The study goes a step beyond stating the obvious, though, looking at why that is, and why using a dog as date bait — unfair as it may be — works better for men than women.
Titled “The Roles of Pet Dogs and Cats in Human Courtship and Dating,” the study was published this month in the quarterly research journal Anthrozoos.
It surveyed random Match.com users in the United States who included pet information in their dating profiles. More than 1,200 individuals took part.
The study found women put far more stock in a potential mate’s associations with pets — and particularly dogs — than men did.
Women were more than twice as likely as men to say they were attracted to someone because he had a dog. They were also twice as likely to judge a date based on how he interacted with his dog.
Why? The researchers hypothesized that it’s probably based on evolutionary instincts. Women tend to seek a partner who they think will make a responsible parent, while men are more likely to look for … well, we all know what they are looking for.
“Put in terms of evolutionary and life-history theory, females allocate a higher proportion of their reproductive effort to parenting while males expend more energy on mating,” the researchers said.
In other words, a man with a dog is seen as a more nurturing and responsible member of his gender and therefore, the line of thinking goes, will make a better daddy.
While dogs may help draw women to a man, the reverse isn’t quite as true, the researchers found.
When women see a guy with a dog, they see a man who is responsible and wants to settle down, and they are charmed. When men see a woman with a dog, they too see a person who is responsible and wants to settle down, and they — or at least the less evolved among them — get scared. Or so the researchers’ theory goes.
As the study noted, men have caught on to the fact that a dog can improve their odds with the opposite sex. Twice as many men as women admitted they’ve used their dog to lure a potential date.
So who’s to know whether that guy in the park playing with his puppy is a nurturing soul, or simply a con man posing as a nurturing soul, using his dog in the same way he might use Axe for men?
Women. That’s who. And I wish them luck.
(Bulldog wearing the Zelda Chick Magnet Halloween costume, from Baxterboo.com)
Posted by John Woestendiek December 28th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, appeal, behavior, chick magnets, courtship, date bait, dating, dog, dogs, evolution, females, humans, instincts, males, mates, men, partners, pets, sex, social, study, survey, tools, women
Some researchers are suggesting that selfish mama dogs may have played a role in the early domestication of the species by keeping the good food to themselves, as opposed to sharing it with their pups.
As a result, the researchers theorize, pups and young dogs ventured out of the wild and into human communities where they didn’t have to compete as hard for food — at least not with their own mothers.
(Being a cartoonist at heart — albeit one who can’t draw — I am picturing a young pup, sneaking away from the home of his domineering mother with one of those sacks on a stick over his shoulder, muttering to himself, “That bitch. That bitch. That greedy bitch!”)
Sure, there may be some substance to this research, but it mostly makes me laugh.
The researchers conducted experiments with feral dogs in India, then theorized that ancestral dogs thousands of years ago must have behaved the same way.
First, they offered low-quality biscuits to mother dogs, and the mother dogs tended to share those with their pups, with no conflicts arising.
Then they brought out the good stuff. Protein-rich meat seemed to make the mother dogs forget their motherly ways, growling at their pups to keep them away, and even grabbing meat from the mouths of their puppies.
The authors, Anindita Bhadra and Manabi Paul of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, say ancestral dogs, once they reached 8 or 9 weeks old, became able to clearly distinguish between protein rich food sources and the un-nourishing filler their mothers were trying to pass off on them.
At that point, the researchers theorize, many young ancestral dogs would set out for farming communities where they had access to what humans threw away. There is evidence also that the earliest farmers fed these dogs, making life among humans even more appealing.
The theory, outlined in the journal Royal Society Open Science, could help to explain the origins of dog domestication and how some ancestral dogs so willingly elected to live with people instead of with their own kind, Discovery reports.
“Ancestral dogs” is kind of a safe term scientists use — just in case dogs didn’t evolve from wolves, but from some other species.
As for why ancestral dog moms turned so selfish when a good cut of meat became available, Bhadra said, “We feel that the mothers just tend to grab the best resources when available.”
Ancestral mother dogs are not available to respond to those charges, so I will speak for them:
“Hey, you think it’s easy giving birth to 14 kids at once, and then raising them? Alone?
“Yeah, where IS dad? Good question. Haven’t seen him since he knocked me up.
“So, yes, I get a little anxious, a little snippy. But I’ve got to feed the whole lot of them, and protect them. It’s not like I can walk into the Food Lion and get all I need. You have no idea how tired I am. And yes, I get hungry, too. If I am not nourished, how do you expect me to nourish all of them? Go research that, why don’t you?”
(Photo: From Lovethesepics.com)
Posted by John Woestendiek December 9th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ancestral dogs, animals, dog, dogs, domesticated, domestication, feeding, food, greedy, humans, mothers, pets, puppies, pups, research, science, selfish, study, wolf, wolves
Whether its lowering our blood pressure, upping our oxytocin (that hormone that makes us feel warm and fuzzy), or keeping us sane (no small task), you can bet there’s a study underway at some university somewhere seeking to unravel — and dryly present to us — more hard evidence of yet another previously mysterious way that dogs enhance our well-being.
Given that, it’s a nice change of pace to plunge into a more anecdotal account — one that looks at the near magical mental health benefits one woman reaped through her dog, and does so with candor and humor, as opposed to sappiness.
“Dog Medicine: How My Dog Saved Me From Myself” is a book that shows, far better than any scientific study, just how valuable — no, make that priceless — the human-dog bond is.
The memoir spans a year in the life of the author, Julie Barton, starting when, just one year out of college and living in Manhattan, she had what we used to call a “nervous breakdown.”
A barely coherent phone call from her kitchen floor brought her mother racing to her side from Ohio to take her home.
Barton was diagnosed with major depression — one that didn’t seem to lift, despite the best efforts of family, doctors, therapists and the pharmaceutical industry. She spent entire days in bed, refusing to get up.
Around the same time doctors started her on Zoloft, Barton told her mother she’d like to get a dog. Her mother thought that was a great idea. A few weeks later, they were bringing home a golden retriever pup. Barton named him Bunker.
On that first night, Bunker started whimpering in his crate, and Barton crawled inside with him:
“It occurred to me as I gently stroked his side that this was the first time in recent memory that I was reassuring another living thing. And, miraculously, I knew in that moment that I was more than capable of caring for him. I felt enormously driven to create a space for Bunker that felt safe, free of all worry, fear and anxiety. For the first time in a long time, I felt as if I had a purpose.”
Barton’s depression didn’t lift overnight; it never does. But, as the artfully written story unravels, Bunker gives Barton the confidence she needs to start a new life on her own in Seattle.
The are plenty of bumps ahead, and more than a few tests, but, given we’re recommending you read it for yourself, we won’t divulge them here.
Or you can wait for the next scientific study that comes along, proclaiming — in heartless, soulless prose — to prove one way or another what we already know:
Dogs are good for the heart and soul.
Posted by John Woestendiek August 24th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, benefits, bond, book, books, books on dogs, bunker, dog books, dog medicine, golden retriever, health, humans, julie barton, memoir, mental health, nurture, nurturin, pets, reading, rescue, science, studies, thinkpiece publishing
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)
Posted by John Woestendiek August 4th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, cognition, daniel dilks, dog, dog project, dogs, emory, emory university, faces, fmri, gregory berns, humans, mood, moods, mri, pets, psychology, read, recognition, recognize, response, social cues, the dog project
You can’t say Bible-quoting conservatives didn’t warn us.
Let members of the same sex get married, they said, and it will open the door to even unholier unions.
Now comes word from Metro that a woman in the Nederlands plans to marry her dog.
Dominique Lesbirel, 41, says she might not do it immediately, because she wants to be sure that she’s not acting out of grief.
You see, her husband, Doerack, just died. He had kidney failure.
Oh, and he was a cat.
Lesbirel married Doerack eight years ago, conducting the ceremony herself, based on the authority she thinks she holds from getting ordained online.
She says she regularly officiates weddings between people with their pets — but not before doing some research and making sure they truly love, respect and are committed to each other. Also, she says, she wouldn’t marry anyone to a lion or tiger.
A Metro online poll shows only 8 percent of us would marry our pet.
Lesbirel, whose services are explained on her website, says some people have accused her of animal cruelty and promoting bestialty, which is “certainly not the case.”
“I would never condone such terrible acts of cruelty to animals. My site is all about making a commitment to pets to show your dedication to them and promise that you will always look after them.”
“We’d be lost without those happy little faces at our windows, so I’ll do anything I can to remind people to treat animals with love, kindness and respect.”
That, she says, is why she will someday soon tie the knot with her dog, Travis.
“He has given me so much happiness and unconditional love. I just want to celebrate that bond.”
(Photo:PA Real Life, via Metro)
Posted by John Woestendiek July 21st, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, cat, cats, dog, dogs, dominique lesbirel, humans, inter-species, marriage, marry, marrying, morality, pet, pets, travis, uk, values, wedding
The dog — named Adam, ironically enough — is allergic to humans.
Adam was pulled from a shelter by Lucky Dog Rescue in Indianapolis last July, but it took a while for vets to determine what was causing his fur to fall out.
