28 August 2008

Dog Nurses Tiger Cubs

Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks? The mother of these tiger cubs couldn't produce enough milk, so zookeepers in Hefei, China, enlisted this dog. She began work when the cubs were one day old, on May 2, when this picture was taken. This isn't the first time a dog has played wet nurse to tigers at the Hefei zoo, which organized a similar arrangement with another dog last year.

It may not even be the oddest recent example of cross-species suckling. As of February, India's Namatia Ghosh, 46, was still breastfeeding the pet monkey her husband found orphaned several years ago. "He is my son," she told BBC News. Not to be outdone, Hlah Htay, 40, helped a Burmese zoo feed two tiger cubs in April, according to the AFP news service.

The cubs had been separated from their aggressive mother. Tigers are born toothless. In the wild they nurse for about six months but begin eating meat after six to eight weeks, when the mother begins sharing her kills.

[Source: National Geographic]

27 August 2008

Elvis the Dog Celebrates Bark Mitzvah with $10,000 Bash

A Fox News report on one super pampered pooch, who was one of the contestants on Greatest American Dog.

26 August 2008

Dog Follows Marine 70 Miles

A pack of desert dogs lived at one of the Iraqi border forts the unit patrolled. A wiry German shepherd-border collie mix was the alpha dog. Maj. Brian Dennis took a liking to the animal, whose nubby ears had been cut off as a puppy. He named him "Nubs." Dennis found Nubs with a deep puncture wound on his left side. He later learned the injury was inflicted by a screwdriver. He helped nurse the dog back to health.

The time came, however, for Dennis' unit to relocate 70 miles from Nubs' home fort. As always, Nubs sprinted alongside the Hummers as they pulled away for what Dennis assumed was the last time he would see the dog. Two days later, Nubs wandered inexplicably in below-freezing conditions into Dennis' new camp, shocking the Marine unit. "When he arrived he looked like he'd just been through a war zone. Uh, wait a minute, he had," Dennis wrote. Nubs' miraculous journey forced the Marine's hand, and Dennis and his fellow Marines unanimously decided to keep the animal.

"This dog who had been through a lifetime of fighting, war, abuse, and had tracked down our team over 70 miles of harsh desert was going to live the good life," Dennis wrote. Nubs is not the only dog befriended by an American soldier to earn a trip out of Iraq.

Army Sgt. Peter Neesley found two dogs while on patrol during his second tour of duty in Iraq — Mama, a Labrador mix, and her puppy, Boris. But tragedy struck when the 28-year-old sergeant died in his Baghdad barracks in Christmas, the cause of which remains unknown. His family decided one way to ease the grief would be to transport the dogs home. "It's second to having Peter come home on his own," the soldier's sister said. "If we can't have Peter, then at least we can have his dogs."

Dennis could be home from Iraq as early as March, his mother said. The dog no longer will have to contend with fighting to survive in the war-torn country, Dennis wrote in an e-mail, but instead will get to bask in the sun on the sunny beaches of San Diego. "He's supposed to be this big, tough Marine, but he's really a softy."

[Source: ABC News]

25 August 2008

Diaz Rescues Neighbour's Injured Dog

Hollywood star Cameron Diaz reportedly rescued an injured German Shepherd dog at the weekend.

According to People magazine, the actress took the injured animal to her home, where she cared for it, while her assistant posted notices about the dog. A source told the magazine: "Diaz brought the dog in her house and gave it some food and water."

"Her assistant posted a 'found German shepherd' sign and [the dog's owner] - Diaz's neighbour who was driving around the area - came across it."

Diaz's representative said: "Cameron and a friend were involved in returning an injured dog to its owner." The actress later visited the dog at the veterinary practice where it was being treated.

[Source: RTE Entertainment]

21 August 2008

Does Your Dog Have a Conscience?

