“Once-daily feeding is associated with better cognitive function and health in companion dogs: Results from the Dog Aging Project”, (2021-11-11; ; similar):
A variety of diets have been studied for possible anti-aging effects. In particular, studies of isocaloric time-restricted feeding in laboratory rodents have found evidence of beneficial health outcomes. Companion dogs represent an unique opportunity to study diet in a large mammal that shares human environments. The Dog Aging Project has been collecting data on thousands of companion dogs of all different ages, sizes, and breeds since 2019. We leveraged this diverse cross-sectional dataset to investigate associations between feeding frequency and cognitive function (n = 10,474) as well as nine broad categories of health outcomes (n = 24,238). Controlling for sex, age, breed, and other potential confounders, we found that dogs fed once daily rather than more frequently had lower mean scores on a cognitive dysfunction scale, and lower odds of having gastrointestinal, dental, orthopedic, kidney/urinary, and liver/pancreas disorders. Therefore, our findings suggest that once-a-day feeding in dogs is associated with improved health across multiple body systems.
“Stress-Related Behaviors in Companion Dogs Exposed to Common Household Noises, and Owners'' Interpretations of Their Dogs'' Behaviors”, (2021-11-08; ; backlinks; similar):
Sudden, loud noises are one of the most common triggers for fearful behaviors in dogs, and many companion dogs suffer from noise sensitivity. Existing research focuses on dramatic infrequent sounds (eg. thunderstorms, fireworks). Anecdotally, and based on reports of undesirable behaviors in response to noises in the home, many common household noises may also be causing fear and anxiety in companion dogs. However, these responses have not yet been studied in home environments.
We surveyed 386 dog owners about their dogs’ responses to household sounds, and recorded dog behaviors and human reactions from 62 videos and compilations available on an online video sharing platform, featuring dogs reacting to common household noises.
Numerous signs of canine fear and anxiety were reported by survey respondents and observed in the videos, in response to both daily, and irregular but “normal”, household noises. Responses were statistically-significantly stronger to sounds characterized as high frequency intermittent than to sounds characterized as low frequency continuous. Respondents appeared to underestimate their dogs’ fearfulness, and the majority of humans in the videos responded to their dogs’ behaviors with amusement; welfare concerns were rarely expressed.
While these videos cannot be used to calculate actual prevalence of these issues, our data support that some owners are underestimating fearfulness in their dogs in response to household noises, and responding inappropriately to dogs’ expressions of fear and anxiety. Better education is required for dog owners to accurately interpret canine body language, to both safeguard dogs’ welfare and minimize development of anxiety-related behavior problems.
“Two tiny terriers chase very large bear out of California home”, (2021-04-15; backlinks; similar):
The black bear thought he’d struck gold: an open door, an empty kitchen and a fridge stocked with food.
…The 2 tiny terriers rose to the moment as if their lives, and kibble, depended on it. First Mei Mei and then Squirt slid their little furry souls across the kitchen tiles, launching themselves up the garden steps, bombarding the beast with barks until he fled. The young brown bear was so shaken by the might of the doggy duo he peed on the steps as he made his leave.
The incident, on April 10, was captured on Mueller’s security cameras.
“The Family Dog Is in Sync With Your Kids: Dogs orient and move in synchrony with family members, which may have implications for the emotional development of people and pets”, (2021-03-17; ; backlinks; similar):
Family dogs match their movements to those of the children they live with, according to a poignant new study of young people and their pets. In the study, pet dogs moved when their accompanying children did and remained still when they stopped, a physical synchrony that often signals emotional bonding. The family canines also tended to stay close by and to orient themselves in the same directions as the kids, a further indication of social engagement and attentiveness that could have implications for the emotional development of both dogs and youngsters, as well as for the safety of the interactions between them…This study was very small and short-term, though. Dr. Udell hopes to enroll more dogs and children and follow them during service-animal training, watching to see if, for instance, children start to orient themselves to the actions of their dogs, as well as vice versa, and if there are differences in synchrony according to a child’s age or dog’s breed.
She and her colleagues also are interested in studying the bonding and interwoven movements of people and other types of pets, particularly cats. “We’ve done a little work with cats and, so far, they blow everything out of the water in terms of being socially responsive to their owners’ behavior”, she says. No experiments currently are planned, however, to test the synchrony of cats and dogs.
2021-wanser.pdf: “Dog-human behavioral synchronization: family dogs synchronize their behavior with child family members”, (2021-01-21; backlinks; similar):
Research on dog social cognition has received widespread attention. However, the vast majority of this research has focused on dogs’ relationships and responsiveness towards adult humans. While little research has considered dog-child interactions from a cognitive perspective, how dogs perceive and socially engage with children is critical to fully understand their interspecific social cognition. In several recent studies, dogs have been shown to exhibit behavioral synchrony, often associated with increased affiliation and social responsiveness, with their adult owners.
In the current study, we asked if family dogs would also exhibit behavioral synchrony with child family members. Our findings demonstrated that dogs engaged in all three measured components of behavioral synchrony with their child partner-activity synchrony (p < 0.0001), proximity (p < 0.0001), and orientation (p = 0.0026)—at levels greater than would be expected by chance. The finding that family dogs synchronize their behavior with that of child family members may shed light on how dogs perceive familiar children. Aspects of pet dog responsiveness to human actions previously reported in studies with adult humans appear to generalize to cohabitant children in at least some cases. However, some differences between our study outcomes and those reported in the dog-adult human literature were also observed.
Given the prevalence of families with both children and dogs, and the growing popularity of child-focused animal-assisted interventions, knowledge about how dogs respond to the behavior of human children may also help inform and improve safe and successful dog-child interactions.
[Keywords: human, animal interaction, behavioral synchronization, synchrony, dog, family, children]
2021-wynne.pdf: “Dogs' (Canis lupus familiaris) behavioral adaptations to a human-dominated niche: A review and novel hypothesis”, (2021; ; similar):
This chapter contextualizes the dog-human relationship in the dog’s origin as a scavenger on the fringes of human settlements over 15,000 years ago. It then reviews the evidence for unique evolved cognitive structures in dogs that could explain their success in a human-dominated world.
