Tag: Education

Time waits for no man!

The coming weeks are going to see some repeats!

In yesterday’s post, I closed it by saying “More on the theme tomorrow.”  What I had in mind was writing about a recent essay that I read; courtesy of Naked Capitalism.  However, the essay struck me as of such interest that it should be republished in full. Thus I sent off a request for permission to so do.  Hopefully, permission granted in time for me to publish the essay tomorrow (and see my note later on).

That then gave me the opportunity to explain my situation for the next few weeks.

In short, as a result of a number of guests coming to stay with us from the end of July right through to the end of September, the hours that I spend pleasurably preparing and writing posts for Learning from Dogs are going to be under some pressure.

For instance!

Ahead of the arrival of our first set of guests, my mother from London and my sister from Tokyo, it has been decided to renovate the guest bathroom by upgrading the wash-basin. Naturally, something yours truly wants to do himself! (Don’t believe me? See the following photo!)


Of course, as well as still not speaking American, I’m a very long way from speaking American plumbing!  I mean fancy going into a builder’s store and asking for a set of taps.

So how does one connect the hot and cold water to these taps!
So how does one connect the hot and cold water to these taps!

I looked at what the store attendant had placed in front of me and said, “No, I don’t mean that sort of tap, I mean a tap for a bathroom basin.”

Oh, you mean force-it!“, replied the attendant.

(Now how did this attendant know that my tool of choice for jobs around the house was a 2-pound club hammer!)

“Of course,” I replied, “You Americans call them faucets!”

So you get the message!

(By the way, the permission to republish the article from The Automatic Earth just came through – just 12 minutes after I sent off my email request – great service, peeps.)

Plus there’s another distraction! Even more bizarre than pretending to be an American plumber!  I am pretending to be an American author!

I have returned to writing the book!

Long-term readers of this blog (you crazy lot) will recall that last November I signed up for NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month.  From that accomplishment has flowed a number of very positive outcomes.  One of them was being contacted by a company specialising in self-publishing.  I was told that really before I get started in earnest, I need to set out a clear idea of what I am writing about and the audience I have in mind.  I called it my Statement of Purpose and after a number of weeks of being amended and revised (huge thanks to Jon and John for their help) it was finally completed just a week ago.  Here are the opening sections:

Learning from Dogs

the book.

Statement of Purpose v1.51


We live in very challenging times.

It seems rare these days to meet someone who doesn’t sense, to one degree or another, a feeling of vulnerability to today’s world. A sense that many aspects of their lives are beyond their control.

These are also times where it is widely acknowledged that the levers of privilege, power and money are undermining the rights and needs of so many. A feeling of unprecedented levels of deceit, lying and greed.

Then there’s the subject of climate change and the “end-of-world” sword just waiting to descend on us all; the so-called beat of the butterfly’s wing!

Yes, these are challenging times. As we are incessantly reminded by the drumbeat of the doom-and-gloom news industry every hour, frequently every half-hour, throughout the day. A symphony of negative energy.

Yet right next to us is a world of positive energy. The world of dogs. A canine world full of love and trust, playfulness and relaxation. A way of living that is both clear and straightforward; albeit far from being simple. As anyone will know who has seen the way dogs interact with each other and with us humans.

In other words, dogs offer endless examples of positive behaviours. The wonderful power of compassion for self, and others, and of loving joy. The way to live that we humans crave for. A life full of hope and positive energy that keeps the power of negativity at bay.

Reading audience

The book is written by ‘an ordinary bloke’, not by someone who has a specialist or professional understanding in the areas of mind and behaviour. The author is no different to the majority of people out there and, presumably, the majority of potential readers.

Readers who feel the weight of all that ‘doom-and-gloom’ and general negativity that seems to be in the air. Yet, readers who desire a positive, compassionate attitude to their own life, and to the lives of the people around them. Almost certainly readers who are animal lovers, in general, and dog lovers in particular.

Copyright (©) 2014 Paul Handover. All rights reserved.

The clarity provided by the above has been fantastic and I am now firmly committed to writing something, however small in words, each day.

Yet another drag on my blogging time; I regret.

So if over the coming weeks you read something that strikes you as familiar it may be because I have reposted the item from previous years.  Or if there seems to be a string of posts that have been republished from elsewhere, then at least you will understand.

Of course even better would be for you, my dear reader, to send me stuff or point me towards material you think others would enjoy.  Or write a guest post! 🙂  Now that would be splendid!

Are you grounded?

Or just away with the fairies!

Sorry, just kidding: Couldn’t resist!

I have just finished reading a book with the title of Earthing.


It has been an absolutely fascinating read and one, I’m bound to say, that seems entirely plausible.

That is that our modern lifestyle that has us disconnected from Mother Earth for much of our time is the cause of many ailments. As the associated website explains:


Just as the sun gives us warmth and vitamin D, the Earth underfoot gives us food and water, a surface to walk, sit, stand, play, and build on, and something you never, ever thought about—an eternal, natural, and gentle energy. Think of it perhaps as vitamin G: G for ground. What does that mean to you? Maybe the difference between feeling good and not so good, of having little or a lot of energy, or sleeping well or not so well.

