Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Mice are Sexist

theglobalpanorama / Foter
A recent study as found that mice find the scent from an unfamiliar male to be stressful, even if that male is human. It is interesting when you think of gender as a meaningful trait that crosses species boundaries.  In a way this suggests that domesticated mice place more weight on information about gender (male or female) than information about species (human, dog or mouse) when it comes to deciding how threatening a stranger is.

See: Olfactory exposure to males, including men, causes stress and related analgesia in rodents

Monday, April 28, 2014

Himalayan Dog Chews

There are some rather pricy dog chews on the market that go by names like Himalayan chews. The chew is a long rectangular bar that is very hard. They go for $5-$15 per large chew.

What is it?
Surprisingly what it actually is a basically a type of cheese.  Most of them are made of yak and cow milk with some salt and lime juice. It is nice to see a short and easy to understand ingredients list.

All of the brands that I have looked at source their product from Nepal where a similar substance is made for human consumption called churpi. There seem to be some other variants that might be made elsewhere in a less traditional way, like the Milkotein bars.

The Pros
These chews are very hard, almost as hard as antler and probably about as hard as bone.  So if you have a dog that makes short work of rawhide and bully sticks this might represent more of a long term challenge. Some of the brands such as churpi-chews and Yeti chews seem to be less popular as they are softer and so dogs finished them more quickly.

_tar0_ / Foter
And because of the way it is made dogs should find it more difficult to chew off pieces that might cause choking or intestinal blockages. That said,some still manage it, especially once they have chewed it down to a stub. They have very little odor and don't create a mess or stain the carpet.

The Cons
These chews are so hard that I guess my dogs just never got the idea that they should be chewed on. Some dogs may be sensitive to the ingredients. I might need to try those softer versions other people are complaining about!

Six Egrets

It's bit hard to see but yesterday I found six Great egrets on the little pond outside my apartment. That's the biggest turn out I have ever seen there!


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Do "Bobcat Hybrids" Exist?

Ken Corregan / Foter
When a woman in New Jersey attempted to get a license for her "Bobcat hybrid", doing the responsible thing had unintended consequences.  The problem being: it is not clear that bobcat hybrids even exist, and if so whether "Rocky" is one.  Because if he is a pure Bobcat, and hence a wild animal, she cannot legally keep him as a house pet.

You will see people advertising bobcat hybrids online, but of course that is no guarantee that they actually exist as many breeders (willingly or through credulous rebreeding from "fake" Bobcat hybrid stock) are selling normal cats as hybrid.

Pixie-bob cats are sometimes described as carrying Bobcats genes but this is through vague attributions to Bobcat and barn cat matings that are only presumed to have occurred, not known or proven to have occurred. It might seem a plausible story given the pixiebob's appearance. However, genetic testing has not been able to find any evidence of this cross-breeding.

The fact is that while fertile mating cannot be ruled out, no Bobcat x domestic cat has ever been demonstrated to exist via genetic testing. If an animal is purchased from a breeder it is mostly likely to be a 100% domestic cat, or occasional a misidentified pure Bobcat or other hybrid cat.  One of the reasons misidentification can occur is that Bobcats actually have a surprising variation in appearance and will hybridize with other wild cats such as the lynx.

My best guess would be that poor Rocky will turn out to just be a cat, and get to go home (no license required).

Update: the test proved to be inconclusive.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Why I do not watch Animal Planet

Lorna is / Foter 
It is frequently the case that reality shows are not as "real" as they are made out.  And when it comes to adult humans making their own decision, I suppose it does not bother me all that much.  But I am going through some serious disillusionment when it comes to Animal Planet. 

I feel that the animals on this planet provide a good enough show without unethical manipulations.  We do not need to go back to the day when Disney documentations pushed lemmings around with boards?

The most famous case of these unethical manipulation right now is how the Call of the Wildman show procures and plants the animals that the main "character" is hired to capture and relocate.  Apparently including transporting and storing wild animals like a coyote in ways that appear to be both cruel and completely illegal.

But you don't have to look far to find other example like Schultz, the former host of Wild Recon illegally selling endangered lizards.

Pet fish enthusiasts mutter about how well the aquariums set up for Tanked would last in the long run.  Aquariums are long term commitments and what looks good after a day or two if often as unsustainable as a Chelsey Flower Show garden. So, yes, I want to see follow ups before I am going to be impressed by what they have done.

