Dog’s Best Friend…Cats?

Mankind’s two best friends don’t always fight like cats and dogs, according to a new study. When living under the same roof, these two furry friends often get along just great, especially if they’re introduced at a young age.

Tel Aviv University surveyed 170 Israeli households with both a cat and a dog as pets. Two-thirds of the households reported an amicable relationship between the species. Indifference prevailed in a quarter, and less than a tenth reported fighting.

Interspecies harmony was most likely if the cat was adopted before the dog and if the animals were introduced when the cat was younger than six months and the dog younger than a year.

What’s more, Feuerstein and Terkel found that the animals learned to understand each other’s body language—even those signals that convey opposite meanings for the two species. When a dog averts its head, for example, it normally expresses submission; but a cat’s averted head can signal aggression. From video recordings of cat–dog interactions in forty-five of the households, Feuerstein and Terkel found that four times out of five, each animal reacted to its companion’s behavior according to the other’s native code.


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A Dog’s Incredibly Large Vocabulary

Be careful what you say around your dog. It might understand more than you think. A border collie named Rico recognizes the names of about 200 objects, say researchers in Germany. He also appears to learn words for new objects as easily as a 3-year-old child would. Its word-learning skill is as good as that of a parrot or chimpanzee.

Rico knows the meaning of a surprisingly large number of words. In one experiment, the researchers took all 200 items that Rico is supposed to know and divided them randomly into 20 sets of 10 objects each. The dog waited with one of his owners in one room, while an experimenter put a set of 10 objects into another room. Then, the owner told the dog to fetch one of the items. The dog had to go to the other room and bring the object back.

In four trials, Rico got 37 out of 40 commands right. Because the dog couldn’t see anyone to get visual clues about what to bring back, the scientists concluded that he must understand the meanings of certain words.

In another experiment, the scientists took one toy that Rico had never seen before and put it in a room with seven toys whose names he already knew. The dog’s owner then told him to fetch the object, using a word Rico had never heard.

In 7 out of 10 trials, Rico picked the right object, suggesting that he figured out the answer by process of elimination. A month later, he remembered half of the new names, which further impressed the researchers.

Rico is probably smarter than the average dog, the scientists say. For one thing, he’s a border collie, a breed known for its mental abilities. In addition, the 9-year-old dog has been trained to retrieve toys by their names since he was 9 months old.

It’s hard to know if all dogs understand at least some of the words we say. Even if they do, they can’t talk back. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to sweet-talk your pup every now and then. You might just get a big, wet kiss in return!

[Source: Science News]

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Great Danes and Chihuahuas – Most Destructive Dogs

The average Great Dane cost its owners $1200.00 over its lifetime in stained carpets, wrecked furniture and chewed cables, while chihuahuas notch up an impressive $1300.00 dollars worth of damage.

Mastiffs came third, costing their owners $1100.00 over a lifetime while Basset Hounds were found to cause $1100.00 of damage on average. Finishing off the top five is the Whippet, which will leave a trail of destruction totaling $1000.00. Other dogs with wrecking tendencies include English Setters, Bulldogs, Dachshunds and Boxers.

Among horror stories that emerged in the study was one about a Great Dane who thought the patio doors he was hurtling towards were open and knocked them straight out of the wall. Another owner told how his Border Collie’s wagging tail knocked over a large glass of red wine onto a cream carpet, two days after it had been laid at a cost of $6000.00.

Mike Pickard, Head of Risk and Underwriting at esure pet insurance, said a dog’s destructive tendencies comes down to boredom. “To help minimize your dog’s destructive behavior, remember to house train them from a very early age, maintain their health with regular vet check-ups, and give them plenty of exercise,” he said.

How much money has your dog cost you in damages?


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Do Dogs Have a Conscience?

The New Scientist reports that dogs may have a rudimentary sense of morality and inequity. For instance, a pair of dogs recognize a difference when one of them is given a treat and the other is not, scientists said.

A few weeks ago, the study was presented to the first Canine Science Forum in Budapest, Hungary.

“I agree,” said Will Thomas, Tampa Bay Dog Whisperer. Thomas says he’s worked with over a thousand dogs and has been successful because he’s learned to think like a dog.

[Source: Tampa Bays 10]

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Yawns Are Contagious To Dogs Too!

It’s not just Frisbees and sticks. Dogs catch yawns from people, too.

Dogs who watch a human yawn repeatedly will yawn themselves, says Atsushi Senju of Birkbeck, University of London. Just as that big jaw-stretch spreads contagiously from person to person, it spreads from person to dog, he and his colleagues report in an upcoming Biology Letters.

“It is contrary to what I’ve heard informally from a lot of dog owners who say they catch their dogs’ yawns, but their dogs never yawn when they do,” says psychologist Gordon Gallup Jr. of the State University of New York at Albany. The data are “pretty compelling” though, Gallup says of the new study. “If it can be replicated it strongly suggests dogs may have a primitive empathic capacity.”

[Source: Science News]

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Bionic Pets? It’s Possible!

A handful of cutting edge veterinary medical teams are pushing the prosthetics envelope and creating artificial legs and paws that are a hi-tech step above the makeshift limbs or carts given to most animals.

And more important, the progress improving the lives of lucky cats and dogs holds big promises for people.

One-year-old Nubbin seems unaware that he’s a bit different from his four-legged pal.

“I honestly don’t know that he knows that he’s only three-legged,” says Nubbin’s owner, Erika Edwards.

The cute canine happens to be a patient at North Carolina State University, where engineers and veterinary surgeons are fine tuning a state-of-the-art approach to prosthetics – custom-designed metal implants that attach directly to an animal’s own bones.

“We’re getting much better and we can develop new types of implants much, much faster than we did in the past,” says Ola Harryson, a biomedical engineer at North Carolina State University.

Here’s how it works: a machine transforms CAT scan images into replicas of an animal’s bones that are used to help design and customize the implant.

During surgery, the implant is inserted into the end of remaining bone. Over time, new bone grows around the metal and creates a strong anchor and a prosthetic foot is attached.

“I think it could work very well in a number of species,” says Dr. Denis Macellin-Little, a veterinary surgeon at North Carolina State University.

And that includes people, but that’s in the future.

Nubbin will be one of the first dogs to get the hi-tech implants in the next few months. The North Carolina team has had requests from pet owners around the world, including China, where a panda is missing a paw.

The group is also in contact with a number of military hospitals that are keeping close tabs on the progress in hopes returning soldiers will one day get the implants.

It is estimated that nearly two million amputees are living in the United States, a number that is expected to jump dramatically in the next ten years in part because of the war in Iraq.

[Source: KARE11 Minneapolis]

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Cloned Dog Starts at $100,000

Sooam Biotech Research Foundation, led by Hwang, said in a statement it had teamed up with BioArts International in California. The California company Wednesday announced it would auction off the right for five dog owners to have their furry best friend cloned, with bidding in a worldwide online auction starting on June 18 beginning at 100,000 dollars.

BioArts says on its Best Friends Again website that it has been granted the sole worldwide licence for the cloning of dogs, cats and endangered species by Start Licensing. This includes technology developed at Britain’s Roslin Institute which cloned Dolly the sheep, it says.

“BioArts is the only entity in the world with both the know-how and the legal right to practise commercial dog and cat cloning,” it says.

“I know the association with Dr Hwang is going to be controversial,” the New York Times quoted Lou Hawthorne, the chief executive of BioArts, as saying. “One of the contradictions of Dr Hwang is that he made mistakes on his human stem-cell research, and he’s the first to admit that.”

Hwang’s claims that he had created the first human stem cells through cloning turned out to be bogus. He was stripped of all government honours and funds, including his title of “Supreme Scientist.” He is on trial for fraud, embezzlement, ethical breaches and other charges, but has insisted in court that he could prove he created the first cloned human stem cells.

Hawthorne said Hwang’s dog cloning work had been independently verified. “Our main concern is simply he’s the best when it comes to dog cloning. And for that reason it behooves us to work with him.”

On its website, BioArts showcases three of the four clones of Hawthorne’s family dog “Missy” which died in 2002. Since then, Missy has been the subject of extensive cloning research. The remaining clone is kept at Sooam Biotech, which carried out the project to re-create Missy.

Hwang’s colleagues at Seoul National University (SNU) created the world’s first cloned dog, an Afghan hound named Snuppy, on a non-commercial basis in 2005. University researchers said Snuppy would become a father later this month following the first breeding of cloned canines. He is said to have impregnated two cloned bitches of the same breed through artificial insemination.

[Source: AFP]

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