Seven cool things about your dog’s nose

From Alexandra Horowitz’s “Being a Dog”

A breath is not a sniff. When someone sniffs, he is deliberately pulling in air at a rate much faster than breathing.

The length of a dog’s sniff has been measured by stuffing science gear into the dog’s nose. With this as a study limitation, a pointer holds the record for longest, most impressive sniff. He pulled in air for forty seconds while on a dead run after his prey.

To put that into context, I just inhaled vigorously while walking from the living room to the kitchen. Couldn’t crack three seconds.

She measures the intensity of your scent

If your dog is anything like mine, he is waiting for his person

good shot of alice

I am not this dog’s favorite person.

(you?) at the door when that person comes home from work. Maybe your dog recognizes the distinct cough of your car’s carburetor or maybe not. It could be that he is measuring the loss of your smell in your shared space as the day goes by. When it reaches a certain point of dilution, he knows you are coming home. If my husband does not come home by the time his scent has evaporated from his bedroom, our dog moves into my office and snuggles with her favorite cat for consolation. Then she doesn’t get up until she hears him at the door. (I am not my dog’s person. Pretty sure I come after the cat.)

Canines have talent

Dogs can be trained to sniff out, not only the scent of criminals, drugs, and guns but also bedbugs, land mines, explosives, missing people, dead people, termites, and cell phones (yes, this is useful in prisons where inmates are not supposed to have them).

Dogs have been deployed to crack down on the illegal import of endangered species. They can detect a shark fin hidden in luggage. Also, tigers and turtles, black bears, and basically any animal which gives off a smell, which is one hundred percent of animals. T

hey can help you count the dead birds at a wind farm by finding every downed bird. They can also stop a dangerous invasion of non-native parasites at the airport or the freight dock. That’s right, folks. Dogs can be trained to sniff out invasive knapweed, fire ants, and tree-destroying red palm weevils.

They can smell and breathe at the same time

The slits at the side of your dog’s nose are not an arbitrary evolutionary design. They exist to allow the dog to keep breathing while holding the bouquet of an interesting smell in the main chamber.

By his urine you will know him

Your dog really is posting emails when she smells the neighborhood peeing oak and raises her leg to post a reply. Dogs are sharing information about their health, happiness, confidence level, etc.

Basically, they are telling on you and whether you are a good dog owner.

Self awareness does not require a mirror

Dogs achieve self awareness through smell, not sight. Stay with me here because this can’t be explained in a sound bite.

The traditional test for self awareness in animals is whether they recognize changes to themselves in a mirror. First you have to put a mirror in the animal’s space and let her pass it a few times.

Then you put a sticker or a mark on the animal’s face. If the animal pauses and checks out the alteration, that’s self awareness.

Elephants and dolphins are troubled by changes to their lovely demeanor, but dogs don’t give a shit how many stickers you put on their faces, they walk right by the mirror unfazed.

So it might seem that dogs are not self aware. However, in a test that measured whether a dog could differentiate the scent of its own pee from that of other dogs when isolated in vials, the dogs unerringly identified their own pee.

Then, they peed on the urine samples of other dogs and never their own. That’s self awareness.

Your own sense of smell is not gone; it’s just hiding

People can smell a small fraction of what dogs can smell. A really tiny fraction. But we haven’t lost our sense of smell, we’ve just devalued it. Through training, humans can regain some of their lost ability to navigate the world through smell. One obvious advantage that dogs have over us is a complete lack of delicacy and self consciousness. Dogs don’t hesitate to plunge their noses into a new dog’s or person’s rear end or urinary tract. They have instant access to information that our modern manners have deprived us of.

United’s peacock diverts attention from the real issues

A performance artist tried to bring an emotional support peacock on a United flight and was declined.

This comes, oh, so conveniently, as Delta is defending itself against some very real concerns over its new restrictions against emotional support and service animals.

First, we deal with the peacock. No true animal lover or good animal steward would subject a peacock to a trip through an airport and a trip in an airplane. Peacocks are easily stressed out. And they scream, loudly, inappropriately and often. I have no compunction about saying peacocks belong on a farm, not on an airplane. Also, there’s no room on an airplane for a male peacock to display its gorgeous tail feathers. And that’s the only thing about a male peacock that seems remotely therapeutic.

All this leads to my skepticism about a) whether someone really owns a therapy peacock and b) whether this attempt to get a peacock on board was staged by someone favorable to Delta’s new policies.

If so, this diversion comes at a time when many people are trying to get real answers to legitimate questions like, “Where is my service animal allowed to relieve himself when my flight is delayed for ten hours, as frequently happens, especially on Delta?” The complaints surrounding service and emotional therapy animals centers largely around these animals peeing and pooping amongst the passengers. UPDATE: The good people at ESA Doctors have told me that airports are stepping up to the plate and providing designated areas for service animals.