Failing to find evidence of unique human-like social-cognitive capacities I then review uncontroversial facts of dogs’ basic behavioral biology, including reproductive and foraging behavior and, particularly, affiliative and attachment-related behaviors. This leads to consideration of dogs’ social behavior, both conspecific and toward other species, especially humans.
I draw attention to a seldom-noted apparent contradiction between dogs’ stronger affectional bonds toward humans than toward members of their own species. Dogs’ social groups also show steeper social hierarchies accompanied by more behaviors indicating formal dominance than do other canid species including wolves.
I resolve this contradiction by proposing that dogs’ intense sensitivity to social hierarchy contributes to their willingness to accept human leadership. People commonly control resources that dogs need and also unknowingly express behaviors which dogs perceive as formal signs of dominance. This may be what Darwin was referring to when he endorsed the idea that a dog looks on his master as on a god.
Whatever the merits of this idea, if it serves to redirect behavioral research on dogs in human society more toward the social interactions of these species in their diverse forms of symbiosis it will have served an useful function.
[Keywords: domestication, symbiosis, imprinting, dominance, social hierarchy, dogs (Canis lupus familiaris), wolves (Canis lupus lupus)]
The origins of dogs
Adaptation to a human-dominated niche
- Cognitive hypotheses
- Social ecology and behavioral development of dogs
- Social relationships
Theories of dog social uniqueness
- Theories of increased “friendliness” and decreased aggression
- “Relaxed selection” theory
- Canine cooperation hypothesis
- Social ecology hypothesis
- A novel hypothesis: Super-dominance
- Publication trends
- Imprinting and formation of social bonds
- What makes people want to care for dogs?
- What do people and dogs do together?
- Can we identify social hierarchy in dog-human groups?
- What are the intra-species social connections of dogs like?
- Social genetics
“Millions of animals may be missing from scientific studies”, (2020-10-14; ; similar):
Most animals used in biomedical experiments are not accounted for in published papers, a first-of-its-kind study suggests. The analysis found that only one-quarter of more than 5500 lab animals used over a 2-year period at one university in the Netherlands ended up being mentioned in a scientific paper afterward. The researchers believe the pattern could be similar at institutions around the world, resulting in potentially millions of animals disappearing from scientific studies.
“I think it’s just outrageous that we have such a low rate of results published for the number of animals used”, says Michael Schlüssel, a medical statistician at the University of Oxford who was not involved in the study. “If we only look for groundbreaking research, the evidence base won’t be solid”, he adds. And that could impact studies that may confirm or refute the benefits of certain drugs or medical interventions.
…For the new study, researchers asked scientists at three University Medical Center Utrecht (UMCU) departments for permission to review the study protocols they had filed with an animal ethics committee in 2008 and 2009. (They picked those years in part to be completely sure that the scientists had plenty of time to conduct and report the studies.) Then the team—led by Mira van der Naald, a doctoral student at UMCU—searched the medical literature for papers resulting from the work.
Of the approved studies, 46% were published as a full-text paper; if conference abstracts—short summaries of a talk or poster presented at a scientific meeting—were counted as well, 60% ended up being published. Yet out of the 5590 animals used in the studies, only 1471 were acknowledged in published papers and abstracts, the team reports in BMJ Open Science. Small animals, including mice, rats, and rabbits—which made up 90% of the total—were most often missing in action: Only 23% of them showed up in publications, versus 52% of sheep, dogs, and pigs.
The researchers also surveyed the scientists involved to find out why so many animals were missing. The most common reasons they gave were that the studies didn’t achieve statistical-significance, a controversial but commonly used threshold for publication; that the data were part of a pilot project; and that there were technical issues with the animal models. But none of these is a valid excuse to not publish your findings in the scientific record, says study co-author Kimberley Wever, a metascientist at Radboud University Medical Center. “All animal studies should be published, and all studies are valuable for the research community.” Not publishing all research means other scientists may waste time, effort, and money redoing studies that have previously failed, Wever says. She adds that the trend likely holds up at institutions around the world and hopes other researchers will conduct similar studies.
“Dog Savior: Immediate Scent-Detection of SARS-COV-2 by Trained Dogs”, (2020-06-19; ; similar):
Molecular tests for viral diagnostics are essential to confront the COVID-19 pandemic, but their production and distribution cannot satisfy the current high demand. Early identification of infected people and their contacts is the key to being able to isolate them and prevent the dissemination of the pathogen; unfortunately, most countries are unable to do this due to the lack of diagnostic tools. Dogs can identify, with a high rate of precision, unique odors of volatile organic compounds generated during an infection; as a result, dogs can diagnose infectious agents by smelling specimens and, sometimes, the body of an infected individual. We trained six dogs of three different breeds to detect SARS-CoV-2 in respiratory secretions of infected patients and evaluated their performance experimentally, comparing it against the gold standard (rRT-PCR). Here we show that viral detection takes one second per specimen. After scent-interrogating 9,200 samples, our six dogs achieved independently and as a group very high sensitivity, specificity, predictive values, accuracy, and likelihood ratio, with very narrow confidence intervals. The highest metric was the negative predictive value, indicating that with a disease prevalence of 7.6%, 99.9% of the specimens indicated as negative by the dogs did not carry the virus. These findings demonstrate that dogs could be useful to track viral infection in humans, allowing COVID-19 free people to return to work safely.
“Animal Ethics and Evolutionary Psychology—10 ideas”, (2020-06-15; ; similar):
“Animal Ethics and Evolutionary Psychology” (read the whole chapter here) attempts to untangle some of the evolutionary reasons why we have such inconsistent attitudes towards animals. Below I quote parts of the chapter—for full references, check out the original.
- Wolf moms think dog puppies are cuter than wolf pups
- Women are more willing than men to let a foreign stranger die for their dog
- Animal abuse is common, and there isn’t good evidence that it predicts psychopathy and criminality
- Maybe you should “Eat the Whales”
- Slaughterhouse workers think the guy who kills the cow, the knocker, has serious psychological problems
- Many different polls find that a lot of regular people have pretty extreme views on animal rights
- People hate vegetarians more than almost any other group, but they’re more likely to hire them or rent to them than any other group
- Across cultures, women nursing animals at the breast is pretty common
- Consumers who say they care about animal welfare rarely buy products in accordance with those beliefs
- Evolutionary explanations don’t excuse or normalize violence in the animal domain or any other.
