Learning from Dogs

Dogs are integrous animals. We have much to learn from them.


with 122 comments

Pharaoh – just being a dog!

Dogs live in the present – they just are!  Dogs make the best of each moment uncluttered by the sorts of complex fears and feelings that we humans have. They don’t judge, they simply take the world around them at face value.  Yet they have been part of man’s world for an unimaginable time, at least 30,000 years.  That makes the domesticated dog the longest animal companion to man, by far!

As man’s companion, protector and helper, history suggests that dogs were critically important in man achieving success as a hunter-gatherer.  Dogs ‘teaching’ man to be so successful a hunter enabled evolution, some 20,000 years later, to farming,  thence the long journey to modern man.  But in the last, say 100 years, that farming spirit has become corrupted to the point where we see the planet’s plant and mineral resources as infinite.  Mankind is close to the edge of extinction, literally and spiritually.

Dogs know better, much better!  Time again for man to learn from dogs!

Welcome to Learning from Dogs

Written by Paul Handover

July 5, 2009 at 02:31

Posted in Core thought

Tagged with ,

The Science of Dogs

with 3 comments

Not my title but the name of a delightful short film.

The film, from AsapSCIENCE, came to my attention on the EarthSky blogsite and is a delightful video that just asks to be shared.

You all have a great weekend.

Written by Paul Handover

July 31, 2015 at 00:00

Beware of the Dog – circa AD79

leave a comment »

That very ancient relationship between man and dog.

The website Eye Witness to History has a lovely item on Mount Vesuvius:

On August 24, 79 Mount Vesuvius literally blew its top, spewing tons of molten ash, pumice and sulfuric gas miles into the atmosphere. A “firestorm” of poisonous vapors and molten debris engulfed the surrounding area suffocating the inhabitants of the neighboring Roman resort cities of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabiae. Tons of falling debris filled the streets until nothing remained to be seen of the once thriving communities. The cities remained buried and undiscovered for almost 1,700 years until excavation began in 1748. These excavations continue today and provide insight into life during the Roman Empire.

An ancient voice reaches out from the past to tell us of the disaster. This voice belongs to Pliny the Younger whose letters describe his experience during the eruption while he was staying in the home of his Uncle, Pliny the Elder. The elder Pliny was an official in the Roman Court, in charge of the fleet in the area of the Bay of Naples and a naturalist. Pliny the Younger’s letters were discovered in the 16th century.

If you are keen to read the full article then it may be found here.

My reason for quoting those opening paragraphs is because they offer a good historical introduction to another item from the BBC News website. That item is about a dog mosaic that is back on show after its restoration at Pompeii.


Pompeii guard dog mosaic back on show

One of Pompeii's finest mosaics - a guard dog at the entrance to a villa.

One of Pompeii’s finest mosaics – a guard dog at the entrance to a villa.

A vivid Roman dog mosaic is back on show after restoration at Pompeii, despite Italy’s problems funding the historical site’s conservation.

A glass shield now protects the House of the Tragic Poet, where tourists can see the dog with the inscription “Cave Canem” – Latin for “Beware of the dog“.

Frescoes at the house’s entrance were also restored. Ash from a volcanic eruption buried Pompeii in AD79.

A staffing dispute caused long queues at Pompeii on Friday, in searing heat. Pompeii gives visitors an extraordinary insight into everyday life in ancient Rome because many buildings were protected from the elements under the thick blanket of ash from Mount Vesuvius.


The restored mosaic now has better protection.

The site, near the southern city of Naples, has suffered from funding problems for years. Staff unions at Pompeii have criticised a management reorganisation there.

The House of the Tragic Poet has some of Pompeii’s finest examples of interior decoration, including scenes from Greek mythology.

But the house’s owners remain unknown – they may have died in the eruption along with many other Pompeii citizens.


Now we all know that the relationship between dogs and man goes way, way back before Pompeii but, nonetheless, it’s rather nice to see dogs commemorated in this way from 1,936 years ago.

Fly like a bird.

with 5 comments

The power and freedom of the air.

Yesterday was heading to be a very hot day in Merlin, Oregon with top temperatures forecasted to be around the mid-90’s, or 34-36 deg. C in ‘new money’. The light westerly wind must have been generating some up currents, aided and abetted by the rising hot air, for there were a number of black ravens soaring in a thermal. Watching the birds circle and climb in the thermal current without needing to flap their wings took me back too many years.

It took me back to a June day in 1981 where I experienced my first glider flight (sailplane in American speak) at the Rattlesden Gliding Club in Suffolk, East Anglia. I’m delighted to see that the Club is still an active one, as their website confirms. Although I subsequently went on to gain my private pilot’s licence (PPL) there are still times when I miss the magic, the pure magic, of gaining altitude in a glider in a beautiful thermal.

Modern fibreglass glider coming into land at Rattlesden G.C.

Modern fibreglass glider coming into land at Rattlesden G.C.

So what prompted this flood of flying nostalgia!! An item that was published on the BBC website earlier in the year.


Fly like a bird: The V formation finally explained

By Victoria Gill, Science reporter, BBC News

The mystery of why so many birds fly in a V formation may have been solved.

Scientists from the Royal Veterinary College fitted data loggers to a flock of rare birds that were being trained to migrate by following a microlight. This revealed that the birds flew in the optimal position – gaining lift from the bird in front by remaining close to its wingtip.

The study, published in the journal Nature, also showed that the birds timed their wing beats.

A previous experiment in pelicans was the first real clue to the energy-saving purpose of V formations. It revealed that birds’ heart rates went down when they were flying together in V.

But this latest study tracked and monitored the flight of every bird in the flock – recording its position, speed and heading as well as every wing flap.

This was possible thanks to a unique conservation project by the Waldarappteam in Austria, which has raised flocks of northern bald ibises and trained them to migrate behind a microlight.

The aim of this unusual project is to bring the northern bald ibis back to Europe; the birds were wiped out by hunting, so the team is retraining the birds to navigate a migration route that has now been lost.

Fitting tiny data loggers to these critically endangered ibises showed that the birds often changed position and altered the timing of their wing beats to give them an aerodynamic advantage.

Lead researcher Dr Steven Portugal explained: “They’re seemingly very aware of where the other birds are in the flock and they put themselves in the best possible position.”

This makes the most of upward-moving air generated by the bird in front. This so-called “upwash” is created as a bird flies forward; whether it is gliding or flapping, it pushes air downward beneath its wings.

“Downwash is bad,” explained Dr Portugal. “Birds don’t want to be in another bird’s downwash as it’s pushing them down.” But as the air squeezes around the outside of the wings, it creates upwash at the wingtips.

“This can give a bit of a free ride for the bird that’s following,” said Dr Portugal. “So the other bird wants to put its own wingtip in the upwash from the bird in front.”

 The other really surprising result, the researchers said, was that the birds also “timed their wing beats perfectly to match the good air off the bird in front”.

“Each bird [kept] its wingtip in the upwash throughout the flap cycle,” Dr Portugal explained.


In a sidebar to that BBC article there is this explanation about Flapping and Flying:

As a bird’s wings move through the air, they are held at a slight angle, which deflects the air downward. This deflection means the air flows faster over the wing than underneath, causing air pressure to build up beneath the wings, while the pressure above the wings is reduced. It is this difference in pressure that produces lift.

Flapping creates an additional forward and upward force known as thrust, which counteracts the weight and the “drag” of air resistance. The downstroke of the flap is also called the “power stroke”, as it provides the majority of the thrust. During this, the wing is angled downwards even more steeply.

You can imagine this stroke as a very brief downward dive through the air – it momentarily uses the animal’s own weight in order to move forward. But because the wings continue to generate lift, the creature remains airborne. In each upstroke, the wing is slightly folded inwards to reduce resistance.


The BBC piece also included this wonderful short video:

This piece has nothing to do with dogs unless one extends the mindset to the magic of the complete natural world.


This is a photograph of George Ball hang-gliding – see his reply below.


More to dog affection than one might assume.

with 4 comments

Right and wrong ways when it comes to petting your dog.

I badly over-estimated how much free time I would have once the draft manuscript had been sent off to my proof readers. That took place last Saturday but queries from those readers and a number of other book-related tasks were still running strong as of yesterday.

So my expectation that I would be writing my own blog posts for a while was badly off.

All of which is my preamble to an item that was published on Mother Nature Network last Thursday that I would like to share with you.


Are you petting your dog the wrong way?

By: Mary Jo DiLonardo
July 23, 2015

We love to pet our dogs, but sometimes the way we mess with their hair can cause problems. (Photo: AnnaIA/Shutterstock)

We love to pet our dogs, but sometimes the way we mess with their hair can cause problems. (Photo: AnnaIA/Shutterstock)

The other night my husband was playing with our puppy when he said, “What’s that lump behind his ear?”

Horrified that he had found a tick, I went to investigate. But it was thick and lumpy and way too big to be an insect. We peered and prodded and couldn’t figure it out. Our sweet dog whined when we poked too much, and I was ready to rush to the vet, convinced he had a horrible growth.

But then I consulted the Internet. Turns out (duh) our long-haired pup had a mat. No tumor. No tick. But a thick ball of hair, which had accumulated in a tight knot right behind his ear. I tried coaxing it free like I remember my mom doing with my tangled mop years ago. I tried a little conditioner. Finally, I went to work with some tiny fingernail scissors and a little slicker brush.

It’s not that we don’t groom our dog. I have all sorts of brushes and combs and a fancy gadget that’s supposed to remove excess undercoat. Every time I use it, I feel like I could make a new dog with the puffs of hair that come billowing out. But our last sweet boy was a Jack Russell terrier. He had teeny little slick hairs and was incredibly low-maintenance. I had never seen a mat before now.

And now I find out that these ear mats might be our fault. When I mentioned it to the groomer at my vet’s office, she said — as strange as it sounds — that many people are petting their dogs the wrong way.

Apparently, we have a tendency to rub and massage our little guys behind the ears because we love them so much. And those long wispy hairs form a nest of a mess. Instead, we should pet them in long raking moves so we don’t tangle the hair.

“Some dogs have a really fine undercoat and around their head it’s really soft so we tend to play with their hair there,” says Lori Bierbrier, DVM, staff veterinarian with the ASPCA. (For the record, she says she’s seen several cases of panicky dog and cat owners like me who thought a mat was something so much worse.)

“I don’t think we totally make (a mat) happen by petting them, but we can add to it,” she says. “Like some people have the habit of twirling or twisting their hair, it’s like that.”

That doesn’t mean we should stop petting our pets, obviously; just be more vigilant in preventive care with regular grooming.

Grooming your dog regularly can help prevent the formation of mats. (And sometimes your dog might actually like it.) (Photo: allanw/Shutterstock) Read more: http://www.mnn.com/family/pets/stories/are-you-petting-your-dog-wrong-way#ixzz3h89ZKsgI

Grooming your dog regularly can help prevent the formation of mats. (And sometimes your dog might actually like it.) (Photo: allanw/Shutterstock)

Mats 101

Mats usually form whenever there’s rubbing or some kind of movement, says Bierbrier. That’s why it’s common for dogs to get mats between their legs, near their tail, by their collars and behind their ears. If you work the knots out early, they’re relatively harmless and not too uncomfortable for your pet. But as they grow, they can cause irritation and lead to problems like bacterial and fungal infections. If they’re on the legs, they can make it difficult for the dog to move. If mats get too big, tight and close to the skin, a groomer or a vet may have to remove them.

The ASPCA website suggests using a rubber brush or slicker brush on smooth, short-coated dogs. Use a slicker brush, then a bristle brush on dogs with short, dense fur that mats easily. For dogs with long hair, remove tangles daily with a slicker brush. Then brush with a bristle brush and comb if necessary. Don’t use a scissors (like I did) because you can cut your pet’s skin if you get too close, especially if the dog fidgets.

There’s a trick or two you can learn at home, says Jean Donovan of Laurel, Delaware, who has been grooming dogs for more than 35 years. She agrees that petting gets some of the blame, but says the ears are just prone to matting.

“I call it a ‘high traffic area.’ They perk those ears up for every sound plus, there’s always the good ol’ scratch-behind-the ear habit,” she says.

Donovan suggests rubbing a little cornstarch on your fingers, then rubbing the mat. The slippery starch will help make the mat easier to work out with a bristle brush and comb.

Here’s a great how-to video from a dog groomer who shows how to get rid of tangles and mats. (You watch it while I go brush my dog.)



Written by Paul Handover

July 28, 2015 at 00:00

Introducing the Shih Tzu

with 2 comments

A guest post from Dr. Coleman.

From time to time I receive unsolicited emails asking if I would be interested in publishing posts from this or that particular person. They always strike me as suspicious and receive, in turn, a polite ‘no thank you’.

However, a few weeks ago, the following came in:

My name is Intan and I am a community team member at ShihTzu Web, a website dedicated to providing breed-specific information just for shih tzu owners. We share articles regularly about shih tzu grooming, training, and health.

We would love to help provide some free high-quality content for the shih tzu owners in your audience with a guest blog post. We have two specialist writers for our blog: veterinarian Jill Coleman, who writes about shih tzu health topics, and Sally Gutteridge, who writes about shih tzu grooming and training.

That website ShihTzu Web clearly sets out a part commercial proposition but after thinking about the offer, I decided to accept the guest post.

So here is that guest post, authored by Dr. Jill Coleman*:

Jill Coleman

Jill Coleman


What to Do If Your Dog Is Pregnant

First things first: were you planning on your dog getting pregnant? There are many convincing arguments that until the pet overpopulation problem is under control, there should be no planned canine pregnancies. This article is not going get into that debate (although the last sentence pretty much wraps up my opinion).

Let’s first assume you did NOT mean for your dog to get pregnant. Oops! You will hear about “morning after” shots and pills. None of these are recommended because they all seem to have side effects that are far worse than having a litter of puppies. We’re talking life threatening uterine infections and bone marrow suppression– nasty stuff, so this definitely does not keep your dog healthy. An option if you are planning on spaying your dog anyway, is to have her spayed. Waiting until she is out of heat is a good idea because the surgery is considered safer when they aren’t in heat because they lose less blood.

Now we’ll assume that you either did plan on your dog getting pregnant and/or you just need advice for a pregnant dog: what should you do? Not a lot, really. Dogs have been successfully reproducing with no human intervention for many years. A good quality diet is important. For the first half of their pregnancy a normal adult, high quality diet is fine. Switch to puppy food (sometimes referred to as “growth”) for the second half of the pregnancy and the entire time she is nursing the puppies. Do NOT supplement with any vitamins. Studies have shown that not only is this unnecessary, it is detrimental. Supplementing with calcium for example can make the bitch produce less of her own and thus interfere with her normal milk production.

Dogs are pregnant for approximately 63 days. At about day 55, it’s a good idea to start taking their temperature twice a day. Rectal thermometers are more accurate, but I have never met a dog that enjoys this process. There are many non-rectal thermometers available now that work perfectly for this because even if they read a little low, what you look for is a drop from their normal temperature. So go ahead and get one and establish what “normal” is for your dog well before she is due to whelp. Dog’s temperatures drop about 2 full degrees approximately 24 hours before they give birth. This is a fantastic way to tell when they are about to give birth. A dog’s normal resting rectal temperature is 101.5*F +/- about 1*.

Go ahead and prepare a whelping box that is comfortable and tucked away in a safe, preferably familiar area to the bitch. It is important for it to be quiet to allow her to relax. The less people running around and stressing out the better. You can actually cause your bitch to go out of labor by freaking her out.

As far as exercise, she doesn’t have to be a couch potato but avoid strenuous exercise especially late in her pregnancy. Walks are fine, but be sure she doesn’t overheat. Be careful approaching other dogs, even if she has been fine with them in the past. Most dog’s personalities don’t really change significantly but some will become more aggressive during their pregnancy. (Almost all will become protective of the puppies once they are born.)

Check your flea and tick medications to be sure they are safe. You will probably have to check with your veterinarian because most flea and tick medications are not labeled for use on pregnant or lactating females because they simply didn’t conduct studies on pregnant bitches. Your veterinarian should know which ones are safe if you are having flea and tick issues.

Last but not least and possibly most important is to go ahead and put emergency numbers where you can easily find them. You don’t want to be trying to find the emergency clinics number in the middle of the night if your furry child is having problems.



*Dr. Jill Coleman, DVM, is a small animal veterinarian with 20 years of clinical experience. She graduated from Furman University with a BA in English in 1991. She graduated with honors from The University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine in 1995. She loves small dogs like Shih Tzu and loves writing about them. She shares her experience about Shih Tzu at ShihTzu Web.

I will leave you with this delightful photograph …


… and the following few words from me.

Namely, that I have had no dealings with Shih Tzu Web or the organisation and people behind the website. Please don’t assume that the posting of this guest post offers any endorsement, or otherwise, of Shih Tzu Web. Any relevant feedback would be most welcome.

Written by Paul Handover

July 27, 2015 at 00:00

Picture parade one hundred and six

leave a comment »

The theme for the next three Picture Parades: The Perfect Puppy

Suzann sent me some wonderful pictures with the following background story:

A family in New York began visiting shelters to look for the perfect pup. After a few weeks of searching local shelters, they found a puppy that they fell in love with – Theo. He craved human friendship and attention. Three days after coming home with them, he joined their son Beau for his daily nap. Beau’s mother began taking “nap” pictures and now they are warming hearts around the world.

So here is the first set of seven pictures.
















Another wonderful set of pictures in a week’s time.

Written by Paul Handover

July 26, 2015 at 00:00

Saturday smile.

with 8 comments

Wonderful volunteers keep a stranded Orca whale alive.

I saw this shared on Facebook by George Ball, a friend from my English days. It’s a lovely example of the compassionate side of man.


From CBS News:

Stranded orca saved by volunteers who kept it cool for hours until high tide

A pump and sheets were used to keep whale alive near Hartley Bay on B.C.’s North Coast

By Maryse Zeidler, CBC News Posted: Jul 23, 2015 7:20 AM PT – Last Updated: Jul 24, 2015 5:35 AM PT

An orca that was stranded on some rocks was kept alive for eight hours by a dedicated team of whale researchers and volunteers on the North Coast of B.C.

“She cried often, which tore at our hearts, but as the tide came up there were many cheers as this whale was finally free,” said in a Facebook post from the group The Cetacean Lab.

Early Wednesday morning, the group received a call from a colleague about the beached orca, which was stuck on some rocks at low tide.

“We decided the best thing to do would be to keep her cool, that meant to put water on her body and we used blankets and sheets,” said Hermann Meuter, a co-founder of Cetacean Lab.

“It was the only thing we could do.”

Meuter said they could see the orca’s behaviour change as they began to help her.

“At first she was stressed, you could see that her breathing was getting a little faster,” said Meuter.

But after about 15 to 20 minutes, she began to calm down.

“I think she knew that we were there to help her,” said Meuter.

Around 4 p.m. PT, the tide began to rise and the orca was able to start freeing herself.

“It took her about 45 minutes to negotiate how best to get off the rocks,” said Meuter. “We all just kept our distance at that point.”

When she swam away, the orca was quickly reunited with her pod, which was nearby.

Metuer said members of the World Wildlife Fund and the Git G’at Guardians from Hartley Bay were also on the scene helping to free the animal.

“We all cared about this whale and we were just very lucky to give that whale another chance,” said Meuter.


There are photographs to view on that CBS News item plus this video (wish it could have been longer) was also included in Maryse Zeidler’s report.

Well done to everyone who helped save this magnificent animal.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,455 other followers

%d bloggers like this: