Tag: Dogs

Sorry to repeat myself, but ..

… I just want you to know something!

That is how grateful I am to all of you followers of Learning from Dogs.  Every single one of you.

It seemed just yesterday that I wrote a post offering my gratitude that there were now 1,000 followers of my humble scribblings.  In fact, the post was dated the 12th May.

Yesterday afternoon the number of dear followers had risen to 1,085. Amazing!

But here’s the reason I’m writing this.

The vast majority of followers are bloggers themselves. ¬†It’s easy for me to pop along to ‘their place’ and leave a thank-you note.

But in recent days, there have been a number of new subscribers who are not bloggers and that makes it almost impossible for me to say ‘thank you’ directly.

So to those new subscribers who are not bloggers, and everyone else: Thank You!

Hazel sends her thanks!
Hazel sends her thanks!

Evolution of the family dog.

A republication of an essay on the history of dogs.

Dr. George Johnson
Dr. George Johnson

For some time I have been aware of an essay authored by Dr. George Johnson under his On Science series page umbrella.  As that page explains:

ON SCIENCE is a weekly science column written by me (George Johnson), published initially in the St. Louis Post Dispatch, and now in the online newspaper St. Louis Beacon (stlbeacon.org). For over 30 years I taught biology to college students at Washington University. For the last decade of these years, I taught a freshman course that introduced nonscience majors to current issues where science plays a key role, issues such as AIDS, the environment, cloning, genetic engineering, and evolution.

The course was intended to give them the tools to think about these issues as citizens and voters. I write my column as a way of teaching the general public about these same issues.

Most people are very interested in science, but put off by the terminology. When you don’t know what the words mean, it’s easy to slip into thinking that the matter is difficult, when actually the ideas are simple, easy to grasp, and fun to consider. It’s the terms that get in the way, that stand as a wall between citizens and science.

It is the intent of my column to turn those walls into windows, so that readers can peer in and join the fun. Analogies are my tool. In each column I look for simple analogies that relate the matter at hand to things we all know. As science, analogies are not exact, but I do not count myself compromised. Analogies trade precision for clarity. If I do my job right, the key idea is not compromised by the analogy I use to explain it, but rather revealed.

A quick trip to Dr. Johnson’s bio details reveals a substantial academic background.

Anyway, the particular essay that I was very interested in was, unsurprisingly, one about the history of the domestic dog.

I wrote Dr. Johnson asking for permission to publish his essay here on Learning from Dogs and promptly received such permission.  Indeed, better than that, here is his reply email:

By all means, but please cite a revised version of the article (in ESSENTIALS OF THE LIVING WORLD, 5e, George B Johnson, McGraw Hill Publ., 2015). It is somewhat shorter, but more up-to-date. I enclose a copy of the relevant page below.


Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 9.49.36 AM

Puppies are demanding!

Our new young puppy is consuming a great deal of attention and time!

As regular readers will know (and your readership is so much appreciated) last Tuesday I published the news that we had taken on a new puppy. He is settling in incredibly well but consuming heaps of attention; as well he should.

So rather than struggle to be creative with today’s post, I’m cheating by going back to the last time I wrote about a new arrival to our flock; namely puppy Cleo. If you will forgive me, I’m going to republish the post I wrote for puppy Cleo back on April 8th, 2012.

But before so doing, let me explain that our latest arrival has gone through a name change.  The previous owners had named the young pup Smokey but we were not comfortable with that name; Jean especially so.  So Smokey is now Ollie!


The arrival of Cleo brings us back to eleven dogs.

Way back in 2003 when I became the proud ‘Dad’ of Pharaoh, my German Shepherd dog that you see on the home page of Learning from Dogs, Sandra Tucker who ran the GSD Breeders Jutone, where Pharaoh was born,¬†gave me some advice. ¬†Sandra said that when Pharaoh was getting on in life, then bring in a German Shepherd¬†puppy. ¬†Apparently, there were two solid reasons why this made sense. ¬†The first was that Pharaoh would teach the new puppy many of the skills and disciplines that Pharaoh had learnt as a young dog and, secondly, the puppy would keep Pharaoh active.

