pet.

The can’t seem to agree. The brother wants a dog, the sister wants a cat, and some consideration is given to a “Yent that could live in a tent.”

Some reviews are saying the rhymes lack the pzazz and zaniness of Geisel’s better known works.

In addition, the book doesn’t stand up to the test of time. It was written in a day that buying a dog from a store was deemed acceptable — decades before the atrocities of puppy mills (where many such dogs came from) became known.

Among the book’s earliest critics — even before it came out — was PETA, whose president contacted Random House to point out it might send the wrong message to young readers. Apparently, Random House took the advice to heart. In an eight-page afterword, the publisher makes a point of explaining, among other things, that families should adopt rather than buying dogs and cats from stores.

What’s not addressed are the ethics of profiting off selling the unpublished works of the dead.

In the spirit of Dr. Seuss, let me conclude with a couple of modest thoughts. You can call them little point one and little point two.

Point one is a note to creative types. You might want to consider outlining in your will, in great detail, what may or may not happen to, and who should get any profits from, any unpublished works that you squirreled away in a drawer rather than burned or threw away.

Point two is that, in celebrating our beloved writers, particularly two who shaped the lives, hearts and brains of so many children and young adults, remembering their wishes should be paramount.

The publishing world is something of a zoo, and it’s not above shoveling out some stinky stuff wrapped in shiny new packages.

So be careful of that wily fox

He’s smarter than a lot of us

Watch out for tigers, snakes and bears

Beware the hippo-posthumous

 

Company recalls Tremenda Sticks pet chews

1tremendaThe Natural Dog Company is recalling 12-ounce bags of 12-inch Tremenda Sticks pet chews due to possible Salmonella contamination.

The product was sold in retail stores in North Carolina, Ohio, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Montana, Utah and Washington, according to the FDA.

The potential for contamination was noted after a Colorado Department of Agriculture inspection of the product revealed the presence of Salmonella, the FDA said in a press release.

Production of the bully sticks has been suspended while FDA and the company continue their investigation into the source of the problem.

While no illnesses have been reported so far, the company says the product can make dogs sick, as well as humans who touch it. Infected animals can be carriers and infect other animals or people.

Symptoms of salmonella in pets include lethargy, diarrhea, fever and vomiting.

The Tremenda Sticks pet chews in question come in a 12-ounce bag with UPC number 851265004957 but with no lot number or expiration date. The company says products with new packaging, which includes both a lot number and expiration date but the same UPC, are not affected by this recall.

The Natural Dog Company, based in Windsor, Ohio, says unused treats may be returned for a full refund.

Consumers with questions may contact the company at 1-888-424-4602.