Pup links!

A young Beatrix Potter and her spaniel. LIFE Magazine.

A collection of dog-related links from around the Web this week:

Set Your New Dog Up for Success: Prevent Accidents and Fights. A great post by Lindsay about two important elements of bringing a new dog home: Setting and establishing house-training rules and preventing and mitigating any potential dog conflict. (That Mutt)

Are Too Many Vaccinations Bad for Adult Dogs? A thoughtful and informative discussion about the controversy over vaccinating our dogs. This is something I’ve been thinking about lately, too, and it was nice to read such a balanced and fair article on the topic. (That Mutt)

Pet Fostering Is Tax Deductible! This is great news for those who foster animals. It’s something I’m seriously considering after we have a few years of dog parenting under our belts, and this new tax break is just an extra incentive! (Pawesome)

7 Ways to Make Your Pet’s Visit to the Veterinarian Easier. Simple and helpful tips to reduce the stress of a vet visit. (Paw Nation)

Ryan Gosling and His Dog Have an Announcement to Make. An important PSA from the most popular actor (at least on the Internet meme scene). (Pawesome)

Miss Kate. It is a beautiful thing to watch a border collie work. (BCxFour)

Georgia Fiennes: Dog Paintings. Lovely and whimsical (but not tacky) dog paintings from artist Georgia Fiennes. (Miles to Style)

Gallery of herding dogs

Just a series of photos of some of my favorite dogs from the herding group. Not to pick favorites or anything, but I think I’d have to say that all of my best-loved breeds come from this group of high-maintenance, noisy, difficult dogs. I know. I just can’t get over them. Why this post? Well, I like to look at dog pictures. No apologies. A girl can dream, right?

(Click on each photo for its source.)

Australian shepherd

Australian shepherd

Belgian tervuren

Belgian tervuren

Border collie

Border collie

Rough collie

Smooth collie

German shepherd

German shepherd puppies

Pyrenean shepherd

Pyrenean shepherd

Pup links!

Queen Elizabeth and her corgi, Susan. Source: the3goobers.blogspot.com

Fun and thought-provoking dog-related links from around the Web this week…

Top 10 Myths about Dogs. I’m certainly ready for these myths to disappear from the general public’s perception! (A Place to Love Dogs)

Puppy Mill Expose on HBO. This looks like a great film. I hope it reaches the public, too. The fear is that it would only be seen by those who are already well aware of the tragedy of puppy mills. Let’s hope that’s not the case. (The Bark blog)

Enzo & Hughie. A cute series of photographs of these tiny canine BFFs, by our wedding photographer, Meredith Perdue. (Meredith Perdue)

I Love Dooce and Her Dogs. I have been reading Heather Armstrong’s incredible blog for years now and have always delighted in the stoic Chuck. Lindsay from The Hydrant collects a few photos of Chuck’s best. (The Hydrant)

What You See… The pack of dogs from Wootube always seem to be having the best time. What a fun and energetic set of photographs, too! (Wootube)

Lacamas: Day One. Speaking of another pack of high-energy dogs… I love these photos of the border collies like sharks in a field. Such expert stalkers. (BCxFour)

Day 4: Sharing. A sweet photo of two new corgi mamas feeding their puppies side by side–and their breeder’s story of how they get along beautifully together and happily feed each other’s pups. Motherhood! (Ruffly Speaking)

Shio the Watchdog. I feel like Shio has excellent posture. (Shio the Shiba)

So Near and Yet So Far. A variation of “The Look,” this time with a greyhound. (ShutterHounds)

Hipster Dogs Don’t “Do” Affection. So true. These two look way too cool for kisses and cuddling. (Pets Who Want to Kill Themselves)

Strange Bedfellows. Funny, but this just confirms why I have no desire to ever get a chihuahua… (Animals Being Di*ks)

A few nights with Zoe

Zoe on the kitchen floor. Source: Me

This past weekend, my husband and I house/dog-sat for some friends of ours. Kendra and Ehren have a 7-year-old black lab/border collie mix named Zoe. Guion was excited that they had a piano in the house; I, naturally, was way more excited that they had a dog.

