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Tag: wolf

Native American dogs were all but wiped out by settlers from Europe, study says


Ancient dogs arrived in the Americas alongside humans more than 10,000 years and — like those humans — were commonly exterminated by more newly arriving colonists from Europe, a new study suggests.

“European colonists viewed native dogs as kind of pests, and they freely killed them,” said Angela Perri, a research fellow at Durham University in England.

Colonists who killed entire villages of people would also kill their dogs. And when some early Spanish explorers would find themselves without enough food, they’d turn to native American dogs, she added.

In the study, researchers looked at genes from more than 71 archaeological dog remains in North America and Siberia and compared them with modern dog genes.

Perri, the study’s lead author, said it dispels the theory that dogs in the Americas evolved from wolves. The study was published July 5 in the journal Science.

The findings “put a nail in the coffin really for [that] idea,” she told Live Science. In the new data, “we just had absolutely no evidence of that.”

Instead, after analyzing samples from dog remains going back thousands of years from North America and Siberia, they suspect the first dogs came to the Americas more than 10,000 years ago, across the Bering land bridge that connected North America and Asia. The dogs dispersed across the Americas, where they lived for 9,000 years, isolated from the world.

Those were all but wiped out by early American settlers, and most American breeds today more likely trace their roots back to dogs brought to the country subsequently. Those include arctic dogs brought by the Thule people about 1,000 years ago, dogs brought by Europeans starting in the 15th century, and Siberian huskies brought to the American Arctic during the Alaskan gold rush.

By far, the introduction of European settlers and European dogs had the biggest impact on thinning out the ranks of native dogs, the study said.

“We suspect that a lot of the reasons [ancient] dogs were wiped out were similar reasons that Native American populations were destroyed,” Perri said. Europeans could have brought over diseases such as rabies and canine distemper that were probably not present in the Americas before.

Because settlers saw native American dogs as pests, they probably took steps to not let them breed with prized European dogs.

Indeed, out of 5,000 samples of modern dog genes, only five had genes that belonged to ancient dogs, and in those five, the ancient genes made up less than 2 percent of their genomes, Perri said.

The oldest known ancient American dog was found in Koster, Illinois, and lived around 9,900 years ago.

(Photo: Two dogs buried together in Illinois as long as 1,350 years ago; courtesy of Illinois State Archaeological Survey, Prairie Research Institute)

Dogs: We feared, and ate them, and exploited them, before we befriended them

dog-bone-wr

OK, so it wasn’t love at first sight.

Before dogs became fully domesticated, there were long stretches of time that humans lived in tension with canines — both wolves and dogs — fearing them, eating them, and skinning them for their pelts.

New research published recently in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports concludes the remains of dogs found in Western Europe shows that domestication was neither a quick nor tidy affair.

And one that obviously didn’t happen everywhere at once.

As a result, both wolves and dogs were hunted — dogs maybe even more because they were easier prey.

The research is outlined in a recent Smithsonian article.

The researchers analyzed stable isotopes in the remains. Stable isotopes are forms of atoms that leave behind signatures in biological samples, revealing details about diet, environment and other conditions.

Through them, scientist say, they can learn more about the changing nature of the relationship between humans and dogs between the Middle and Late Stone Age. Most researchers agree that the domestication of dogs dates back 15,000 years or more, and that it first occurred somewhere in Eurasia.

“At that time (the relationship) obviously fluctuated,” says Stefan Ziegler, a co-author of the study. “Sometimes people ate their dogs and sometimes they just used them as guard dogs and maybe even pets.”

The recent study could also provide a new tool for archaeologists trying to get a better grasp on whether newly discovered remains are those of wolves or dogs.

Archaeologists have traditionally based their belief on whether remains are those of a dog or a wolf by relying on bone size, but the stable isotopes may provide a better clue, the study says.

“The data show that dogs and wolves must generally have had a different diet, which is reflected in the altered isotope ratios. Dogs could occasionally access human food sources and their diet must have been either more omnivorous or monotonous than that of wolves, depending on the feeding regime,” the authors say in the study.

(Photo: Lateral view of a lumbar vertebra of a Late Mesolithic dog from Germany with several cut marks by a flint knife, by Jörg Ewersen, via Smithsonian)

Why dogs eat poop: A new theory suggests the behavior all goes back to wolves

dog_wolfleashes1

If you had to pick the one non-violent behavior that most dismays dog owners, it would likely be when their dog consumes dog poop — be it the dog’s own or some other dog’s.

Most of us can tolerate their incessant licking of their privates. We can laugh off them humping the leg of a house guest. But most humans find their dog gobbling up feces a revolting and inconceivable act, and some — believe it or not — have even cited it as a reason for returning a dog to a shelter.

While traditionally it has been speculated that some dogs (a minority) engage in the practice to make up for some deficiency in their diet, a new paper suggests it may be in their genes, Scientific American reports.