Now we know this to be true because years later when Pharaoh had his own mini pack here in Payson, we introduced a new ‘rescue’ puppy called Sweeny. ¬†Pharaoh took an instant like to him and became very tolerant to Sweeny’s ‘games’.

Hi! I’m Pharaoh, going to be my buddy? (February, 2011)

But as adorable as Sweeny is, Jean understood the deep reasons why I always wanted a German Shepherd in our lives.  So when a chance encounter in Payson Feed Store between Jean and Brendon S. revealed that Brendon had a litter of German Shepherd puppies for sale, just a couple of miles outside Payson, the temptation was irresistible!

Thus a few days ago, Jean and I went round to Brendon’s home and spent a couple of hours mingling with the puppies and their GSD mother. ¬†They all looked excellent dogs and a review of their blood lines showed that their genetic background included German stock not too far back. ¬†It was difficult to select any one pup as they were all wonderful animals. ¬†But one youngster seemed to catch Jean’s eye.

Little bit of bonding going on!

Then the next test was to introduce Pharaoh to the puppies.  That took place last Friday and it was wonderful to see how well he coped with the onslaught of puppies!

More puppies that one could shake a stick at!

In the end, we ran out of reasons not to follow Sandra’s advice from all those years ago and we agreed terms on a young female GSD that, inevitably, was christened Cleopatra (Cleo) by Jean!

Cleo meet your new Mum!

Then yesterday, Saturday, we went back round to collect young Cleo, meeting Brendan’s wife Ebony in the process. ¬†The following photographs record some of the key moments.

Homeward bound to a new life!
Next step is to meet the gang!
Welcome, young lady. I’m the boss around here!
It’s my pool but you can use it!
Hey Sweeny, fancy having one’s own woods to play in!
She’ll do! Nice addition to my family!

So there we are.  Back up to eleven dogs, five chickens, six cats, and a fish!

Finally, a big thanks to Sandra of Jutone for her guidance in the last few days.


Back to the present to leave you with a picture of puppy Ollie happily playing with Cleo and Hazel.  More pictures of Ollie on Sunday.

L-R Ollie, Cleo and Hazel.
L-R Ollie, Cleo and Hazel.

Then we were nine!

Yesterday we welcomed Smokey to the fold!

A few weeks ago Jean and I were invited to a social gathering with a couple who live about a mile further along Hugo Road. ¬†We couldn’t help admiring their young dog; a delightful puppy by the name of Smokey. ¬†Smokey appeared to be about ten weeks old and, despite being very puppy-like was, nevertheless, a sweet, friendly, young male dog. ¬†Apparently, a mix of a Labrador and a Bordie Collie.

Anyway, last week there was a call from them to say that they were finding the puppy to be too much of a handful and were looking to find Smokey a new home: Did we want first refusal?

Thus it came about that yesterday morning Jean and I drove the short distance to collect Smokey and introduce him to the dog’s circus that is home for us all!

Naturally, the key question would be how would Pharaoh take to Smokey.

A few pictures to tell the tale.


Hello Smokey, I’m Jean and we are hoping you will come home with us and be part of our family.


Well, you certainly seem like a friendly little chap.  Let me carry you across to the car.


That’s Paul, your new Daddy! ¬†Hold on tight; it’s only for ten minutes.


And here we are at your new home. Going to pop you into a dog crate so Pharaoh can come out and meet you.


So what do we have here? I’m Pharaoh and despite my age, I’m still the boss around here! M’mm, you seem to pick things up quickly!


Ah, that’s good my little friend. You may be young but you seem like a smart puppy. Welcome to the clan!

Many more pictures of Smokey successfully meeting the rest of Pharaoh’s ‘team’ but I will make those a special ‘Smokey’ set of pictures for this coming Sunday.

Let me close this by saying that as I write this post at 2pm yesterday afternoon, Jean is reading a book and about her, in perfect silence and contentment, are Pharaoh, Hazel, Cleo, Sweeny ….. and Smokey!

Smokey is a great addition!

Learning from the play of dogs.

A recent newspaper article offers yet more learning from dogs.

I can’t recall how I came across the article but so what! ¬†What I do recall was reading a recent item in The Washington Post and thinking that has to be reported here on Learning from Dogs.

The article, written by David Grimm, was entitled:¬†In dogs‚Äô play, researchers see honesty and deceit, perhaps something like morality.¬†Here’s how it opened:

A shaggy brown terrier approaches a large chocolate Labrador in a city park. When the terrier gets close, he adopts a yogalike pose, crouching on his forepaws and hiking his butt into the air. The Lab gives an excited bark, and soon the two dogs are somersaulting and tugging on each other’s ears. Then the terrier takes off and the Lab gives chase, his tail wagging wildly. When the two meet once more, the whole thing begins again.

Watch a couple of dogs play, and you’ll probably see seemingly random gestures, lots of frenetic activity and a whole lot of energy being expended. But decades of research suggest that beneath this apparently frivolous fun lies a hidden language of honesty and deceit, empathy and perhaps even a humanlike morality.

Now I don’t have permission to reproduce the entire article but will draw your attention to this further piece:

All of this suggests that dogs have a kind of moral code ‚ÄĒ one long hidden to humans until a cognitive ethologist named Marc Bekoff began to crack it.

A wiry 68-year-old with reddish-gray hair tied back in a long ponytail, Bekoff is a professor emeritus at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he taught for 32 years. He began studying animal behavior in the early 1970s, spending four years videotaping groups of dogs, wolves and coyotes in large enclosures and slowly playing back the tapes, jotting down every nip, yip and lick. ‚ÄúTwenty minutes of film could take a week to analyze,‚ÄĚ he says.

The data revealed insights into how the animals maintained their tight social bonds ‚ÄĒ by grooming each other, for example. But what changed Bekoff‚Äôs life was watching them play. The wolves would chase each other, run, jump and roll over for seemingly no other reason than to have fun.

Few people had studied animal play, but Bekoff was intrigued. ‚ÄúPlay is a major expenditure of energy, and it can be dangerous,‚ÄĚ he says. ‚ÄúYou can twist a shoulder or break a leg, and it can increase your chances of being preyed upon. So why do they do it? It has to feel good.‚ÄĚ

Suddenly, Bekoff wasn’t interested just in behavior; he was interested also in emotions and, fundamentally, what was going on inside these animals’ heads.

Marc Bekoff’s name rang a bell with me and, sure enough, I found that previously he was mentioned here. ¬†It was a post called Daisy offers a lesson for all,:

Animal Emotions

Do animals think and feel?
by Marc Bekoff¬†–¬†Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Daisy: The Injured Dog Who Believed She’d Walk Again and Did

Anthrozoology, also called human-animal studies (HAS), is a¬†rapidly growing and expanding interdisciplinary field. A recent and comprehensive review of this wide-ranging¬†discipline¬†can be found in¬†Paul Waldau’s¬†book titled¬†Animal Studies: An Introduction.¬†Many of the essays I write for¬†Psychology Today¬†have something to do with anthrozoology in that they focus on the wide variety of relationships that humans establish with nonhuman animals (animals). Some essays also discuss what we can learn from other animals,¬†including traits such as trust, friendship, forgiveness, love, and hope.

Often, a simple video captures the essence of the deep¬†nature¬†of the incredibly close and enduring bonds we form with other animals and they with us. As a case in point, my recent essay called “A Dog and His Man” showed a dog exuberantly expressing his deep feelings for a human companion he hadn’t seen for six months. Another essay titled “My Dog Always Eats First: Homeless People and Their Animals”¬†dealt with the relationship between homeless people and the animals with whom they share their lives.

Daisy: An unforgettable and inspirational symbol of dedication and hope

I just saw another video called “Daisy – the Little Pup Who Believed” that is well-worth sharing widely with others of all ages. There is no way I can summarize the depth of five-month old Daisy’s resolve to walk again after she was injured or of the devotion of the woman, Jolene, who found her on the side of a road – scared, malnourished, unable to walk or wag her tail, the people who contributed money to help her along, or the wonderful veterinarians and staff at¬†Barrie Veterinary Hospital¬†in Ontario, Canada, who took care of her. You can also read about Daisy’s remarkable and inspirational journey¬†here.

