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Tag: human

Aiming high to leave their mark

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No matter how big your male dog is you’ve probably noticed, and maybe wondered why, when he finally finds what upright object he wants to pee on, he often strains to aim as high as he can.

The answer is — and perhaps this is more a matter of male behavior than canine behavior — he’s trying to impress other dogs.

canine_urine_marking_dog_behaviorScience and conventional wisdom generally concur that sharing urine scents serves to let dogs get to know each other — that it’s a method of honest communication.

But now a group of researchers is saying that — honest as it otherwise is — there is some deception going on, especially along smaller dogs who are even more likely to hike their legs as high as they possibly can to leave the impression that they’re bigger than they really are.

In a study published in the Journal of Zoology, Betty McGuire and her team at Cornell University found smaller dogs tend to urinate more often than larger dogs, and they’re more likely to aim higher when focusing on vertically oriented targets.

handstandpee“Assuming body size is a proxy for competitive ability, small adult male dogs may place urine marks higher, relative to their own body size, than larger adult male dogs to exaggerate their competitive ability,” McGuire said.

Like this little fella (left).

The researchers went so far as to follow adult male dogs while they (the dogs) urinated on walks, then calculated the angle of their legs when raised during marking. They (the researchers) compared those calculations to the dogs’ height and mass and measured the height of the urine marks on the dogs’ chosen targets.

“Small males seemed to make an extra effort to raise their leg high — some small males would almost topple over,” McGuire told New Scientist. “So, we wondered whether small males try to exaggerate their body size by leaving high urine marks.”

The researchers said it’s likely the goal is to deceive other male dogs, but I suspect it is to impress the ladies, too.

D.K.-Metcalf-595x334Perhaps it emanates from that same source that gives some small dogs Napoleon complexes, making them make up for their lack of size by being louder.

But, I’d argue, neither is limited to canines.

Go to any bar and you can see pretty much the same thing, minus the fire hydrants, lampposts and urination, but with the same kind of loudness, strutting, poking out of chests, boasts, and little white (or yellow) lies.

Seems that, when it comes to the male of the species, neither dogs nor humans are above a little showing off.

Twinkle, twinkle little dog, empathetic is what you are

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Do dogs feel empathy? Of course, all us dog people say. Maybe, scientists have generally said.

Now comes what describes itself as the first scientific proof that pets are empathetic, in tune with their owner’s emotions, and quickly respond when they think their owners are upset.

In a new study, scientists took 34 dogs and positioned them behind a movable door with their owners on the other side.

Then they had those owners either pretend to cry, call for help, or hum “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”

The dogs nosed their way through the door three times more quickly when they thought their owners were upset and needed comforting.

“We found dogs not only sense what their owners are feeling, if a dog knows a way to help them, they’ll go through barriers to provide to help them,” said lead author Emily Sanford, a graduate student in psychological and brain sciences at Johns Hopkins University.

reddit“Dogs have been by the side of humans for tens of thousands of years and they’ve learned to read our social cues,” she said. “Dog owners can tell that their dogs sense their feelings. Our findings reinforce that idea, and show that, like Lassie, dogs who know their people are in trouble might spring into action.”

Researchers also determined dogs with lower stress levels were more likely to push through the door to “rescue” their owners.

Senior author Julia Meyers-Manor first conceived of the experiment after her own dog, a collie, rushed to her side after hearing her fake muffled cries for help while she was playing with her children.

A former faculty member at Macalester College and current assistant professor of psychology at Ripon College, she wondered just how far a dog would go for a distressed human companion The Smithsonian reported.

Together with Sanford, an undergraduate at Macalester at the time, and their colleague Emma R. Burt, Meyers-Manor designed a series of experiments to explore the extent of empathy in dogs.

First, 34 dogs were separated from their owners by a clear plastic door held shut with magnets. The owners were instructed to either make crying noises or hum “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” for up to five minutes. Every 15 seconds, they would say the word “help” in either an upset or casual tone to match their emotional state.