Veterinary researchers at University of California at Davis who surveyed nearly 3,000 dog owners found 16 percent of dogs consume canine feces “frequently,” meaning, in this case, they’ve seen them do it more than six times. In a second survey of just owners of poop-eating dogs, 62% of them were described as eating it daily and 38% weekly.

Benjamin Hart, a veterinarian who directs the Center for Animal Behavior at Davis, reviewed the survey results and the scientific literature on poop-eating, most of which he says is speculative and doesn’t provide any sort of definitive answer for the cause of what’s called coprophagy.

The survey showed no link between feces-eating and other compulsive behaviors. Coprophagy wasn’t associated with age, gender, spaying or neutering, age of separation from the mother, ease of house training, or any other behavior problem.

What coprophagic dogs had in common was this: More than 80 percent were reported to favor feces no more than two days old.

To Hart, that suggests that the cause may go back more than 15,000 years and be rooted, like so much else, in wolves. The new study by Hart and others was published in the journal Veterinary Medicine and Science.

Typically, wolves defecate away from their dens, but at times of urgency, they may let loose nearby. When that happens, other wolves commonly gobble it up while it’s fresh, possibly, some scholars believe, to prevent the spread of parasitic infections.

Feces contain intestinal parasite eggs, which, after a couple of days, hatch into infectious larvae.

Wolves, he said, figured out that by eating any fresh poop left near the den they could be spared being infected by parasites.

“If they eat it right away, it’s safe to eat. They won’t get infected by parasites,” he said.

He theorizes that today’s poop-eating dogs still carry around that wolfy instinct, even though the feces of modern-day pets, consuming modern-day dog food, tend to be parasite-free.

Hart noted there is no shortage of explanations for dogs eating poop.

“For every person you ask about this, you get a different opinion. Because they’re guessing, whether they’re veterinarians or experts in behavior,” he said.

Some believe that stress, or enzyme deficiencies lead to the behavior. Others suspect dogs picked it up as they adapted to scavenging for food sources in human environments. Many dogs will try to eat anything, and poop, from their own or other species, falls into that category.

The study noted that dogs whose owners considered them “greedy eaters,” were far more like to engage in the behavior.

Dog owners responding to the survey sometimes saw their dogs eating poop, and sometimes just surmised as much, based on “tell-tale breath odor,” or because poop in the house was disappearing before they got around to cleaning it up.

While there are products on the marketplace that claim to correct the problem, most of those do little more than make a dog’s own poop foul tasting, according to the Washington Post blog Animalia.

A dog owner can try and correct the behavior, clean up immediately after their dogs, and monitor them closely while they are outside, but the bottom line is — disgusting as it may strike us — dining on feces isn’t that surprising given where dogs come from and what they’ve been through.

As Clive Wynne, director of the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University, noted:

“The niche that dogs occupy is essentially one of making a living on people’s leavings — and that isn’t just our leftovers from dinner, but what we put down the toilet, too,” he said. “So it’s only from our human perspective that coprophagy seems strange.”

Alaska teen hunters boast of their dog kill

fairbanks

Two teen hunters in Alaska were proud of “bagging a wolf” — even though the wolf was wearing a collar and turned out to be a sled dog.

Either way, they did no wrong, at least under Alaska’s animal cruelty laws, which permit the killing of dogs on public property.

Some people around Fairbanks are saying it’s time to change those laws after what was at least the second fatal shooting of a dog this year in the same community.

Back in July, an eight-month old puppy, a lab mix named Lucy, was found with a bullet through her head after wandering away from her home in the community of Goldstream Valley in Fairbanks.

When the owner called state troopers, he was told they wouldn’t even respond.

A spokeswoman told the Fairbanks News-Miner then that no crime had taken place: “Just shooting a dog and killing it is technically not against the animal cruelty statute,” she said.

In the more recent case, a 14-month-old sled dog named Padouk was killed on public land by two brothers, age 12 and 13, who were hunting together with a .22-caliber rifle.

He was shot through the heart about 30 minutes after he had escaped his owner’s yard, and the teens took his body to their great-grandfather, a taxidermist, to be mounted as a hunting trophy.

Padouk’s co-owners said they found out what happened to their dog when they were contacted by an ATVer who told them he’d come across two teenagers who were proud of themselves for bagging a “wolf” and asked for his help transporting the carcass to their grandmother’s home.

The ATVer refused to give the boys a ride, but he let them use his cellphone to call their grandmother.

“These two kids have been rabbit hunting in the area and they are continuing, people have been reporting. If you drive the road at 6 p.m., you have a good chance of meeting them,” said Helene Genet, one of Padouk’s co-owners.

“They haven’t apologized at all and they don’t have the feeling that they’ve done something wrong … and rightfully so, the law doesn’t provide for dogs not to be shot in public areas,” Genet said at a Friday meeting called to address concerns among dog owners about the shootings.

More than 50 people attended the meeting spurred by the shooting of Padouk, the Fairbanks News-Miner reported.

The two boys will face no charges because under Alaska animal cruelty laws it must be proven that a suspect was intentionally trying to cause pain and suffering.

And, as many in Alaska — and elsewhere — believe, hunters never do that.

In Alaska, hunters, as well as those who perform do-it-yourself euthanizations, are pretty much exempted from animal cruelty laws.

Padouk’s owners said they called state troopers after they got the phone number for the boys’ grandmother from the ATVer. Genet said the grandmother hung up on her three times when she requested permission to come and see if the dead “wolf” was their dog.

Padouk was co-owned by Genet, a recreational musher, and tourism kennel operator Nita Rae, of Sirius Sled Dogs.

At Friday’s meeting, participants discussed ways to stop future dog shootings, such as a rule against shooting guns on Goldstream Valley trails, or building a database of dogs killed in the valley to show leaders the extent of the problem.

Fairbanks Borough Assemblywoman Katheryn Dodge said she plans to re-introduce a borough animal cruelty law that existed until a 2013 reorganization of borough code.

Alaska Legislator David Guttenberg told the crowd they shouldn’t expect any changes in state laws.

Padouk’s owners say they doubt the boys really believed Padouk was a wolf. He only weighed 60 to 70 pounds and was wearing a blue collar.

While state troopers told the owners no charges would be filed, they did assist them in reclaiming Padouk’s body. The boys’ great grandfather, after being contacted by troopers, agreed to call off the taxidermy and let Rae and Genet have the body of their dog back.

(Photo: Fairbanks News-Miner)

Did greedy moms fuel domestication of dog?

Mother-dog-overwhelmed-by-pack-of-hungry-pups

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)

Study says dogs go back no more than 12,000 years

skulls

A new study has a bone to pick with earlier researchers who concluded the domesticated dog has been around for 30,000 years.

New 3D analysis of skulls that had been identified as two of the earliest dogs shows they were actually wolves, a research team writes in the Nature journal Scientific Reports.

Fossilized remains that scientists said showed dogs date back at least 31,680 years — specifically those remains unearthed at Goyet Cave in Belgium — actually belonged to a wolf, according to a new study. So too, the new study says, did a 13,905-year-old fossil that was identified as belonging to a dog after it was found at a site called Eliseevichi in Russia.

The new study concludes that the the domestication of dogs happened during the Neolithic era (10,200 B.C.-2,000 B.C.) as opposed to the Paleolithic era (2.6 million years ago to 10,200 B.C.)

“Scientists have been eager to put a collar on the earliest domesticated dog,” lead author Abby Grace Drake said. “Unfortunately, their analyses weren’t sensitive enough to accurately determine the identity of these fossils.”

“Previous research has claimed that dogs emerged in the Paleolithic but this claim is based on inaccurate analyses,” Drake told Discovery News. “We reanalyzed some of the fossil canids from the Paleolithic and show that they are, in fact, wolves.”

“We did confirm that the Neolithic specimens Shamanka II (around 7,372 years old) and Ust’-Belaia (about 6,817 years old) are dogs, and therefore domestication took place by this time period or earlier,” added Drake, an assistant professor of biology at Skidmore College.

That means the wolves — who are generally (but not unanimously) believed to have evolved into dogs, possibly as a result of their interacting with humans — first appeared on earth after humans were farming and living in settlements, as opposed to when they were living in caves and hunting and gathering.

Drake and colleagues Michael Coquerelle and Guillaume Colombeau used scans and 3D visualization software to study the shape and size of the two oldest skulls and compare the data with measurements from the skulls of other dogs and wolves, according to a report on Phys.org.

That technique allowed the team to identify subtle morphological differences between dogs and wolves, such as the direction of the eye cavity and the angle between the muzzle and forehead.

(Photo: Abby Grace Drake, Skidmore College)

Tweeting wolf: Olympian’s video of “wolf” in the hallway was Jimmy Kimmel hoax

With help from an Olympic luger, Twitter and a dog who is at least part wolf, Jimmy Kimmel has once again put one over on the news media.

Then again, fooling the news media has a very low degree of difficulty these days.

Kimmel conspired with 21-year-old luger Kate Hansen, under whose name the video was posted on Twitter and elsewhere.

“I’m pretty sure this is a wolf wandering my hall in Sochi,” she said in a comment accompanying the video on YouTube.

Pretty much every major news outlet quickly picked up the story Thursday, echoing the Olympian’s cry of wolf, and apparently forgetting the entire moral of that fable.

USA Today was among those setting the record straight today — generally in a humorous vein that didn’t focus on how any laziness on the media’s part might have contributed to being duped.

Hansen, who finished competing Feb. 11 and is staying at the Olympic village, tweeted the video with the hashtag #sochiproblems and #sochifail. The hashtag was commonly used by visitors to Sochi for complaints surrounding the Games, including some about stray dogs.

Kimmel came clean last night, revealing the set created in the studio to resemble the dormitory corridor, and the wolf-dog, named Rugby.

Hansen appeared, via Skype, on the show as well, and said she has experienced some repercussions for the role she played.