“Against Dog Ownership”, (2020-03-21; ; backlinks; similar):
[“A warning against assuming the immense emotional and moral responsibilities that come with caring for a dog. Can an owned animal have a good life?” Imagine that you, a human, were kidnapped by aliens at birth and given an approximation of a dog’s life, and a good dog’s life at that. Ignore the subservience, dependence on a superior life form, and all the other psychological aspects of being owned and just focus on how you would feel about your material conditions. Would you want this life?” (7,700 words)” —The Browser summary
Meditation on pet ownership. What is the morality of keeping a mentally and physically crippled animal, particularly in an urban apartment where it cannot exercise its natural urges or get adequate exercise/stimulation? The ‘cute’ behavior of a dog, so appealing to so many, is, regarded more cynically, indicative of severe pathology and dependency, a Stockholm syndrome; aside from the effects on the slave, what are the effects on the master? At least a cat’s trust and affection has to be earned; what should we think of humans who love the pathetically unconditional love of a dog?]
“Cats, Once YouTube Stars, Are Now an ‘Emerging Audience’: They're addicted to channels like Little Kitty & Family, Handsome Nature, and Videos for Your Cat—provided their owners switch on the iPad first”, (2020-01-22; ; backlinks; similar):
Whenever Courtney Cirone grabs her iPad, her cat Cooper runs over as though a bag of treats had just been shaken. He wants to watch YouTube, specifically videos of squirrels and tiny birds scurrying about. “His eyes get super big, and he moves his head back and forth following the animals”, Cirone says. “He ducks his head down low like he’s hiding. One time he looked at me, meowing, like, ‘HELP ME CATCH THIS BASTARD.’” Cooper paws relentlessly at the screen, sometimes lunging at it head-first in an attempt to catch his digital prey. He loves these videos (along with clips of Dr. Phil). He’s so obsessed that Cirone limits his viewing to three times per week, because he sits very close and she’s cautious about protecting his eyes. When she turns her iPad off, he even sulks. If this sounds strange, it is and it’s not: Cats, famously the subjects of online videos, now sit on the other side, watching…Now she puts cat-targeted YouTube videos on for Jasper a few times weekly. He loves them so much that he’ll sit in front of the TV or in between Gall and her laptop to signal that he wants to watch.
Beyond all the content for humans, there’s a growing world on YouTube specifically for our feline friends. Loved by certain cat owners and occasionally championed by veterinarians and animal scientists, these videos tap into cats’ instincts to stalk, chase, and hunt. Cat-targeted footage of small animals is particularly popular on the platform, posted by channels like Little Kitty & Family, Handsome Nature, and Videos for Your Cat. One of the most prolific creators, Paul Dinning, has posted hundreds of videos for cats, including an eight-hour “Bird Bonanza” that’s amassed almost 7 million views. According to YouTube’s Trends and Insights team, Dinning created eight of the 10 most-viewed videos for cats in 2019…In 2019, videos containing the phrase “videos for cats” were viewed over 55 million on the platform, up 41% from 2018. “We now have this world where cats are an emerging audience”, Pettie says, “and movies for cats are an emerging trend.”…According to YouTube, videos targeted at dogs garnered only 6 million views last year.
…Cat Games creator Max Gomboev, a motion designer from Russia, first started making these videos as a tribute to his late cat. After seeing how much other cat owners liked them and the experience they provided over cat-targeted mobile apps, like Cat Fishing 2, which offer much less variety, he started making videos more regularly. “It’s easier than installing an app, and you can show my videos on a TV”, Gomboev says. “Usually, I create a new video every 10 days. Cats like to watch something new.”.
“How Airbnb Is Silently Changing Himalayan Villages”, (2019-10-21; similar):
[Letter from the eastern Himalayas about the social and economic impact of Airbnb.]
It’s expensive to farm in Himalayan villages like mine. The farms are small and cannot leverage economies of scale. Hill people see the process of selling land as a humiliating ordeal they would never consider. Everybody chips in to cultivate the land. Women spend many hours a day cutting grass for their cows. This is not yet a division of labour society. It is this world that Airbnb has penetrated, turning it upside down.
Millions of people stay in Airbnb homes every night. It’s not trust which makes this possible. My pup is fearless when he sleeps with the door wide open, in a cottage in the woods. There are leopards around. Dogs here don’t live very long. He doesn’t trust leopards, but he knows they are afraid of humans. My pup sleeps on my bed, and so is well-protected from the vicissitudes of life. But I’m not the living proof that dogs can trust leopards. Dogs wouldn’t need humans to guard them if they could trust leopards. Similarly, Airbnb puts hosts and guests in a position where behaving badly would ruin their reputations. In one of my bad moods, I held my pup quite firmly. At midnight, he ran out of the cottage and barked for hours. I couldn’t bring him back to my bed. I did something he thought I wouldn’t consider. He felt I betrayed his trust in me. I’m, here, talking about a more meaningful form of trust. Intellectuals miss this obvious distinction, because they’re not the wonderful people they think they are. The distinction between trust and assurance is all too obvious. But if doing wrong doesn’t fill you with moral horror, you won’t get it. You can’t trust anybody who doesn’t feel that way, and there are not many such people. Unconditional trustworthiness is one of the rarest things in the world. Institutions can’t produce this kind of trust, because people aren’t conditionable beyond a point. In any case, how do you produce something you don’t even understand?
“Did Breast-Feeding Play A Role In the Evolution of Pets? Like the dolphin who adopted a baby whale, humans have often breast-fed pets”, (2019-08-06; ; similar):
…One of my Facebook friends did not agree. She responded that the big difference between human pet-keeping and this unusual dolphin/whale relationship was that human females never breast-feed members of other species. But she was wrong. The surprising fact is that in many parts of the world, there is a long history of women nursing animals. To modern sensibilities, the idea of a woman suckling an animal is, to say the least, weird, and even perverted.
And yet, both of the two most important books on the evolution of pets, James Serpell’s In the Company of Animals and Psychology Today blogger John Bradshaw’s The Animals Among Us, discuss the role of wet-nursing animals by women in the origins of pet-keeping. Indeed, Bradshaw writes, “Far from an aberration confined to one tribe, breast-feeding of pets used to occur all over the world…” The most extensive academic treatise on the geography and functions of women breastfeeding animals is a fascinating but little known 1982 article by Fredrick Simoons and James Baldwin titled “Breast-Feeding of Animals: Its Socio-Cultural Context and Geographic Occurrence.” The authors were particularly interested in regional differences in the suckling of animals…Why Do Women Breast-feed Animals? Simoons and Baldwin reported that wet-nursing of young animals occurred in different societies for four reasons:
- Affectionate Breast-feeding: In affectionate breast-feeding, women elected to nurse baby animals out of “compassion, warmth, love.” These creatures were essentially pets treated like human babies. This form of nursing was most common among the hunter-gatherers of the Amazon and the Malay Peninsula.
- Economic Breast-feeding: In economic breast-feeding, young animals were nursed primarily for utilitarian purposes, for example, the rearing of a hunting dog. On Polynesian islands where dogs were on the menu, puppies were breastfed in order to improve the flavor of their flesh when they were consumed as adults.
- Ceremonial Breast-feeding: This rare form of animal nursing was practiced by the Ainu in Japan who raised bear cubs for sacrificial slaughter.
- Human Welfare Breast-feeding: In these cases, animals were nursed for the benefit of the humans. The most common examples were in cultures in which lactating women breast-fed animals to relieve breast pain. And as Carys Williams and her colleagues pointed out, breast-feeding puppies in Polynesia may even have been used as a form of contraception by extending lactation.
…Animal Breastfeeding and the Origins of Pet-keeping: Simoons and Baldwin argue that breast-feeding was an important step on the path to pet-keeping and the domestication of animals. John Bradshaw is not so sure. He writes, “Just because women in other cultures interacted with animals in ways that seen unfathomably intense to us does not mean they automatically considered them”pet” in the sense that we do.” His point is well-taken. However, I still don’t see much difference between the adoption of a baby melon-headed whale by a nurturing mother dolphin, and the modern penchant for adopting puppies and kittens, showering them with love, and calling them “our babies.”
2019-horschler.pdf: “Absolute brain size predicts dog breed differences in executive function”, (2019-01-03; ; backlinks; similar):
Large-scale phylogenetic studies of animal cognition have revealed robust links between absolute brain volume and species differences in executive function. However, past comparative samples have been composed largely of primates, which are characterized by evolutionarily derived neural scaling rules. Therefore, it is currently unknown whether positive associations between brain volume and executive function reflect a broad-scale evolutionary phenomenon, or alternatively, an unique consequence of primate brain evolution.
Domestic dogs provide a powerful opportunity for investigating this question due to their close genetic relatedness, but vast intraspecific variation. Using citizen science data on more than 7000 purebred dogs from 74 breeds, and controlling for genetic relatedness between breeds, we identify strong relationships between estimated absolute brain weight and breed differences in cognition. Specifically, larger-brained breeds performed statistically-significantly better on measures of short-term memory and self-control. However, the relationships between estimated brain weight and other cognitive measures varied widely, supporting domain-specific accounts of cognitive evolution.
Our results suggest that evolutionary increases in brain size are positively associated with taxonomic differences in executive function, even in the absence of primate-like neuroanatomy. These findings also suggest that variation between dog breeds may present a powerful model for investigating correlated changes in neuroanatomy and cognition among closely related taxa.
“This Chemical Is So Hot It Destroys Nerve Endings—in a Good Way: Resiniferatoxin is 10,000× hotter than the hottest pepper, and has features that make it promising as a painkiller of last resort”, (2018-11-14; backlinks; similar):
In Morocco there grows a cactus-like plant that’s so hot, I have to insist that the next few sentences aren’t hyperbole. On the Scoville Scale of hotness, its active ingredient, resiniferatoxin, clocks in at 16 billion units. That’s 10,000× hotter than the Carolina reaper, the world’s hottest pepper, and 45,000× hotter than the hottest of habaneros, and 4.5 million times hotter than a piddling little jalapeno. Euphorbia resinifera, aka the resin spurge, is not to be eaten. Just to be safe, you probably shouldn’t even look at it.
But while that toxicity will lay up any mammal dumb enough to chew on the resin spurge, resiniferatoxin has also emerged as a promising painkiller. Inject RTX, as it’s known, into an aching joint, and it’ll actually destroy the nerve endings that signal pain. Which means medicine could soon get a new tool to help free us from the grasp of opioids.
…RTX is a capsaicin analog, only it’s between 500 and 1,000× more potent. When RTX binds to TRPV1, it props open the nerve cell’s ion channel, letting a whole lot of calcium in. That’s toxic, leading to the inactivation of the pain-sensing nerve endings.
This leaves other varieties of sensory neurons unaffected, because RTX is highly specific to TRPV1. “So you gain selectivity because it only acts on TRPV1, which is only on a certain class of fibers, which only transmit pain”, says Yaksh. “Therefore you can selectively knock out pain without knocking out, say, light touch or your ability to walk.” So if you wanted to treat knee pain, you could directly inject RTX into the knee tissue. You’d anesthetize the patient first, of course, since the resulting pain would be intense. But after a few hours, that pain wears off, and you end up with a knee that’s desensitized to pain.
Researchers have already done this with dogs. “It is profoundly effective there, and lasts much, much longer than I might have expected, maybe a median of 5 months before the owners of the dogs asked for reinjection”, says Michael Iadarola, who’s studying RTX at the National Institutes of Health. “The animals went from basically limping to running around.” One dog even went 18 months before its owners noticed the pain had returned…That and you have to take opioids constantly, but not so with RTX. “You give it once and it should last for an extended period of time because it is destroying the fibers”, says Mannes. “But the other thing with this to remember is there’s no reinforcement. There’s no high associated with it, there’s no addiction potential whatsoever.”
Clone: “Dog Cloning For Special Forces: Breed All You Can Breed”, (2018-09-18; ; backlinks; similar):
Decision analysis of whether cloning the most elite Special Forces dogs is a profitable improvement over standard selection procedures. Unless training is extremely cheap or heritability is extremely low, dog cloning is hypothetically profitable.
Cloning is widely used in animal & plant breeding despite steep costs due to its advantages; more unusual recent applications include creating entire polo horse teams and reported trials of cloning in elite police/Special Forces war dogs. Given the cost of dog cloning, however, can this ever make more sense than standard screening methods for selecting from working dog breeds, or would the increase in successful dog training be too low under all reasonable models to turn a profit?
I model the question as one of expected cost per dog with the trait of successfully passing training, success in training being a dichotomous liability threshold with a polygenic genetic architecture; given the extreme level of selection possible in selecting the best among already-elite Special Forces dogs and a range of heritabilities, this predicts clones’ success probabilities. To approximate the relevant parameters, I look at some reported training costs and success rates for regular dog candidates, broad dog heritabilities, and the few current dog cloning case studies reported in the media.
Since none of the relevant parameters are known with confidence, I run the cost-benefit equation for many hypothetical scenarios, and find that in a large fraction of them covering most plausible values, dog cloning would improve training yields enough to be profitable (in addition to its other advantages).
As further illustration of the use-case of screening for an extreme outcome based on a partial predictor, I consider the question of whether height PGSes could be used to screen the US population for people of NBA height, which turns out to be reasonably doable with current & future PGSes.
“Anti-aging food that improves markers of health in senior dogs by modulating gut microbiota and metabolite profiles”, (2018-05-16; ; similar):
Dysbiosis is one of the major changes in aging that leads to an accumulation of toxic microbial metabolites. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of a test food containing components of citrus, carrot, spinach and tomato on gut microbiota and age-related metabolites in senior dogs.
The study was conducted on 36 dogs between 8 and 13 years of age. All dogs were maintained on a control food (control 1), which used corn as major source of fiber. After 30 days, the dogs were divided into two groups of 18 dogs. One of the groups received the test food for 30 days while the other group received the control 2 food, containing multiple whole grains as the test food but without the above added sources of fiber present in the test food. After a washout period on the control 1 food for 30 days, a cross-over was performed so that the test or the control 2 food was fed for 30 days to those dogs which had not yet been fed that food.
Samples from feces and blood were collected after each 30 days period to analyze changes in gut microbial composition and metabolites. The consumption of the test food led to increased proportions of Adlercreutzia, Oscillospira, Phascolarcobacteria, Faecalibacterium and Ruminococcus, Christensenellaceae, Ruminococcaceae, Cyanobacteria and Acidobacteria and decreased proportions of Megamonas, Salmonella, Enterobacteriaceae and Fusobacterium. Pets had higher levels of glycerol and fatty acids and lower levels of pyrraline and mucin amino acids in feces. The test food also reduced circulating levels of pyrraline, symmetric dimethylarginine and phenolic uremic toxins, including the microbial brain toxin, 4-ethylphenyl sulfate. Christensenellaceae abundance was strongly associated with the observed health benefits.
Fermentable fibers from fruits and vegetables enhance health in senior dogs by modulating the gut bacteria and metabolites involved in aging, kidney, brain and gut health.
“Marijuana intoxication in a cat”, (2018; ; similar):
Background: Cannabis from hemp (Cannabis sativa and C. indica) is one of the most common illegal drugs used by drug abusers. Indian cannabis contains around 70 alkaloids, and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (delta-9-THC) is the most psychoactive substance. Animal intoxications occur rarely and are mostly accidental. According to the US Animal Poison Control Center, cannabis intoxication mostly affects dogs (96%). The most common cause of such intoxication is unintentional ingestion of a cannabis product, but it may also occur after the exposure to marijuana smoke.
Case Presentation: A 6-year-old Persian cat was brought to the veterinary clinic due to strong psychomotor agitation turning into aggression. During hospitalisation for 14 days, the cat behaved normally and had no further attacks of unwanted behaviour. It was returned to its home but shortly after it developed neurological signs again and was re-hospitalized. On presentation, the patient showed no neurological abnormalities except for symmetric mydriasis and scleral congestion. During the examination, the behaviour of the cat changed dramatically. It developed alternate states of agitation and apathy, each lasting several minutes. On interview it turned out that the cat had been exposed to marijuana smoke. Blood toxicology tests by gas chromatography tandem mass spectrometry revealed the presence of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) at 5.5 ng/mL, 11-hydroxy-delta-9-THC at 1.2 ng/mL, and 11-carboxy-delta-9-THC at 13.8 ng/mL. The cat was given an isotonic solution of NaCl 2.5 and 2.5% glucose at a dose of 40 mL/kg/day parenterally and was hospitalized. After complete recovery, the cat was returned to it’s owner and future isolation of the animal from marijuana smoke was advised.
Conclusions: This is the first case of a delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol intoxication in a cat with both description of the clinical findings and the blood concentration of delta-9-THC and its main metabolites.
“Poor human olfaction is a 19th-century myth”, (2017-05-12; ; similar):
It is commonly believed that humans have a poor sense of smell compared to other mammalian species. However, this idea derives not from empirical studies of human olfaction but from a famous 19th-century anatomist’s hypothesis that the evolution of human free will required a reduction in the proportional size of the brain’s olfactory bulb.
The human olfactory bulb is actually quite large in absolute terms and contains a similar number of neurons to that of other mammals. Moreover, humans have excellent olfactory abilities. We can detect and discriminate an extraordinary range of odors, we are more sensitive than rodents and dogs for some odors, we are capable of tracking odor trails, and our behavioral and affective states are influenced by our sense of smell.
“Functional MRI in awake dogs predicts suitability for assistance work”, (2016-10-12; ; similar):
The overall goal of this work was to measure the efficacy of fMRI for predicting whether a dog would be a successful service dog. The training and imaging were performed in 50 dogs entering advanced training at 17–21 months of age. FMRI responses were measured while each dog observed hand signals indicating either reward or no reward and given by both a familiar handler and a stranger. 49 dogs successfully completed fMRI training and scanning. Of these, 33 eventually completed service training and were matched with a person, while 10 were released for behavioral reasons. Using anatomically defined regions-of-interest in the ventral caudate, amygdala, and visual cortex, we developed a classifier based on the dogs9 outcomes. We found that responses in the stranger condition were sufficient to develop an accurate brain-based classifier. On all data, the classifier had a positive predictive value of 96% with 10% false positives. The area under the receiver operating characteristic curve was 0.90 (0.79 with 4× cross-validation, p = 0.02), indicating a significant diagnostic capability. Within the stranger condition, the differential response to [reward—no reward] in ventral caudate was positively correlated with a successful outcome, while the differential response in the amygdala was negatively correlated to outcome. These results show that successful service dogs transfer knowledge to strangers as indexed by ventral caudate activity without excessive arousal as measured in the amygdala.