You can’t see the Earth’s energy but some people can feel it as a warm, tingling, and pleasant sensation when they are out walking barefoot along the water’s edge at the beach or on a stretch of dew-moistened grass.

Throughout history humans walked barefoot and slept on the ground. But modern lifestyle, including the widespread use of insulative rubber, or plastic-soled shoes, has disconnected us from the Earth’s energy and, of course, we no longer sleep on the ground. Fascinating new research has raised the possibility that this disconnect may actually contribute to chronic pain, fatigue, and poor sleep that plague so many people.

The remedy for the disconnect is simple. Walk barefoot outdoors whenever possible and/or sleep, work, or relax indoors in contact with conductive sheets or mats that transfer the energy to your body. People who do so on a regular basis say they sleep better, feel better, and have more energy during the day. This simple practice is called Earthing, also known as grounding, and it is both a technology and a movement which is transforming lives across the planet.

Were you aware, for example, that the sole of our foot has more nerve endings per square inch than any other part of our body! And more sweat glands! All from thousands of years of being connected to the Earth.


Then watch Part One of a conference video by Dr. Stephen Sinatra, one of the authors of the book:

(The remaining parts of Dr. Sinatra’s talk will be presented in a post on Monday!)

Jean and I have just ordered the half-sheet and I shall be delighted to write more of our experiences over the coming weeks.

And I don’t need to remind you that dogs have been in bare-foot contact with Planet Earth for some time now!

Stay healthy!


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!

A bedtime story for Jimmy.

Inspired by hearing a young boy shoot a wild turkey early on Saturday morning.


Because we have horses, friends living close to us called to warn that early on Saturday morning, a young lad, accompanied by his father, would be experiencing what it was like to shoot a wild turkey at close range.  The turkeys are easy targets; almost pets.

So it was that around 6:30am last Saturday morning that a single shot rang out and we knew that a turkey had been killed. Now in fairness to American history it’s not that long ago that the early settlers relied on hunting to survive.  The first permanent European settlement in Oregon wasn’t until 1811. Thus hunting may be something close to the American’s heart; so to speak.  However, this eight-year-old lad is facing a future that demands that he and all his generation accept that embracing nature, totally and whole-heartedly, is their only hope of not being the last generation of humans on this beautiful planet.

Jean and I thought the following was an appropriate way of expressing our feelings.


Dear Jimmy,

What was it like to point your gun at that turkey and pull the trigger?  What did you feel as you saw the bullet hit and the turkey fall to the ground?

Now I wasn’t there with you, of course, but I could imagine the thrill and excitement that you would have felt. Not many young lads of your age get to handle a gun and shoot a turkey.

But Jimmy, what we feel as an eight-year-old is a very poor indicator for what we feel when we are much older.  Possibly the only exception is love, which is a golden feeling at any age.

So, if you will forgive this sixty-nine-year old from reading an eight-year-old a very short bedtime story, I will get started.

The world, this enormous world, must seem infinitely huge to you.  Even if you stand on the shoulders of your Dad, your eyes ten feet above the ground, the horizon is just four miles away.  You could run to that horizon in less than an hour.  However, to run all the way around the world at that same speed would take you, dear Jimmy, nearly two hundred and sixty days of running; running twenty-four hours a day!  It’s a very big planet!

Look at this wonderful picture of our planet.  Have you ever seen anything more beautiful!

Planet Earth 1


It must seem to you that there is nothing an eight-year-old could do to harm this planet we all live on.

That’s true! There is nothing you could do to harm the planet.

However, when you get older and reach the point where you have a job, drive a car, fly to places on an aeroplane, heat your house and a million other things that we grown-ups do, then all of us together, all the millions of people living on this green planet can hurt it.

Indeed, Jimmy, you may have already heard of things like climate change and global warming being spoken about on the television.  All of the people living on this planet are hurting it.  And the people who are really going to see how we humans are hurting the planet, and how the planet is changing, are all the people who, like you Jimmy, are not yet even finished school.

So what does shooting a wild turkey have to do with caring for your planet throughout the many years ahead for you?

If we care for nature then we care for the health of our lands, for our forests and for our seas. We are careful with how we live our lives.  If we care for nature then as we live our lives we do our best to leave things better for those that come after us.

Jimmy, sleep well my young man. Wake knowing the death of that turkey was not in vain.  Wake with love in your heart. Love for every living creature.

Only love for all creatures will offer all creatures a future.
Only love for all creatures will offer all creatures a future.


Written and offered with peace.




Dogs and humans – fascinating research.

Serendipity, or just coincidence?

Yesterday, I published a post and called it Dogs and wolves – fascinating research.  Then blow me down in yesterday’s online BBC News, there was an article headlined: Dogs’ brain scans reveal vocal responses  This is how it opened.

Dogs’ brain scans reveal vocal responses

By Rebecca Morelle, Science reporter, BBC World Service

Pet dogs took part in the MRI scanning study.
Pet dogs took part in the MRI scanning study.

Devoted dog owners often claim that their pets understand them. A new study suggests they could be right.

By placing dogs in an MRI scanner, researchers from Hungary found that the canine brain reacts to voices in the same way that the human brain does.

Emotionally charged sounds, such as crying or laughter, also prompted similar responses, perhaps explaining why dogs are attuned to human emotions.

The work is published in the journal Current Biology.

Lead author Attila Andics, from the Hungarian Academy of Science’s Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest, said: “We think dogs and humans have a very similar mechanism to process emotional information.”

Eleven pet dogs took part in the study; training them took some time.

Going across to that Current Biology link, one reads:


During the approximately 18–32 thousand years of domestication [1], dogs and humans have shared a similar social environment [2]. Dog and human vocalizations are thus familiar and relevant to both species [3], although they belong to evolutionarily distant taxa, as their lineages split approximately 90–100 million years ago [4]. In this first comparative neuroimaging study of a nonprimate and a primate species, we made use of this special combination of shared environment and evolutionary distance. We presented dogs and humans with the same set of vocal and nonvocal stimuli to search for functionally analogous voice-sensitive cortical regions. We demonstrate that voice areas exist in dogs and that they show a similar pattern to anterior temporal voice areas in humans. Our findings also reveal that sensitivity to vocal emotional valence cues engages similarly located nonprimary auditory regions in dogs and humans. Although parallel evolution cannot be excluded, our findings suggest that voice areas may have a more ancient evolutionary origin than previously known.

Back to the BBC news item.

The canine brain reacted to voices in the same way that the human brain does.
The canine brain reacted to voices in the same way that the human brain does.

“There were 12 sessions of preparatory training, then seven sessions in the scanner room, then these dogs were able to lie motionless for as long as eight minutes. Once they were trained, they were so happy, I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t see it.”

For comparison, the team looked at the brains of 22 human volunteers in the same MRI scanners.

The scientists played the people and pooches 200 different sounds, ranging from environmental noises, such as car sounds and whistles, to human sounds (but not words) and dog vocalisations.

The researchers found that a similar region – the temporal pole, which is the most anterior part of the temporal lobe – was activated when both the animals and people heard human voices.

“We do know there are voice areas in humans, areas that respond more strongly to human sounds that any other types of sounds,” Dr Andics explained.

“The location (of the activity) in the dog brain is very similar to where we found it in the human brain. The fact that we found these areas exist at all in the dog brain at all is a surprise – it is the first time we have seen this in a non-primate.”

Emotional sounds, such as crying and laughter also had a similar pattern of activity, with an area near the primary auditory cortex lighting up in dogs and humans.

Likewise, emotionally charged dog vocalisations – such as whimpering or angry barking – also caused a similar reaction in all volunteers,

Dr Andics said: “We know very well that dogs are very good at tuning into the feelings of their owners, and we know a good dog owner can detect emotional changes in his dog – but we now begin to understand why this can be.”

However, while the dogs responded to the human voice, their reactions were far stronger when it came to canine sounds.

They also seemed less able to distinguish between environmental sounds and vocal noises compared with humans.

About half of the whole auditory cortex lit up in dogs when listening to these noises, compared with 3% of the same area in humans.

Commenting on the research, Prof Sophie Scott, from the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London, said: “Finding something like this in a primate brain isn’t too surprising – but it is quite something to demonstrate it in dogs.

“Dogs are a very interesting animal to look at – we have selected for a lot of traits in dogs that have made them very amenable to humans. Some studies have show they understand a lot of words and they understand intentionality – pointing.”

But she added: “It would be interesting to see the animal’s response to words rather than just sounds. When we cry and laugh, they are much more like animal calls and this might be causing this response.

For the full report, as it was posted on the BBC website, click here.

Plus, do watch this five-minute video abstract.

Published on Feb 20, 2014

The video presents the first study to compare brain function between humans and any non-primate animal. Scientists at MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group in Hungary found that dogs and humans use similar neural mechanisms to process social information in voices. The fact that dogs can be trained to lie motionless during fMRI tests opens up the space for a new branch of comparative neuroscience.

Paper in Current Biology: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2014….

Group home page: http://mta-etologia.elte.hu/

The first study to compare brain function between humans and any non-primate animal shows that dogs have dedicated voice areas in their brains just as people do. Dog brains, like those of people, are also sensitive to acoustic cues of emotion, according to a study in the Cell Press journal Current Biology.

The findings suggest that voice areas evolved at least 100 million years ago, the age of the last common ancestor of humans and dogs, the researchers say. It also offers new insight into humans’ unique connection with our best friends in the animal kingdom, perhaps explaining how our two species have lived and worked together so effectively for tens of thousands of years.

“Our findings suggest that dogs and humans not only share a similar social environment, but they also use similar brain mechanisms to process social information,” said Atilla Andics of MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group in Hungary. “This may help the successfulness of vocal communication between the two species.”

Andics and his colleagues trained eleven dogs to lay motionless in an fMRI brain scanner. That made it possible to run the very same neuroimaging experiment on dog and human participants — something that had never been done before. They captured both dogs’ and humans’ brain activities while they listened to dog and human sounds, ranging from whining or crying to playful barking or laughing.

The images show that dog and human brains include voice areas in similar locations. Not surprisingly, the voice area of dogs responds more strongly to other dogs, while that of humans responds more strongly to other humans. The researchers also noted striking similarities in the ways the dog and human brain processes emotionally loaded sounds. In both species, an area near the primary auditory cortex lit up more with happy sounds than unhappy ones. Andics said they were most struck by the common response to emotion across species.

There were some differences too: in dogs, 48 percent of all sound-sensitive brain regions respond more strongly to sounds other than voices. That’s in contrast to humans, in which only three percent of sound-sensitive brain regions show greater response to non-vocal versus vocal sounds.

The study is the first step to understanding how it is that dogs can be so remarkably good at tuning into the feelings of their human owners. “This method offers a totally new way of looking at neural processing in dogs,” Andics said. “At last we begin to understand how our best friend is looking at us and navigating in our social environment.”

Science and understanding

Our weather systems are entirely driven by the laws of science.

Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher.

So wrote William Wordsworth.

The last twelve months has been a period of untypical weather in many parts of the world.  It’s easy to scratch one’s head with puzzlement and blame it on the most convenient and fashionable theory of the moment.  Unusual jet stream pattern; polar vortex; aliens! You get the idea! However, the principle behind what is happening to the weather systems across our planet is very straightforward.  Our weather systems are described by the laws of science.

Thus it is a great pleasure to offer the following guest post from a scientist: Martin Lack.  Martin should be no stranger to readers of Learning from Dogs; his most recent contribution was the major three-part essay From Environmentalism to Ecologism.

Martin is the author of the blog Lack of Environment and this essay was first published there on the 11th July, 2012.


Conserving mass, water, and energy

I must admit that I am rather fond of quoting Sir Arthur Eddington as having once said, “…if your theory is found to be against the Second Law of Thermodynamics, I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.” Without quibbling over the detail, the Law of Conservation of Mass is pretty darn close; but what, you may ask, has this got to do with climate change denial?

Conservation of mass of water
Well, consider for a moment that scientists seem to agree that there has been a 4% increase in the average moisture content of the Earth’s atmosphere since 1970. That being the case, I am bound to say that this extra 4% is making its presence felt in the UK at the moment! This year we have had the wettest 3 months (April – June) in over 100 years; the wettest June on record; the rain is still falling (sometimes as much as 80mm in a day); and – we are now being told – there is no change anticipated in coming weeks. So, if you’re coming over for the Olympics, expect to get wet!

However, whilst the UK suffers from near Biblical levels of flooding, if the Law of Conservation of Mass is to be upheld and – all other things like terrestrial ice volume remaining equal(!) – the volume of water in the oceans is to remain constant, then it must be failing to rain somewhere else. If so, is there any evidence to support this theory Law? Well, funnily enough, there is: Whilst the UK continues to receive more rain than it wants or needs (all hose pipe bans and drought restrictions have now been lifted), many parts of the World continue to suffer from persistent drought (in sub-Saharan West Africa) and/or record-breaking temperatures (in most of North America).

Sadly, none of this seems to stop self-confessed scientifically-illiterate English graduates such as James Delingpole from ridiculing the entire notion of global warming simply because it is raining a lot here at the moment. It may seem that he has just got a nasty case of tunnel vision and/or short-term memory loss but this is what the fake sceptics always do; they never look at the big picture: Rather than look at daily, monthly, or even annual average temperatures over multi-decadal periods to determine significant long-term trends; they just cherry pick data to reach fallacious conclusions such as “global warming stopped in 1998″.

I am therefore left hoping that the 57% of the British adult population that seem to fall for this kind of nonsense will soon decide that it is time to stop running down the up escalator and, by embracing the reality of what is happening, decide to become part of the solution rather than being part of the problem. If not, climate change denial may well lead to a failure to conserve mass; with the mass in question being the sustainable number of humans this planet can support in the long-term.

Conservation of mass of carbon
If the Law of Conservation of Mass explains why anthropogenic global warming climate disruption is not invalidated by any amount of cold weather or torrential rainfall in one place; can it be used to validate concern regarding a 40% increase CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere? Funnily enough, it can: Since the Industrial Revolution began in the mid-18th Century, a vast amount of fossilised carbon has been burnt; with the carbon it contained combining with oxygen in the air to form CO2. Note here that the oxygen was in the air anyway; whereas the carbon had been out of circulation for hundreds of millions of years. All this new carbon has to go somewhere and, given that it will be many more millions of years before any of it gets taken back out of circulation by nature, it is either making the atmosphere warm-up or it is reducing the pH of seawater (just enough to make life very difficult for corals and shellfish).

So then, what is the human response to all this? Shall we stop burning the fossil fuels now we know we’re causing a problem? It doesn’t look like it! It seems far more likely that we shall gamble the future habitability of all the planets diverse ecosystems on finding a way to defeat the Law of Conservation of Mass by artificially removing this carbon from the biosphere: Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). And do you know what I find most astonishing about CCS? It is the fact that our governments are spending huge sums of money on long-term tests to simulate the effects of CO2 leaking from a submarine CCS repository – to see if it has any noticeable effects on marine life?

Errr, hello-oh? If any CO2 ever escapes from any CCS repository, the entire exercise will have been a complete waste of time and money! The CO2 will be back in circulation and the Law of Conservation of Mass will have won (again). If the genie will not stay in the bottle we will all be in big trouble: Rather than being likely to“collapse in deepest humiliation”; such a failure to defeat the Law of Conservation of Mass will probably result in the collapse of the entire planetary ecosystem; because of our other big problem – the Law of Conservation of Energy: The reason the atmosphere is warming up in the first place; more energy is coming in from the Sun than is getting out into Space!

So, this year’s weather should be a wake-up call to all of us: Irrespective of the actual kind of extreme weather being experienced in any one place, the impacts on agriculture seem to be equally destructive and spiralling food costs the inevitable end result: All just as was predicted by people dismissed for decades as doomsayers: People like Garrett Hardin, Paul Ehrlich, Dennis Meadows, E.F. Schumacher, William Ophuls, Mathis Wackernagel, Ernest Callenbach, and Lester Brown… It looks like that darn ‘wolf’ finally showed up!

Funnily enough, it turns out that a doubling in the size of the global human economy every 50 years is not sustainable after all; and worshipping at the Temple of the God of Growth has got us in some serious trouble; otherwise known as a global debt crisis (see the short video embedded below). We thought we could just lend imaginary money to each other indefinitely but someone blinked and the spell was broken. Sadly, it turns out the Emperor was naked after all; it’s just a shame that by the time we realised this we were all completely sold on the latest fashion ourselves: The New Clothes are everywhere; and we have all been left looking for fig leaves to cover our genitals.

Just as The Limits to Growth (Meadows et al) predicted all those years ago, the Earth is running out of the ability to cope with the effects of our chronically dysfunctional mis-management of it. This was why, as I pointed out six months ago, the failure of food harvests in 2010 led to the Arab Spring of 2011… Are you, like me, wondering what is going to happen this time around? My prediction is that some economist such as Tim Worstall will get himself on TV and tell everyone that the Second Law of Thermodynamics is a load of old rubbish; and that technology will save us from the consequences of our selfish pursuit of profit at any cost; and from our failure to recognise that we humans are not superior to nature – we are part of it – and we cannot survive without it. Or, to put it another way, as a Native American tribal leader once did:
When all the trees have been cut down, when all the animals have been hunted, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money.


I can add nothing to the above other than to thank Martin for giving me the opportunity to republish his post.

How we feed our dogs?

An opportunity to learn about dog food.

I have a policy of not allowing Learning from Dogs to promote commercial interests.  I need those who visit this place to trust the integrity of what they find here.

Then back on the 19th December last, in came the following email.

Dear LearningfromDogs (I think Paul!),

Greetings from Florence, Tuscany!

We are sending you a piece that we hope will be considered for publication on your blog: we begin by talking about making pet food at home (and then go on to list some of the risks – essentially the message here is don’t do it!), we then talk about buying products off the shelf, and explain about food labeling and what different types of labeling will mean in terms of the meat content. I’ve also included some pictures that we purchased from DepositPhotos to help support with its publication. You can verify the usage terms on Deposit photos, but I can tell you that for your website they will be considered appropriate use.

Our shop first opened it doors in 1962 and we’ve just started an English website where we (wait for it!) are making dog beds, and collars to order. We’ve got the most amazing fabrics from a town in Tuscany that has been producing fabrics from the 13th Century. The quality is (as I hope you will take a look) of the highest standard.

Please take a read through the article and if you would like to publish it we would be thrilled.

Best regards from Tuscany,


The email offered me a potential conflict.  Glyn was clearly promoting his company and yet the information struck me as valuable to pet owners.  On balance, it seemed worthwhile to publish the article.


We only want what's best for our dogs.
We only want what’s best for our dogs.

There have been substantial changes in the market of pet foods over the last decade, and so this article sets out to demystify pet food labelling in layman’s terms. We also consider whether or not preparing the food your pet eats in your own home is really a viable option, if you want to have a healthy pet.

Preparing food at home

If you have decided to undertake the mission of preparing your pet’s food at home, it’s important that you take some time to look up what exactly is needed in your pet’s diet. You have to ensure that your pet gets all the nutrients it needs, and that you don’t provide it with too much of one food group or another as this could cause it serious health problems (Hypervitaminosis A, Hypervitaminosis D).

A short thought for the cat!

Cats require a varied diet, consisting mainly of meat. One of the most important amino acids for cats is Taurine which is only found in meat – a lack of this in a cat’s diet could cause cardiac dysfunction, blindness, etc. Other essential nutrients for our feline friend include: arginine (also important for dogs too), arachidonic acid, niacin, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E. You should not forget to provide the right amount of calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. Reading this you probably get the sense that taking on the task of being your pet’s personal cook is not as simple as it sounds. Our pets have very specific dietary needs, just like us, and you wouldn’t want to risk endangering them with the wrong food. The plate of scraps after a large meal is clearly not enough.

Purchasing food off the shelf

As the vast majority of consumers opt for buying their food from either the supermarket or their local pet store, it’s important to highlight that the range of dietary foods being produced today means that, if you don’t read the label carefully, you can really do harm to your pet feeding them food that is not matched to their actual dietary needs. We’ve seen dogs that look emaciated and thin simply because they have not been given the correct advice when feeding their dog (we then saw the same dog a few weeks later looking great!).

For example, ‘ash’ is often included in the ingredient list of pet foods. This refers to the inorganic component of the food, and it shouldn’t make up more than 6.5%-7% of dry foods and 1%-2% of wet foods. The lower the concentration of ash, the higher the quality of the food.

Labelling in pet food and what it means

Specifically regarding meat in packaged pet foods, there are a few things to keep an eye open for while studying the labels. The amount of meat included in pet food changes from brand to brand, but as a general rule the following serves as a guide:

– products that have the word ‘flavour’ or ‘aroma’ in their name contain under 4% of meat;

– when the product name declares ‘with meat’ it should contain over 4% of meat;

– when the name contains ‘rich in meat’ or ‘extra meat’ the percentage of meat is between 14% and 25%. Anything above 14% and 25% and the product takes on the name of the meat it’s made up of.

In dry foods, sometimes meat flour or fish flour are included. These sometimes contain offal and discarded meat so a better option is dehydrated meat.

Author Bi line

We hope that this article has provided you the reader with greater detail on some of the nuances involved in planning your pet’s diets. At ZEIPET in Florence, Tuscany, we have been serving customers in our little pet shop since 1962. We are most known for our luxury dog beds which are made to order and from some of the finest fabrics in Italy. So, after you pet has eaten and it’s time to stretch out, they are guaranteed to do so on a bed of doggie paradise.

Now what!
Now what!


Hope this has been helpful.  If you have any questions, leave them as comments and I’ll ask Glyn to reply.

Four years old!

How time flies!

Four years ago this day, the first post was published on Learning from Dogs.  Here it is again:

Parenting lessons from Dogs!

Much too late to make me realise the inadequacies of my own parenting skills, I learnt an important lesson when training my GSD (who is called Pharaoh, by the way).  That is that putting more emphasis into praise and reward for getting it right ‘trains’ the dog much quicker than telling it off.  The classic example is scolding a dog for running off when it should be lots of hugs and praise for returning home.  The scolding simply teaches the dog that returning home isn’t pleasant whereas praise reinforces that home is the place to be.  Like so many things in life, very obvious once understood!

Absolutely certain that it works with youngsters just the same way.

Despite being a very dominant dog, Pharaoh showed his teaching ability when working with other dogs.  In the UK there is an amazing woman, Angela Stockdale, who has proved that dogs (and horses) learn most effectively when being taught by other dogs (and horses).  Pharaoh was revealed to be a Beta Dog, (i.e. second in status below the Alpha Dog) and, therefore, was able to use his natural pack instinct to teach puppy dogs their social skills and to break up squabbles within a pack.

When you think about it, don’t kids learn much more (often to our chagrin!) from other kids than they do from their parents.  Still focusing on giving more praise than punishment seems like a much more effective strategy.

As was read somewhere, Catch them in the act of doing Right!

By Paul Handover.

As it happens, it feels a little like ‘what goes around, comes around’.  Why do I say that?

Because just last Saturday, I sent off a selection of pictures and videos to Angela Stockdale.  Stay with me for a while as to the reason why.

Angela trades under the name of The Dog Partnership and, frankly, what she doesn’t know about the behaviour of dogs isn’t worth bothering about!

Just take a peek at the page on her website under the heading of Teaching Dogs.  Here’s a little of what Angela writes:

I consider myself so lucky for dogs alone to have been my teachers. I learnt from watching how my own dogs responded to another dog’s body language and vice versa their language. Watching, learning and working with Teaching Dogs was the only way I knew.

I was and always will be in awe of a Teaching Dog’s dogs ability to consciously adapt their body language in accordance to how the other dog was feeling. The result being, they could relax nervous dogs but at the same time maintain control of a problem situation. Remember, dogs talk dog far better than we do.

It came as quite a shock to me when I learnt about other approaches. It seemed foreign for people to have so much input in resolving what were described as ‘ behavioural’ issues. For me, working with these dogs was far more than resolving a behavioural issue. It was about improving the quality of lives of dogs who were not coping with everyday life. If they found dogs or people worrying, sometimes this was shown in displays of aggression. It is important to understand, these dogs were not aggressive, they simply displayed aggressive behaviour.

Now, I would like to introduce you to the world of Teaching Dogs and how these special dogs change the lives of less fortunate dogs, who never had the opportunity to really understand how to communicate with their own species.

Do read the rest here.

Back to why those photographs and videos had been sent to Angela.  A couple of weeks ago, we enjoyed an evening meal with friends of friends, so to speak.  This other couple owned a beautiful-looking male German Shepherd dog: Duke.  Duke was 4-years-old.  Our hostess remarked that he was very boisterous and had nipped a couple of strangers who had called at the house.  She added that he seemed difficult to control.  Duke had been there for about a month and he was a rescue so they had little or no knowledge of past behaviour.

Well, I’m no expect with dogs, that’s Jean’s domain.  But there was something about Duke that captivated me.  Something in the way he looked at me, his eyes linking so directly with mine, allowing me to see a dog that offered an honest openness.

More or less on impulse I stood up, held my right arm up at 45 degrees, looked Duke in the face and said, “Duke! Sit!”

Duke held my gaze and sat back on his haunches.

I moved my arm in a complete circle, around to the right, and said, “Duke! Lie down!” Duke lay down.

H’mm, I thought. Fascinating.  This dog has been professionally trained at some point in the past, using the same ‘command’ system of voice and arm signalling as I had learnt with Pharaoh way back in 2003/2004.

The food was now on the table.  I grabbed a small piece of meat off my plate and returned to Duke who had, of course, resumed his pottering around the room.  “Duke! Here boy!”  Duke came over to me.  “Duke! Lie down!”  Duke did so.  I placed the piece of meat on the wooden floor about three feet in front of him.  Duke’s eyes were riveted on the meat.  “Duke!”  Duke’s eyes reluctantly engaged with mine.  “Duke! Stay!”  I repeated the Stay command a couple more times as I backed away about 6 or 8 feet.

“Go on, Boy. Take the meat!”  Duke gleefully grabbed the piece of meat.  Gracious, I thought, this dog is magnificent.  I wonder ……..

I took another piece of meat, “Duke! Sit!”  “Duke! Stay!”  I then backed off that 8 feet again, got down on my knees and placed the piece of meat just between my lips.  I knew this was potential madness with a dog I had only met some 30 minutes previously, but there wasn’t an ounce of doubt in my mind.  I voiced in my throat for Duke to fetch the meat. Duke came straight over and confidently and carefully removed the meat from my lips.

What a truly fabulous dog! It was a wonderful evening and once home both Jean and I were eulogising about Duke.

Then two days later, our dinner hostess rang me.  “You know, I have decided we can no longer keep Duke.  He is too strong a dog, I can’t control him.  Is there any chance of you finding a new home for Duke?”

Without question, Jean and I would have offered Duke a new home; in a heartbeat.  The only thing stopping that was me wondering if this strong-willed, male German Shepherd might be a Beta dog, as Pharaoh was. Or just might be too dominant a male dog to fit in comfortably with our dogs, especially Pharaoh who was at the stage of life where the last thing that should happen is for his happiness and contentment to be disturbed.

I hadn’t a clue as to how to answer that question.  But I knew someone who would know: Angela Stockdale.

I rang her, caught up on old times and then explained the background to Duke’s situation.  Angela said to repeat the exercise that I had witnessed when I took Pharaoh to her all those years ago, when I wondered if Pharaoh was an aggressive dog.  My uncertainty with regard to Pharaoh followed a number of times when walking him in a public area with other dogs and he had been very threatening, both in voice and posture, towards some of those other dogs.

This is what Angela arranged.  I took Pharaoh up to her place at Wheddon Cross, near Minehead in Somerset.  When we arrived, Angela was standing just by a gate into a fenced paddock, maybe a half-acre in size.  In the far corner were two dogs.

Angela asked me to bring Pharaoh to the gate and let him off the leash.  It was clear that Pharaoh was going to be let into the paddock.  I cautioned that Pharaoh could be quite a handful with other dogs and, perhaps, it would be better that I walked him into the area still on his lead.  Angela said that wouldn’t be necessary.  So as she held the gate open sufficient for Pharaoh to enter the paddock, I slipped the lead off him and backed away, as requested.

Pharaoh had hardly taken 2 or 3 paces when Angela called out, “Paul, there’s nothing wrong with him!”

I was astounded and stammered, “But, er, er, how can you tell so quickly?”  “Because my two dogs haven’t taken any notice!”, came the reply.

Later Angela explained that in the paddock were her female Alpha dog and her male Beta dog.  Ergo, the two top dogs in terms of status so far as dogs see other dogs.

In fact, Pharaoh was utterly subservient to these dogs, in a way that I had never witnessed before.  Later on, as Pharaoh relaxed and started playing, Angela said that she thought that Pharaoh was a Beta dog.  Mixing some of her other dogs into the group was later able to confirm that.

So back now to present times and Duke.

Thus last Saturday, as Angela recommended, we selected two of our dogs, Cleo our female German Shepherd and the most socialable of dogs, and Casey, a strong but not aggressive male (he had some PitBull in him).

Duke arrived and was allowed freely to nose around the large grassed area some way from the fenced-off horse paddock that we were using for the ‘introduction’.

Duke pottered around and then caught sight of Cleo and Casey in the paddock.

First sighting of Cleo and Casey.
First sighting of Cleo and Casey.

Then the meetings began!

Hello! My name is Duke.  Do I smell OK? Mr. Casey?
Hello! My name is Duke. Do I smell OK? Mr. Casey?

And play didn’t seem to be too far off the agenda!

You lead, Cleo, I'll chase!
You lead, Cleo, I’ll chase!

So all the photographs and videos have been sent to Angela, and we will see what the conclusion is!

As Angela put it, “Remember, dogs talk dog far better than we do.”

Fear versus Faith

“Fear comes from uncertainty. When we are absolutely certain, whether of our worth or worthlessness, we are almost impervious to fear.”  William Congreve, English playwright and poet.

It’s Sunday (i.e. yesterday).  I woke around 6am to a cold morning (28 deg F/-2.2 deg C), the result of a clear, moonlit night.

Then as the night sky lightened with the coming dawn, the green, forest-cloaked valleys, visible to the East through the bedroom windows filled with a white, morning mist.  In a metaphorical sense that descending mist matched a mood of gloom that was trying to descend on me.

Early morning mist, Merlin, Oregon
Early morning mist, taken 7:15 am Sunday, 24th Feb.

As I lay back against the headboard of the bed, Jean still sleeping close to me, dogs Cleo, Hazel and Sweeny snoozing on and around me, I pondered on my mood.  It came to me that I might be picking up the growing sense of anxiety, of uncertainty, that seems to be ‘in the air’.  Me reading too many blog articles about global warming, climate change, et al.  Being three-quarters through Professor Guy McPherson’s book Walking Away from Empire: A Personal Journey wasn’t helping either!

Then I recalled a recent conversation with dear friend and colleague from our Payson, AZ. days, John Hurlburt, who said that fear is the absence of faith.  That if we trust what will be will be, then we can counter the fear of the unknown and embrace the present day, one day at a time.  Living in the now as, you’ve guessed it, that dogs do so supremely well.  Something else to learn from dogs!

I made a decision to take a stroll in the forest, emotionally speaking, for this week, so far as Learning from Dogs is concerned.  Enjoy the beauty of the world around me and offer a few essays on the meaning of life. No blog posts at all about anything that engenders fear from any quarter!

And if that doesn’t slash the readership figures, I don’t know what will! So there! You have been warned.

So let me start by offering this essay from John.  John is one of those rare people who has been through more than his fair share of ‘challenges’ over the years, yet has grown from those experiences.

Here’s John – I’m turning over and going back to sleep!


Education, Formation and Transformation

Most Americans remain comfortably complacent despite world economic brinksmanship, the escalating deterioration of our planetary environment and raging world discontent. Although we may be caring and compassionate in our personal lives, we are often reluctant to take any risk of reducing our personal comfort.

Education is a process. A process of learning how to think life through in order to become aware of whom we are, what we are, where we are, and why we exist. Education has always been the human gateway to a better future.

Knowledge does not guarantee wisdom. Education, formation and transformation are an integrated process which includes studying to gain knowledge, making natural connections based on the best information available, and experiencing the higher levels of conscious awareness we recognize as wisdom. The educational process works best when it is open minded, factual and sustained. We learn best when we learn together.

The human wisdom tradition is rich in myth, mysticism, symbols, imagination and creativity. It tells a common story of emergence through centuries of sacred writings stretching back through time to the earliest human cave scratchings roughly 17,000 years ago, and the beauty of the prayers of the Rig-Veda 12,000 years ago which all begin with an homage to the natural energy of the Sun.

We’re conscious components of a living planet. We’re surface dwellers with exposure to universal and planetary energies. Our species is only 200,000 years old. The universe is roughly 13 billion years old. Our planet is deteriorating and we’ve lost our collective moral compass. What can we do to make a local difference?

We only recently learned to hunt woolly mammoths in packs using bows, arrows and spears as tools. A perception of God in relation to our responsibility to each other and creation exists as the foundation of a human wisdom tradition which, relatively speaking, has just began.

In many ways, nothing seems to have changed as we have passed through successive cyclic waves of emergence and contraction. It becomes simultaneously increasingly more complex and exquisitely simple to understand. That is as we begin to realize how our metanexus emerges, contracts and turns inside out without breaking … like a pulse.

The next ten years are more important than the next several thousand years in respect to the choices we make about our biosphere.

There seems to be little doubt that our world problems are steadily increasing. What’s the next right thing to do?  It’s time to grow our conscious connection in God. It’s time to share the spring of human wisdom from the ground up. It’s time to develop a world economy which is gentle to the earth.

The Clearing Rests in Song and Shade

The clearing rests in song and shade.
It is a creature made
By old light held in soul and leaf.
By humans joy and grief,
By human work,
Fidelity of sight and stroke,
By rain, by water on
The parent stone.
We join our work to Heaven’s gift,
Our hope to what is left,
That field and woods at last agree
In an economy
Of widest worth.
High Heaven’s Kingdom come on earth,
Imagine Paradise
O dust, arise!

Wendell Berry; 1909


The illiterate of the future will not be the person who cannot read. It will be the person who does not know how to learn.” Alvin Toffler