Crops suffer from a lack of pollinators

Rachael Winfree, a professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick conducted a study of 131 farms across the United States and in British Columbia Canada.

The team of scientists collected data on the insect pollination of crop flowers and yields for apples, high bush blueberries, sweet cherries, tart cherries, almonds, watermelons and pumpkins. They found that apples, sweet cherries, tart cherries and blueberries showed the most decline in fruit yields. Wild bees and honey bees are the main pollinators for these crops.

This is directly related to the decline in pollinating insects, primarily bees of all types. Homeowners can contribute to the increase of these insects in a variety of ways. You do not need a large area to plant bee and pollinating insect flowers. Also avoid using insecticides.

I maintain gardens around my home that produce flowers from early spring to late fall. Besides Butterfly bushes, you can plant Coneflowers, dwarf flowering bushes such as My Monet Weigelia, and dwarf Crepe Myrtles. These are some suggestions for small areas that attract butterflies, bees and other pollinating insects. The advantage of having Coneflowers is that if you do not deadhead them and leave the flowers on the plant until spring, the birds love the seeds in the fall and winter. Some of these plants can be grown in containers.

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My cone flower garden

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My Monet Weigelia

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Dwarf Crepe Myrtle

Dog age vs human age

The old rule that one dog year equals seven human years is not true. New research has indicated that dogs are much older than we think. Based on DNA chemical markers called methylation marks, researchers have been able to come up with a better idea of the age comparison between dogs and humans.

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Dogs age faster when they are young and slower as they get older. The article points out that a 6 – 9-month-old puppy is capable getting pregnant which would be the same as a human who has reached puberty. Yet an eight-week-old puppy is equal to a nine-month-old human. A one-year old dog is the same as a 30-year-old human.

The researchers studied Labrador Retrievers and found that a 12-year-old Lab corresponds with a 70-year-old human. The researchers plan to study other breeds to see how their methylation marks relate to corresponding human age. This will be interesting since dog breeds have lifespans from six to eight years up to 16 years. The researchers hope that their findings will help veterinarians determine the best care for different breeds based on their relative age.

Dog Training Tips 3

In Dog Training Tips 2 I talked about how the type of dog, its breed(s) influence the dog’s personality and how biddable the dog is. The term biddable means how willing the dog is to obey. Some breeds are much more biddable than others. For example, most of the herding and some of the hunting breeds are very biddable. Some of the breeds classified as working dogs are biddable but some are not. The least biddable breeds tend to fall into the livestock guarding breeds and the hounds. However, this does not mean that they are less intelligent. As a matter of fact, the livestock guarding breeds are very intelligent but as a rule are bred to work independently, and alone. They must make very important decisions to protect the flock that they are guarding. Many people are attracted to these breeds because they are very quiet and calm. However, they do not make good pets. They are bred to repel an intruder regardless if it is animal or human. It takes a special person who understands this type of dog and knows how to train them to successfully own one.

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Created by Bruce Ross

The hounds are another difficult breed to train. Again, not because they are less intelligent, but because they are bred to be very focused. Think of it this way. If a hound is bred and taught to hunt fox, they must only find and follow the scent of a fox. A Foxhound who is side-tracked on the fresher scent of a rabbit or deer, is no use as a Foxhound. But, some of you may say, what about Bloodhounds that look for missing people. Each person has his own unique scent. This is true, but the hound is trained to follow only human scent, whichever human scent his handler indicates. The Search and Rescue (SAR) Bloodhound will not veer off a trail to track an animal.

Because the hounds are very focused, they often block out everything else. For the pet owner, this can be frustrating because as hound owners know, when these dogs go for a walk, their noses are often on the ground taking in all of the scents. Their tendency to focus so strongly on scent, and their ability to block out everything else makes them seem to ignore the commands of their owners. The younger the dog, the harder the hound is to train because he is going to follow his instincts first. This means that the dog’s owner must exercise a lot more patience and realize that it will take much more effort on their part to motivate the hound to break his focus and listen to commands. One way to circumvent this is to use clicker training on the very young, 12-week-old puppy, before he fully develops his ability to focus on scent. All puppies have short attention spans and if you do not want to train your puppy to hunt, then this is a good time to take advantage of the puppy’s short attention span to teach him to focus on you.

