The U.S. Postal Service is issuing four new stamps that honor working dogs.
The “Dogs at Work” series celebrates the enduring partnership between working dogs and the people who count on them.
The four dogs depicted in the 65-cent stamps are a guide dog assisting a woman who is blind, a tracking dog on the trail of a scent, a therapy dog visiting an elderly woman in her home, and a search and rescue dog standing in a field.
Artist John M. Thompson created original paintings for the stamps, which were designed by art director Howard E. Paine.
The “Dogs At Work” stamps will come out in January, 2012, and are being issued at the two-ounce rate.
Posted by jwoestendiek December 29th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 65-cent, animals, artist, celebrate, detecting, dog, dogs, dogs at work, guide dog, honor, issuance, issue, john m. thompson, office, pets, post, postal, rate, rescue, search, series, sniffing, stamps, therapy dog, tracking, two ounce, working, working dogs
Tis the season for putting ornaments on trees, hanging stockings from the mantle, and, if you’re a dog, placing your nose directly into the crotch of any and all visitors who drop by the house for a bit of Christmas cheer.
Ah yes, the crotch sniff, next to the leg hump about the most embarassing behavior — for us, anyway — that our dog can engage in.
If you’ve ever wondered why your dog, while showing little or no interest in your crotch, is so fascinated by the laps of visitors, help is on the way.
That sketch on the left shows where dogs sniff their owners — mostly, as you can see by the lines and darkened areas, the arms and face.
The one below shows where dogs sniff strangers, and there seems a much greater focus on the groin.
This comes courtesy of our friend Julie Hecht, who produces the blog Dog Spies. She’s nosing through existing research, and has posted the first of a two-part series on the phenomenon.
Hecht works with Alexandra Horowitz at the Dog Cognition Lab at Barnard College, which regularly tries to figure out why dogs do the things they do — the scientific reasons, as opposed those we tend to arrive at anthropomorphically.
“Behavioural variability of olfactory exploration of the pet dog in relation to human adults.”
(Riotous bunch, those scientists.)
For their sniffing simulation, researchers had human volunteers lay motionless on the floor with their eyes closed for five minutes.
The researchers first observed pet dogs sniffing their owners. Then they watched as dogs sniffed an unknown person. They kept count of the areas sniffed, and made charts. (I’m guessing they didn’t use those red arrows, though.)
Dogs spent more time sniffing strangers than their owners, and, with strangers, more time poking about the crotch zone.
The simple explanation: Your dog already has a good sense of how you and most regular visitors smell. With a new person though, they tend to want to get better aquainted. They do that primarily with their noses.
As for why they sniff where they sniff, I don’t know — and I’m hoping part two of Julie’s post will clear the air and explain the allure of the crotch; whether it’s a matter of going for the most pungent spot, or the most personal and guarded one, or if maybe it, scent wise, it’s simply the most revealing.
Dog only knows.
Posted by jwoestendiek December 14th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alexandra horowitz, animals, aroma, barnard college, behavior, body, crotch, dog, dog cognition lab, dog spies, dogs, explained, exploration, filiatre, getting acquainted, groin, humans, julie hecht, lap, meeting, olfactory, pets, regions, research, scents, science, scientists, smell, sniff, sniffing, study
Leashed dogs are likely to act more aggressively. Dogs, researchers ascertained, like to sniff other dogs, especially those of the opposite sex.
But here’s one fascinating finding that I think is worth much more research: Dogs being walked by men are four times more likely to threaten and bite other dogs.
That’s pretty stunning, and merits further investigation — into dog, into man, but even moreso into dogs’ abilities to read our emotions, better even, perhaps, than we can read our own.
The study, to be published in the journal Applied Animal Behavior Science, found that the sex of the owner had the biggest effect on whether or not a dog will threaten or bite another dog.
“We propose that the occurrence of threat and biting in dogs on a walk may have some connection with aggressive tendencies and/or impulsivity in people,” Petr Rezac and his team at Mendel University wrote.
They add: “Dogs are able to perceive subtle messages of threat emitted by another dog. Simultaneously, dogs are unusually skilled at reading human social and communicative behavior.”
Rezac is an associate professor in the Department of Animal Morphology, Physiology and Genetics. He and his colleagues studied close to 2,000 dog-dog interactions on owner-led walks held in the city of Brno, according to Discovery News.
What they observed the most, as you might expect, was sniffing and peeing. And most of the researchers’ conclusions are already known by anyone with a dog:
Males sniff females more often, males and females prefer play with each other than with members of their own sex, adult males mark the most, puppies play together more than twice as often as adults, dogs prefer to play with similarly sized individuals and dogs tend to be more aggressive when restrained by a leash.
(Scientists, meanwhile, according to my own observations, are prone to sniffing, scratching their heads and marking their turf. They don’t have time to play, and tend to be aggressive when their funding is threatened. They should almost always be leashed.)
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, in the process of trying to figure dogs out, man learned a thing or two about his own self?
I think much helpful-to-humans information is there, inside dogs, but it mostly goes untapped — because we speak different languages, because we don’t often look for it, and for reasons of focus. Scientists, like detectives building a case against a suspect, sometimes develop tunnel vision, to the extent that bigger, broader potential revelations, and sometimes ethics and boundaries, go ignored.
The Czech study, for example, leads me to wonder whether, in addition to studying the dogs, scientists might want to pay closer attention to those dog walkers, and all the baggage and pent-up hostilities they may be carrying around — whether they have those emotions on a leash, or too tight a leash, or no leash at all.
I don’t think it’s a Czech thing. And, in my experience, it’s not a gender thing. Generally, I’ve found that the most tightly wound pet owners — male or female — have the most unpredictable dogs.
Dogs, in large part, mirror their owners.
But their powers go far beyond mere reflection. Let’s go back to those pent-up hostilities. Sometimes they are undectable to psychiatrists. Sometimes they are undectable to the person they are pent-up in. Yet dogs have the power to sense them, and sometimes to calm them.
I’m not saying dogs know more than scientists — or am I? — only that dogs sense and know things we don’t. If only we could figure out a non-intrusive and polite way to ask the dogs to share with us all the things they have the power to sense — things that, even with all our scientific instruments, we humans can’t.
Maybe then — leashed or unleashed, male or female, dog or human — we could all just get along.
(Photo: By John Woestendiek)
(PS: The dogs pictured above were playing, not fighting)
Posted by jwoestendiek November 7th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aggressive, animal behavior, animals, behavior, communication, conclusions, czech republic, dog, dog walking, dogs, females, findings, gender, hostile, humans, inside dogs, insights, leashed, leashes, males, mendel university, mirror, observation, peeing, perception, petr rezac, pets, playing, reading, reflect, reflection, research, science, scientists, sense, sensing, sex, sniffing, study, walker, walking
The sperm-sniffing dog, reported to the only one in southern Sweden, is named Rapports Opus.
The suspect is charged with forcing a woman to perform oral sex in a park in Karlskrona, according to Sydöstran, a regional newspaper. The dog found traces of semen at the scene of the crime. They were sent to a lab for analysis and were found to match the 23-year-old suspect’s DNA.
Rapports Opus underwent a year’s training to become a certified sperm-sniffing dog, graduating from the dog academy last year, according to The Local, an English language publication in Sweden.
“He’s the only dog in southern Sweden specialised in tracking sperm,” said B.G. Carlsson, the police officer who trained the dog.
Carlsson will be testifying in the trial against the 23-year-old. The case is the first in which evidence found by Rapports Opus will be used in court.
About 150 people gathered for a memorial service at the Thomasville Funeral Home.
Police Chief Jeffrey Insley said before the service that an autopsy determined that Cheko — a drug-detecting dog who also was trained as a tracker — had been poisoned, according to the Winston-Salem Journal. He was one of four dogs in the K-9 unit.
Cheko died in March, just a week before he was scheduled to retire, at the Randolph County home of his handler, Thomasville Police Sgt. John Elgin. Elgin found Cheko dead inside his kennel, about two days after the dog started acting sluggish.
The Randolph County Sheriff’s Department is investigating how the dog ingested the poison. Elgin said additional tests will be conducted to determine what chemicals or poisons killed Cheko.
“It could have been an act of retaliation from a past arrest, but we are not going to point any fingers until we complete our investigation,” he said.
“Any new dog who takes Cheko’s place will have big paws to fill,” Insley said at the service.
Among those paying tribute to Cheko was Thomasville Mayor Joe Bennett told the audience, Cheko had gone to heaven. “I doubt there are drugs there, but he is looking for something and having fun.”
Posted by jwoestendiek April 9th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, cheko, dead, detecting, died, dog, dogs, drug, funeral, john elgin, K-9, k9, killed, law enforcement, memorial, north carolina, pets, poison, poisoned, police, randolph county, sniffing, thomasville, tribute
Humans need a play stance.
I came to this conclusion yesterday — adding yet another item to the list of things dogs do better than us – as Ace and I arrived for the first time at the only dog park in Winston-Salem proper (and Winston-Salem is pretty proper).
Being new and mostly friendless in the town in which we’ve decided to temporarily base ourselves, we left our quarters in the basement of a mansion and, for a little socialization, headed a couple miles down the road to Washington Park, where dogs can run and play in a fenced-in area.
Of course, Ace hardly romped at all. It being a new scene for him, his first priority was to give all things a good sniffing – other dogs included. But, on this day, he was more the sniffee than the sniffer.
The second I closed the gate behind us, five other dogs — realizing there was a new face — bounded over for a whiff, following so close behind his rear end that, when he stopped abruptly … well you know the rest.
Butts aside, it’s an intriguing thing to watch, this seeming welcome, and one I noticed often back at Ace’s old park in Baltimore. When a first-timer arrives, all the other dogs come over to give the new guy a sniff. To view that as an act of kindness is, of course, anthropomorphic. But still it’s kind of sweet.
This weekend, Ace — though he was used to being the dean of his old park — was the new kid on the block.
He courteously sniffed those who sniffed him, but was more interested in checking out the space, the water bowl and the humans than in playing with the other dogs. We’d been there a full hour before he even chased another dog — all of whom were playing energetically with each other.
Dee Dee, a beagle, and Bailey, a whippet mix, (both pictured atop this post) had great play stances and used them often: Butts pointed skyward, front legs stretched all the way out, heads lowered. It, in the canine world, is a universal signal, a way of saying “You don’t need to be afraid of me, this is all in good fun, it’s playtime, let’s go.”
I can think of no counterpart when it comes to human body language — no gesture or stance we have that is as easily noticeable and understood. The handshake? No, that’s just standard procedure, basic manners. Perhaps the one that came closest was the peace sign.
Rather than having a universal play stance, we resort to words, which often only make things more confusing. We try to make sense of subtle body language and interpret what we think are queues, neither of which we’re that good at, either.
All that could be resolved if we only had a human play stance — a position we could place our bodies in that signifies we’re open to getting to know a fellow human.
We’ve got the war stance down. We all know the fighting stance, or at least enough to put our dukes up. But there’s no simple gesture or motion we humans can make — at least not without possibility of criminal charges or restraining orders – that sends a signal that peace, harmony and fun are ahead.
But why can’t we come up with a play stance — one that says I’m open to getting to know you better, and perhaps even frolicking a bit?
Because that would be too easy for a species as complex as ours? Too honest? Too direct?
It was easier when we were children. A simple ”Wanna play?” sufficed. Somehow, on the way to becoming adults, we started opting instead for far less direct, far stupider comments, like “Do you come here often?” and “What’s your sign?”
Adopting a play stance for the human race, at this point – with all that we have evolved, with how sophisticated and suspicious and manipulative we as a society have become — would be difficult. It might be too late.
Two thumbs up and a grin? Standing with arms outstretched, knees bent, while waving people toward you? Most anything I can come up to signal you are accepting new people into your life would have the exact opposite effect, and send them running.
Ace will make friends his way, and I will make friends mine (which is most often with his help). But between him and my conversational skills, I’ll be fine. And by the way, do you come here often?
Posted by jwoestendiek March 7th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, america, animals, behavior, butts, crouch, dog parks, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, friends, humans, interaction, interpret, meeting, north carolina, park, people, pets, play signal, play stance, queues, reaching out, road trip, signals, sniff, sniffing, social, socialization, socializing, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, winston-salem, wshington park
A French study says dogs can sniff out signs of prostate cancer in human urine — a finding that could lead to better cancing-sensing technology, according to its lead author.
While some scientists have questioned similar reports of dogs with such diagnostic powers in recent years, French researcher Jean-Nicolas Cornu, who works at Hospital Tenon in Paris, said, “The dogs are certainly recognizing the odor of a molecule that is produced by cancer cells.”
Researchers don’t know what that molecule is, according to U.S. News & World Report, but the study’s findings could prove useful in the detection of cancer, which often goes undetected until it is too late to treat.
Urine tests can turn up signs of prostate cancer, Cornu said, but miss some cases.
In the study, two researchers spent a year training a Belgian Malinois, a breed already used to detect drugs and bombs.
The dog was trained to differentiate between urine samples from men with prostate cancer and men without. Ultimately, researchers placed groups of five urine samples in front of the dog to see if it could identify the sole sample from a man with prostate cancer. The dog correctly classified 63 out of 66 specimens.
If the findings hold up in other studies, they’ll be “pretty impressive,” said urologist Dr. Anthony Y. Smith, who was to moderate a discussion on the findings Tuesday at the American Urological Association annual meeting in San Francisco.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 2nd, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, belgian malinois, cancer, detect, detecting, detection, diagnostic, disease, dogs, france, french, hospital tenon, jean-nicolas cornu, medicine, molecule, news, odor, ohmidog!, paris, pets, prostate, research, science, sniffing, study, urine
Students at Woodlands High School in Conroe, Texas raised $9,000 to help purchase a land-mine sniffing dog — only to see the money snatched by a thief.
Teacher Susan Hollier said about 2,000 people from across the community attended a Woodlands High School walk and fundraising festival on Saturday.
Two student clubs — Interact and the Council on International Affairs — started working on the project in February, with hopes of raising $20,000 to pay for the purchase and training of a Belgian Malinois. The dogs are sent around the world to detect mines so communities in such places as Afghanistan, Iraq and Vietnam can use the land again.
Part of the money raised was also going to pay for a Woodlands High student to travel to Bosnia to see the dogs in action. The clubs’ project dog was going to visit the high school in May.
Around noon Saturday, though, a suspect grabbed a box of donated money from a student and ran, according to the Houston Chronicle. Hollier said all but $253 was stolen.
“It’s really just heartbreaking, especially when this one dog would save up to 10,000 lives in its five to seven years of service,” said Shelby Howard, 18, president of Interact. “It’s really hard to see all our hard work just taken from us in a matter of seconds. It’s hard to believe someone would go to that level.”
What are the clubs going to do about it? Start all over again, Shelby said. “We’re definitely not going to just let it go. This is a worthy cause.”
Posted by jwoestendiek April 26th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: afghanistan, animals, belgian malinois, clubs, conroe, council on international affairs, detect, dog, donations, interact, iraq, land-mine, mines, money, news, ohmidog!, pets, purchase, raising, sniffing, students, texas, theft, vietnam, woodlands high school
The Virginian-Pilot this week sniffed out a doozy of a story — about how 49 dogs supposedly trained in bomb detection for the Navy by a private security contractor failed to pass muster and were returned to the contractor, only to apparently languish in the months that followed.
The Navy originally picked up the dogs last spring from Securitas Security Services USA, a private security contractor in Chicago. But once the dogs arrived at Naval bases, not a one was able to find planted explosives during military certification tests, according to the Navy.
The Navy sent the dogs back to the contractor, then later decided to end the contract with Securitas, buying the 49 dogs and training them on its own.
When the Navy went to retrieve to dogs on Oct. 5, according to Navy emails obtained by the newspaper, the dogs were dirty, weak and so thin that their ribs and hip bones jutted out.
In the emails, a civilian official describes the dogs’ condition as “deplorable” and says he feared the dogs would have died if the military hadn’t come to get them.
In fact, the Navy said later, at least two of the dogs didn’t survive, and several others were deemed too sick to be of use, the newspaper reported. Nearly a year after they were supposed to have begun working, the remaining K-9s still are not patrolling Navy installations as intended.
It was the first time the Navy had procured dogs trained by an outside contractor. In the past, it trained its own dogs to help protect its bases and ships.
Securitas disputes that the dogs were poorly trained and neglected, and says that the Navy still owes it money — more than $6 million for its services and for the animals. Jim McNulty, an executive vice president, said the dogs were healthy and well-fed when the Navy picked them up a second time. He disputed that they were kept in a warehouse. “They were in excellent shape,” he said.
Securitas bought the dogs for about $465,000 from Vohne Liche Kennels, an Indiana-based business that offers work-ready police dogs as well as training courses for handlers.
When the Navy canceled the contract, it paid $800,000 to Securitas for the dogs, according to Securitas.
The state of Illinois has launched an investigation into the dogs’ treatment.
The Navy’s shift to privately trained explosives-detection dogs came as part of a decision in 2008 to outsource a number of base security services. In January 2009, Lockheed announced it had signed a $350 million, five-year contract with the military, part of which called for Lockheed to provide explosives-detection dogs to supplement the Navy’s own K-9 forces and free up more Navy dogs to deploy overseas.
Soon after it signed the agreement, Lockheed subcontracted the K-9 portion to Securitas. Securitas began offering K-9 services about seven years ago.
In a written statement, the Navy said it expects 39 of the original 49 dogs to eventually patrol installations as intended. Several are now being cared for and trained at bases in the Hampton Roads area.
(US NAVY photo)
Posted by jwoestendiek March 11th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: bases, bomb, chicago, contractors, defense, detection, dogs, explosives, illinois, K-9, k9, lockheed, military, naval, navy, neglect, news, outsourcing, ribs, securitas, security, showing, sniffing, training, underfed
All three bomb-sniffing dogs handled by the Transportation Security Administration at Philadelphia International Airport have lost their certification after having failed their last two tests.
And Fox News reports the problems may extend beyond that: Sources say about a dozen of the 700 TSA dogs at 85 airports have failed the tests as well.
A TSA spokesman said the three dogs in Philadelphia — after failing standard tests in November and December — are continuing intensive training to regain their certification, and are continuing to work at the airport as a “visual deterrent.”
The dogs, trained in at Lackland Air Force base in Texas, completed the 10-week course all TSA dogs must successfully pass.
Ten other city police dogs assigned to Philadelphia’s airport passed the tests.
The TSA spokesman said the agency is working quickly to recertify the bomb sniffing dogs and assured the traveling public that security would not suffer.
Posted by jwoestendiek January 6th, 2010 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: airport, bomb, certification, detecting, dogs, explosive, fail, international, K-9, k9, lackland, philadelphia, police, recertification, security, sniffing, tests, training, transporation security administration, tsa