Mechanical disease-sniffing device vs dogs

A number of researchers from various universities have joined together to try and develop a mechanical device that can rival the scenting ability of dogs to detect diseases in people. No one denies that dogs have a remarkable ability to detect the early stages of disease in humans. But the cost of training the dog and the dog’s length of service makes using them expensive. If scientists can develop a device that can equal a dog’s nose it would reduce a lot of the cost.

What has proven elusive to scientists is that dogs can pick up connections that researchers cannot mimic in a machine. For example, some dogs that have been trained to detect one type of cancer will identify other types of cancer as well. When the researchers tried to determine what the dogs were detecting, they were not able to. The differences were not detectable by current tests. What complicates the problem is that the different cancers that were detected by the dogs do not have any biomolecular signatures in common. The dogs were able to generalize from one kind of cancer to be able to identify others.  

The detection system that has been developed is 200 times more sensitive than a dog’s nose but the machine cannot figure out the elusive patterns that the dog can, that allows the dog to detect various cancers. In other words, the machine cannot think and make the connections. Until the researches solve the mystery, the machine cannot replace the dog.

The important point for people who use dogs for scent detection work is that dogs are capable of analyzing scent in a much more complex way then they have been trained to do. The bottom line is that if your scent dog gives you an indication that does not make sense to you, trust your dog and look further.

Puppies are wired at birth to communicate with people

Some people believe that a dog’s ability to understand what a person means when they point at something is learned in adulthood through interaction with people. However, a group of researchers at the University of Arizona School of Anthropology in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences has illustrated that this is not true.

istock

What they did find out is that while puppies are born with an understanding of human physical and verbal cues, they were not able to initiate help from people for unsolvable problems. This ability comes with experience after interacting with people.

The lead researcher, Emily Bray has spent the last decade studying the puppies bred for service dog work at Canine Companions. Bray feels that if they can understand how dogs think and solve problems, they will be able to better identify those puppies that will make better service dogs.     

The researchers noted that the dogs who become successful service dogs respond to people differently than those who are not successful. Because the researchers are able to study the genetics of the puppies in the test, they hope to identify the genes that cause these traits in puppies. This will enable them to predict the potential for service work even before the puppies are born.

Deafness in Rottweilers

Researchers from the University of Helsinki and the Folkhalsan Research Center have located the variant in the LOXHD1 gene that causes deafness in Rottweilers. This type of deafness starts in puppyhood and progresses until the puppy is a few months old. The gene plays a key role in the function of the cilia of the cochlear sensory cells. Both humans and mice suffer from the same type of deafness.

The researchers also found deafness in mixed breed dogs that were part Rottweiler. The availability to test for the defect will help breeders avoid spreading this inherited deafness. Since this is a recessive issue, it will only occur in puppies if both the dam and sire have the gene.

Eradicating the defect will take the cooperation of all Rottie breeders. Those dogs that are mixed bred should not be used for breeding.

Author’s Note: It can be difficult to determine if a puppy can hear or not. Realize that dogs can feel sound, so it is important to carefully observe your puppy to determine if he is deaf. Especially if the puppy reacts to sound before he becomes totally deaf. To help dog owners determine if their puppy is deaf watch for a few signs. First, note if the puppy/dog only responds when he sees you. Do not assume if your puppy does not obey that he is being stubborn. Try clapping your hands behind the puppy when he cannot see you. If he does not react in any way, he may be deaf. A deaf dog will bark but usually only if he sees something. Watch to see if your dog looks at you or watches you more than usual. Remember that a deaf dog will rely on his other senses to navigate his world. You can successfully train a deaf dog but when they are in an unconfined area, they must be on a leash. A deaf dog is just as tempted to chase things, wander and stray as any other dog. Find a dog trainer that has experience training a deaf dog for help. If you suspect that your puppy is deaf, make an appointment with a veterinarian neurologist to have your dog tested so that you will know for sure if your dog is deaf or not. But most important, understand that a deaf dog can have a very safe and happy life.  

Dog petting therapy for college students

A study at Washington State University focused on college students, especially those students who may be at risk due to mental health issues or learning issues. The researchers developed a four-week program where students interacted with dogs for ten minutes a day. They found that the decreased stress levels lasted for six weeks.

Petting the dogs improved the student’s ability to plan, organize, concentrate, memorize and increased their motivation. The results showed that the students who were most at risk had the most improvements.

free photo from Google Images

Author’s note: I believe that as researchers continue to refine their studies on the benefits that pets in general have on all people, they will be able to recommend the use of therapy animals in more specific ways.

Cancer in Flat-coated Retrievers

Jacquelyn Evans and Elaine Ostrander, researchers at the National Human Genome Research Institute have identified two regions of the canine genome that cause 1/3 of the risk of hematological cancer in Flat-Coated Retrievers.   

While this type of cancer is rare in humans, it does affect one-in-five Flat-coated Retrievers. This research overlaps with two loci that have been associated with other blood cancers in Golden Retrievers.

Image from Pixabay

As is often the case, the results of this study may allow researchers to identify candidate genes that will help develop new diagnostics and therapeutics for humans as well as dogs.     

