Dogs! In the News!
“Who’s a Good Boy?!” or “Who’s a Stinky Mess?!”
It appears that dogs understand us better than scientists thought.
(Cue dramatic eye rolling from all dog owners.)
Yes, in yet another edition in our series of Scientific-Studies-That-Confirm-What-Dog-Owners-Already-Know, news organizations world-wide reported this week on the results of a study conducted by university researchers in Budapest, Hungary.
National Geographic reports:
When we say “Good dog!” dogs hear both the words we say and how we say them, new brain scans show. For people, both the word and intonation are important, but no one knew—until now—whether that was also the case for dogs.
Researcher Attila Andics devised a study where 13 dogs were trained to lie still in an MRI machine.
While the dogs were in the MRIs they heard different words spoken in a positive, praising tone, and, in a neutral tone.
According to the New York Times:
… positive words spoken in a positive tone prompted strong activity in the brain’s reward centers. All the other conditions resulted in significantly less action, and all at the same level.
In other words, “good boy” said in a neutral tone and “however” said in a positive or neutral tone all got the same response.
What does it all mean?
For dog owners, Dr. Andics said, the findings mean that the dogs are paying attention to meaning, and that you should, too. That doesn’t mean a dog won’t wag its tail and look happy when you say, “You stinky mess” in a happy voice. But the dog is looking at your body language and your eyes, and perhaps starting to infer that “stinky mess” is a word of praise.
And click here for the full news story at Science Magazine’s website and to watch a great video explaining the study.
Dogs Sniff Out Superbugs
According to the Centers for Disease Control, so-called superbugs cost the health care industry more than $5-billion a year. Superbugs are drug-resistant bacteria.
Now there’s a new weapon in the war against these dangerous germs: a dog’s nose!
Turns out dogs can sniff down some of these bacteria on hospital surfaces.
CBS News reports that Springer Spaniel Angus has been deployed by a hospital in Vancouver to help in the effort.
With his remarkable sense of smell, Angus the springer spaniel is on a mission to track down the most common kind of hospital superbug called Clostridium difficile or C. diff, which is considered a “hazard level urgent.”
“C. Difficile is a bacteria. It forms spores so it can persist in our environment for long periods of time,” said Elizabeth Bryce of the Vancouver Coastal Health Infection Prevention and Control.
C. diff is caused by antibiotic use or contact with contaminated surfaces. It’s highly contagious and sometimes deadly, causing half a million infections in the U.S. each year and killing 15,000 people. We can’t see it with the naked eye, but Angus can smell it.
Check out the whole news story here on the CBS News website.
Mysteries of Dog Aging
Bodhi is only four years old. That means he’s already completed a significant portion of his life. I am definitely not looking forward to where we will be five, six, seven years from now.
To biologist Daniel Promislow, the dog aging process is not only distressing, it also doesn’t seem to make sense. In most of the animal kingdom, larger animals live longer than smaller ones. Humans outlive chimpanzees. Tigers outlive house cats. Orcas outlive dolphins. But within the dog species, the opposite effect is true. A five-pound Chihuahua can live up to 18 years. A 150-pound Newfoundland lives about 10.
Smithsonian Magazine reports that Promislow is studying dog aging at the University of Washington. His project is…
… currently engaged in research on understanding dog aging and using medications to potentially enhance life span. The team is also currently being reviewed for a grant that would allow them to conduct an enormous longitudinal study on dog aging involving some 10,000 dogs from across America.
Promislow believes understanding dog aging may have benefits for humans as well.
Read more news on the Smithsonian Magazine website here.
The Tail: “You are getting sleepy… You are getting very sleepy… “
hypnosis |hipˈnōsəs| noun
- the induction of a state of consciousness in which a person apparently loses the power of voluntary action and is highly responsive to suggestion or direction. Its use in therapy, typically to recover suppressed memories or to allow modification of behavior by suggestion, has been revived but is still controversial.
- the state of consciousness produced by hypnosis.
(Make sure you listen to the audio!)