Tag Archives: dogs

Making the world safe, one squeak toy at time

Jason has started what I hope to be a new feature on his blog:  Monday Pets.  He’s promising to delve into the behavior/cognitive abilities of the non-human animals we share our homes with.  This week, he takes on dogs and their play behavior.  In the post he mentions that he has to buy his dog (or, at least what I assume is his dog) a new toy squirrel every week.

That got me to thinking about Shiloh’s toy preferences.  Now, as I’ve stated, Shiloh is an odd dog.  I’m no vet but I’ve had dogs for most of my life and now after 12 years with Shiloh would be inclined to think he has a canine version of autism (if such a thing exists – perhaps I’ll go into all of his behavioral symptoms to explain why I think that’s the case at some point in the future).

But for today I’ll just talk about his toy preferences which are very specific.

He is only attracted to toys that squeak (I’m talking about solo play here, btw).  Toys with a squeaker are savaged until the noise maker has been destroyed and then they are forgotten.  His focus when it comes to such toys can be intense, with him chewing for hours on end (assuming the toy is sturdy enough to handle the abuse) and one one or two occasions he has even wet himself rather than stop attacking the toy.

I would suspect that the squeak elicits some sort of kill response from him except for one piece of evidence.  Shiloh enjoys chasing chimpmunks (whose warning chirp sounds remarkably like a squeak toy) and on at least two occasions has had the opportunity to actually get grab one in his jaws.  Both times he released it, unharmed, immediately and with surprise.

In terms of other play behavior Shiloh enjoys fetch and seems to use it not only for play but (given his general reluctance to petting by anyone other than me) also seems to use it as a tool for establishing/maintaining social bonds.  If he gets anxious or I have to discipline him he’ll frequently go for a fetch toy or act in a way to try to elicit me to throw one.  It seems to be a way of communicating “I know this was a stressful situation but we’re still cool, right?”

The fetch instinct is apparently fairly unusual for beagles (they’ll chase just fine but tend not to come back) and was totally organic on his part.  He chased and retrieved to my amusement without any encouragement or prodding.

Total play behavior. Bow pose, mouth open but no teeth, and relaxed face.

Shiloh will not play any sort of ‘tug-of-war’ and, in fact, will not but his mouth on any toy I have in my hand.  While I didn’t encourage such play in him as a pup I don’t recall actively discouraging it but it simply doesn’t compute for him.  That’s generally a good thing.

While Shiloh has been a bit of a challenge, his behavioral issues provide an interesting view of canine behavior because many times they’re so exaggerated.

Today Jason continues the dog theme with a discussion about dog growls.  Again, Shiloh provides a great learning experience and over the years I am well attuned to the meaning of his growls with or without visual clues.  His food/territorial growl is very different from his play growl which is very different from his stranger growl.

Definitely not a play face...ears back, lips curled and a warning growl means much more and you could expect a snap.

His barks, similarly, are very distinct (at least to me) and I have a high degree of confidence I can understand them even when he’s out of sight.

While the differences and very noticeable to me, Mrs. TwShiloh was unable to distinguish them for a few years and is only now able to distinguish them (and not to the degree that I can which is understandable).

Now for a beagle with a manic focus I can tell you that regular squeak toys do not last long in our house.  They typical toy will generally not survive more than 15 minutes of his attention (and no, I’m not exaggerating).  I find the kong wubba to be a very satisfactory and sturdy toy, well worth the price.  While he has ‘killed’ several we have one that has defied him for several months at this point.

Kvick Tänkare

Shark attack…4 million years ago.

Sweden proposes a memorial day for their veterans.

Sweden has been involved in military operations overseas since 1948. A total of 81 Swedes have lost their lives, with 16 dying in combat. Among the operations with Swedish troop deployment are named Korea, Kosovo, the Gulf of Aden (Somalia) and Afghanistan, where the country keeps a force of 500 troops.

It might be unscientific but this is an interesting look at beliefs within the tea-party movement.  I suspect, however, that many people would not be able to accurately answer these questions either.  Kinda makes any serious debate on economic policy difficult if you can’t even accurately define the parameters of the problem.

A while ago, there was a study saying that domesticated dogs originated in China, potentially as a food source.  I wasn’t particularly happy with that theory which is why I much preferred this new study which puts forth a different theory for the origins of dogs.