Half the dogs pushed through the door to get to their humans’ side regardless of the anguish their owners conveyed.

Upon closer inspection of the dogs that entered their owners’ room, Sanford noticed that those who were hearing weeping barged in about four times faster than those hearing nonchalant humming. And when the team assessed the strength of each dog’s bond to its owner, they found that dogs who were more attached to their people were more likely to rush in to the sound of sobbing than those who stayed put.

“This validates what a lot of people already feel: The dogs do respond to the crying,” said Meyers-Manor. “It’s not just your imagination when your dog cuddles you when you’re crying in bed. They do seem to care about how we’re feeling.”

The study, titled “Timmy’s in the well: Empathy and prosocial helping in dogs,” was published in the journal Learning & Behavior.

The responding dogs were also calmer when they reacted, and the dogs who barked and paced instead were more highly stressed.

“We think the dogs who opened that door might have been at that sweet spot: they perceived stress, but weren’t so personally distressed that they couldn’t do anything,” Sanford said.

Other variations in the responses could have resulted from that quality of the fake crying — “Some of the owners weren’t exactly actors,” she explained.

Regardless of their dogs’ reactions in the moment, most of the study’s human participants affirmed their dogs generally responded to them when they were troubled or in danger.

(Photo credits: Top, PetSmart Charities, lower, Reddit)

Push to ban dog farms in South Korea continues after the Olympics spotlight fades

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The Olympics are long over in South Korea, but the push to get the country to ban farms where dogs are bred for human consumption, continues — and with a few positive developments.

A new bill, introduced to the National Assembly earlier this month by Lee Sang-don, a member of the Bareunmirae party, would remove the legal basis for factory-style mass breeding of dogs, reported the Korea Times.

Animal Liberation Wave, an animal rights group that launched a campaign against the farms in January, praises the introduction of the bill.

“There are more than 3,000 dog farms where a million dogs get slaughtered every year,” it said in a statement this week. “We hope the bill will become a law to take the first step to end the dog meat industry in Korea.”

The campaign seeks to ban the production and consumption of dog meat and to have dogs legally defined as companions only.

It is still legal to breed dogs to sell their meat in South Korea — and to consume it — as long as the animals are not killed in open areas.

The practice of eating dog meat has been declining, and younger Koreans are generally opposed to it.

But the tradition continues among older people, many of whom believe dog meat aids their virility.

Under livestock industry law, farmers can pursue profit with livestock, which includes dogs and many other animals. But according to the Livestock Processing Act, dogs are not categorized as livestock.

As a result of that, dog meat cannot be traded through major distribution channels like other meat. Instead it is most often sold directly to restaurants, or at outdoor markets.

According to the Seoul Metropolitan Government, the number of restaurants serving dog meat soup, known as “bosintang,” decreased from 528 in 2005 to 329 in 2014.

Regardless, the ALW says, there are still up to 3,000 dog meat farms operating in the country, where more than a million are raised each year, only to be slaughtered for their meat.

The Animal Liberation Wave (ALW), in partnership with the international animal rights organization Last Chance for Animals (LCA), launched a global campaign to ban dog meat from South Korea. The campaign started with a website, petition page (www.donghaemul.com/stopdogmeat) and video against dog meat.

Jiyen Lee, the founder of ALW, said, “there has been a tendency in this country to consider the dog meat issue as a matter of personal choice when in fact it is the government who is hugely responsible for exacerbating the problem by failing to formulate social consensus.

“It is high time that a change is made to fit the current Korean society where 1 out of 5 nationals are living with dogs as companions.”

As part of the campaign, a “Flower Dog Project” is underway, featuring 8 dog statues that will appear in major cities.

(Image, from the Flower Dog Project, via Animal Liberation Wave)

When dogs ruled the Hollywood shorts

Portraying dogs as humans — a topic we’ve brought up a few times, usually with a sneer — is as ensconced in Hollywood tradition as it has now become on Facebook.