I expect a TV channel all about animals to have a deeply ethical approach to animals, their welfare, their protection and their conservation.  And I am not alone in losing faith that this is true for Animal Planet.  I expect to be able to watch these shows believing in their accuracy and integrity.  And right now I cannot do that. so I will not be watching them at all.

p.s. National Geographic TV, you are starting to head down the same road.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Dogs in a School Setting: Summary

mblouir / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
Visits from friendly dogs have been found to have a wide range of benefits for children in a range of settings, including reducing post-surgical pain[i] and providing emotional support during courtroom testimony.[ii]
            In a school setting, dogs have been used in a variety of ways.  Dogs in the classroom were observed to not detract from attention to the teacher and contribute to a reduction in aggressive and hyperactive behavior in students.[iii] (Risks relative to allergies or cultural differences need to be identified and managed as necessary.[iv])
            Use of dogs in one-to-one therapeutic settings arguably dated to the beginning of the field with Sigmund Freud, who was reported to include his dogs in many of his sessions. The practice was more formerly developed by therapists such as Boris Levinson. Currently, Animal-Assisted Activities (AAA) and Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) are recognized as potentially beneficial with a wide range of children.[v]
            In a counseling setting, dogs can significantly augment a reassuring human presence[vi] due to their attention being interpreted as implicitly supportive and non-judgmental.[vii] Thus the presence of a dog can assist in more rapidly and successfully establishing a relationship of trust between a child and a counselor.
            Dogs may also be used in specifically educational settings. For example a dog as audience has been shown to increase reading behaviors, reading fluency and enjoyment of reading.[viii],[ix]
            Across all of these applications it has been shown that an appropriately trained dog can be used to assist children in achieving a calm, alert and emotional positive internal state[x] that reduces stress and facilitates communication and learning.


[i] Sobo EJ, Eng B, Kassity-Krich N. Canine visitation (pet) therapy: Pilot data on decreases in child pain perception. Journal of Holistic Nursing;24:51-57.
[ii] Marianne Dellinger, Using Dogs for Emotional Support of Testifying Victims of
Crime, 15 Animal L. 171 (2009),
[iii] Kotrschal K, Ortbauer B. Behavioral effects of the presence of a dog in a classroom. Anthrozoos 2003;16:147-159.
[iv] Gee NR. Animal in the Classroom. In Animals in Our Lives
Human–Animal Interaction in Family, Community, and Therapeutic Settings Edited by Peggy McCardle, Ph.D., M.P.H., Sandra McCune, Ph.D., James A. Griffin, Ph.D., Layla Esposito, Ph.D., & Lisa S. Freund, Ph.D.
[v] Chandler C. Animal-Assisted Therapy in Counseling and School Settings. Greensboro, NC: ERIC Clearinghouse on Counseling and Student Services; 2001.
[vi] Morgan TD. An Examination of the Anxiolytic Effects of Interaction with a Therapy dog. Doctoral thesis: Indiana University of Pennsylvania 2008.
[vii] Oian CE. Animal-Assisted Therapy Using Dogs: The Benefits to Children. Master’s thesis: University of Wisconsin-Stout 2007.
[viii] Shannon M. The Benefits of Children Reading Books to Dogs in Public Libraries and after School Centers: An Exploratory Study. Master’s Thesis: Queens College of the City University of York 2007.
[ix] Friesen L. How a therapy dog may inspire student literacy engagement in the elementary language arts classroom. In LEARNing Lanscapes 2009;3:105-122.
[x] Schultz EE. Furry therapists: The Advantages and Disadvantages of Implementing Animal Therapy in Schools. Master’s thesis: University of Wisconsin-Stout 2006.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Dogster Round-Up

This is just an update on my Dogster posts from the last few months.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Black Dog Syndrome

OakleyOriginals / Foter / CC BY
Various journalist are going on about how there is no scientific data about adopting black dogs (in relation to a nice story about black dog pictures).  Clearly they did not bother to Google it at all.

  • Brown, W. P., Davidson, J. P., & Zuefle, M. E. (2013). Effects of Phenotypic Characteristics on the Length of Stay of Dogs at Two No Kill Animal Shelters. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 16(1), 2-18.
  • Diesel, G., Smith, H., & Pfeiffer, D. U. (2007). Factors affecting time to adoption of dogs re-homed by a charity in the UK. Animal welfare, 16(3), 353-360.
  • DeLeeuw, J. L. (2010). Animal shelter dogs: factors predicting adoption versus euthanasia.
  •  Goleman, Malgorzata, Leszek Drozd, and P. Czyżowski. "Black dog syndrome in animal shelters." Medycyna Weterynaryjna 70.2 (2014): 122-127.
  • Posage, J. M., Bartlett, P. C., & Thomas, D. K. (1998). Determining factors for successful adoption of dogs from an animal shelter. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 213(4), 478-482. 
  • Siettou, C., Fraser, I. M., & Fraser, R. W. (2012, April). A retrospective cohort study on investigating factors that influence ‘consumer’choice when adopting a shelter dog. In Unpublished paper presented at the 86th Annual Conference of Agricultural Economics Society, Warwick, UK.
Read together, this research suggest that "black dog syndrome" is a complete myth.  If it occurs at all it is under specific local circumstances possibly linked to breed.

See:  Black Dog Syndrome: A Bad Rap?