I’d met Zoe once before at a crawfish boil that Kendra and Ehren hosted. I was extremely impressed by her calmness and tolerance. She patiently submitted to having a grabby 10-month-old baby stick his hands into her mouth and ears. I was anxious about it, but Kendra was right there and assured me that Zoe would be fine. And she was. Zoe rolled her eyes up to look at Kendra, as if to say, “Look how patient I am. This baby is trying to gag me and I am letting him. Because I am a very good dog.”

And she is.

Zoe in her chair. Source: Me

Understandably, Zoe was pretty anxious about what we were doing in her house on Saturday night. She is extremely submissive and doesn’t really have much desire to protect anything. She rolled over on her back continuously until we were able to calm her down. We spoke softly to her, slipped her a treat, and soon she seemed much more at ease about our brief residence in her home.

On Sunday mid-morning, I took Zoe on a long walk around a circle of pretty residential streets. She pulled a lot at first, but once she figured out that we weren’t going to move until there was some slack in the line, she calmed down and was an excellent walking partner.

Going on daily walks is actually one of the things that I am most looking forward to about getting a dog. (I may not say this after we have the dog, especially in brutal January, but still!) I eat well, but I do not make time for much physical activity, and I am looking forward to having to care for an animal who requires a good amount of daily motion.

There is also something very soothing and meditative about walking with a dog. There is no need for conversation; you merely listen to each other, observing nature and feeling your bodies relax and refocus. I love walking dogs and I wish I could do it all day long.

The other thing that Zoe reminded me of is the calmness of touch. I’m reading Suzanne Clothier’s book Bones Would Rain from the Sky right now, and in it she talks about how she was impressed by famed horse trainer Linda Tellington-Jones’ injunction to always use “soft hands” when working with animals. Remembering this charge is a great way to prevent yourself from lashing out in anger or impatience.

While Guion was out grabbing lunch, I sat on the living room floor with Zoe. She crawled over to me and put her muzzle up against my leg. I started slowly massaging her back and neck. She seemed to like it, and so she rolled over, inviting me to do her underside. If I paused for a second, she urged me on with her nose, as if to say, “Don’t stop now!” We continued this session for a good 15 minutes and it was very peaceful. I was reminded of a scene in the documentary “Dogs Decoded” that talked about how petting a dog releases a similar burst of the “happiness/bonding” hormone oxytocin in both the dog and the human.

It made me wonder about dog massage. In April, the New York Times ran an article about dog massage that sparked my interest: Dog Massage? Isn’t Petting Enough? I saw that Modern Dog Magazine also ran a short, illustrated piece about how to massage your dog. I’d like to learn more. Has anyone ever tried this before? Do you practice it regularly with your own pooches?

Overall, the long weekend with Zoe just increased my already burgeoning desire to have a dog. It was a good exercise in canine parenting and Zoe was a wonderful and patient teacher. I look forward to getting to see her again soon.

Pup links!

Kate Moss and a watchful border collie. Source: Via Camila Chaves

Dog-related links from around the Web this week…

Vintage Dog Show. A collection of photos from dog shows decades ago. The dogs look great; the people, not so much. (Miles to Style)

Herend Dogs. Rich, old dog ladies should fill their homes with these colorful figurines. (Miles to Style)

The never-ending dog show. And pictures. Lots of pictures. Great ones, too. These border collies look so joyful, whether in the backyard sprinkler or in the agility ring. (Hippie Dogs)

Maine: Island Life. I love these beautiful photographs of a peaceful family vacation with the dogs. I can’t wait to take my dog on vacation with me! (Big Bang Studio)

Italian Dogs. Poignant photographs of dogs met while on vacation in Italy. (Ulicam)

Building Your Dog’s Drive in Preparation for Obedience. Minette discusses how we can keep our dog’s play drive alert and active–and how it can be used for obedience training. (Dog Obedience Training Blog)

Which Would Work Better, a Dog or a Scanner? Personally, I’d much rather be searched by a dog than by a TSA agent! (Pet Connection)

Spaying the Neuter or No? Oh, my goodness. This is what I mean when I talk about people who shouldn’t get dogs… (You Suck at Craigslist)

A Dog Post. A funny comparison between the regal profile of a Rhodesian ridgeback and the sloppy face of a Basset hound (including a wonderful montage of Bassets running, which is always the funniest thing I see all day). (Confessions of a Pioneer Woman)

Not Your Stick. A helpful photographic explanation of how the game “Not Your Stick” is played. (Raised by Wolves)

Self-Gratification. A hilarious montage of one German shepherd’s delight in a big orange bucket. (Raising K9)

Dog v. Goon Squad. Dogs reading and lounging around with Jennifer Egan’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, A Visit from the Goon Squad, which I coincidentally loved. (Big Bang Studio)

Thoughts on “Dogs Decoded”

Dogs Decoded, PBS Nova documentary

The other night, Guion was out for a poetry gathering and I didn’t really feel like reading Muriel Spark, so I decided to watch the PBS Nova documentary, “Dogs Decoded,” which is conveniently on Netflix instant view.

Because I’ve done so much reading about recent dog research, I’d already heard about many of the studies and stories included in this 53-minute documentary (like Betsy the border collie, the fox breeding program in Siberia, and the research of Duke University professor Brian Hare). But it was really exciting to get to see some of these dogs in action, meet the Siberian foxes, and watch Hare and other researchers demonstrate how dogs followed humans’ visual cues–in a way that chimpanzees couldn’t.

In short, I LOVED this documentary. I want to watch it again right now and I especially want Guion to watch it with me. There were four stories in particular that grabbed my interest.

First, the discovery that dogs look to the left side of our faces. This seems like an uninteresting detail. Yet, scientists have found this to be incredibly significant. By studying the facial expressions of humans, researchers concluded that we do not show our feelings symmetrically on our faces. Rather, the left side of our face tends to show a more accurate depiction of our emotion. (Sounds really odd, but the film shows composite photographs that demonstrates how this is true.) The connection that is fascinating is that when dogs look at a human’s face, they almost always tend to look at our left side first. What’s so unusual about this is that dogs don’t do this with other dogs, other animals, or objects: it’s just with people. This indicates that dogs have developed a unique ability to read the emotions of humans–an ability that surely advanced the dog’s ascent as one of the oldest and most trusted domesticated animals.

Second, Betsy, OMG, Betsy. Betsy the unbelievable Austrian border collie. Betsy got worldwide attention before Chaser, the South Carolina border collie who was trained to recognize an astounding 1,000 words. Betsy’s verbal repetoire is perhaps not as advanced as Chaser’s, but we found her first. “Dogs Decoded” visits Betsy’s home in Austria where her owner, a woman who prefers to remain anonymous, shows us Betsy’s ability. Like Chaser, Betsy can correctly identify objects by name–much like a 2-year-old human child–without any verbal or physical cues from her handler. I’ve seen dogs do this before and it still blows my mind every time–but what absolutely knocked my socks off was what the visiting researcher asked Betsy to do. The researcher wanted to know if, like a toddler, Betsy had the ability to understand that a photograph of an object was a two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional thing. Betsy’s owner said she’d never tried this before with Betsy and didn’t think it would work. The researcher holds up a picture of a black-and-white chew toy to Betsy and the dog looks at it intently. She gives her a command to find it and off Betsy goes–and brings back the object from the picture. That’s amazing. I think I cursed out loud when I saw it; that’s how impressed I was.

Third, I was fascinated by the study done by eastern European (Hungarian?) researchers who raised puppies and wolves from infancy. Drawing from the premise that dogs and wolves are 99.98% genetically similar, the scientists wanted to know if you raised a baby wolf as a dog if it would then become like a dog, i.e., domestic. First, the scientists hand-raised puppies. The puppies lived in their homes, slept in their beds, etc. After they raised a litter of puppies this way, the researchers raised a litter of wolf cubs in the same way. At first, the wolves didn’t seem much different from the puppies. The wolves snuggled up to them when they took them outside, their play seemed to resemble the play of puppies, and so forth. But by the time they hit seven or eight weeks, it became clear that these wolves were not going to magically become dogs.

One of the most striking examples of this difference was a test with puppies and wolf cubs of the same age in a controlled environment. In separate rooms, the puppy and the wolf cub are both introduced to a foreign object (a robotic toy dog that barks). The puppy is curious and goes up to sniff it; the wolf cubs shrink back in fear and try to claw their way out of the room. Next, the researchers test to see if the puppy and wolf cub will respond to a human’s physical cues. The puppies make eye contact with the humans and seem to easily follow the human’s hand signal to a cup on the floor. The wolves, however, never make eye contact with the humans and try to run away. Later, the film jumps to one of the researchers with an adolescent wolf in her home. This animal is a total menace–leaping on counters, trying to knock her over, totally unresponsive to her correction–and can hardly be trusted indoors, even though he was raised in the home with this woman. Wolves are not dogs and dogs are not wolves; don’t try to treat one like the other (ahem, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas!).

Fourth, I’ve read many times about the decades-old silver fox breeding program in Siberia. I loved being able to actually see these foxes and the dramatic changes in their appearance over time. I think this is one of the most fascinating studies ever. When the program started, researchers decided to selectively breed foxes for friendliness toward humans. In the first few litters, only 1% of the fox cubs didn’t react aggressively or fearfully toward humans. This 1% became the foundation of the “tame” breeding program. Tame foxes were bred to other tame foxes and so on.

By the eighth generation of tame foxes, some very interesting changes started to occur. Coat colors began to change dramatically. The originally black and dark gray foxes started developing white patches, spots, and stripes. Some cub’s ears never perked up but stayed floppy. Limbs were shortened. The foxes were physically adapting to domestication; they were evolving to be cuter, more appealing to humans–just like the domesticated dog. This totally blows my mind. If you’re interested, you can now apparently order your own tame fox from this Russian breeding program for a mere $6,950.

I loved this film and I highly recommend it to anyone with even a basic interest in dogs. It will make you look at your dog in a totally different and appreciative way. If you don’t have Netflix and you want to watch this film, mark your calendar for November 15, 2011, when it’s airing on PBS.

Pup links!

A very happy terrier mix, as captured by the great Elliott Erwitt.

Canine-centric links from around the Web this week…

A Sheep Herder in Chihuahua’s Clothing. This adoptable chihuahua in Battersea started watching her border collie friends work the sheep and decided she’d have a go at it. (Pawesome)

Reasons to Buy a Dog vs. Rescue a Dog. A thoughtful and helpful post from a dog trainer on why she tends to rescue rather than buy dogs. I think she does a great job of showing both options without casting judgment on either side. (That Mutt)

10 Awesome Screenshots from One Dog Food Commercial. Totally hilarious. (Best Week Ever)

Friday Fetch: Blink Leash. I also have an obsession with rope leashes, so I’m just going to keep posting these wherever I find them. (Ammo the Dachshund)

My, My, What Have We Here? A salacious romance between a corgi and his cat. (Cute Overload)

The Difference Between Cats and Bassets. A meditation on the distinction between cats and basset hounds. (The Pioneer Woman)

Holy Smoke. Lovely linen dog figurines from the company Holy Smoke. (Under the Blanket)

Man Regrets Inventing the Labradoodle. Hear, hear. Anyone who creates a “designer” mixed breed should probably carry some guilt about that decision. (NY Daily News)

Best Jobs for Dogs: Wet Nose Tutors. I love these reading programs and I’m seriously considering training my future dog to participate in one. This article mentions Dog Tales, a program in Newport News, Virginia. I wonder if there’s a similar project in my area… (Grouchy Puppy)

Irish Wolfhounds at Play. I love the photos of these loping giants in the grass. (Finnegan’s Paw Print)

Haddie. Our wonderful wedding photographer is also a celebrated pet photographer. Here are some beautiful shots of her new neighbor, a totally adorable and fluffy puppy named Haddie. To die for! (Meredith Perdue)

Pup links!

