Dog News Roundup – Jealousy, Telling Time, Sniffing Bottoms, and Black Dog Adoptions
Many of you probably see dog news items like this come across your social media newsfeed. Still, I thought it might be helpful to gather a few in one place (with a comment or two from me). Topics include canine jealousy, how dogs *might* tell time, what they learn from sniffing other dogs’ bottoms, and the myth of black dogs not getting adopted as much.
A bunch of major news outlets jumped on the canine jealousy story in recent weeks. I like to read the original research rather than someone else’s report of it, so as much as possible … when I report news like this, I’ll link to the original published research source (if there is actual research behind it).
Jealousy in Dogs, Public Library of Science (PLOS), July 23, 2014 (full text) Citation: Harris CR, Prouvost C (2014) Jealousy in Dogs. PLoS ONE 9(7): e94597. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0094597
From the abstract:
“We found that dogs exhibited significantly more jealous behaviors (e.g., snapping, getting between the owner and object, pushing / touching the object / owner) when their owners displayed affectionate behaviors toward what appeared to be another dog as compared to nonsocial objects. These results support the hypothesis that jealousy has some ‘primordial’ form that exists in human infants and in at least one other social species besides humans.”
Apparently in most studies of jealous behaviors, research has focused on a social triangle, with an interloper threatening an important relationship. Think of it as a love triangle. In this dog study, it was the dog’s person, the dog, and three kinds of interactions with a third element (a realistic stuffed dog, a novel object, and a book). It seems similar studies have been done with human babies. Details of the study:
- Researchers tested and videotaped 36 dogs (half male, half female) at home.
- Their families did NOT know the hypothesis of the study.
- People were asked to interact with a realistic “dummy” dog that barked, whined, and wagged as if it were a real dog — while ignoring their family’s dog.
- People were asked to interact in the same way with a novel object (jack-o-lantern) — again while ignoring their dogs.
- People were asked to read a children’s book aloud as if to a real child. The book was a control.
- Two research assistants, who did not know the study’s purpose, watched the videos of each dog in each test and coded the behaviors (absence or presence) seen during and after each interaction.
Researchers looked at behaviors during each test, lasting about 1 minute:
- Aggression — biting or snapping at the object
- Attention seeking or disruption of interaction — pushing at the person or trying to get between the person and the object
- Interest / attention — looking or not at the owner or object as well as orienting toward or not at the owner or object
Researchers looked at behaviors for 30 seconds after each test:
- Aggression / snapping directed at the object
- Following the owner
- Observing the object
- Ignoring the object
It’s important to note that all dogs were under 35 pounds and under 15 inches tall. What I found interesting is that any dogs whose families said they might behave aggressively were excluded. Yet, many behaved in an aggressive manner — especially toward the realistic dog object.
In Real Life
As a youngster, Lilly didn’t mind other dogs or puppies getting close to me. Her vigilant resource guarding of me (or really anyone she loved) came later. One of my favorite memories is of a hilarious corgi named Kai who wiggled his way between me and Lilly when we were close together at class one day. Kai wedged himself between my chest and Lilly’s chest. They were pals (often taking turns chasing / herding each other during play breaks at class), and at the time, Lilly seemed to find the whole thing hilarious. Later in life, of course, I would have never allowed another dog to get that close to us because Lilly would have gotten snarky.
Did you see this piece about dogs understanding a sense of time? Neat idea, but it only covers speculation about possible ways dogs comprehend or sense the passage of time. There is no published study, but here are a few of the ideas about how dogs sense time:
- Circadian rhythms
- Environmental cues (such as light and shadows)
- Fading scents over time (that helps them sense how long you’ve been gone, for example)
In Real Life
Longtime readers might recall our on / off problem with Lilly refusing to come inside out of fear, but only in the summer and only in the evenings in the summer. It was really weird, but then we found this possible explanation about summertime air currents. This article reminded me of that.
Sniffing Dog Bottoms
Then, there was this nice recap from IFLScience of a geeky chemical compounds video about dog butts. The science is real, but I dug around in the science literature archives and couldn’t find any published studies from 1975 (when the discovery was actually made). The video may be new, but the info isn’t. It turns out that dog’s anal glands release a combination of trymethylamine and several short-chain acids. That’s what dogs find so interesting about other dogs butts. For them, it’s like the smell of bacon for (most of) us.
In Real Life
I think we all have examples of this behavior in our lives. Enough said.
Black Dog Adoption Myth
You see it everywhere online. Shelters and rescue groups LOVE to say that black dogs (and cats) get overlooked for adoption. Well, it just isn’t true. I’m not saying it might not happen here and there, but research shows it a big myth in most cases. Dr. Emily Weiss says, “However, this data, along with the research I have shared in the past, should help curb the message that black dogs and cats are less likely to be adopted – as, at least in many places, it simply is not true.
In Real Life
Personally, I adore black dogs — even though it’s quite hard to photograph them. The black dog adoption myth is right up there, for me, with people saying that shelters are flooded with unwanted dogs after gift-giving holidays … There is national shelter data that shows “gift” as a pet’s source is NOT correlated with ending up in a shelter.
So, there you have it. Just a few news items from the last few weeks that I found interesting. Is this helpful? Should I publish posts like this every month or so? Let me know what you think. Or, feel free to send me news items, if you’d like me to comment and/or find the original research source.