Dogs talking in movies, in fact, is as nearly old as talkies themselves. In the Early Sound Era, trained dogs (aka as cheap labor) were commonly called on to appear in movies, particular movie shorts that were shown before the feature presentation in movie houses.

Of those, one series in the pack stood out: the “All-Barkie” Dogville Comedies, including “Hot Dog” (above).

From 1929 to 1931, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer produced a series of nine short comedy films, sometimes known as the “barkies.”

The actors in these films, directed by Zion Myers and conceived and co-directed by Jules White (who both later gained fame for The Three Stooges comedies), were trained dogs, usually dressed in human attire, whose voices were dubbed by human actors.

Their aim, most often, was laughs. They commonly mocked the often naughty and haughty behavior of the noble class — and spoofed the era’s movies, as well.

But as you’ll see here today, some of them had a pretty dark side.

The series is somewhat controversial today — and was even then — due to suspected methods alleged to have been used to get the dogs to pose and to appear to talk, and they stopped being made after criticism over a scene in the final one, portraying canine cannibalism.

Of course “talking dogs” were nothing new by the 1930s. Talking movies were, though, and dogs pretty much worked for free.

The films were shot with silent film and dubbed over with human speech, often using the voices of White and Myers, as well as other actors.

The Dogville shorts started with 1929’s “College Hounds”, a parody of Buster Keaton’s “College” that features a huge doggie football game. The next film was “Hot Dog,” about a murder in a seedy cabaret after a jealous husband finds out his wife has been cheating on him.

After that came “Who Killed Rover?” and a Broadway parody called “The Dogway Melody.”

Those were followed by “The Big Dog House,” “All’s Canine on the Western Front,” and “Love Tails of Morocco.”

A nationwide theatre owners poll in 1930 rated the Dogvilles as the best short subjects over more legendary comedy and musical series, according to article published last year by Atlas Obscura

Many of the dogs were supplied by renowned Hollywood animal trainer Rennie Renfro, who was present for the making of the films.

To make the canine performers appear as if they were speaking, a director or Renfro himself would stand in front of a dog and wave various lures to focus the canine’s attention. The human would then open his hand repeatedly to entice the dog to open its mouth. Other times, they gave the dogs toffee to make them chomp.

A January 1931 article in Popular Science Monthly says the directors preferred using stray and mixed-breed dogs “because they are not high strung and can get along better in groups than the animal ‘prima donnas’ of breeding.”

Based on trade papers of the time, the Dogville Comedies were well-received and director White would call the series the favorite project of his career.

But not everyone was tickled and charmed by the “Barkies.”

There are some accounts that piano wire was used to help the dogs remain upright — as if they were part dog, part marionette.

The Performing and Captive Animals’ Defense League wrote to the British Board of Film Censors to protest the release of the movies and several films in the series were banned by British censors.

The creators stopped making the Dogville Comedies in 1931 after the controversial “Trader Hound,” a spoof of the movie, “Trader Horn.” The short was banned by U.K. censors for its hints at cannibalism — albeit dogs eating dogs, as opposed to humans eating humans

In retrospect, some see the short films — just as some see The Three Stooges — as having a mean edge. On one hand, they seem aimed at children; on the other, the plots were often mature, featuring adultery and murder.

Throw in the animal welfare concerns, and the fact that humanizing dogs doesn’t do anyone any good, and they can be looked at — by me anyway — as a less than glorious chapter of Hollywood history.

The complete series of Dogville Comedies has been released on DVD by Warner Bros. as part of its Warner Archive Collection.

Matching dog and human pajamas may prove to be a hot holiday seller

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Out in public, putting a dog in an outfit that matches your own might be viewed as a tad eccentric.

But in the privacy of your home … that might be another matter.

Even one as dead set against using dogs to make a fashion statement as I am has to admit these matching dog-human pajamas come across as awfully cute and mighty cozy, especially when you throw in the fireplace.

pj3Apparently the public thinks so, too. They sold out nearly as soon as the company offering them put them on Instagram.

