Sunday, December 20, 2015

Tail Wagging Side Dominance

"You might think a wagging tail is a wagging tail, but for dogs there is more to it than that.  Dogs recognize and respond differently when their fellow canines wag to the right than they do when they wag to the left. The findings show that dogs, like humans, have asymmetrically organized brains, with the left and right sides playing different roles."
Read the entire article at  Science Daily or see the October 31, 2015 issue of the Cell Press journal.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Canine Microbiome -

I published an article in the summer issue of The Bark magazine on the canine microbiome.  In summary - Kiss your dog. It's good for you in more ways than one.

Here's an excerpt:
"Affected by age, environment, ancestry, evolution, genetics and diet, microbial communities vary widely between species and across individuals within a species. A recent study suggests that our housemates—including the family dog—may also affect the composition of our personal microbial signature. 
If you and your significant other kiss, hug and/or share a bed with your dog, the three of you have more in common than you think. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder,  revealed several similarities: Adults who share a dog have more similar mouth microbes than those who don’t. Dog-owning families have more diverse and different microbial colonies than dogless households
Parents tend to share more kinds of mouth bacteria with their dog than they do their children. And children raised with dogs have a wider variety of microbes than dogless kids (Song et al. 2013). 
Whether these spit-swapped microbes serve a purpose or are just passing through is not clear. But research shows that children raised with dogs are less likely to be afflicted by eczema (Epstein et al. 2010) and asthma (American Society for Microbiology 2012)."
Read the entire article in this issue-
 canine microbiome.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Identical Twin Dogs? It's Rare but Possible

I posted this originally in October of 2013, saying that identical twin puppies delivered in a single amniotic sac rarely if ever occur.  Well… I stand corrected. Several people have responded to the post describing identical twin pups in one of their litters.  This is what they said:

"I  have to say that until it happened to my dog, I never knew it could happen. 2 puppies, one sac with umbilical cord going from puppy to puppy and a 3rd cord going to mom. It looked like a Y or T. I just buried the babies as they did not survive. I could seal them up and send them to you if you wanted to see this yourself. Shocked the heck out of me - a seasoned and experienced breeder. My vet says this does happen just not very often."Anonymous 4-25-2015

"My dog had a litter of 15 on 11/12/15. She had a set of twins at 7:57am. 2 pups, one male on female, come out the same sac attached to the same placenta. So yes, it is possible! I couldn't get a picture as the mother quickly tended to them. The female twin is very tiny about a third her twin brothers size but she is doing well and is definitely a fighter."Samantha S 11-15-2015

"My dog just had identical twin girls, she had a couple of hours after birth of first pup, then delivery of second was much more of a struggle. When it finally came out she got straight in and began cleaning the sack away so I never got a good look immediately, but the slimy blob definitely seemed bigger than the first. When I lifted her leg to make sure she was getting the membrane off it's face, I realised it was actually 2 pups in the same sack, one laying on top of the other, both head first. They were identical, both cream, both females and even both exactly the same weight, at 174g each, whereas the first pup only weighed 145g also a female, but pure white".Mandy 12- 9- 2015
"Add me to your list! I had three sets where two pups attached to each other via a Y umbilical cord in one litter [of Alaskan Malamutes]. I have never seen that before or since. I was told by Cornell that it is a very rare occurrence and was due to the uterine environment and that I most likely will never see it again." 6-9-2016 

The original post is below:

Can dogs be identical twins, meaning two animals developed from the same fertilized egg, having the same genetic material and delivered in a single amniotic sac? The answer is somewhere between not likely and probably never.
That's just your reflection Bud, not your twin.
Puppies in a litter are usually fraternal twins or triplets and so on, no closer than you and your siblings, having the same mom and dad.

They can also be half sibs meaning they have the same mom, but different dads.

But monozygotic twins? The only foolproof way to identify identical twins is to use a DNA test, and no reports exist. Sometimes breeders report two pups in one placenta, but more likely the placentas grew together during the pregnancy.

Identical twinning in cats is
 fairly common.
What about pups with identical markings?  Random cell divisions that occur after the fertilized egg splits determine spot placement, along with where the fetus develops in the womb.  So two pups may look the same, but that doesn't mean they are identical.
Are these Aussie twin pups? Not likely.

Twin cows aren't unusual

Baby armadillos are  identical quadruplets.
Identical twins are fairly common in sheep cattle, cats, ferrets, deer, and humans, but identical twinning in dog just doesn't happen.

Just a band of brothers (and sisters)

Monday, November 9, 2015

Best Antique Dog Photographs

If you're charmed by antique photos with dogs in the picture, don't miss The Antique Dog Photograph Gallery.

The Pug with Bells
Blogger Lauren Goode has been collecting period dog photographs since 2009. She posts regularly and includes information about the breed, photographer and history behind the image. You can index her photos based on context, breed, photographer, and location.

The Greyhound in Durban

See all of Lauren's photos at

The Dalmatian and the Donkey

Friday, October 30, 2015

Dog Ghosts

Tales of ghostly dogs.
Not this kind...

