Friday, 25 September 2009

movie 'Up' and dogs

Since I don't want to spoil the plot for anyone who hasn't been to see it yet, I'll only say that I went to see the movie 'Up' tonight, and I loved it! I laughed out loud in lots of places.

It has some dogs in it.

And mention of squirrels.

And tennis balls.

I don't think I'm giving more away than the preview does.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

flyball and the continuing crate saga

Well, what a fun evening!

Penny ran for the first time in front of a crowd of strangers. The first time, she forgot it's all about the ball and came racing back without it!

But the second time she did it beautifully.

And then...she ran in a team for the first time!

And as for the vexed question of the crate? The super expensive large one we bought was so heavy we couldn't get it out of the car!

Luckily someone let us use their spare crate.

And the kind lady who sold us the eBay one may let us exchange it for a larger one - a LIGHT one that we can carry.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

flyball at the Royal Melbourne Show

Penny's going to take part in a flyball demo at the Show tomorrow evening! As far as I know, we're only expected to do what a beginner can do, which hopefully won't be too demanding.

But the big issue has been the purchase of a crate, in case Penny needs to be in it whilst waiting her turn.

What a business it turned out to be! The first crate I bought was not only huge, but had a manufacturing defect, so that one went back to the shop.

Then I bought another, online - too small! (The problem of what to do with that one will have to wait.)

And finally, another crate - it looked enormous, but when Penny stretched out inside, it only allowed a small amount at each end, so I don't think we could have gone smaller.

The great thing is that she moved in happily, as soon as I tossed some of her toys inside, and almost immediately went to sleep in there - I left the door open.

Anyway, she's happy and we're happy, so I guess we've just got to hope she's used to it by tomorrow night!

chewber the multipurpose toy

The Other End of the Leash (a great source of information about dog behaviour) posted a video on YouTube of her dogs playing with a Chewber.

It looked so interesting I searched for it on Google. Here's the link. I think it has one of the most cheerful advertisements I've ever seen.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

more studies of canine cognition

Slavenka has posted a link to an article in Time magazine about a study at Duke University in the US. The study will look at canine cognition. The article says
The work of these researchers won't just satisfy the curiosity of the millions of people who love their dogs; it may also lead to more effective ways to train ordinary dogs or--more important--working dogs that can sniff out bombs and guide the blind. At a deeper level, it may even tell us something about ourselves.
As I said when I wrote about a similar study at Harvard University, I don't see why we always have to relate such studies to some imagined benefit for humans.

But I guess they wouldn't get any funding otherwise.

An interesting point in the study is the idea that only dogs and humans can readily understand what is meant if someone points to something. A chimp can follow the gaze of other chimps and figure out what they can and cannot see, but chimps need lots of training to understand the significance of pointing. Yet young puppies can do so.

Penny understands pointing, but I thought we had taught that skill to her. Now I wonder whether she was genetically programmed to pick it up easily.

Honey the Great Dane swims for the first time

I love this video by Honey the Great Dane!

When a dog is as big as Honey is, it's all about trust between the dog and the human.

If Honey hadn't trusted the humans to hold her up, when she first swam, the lesson would never have succeeded.

I wish we had a doggy swimming pool like that near here.

dogs CAN think!

I tried some free shaping the other day. I've read about it on other blogs and wondered what Penny would do if I sat down with a clicker and a pile of treats and placed an empty cardboard box on the floor near her.

Well, it was fascinating to see!

She pawed me (she never paws, but she's been taught to touch me with her left and right paw as a preliminary to learning to march);
she backed away (ditto knows how to back on command);
she looked at the box;
she sat;
she dropped;
she touched the box with her nose - click! treat!
she touched the box a couple more times and was rewarded, but then I stopped rewarding.

So she put one foot into the box - click! treat!
A few more of the same.

Then I raised the bar again.
So she put two feet into the box - click! treat!

As far as I'm concerned, that's thinking.

I was glad to see a philosopher, Dr. Michael LaBossiere from Florida A&M University, writing a blog post about canine cognition. We 'dog people' recognise the obvious truth that dogs think - and feel, but that's another story - so it's good to see this truth acknowledged in the wider world.

He writes about Descartes, famous for saying 'I think, therefore I am'. It was Descartes who did animals a terrible disservice when he argued that animals do not have true minds because they do not use true language.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Penny meets Morgan at flyball

Well, that's a bit of a deceptive title for this post, because although Penny did in fact meet a handsome black Labrador retriever at flyball practice today, she was not one bit interested in being friendly with him.

But I'm very proud of the fact that I've remembered his name. I'm taking part in a research project that aims to help people remember names and faces, and, being a dog-blogger I realise it's way more important to remember the canine names than the human ones.

The method of remembering names is to associate something with the name.

So, today we met
Pip - just a little pip of a dog, who'll grow into something splendid;
Morgan - a black pirate who lives by the sea (for a longer explanation see my other blog);
Summer, who first moved in with her human family in the Summer (true story);
Buddy, who is every dog's best buddy (also true!)

Oh, oh! There were lots of dogs and I've only remembered four!

But it's a start...

Thursday, 17 September 2009

when filming the dog gets expensive

We all love filming our dogs. But I'll bet the guy who filmed his dog playing fetch wasn't too happy about the outcome! (In fact, I'd better post a strong-language warning - he really, really wasn't happy!) But I guess he got over it, because he put it out there for us to see.

And I think it's hilarious!

I found it at a German site, and couldn't figure out whether it can be embedded, so here's the link.

Monday, 14 September 2009

study says dogs originated in China

An article in The Journal of Molecular Biology and Evolution, published online on September 9th, 2009, says the authors believe their study of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) has figured out where dogs originated from.

The introduction to the article says:
These results indicate that the domestic dog originated in southern China less than 16,300 years ago, from several hundred wolves. The place and time coincide approximately with the origin of rice agriculture, suggesting that the dogs may have originated among sedentary hunter-gatherers or early farmers, and the numerous founders indicate that wolf taming was an important culture trait.
In the German magazine Partner Hund I read that the study suggests that dogs were first used as food. At first glance that seems disturbing, but I guess it's very likely to be true.

I'm not clear about the methods of the study, as I'm no scientist. The only thing I know about mitochondrial DNA is that it can be used to trace ancestry through a female line - I think it's used because this part of DNA is handed down from mother to child unchanged. I once read a fascinating book about the origins of modern humans (written for public consumption, not for scientists). It was called The Seven Daughters of Eve.

For an interesting explanation of this type of science, Nova Online has a good article.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Scooby is rescued from a cave

How much effort and money should be put into rescuing a lost pet?

Scooby, an eight-year-old cavalier King Charles spaniel, was lost in a cave in the Hunter Valley, north of Sydney, for five days. Deaf, and frightened, Scooby wouldn't be tempted out by a trail of snacks, so the rescuers bored through solid rock to reach him.

I agree with what RSPCA state chief executive Steve Coleman, who said:
"It's certainly a time-consuming rescue but, again, I don't think that the public would expect us just to walk away because it's all too hard."

If it were my dog I'd hope to receive every bit of help possible.

Here's an article in The Herald and another.

studies into canine cognition

Harvard University's Canine Cognition Lab is studying dog behavior and they want volunteers for their 'non-invasive' experiments. If I lived in the local area I'd be hot-footing it into the lab. I reckon it would be fun! There's a short video explaining what they want.

One thing that always strikes me is the necessity for scientists to validate their research by saying it will help us understand human behaviour. Why can't we get away from seeing ourselves as the only species worthy of our interest? The rationale for the study is to discover 'those aspects of the mind that are uniquely human'. You know what? I'm actually interested to know about the cognition of the other species on this planet - the planet that the dogs and the dolphins and the fish and the snakes and the bees aren't polluting out of existence.

And as for the idiotic first comment on the article in the Boston Globe about this study... Well, don't get me started on the cognitive capabilities of the human species!

Apologies for the rant. Sometimes I just have to let off steam.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

dog reacts to sonic boom as Space Shuttle lands

Here's a video clip of a dog resting on the lawn, not expecting a loud sonic boom from re-entry of the Space Shuttle on September 11. I foundthe link to the clip on Boing Boing.

old dog plays gently with puppy

The Other End of the Leash has a beautiful video clip of an older dog restraining itself to gently play tug with a puppy. Even more interestingly, the older dog tells the young one when it's time to stop the game.

great new intelligent game for dogs

While I was visiting Johann's blog, I saw a new game for dogs. It can be used as an intelligence-enhancing activity, or as a way of feeding a meal. It's the Aikiou (pronounced IQ).

On Youtube there's a video clip of a Welsh corgi trying it out it. It's one of the better clips I've seen, because the dog seems to be unfamiliar with it and the clip shows the whole process of learning to use it, I think.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

practising flyball

Seeing Penny seemed okay today, on her first day of antibiotics, we thought it would be okay to go to the park and practise some short flyball runs.

I'd been told that it's fine to keep up her interest in tennis balls, necessary, in fact, if we are to succeed at this new sport; but it's better to throw the ball behind us rather than in front, so she gets used to running away from her human.

Here she is running away from the camera.

I think the idea is not to look where she is running, because in the actual sport you run away from her to encourage her to come over the jumps fast in order to catch up to you. (We've only been to three sessions, so I'm not quite on top of technique yet, as you can imagine.)

Here's a shot of her coming towards the camera. I think human number two is doing a great job of not turning to watch her.

And, as it was getting towards sunset, the flash on the camera went off, so don't be scared by the 'devilish eyes' as she races toward the camera in the last shot.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Penny and colitis

Penny spent the weekend squatting and trying to poo, to little avail.

I think my vet thinks I'm a tiny bit obsessive, seeing I told him she tried nineteen times and produced one soft poo at three am Sunday morning, a soft sausage four inches long. He wondered whether I might have miscounted. Might she have tried twenty times?

No, I consulted my notes and assured him it was nineteen.

Hmm...maybe I could lighten up a little on the note-taking.

Anyway, the long and the short of it is that through the whole ordeal - well, an ordeal for her overly worried human - she was in good spirits, gobbling up the chicken and rice soup I served her and having fun with her doggy pals.

She's had a couple of injections today and will be on anti-biotics for five days.

Let's hope it clears up well.