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Tag: owners

Do we really want to read our dogs’ minds?

Devices claiming to translate what your dog is thinking into human words have been popping up on the Internet for a good five years now, and some of the more gullible among us have bought them — and even contributed to campaigns to bring them to market.

There’s No More Woof an electronic device — still in the testing stages, of course — that Swedish scientists say will be able to analyze dogs’ brain waves and translate their thoughts into rudimentary English.

There’s the slightly more real but far more rudimentary Bow-Lingual, which claims to be able to translate your dog’s barks into emotions, currently unavailable on Amazon.com

There are apps — real and prank ones — that offer dog-to-human translations, virtually all of which have disclaimers saying that they should be used primarily for entertainment purposes.

And there are legitimate research projects underway around the world, with real scientists and animal behaviorists seeking to determine and give voice to what is going on in the heads of dogs.

But wait a minute. Do we really want to know?

As this bit of satire shows, we might not like the result.

It was produced by Los Angeles-based Rogue Kite Productions, an independent film company created by writer/producer/director Michelle Boley and camera operator/editor Taylor Gill, who pursue projects of their liking when not doing their day jobs.

Their spoof depicts a speech articulating device much like one a group in Sweden claims to actually be working on.

No More Woof aims to “break the language barrier between animals and humans,” the Sweden-based Nordic Society for Invention and Discovery (NSID) says on its Indiegogo page.

NSID says the device records electroencephalogram (EEG) readings from a dog that are then analyzed by a Raspberry Pi microcomputer and translated, through a small speaker, into simple phrases like, “I’m hungry,” or “Who is that person?”

Popular Science declared the project almost certainly bogus — and yet money keeps pouring in from donors.

The No More Woof indiegogo page says more than $22,000 has been contributed to the project.

Not to cast aspersions on the Swedish group’s attempt to move technology ahead, but I think Rogue Kite Productions could put that money to better use.

Study: Dogs trust us less when we’re angry

How quickly your dog responds to you has a lot to do with the look on your face and the tone of your voice, according to a study at Brigham Young University.

Your dog may not respond more quickly if you use a positive tone, but he’s likely to respond much more slowly if you’re using a negative one, according to the study, published in the journal Animal Cognition.

Brigham Young psychology professor Ross Flom and his research team conducted two experiments examining how dogs reacted to both positive and negative emotions.

“We know that dogs are sensitive to our emotional cues,” Flom said, “but we wanted to know: do they use these emotional cues?” he said.

The experiments measured how quickly dogs responded to an adult’s pointing gesture.

Some of the adults exhibited positive behaviors while making the gestures, such as smiling and speaking in a pleasant tone; others exhibited negative behaviors, such as frowning, furrowing their brow or speaking harshly.

As most dog owners could have predicted, the negative behaviors made dogs a little less cooperative and slow to react — proving yet again (as we also already know) you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

(Has anyone actually done a study on that?)

While dogs who sensed the pointing adults were angry reacted more slowly, dogs whose pointing adults reflected a positive attitude didn’t react any more speedily than those in a control group.

We can only assume those in the control group were issued orders by adults whose faces were expressionless and who spoke like Ben Stein.

Flom concluded that dogs use our tone and emotion to determine how fast to follow an order — or, to put it more scientifically …

“Together these results suggest that the addition of affective information does not significantly increase or decrease dogs’ point-following behavior. Rather these results demonstrate that the presence or absence of affective expressions influences a dog’s exploratory behavior and the presence or absence of reward affects whether they will follow an unfamiliar adult’s attention-directing gesture.”

Apparently, random human strangers were doing the gesturing in the study, as opposed to the owners of the dogs involved.

That, we suspect, would have made a big difference in a dog’s level of trust and eagerness to respond.

That dogs will take off and explore a new area or object based on a stranger’s request shows that dogs generally trust humans.

That dogs — or any animals for that matter — are slow to react to one who appears angry is really no big surprise, either.

That’s generally true in the human arena as well, with the exception of those being yelled at by drill sergeants, prison guards or junior high gym coaches.

Two hearts beating as one? Study suggests, with dogs and owners, it’s almost true

Even though this may be more marketing than science, we can’t help but like the results of this experiment in Australia.

Researchers, in an experiment funded by Pedigree, found that not only do our heart rates lower when we and our pets are together (as everybody knows by now), but they begin to mirror one another.

True, only three dogs and owners were involved in the study. True, the main interest of the company that sponsored it is to sell dog food. And true, what’s new about their findings — how closely the heart rates align — is probably of more poetic than practical use.

But still … It’s good to have a little science (if it can be called that) confirm our feelings of being in sync with our dogs.

In the experiment, three Australian dog owners separated, and then reunited with their pet in a staged but homey setting to see what kind of effect they had on each other’s heart rate.

Both dogs and owners were equipped with heart monitors.

“There was a really strong coherence in the heart rate pattern of both the owner and dog. Upon being reunited within the first minute, each heart rhythm became almost directly aligned and we saw a reduction straight away,” Mia Cobb, canine scientist and demonstration co-conductor told The Huffington Post Australia.