...more like this kind.

Dog ghosts just aren't very scary.  According to first hand reports, canine apparitions bark, pant and lick people, behaving pretty much as they did in life.

Rudolph Valentino's dog 
It's rumored that when Valentino, a great lover of dogs, died in a New York hospital on August 23, 1926, his dog Kabar, who was in Los Angeles, sensed the moment of death and let out an unearthly howl. Kabar lived three more years.  A lavish ceremony was held at the Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park when the dog was laid to rest. Kabar haunts the grounds and from time to time, can be seen inside the walls of the cemetery, pretty much doing what dogs do.

Valentino with Kabar who haunts a
pet cemetery in Los Angeles.

Johnny Morehouse and his dog
Johnny Morehouse and his dog haunt the Woodland Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio.  In l860,  five year old Johnny fell into the Erie canal. Despite his faithful dog's efforts to pull him out, Johnny died.  After the boy was buried, the dog maintained a vigil at the grave site, refusing food and water. The dog soon died from a broken heart (or dehydration and starvation).   The special stone in which the large dog grieves over the dead child is usually decorated with trinkets, candy and dog toys.  Reunited beyond the grave, Johnny and his dog roam the cemetery at night.
Neil from the Topper series
On a lighter note, Neil, the martini-loving Saint Bernard from the Topper movie of  1937 and subsequent television series (1953-1955), along with his people,  George and Marion Kerby, were friendly ghosts who haunted the home of the sophisticated and stuffy Cosmo Topper. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Prehistoric Canine Burials

My article about prehistoric canine burials, Digging Up Bones, was published in the Winter 2014 edition of The Bark magazine.

"Dogs have been buried more often than any other animal: singly, with other dogs, near people and with people. This ancient practice was a global phenomenon, one that crossed nearly all cultural boundaries. Precisely why dogs were buried may never be clearly understood, but the universality of the practice suggests it may be embedded in the human psyche and according, is a fundamental part of the human/dog connection."

Modern research techniques applied to prehistoric bones suggest it wasn't all sacrificial killing. Rather like us, some ancient people just loved their dogs.
In 2006, dogs were found in a thousand year old
pet cemetery near Lima, Peru. Many had
separate plots near their people and were buried
with food and blankets. Read more.
These are other posts about ancient dog burials:

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Los Angeles Pet Cemetery

The Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park opened in 1929 on a lovely piece of property in the suburb of Calabasas.  Dogs, cats, horses, birds, ferrets and pigs are memorialized there.

The most famous grave is Kabar's, Rudoph Valentino's faithful dog. It's said the Kabar haunts the cemetery but I didn't see him when I visited.
Valentino's dog, Kabar

Many markers are sentimental.

Some have a portrait of the dog.

Others are traditional.
That's a Boston Terrier on the stone.  I'm guessing all the
markers beneath the stone are Boston Terriers, too.

A lot  are  lighthearted and kitschy. 
It's obvious that some are maintained on a regular basis, 
otherwise who would dry clean the costume on the dog?
Note the laminated photos in back featuring the dog
when she was alive wearing the same costume.

It has a more festive feel than people cemeteries, 
with lots of whirly-gigs made up of dogs happily 
making their way to the rainbow bridge.

Some markers have messages included.
This marker says:
Beaver Shen, we miss you Dr. Dog. P.S. P J is wrong.

The earliest marker is 1928.

The original building, put up in 1929 has been recently restored.

If you want to visit:
5068 Old Scandia Lane, Calabasas, CA 91302

Monday, June 15, 2015

Bone Burying Behavior

Why does your dog bury bones and toys in the backyard?

The International Wolf Center in Ely Minnesota explains:

"The reason is simple: to store and protect the bone or food item from scavengers. Not many scavengers in your neighborhood? Well, most dogs will continue to exhibit this behavior because it is an instinct that has been transferred from over 12,000 years of breeding the current domestic dog away from gray wolves."

A professional burying a treasure. 
The wolf digs the hole with her front paws, 
then pushes dirt over it with her muzzle
and tamps it down.

An amateur having just buried a treasure. 
Lolly's instinct remains but her technique is lacking.

"In an attempt to protect food that cannot be consumed immediately, wolves have adopted a behavior known as caching. To cache is to bury food in a shallow depression thus preventing avian scavengers from detecting the item. Wolves then return and unearth the item later for a snack between kills.

The process of caching is simple. A wolf tears a small fragment from a carcass and trots off to a secluded area, usually with moderate to dense tree cover, digs a depression suitable for the item, then places the item in the hole and uses their nose to cover the meat with the freshly dug dirt. The wolf then tamps down the food grave with their nose. It is easy to see when individuals have been caching as they have the telltale "brown nose" from tamping down the cache site. So the next time your dog has dirt over their nose pad you now know why."

Monday, May 25, 2015

Remembering the Dogs of War

More than 500 U.S. military working dogs are deployed worldwide at any given time.  Read about combat canines and their handlers in Iraq and Afghanistan in this recent National Geographic article.

Major Cpl. John Dolezal poses with CChas, a Belgian Malinois,
at Twentynine Palms in California. Dogs bred at Lackland
Air Force Base in Texas, the military's primary canine
facility, are given names that begin with double letters.
You can adopt a retired military dog. Find answers to frequently asked questions on the official site.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Demise of the American Kennel Club Library

A good source for everything dog WAS the American Kennel Club Library located in New York City.  The library closed in 2009 when it let it's librarian of thirty years go, and put part of its catalog online. 
The Library's mission was to serve as a public reference collection and archive on matters relating to purebred dogs. When I did my dissertation research in 1999, I was privileged to handle and read books from the collection, some hundreds of years old like those below. 

I would add the link to the online collection, but the one featured on the AKC site is no good, so if you know a different link, please let me know.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Why Do Pointers Point?

Scientists have identified two genes that may contribute to pointing behavior.
Pointing behavior is fixed in some hunting dogs,
meaning it doesn't need to be taught.  The dog stops,
sometimes with the front leg suspended,
and directs to game with the muzzle. 

To investigate the genetic bases of the inherent trait, scientists compared the genomes of two pointing breeds (Weimaraner and Large Munsterlander) to the genome of livestock guarding dogs.

The Large Munsterlander inherently points
(and I might add, is inherently cute).

The Weimaranar does, too.
They found differences on chromosome 22. Then the team looked at other pointing breeds to see if they had the same unique genetic variant. They looked at the genomes of English Setters, German Longhaired Pointers, German Shorthaired Pointers, Gordon Setters and Irish Setters. Excepting the German Shorthaired Pointer, they all carry the same genetic regulator.

The German Shorthaired Pointer deviates from the norm.
(There's always one in every crowd.)
Because not all pointing breeds carry the two genes, the researchers concluded that genetic and environmental factors likely contribute to pointing behavior, as well.

On another note, researchers were surprised to find that nearby genes appear to be related to side preference. This made me wonder if dogs always point with the right leg. I asked one of the scientists who told me, "I do not think that there would be any side preference in pointing. The dog "freezes" just in the moment of scenting, [abruptly] pointing to where the game is hiding.  [However] certainly there is laterality in dogs in regard to other behaviors like paw usage, listening, etc."

Read more about side preference in dogs.

Read the journal article: Homozygosity mapping and sequencing identify two genes that might contribute to pointing behavior in hunting dogs. Denis A Akkad, Wanda M Gerding, Robin B Gasser, and Jorg T. Epplen.

Friday, May 1, 2015

National Purebred Dog Day

May first is the day to celebrate purebred dogs!  It may not be a national holiday yet, as Colorado is the first state to recognize purebred dog day.  But it's worth celebrating everywhere.  There are close to 400 purebred dogs worldwide.  In addition to our favorite lap dogs, this is how the numbers break down:

  • 23 flock guards
  • 67 gun dogs
  • 48 herding dogs
  • 82 hounds
  • 35 mastiffs
  • 37 northern (spitz type)
  • 37 southern (sight hound type)
  • 43 terriers

Here are a few of my favorite purebred dogs:
Irish Setter

English Setter

English Setter
1979 - 1992

English Setter

Golden Retriever

Auggie (second from left)
Pembroke Welsh Corgi
1997 - 2008

Monday, April 27, 2015

Popular Dog Breeds 1900 to 1945

Since the early 1900s, the American Kennel Club has published lists of the most popular breeds.  But dogs that weren’t purebred, or that were not registered won’t show up on that roster.  
Four all-American dogs, the Rat Terrier, American Bull Terrier, Boston Terrier, and American Cocker Spaniel were commonly seen on porches of new suburban bungalows built with yards and gardens to accommodated a family dog, something of a new concept.  
Typical small working/companion dog,
the ubiquitous Rat Terrier
The Rat Terrier:  Until about 1900, any small dog that killed vermin for its keep was by default known as a rat terrier.  The loyal little dog, snubbed by UK Victorian era fanciers as nothing more than a "vermin killer of little consequence" was an American favorite.  

Boston Terriers looked a lot tougher in 1920
Collection: Library of Congress
The Boston Terrier was the first breed actually developed in America to be recognized by the AKC. The Boston Terrier was the most popular dog beginning1905 although he'd moved to second place by 1935.

The American Bull Terrier was a popular pooch at the turn of the last century, prized by the rich and famous, poor and not so poor alike. 

It’s ancestral stock was brought to the US in the 19th century by UK immigrants.  It was bred from terriers and bulldogs.  There are many dogs that are similar today. They’re informally grouped together and called bully breeds.  

Three guys just having a good time

Nationalism leading up to World War I made the breed a favorite. The American Bull Terrier represented the USA, and patriotic sentiment intensified our attachment to the breed.  
The American Cocker Spaniel took over first place in 1936 leading the way as the most popular dog from 1936 through 1952.

The American Cocker was perhaps the
first working dog eventually bred
solely for companionship.