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Tag: recognize

American Kennel Club grants recognition to two centuries-old European breeds

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Rembrandt recognized the kooikrhondje nearly 400 years ago. It took the American Kennel Club until this week.

The breed — its formal full name is the Nederlandse kooikerhondje — is one of two the AKC announced this week have been added to its list of officially recognized breeds.

The AKC’s breed list is a fairly arbitrary one, and making it involves — more than anything else — jumping through the proper AKC hoops and paying the proper AKC dues. Usually, every year or so, a breed or two or three gets full recognition bestowed.

This year, it’s the kooiker, as it is sometimes called for short, and the grand basset griffon Vendeen.

They bring the number of AKC-recognized breeds to 192.

Both breeds will be eligible to compete in most dog shows this year, but can’t compete at the Westminster Kennel Club show until next year.

kooikerleashes1The Nederlandse kooikerhondje (if you want to try to pronounce it, it’s NAY’-dehr-lahn-seh KOY’-kehr-hahnd-jeh) are small, brown-and-white, spaniel-style dogs whose history goes back hundreds of years in Holland. They can be seen in the paintings of Rembrandt and even more commonly in those of another 17th Century Dutch Master, Johannes Vermeer.

Kooikerhondjes were trained to help hunters lure ducks into cages and net-covered canals. The practice waned in the 19th century, and the dogs neared extinction during World War II before a baroness began working to re-establish the breed.

There are now about 7,000 worldwide and roughly 500 in the U.S.

The other breed officially recognized by the AKC is the grand basset griffon Vendeen, which also has centuries-old roots in Europe.

gbgvleashes1The GBGV (for short) has a long and low-to-the-ground body and wiry hair, and the AKC describes the breed as laid back, intelligent and friendly.

A smaller cousin, the petit basset griffon Vendeen, has been recognized by the AKC for decades.

The process of getting a breed fully recognized by the AKC involves first establishing a National Breed Club.

After that, those seeking to get a breed established — namely, or at least mainly, breeders — get the breed listed with the AKC Foundation Stock Service by submitting a written request, and documentation that includes a written history and a written breed standard.

Before getting recognition, it must be shown that there are at least 300 dogs of the breed spread around at least 20 states.

If the criteria are all met and a substantial nationwide interest and activity in the breed is demonstrated, the AKC Board of Directors can vote to allow the breed to compete in the Miscellaneous Class.

Even after that, it can still be years before the breed is fully recognized, also by a vote of the board.

(Top image, courtesy of Rembrandt; breed photos, courtesy of American Kennel Club)

How our dogs read our faces

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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)

Can dogs read us? Like a book

Other than humans, who aren’t always real good at it, dogs are the only animals that can read emotion in human faces, scientists at England’s University of Lincoln claim.

Their research findings suggest (as most any dog owner knows) that dogs can see at a glance if we are happy, sad, pleased or angry.

According to the study, dogs, like humans, have developed something called “left gaze bias,” wherein, when we’re looking at a person’s face, our eyes wander left and examine the right hand side of that face.

Scientists believe the right side of the human face expresses emotions more accurately and more intensely, and that humans, stupid as we otherwise are, have figured that out, if only on a subconscious level.

Helfpul tip: If you’re having trouble figuring out which side of the face you’re looking at is which, think of the right hand side as the passenger side, the left hand side as the driver side. If you’re still confused, remember that the right side of the person’s face you’re looking at would be on your left, unless of course a mirror is involved. If you’re even more confused now, and getting angry about it, have your dog look at the right (passenger, unless you’re in Europe) side of your face. If he sulks and walks away with his tail between his legs, you are indeed angry.

But back to the study, which showed that dogs exhibit “left gaze bias,” but only when looking at human faces. No other animal has been known to display this behavior before.

In the research, a team led by Dr. Kun Guo showed 17 dogs images of human, dog and monkey faces as well as inanimate objects.

Film of the dogs’ eye and head movement exhibited a strong left gaze bias (not to be confused with left wing bias) when the animals were presented with human faces. But this did not occur when they were shown other images, including those of dogs.

Guo believes that, over the centuries they’ve been associated with humans, dogs have evolved the left gaze bias as a way to gauge our emotions.