Never forget, dogs do not speak human languages. Therefore, it takes patience on our part to teach them and you must take care not  to repeat a command. The dog does not understand that “Sit” is one word. If you say, “Sit, Sit, Sit!” the dog will think it is all one word and never sit until you say it three times. A thought for today, did you ever wonder why dogs seem to be able to communicate to us better than we can to them?

Feel free to contact me if you have questions or if you need a certified canine behaviorist.

Health issues related to early spay and neuter of dogs

For many years I have had working dog people tell me that a dog should not be neutered or spayed until after they reach puberty. For a bitch that would be after the first heat. They claimed that the dog fully develops mentally after puberty and that early neutering and spaying retards this development.

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In a recent study, scientists found that some breeds have a higher risk of developing certain cancers and joint disorders if they are neutered or spayed during their first year of life.

This study looked at 35 breeds over a ten-year period and analyzed thousands of dogs over fifteen years. What is interesting is that the age and sex of the dogs did factor into whether or not the dogs were afflicted with health issues.

The health issues under consideration included hip dysplasia, cranial cruciate ligament tears and elbow dysplasia, lymphoma; hemangiosarcoma, or cancer of the blood vessel walls; mast cell tumors; and osteosarcoma, or bone cancer. While the study showed that early neutering did not affect all of the dogs, there were breed related problems.

I personally feel that a dog needs the full range of hormones to fully develop mentally. But it can be difficult for the owners of female dogs to control a bitch in heat and prevent an unwanted litter. For the owners of male dogs there are methods to prevent the dog from siring an unwanted litter other than neutering. It is always wise to consult with your veterinarian and explore all of your options.

As an aside, I would like to see a similar study about the health and mental affects of early spay-neuter in cats.

Toxoplasma gondii from cats

It is fairly common knowledge that pregnant woman and people with compromised immune systems should avoid cleaning cat litter boxes to avoid getting toxoplasma gondii from cat feces. Toxoplasma can also be introduced to the body through the consumption of contaminated food and water.

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Leonardo Augusto, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology and lead author on the National Institutes of Health-funded study about toxoplasma has discovered the way the parasite takes control of a person’s cells and uses them to transport itself throughout the body.

This finding is important because once scientists discover how a parasite spreads, they can focus on a cure. This particular parasite infects about 1/3 of the world’s population making it a serious risk. What is especially dangerous about this parasite is that it can stay dormant in a body until the immune system weakens.

With the new understanding about how toxoplasma spreads through the body researchers are one step closer to finding a cure for this disease which can infect the brain as well as other organs.

Recent excavation shows pet cats over 1000 years ago

An excavation along the former “Silk Road” in Northern Kazakhstan revealed a full skeleton of a domestic cat. According to the findings by an international research team consisting of Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU), Korkyt-Ata Kyzylorda State University in Kazakhstan, the University of Tübingen and the Higher School of Economics in Russia show that the cat was a pet and cared for. They determined this because the cat was buried with care, it had a few broken bones that indicated it was treated and the most revealing of all, was the fact that the cat was older than one year. At the time the cat lived, cats were not typically kept as pets. Further analysis revealed that the cat had been fed meat by humans since it had lost all its teeth at the time of death.IMG_0507

New discovery about sled dogs

An interesting study has shown that sled dogs are much older than previously thought. Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, along with the research conducted in collaboration with the University of Greenland and the Institute of Evolutionary Biology, Barcelona did a study of sled dogs. By extracting the DNA from a 9,500-year-old dog from the Siberian island of Zhokhov, they have sequenced the oldest complete dog genome to date. The results show very early diversification of dogs into types of sled dogs. The results also show that the ancient dogs were crossed with an ancient wolf but not with the modern wolves.

