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Tag: sweden

Talking dogs: A device, from Sweden, that tells you what your dog is thinking

A group of Swedes is selling a device they say can translate your dog’s thoughts into English — and they’re seeking investors to help pay for further development of what they admit is a “work in progress.”

The first of many things we find questionable about this is why the young researchers at Nordic Society for Invention and Discovery — constantly on the lookout, they say, for “cool” and “awesome” things they can do with technology — wouldn’t be translating the thoughts of dogs into Swedish.

The only answers I can come up with are that either they are far more interested in making some money than in figuring out what goes on in a dog’s head, or they view the residents of dog-loving, English-speaking countries as more gullible, and more likely to fall for what they are peddling.

We did buy a lot of Abba albums after all, didn’t we?

Already, they’ve raked in more than $16,000 in their IndieGoGo fund-raising drive.

nomorewoofThe product is called No More Woof. It consists of a headset, worn by your dog, the (non-intrusive) sensors of which pick up EEG signals, and software that translates those signals, via loudspeaker, into thoughts.

Strangely, this company-made video (above) never shows the device in action, yet the inventors are ready to sell you one — either a basic model for $60, or an advanced model for $85, or a more advanced model for $300, or a really, really advanced model for $600.

The development firm also takes credit for inventing a hovering lamp that follows you from room to room, an iPad-charging rocking chair, and “Nebula 12,” described as an indoor cloud. They are currently at work on a flying carpet.

It’s no joke — even if No More Woof sounds pretty laughable.

So far, No More Woof has come up with only four distinguishable statements they can attribute to a dog, based on EEG readings: “I’m excited, “I’m tired, “I am hungry,” and “Who are you?” Once detected by the headset, they are voiced by a loudspeaker.

The bottom line, as we see it, is that they’ve come up with a way — or claim to have, at least – to make the most fascinating animal on earth boring.

Imagine a quiet evening at home, your headset-wearing dog at your side: “I’m hungry. I’m excited. I’m hungry. I’m hungry. I’m hungry.”

And this after you spend hours trying to set the whole thing up, using directions we can only assume will be Ikea-like.

The firm says it is trying to advance human-dog communication. But it doesn’t come across as being sincerely interested in that. It seems much more interested in fund-raising.

nsidNo More Woof’s Indiegogo page repeatedly stresses that the device, while already for sale, is still in development: “To be completely honest, the first version will be quite rudimentary. But hey, the first computer was pretty crappy too.”

They don’t insist that you buy one. If you prefer, you can just send them some money for their continued research.

Our advice would be to hold on to your money, and if you want to communicate with your dog, spend more time with him or her, pay more attention to him or her, look more deeply into him and her, and make your relationship not one of giving and taking orders, but one of learning from each other and exploring life together.

You already know — or at least you should — when your dog is hungry, excited or tired.

Do we really need to be hearing a robot voice tell us that? Do we really need — even if it did work and could develop into something more sophisticated — to turn our intriguing companions into the equivalent of a nagging wife, demanding husband, whining kid, or, worse yet, Siri?

I prefer the silence. And, much as I often wonder what my own dog is thinking, I prefer the mystery.

(Photos and video from NoMoreWoof.com)

Researchers say they found birthplace of dog

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A team of Swedish and Chinese researchers say they have pinpointed — at least more than it has been pinpointed up to now — the place where, 16,000 years ago, the wolf was tamed and evolved into the dog.

It was in China, on the southern shores of the Yangtze River, they say.

Their findings are contained in an article in the latest issue of scientific journal Molecular Biology and Evolution.

“For the first time … it is possible to provide a detailed picture of the dog, with its birthplace, point in time, and how many wolves were tamed,” says Peter Savolainen, a biologist and member of the research team at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm.

Together with Swedish colleagues and a Chinese research team, Savolainen has made a number of new discoveries about the history of the dog — including the most specific date and birthplace yet offered.

“Our earlier findings from 2002 have not been fully accepted, but with our new data there will be greater acceptance. The picture provides much more detail,” says Savolainen.

Savolainen said the research indicates that the dog has a single geographic origin but descends from a large “large number of animals – at least several hundred tamed wolves, probable even more,” according to Science Daily.

The theory that the domestic dog originated in East Asia was challenged earlier this month by an international group of researchers who say African dogs are just as genetically diverse.

That research, based on analyzing blood samples from dogs in Egypt, Uganda and Namibia, shows the DNA of dogs in African villages is just as varied, indicating it could have been where wolves made the transition to become dogs.

(Photo: Science Daily press release)

Scientists trace golden retriever disorder

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Scientists in Sweden have tracked down the source of sensory ataxic neuropathy (SAN) — a recently identified neurological disorder in golden retrievers.

The disease strikes goldens in puppyhood, causing them to move in an uncoordinated manner and have sensory deficits.

The researchers were able to trace back all affected offspring on the maternal side, over more than 10 generations, to a female that lived during the 1970s, confirming that SAN is caused by a mutation in the mitochondrial DNA.

The study by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala University and the Karolinska Institutet was published May 29 in the journal PLoS Genetics.

The researchers showed that about five percent of the golden retriever population in Sweden carries the mutation causing SAN — and that, with proper screening by breeders, the disorder could be eliminated.

“This is a good example of how a close collaboration between clinicians and geneticists led to a rapid detection of a harmful mutation that can now be eliminated from this dog population to reduce suffering and disease,” said co-author Karin Hultin Jäderlund.

Dogs getting dumber, researcher says

Purebred dogs are getting dumber and less agile because of the focus by breeders on appearance, scientists in Sweden say.

According to a report in the London Telegraph, the researchers say the change has taken place over the course of just a few generations.

While 19th century dogs were selected for breeding based on their strength and skills — such as guarding homes, retrieving quarry or watching over livestock — today’s dogs are more likely to be chosen strictly for their appearance. As a result, the researchers say, the are less responsive to commands and not as alert or attentive.

“Modern breeding practices are affecting the behavior and mental abilities of pedigree breeds as well as their physical features,” said Kenth Svartberg, an ethologist from Stockholm University and author of the research report.

Dr. Svartberg tested 13,000 dogs on characteristics such as sociability and curiosity to help him rate 31 different breeds. He found that those bred for appearance, and especially for shows, displayed reduced ability levels. He also found that attractive appearance was often linked with introversion and a boring personality.

The worst affected working breeds were smooth collies, once a herding dog, and Rhodesian ridgebacks, which were used for hunting.

(Image from My Dog’s Brain, by Vermont artist Stephen Huneck)