If you believe a recent study, your dog knows the difference between right and wrong. The New Scientist reports that dogs may have a rudimentary sense of morality and inequity. For instance, a pair of dogs recognize a difference when one of them is given a treat and the other is not, scientists said. A few weeks ago, the study was presented to the first Canine Science Forum in Budapest, Hungary.

"I agree," said Will Thomas, Tampa Bay Dog Whisperer. Thomas says he's worked with over a thousand dogs and has been successful because he's learned to think like a dog.

[Source: Tampa Bays 10]

20 August 2008

Watch for Clipper Burns When Grooming

This news broadcast from KTKA has some tips on treating and avoiding clipper burn.

19 August 2008

Low Stress, Lots of Love: It's a Dog Trainer's Life

Angel Soriano can't recall a time he wasn't around dogs. When he was a boy in New Jersey, his dad always owned a couple of German shepherds. Today, Soriano has five shepherds at home. At work — at K9 University in northwest Oklahoma City — he's surrounded by all breeds of pooches. According to his business card, Soriano is president, chief executive, chief operating officer and master trainer. But the name embroidered on his company sports shirt says it all: "DogMan."

Soriano spends his days training canines in basic to advanced obedience, search and tracking, personal protection, police training, drug detection and more. His furry students range in age from eight weeks, the ideal time to start training, to 14 years old. "I can see the change in a dog the minute I start working with them," Soriano said. "I like the immediate day-to-day satisfaction." Conversely, when he worked a corporate job, he never realized his impact on the bottom line, he said.

Soriano has been in the dog training business for 23 years. He trained part time in California and Oklahoma before he and his wife, Lynn, started the business three years ago. At K9 University, he and six other trainers offer six-week, group obedience lessons, private lessons and a 10- to 15-day boarding school. A dog's bad behavior quite often is his owner's fault, Soriano said. "For example, dogs as puppies may have nipped at fingers or barked at strangers, and their owners thought it was cute and didn't correct it,” he said.

Soriano also teaches protection and advanced obedience to what he calls executive dogs, or primarily German shepherd or Belgian malinois breeds — to place with families with large properties and traveling spouses. He breeds dogs from imported European lines, and also imports 4-month-old to 2-year-old dogs to sell. Executive dogs sell for $20,000 to $35,000 each, he said.

Training police dogs - At Canine Unlimited in Tulsa, owner Oscar Hall also imports dogs, primarily shepherds, retrievers and Labradors from Europe and specializes in placing dogs with police forces nationwide. He places 30 to 60 dogs a year for around $10,000 each. Hall has been in the business 35 years. He's trained through the U.S. Customs and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, he said. Since 9/11, dogs who detect explosives are in demand, he said.

Dog training is a lot of hard work in all kinds of weather, but Hall loves it. The best part, he said, is hearing about his dogs' feats, like when Chico found a lost child. Hall recommends people who are interested in the dog training business mentor a trainer and train their own dogs to see whether they like it.

Kaylin Woshida of Piedmont did just that. Soon after she got her bull terrier puppy 15 months ago, she took a part-time job with K9 University. A few months later, she quit her five-year job in medical billing to become a full-time dog trainer, where she's exceeded her former salary. "My office job was a lot of stress,” Woshida, 29, said. She worked in a cubicle and had a long commute. "Here, my doggies love me. It makes me feel good to come to work.”

[Source: NewsOK.com]

18 August 2008

Hero Dog's Canine Choir Tribute

A canine choir is being formed for a musical tribute to a 1930's hero dog. Swansea Jack was a black retriever who became renowned for rescuing drowning swimmers in the city's docks and river.

Cardiff-based artist Richard Higlett has been commissioned to create a piece of music to be performed by dogs to celebrate Jack's life. With the working title of 'A song for Jack' he intends auditioning dogs for the public performance at the National Waterfront Museum in October.

The project has been commissioned by Locws International, an arts charity based in Swansea, as part of the 60th Swansea Festival of Music and Arts. The performance will tie in with a special exhibition at the museum. Mr Higlett intends running a blog about the project on his website.

