Archive for the ‘Dogs’ Category


You know you share genes with your biological parents and kids, but what about microbes? A new study finds that families share skin, tongue and gut microbes with each other… and their dogs.

The study shows how the people and pets you live with affect the microscopic bacteria, fungi and other creatures living all over your body.

Researchers from universities across the U.S. studied 17 families with heterosexual parents and children ranging from infants to 18-year-olds; 17 families with one or more dogs, but no children; 18 families with kids and dogs; and 18 couples with no children or dogs. Volunteers sent in Q-tip-like swabs that they had rubbed on their foreheads, the palms of their hands, the tops of their tongues and a smudge of their feces (really). Study volunteers also sent in swabs of their dogs’ paws, fur and tongues.

The researchers ran genetic analyses on the samples, looking for the genetic material of microbes. They found that family members had more similar microbes on all parts of their bodies than people from different families. Family members’ skin microbes were the most alike, demonstrating that people share microbes on the surfaces they touch, and from touching each other. The adults in the family shared the most microbes.

Parents also shared many microbes with their children, but only if the kids were older than three. Younger kids may have vastly different microbes than their older family members because they’re still developing, the researchers wrote in a paper they published April 16 in the journal eLIFE.

As for Rover, he seems to have a some interesting effects on his humans’ microbes. As with other family members, adults share more microbes with their own dogs than they do with other people’s dogs.

But the researchers also found that simply owning a dog seems to have an effect on overall microbe-sharing. Cohabiting couples shared more microbes with one another if they had a dog, compared with couples that didn’t have dogs. Dog owners also had more species in common with other dog owners than they did with puppy-less people.

Want to know about the little critters that live on Fido? Dogs have more diverse microbes living on their bodies than humans do, including groups of microbes normally associated with humans, plus microbes that live in soil and water. One of the major groups of bacteria that dog owners and their pets share is Betaproteobacteria, which appear on human skin and on dog tongues.


A caring terrier has taken on the role as guide-dog for his blind labrador brother. Little crossbreed terrier Milo, six, acts as seven-year-old Eddie’s eyes to play and bring him back to proud owner Angie Baker-Stedham when they’re out and about. He can even be seen pulling Eddie along by a lead. Angie, 45, says the heartwarming pair from Cardiff are joined at the hip. She said: “Before Eddie went blind they both used to chase after dog toys, but now Eddie relies on Milo to help him play and they love going into the woods.

“Milo has always got his eye on Eddie and even sits on Eddie’s back when he lies down. I first noticed that Eddie was going blind last year when he started to walk into wheelie bins and walls. It happened so quickly which is sad because before they used to play together so easily. Now Milo helps me to fetch Eddy when I call for him. He leads Eddie all the way back to me.”

Milo took on the role of his assistance dog with no training. Angie said: “Milo really cares for Eddie, he always licks his face, they sleep in the same room and spend all their time together. Without Milo, Eddie would be lost. It’s a wonderful relationship and improves Eddie’s quality of life, as his blindness is incurable.”

An Israeli TV company has launched a channel just for dogs.

Programs on Dog TV are developed by trainers to comfort canines left home alone, with special colours dogs can see, and soothing music.


When fourth-grader Emma Bartelt wanted to wow the judges at her elementary school’s science fair, she knew she had to do something unexpected.

All she needed was a box, a jar, three dogs … and an ounce of cocaine.

These days, vinegar and baking soda is so passé.

In what Miami-Dade school district officials are calling a first, Emma tapped her connections with Miami-Dade police to show how a dog’s sense of smell helps it find narcotics.

“The student’s science project involved a very unusual set of circumstances, including having a parent who is a well-respected police detective with experience in training dogs that sniff for illegal substances,” school district spokesman John Schuster said in statement.

Earlier this month, Miami-Dade police Det. Douglas Bartelt and his colleagues let Emma sit in while they put three drug sniffing canines through a search exercise at their narcotics training facility. There was Roger, a springer spaniel; Levi, a golden retriever; and Franky, a retired chocolate Labrador.

The dogs were individually timed as they searched for 28 grams of cocaine — worth an estimated $1,300 on the street — locked in a metal canister, hidden in a box somewhere in a single room. The exercise was then repeated in a second room.

In the end, Franky came out first, sniffing out the cocaine in 43 seconds. At no time did Emma handle the drugs or the dogs, a Police Department spokeswoman said.

Cocaine is not specifically banned from use in district science fair rules, the Miami Herald reported.

The project earned Emma first prize at her school, Coral Gables Preparatory Academy, and a chance to participate in the county science fair at Miami Dade College on Jan. 26. She received an honorable mention there, district officials said.

Emma explained “the purpose of this scientific investigation was to find which dog would find the cocaine fastest using its sense of smell,” according to the Herald.,0,1052960.story


Dogs now have an excuse for waiting under the dinner table: domestication may have adapted them to thrive on the starch-filled foods that their owners eat.

A study published in Nature found that dogs possess genes for digesting starches, setting them apart from their carnivore cousins — wolves.

The authors say the results support the contentious idea that dogs became domesticated by lingering around human settlements. “While it’s possible that humans might have gone out to take wolf pups and domesticated them, it may have been more attractive for dogs to start eating from the scrap heaps as modern agriculture started,” says Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, a geneticist at Uppsala University in Sweden, who led the work.

Canine-domestication researchers agree that all dogs, from beagles to border collies, are the smaller, more sociable and less aggressive descendants of wolves. But neither the time nor the location of the first domestication is known: fossils place the earliest dogs anywhere from 33,000 years ago in Siberia to 11,000 years ago in Israel, whereas DNA studies of modern dogs put domestication at least 10,000 years ago, and in either Southeast Asia or the Middle East. Many researchers believe that dogs were domesticated more than once, and that even after domestication, they occasionally interbred with wild wolves.

Lindblad-Toh and her team catalogued the genetic changes involved in domestication by looking for differences between the genomes of 12 wolves and 60 dogs from 14 different breeds. Their search identified 36 regions of the genome that set dogs apart from wolves — but are not responsible for variation between dog breeds.

Nineteen of those regions contained genes with a role in brain development or function. These genes, says Lindblad-Toh, may explain why dogs are so much more friendly than wolves. Surprisingly, the team also found ten genes that help dogs to digest starches and break down fats. Lab work suggested that changes in three of those genes make dogs better than meat-eating wolves at splitting starches into sugars and then absorbing those sugars.

Most humans have also evolved to more easily digest starches. Lindblad-Toh suggests that the rise of farming, beginning around 10,000 years ago in the Middle East, led to the adaptations in both species. “This is a striking sign of parallel evolution,” she says. “It really shows how dogs and humans have evolved together to be able to eat starch.”

However, Greger Larson, an evolutionary archaeologist at Durham University, UK, very much doubts that genes involved in digesting starches catalysed domestication, pointing out that the earliest dog fossils predate the dawn of agriculture. His team plans to analyse DNA preserved in dog fossils, to discover when the genetic variations involved in domestication first emerged.

Robert Wayne, a geneticist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who is also studying ancient dog genomes, says that starch metabolism could have been an important adaptation for dogs. However, he thinks that such traits probably developed after behavioural changes that emerged when humans first took dogs in, back when most of our forebears still hunted large game.

Nevertheless, the study adds to evidence that dogs should not eat the same food as wolves, says Wayne, who points out that dog food is rich in carbohydrates and low in protein compared with plain meat. “Every day I get an email from a dog owner who asks, should they feed their dog like a wolf,” says Wayne. “I think this paper answers that question: no.”

Thanks to Dr. Lutter for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

Proud dog owner Lu Zesheng says he has been able to train his two-year-old canine companion Potato to do arithmetic. Lu poses the questions, and Potato barks the answers.

For example, when asked: “How much is 3.44 plus 3.56?” Potato barks seven times which, according to Lu, means he knows the answer is seven.

As well as being able to solve mathematical puzzles, Lu also says Potato has an excellent memory and, when asked for the number on the side of China’s first aircraft carrier, the dog barks the correct answer of “sixteen”.

According to Chinese state television, Potato can also memorise mobile phone numbers and even people’s ages.


Earlier this week, Montreal city councilor Benoit LaDouce proposed a bylaw that would require all dogs in public parks to be bi-lingual. According to Mr. LaDouce, “Dogs parks in our city are chaotic and communication is at the heart of the conflict.” In his mind, K9/citizen relations would be more harmonious if dogs in public spaces understood commands in both English and French.