Meanwhile, Delta has still not responded to a request from the Animals Rights Channel about where, exactly, these animals are allowed to go potty. With no answer to this question, we are forced to deduce that there is no approved place for service animals to relieve themselves on Delta.¬†ESA Doctors tells people not to feed or water their service dogs before getting on a flight. These experts also advise that passengers traveling with animals bring “pee pads,” and somehow get their dog to use these before getting on the plane if the flight is delayed or people at the security checkpoint are going on a power trip.

All this adds up to: Of course, your dog or cat is going to pee or defecate in the cabin because there’s nowhere else to do it. Rather than simply providing this simple accommodation, Delta prefers to engage in an enormous and reputation endangering controversy.

 

We support the Wildlife Selfie Code

Lynn Hamilton and Joel Worth, publishers of the Animal Rights Channel, have signed the Wildlife Selfie Code and we encourage others to do so. You can sign the selfie pledge here: https://www.worldanimalprotection.us.org/wildlife-selfie-code

By taking the pledge, you promise not to take a selfie if the animal is being restrained or is being held captive. It seems that this pledge is necessary because many monkeys in Asia are basically being held captive for the purpose of tourist entertainment. They are often tied down between selfies. Obviously you don’t want to encourage an industry like this.

The code also constrains people from picking up or hugging wild animals. We don’t want to send the message that it’s okay to pick up turtles or hug baby wolves, no matter how much they might look like puppies. Doing so endangers their development as wild animals. Worse, we are likely to transmit bacteria that will make them sick or dead.

Wild animals should also not be fed. A fed animal is a dead animal because feeding animals erases their natural fear of people. Bears and wild cats who lose their fear of people are likely to be shot. Don’t offer a dolphin a fish in order to get it to smile for the camera.

When is it okay to take a selfie? Only when the animal is free to run away from you. Learn to use the zoom function on your smart phone or, better yet, learn to take real pictures with a camera.

Fabulous flying foxes are going extinct

FLYING FOXESYou may have caught the “Bill Nye Saves the World” segment on flying foxes. The featured scientist who studies them calls them “sky pups” because some of them look surprisingly like dogs. Others look like, well, foxes with wings. Their faces and necks are covered with reddish fur and they have small pointed ears characteristic of foxes, along with big, smooth wings. They look like foxes and, when resting, pose like Nosferatu, their wings closed around them like a cape. That’s the look of the Mauritian flying fox, also known as the fruit bat.

Mauritius flying foxes might have a chance at survival, except that their government keeps culling them–in the thousands. Approximately every two years, the government authorizes a “cull,” euphemistic word for mass slaughter, of flying foxes because they eat a few farmed mangoes. Farmers are perfectly capable of protecting their crops with sealed nets. But it appears they prefer to slaughter thousands of innocent mammals instead.

Unfortunately, all flying foxes live on islands, and all of them are going extinct. In Australia, laws have been enacted to curb hunting of these animals, but invasive species are still decimating them.

The foxy island dwellers have nowhere to go when they are threatened by hunting or habitat loss. Their boundaries are the seas that surround them. And flying foxes are the original inhabitants of the islands they dwell on. When humans landed on Australia’s Christmas Island, there were all of five endemic species. Humans and the exotic species they introduced, quickly dispatched four. The only original inhabitants are the flying foxes, and they are quickly disappearing.

Please sign my petition asking the Mauritian government to make the culling and hunting of flying foxes illegal.

 

 

How different are dogs and foxes?

By Judith Sansregret

We know that all dogs, even chatty little lap sitters like the¬†Pekingese, are descended from wolves. And all dogs, from the dignified mastiff to the Pomeranian, share such similar genetics, you couldn’t tell them apart from their DNA strings.

But the fox looks like a dog! Except for malamutes and huskies, most dogs look more like foxes than they look like wolves.

So I decided to do a little research. I soon discovered a Russian experiment on domestication of silver foxes that began in the 1950s and is still running.animal-1248899__340

No right-thinking animal rights advocate could possibly support this experiment. The experiment is currently funded by the sale of tame foxes and fox fur. However, the results suggest something interesting: foxes could just as easily have become man’s best friend.

At the beginning, foxes in this experiment were bred for not biting the researchers and not fleeing the researchers. Eventually, they were bred for allowing themselves to be petted and fed by hand. As they were bred for tameness, their physiques changed. They got floppier ears, curlier tails, and some of them sported spots on their fur.

Though they were not bred for cuteness, they acquired dog-like cuteness as they got tamer.

Within just ten generations, twenty percent of the foxes in the experiment acted just like dogs. They wagged their tales, approached people they didn’t know without fear, and interacted joyfully with humans, preferring their company to that of other foxes. A recent article on this experiment shows a fox sleeping on the lap of a human.

It appears that foxes could have become dogs about as easily as wolves did. So it may be just a quirk of history that dogs were bred from wolves.

So there is your answer: any fox might be only ten generations away from being a dog.