On his website he says: "The proposal is to audition a selection of local dogs to form a dogs' choir. This concert will be filmed and recorded and observed by musicians who will translate this spontaneous concert to form a piece of sheet music, dedicated to Swansea Jack." He adds: "A song for Jack comes from my interest [in] things we interpret, as incidental can also be viewed as creative and profound. When dogs sing they are returning instinctively to their lives as part of a pack."

Born in 1930 Swansea Jack hit the headlines the following year when he rescued a swimmer from the docks. Legend has it that during the seven years he lived he went on to save 27 people from drowning. In 1936 he was named the 'Bravest Dog of the Year' by the London Star newspaper and was awarded two bronze medals by the National Canine Defence League. Some people believe the nickname Jacks, given to natives of the city, derives from the dog.

[Source: BBC News]

14 August 2008

Inflatable Poo Raises a Stink

A giant inflatable dog turd brought down a power line after being blown away from a Swiss museum.

The artwork, entitled Complex S***, was carried 200 metres on the night of 31 July, reportedly breaking a greenhouse window before it landed again. The sculpture, by American artist Paul McCarthy, was equipped with a safety system that should have deflated it. The fake faeces has been returned and will remain on display at the Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern until October.

McCarthy is well known for his inflatable artworks, two of which - Blockhead and Daddies Bighead - were displayed outside the Tate Modern in London in 2003. The Zentrum Paul Klee, which opened in 2005, houses a collection of about 4,000 works by the noted Swiss painter.

[Source: BBC News]

13 August 2008

Praise Your Dog

The key is that dogs need to believe our praise. Dogs are very emotional and very perceptive. As pack animals, they seek the approval of their superiors. If other people see you praise your dog, and they think you're pretty weird, then you are probably praising it correctly.

Gush over the dog: Talk to the dog. Tell him how well he just sat; how nice and straight it was; how snappy and confident it was done. Tell him how you admire his cleverness and intelligence, and how you appreciate his good work. Say it from the heart. Mean it. Say it as silly and as babyish as you need to, to get the dog's eyes to brighten up, his posture to rise, his ears to perk up proudly. That is praise.

If the boss called you ...: If your boss called you into the office and said, "You're doing good work. Now get out of my office and get back to work!!" you probably would feel more hurt and angry than anything else. But, if he sat you down for a few minutes and told you just how and where you were doing well, you might get some good feelings. It is these good feelings that we must give our dogs when we praise them.

Praise can never be a mechanical reaction to the dog performing correctly. It must be a genuine expression of joy and satisfaction. How else can a dog understand what to do? Working simply to avoid getting a jerk on the leash is a miserable existence. A dog knows it is doing the right thing when it feels loved and appreciated for doing it.

Study and learn: If you can't tell when your dog feels loved and appreciated, you must study your dog more closely, and build a much better rapport. Take long walks. Do very brief obedience and other exercise with lavish amounts of vocal praise, and very little excitement and play. Talking more to your dog, relying on your intonation and facial expression, will build his understanding of praise.

Tossing a ball or a stick for your dog is not praise. It is play. It is important to play with your dog. But, if your dog doesn't feel good from your vocal praise and your facial expression, all the play in the world will not build a relationship, nor will it help you in training.

The best communication: The best way to develop a good relationship with your dog is to communicate on an emotional level. You must rely on building your skill at talking to the dog, so that the dog picks up immediately on your emotions.

It is easy for most people to talk silly with puppies. It takes some practice, and little concern for your ego, to be able to talk babyish to a big, tough dog. Since we cannot elevate the dog to human understanding, we must act in ways that dogs understand. A pat on the side and a "good boy" can give great satisfaction and release to the dog.

[Source: OrovilleMR]

12 August 2008

Options for Dog Owners When Traveling

The traditional procedure has been to board dogs in a kennel during vacations, but that experience can be mixed. "Dogs with behavioral issues, separation anxiety, or who don't like other dogs are likely to experience a lot of stress if kenneled," says Angela Speed, spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Humane Society. "Likewise, older dogs who have never experienced a kennel may not adjust well."

Happily, new answers are appearing to the old question: "What do we do with Tippy during family trips?" The options fall into two categories: To take or not to take.

For Beth Maresh of Cedarburg, the answer is: "Take." Her family has two "well-traveled pooches." The whole pack has been to South Dakota, Custer State Park and Wyoming in recent years. The family is among the 29.1 million Americans who say they have traveled with a pet in the past three years, according to the Travel Industry Association of America. Canines are the most popular animal travel companions, says the association. Here are some options for pet owners:

Do a pampered sleep-over: Several local dog day care centers offer extended overnight boarding with playtime perks above kenneling. Milwaukee's Central Bark downtown and north side locations, for instance, offer enough supervised exercise on playground equipment with other dogs to fill a six-hour day before lights out. Stays can range from overnight to three weeks. "The main thing we're trying to do is keep them mentally and physically exercised. We find they're happier all around," says Katie Wilke, Central Bark general manager.

Donnybrook Inn, located in Cedar Grove, offers themed luxury suites for dogs, including a "Harley Suite," and a "Patriot Suite" complete with themed toddler beds and covers, and TV sets to help keep Fido relaxed and occupied. The inn is set on 80 acres of land with several dog swimming ponds. Owner Lesley-Rae Karnes is a champion dog trainer. "There are no tears when the dog is left here," she says. "Kids get involved in selecting which suite the dog will use, and everyone feels good." It's about $22 a night. Information: www.donnybrookkennel.com or (920)668-6511.

Hire a sitter: Professional pet-sitting companies allow your dog all the comforts of home - because he is home. Professional pet sitters can be hired to do as many visits a day as needed (costs vary but are about $19 to $25 a visit). But be sure to plan ahead because most professionals need to meet with owners and pets ahead of time. "Pet sitters can administer meds," says Felicia Lembesis, executive director of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters. "They need to know what should be done in an emergency, who the vet is, what the pet's habits are, the favorite toys. . . . Things like where there's a circuit breaker box in case of a storm."

Added bonus: Pet sitters can also make the house look lived in by opening and closing drapes, taking in the mail and watering the plants. A professional pet sitter should be insured and have references. For more information on what to look for in a pet sitter, check out information from NAPPS at www.petsitters.org.

Vacationing together: The Dog Days of Wisconsin is a pet/person vacation. For one weekend a year - Aug. 22 to 25 this year - the northern Wisconsin girls' camp becomes pet friendly. You and Fido can hike, swim and dock dive, make dog-themed crafts and compete together in talent shows. "People from the city really like it, because there aren't a lot of places you can swim off-leash with your dog," says Anne Hicks, assistant camp director. Fees run about $40 with a cabin rental and all meals, but you can also tent, bring an RV or stay in a local motel. More information: (800) 226-7436 or www.dogcamp.com

Are pets welcome?: A "no pets allowed" sign can ruin any vacation. One growing resource to avoid obstacles is Fido Friendly Magazine, which offers detailed information on hotel and recreational facilities that are pet-friendly. Each bimonthly issue includes hotel, city and state information and reviews; it's available at Borders and Barnes & Noble. Readers can also subscribe online at www.fidofriendly.com for $19.95 or join the Fido Friendly Travel Club, which includes six issues of the magazine and e-mail newsletter with updates as well as hotel discounts. You can also use the site's search engine to find dog-friendly facilities in your destination city.

Flying dogs: For many years, pet owners lived with horror stories about animals dying in cold, unpressurized airplane holds. Some airlines have improved their pet care. But be sure and find out the specifics with each airline and each flight. Ask where the pet will be put, in what conditions it will be kept and what happens if the flight is delayed for long periods. Milwaukee-based Midwest Airlines recently began a Premiere Pet Program. Dog show veteran Susan Kerwin coordinates the program and worked with the airlines to design special pet care, including in-cabin carrier placement for small pets and crating in a forward area under the pilots cabin for larger animals.