“When we first saw him, he looked just absolutely miserable,” Lucky Dog president Robin Herman told ABC’s Good Morning America. ”He felt like Vaseline. Reddish-pinkish fluid would just ooze out of his skin.”
The rescue center, which was working with Indianapolis’ Animal Medical Center, originally believed that Adam, who was one-a-half at the time, had flea dermatitis.
Months went by — he spent at least six of them wearing a cone — and his condition didn’t get better.
But in late October, Dr. Rachel Anderson, a veterinarian from the medical center, ordered some allergy tests, and was shocked by the results.
“It was a really interesting phone call,” Herman said. “She was like, ‘You’re not going to believe what he’s allergic to! It’s really remarkable, he’s allergic to humans the same way some people are allergic to dogs and cats.”
Specifically, the blood tests showed Adam is allergic to human dander, as well as cat dander, some plants, walnuts and some insects like houseflies and cockroaches.
After news first broke about Adam’s condition, people from as far away as Australia and the U.K. contacted the center either with adoption inquiries or donations, Herman said.
But Adam ended up finding a permanent home with the center employee who spent the last year caring for him, Beth Weber, who now makes sure he gets the proper medications and gives him baths every three days with a different kind of soap every other time.
He’s also seeing a specialist at the Animal Dermatology Clinic in Indianapolis.
“He’s come such a long way,” Herman said. “… All his fur is back except for a little spot on his butt and tail. Though he’s going to be on medications for the rest of his life … he’s now on the road to full recovery and health.”
(Photos: Lucky Dog Rescue’s Facebook page)
Posted by John Woestendiek July 10th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: adam, allergic, allergies, animals, condition, dogs, humans, indianapolis, indianapolis animal medical center, lab, lucky dog, lucky dog rescue, mix, pets, rescue, skin
There’s no question humans played a major — you could even say heavy-handed — role in the evolution of dogs.
But might dogs and their predecessors have played an equally significant role in our’s?
A new book by Pennsylvania State University anthropologist Pat Shipman, “The Invaders: How Humans and Their Dogs Drove Neanderthals to Extinction,” suggests that having wolves/dogs on our side allowed humans to survive while Neanderthals went extinct.
(Well, maybe not totally extinct; I know at least two.)
In reality, most humans today — thanks to long-ago couplings between humans and Neanderthals — have anywhere from one to four percent of Neanderthal genes in their systems. (Those genes, I suspect, are responsible for making us tailgate, become bodybuilders and cut in line.)
Neanderthals lived, evolved and pretty much ruled for about 250,000 years. After humans came along, about 40,000 years ago, the numbers of Neanderthals declined, then vanished, falling victim, some think, to the superior intellect, skills and weapons of early humans.
Shipman agrees with that theory, but argues humans having wolves on their side was a critical factor.
Neanderthals, the author says, never buddied up with the wolf, while humans would go on to form an alliance with them, tame them, breed them and assign them the kind of tasks that helped with survival — like hunting, guarding and chasing away enemies.
Given dogs were once thought to have been domesticated only 10,000 to 15,000 years ago — long after Neanderthals and humans had it out — little attention was paid to what, if any role, they might have played in the conflict.
But newer evidence, suggesting the domestication of dog goes back 25,000, 35,000, or even more than 100,000 years ago, lends credence to the conclusion dogs were a factor in the survival of our species.
It’s all pretty fascinating stuff — from whence we came, from whence dog came, and how, when and why we seemingly became allies.
But, other than the fact that knowing how our species has managed to survive this long might help it continue to do so, I’m not sure how relevant it is to modern times — unless, as one writer semi-playfully suggests in a piece for WBUR, Boston’s NPR station, how much an individual likes or dislikes dogs is related to the amount of Neanderthal within.
“Depending on the individual, you might just wonder if dog loving might be an indicator of the ratio of Neanderthal genes you’ve got,” Vicki Croke wrote on the WBUR blog, “The Wild Life.” She quotes Lauren Slater, author of “The $60,000 Dog:”
“What this may mean: all those ‘not dog’ people, the ones who push away the paws and straighten their skirts after being sniffed, well, they may have one foot in the chromosomally compromised Neanderthal pool,” Slater wrote, while dog lovers “may be displaying not idiocy or short-sighted sentimentality, as our critics would call it, but a sign of our superior genetic lineage.”
So the next time some small foreheaded, prim and proper, club-carrying type asks that you keep your dog away from them, by all means comply, but feel free to mutter under your breath as you walk away:
“What a Neanderthal!”
Posted by John Woestendiek March 27th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alliances, allies, animals, anthropology, book, books on dogs, dog, dog books, dogs, evolution, human, humans, neanderthal, neanderthals, pat shipman, pets, survival, the invaders, wolves