The Fab Dog website offers four styles, at $50 per set.

The company says they will have more in stock by Nov. 25 — in plenty of time for Christmas.

The human part of the flannel ensemble doesn’t come with a top — just the bottoms. They come in unisex sizing: small, medium, large and extra large. To determine the right size for your dog, measure his or her length from the base of the neck to just before their tail.

On its website, the company suggests (no surprise) getting a pair for every member of the family: “There’s no doubt that you won’t have a holiday card to trump all holiday cards with your dog in matching plaid pajamas.”

(Photos: From the Fab Dog website)

We have more empathy for dogs than we do for most humans, study says

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People are more empathetic towards dogs than they are their fellow humans — unless that human is an infant, a new study has concluded.

In the study, 240 students were shown fake newspaper clippings about attacks with baseball bats that left the victims unconscious, with a broken leg and multiple lacerations.

Then they were asked questions aimed at gauging their empathy for the fictional victims in the account they had read — either a one-year-old baby, a 30-year-old adult, a puppy, or a six-year-old dog.

While the human infant evoked the most empathy, the puppy trailed closely behind, then the adult dog, with the adult victim finishing last.

The study was published this week in the journal Society and Animals.

The study was similar to one conducted two years ago by Harrison’s Fund, a medical research charity in the UK.

In that one, two printed two advertisements were show to people, both of which asked: “Would you give £5 to save Harrison from a slow, painful death?” In one of the advertisements Harrison was a child, in the other he was a dog.

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Harrison the dog got significantly more clicks than Harrison the human, the Times of London reported.

The newer study found people are consistently more distressed by reports of dogs being beaten up than they are by the same reports about adult humans.

The scientists, from Northeastern University in Boston, found that those who who read the report about an attack on a child, dog or puppy all registered similar levels of empathy. When it was a human adult, however, the results were different.

“Subjects did not view their dogs as animals, but rather as ‘fur babies,’ or family members alongside human children,” the researchers concluded.

Size matters: The dog Guinness says has the longest tongue in the world

A fluffy, mostly white St. Bernard named Mochi has licked and drooled her way into the Guinness Book of World Records for having the longest tongue of any living dog.

It’s 7.31 inches.

Mochi will be featured in the 2018 record book and in a new Guinness book, Amazing Animals.

Her owner, Carla Rickert, says the recognition is a huge honor: “It’s going to make all of the water and slobber we’ve cleaned up over the last six and a half years well worth it.”

She and her husband Craig adopted Mochi from a Colorado rescue organization called Big Dogs Huge Paws that rescues and rehomes dogs over 100 pounds.

The couple and Mochi live in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Mochi loves peanut butter, which was used to show just how far that licker can extend when a crew from Guinness filmed the video above last year.

brandyMochi doesn’t have the longest dog tongue ever recorded. That honor belongs to a boxer named Brandy who lived in Michigan and had a 17-inch tongue. That’s nearly as long as a giraffe’s. Brandy died in 2002.

The longest tongue of any mammal, in relation to its body size, is said to belong to the tube-lipped nectar bat. Its tongue is is 3.3 inches — 1.5 times longer than its body — and is so big it must be kept inside the animal’s rib cage when not in use.

The longest human tongue — no surprise here — belongs to a stand-up comic.

According to Guinness, Nick Stoeberl, of Monterey, Calif., has a 3.97-inch tongue — unimpressive by dog standards.

Guinness determines tongue length in dogs by measuring the distance from the tip of the tongue to the snout; a human tongue, meanwhile, is measured from the tip of the tongue to the middle of the top lip.

Stoeberl took the title in 2015, ending a 13-year reign by Stephen Taylor, a 50-year-old British man whose 3.86-inch tongue could, when extended, hold five donuts.

Stoeberl said long tongues — and showing them off — run in his family. His father used to do Gene Simmons imitations, and he and his brother frequently stuck their tongues out at each other. Stoeberl also uses his to paint, earning him the nickname, Lickasso: