Tag Archives: dogs

Wolf puppies play fetch with humans

An experiment raising wolf puppies in close contact with humans has surprisingly found that some of those puppies learn how to play fetch with humans, even strangers.

Playing fetch with your dog isn’t as simple as it seems. Your pooch must be perceptive enough to realize you want the ball back—and social enough to want to play with you in the first place. It’s such an advanced skill, in fact, that many scientists think it could have arisen only over thousands of years of domestication.

But a new study reveals that some gray wolves—the ancestors of dogs—can also play fetch. The work supports the idea that the roots of many of the traits and behaviors we see in domesticated animals, from cats to chickens, may be present in their wild relatives.

…As the pups grew, the scientists noticed that some would retrieve a tennis ball thrown across the room. Intrigued, they tested all the wolves for the ability. When the pups were 8 weeks old, Hansen Wheat brought each one into a large, barren room with someone the animals had never met before. Then she left, and after a few minutes, the stranger threw a tennis ball.

Most of the wolves ignored the ball. But two pups—Lemmy and Elvis—returned the ball twice, the team reports today in iScience. One pup named Sting returned it all three times it was thrown, as seen in the video above. (All the wolves were named after musicians.)

What this study has discovered is likely the very process that produced the first dogs, from wolves. Early humans culled out of the wolf pack the puppies that responded to human behavior, and interbred those puppies to produce a new species that was closely linked to its human masters. And apparently this process can be quicker than some scientists previously believed.

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The first American dogs were different, and arrived a very long time ago

New genetic research using buried dogs found at two sites in Illinois suggests that the first American dogs came over from Siberia over 16,000 years ago, and were genetically distinct from European dogs.

In the 1960s and 1970s, archaeologists excavated two sites in western Illinois, where ancient hunter-gatherers collected shellfish from a nearby river and stalked deer in surrounding forests. These people also appear to have buried their dogs: One was found at a site known as Stilwell II, and four at a site called Koster, curled up in individual gravelike pits.

Radiocarbon analysis of the bones reveals that they are around 10,000 years old, making these canines the oldest dogs known in the Americas, researchers report on the bioRxiv server. It also makes these the oldest solo dog burials anywhere in the world. The Stilwell II dog was about the size of an English setter, whereas the Koster dogs were smaller and slenderer, says the study’s lead author, Angela Perri, a zooarchaeologist at Durham University in the United Kingdom. “It wouldn’t be surprising if they were all used as hunting dogs.” But where did they come from in the first place?

A second study, published today in Science, may have the answer. A large, international team of researchers sequenced DNA from the mitochondria, or cellular power plants, of 71 North American and Siberian dog bones—including from one of the Koster dogs—dated from about 10,000 to 1000 years ago. When they compared this material, which is passed down only by the mother, to that of 145 modern and ancient dogs, they discovered that the ancient American dogs have a genetic signature not found in any other canines.

There is much uncertainty still about the dates, but not about the genetics. The dogs were larger, resembles wolves, and even howled instead of barked. They were wiped out after the arrival of the Europeans in American, probably because of disease.

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Petroglyphs found depicting the earliest leashed dogs?

Archaeologists have found petroglyphs in Saudi Arabia that could be the earliest depiction of dogs being held by leashes.

Carved into a sandstone cliff on the edge of a bygone river in the Arabian Desert, a hunter draws his bow for the kill. He is accompanied by 13 dogs, each with its own coat markings; two animals have lines running from their necks to the man’s waist.

The engravings likely date back more than 8000 years, making them the earliest depictions of dogs, a new study reveals. And those lines are probably leashes, suggesting that humans mastered the art of training and controlling dogs thousands of years earlier than previously thought.

The dating however remains uncertain. The carvings could be much younger.

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A Texas court has ruled that the owners of a wrongfully killed pet can recover “sentimental” or “intrinsic” damages.

A Texas court has ruled that the owners of a wrongfully killed pet can recover “sentimental” or “intrinsic” damages.

The case stems from a lawsuit brought by Kathryn and Jeremy Medlen against Carla Strickland. Around June 2, 2009, the Medlen’s dog Avery escaped from their backyard and was picked up by animal control. Jeremy went to the animal shelter to retrieve Avery but didn’t have enough money with him to pay the fees. He was told he could return for the dog June 10, and a “hold for owner” tag was placed on Avery’s cage.

On June 6, Strickland, a shelter employee, made a list of animals that would be euthanized the following day. She put Avery on the list, despite the “hold for owner” tag, and the dog was euthanized the next day. When the Medlens returned to claim Avery, they learned what had happened.

I have no sympathy for the veterinary organizations that are opposing this ruling, claiming it will raise costs. From what I can gather, they face no risk if they simply do their job properly. In the case above, the dog was wrongfully killed, and thus the shelter should pay for that error.

A side note: If this precedent gets accepted, it will act as a deterrent to police departments who presently think the only way to handle a homeowner’s dog is to shoot it on sight. If you are a cop and you wrongfully kill a dog, this ruling will make you liable for a lot more than the dog’s mere market worth.

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A 33,000-year-old dog skull found in a Siberian cave, when compared with other ancient dog remains found in a Belgium cave, suggest to scientists that the domestication of dogs took place separately in many different places.

A 33,000-year-old dog skull found in a Siberian cave, when compared with other ancient dog remains found in a Belgium cave, suggest to scientists that the domestication of dogs took place separately in many different places.

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Two Dogs Defy the Wave

Two dogs defy the wave. This is the key quote, however:

Mr. Kikuchi and his daughter said they will come back every day to look after the dogs, but they are not going to bring the dogs to the shelter. “There are lots of people dead and it’s too much to ask to bring the dogs,” said Mr. Kikuchi. “It would be inconsiderate to other people’s sadness.”

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