Please take five minutes out of your day to watch this video, read the text, listen to the song that accompanies it, and share it widely. I am sure you will get teary as you watch Daisy go from an injured little ball of fur living in a ditch on the side of a road with a broken spine to learning to walk in water to romping around wildly as if life had been that proverbial pail of cherries from the start.

I’ve watched Daisy’s journey many times and every single time my eyes get watery. Among the many lessons in this wonderful video is “stay strong and never give up”. Clearly dogs and many other animals can truly teach us about traits¬†such as trust,¬†friendship,¬†forgiveness, love, and hope.

Back to that Washington Post article.

Bekoff‚Äôs recent work suggests another remarkable canine skill: the ability to know what another animal is thinking ‚ÄĒ a so-called ‚Äútheory of mind.‚ÄĚ

Dogs seem to display a rudimentary form of this skill during play. He has noticed, for example, that one dog won’t begin trying to play with another dog until he has her attention. To get her to notice, he may nip the other dog or run into her field of view. That, Bekoff says, shows that the one wanting to play knows that she’s not paying attention to him. Though this may seem like a simple skill, it’s incredibly important to our species. Without it, we can have a hard time learning or interacting with the world around us.

So will leave you with this video and return to the theme tomorrow.

Picture parade forty-six.

Going to spoil you today! The complete set of pictures sent to me by Suzann.

Why it's good to be tall!
Why it’s good to be tall!


Are you sure this is my bed?
Are you sure this is my bed?


Can I keep it?
Can I keep it?


I can't wait till they deliver the new stove! We need a new box!
I can’t wait till they deliver the new stove! We need a new box!


Bake for 20 minutes, then turn over...
Bake for 20 minutes, then turn over…


Everybody needs a good sleep toy!
Everybody needs a good sleep toy!


Frankly, I don't think it's funny!
Frankly, I don’t think it’s funny!


I'm ready for my walk!
I’m ready for my walk!


I love my new human! I think I'‚ā¨‚ĄĘll keep it.
I love my new human! I think I’ll keep it.




Always check before putting on your shoes!
Always check before putting on your shoes!


Thanks Su!

All of you have a good week.

It’s all in the eyes!

What makes a dog a dog and a wolf a wolf?

I can’t recall why it was many months ago that I came across the website of Frontiers in Science. But I did and, in particular, I came across a fundamental difference between the two species. ¬†In an article entitled:¬†A simple reason for a big difference: wolves do not look back at humans, but dogs do.¬†I’m going to take a chance, as in not having formal permission to republish it, in reposting it in full here. ¬†Because it means so much to me and other dog lovers!


A simple reason for a big difference: wolves do not look back at humans, but dogs do.

Adám Miklósi, Enikö Kubinyi, József Topál, Márta Gácsi, Zsófia Virányi and Vilmos Csányi
Department of Ethology, Eötvös University, Budapest, Pázmány P. 1c, 1117, Hungary. miklosa@ludens.elte.hu

The present investigations were undertaken to compare interspecific communicative abilities of dogs and wolves, which were socialized to humans at comparable levels. The first study demonstrated that socialized wolves were able to locate the place of hidden food indicated by the touching and, to some extent, pointing cues provided by the familiar human experimenter, but their performance remained inferior to that of dogs. In the second study, we have found that, after undergoing training to solve a simple manipulation task, dogs that are faced with an insoluble version of the same problem look/gaze at the human, while socialized wolves do not. Based on these observations, we suggest that the key difference between dog and wolf behavior is the dogs’ ability to look at the human’s face. Since looking behavior has an important function in initializing and maintaining communicative interaction in human communication systems, we suppose that by positive feedback processes (both evolutionary and ontogenetically) the readiness of dogs to look at the human face has lead to complex forms of dog-human communication that cannot be achieved in wolves even after extended socialization.


Actually, that article from the Department of Ethology at Eötvös University in Budapest is just an excuse for me to post three photographs confirming the good scientists results!

Young Cleo, May 12th, 2012.
Young Cleo, May 12th, 2012.


Mr Pharaoh's look from June, 2007.
Mr Pharaoh’s look from June, 2007.


The second Cleo look from May, 2012.
The second Cleo look from May, 2012.


There’s no question in my mind that millions of dog lovers across the world know the intimacy that is conveyed in a dog’s eyes!