[Source: JSOnline]

11 August 2008

Riverside Woofstock Puts Dogs to the Test

There was no pause in their paws as the Flyball Maineiacs demonstrated the popular dog sport at the annual Woofstock celebration here Saturday. In flyball - and there is an American Flyball Association with rules and regulations - dogs jump hurdles, grab a ball from a spring-loaded box with their mouths, and run a return route over the hurdles. It takes a matter of seconds to complete the course, and once the dogs get the hang of it, they take to the challenge enthusiastically.

"Once dogs get exposed to it, they really love it. And, if humans love their dogs, they get dragged right along," said team member Lisa Lane. "They get so focused on the task that they won’t run off the track."

Billed as "one day of wag, drool and love," Woofstock drew more than 1,000 people and scores of dogs to Lincoln Home park on the banks of the Damariscotta River. The event was sponsored by the Damariscotta-Newcastle Rotary Club and Animal House, a holistic food and supply store for dogs and cats, and has grown in popularity over the last few years, according to Aubrey Martin of the Animal House.

The celebration featured pet-related seminars, demonstrations of agility, a Family Fun Dog Show, with categories such as best kisser, dog with best paw shake, dog who sits the longest, and dog with the waggiest tail. There also were a Parade of Breeds, pet-related vendors, activities and games. A photographer was on hand to take pictures of family dogs, and one shelter was fitting dogs with microchips that contain pertinent information in case they become lost. Others provided grooming, toothbrushing and nail-clipping.

All proceeds and donations from the event will be distributed to the 11 animal shelters in the region and Rotary charities. "It’s strictly for rescue, but it’s also a lot of fun," Martin said. "It gives the dogs an opportunity to be seen, promoted, pampered and do some fundraising for themselves."

Despite the presence of more than 100 dogs of varying size and breed, uncontrolled barking was infrequent and there were no dogfights. Most of the dogs seemed to simply enjoy smelling and sniffing each other and hanging around with dog-loving humans. "For the most part, people who bring dogs here know that they have to be well-behaved," Martin said.

Flyball is relatively new to Maine with only two organized groups in place. The Flyball Maineiacs were formed by the late Monica Roberts, who picked up the sport in Minnesota and brought it with her when she moved to Bar Harbor a few years ago. "She made it her mission to recruit as members people that would be willing to commit themselves and their dogs to the team," Lane said. The Flyball Maineiacs will unveil their latest Flyball Maineia show at the Boothbay Harbor YMCA the weekend of Nov. 8-9.

[Source: Bangor Daily News]

08 August 2008

World's First Commercial Canine Cloning

Bernann McKinney says her beloved pit bull "Booger" saved her life when another dog attacked her, then learned to push her wheelchair while she recovered from a severe hand injury and nerve damage. He died in 2006, but now he's back — at least in clone form, after the birth last week of puppies replicated by a South Korean company.

"Yes, I know you! You know me too!" McKinney cried joyfully Tuesday, hugging the puppy clones as they slept with one of their two surrogate mothers, both Korean mixed breed dogs, in a Seoul laboratory. "It's a miracle."

The five clones were created by Seoul-based RNL Bio in cooperation with a team of Seoul National University scientists who in 2005 created the world's first cloned dog, a male Afghan hound named Snuppy. It is headed by Lee Byeong-chun, a former colleague of disgraced scientist Hwang Woo-suk, whose purported breakthroughs in stem cell research were revealed as fake. Independent tests, however, proved the team's dog cloning was genuine.

Lee's team has since cloned some 30 dogs and five wolves, but claims Booger's clones, for which McKinney paid $50,000, are the first successful commercial cloning of a canine. The procedure, which costs up to $150,000, is drawing criticism from animal rights groups which oppose cloning pets. They say it can lead to malformed offspring and exploitation of surrogates and egg donors, as well as unfounded claims that the new animal is an exact copy of the original.

"It's fraught with animal welfare concerns and it does not bring back a loved one," said Martin Stephens, vice president for animal research issues at The Humane Society of The United States, based in Washington. "A dead animal's DNA does not guarantee the offspring will be identical to the deceased. It takes more than just genes to create an animal," said Stephens, who is a biologist.

He said the cloning process also subjects hundreds of dogs and cats to invasive procedures as egg donors and surrogates. According to a report released by The Humane Society in May, 3,656 cloned embryos, 319 egg donors and 214 surrogates were used to produce just five cloned dogs and 11 cloned cats who were able to survive 30 days past birth. There are millions of homeless dogs and cats in the U.S., Stephens said, and "we don't need new sources to compete with animal shelters and reputable breeders."

McKinney, 57, a screenwriter who taught drama at U.S. universities, contacted Lee after her dog died of cancer in April 2006. She had earlier gone to U.S.-based Genetics Savings and Clone but it shut down in late 2006 after only producing a handful of cloned cats and failing to produce any dog clones.

The Korean scientists brought the dog's frozen cells to Seoul in March and nurtured them before launching formal cloning work in late May, according to RNL Bio. "The cells' status was indeed bad as they had been stored for a long time," Lee told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "But the scientific technology has also developed compared with when we cloned Snuppy. There is no room for any doubt over whether they are real clones," said Lee, whose team has identified the puppies as Booger's genuine clones. His university's forensic medicine team is currently conducting reconfirmation tests.

Lee said the five clones, which share identical white spots below their necks, were all healthy though their weights vary slightly.

McKinney said she was especially attached to Booger because he saved her from an attack by another dog three times his size. She suffered severe injuries to her left hand and damaged nerves in her leg and stomach, and spent part of her recovery in a wheelchair. McKinney said Booger acted as more than a canine companion as she recuperated. He pulled her wheelchair when its battery ran out, opened her house door with his teeth and helped her take off her shoes and socks, even though she never trained him to do so.

"I believe that Booger was an angel that God rented out to me for short period of time," she said. "And he knew I would be lost without him, so he sent me some more. He sent me five more mini-Boogers."

She said she has named the clones Booger McKinney, Booger Lee, Booger Ra, Booger Hong and Booger Park, after herself and the South Korean scientists who achieved the cloning. McKinney said she will take three of the cloned dogs to her home in California, where she lives with five other dogs and three horses. She plans to donate the others to work as service dogs for the handicapped or elderly.

RNL Bio charges up to $150,000 for dog cloning but was paid a third of that by McKinney because she is the first customer and helped with publicity, said company head Ra Jeong-chan. Ra said his firm eventually aims to clone about 300 dogs per year and is also interested in duplicating camels for customers in the Middle East.

[Source: The Associated Press]

07 August 2008

Kennel Club International Dog Agility Show

Dog lovers are set to be dazzled by displays of deftness and determination from 2,500 of man's best friends – while shedding the pounds at the same time. The biggest show of its kind in the world, the three-day Kennel Club international dog agility show will provide a stage for pooches of all shapes and sizes to wow crowds at the East of England Showground in Alwalton, Peterborough, with their skills.

This year, the festival will have an extra half-day of competition on Friday, attracting 40 per cent more entries than 2007. The show will see a total of 18,000 runs, involving more than 2,500 dogs, competing in 18 rings. Competitors from 20 countries, as well as throughout the UK, will be working dogs of every size, breed and level of experience – from the world's champion agility dogs to those at their very first agility show. There is even a "have a go" ring for spectators to try out their own dogs on specially designed practise equipment under expert supervision.

This year, the Kennel Club is also launching its Fight the Flab with Fido campaign at the festival. Dog agility – a sport that involves see-saws, tunnels and jumps – is being signed up to in record numbers as more and more people come to see it as a way to combat obesity in both dogs and their owners. People who have lost up to half their body weight with the help of the sport will be at the event to demonstrate how they achieved their weight loss.

Kennel Club spokesperson Caroline Kisko said: "Dog agility is really growing in popularity, and no wonder when it's such a fantastic way to get fit – helping people to change their inactive lifestyles and giving the dogs the exercise they are often lacking as well.

"So many people have seen their lifestyle change completely as a result of taking up the sport and are reaping the benefits in terms of weight loss and improved health. There is no excuse not to get fit when you are being egged on by the eager eyes and wagging tail of your dog."

Research by the pet charity PDSA has found that one in three dogs in Britain is overweight and that peoples' lifestyles are affecting the health of our pets – with the areas with the most overweight people also seeing the highest levels of pet obesity.

Ms Kisko added: "However, dog agility – which is estimated to have 24,000 doggie followers in the UK – is a real answer to the problem. It is open and accessible to all dogs – from Chihuahuas to Great Danes – and to people, whatever their age, gender, or level of fitness.

Agility started in 1978 at Crufts, and the first demonstration was by a few enthusiasts who used a combination of working trials and show jumping equipment, and a little obedience. It was so popular that it returned to Crufts in 1979 as a formal competition.

[Source: The Evening Telegraph]

06 August 2008

Catching His Master’s Yawn

It’s not just Frisbees and sticks. Dogs catch yawns from people, too. Dogs watching a person yawn repeatedly will yawn themselves, says Atsushi Senju of Birkbeck, University of London. Just as that big jaw-stretch spreads contagiously from person to person, it spreads from person to dog, he and his colleagues report in an upcoming Biology Letters.

“It is contrary to what I've heard informally from a lot of dog owners who say they catch their dogs’ yawns, but their dogs never yawn when they do,” says psychologist Gordon Gallup Jr. of the State University of New York at Albany. The data are “pretty compelling” though, Gallup says of the new study. “If it can be replicated it strongly suggests dogs may have a primitive empathic capacity.”

Empathy, or the capacity to grasp what someone else feels, knows or intends, may depend on some of the same neural circuitry triggered by contagious yawning, Gallup says. Research from Gallup’s lab has suggested that people more susceptible to contagious yawning tend to show more capacity for empathy. Also, yawning doesn’t sweep contagiously among people with autism spectrum disorder, which is marked by difficulty with empathy, Senju’s lab reported last year.

One of Senju’s students, Ramiro Joly-Mascheroni, reported that he and his dog shared many a yawn, but no one had rigorously tested contagious yawning between species. So the lab invited dogs to try a possible yawner of a test. Subjects ranged from dachshunds to Dobermans, and all were unknown to Joly-Mascheroni. The dog’s owner sat quietly behind the dog while Joly-Mascheroni spent five minutes repeatedly catching the eye of the animal and giving a wide, sighing yawn. The test usually allowed time for about 10 yawns. For a control, Joly-Mascheroni followed the same procedure but just opened his mouth quietly and less dramatically.

Of the 29 dogs, 21 yawned at least once, usually after Joly-Mascheroni had reached number four in his series. When he just made the control mouth movements, though, none of the dogs yawned.

Senju says that it isn't clear from this experiment just why the yawns spread. The dogs’ yawning could reflect canine empathy with a human condition. Or the dogs may have learned to yawn along with people based on positive feedback during previous experiences. Or a human yawn might trigger a dog yawn because the gesture comes across as somewhat aggressive to a dog; macaques, for example, yawn in tense situations.

“It would be very interesting to see if contagious yawning occurs between dogs,” Gallup says. And there’s another possible direction for the contagion. “Although there are no studies about it, I think it’s quite likely that dogs’ yawns induce yawning in humans,” Senju says.

The news itself may bring on a yawn since, Senju says, even reading about the gesture, hearing the sound or imagining a yawn can create an irresistible urge.

[Source: Science News]

05 August 2008

Hero Dog Honored

The story of a Norwegian sea dog who became an unlikely war hero has been put into print. It is claimed that Bamse - a 14 stone St Bernard - saved the lives of two sailors during World War II. He also performed many other good deeds while the mascot on the Norwegian Navy minesweeper the Thorrod, which was stationed in Montrose and Dundee.

A book has now been written, aiming to separate the fact from the fiction surrounding the canine hero. Among his exploits included going into the water to rescue a sailor who had fallen overboard and knocking over a knifeman who was trying to attack a young lieutenant. Bamse died in 1944 and is buried in Montrose with his head facing towards Norway.

Since then, a statue has been erected in the Angus town in honour of the dog and he was awarded the gold medal for gallantry and devotion from the PDSA charity. Angus Whitson, co-author of Sea Dog Bamse, said: "My favourite story is him taking the sailors out of the pub and making sure they got back to their ship on time. From what I have read he physically pushed the sailors out of the pubs, there are stories of him nudging them along the road and anyone who tried to escape was herded into the crew again until they got back to the Thorrod.

"It's better than a Lassie film. In many ways it's an extraordinary story - the average dog in my experience has a loyalty for his master and the family he lives with, but Bamse was a dog that appeared to have a loyalty for a wider family.

"He had a sphere of concern for those people that he loved and he looked after them very well."

Fellow author, Andrew Orr, said: "I was in a fortunate position, being a GP in this town, that many of my patients remembered the dog and were very keen to talk to me about it. I started scribbling their stories furiously, but then research took me to Norway, to Canada, South Africa, and other people who had something to say and I was compelled to write this down and it became apparent that there was a story just bursting to be told and a book had to be written."

[Source: BBCnews]

04 August 2008

Daredevil Dog Goes Skydiving

Meet DJ, the daredevil parachuting pooch who fell 1220m and lived to chase his tail another day. The 20-month-old tenterfield terrier joins an elite group of skydiving animals around the world after completing two tandem jumps with his owner Archie Jamieson, who is the manager of the Gold Coast Skydive Centre.

DJ landed safely on all fours when the pair dived into the All Saints Anglican School fete at Merrimac on Saturday (click here to see the video).

The weekend's jump followed a practice skydive on Thursday, which Mr Jamieson said was a complete success despite the fact the pair had never jumped together before. "We did the first jump at Kirra just to see if he liked it. Because if he didn't, I wouldn't pursue it," he said. "I said to myself, 'if he doesn't like it, he's not doing it again'. But he loved it."

The 41-year-old said he had been a 'little bit concerned' about the pressure change in the plane and the effect it could have on DJ. "It was all fine though and when we landed he just got his ball and ran around in circles," he said. "He was a normal, happy dog and the jump didn't seem to scare him. It's not like when we landed he ran away scared."

Mr Jamieson has jumped almost 12,000 times and has racked up 23 years of skydiving experience. He said he did not think he was doing the wrong thing by jumping with DJ. "I've actually spoken to (TV vet) Dr Harry Cooper many years ago when a team member was jumping with a dog," he said. "Someone had complained to the RSPCA about it so we contacted him to do a story on it and he said there was no issue as far as cruelty to animals."

Mr Jamieson said he decided to take DJ skydiving after he donated a skydiving display to All Saints Anglican School for the fete at the weekend. "We wanted to give them something more than just a tandem dive with two people," he said. "That would have just been the same old thing, but when you land with a dog, well that's certainly something a bit special."

Mr Jamieson had a harness made especially for DJ so that he was attached to his chest. "It's exactly the same as a tandem skydive with people," he said. "He's attached to me and he can't get out of it."

This will not be the last time DJ dives from great heights, with Mr Jamieson planning to make his four-legged friend a big star. "It will be purely for skydiving displays," he said. "Eventually, what I want to get him is a sponsor and that way they can cover the cost of display jumps."

Although this is DJ's first attempt at an extreme sport, Mr Jamieson said he had tried his paw at surfing. "We tried to get him on a board but he's just not good at it," he said. "He can body surf pretty good but I think he's a much better skydiver."

[Source: The Gold Coast Bulletin]