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What is important to note about this study is that the researchers found that the dietary needs of the sled dog are different from other dogs. Sled dogs do not have the same ability to use sugar and starch but do better with high-fat diets. This is similar to polar bears and Artic people. The researchers found that the Greenland husky is the purest with the least overlap with modern dogs.

Wasps smarter than previously thought

A study conducted byUniversity of Michigan biologist Elizabeth Tibbetts, found that paper wasps can determine which opponents are the weakest by watching them fight with another wasp. According to the study, “fighter” wasps were placed in a small container while two “bystander” wasps observed the pair through clear plastic partitions. The scientists found that bystander wasps were more aggressive when paired with an individual that was the victim of lots of aggression in a previous bout, as well as individuals who initiated little aggression in the previous fight.

Wasp cleans up, brood, Naturepark Spessart, Bavaria

 

The research also illustrated that the wasps can recall what they saw for a long time. This study shows a few interesting points. First, small brains, which were previously thought to be less intelligent, are not necessarily so. Also that wasps are capable of a rather complex thought process that includes analyzing what they saw,  remembering it, that they recognize and can categorize individuals.

If wasps can do this, imagine what other animals are capable of? How should that affect our training methods for our pets and other animals? How does human interference affect wildlife?

Worms suffer PTSD

In a study by Dr. Alon Zaslaver and research associate Dr. Yifat Eliezer at Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Genetics Department discovered that worms suffer from PTSD. In their study they used the C. elegans worm because it only has 302 neuron cells which enabled the researchers to pinpoint where the memory was stored. This information will allow researchers to use their findings to gain a better understanding of the molecular changes that take place within individual memory neurons and the privation-mode responses they provoke, to alleviate and possibly cure PTSD triggers, such as odor.

What is interesting about this study, is that even basic life, such as a worm, can associate the past, present and future. This means that they have some form of memory or can “think.” If a worm can suffer from a form of PTSD then so can other animals. This gives animal behavior consultants and trainers new insight as to how to treat animals that have suffered from a trauma in their lives. It points out that rehabilitation is more complex than many people may think.

Dog training tips 2 -The type of dog and training

Successful dog training is not just about the method of training the dog. A big part of training a dog depends on the type of dog you have and the lines it comes from. Whether it is a purebred or mixed, all dogs have lines which is another way to say their ancestry. Typically the term “lines” refer to selective breeding, but selective or not, the parents and grandparents have a strong genetic influence on the personality of the dog and make up the dog’s lines.

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Dogs were selected for specific traits, which make up the breed. These traits are a combination of the physical and mental attributes. For example, if you have a few sheep in a field and nearby is a rabbit hiding in the brush, a Border Collie will know that the rabbit is there but will focus on the sheep. If you put a Beagle in the same field, he will know the sheep are there but focus on the rabbit. This is part of their genetic mental makeup or to put it another way, what they are bred to do.

The attitude of the dog depends on the breed(s) that it is made of. In the case of mixed breed dogs, you will only know by observation which genes are dominating their mind and to confuse things even more, the environmental stimulation can trigger different responses. For example, a dog that is a cross between a Border Collie and Beagle may be attracted to both the sheep and the rabbit, making it unreliable to use in the field.

Added to this are the general canine instincts that all dogs have. The most common and easiest for dog owners to see, is the prey chase drive. What this means is that how easy it is to train a dog depends on the genetic makeup of the dog and its individual personality or temperament.

A good dog trainer will understand how the genetics of a dog affect how it thinks and responds to stimuli and adjust the training methods to ensure success. This does not mean that some dogs must be trained using harsh methods but finding what motivates the dog can be tricky.

There are many dog trainers worldwide that advocate using choke collars, pinch collars, and shock collars. There is never a need to use these methods to train a dog. I have been training dogs professionally since the 1960’s and specialized in aggressive dogs and have never had to use any of this equipment.

A good dog trainer will motivate the dog to want to obey. But as I have said in my previous article, obedience is not a question of knowing what to do or what not to do, but the ability to exercise self-control to do it. You must give your dog time and practice to develop self-control.  More tips to come. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. If you need the help of a certified canine behavior consultant go to www.iaabc.org.