“This project is a really good illustration of what most owners experience every night when they come home from work and are reunited with their companion,” she added.

Twice spurned, dog finds love in Florida

lady

Like any steamy romance novel, this story features a damsel in distress, a hero, and a happy ending that shows that love — even when it’s lost — can still come back and conquer all.

The damsel in distress, in this case, is a black Lab named Lady, who walked across 30 miles of Kansas to reunite with her former owners, only to be spurned by them.

The hero is Helen Rich Rosburg, a chewing gum heiress, animal lover and writer of romance novels.

ladyonplaneThe happy ending came last week when Rosburg, after reading about the elderly dog’s long trek home, and her susbsequent rejection, decided to adopt her, and flew her to Florida on her private jet.

According to KCTV, Lady hadn’t had a stable living arrangement for several years.

Her owner died in 2012, landing Lady in the animal shelter in Sedan, Kansas.

She was adopted by a family, but surrendered back to the shelter because she didn’t seem to get along with the family’s puppy or other little dogs.

She was adopted again this summer, by a woman in Independence, Kansas.

But, the KCTV report says, Lady apparently wanted go back where she came from. Despite her age, and arthritis, she walked 30 miles back to Sedan.

The family that first adopted her declined to take her back, and so did the woman in Independence.

Lady was living at the Chautauqua County Animal Shelter when her situation and photo were shared on Facebook.

“The senior lab walked nearly 30 miles to come home,” Cindy Barclay Powell wrote on Facebook. “Is there anyone out there who can give this girl a home? She may not have many years left. She is spayed, house broken, leash trained, mellow, having problems walking (so her travels back to Sedan amazed me).”

The post was shared nearly 7,000 times and Lady’s story was picked up by Examiner.com last week.

rosburgAmong those who heard about it was Rosburg, the romance novel writer and great-granddaughter of the founder of Wrigley’s, the gum company.

Rosburg runs a rescue and sanctuary for neglected and abandoned animals out of her farm in Odessa, Florida.

On Thursday, she had a private jet flown to Kansas to bring Lady there.

Rosburg says Lady will lead a pampered life, and will join the cats and dogs living inside her home.

Betrayed while deployed: Soldier’s ex sells his dog on Craigslist



A soldier whose ex sold his dog while he was deployed in Afghanistan may be getting his Shiba Inu back.

Robert Gabbert, 23, left his 3-year-old dog, Baxter, with his former girlfriend when he was deployed to Afghanistan in March.

She posted an ad on Craigslist and sold the dog he had placed in her care, Gabbert says.

Once Gabbert, based in Fort Carson, Colo., discovered that, he posted this note on Craigslist:

“I am currently deployed and my ex sold my dog. I just found out and I am trying to find the people (person) who bought him. I will pay anything to get him back … I do not have my phone with me. You can email me. The phone number is my mom’s she is helping me locate him. If you have any information PLEASE give us a call or an email.”

The note went viral on social media, and Gabbert’s family was able to locate the dog, which had been bought by a military family. When Gabbert’s mother contacted the new owners, they were reluctant to give up Baxter.

“They keep saying they have children that are attached,” Gabbert’s mother, Karen Fraley, told KOAA. “Well my child is attached to the dog. Just because he is older doesn’t mean he is not my child.”

Supporters set up a Facebook page supporting Gabbert’s cause.

“We are not going to stop until we have the dog in our hands,” said Nancy Wallace, a member of the support group. Wallace said they have raised $1,400 to pay to the new owners. This week, she reported that there is an agreement in the works for the new owner to return Baxter to Gabbert.

The Colorado Shiba Inu Rescue, a nonprofit organization, has offered to find a new puppy for Baxter’s current owners.

“There are plenty of adoptable Shiba Inus out there,” said a representative at the organization. “We are more than willing to find the family a new dog and they can adopt a puppy that needs a home.”

Beijing officers beat one-eyed dog to death

oneyedjackCity management officers in Beijing beat a small, one-eyed dog to death in front of his owner over the weekend because the dog lacked the proper paperwork, according to the magazine, The Beijinger.

The dog belonged to a British man working at an international school in Beijing. He’d taken in the dog, known in the neighborhood as “One-Eyed Jack,” after finding him on the streets.

The incident came during Beijing’s annual dog registration period, when city management officers — known as chengguan, and known for getting brutal — are on the lookout for dogs and dog owners who are in violation of regulations.

Pet owners must pay $160 the first year they acquire a pet in Beijing. During the registration period, the officers knock on the doors of homes to check on whether dogs are present, if they are in compliance with size and breed regulations, and if they are properly registered and vaccinated.

The Beijinger, an English-language city magazine, reported that the man was out for a walk on Saturday morning when he was pushed aside by one officer while four others held his dog down and beat it to death with sticks.

The man, who asked to remain anonymous, was first asked for the dog’s registration papers. When he explained he only recently got the dog, and was in the process of getting him registered and vaccinated,  officials told him he was “out of order,” the magazine reported.

