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April 2014

Snuffles-the-Dog needs home


Is Your Dog Smarter Than You Know?

Yale University’s Canine Cognition Center, psychology is going to the dogs.

In what is likely the school’s most playful and fun laboratory, researchers try to figure out what dogs are thinking by evaluating memory, attention, and even counting skills.

And the results are as individual as the dogs.

“Dogs that are slightly less social might solve problems more on their own, and have better problem solving abilities,” said Laurie Santos. “What dogs overall have done is not necessarily to become smarter, but use difference strategies.”

One of these strategies is to observe what humans do.

“Dogs are making expectations about your actions,” Santos said. “They’re getting used to what you know and what you don’t know, when you do things that violate those expectations, they are naturally surprised.”

So is there truth to the idea that some dogs are smarter than others? Santos says it’s too early in their research to know for sure. The Center welcomes all breeds, and researchers are particularly excited to work with collies.

“There is a lore that Collies are very smart,” Santos said.

Tom Reznick, owner of a half-collie, half-German Shepherd, says his dog Holly loves to solve problems on her own.

“We got a puzzle toy for her that said it’s supposed to take three hours for dogs to solve — she took five minutes and then she looked at us and said, “I want more,'” he said.

Santos hopes to publish a paper based on her research early next year, and eventually connect insights about dogs with human development.

“What we seem to be seeing so far, is that dogs seem to have some pretty sophisticated intuitions about what’s going on,” she added.


Ben and Meg

Dog years: How do you calculate a dog’s true age?

It’s often said that the age of dogs can be understood by multiplying their age, in human years, by seven. But is that really true?
Meg, my West Highland Terrier died a couple of months ago. She’d reached the old age of 19 years and four months.

A few days later, I was reminded of the statistic that every human year equates to seven dog years. This mental calculation looms more largely in an owner’s mind as a dog gets older, and thoughts turn to how much time the pet has left.

But if that stat were true then Meg would have been 135 years old when she died, which seems very unlikely.

No human has lived beyond 122.

So if the seven dog years to one human year is wrong how do we work out an accurate calculation?

Dogs are the most diverse mammal species on the planet. They can vary in weight from 6 lb  to 200 lb  when fully grown and have widely differing body shapes and hair types.

This also means that there is a lot of variation among breeds in terms of life expectancy. Unexpectedly, small dogs like Meg live longer than big ones.

If you think about statistical correlation between average life span and body size in mammals it generally tends to be positive, gorillas, elephants and whales are much longer lived than shrews, voles and mice,” says Daniel Promislow, professor of genetics at the University of Georgia.
That would lead you to believe that Great Danes would live longer than Chihuahuas but that’s not true.

Promislow has his own theory why this is.

“The disease that shows the strongest correlation with size is cancer,” he said.

“We know that cancer goes up even faster with age than mortality does. The rate of cancer increases very dramatically with age, just as in humans.”

It may be because the risk of cancer increases so much, and because large dogs are at such a higher risk of dying of cancer (roughly 50% chance), that large dogs generally have shorter lives than small dogs (roughly 10% chance of dying of cancer).

“Small dogs reach skeletal and reproductive maturity sooner than larger breeds. Once they’ve achieved those measures of adulthood they carry on to live longer,” said Dr Kate Creevy, assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Georgia.

In other words, small breeds have a shortened juvenile period and a longer adulthood.

How to calculate your dog’s true age

For first two years:

  • 12.5 years per human year for the first two years for small dogs
  • 10.5 years per human year for the first two years for medium-sized dogs
  • 9 years per human year for the first two years for large dogs

For years 3+:

  • Small: Dachshund (Miniature) 4.32, Border Terrier 4.47, Lhasa Apso 4.49, Shih Tzu 4.78, Whippet Medium 5.30, Chihuahua 4.87, West Highland White Terrier 4.96, Beagle 5.20, Miniature Schnauzer 5.46, Spaniel (Cocker) 5.55, Cavalier King Charles 5.77, Pug 5.95, French Bulldog 7.65
  • Medium: Spaniel 5.46, Retriever (Labrador) 5.74, Golden Retriever 5.74, Staffordshire Bull Terrier 5.33, Bulldog 13.42
  • Large: German Shepherd 7.84, Boxer 8.90

Large dogs may take two years to get to their fully mature skeletal body size and then they may only live another four or five years.

The Bulldog for example only lives on average until it’s six years old whereas a Border Terrier lives to the age of 14.

What this means is that small dogs age are quicker than big dogs in their first couple of human years but slower than big dogs once they hit adulthood.

So, strangely, a small dog is older than a big dog at two human years – but younger at five.

“It doesn’t happen in any other animal,” said Kate Creevy. “There isn’t any other species which has within a single species the same degree of size diversity that dogs have. It’s possible that by creating all of these diversely sized dogs that we unmasked this ageing phenomenon.”