“Scent of the familiar: An fMRI study of canine brain responses to familiar and unfamiliar human and dog odors”, (2015-01; ; similar):
fMRI in 12 awake, unrestrained dogs.
- Presented 5 scents: (1) familiar human; (2) strange human; (3) familiar dog; (4) strange dog; (5) self.
- On average, all scents activated olfactory bulb.
- Only “familiar human” activated caudate nucleus.
- Suggests reward-response is reserved for familiar humans over conspecifics.
Understanding dogs’ perceptual experience of both conspecifics and humans is important to understand how dogs evolved and the nature of their relationships with humans and other dogs. Olfaction is believed to be dogs’ most powerful and perhaps important sense and an obvious place to begin for the study of social cognition of conspecifics and humans.
We used fMRI in a cohort of dogs (n = 12) that had been trained to remain motionless while unsedated and unrestrained in the MRI. By presenting scents from humans and conspecifics, we aimed to identify the dimensions of dogs’ responses to salient biological odors—whether they are based on species (dog or human), familiarity, or a specific combination of factors. We focused our analysis on the dog’s caudate nucleus because of its well-known association with positive expectations and because of its clearly defined anatomical location. We hypothesized that if dogs’ primary association to reward, whether it is based on food or social bonds, is to humans, then the human scents would activate the caudate more than the conspecific scents. Conversely, if the smell of conspecifics activated the caudate more than the smell of humans, dogs’ association to reward would be stronger to their fellow canines. 5 scents were presented (self, familiar human, strange human, familiar dog, strange dog).
While the olfactory bulb/peduncle was activated to a similar degree by all the scents, the caudate was activated maximally to the familiar human. Importantly, the scent of the familiar human was not the handler, meaning that the caudate response differentiated the scent in the absence of the person being present. The caudate activation suggested that not only did the dogs discriminate that scent from the others, they had a positive association with it.
This speaks to the power of the dog’s sense of smell, and it provides important clues about the importance of humans in dogs’ lives.
[Keywords: fMRI, canine, olfaction, social cognition, reward]
“Dog Behavior Co-Varies with Height, Bodyweight and Skull Shape”, (2013-10-14; backlinks; similar):
Dogs offer unique opportunities to study correlations between morphology and behavior because skull shapes and body shape are so diverse among breeds. Several studies have shown relationships between canine cephalic index (CI: the ratio of skull width to skull length) and neural architecture. Data on the CI of adult, show-quality dogs (six males and six females) were sourced in Australia along with existing data on the breeds’ height, bodyweight and related to data on 36 behavioral traits of companion dogs (n = 8,301) of various common breeds (n = 49) collected internationally using the Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire (C-BARQ). Stepwise backward elimination regressions revealed that, across the breeds, 33 behavioral traits all but one of which are undesirable in companion animals correlated with either height alone (n = 14), bodyweight alone (n = 5), CI alone (n = 3), bodyweight-and-skull shape combined (n = 2), height-and-skull shape combined (n = 3) or height-and-bodyweight combined (n = 6). For example, breed average height showed strongly statistically-significant inverse relationships (p < 0.001) with mounting persons or objects, touch sensitivity, urination when left alone, dog-directed fear, separation-related problems, non-social fear, defecation when left alone, owner-directed aggression, begging for food, urine marking and attachment/attention-seeking, while bodyweight showed strongly statistically-significant inverse relationships (p < 0.001) with excitability and being reported as hyperactive. Apart from trainability, all regression coefficients with height were negative indicating that, across the breeds, behavior becomes more problematic as height decreases. Allogrooming increased strongly (p < 0.001) with CI and inversely with height. CI alone showed a strong statistically-significant positive relationship with self-grooming (p < 0.001) but a negative relationship with chasing (p = 0.020). The current study demonstrates how aspects of CI (and therefore brain shape), bodyweight and height co-vary with behavior. The biological basis for, and statistical-significance of, these associations remain to be determined.
“Wet mammals shake at tuned frequencies to dry”, (2012-08-17; ; similar):
In cold wet weather, mammals face hypothermia if they cannot dry themselves. By rapidly oscillating their bodies, through a process similar to shivering, furry mammals can dry themselves within seconds.
We use high-speed videography and fur particle tracking to characterize the shakes of 33 animals (16 animals species and 5 dog breeds [mouse weanling, adult mouse, rat, squirrel, guinea pig, chihuahua dog, cat, otter, poodle dog, small Husky dog, chow dog, kangaroo, large Husky dog, Labrador, goat, pig, sheep, black bear, lion, tiger, panda, brown bear]), ranging over 4 orders of magnitude in mass from mice to bears.
We here report the power law relationship between shaking frequency f and body mass M to be f ~ M−0.22, which is close to our prediction of f ~ M−0.19 [−3⁄16] based upon the balance of centrifugal and capillary forces. We also observe a novel role for loose mammalian dermal tissue: by whipping around the body, it increases the speed of drops leaving the animal and the ensuing dryness relative to tight dermal tissue….Among these animals, we observe a clear dependency of shaking frequency on body size: mice must shake at 30 Hz, dogs at 4.5–8 Hz and bears at 4 Hz.
…Shaking water from an animal surface reduces the combined energetic costs of carrying this water and evaporating it. Small animals may trap substantial volumes of water in their fur for their size[12–14]: emerging from a bath, a human carries 1 pound of water, a rat 5% its mass and an ant 3× its mass. Wet fur is a poor insulator because water’s conductivity of 0.6 Wm−1 K−1 is 25× greater than that of air and 12× greater than that of dry fur,15 causing a wet animal to lose heat very quickly. Evaporation of the entrapped water from an animal’s fur may sap a substantial portion of the animal’s energy reserves. The specific energy required 16 is e = 0.6 λ, where the heat of vaporization of water λ = 2257 kJ kg−1. Consequently, a wet 60-pound dog, with one pound of water in its fur, would use 20% of its daily caloric intake simply to air-dry. It is thus a matter of survival that terrestrial animals remain dry in cold weather.17
2011-volk.pdf: “Executive summary of phase 2 of the Bayer veterinary care usage study”, (2011-11-15; ; backlinks; similar):
Research conducted by Bayer Animal Health in cooperation with Brakke Consulting Incorporated and the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues and published earlier this year1 identified 6 key factors that have contributed to a 10-year-long decline in patient visits to veterinary practices. The 6 factors were fragmentation of veterinary services, with more points of care and a wider variety of veterinary services available to pet owners; increased use of the Web by pet owners to obtain information regarding pet health issues, rather than calling or visiting a veterinarian; the negative impact of the economic recession of 2007 to 2009 on spending for veterinary services, which exacerbated an existing issue; inadequate understanding of the need for routine examinations on the part of pet owners; the cost of veterinary care; and feline resistance (ie. many cat owners have deferred taking their cat to the veterinarian because the cat aggressively resisted being put in a carrier for transport to the veterinary clinic and showed signs of stress during veterinary visits). The findings were based on interviews with pet owners and veterinarians and a national online survey of 2,188 US dog and cat owners.
The second phase of the Bayer veterinary care usage study was a national study of companion animal practice owners. The objectives were to measure visit trends and their impact at the practice level, confirm the findings of the first phase, measure current use or interest in use by veterinarians of certain service concepts identified in the first phase of the study that could potentially motivate pet owners to visit their veterinarian more often, identify factors common to practices that had had an increase in the number of pet visits, and identify opportunities for building patient traffic.
…Feline resistance—According to the AVMA,2 there are ~13% more cats than dogs in the United States. Yet respondents indicated that dogs represented 59% of their patients and cats 39%. 70% of respondents agreed that cat owners seemed more reluctant than dog owners to schedule visits to the practice. Although most (84%) respondents said that they provided training to all staff members on cats and their care, only 33% said they provided instructions to cat owners on how to make travel to the clinic less stressful. In the first phase of the study, 58% of cat owners said their pet “hated” going to the veterinarian, and during interviews, cat owners said that getting the cat into the carrier and taking it to the clinic were the greatest obstacles to visiting the veterinarian.1
2010-sinn.pdf: “Personality and performance in military working dogs: Reliability and predictive validity of behavioral tests”, (2010-10-01; ; backlinks; similar):
Quantification and description of individual differences in behavior, or personality differences, is now well-established in the working dog literature. What is less well-known is the predictive relationship between particular dog behavioral traits (if any) and important working outcomes.
Here we evaluate the validity of a dog behavioral test instrument given to military working dogs (MWDs) from the 341st Training Squadron, USA Department of Defense (DoD); the test instrument has been used historically to select dogs to be trained for deployment.
A 15-item instrument was applied on three separate occasions prior to training in patrol and detection tasks, after which dogs were given patrol-only, detection-only, or dual-certification status. On average, inter-rater reliability for all 15 items was high (mean = 0.77), but within this overall pattern, some behavioral items showed lower inter-rater reliability at some time points (<0.40). Test-retest reliability for most (but not all) single item behaviors was strong (>0.50) across shorter test intervals, but decreased with increasing test interval (<0.40). Principal components analysis revealed four underlying dimensions that summarized test behavior, termed here ‘object focus’, ‘sharpness’, ‘human focus’, and ‘search focus’. These four aggregate behavioral traits also had the same pattern of short-term, but not long-term test-retest reliability as that observed for single item behaviors.
Prediction of certification outcomes using an independent test data set revealed that certification outcomes could not be predicted by breed, sex, or early test behaviors. However, prediction was improved by models that included two aggregate behavioral trait scores and three single item behaviors measured at the final test period, with 1 unit increases in these scores resulting in 1.7–2.8 increased odds of successful dual-certification and patrol-only certification outcomes. No improvements to odor-detection certification outcomes were made by any model. While only modest model improvements in prediction error were made by using behavioral parameters (2–7%), model predictions were based on data from dogs that had successfully completed all three test periods only, and therefore did not include data from dogs that were rejected during testing or training due to behavioral or medical reasons.
Thus, future improvements to predictive models may be more substantial using independent predictors with less restrictions in range. Reports of the reliability and validity estimates of behavioral instruments currently used to select MWDs are scarce, and we discuss these results in terms of improving the efficiency by which working dog programs may select dogs for patrol and odor-detection duties using behavioral pre-screening instruments.
[Keywords: military dog, personality, reliability, predictive validity, behavioral instrument]
2009-bohannon.pdf: “Can People Distinguish Pâté From Dog Food?”, (2009-04-01; ; backlinks; similar):
Considering the similarity of its ingredients, canned dog food could be a suitable and inexpensive substitute for pâté or processed blended meat products such as Spam or liverwurst. However, the social stigma associated with the human consumption of pet food makes an unbiased comparison challenging.
To prevent bias, Newman’s Own dog food was prepared with a food processor to have the texture and appearance of a liver mousse. In a double-blind test, subjects were presented with 5 unlabeled blended meat products, one of which was the prepared dog food. After ranking the samples on the basis of taste, subjects were challenged to identify which of the 5 was dog food.
Although 72% of subjects ranked the dog food as the worst of the 5 samples in terms of taste (Newell and MacFarlane multiple comparison, p < 0.05), subjects were not better than random at correctly identifying the dog food.
[Popularizations: Bohannon 2009, Bohannon et al 2010.]
2008-sueda.pdf: “Characterisation of plant eating in dogs”, (2008-05-01; ; backlinks; similar):
Grass or plant eating is a widely recognized behaviour amongst domestic dogs.
We first estimated the prevalence of plant eating by administering a written survey to owners of healthy dogs visiting the outpatient service of a veterinary medical teaching hospital for routine health maintenance procedures.
Of 47 owners systematically surveyed whose dogs had daily exposure to plants, 79% reported that their dog had eaten grass or other plants.
Using an internet survey targeting owners of plant-eating dogs, we then acquired information regarding the frequency and type of plants eaten, frequency with which dogs appeared ill before eating plants and frequency with which vomiting was seen afterwards.
Of 3,340 surveys returned, 1,571 met enrollment criteria. Overall, 68% of dogs were reported to eat plants on a daily or weekly basis with the remainder eating plants once a month or less. Grass was the most frequently eaten plant by 79% of dogs. Only 9% were reported to frequently appear ill before eating plants and only 22% were reported to frequently vomit afterwards. While no relationship was found between sex, gonadal status, breed group or diet type with regard to frequency or type of plants eaten, a younger age was statistically-significantly associated with: (1) an increase in frequency of plant eating; (2) an increase in consuming non-grass plants; (3) a decrease in regularly showing signs of illness before eating plants and (4) a decrease in regularly vomiting after consuming plants.
The findings support the perspective that plant eating is a normal behaviour of domestic dogs.
[Keywords: dogs, canids, feeding behaviour, plant eating, grass eating]
2007-maejima.pdf: “Traits and genotypes may predict the successful training of drug detection dogs”, (2007; ; backlinks; similar):
In Japan, ~30% of dogs that enter training programs to become drug detection dogs successfully complete training. To clarify factors related to the aptitude of drug detection dogs and develop an assessment tool, we evaluated genotypes and behavioural traits of 197 candidate dogs. The behavioural traits were evaluated within 2 weeks from the start of training and included general activity, obedience training, concentration, affection demand, aggression toward dogs, anxiety, and interest in target. Principal components analysis of these ratings yielded two components: Desire for Work and Distractibility. Desire for Work was statistically-significantly related to successful completion of training (p < 0.001). Since 93.3% of dogs that passed training and 53.3% of the dogs that failed training had Desire for Work scores of 45 or higher, we will be able to reject about half of inappropriate dogs before 3 months of training by adopting this cut-off point. We also surveyed eight polymorphic regions of four genes that have been related to human personality dimensions. Genotypes were not related to whether dogs passed, but there was a weak relationship between Distractibility and a 5HTT haplotype (p < 0.05).
2005-miklosi.pdf: “A Comparative Study of the Use of Visual Communicative Signals in Interactions Between Dogs (Canis familiaris) and Humans and Cats (Felis catus) and Humans”, (2005-05-01; ; backlinks; similar):
Dogs’ (Canis familiaris) and cats’ (Felis catus) interspecific communicative behavior toward humans was investigated.
In Experiment 1, the ability of dogs and cats to use human pointing gestures in an object-choice task was compared using 4 types of pointing cues differing in distance between the signaled object and the end of the fingertip and in visibility duration of the given signal.
Using these gestures, both dogs and cats were able to find the hidden food; there was no statistically-significant difference in their performance.
In Experiment 2, the hidden food was made inaccessible to the subjects to determine whether they could indicate the place of the hidden food to a naive owner.
Cats lacked some components of attention-getting behavior compared with dogs.
The results suggest that individual familiarization with pointing gestures ensures high-level performance in the presence of such gestures; however, species-specific differences could cause differences in signaling toward the human.
1999-coren.pdf: “Do People Look Like their Dogs?”, (1999; ; similar):
One tenant of folk psychology is that people tend to select or form a preference for pet dogs that have a similar appearance to themselves.
A sample of 261 women judged the desirability of 4 breeds of dogs. 2 breeds had lopped ears (English Springer Spaniel, Beagle) and 2 had pricked ears (Siberian Husky, Basenji).
Long hairstyles in women produce a facial framing effect similar to lop ears while short or pulled back hairstyles produce a facial configuration more similar to prick-eared dogs. Consistent with this interpretation, women with long hair tended to prefer the lop-eared dogs while women with the short hairstyles preferred the prick-eared dogs, consistent with the folk belief.
These results are interpreted in light of social psychological principles, namely the effects of familiarity and mere exposure on affect and interpersonal attraction.
1994-rossi.pdf: “Postmortem injuries by indoor pets”, (1994-06-01; ; backlinks; similar):
4 cases of postmortem injuries caused by indoor pets (three by dogs and one by cats [see also Garcia et al 2019]) are presented.
A pattern which is associated with this phenomenon is described. The important common factors appear to be the presence of free-moving pets inside the house, social isolation of the deceased, and the victim having a predisposing condition causing sudden death.
[Keywords: postmortem injury, dog bites, cat bites, animal attack]
…A literature search through MEDLINE for the years 1966–1993, however, using a variety of key words, showed no reported cases of postmortem injuries caused by indoor pets. We believe such incidents are relatively common but are under-reported. We present 4 cases of postmortem injury by indoor pets. All cases occurred during the winter months of December 1992–March 1993 in London, England.
1982-simoons.pdf: “Breast-Feeding of Animals by Women: Its Socio-Cultural Context and Geographic Occurrence”, (1982; ; backlinks; similar):
In this paper, the practice of women breast-feeding animals is viewed from a geographic and historical perspective. The principal aims are to establish where the practice has been commonplace, to determine its economic and socio-cultural context, to consider its possible role in animal domestication, and to weigh its importance in human ecology.—In many cases, the practice is an expression of affection for pets (among Polynesians, among forest peoples of tropical South America, and especially among aboriginal hunters and gatherers in Southeast Asia, Australia, and Tasmania). In other cases, affection is supplemented or supplanted by economic concerns, as among various Melanesian “pig complex” peoples. In some cases, breast-feeding of animals is linked to cult and ritual, an outstanding example being the nursing of cubs in connection with the Ainu bear cult. In a few cases, animals are breast-fed with the welfare of the human mother or child being of greatest concern. The conclusion is drawn that animal nursing may indeed have contributed to the domestication of such animals as the pig and dog, and that in some places, particularly lowland New Guinea, the practice can play an important role in human ecology.
[Keywords: breast-feeding of animals, ecology, animal domestication, animal cult]
…This initial survey of the practice of breast-feeding of animals by humans leads us to three general conclusions about the practice. First, we note that virtually all contemporary human groups reported as regularly nursing animals belong to cultures which either possess no dairy animals or, if they do, do not milk them. Second, we note the importance of animal-nursing as a taming mechanism used by some human groups who capture infant animals in the wild, and suggest that animal-nursing may have contributed to the full domestication of such often-captured pets as the dog and the pig, Sauer’s “household” animals. Finally and most tentatively, we conclude that the practice of animal-nursing, particularly in areas such as New Guinea where human breastmilk production is low, may at times pose a health threat to human infants who must compete with animals at the breast.