After killing the dog, the officers placed it into a body bag.

Beijing bans large dogs, as well as 40 breeds it has deemed “large and vicious,” including Dalmatians, collies, Weimeraners and boxers, according to the New York Times blog, Sinosphere.

Chinese veterinarians have warned that the rules will be enforced more strictly this year because of rising rabies infections from unvaccinated animals.

(Photo: The Beijinger)

Fecal responsibility: Boulder looks at DNA testing to track down poop scofflaws

poopquestionBoulder City Councilwoman Mary Young wants to know how feasible it would be to require DNA samples from dogs, and create a registry so that, through DNA analysis, poop left on city trails could be traced to dog owners.

She’s not suggesting every dog in Boulder be tested (yet) — just the estimated 35,000 with so-called “green tags” that allow them to romp off-leash on some of the city’s trails and greenspaces.

Young has asked that the issue be discussed at tonight’s City Council meeting, the Boulder Daily Camera reports. (Yes, it happens to be an April Fools Day meeting, but nobody’s joking here.)

I would hope Boulder looks not just at whether it can be done (it can), but at whether it should be — that city leaders consider, in addition to the price tag of such a venture, the ethics and implications and utter goofiness of it.

There’s a lot of dog-related technology I don’t like (click the banner at the top of this page for one example) and poop-detection technology is near the top of the list.

Not just because of its Orwellian overtones, not just because it’s heavy-handed, dictatorial, silly, creepy, intrusive and expensive.  It’s also because technology, unleashed, has a habit of oozing beyond the boundaries of its originally intended purpose — DNA-testing of dog poop being just such a case — and spreading into ever scarier realms.

The day could still come when your tossed cigarette butt, un-recycled soda can or expectorated phlegm could be traced back to you, which, come to think of it, might be a better use of DNA technology than that being offered by the dog poop sleuths.

Declaring war on poop, and bringing out technology’s big guns, is overkill. Especially when the real solution can be achieved by simply bending over and picking up what your dog leaves behind.

In case you haven’t been following our posts on this issue, here’s how it works:

Deciding unscooped dog poop is simply intolerable, homeowners associations, apartment complexes or government entities sign up with a company called PooPrints, which sends them the supplies needed for residents to take swabs from the cheeks of their dogs. Those are sent to Tennessee, and a doggie DNA registry is created.

After that, any pile of poop that is found can be gathered, packaged and sent to a lab in Tennessee, where it can be unpackaged and tested and, by comparing DNA markers, matched to an individual dog, assuming that dog’s DNA is in the registry.

The company lets management know who the poopetrator was, and the owner is fined $100 or so — or, if a repeat offender, perhaps told they and/or their dog should move somewhere else. Thereby a community is made safe from scofflaws, as well as, say, a grandmother whose back might have been hurting too much one day to pick up every last dropping left by her Shih Tzu.

Here in my current home state, North Carolina, apartment complexes in Winston-Salem and Wilmington are among the growing number of property management companies and government entities turning to PooPrints.

Yes, dog poop can be hazardous to our health, and harmful to the environment.

So can the feces of all the non-domesticated animals we live among, but don’t feel compelled to prosecute for pooping.

danriversludgeSo, too, can the dumpage of corporate entities, like the thousands of tons of coal ash spilled into the Dan River by Duke Energy, coating 70 miles of the river with toxic sludge.

That’s a little harder to pick up after, and, I’d suggest, at least as deserving of society’s consternation and oversight and vigilance as dog poop — even if punishing the culprit won’t make them change their ways. (Big companies, unlike the average dog owner, can hire lawyers to avoid fines, and, if unsuccessful, they just pass the costs along to their customers.)

Finding clean sources of energy — that’s a use of technology I like. Using DNA to solve murders  (and clear the wrongly convicted) seems a good use,  too.

But gathering, packaging and mailing dog poop so technicians in Tennessee can comb through it and test it, by comparison, seems a silly use of our technological muscles.

In Colorado, Boulder officials say dog waste on public trails is one of the most common complaints the city receives, so it’s not surprising that they’d turn to a company that claims to have the solution.

Eric Mayer, director of business development for BioPet Vet Lab in Knoxville, Tenn., said the company’s PooPrint service is used by private property management companies in 45 states and in Canada. Franchises are popping up all over, like Burger Kings.

So far, the company doesn’t have contracts with any municipalities, but officials have been in talks with a half dozen different local governments. He said he expects to sign the first municipal PooPrints contract with Ipswich, Mass., sometime this year.

Maybe, if poop detection continues to catch on, it would be good for the economy. Maybe, you too could have a fulfilling career as a dog poop laboratory technician.

But there are far better ways to spend our time and money, and far bigger problems more deserving of our rage. Between all the emotion, and all the technology, we seem to forget that we can simply …

Pick it up!

(Top photo, fake poop question mark, from Big Mouth Toys; bottom photo, sludge from the Dan River spill, courtesy of Dan River Basin Association)