Dog domestication and human settlement occurred at the same time, some 15,000 years ago, raising the possibility that dogs may have had a complex impact on the structure of human society. Dogs could have been the sentries that let hunter gatherers settle without fear of surprise attack. They may also have been the first major item of inherited wealth, preceding cattle, and so could have laid the foundations for the gradations of wealth and social hierarchy that differentiated settled groups from the egalitarianism of their hunter-gatherer predecessors. Notions of inheritance and ownership, Dr. Driscoll said, may have been prompted by the first dogs to permeate human society, laying an unexpected track from wolf to wealth.

I saw Food Inc.  this weekend.  If you’ve read the Omnivore’s Dilemma and/or Fast Food Nation you won’t hear anything new here but the visual helps to drive the various messages home.  If you don’t think you’ll be reading the books in the future you can get the jist out of this film.  The file explains why we need to understand where our food comes from and how it ends up in those plastic wrappers in the market.

How you can make your own commercial and air it on cable TV for $100.  No, not one of those lame public access channels, how about Fox News?  How would a TwShiloh commercial look???

The first film in the ‘Millennium’ trilogy is now apparently available in the U.S. and getting great reviews.  I’ve written about this before you, loyal readers, you’ve got a leg up here.  It’s a really good film.  I’ll just second Peter Travers here:

“If you ignore the film because it’s in Swedish with English subtitles, you probably deserve the remake Hollywood will surely screw up,” wrote Rolling Stone magazine’s Peter Travers…

Rumors are that Clooney, Pitt and Depp are interested in the lead role which boggles the mind.

Besides, there’s no way they could get a leading lady as talented (and attractive) as Noomi Rapace

Finally, a bit of zombie fighting motivation…

Kvick Tänkare

Why are dogs so good at picking up social ques from humans?  Just a note, we are unable to replicate this experiment at TwShiloh HQ because when I point at something Shiloh tends to just stare at my finger.  Sometimes he’ll bark at me.

Ok, I’m not kidding now.  Go to Kotare’s website and read his alternate history of post WW1 Europe.

Is anyone really shocked to find out that various federal agencies were collecting information on various groups not engaged in criminal activity?  I was going to go a bit deeper into this but can see it’s going to need it’s own post.  More later.

Pervasive security cameras don’t substantially reduce crime.

The Atlantic has redesigned their website.  They just have such a consistently high quality of stuff it’s amazing but it’s going to take some time to get used to this format.

Remind me, if I ever have a daughter, that she absolutely will NOT have a traditional Islamic wedding (not that it would be likely but just for the record).

And…the latest in the Washington Facebook-sphere

Where can I get a dog-sized pickelhaube?

Is that a 1000 yard stare?

Like everyone else in the mid-Atlantic I got blasted with a double wallop of snow.  One of the problems when we get that much accumulation is I have to shovel an are for Shiloh to get out and do his thing.  If he’s braved the snow once or twice I’ll try to dig a path following whatever route he’s taken.

I suspect he’s been dipping into my WWI library recently.  When I had finished clearing his path it looked earily like a trench on the Western Front (only about 10 inches deep).

The woods in the background would be the enemy lines.  Squirrels rush the trenches in overwhelming numbers (squirrel-wave tactics) yet Shiloh manages to throw them back every time.  This promises to be a long slog…

Speaking of dogs in the First World War…I’ve posted this before but it seems appropriate to give it another shot in the spotlight.  And this explains why our brief flirtation with sausages as obstacles was quickly shelved.  The details in this movie are brilliant.  Someone clearly had way too much free time and money to spend.

The complex environment of animal protection

Check out NY Mag’s article titled ‘The Rise of Dog Identity Politics‘.  If you’re a dog person you really shouldn’t need much convincing but it’s also interesting in giving a nuanced view of the spectrum of the animal protection movement:

As often happens, the success in moving toward some of the movement’s most basic goals has only increased the doctrinal conflict among various groups…The rescue people don’t agree with the animal-welfare people, and both can’t stand the animal-rights people…It’s a struggle for the Future of Dog, a little like Russia in 1917, with weakened conservatives and radicals of many stripes, all trying desperately to invent a future.
Famously, the touchstone of the animal-rights movement is Peter Singer’s 1975 book Animal Liberation.  Ingrid Newkirk, PETA’s leader, seems to dream of a world in which pets have been abolished, and she is a particularly reviled figure among many dog people. Although PETA’s mission statement includes language suggesting that each animal life is intrinsically valuable, the organization’s actions describe a more nuanced picture. PETA kills a surprising number of the animals it takes in. In the decade beginning with 1998, PETA euthanized 17,000 animals, 85 percent of those it rescued.
Dog-rescue people oppose PETA and its ilk bitterly. They see numbers like this and think mass murder.  Regarding human nature, Newkirk is a pessimist. In her view, we’ve botched this whole dominion thing, creating an Island of Dr. Moreau of animal horrors. So the best thing to do is to end our agency over animals, to disengage, build a wall around nature and stay on our side. The dog, in particular, is polluted by human influence. The animal-rights movement can seem as much about keeping humans free of guilt as keeping animals free of suffering, which is another kind of solipsism.

Agencies concerned with animal rights issues would do well to learn these distinctions.  Even though those who violate the law in the name of animal rights usually jump back and forth between legal and illegal activity there is a disturbing tendency to view the entire movement with a suspicious eye.  I’d say things have gotten better over the past couple of years (although I could be wrong about that) but to be honest this issue has really been off my radar for awhile.

I’ve never liked Newkirk but never thought of my dislike being a function of me being a ‘dog person’.  I always thought my contempt for her was due to the fact that she demanded that reality conform to her psychotic interpretation of it.  She has a glorified, romanticized vision of nature  and suffers from the same mindset that brought us racist paternalism only instead of saving the savages from themselves and bringing them all the benefits of civilization she wants to override evolution itself to conform to her political views.

Still, given PETAs opposition to animals as pets perhaps my opinion of the organization runs a bit deeper than ideological differences.

For the record, I’m also not a fan of the AKC which really promotes the disfigurement of dogs through breeding and surgery.

Good Duke…somebody’s getting a treat!

Duke University has created a Canine Cognition Center in order to figure out how dogs thing according to this article.  The website is a bit sparse but they do have some papers available for download (Are dogs better at understanding human signals than chimps?  Suck it chimps!

Trigger happy Saturday

Outrageous story today about a guy who accidentally called 9-1-1.

A dispatcher called back and was assured there was no emergency. That information was relayed to the responding officer before she arrived at the home.

Can you guess where this is going?

The responding officer then reported being confronted by “three large, vicious dogs”.  The officer pulled out her gun (not her pepper spray or taking some other action) and killed one of the dogs.

Wow…a large, vicious dog.  A great dane?  German Shepard?

Zoey, a mixed breed, weighed approximately 35 pounds, according to the family. Two other dogs, both smaller than Zoey, were in the area.

It seems that it’s routine for police to go out for every 9-1-1 call, even if they’re accidentally made.  It also is policy for the dispatcher to not tell the caller that the police will be coming out.

Those are fine policies and seem reasonable.  But, it does seem a recipe for disaster when you combine an emphasis on officer safety with dog behavior.  I’m not qualified to say if our law enforcement agencies are too quick resort of deadly force (although others have done a convincing job of doing so) but really…the patrol officer isn’t alerted to the presence of dogs…the homeowner isn’t alerted that a stranger (dogs don’t recognize badges) will be coming by so they can restrain the dog…

This doesn’t mean that law enforcement generally (or this officer specifically) take any sort of pleasure in doing this sort of thing but it may be that we’re essentially setting them up for failure in the way we train them and the policies they establish.  Of course, I’d argue that this sort of thing is exactly the sort of problem that will resist change.  So long as dogs are the victims and there is a story anywhere about a dog which has attacked (and possibly injured) a law enforcement officer, the argument will always be that one should never take chances with officer safety.

Finally, since when does a 35 pound dog get classified as ‘large’?  Shiloh weighs about 22 pounds and he can definitely be defined as ‘stranger unfriendly’.  Still, I can now say with a high degree of confidence that, if necessary, I could prevent a highly aggressive dog of that size from injuring me without special equipment or clothing.

Kvick Tänkare (and coming attractions for TwShiloh)

Outward Bound and the Sierra Club have partnered to allow veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan to partake in free expeditions.

China is talking about enacting legislation outlawing the eating of dogs (and cats, but who cares about them?)!

Finland is thinking about lower the voting age to 16 for local elections.  Before you poo-poo that, allow me to remind you that Alexander the Great became king at 20 and Augustus became heir to Caesar’s fortunes at 18.  Why shouldn’t 16 year olds get some exposure to the world they’re about to inherent?

I was reading through the latest issue of Homeland Security Affairs this weekend and there’s an article titled “Changing Homeland Security: Twelve Questions From 2009” (http://www.hsaj.org/pages/volume6/issue1/pdfs/6.1.1.pdf) that I was going to blog about but I really think it would benefit more from a hashing out of its ideas from multiple perspectives.  Therefore, I asked a number of others to participate in a virtual round table to hash out these questions over the months ahead.  So, beginning in February we’ll be highlighting one of Bellavita’s questions and discussing it from our various perspectives.

We’re not only in a new decade but fast approaching ten years since 9/11 and it seems as if we’re still operating under assumptions that were made in those early, hectic moments and days after the attacks.  At some point, we should take a moment and bring them out, dust them off and see if they make as much sense now as they did when we thought color coding our threats was a good idea.

So…please feel free to participate in any way you’d like:  comment on our blogs or post on your own.  The questions we’ll be discussing include:

1. Why is it so difficult to make risk-based decisions in homeland security?
2. Why are we unable to measure the relationship between homeland security expenditures and preparedness?
3. Why is illegal immigration a homeland security issue?
4. Why is FEMA still a part of the Department of Homeland Security?
5. What can the nation realistically expect from its intelligence apparatus?
6. How does technology contribute to homeland security, and how does it make us more vulnerable?
7. Are the direct and indirect costs of security – for example aviation security — worth the benefits?
8. How important is cyber security?
9. Can the values of security and privacy be complementary, or must they be
10. Under what conditions will the United States torture people?
11. Is it necessary to understand Islam to develop an effective counterterrorism policy?
12. What can the homeland security enterprise learn from the apparent success managing the H1N1 pandemic?

The dogs of Moscow

Super article about stray dogs in Moscow (h/t Balko).  There are about 30,000 stray dogs in Moscow and a wolf researcher there has been studying the dogs for a few decades now.  He’s identified some interesting differences from these wild dogs and wolves:

  • Wolves stay strictly within their own pack, even if they share a territory with another. A pack of dogs, however, can hold a dominant position over other packs and their leader will often “patrol” the other packs by moving in and out of them. His observations have led Poyarkov to conclude that this leader is not necessarily the strongest or most dominant dog, but the most intelligent – and is acknowledged as such. The pack depends on him for its survival.

These aren’t dogs that have been discarded.  Abandoning pets on the streets of Moscow (or just about anywhere else) is essentially a death sentence for dogs.  It’s estimated that only 3% of abandoned dogs survive on the street.  Rather, these dogs were born on the street and are described as generally “medium-sized with thick fur, wedge-shaped heads and almond eyes. Their tails were long and their ears erect.”

I once read a book (I think it was this one) that argued that if you look at wild dogs all over the world that exist in close proximity to humans you’ll see they generally fit that description.  Any smaller and they’d have trouble scavenging their next meal, avoid predation, and withstanding the difficulties of living without shelter.  Any larger and humans would probably view them as a threat and kill them off.

Particularly interesting is the emergence of ‘metro dogs’

Neuronov says there are some 500 strays that live in the metro stations, especially during the colder months, but only about 20 have learned how to ride the trains. This happened gradually, first as a way to broaden their territory. Later, it became a way of life. “Why should they go by foot if they can move around by public transport?” he asks.

“They orient themselves in a number of ways,” Neuronov adds. “They figure out where they are by smell, by recognising the name of the station from the recorded announcer’s voice and by time intervals. If, for example, you come every Monday and feed a dog, that dog will know when it’s Monday and the hour to expect you, based on their sense of time intervals from their ­biological clocks.”

Veterans Day

The next time somebody tells you animals don’t have ‘real’ feelings remember this (H/T Daily Dish).  Family and friends aren’t the only ones who miss soldiers who are away…

More here

If this doesn’t make you either immediately seek out your dog and give him a well deserved pat (or wish you could), you clearly have no heart.