The relationship between dogs and their owners stress level

The researchers are Linköping University have determined that the stress level in a dog’s owner has an affect on their dogs. However, they took this study a step further than previous studies to see if the link between dogs and their owners was different for different breeds of dogs.

The first group of dogs were from hunting breeds that were bred to be independent. The second group were from ancient breeds such as the Shiba Inu, Basenji and Siberian Husky. They compared their recent study to a previous study of herding breeds.

They found that long-term stress was least likely to influence the ancient breeds. The hunting breeds showed links between the personality of the owner and their relationship to their dogs. The herding breeds had a unique synchronization with long term stress in their owners.

Author’s note: Research of this nature will help us explain and understand behavior and training issues that may arise between dogs and their owners. It is also worth considering when matching the right breed for a family or individual person. Not all people are a good match with each other, not all dogs are right for each person either.

Aggression in dogs

A recent study at the University of Helsinki showed that aggression in dogs toward humans can be attributed to the following:

  1. Fearfulness
  2. Age
  3. Breed
  4. The company of other dogs
  5. Owners previous experience with dogs

They determined that fearfulness had a strong influence on aggressive behavior. They found that older dogs were more likely to be aggressive than younger ones. They attribute this partly to age related pain or discomfort and impairment of their senses such as hearing and sight.

They found that small dogs were more aggressive than medium or large dogs. However, because of their small size people are less likely to feel threatened by a small dog’s aggressive behavior and thus not take measures to cure or prevent it.

The researchers found that males were more aggressive than females and that neutering and spaying had no effect on aggressiveness.

Not surprisingly, the researchers found that first time dog owners with less dog experience were more likely to have aggressive dogs. They also found that dogs who lived with other dogs were less likely to show aggressive behavior. Even though previous research has shown that multiple dog households have less aggression, it is unclear why.

Interestingly, the researchers found that the Long-haired Collie (Lassie type), Poodle (all sizes) and Miniature Schnauzers were the most aggressive breeds leading to the consideration that this is related to genetics. I would like to point out that it seems that the researchers focused on the common pet breeds and did not consider the breeds that are by nature aggressive, but not common pets.

The bottom line is that anyone who is considering getting a dog should thoroughly research the breed and the lines that are available to them in their area. The temperament of a breed can vary from area to area based on the local breeding practices. I offer an informative brochure at no cost about how to select the right dog and the right breeder. Email me at sbulanda@gmail.com for a copy with “brochure” in the subject line.

Jealousy in dogs

Almost every dog owner has experienced jealousy in their dogs. This is manifested by vocalizations, agitated behavior and pulling on a leash. What researchers have discovered is that a dog acts jealous when they imagine that their owners are interacting with a rival. What is important about this study is that when a dog acts jealous, it shows that the dog has self-awareness. The study also showed that dogs act in a similar manner as children who are jealous. Dogs are one of the few animals that have this human-like behavior.  

What further illustrated the intelligence of dogs is that the dogs in the experiment only reacted to a perceived social rival and not an inanimate object. This shows that they are capable of analyzing the situation.

Riley trying to sneak up on the cat

It is exciting to learn more about the mind of a dog. It is too bad that similar experiments cannot be conducted on cats. I personally feel that cats are at least as smart as dogs.

Cage free farm animals in EU

Within two years, 2018 – 2020 1.4 million EU citizens signed a petition to end the caging of farm animals. As a result, the European Parliament initiated a study conducted by Utrecht University researchers to study how to accomplish this goal.

The research included behavioral biologists, animal scientists, veterinarians and ethicists. Their main focus was on laying hens and pigs. However, they will look into other animals such as bovines used for milk and meat. In order to accomplish their goal to eliminate cages, the researchers must find a way to assist farmers in transitioning from traditional animal housing to more humane housing.

My chickens

I personally hope that they can reach this goal and that it will spread to the rest of the world. When I raised chickens, they were always free-ranged and had a hen house to stay in at night.

Dingo, hybrid dingo or wild dog?

In a revealing study conducted by the University of New South Wales, Dr. Kylie Cairns a biologist found that contrary to popular belief, there are few wild dogs and Dingo hybrids in Australia. The study showed that 99% of the 5000+ animals tested, were pure Dingoes or if they were hybrids, were mostly Dingo and not dog. Only 1% were wild dogs or dog dominant hybrids.

Some groups refer to Dingoes as wild dogs and try to kill them. The researchers feel that if Dingoes are called Dingoes, the groups that are in favor of destroying them will change their attitude.  Because Dingoes come in a range of colors, it can be difficult for people to identify a Dingo and mistake it for a wild dog.

Dingo

Research has found that by killing Dingoes, the local ecosystem is harmed. The Dingoes keep the herbivores and smaller predators under control and thus keep the environment balanced. When the Dingoes are removed, the Kangaroo population grows which leads to overgrazing and causes damage to the soil.  

Only the Victoria National Park in Australia protects Dingoes. Elsewhere they are hunted by dropping aerial bait to kill them. Farmers do complain that their livestock is harmed by Dingoes so a means of protecting farm animals is necessary.