She argues that if scientists genetically engineered one cow weighing 20 lbs at adulthood and another weighing 2,000 lbs then the same thing can happen in cows.
Nobody knows where the seven dog years to one human year theory came from or at least no-one is claiming it. It first appeared in maths text books in the 1960s and questions were set asking children to calculate the age of a dog using the 7:1 ratio.

For the dog species as a whole it’s not a bad estimate.

If you factor in the varying rates of ageing in early years of a dog’s life and the differing life expectancies a more accurate estimate across all breeds would be six dogs years to one human year.

However if you look at opposing ends of the spectrum a Bulldog will age an average of 13 years per human year whereas for a Miniature Dachshund is just over four years.

And Meg, my Westie? She was not 135 but 109 when she passed away, the calculator suggests, ancient in human terms, but not unheard of. I think she’d have settled for that.


Japanese Beagle Purin plays the piano

Japanese beagle lands TV jobs

Playing the piano and skateboarding, to showing off her ninja training and balancing on her front paws, she is one talented dog.

Purin the Japanese beagle has become a world wide hit after wowing audiences around the world with an array of incredible skills.

And the eight-year-old is not afraid of a bit of ruff and tumble, because her owner has taught her ninja moves and the art of stopping a samurai sword with her own paws.

Japanese Beagle Purin plays on ball

Online videos of Purin have earned her eager followers and she has also become a cult hit on Japanese, American and Korean television.

The owner Makoto Kumagai has been inundated with showbiz requests from television companies hoping to feature Purin’s skills – so much so that the pooch now has her own agent.

Mr Kumagai said: ‘She has become famous all  over the world and we regularly have people asking her to be in an advert,  on their TV show or compete in a talent contest.

‘She is very talented and sweet and loves to entertain people.’

Japanese Beagle Purin plays at being shy




Dog Races The Rails In Manhattan — And Wins New Yorkers’ Hearts

Some stories can only happen in New York City.

At 10:38 Tuesday morning, a Metro-North Hudson Line train left the Bronx for Manhattan when Joseph Delia, the engineer, saw a dog running alongside the tracks.

A small, brown-and-black dog, “just running like she didn’t have a care in the world,” Mr. Delia said.

When the train stopped at a signal, the little dog leapt in front of it then began to race ahead of the commuter train. The dog stumbled a couple of times over ties in the track.

“Oh, my God, I was going real slow,” he told The New York Post. He didn’t want to run over the dog with his 400-ton train and worried that she might put a paw on the electrified third rail. “I was concerned,” he said, “that she wouldn’t make it and get electrocuted.”

Some people might suppose that a train full of loud-talking, high-stress New Yorkers might start swearing, like New Yorkers, at this little dog for making them late for big meetings, hard bargaining, court depositions and power lunches.

But when a conductor announced they were slowing down because a dog was running in front of the train, passengers began to cheer.

And when the train pulled into the 125th St. Station in Harlem-Manhattan at last, two transit police officers ran onto the tracks to try to catch the dog.

She jumped into their arms.

The passengers “were hooting and hollering,” Joseph Delia said. “They were all cheering.”

The little dog has been nicknamed “Tie” by railroad cops and is being cared for by the Animal Care & Control Department. Tie looks like a collie and shepherd mix. She has a limp, and friendly and can speak, sit and shake her paw on command. There have already been offers to adopt her if no one steps forward to identify her as their dog.

Animal behavior experts have their own explanations of why canines enjoy a good chase, but I like to think that Tie just trotted in the footsteps of other famous New York characters.


Angie McDonnell with Vidar

Soldier saves bomb dog threatened with being put down

A soldier has saved the life of a bomb-hunting dog which she served with in Afghanistan.
Vidar, a four-year-old Belgian Malinois, sniffed out a haul of enemy weapons while army medic Angie McDonnell was posted there.

But Vidar faced being put down after being diagnosed with post traumatic stress.

So Ms McDonnell, a reservist, made it her mission to adopt Vidar and bring him back with her home in south Wales.

And the dog is now living a happy retirement life at her home in Barry in the Vale of Glamorgan.

‘He saved my life’

During their time in Afghanistan, Vidar was on routine patrol near Camp Bastion where he located a haul of guns and grenades.

Vidar the bomb sniffing dog

He alerted his handler and explosives experts were able to disable the weapons which were thought to have been hidden by the Talibanto be used against British troops.

On her return to the UK, Ms McDonnell heard that Vidar, who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan, was facing retirement.

He had become too nervous to carry out the job he had been trained to do and his vision was failing.

Ms McDonnell, who works as a paramedic, began searching to find Vidar to help save his life.

“He saved my life so it’s only fair that I did what I could to save his,” she said.

“When I heard he had been retired after starting to get scared, I knew I had to help him.

“I would have done evrything to make sure he had a loving home.”

Ms McDonnell added: “The dogs out there are heroes and I know from the first moment I saw him that he was a one-in-a-million.

“We became best friends out there and I was so sad to leave him when I returned home.


April 2014

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