Kate Moss and a Great Dane. Source: Bing

Dog-related links from around the Web:

The Greatest Dog Who Ever Lived. I loved this post, because it reminded me of the great dog legends my dad would tell us about his childhood. Ebony, his doberman, was his version of The Greatest Dog Who Ever Lived. (When he met my mom for the first time, he once asked her if she wanted to see a photo of the only girl he’d ever loved. She wasn’t so sure, but then he produced a photo of Ebony from his wallet.) She’ll always live in my memory. (Tales and Tails)

See Scout Sleep. Fashionable and yet pleasantly demure dog beds from See Scout Sleep, featured on Design Sponge. (Design Sponge)

Reward-Based Dog Training: Without Using Treats! A helpful article on how to wean your dog off treats. (Whole Dog Journal)

Just Breathe. Another variation on the seemingly endless supply of “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster knockoffs, but I couldn’t help but feature it. It’s cute. And it’s also probably my life motto. (Pawsh Magazine)

Picasso’s Dogs. Stanley Coren reflects on Pablo Picasso’s relationships with dogs. (Modern Dog Magazine)

Dog on a Bed. Even though I’m not sure if I’ll let our future dog on our bed, I will always love photos of dogs on beds. (Shirley Bittner)

Bubble Beth. Exultant joy from this border collie, chasing soap bubbles. (BCxFour)

Woe. WOE! The caption and photo are priceless. (Save the Pit Bull, Save the World)

Get Low. Reason #524 why I will never get a terrier. (Animals Being Dicks)

Breed Love: Border collie

DSC_3011

Border collie chilling. Which is unusual. Source: Flickr, user idizc

When my dog obsession bloomed in my early youth, my mom was kind enough to take me to a local herding trial. I was about 11 years old and I fell in LOVE with border collies that day. Watching those black and white dogs fly over the fields and move those sheep with such grace and ease, well, it was a thing of beauty. I had also been reading James Herriot’s beautiful books since I was a small child. Herriot tells stories about his life as a veterinarian in the English countryside and his tales often feature heroic and preternaturally intelligent border collies (or perhaps English shepherds).

Childhood obsession aside, border collies have become somewhat well known in the public eye. By this point, it’s widely accepted that border collies are the geniuses of the dog world. Stanley Coren ranks them as #1 on his list of the most intelligent dog breeds. We’ve heard about Chaser, the border collie who understands grammar and can recognize more than 1,000 words. And if you’ve ever met a border collie or spent any amount of time with one, these statements come as no surprise to you. Border collies are always watching, always thinking.

A border collie’s unbelievable intelligence is a great asset to his or her shepherd. Working border collies need to not only make decisions about how to keep the sheep in line, but they also need to accurately read the behaviors and cues of their handlers. Border collies are the best at what they do and they thrive on the mental and physical stimulation that herding provides.

Toby's first time with sheep

Doing what border collies do best: Boss sheep around. Source: Flickr, user allyeska

I love the unreal drive of these beautiful dogs–but it’s also the drive that makes me slightly wary about getting one. I don’t own any sheep. I may never own sheep. To me, it would seem somewhat cruel to purchase a fluffy border collie puppy in my suburban setting and expect her to grow up content and well-adjusted. To a breed of this drive and overpowering intellect, keeping a border collie in downtown Charlottesville would be something akin to abuse.

I read a good deal of border collie blogs–there seem to be a lot of them–and these people are extremely serious about their dogs. Most of the border collie owners and bloggers live on farms where the dogs are training or working as sheep herders. If the collies are not herding sheep, their owners are running agility or flyball courses with them. The dogs demand that they be taken seriously. If you don’t give them a job, they’ll create a job of their own, which would probably be something like herding the neighborhood kids, digging trenches, killing bunnies, or barking at every animate object.

That said, here are some reasons why I love the breed, and some reasons why I’d shy away from getting one:

Border collie pros:

  • Smartest dogs around.
  • Athletic.
  • Loyal and trustworthy.
  • Fast.
  • Tons of energy!

Border collie cons:

  • Tons of energy!
  • Can actually be difficult to train if you’re not a very precise trainer. They’re so intelligent that they often won’t respond to simple but inconsistent training.
  • Very vocal.
  • Can be quite shy.
  • Must have a job to do or they’ll drive you and themselves crazy.

I think I just need a farm.

Border collie links: