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Pet Body Language You Might Be Misreading

According to AARP magazine, there may be some dog and cat behaviors that we may be misreading. You may think you know what that tail wag or cuddle means, but do you? We asked a few experts for guidance.

Dog smiling

Dogs smiling
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What you think it means: All is well.

What it really means: That grinning look is not the same for dogs as for humans. “Generally speaking, tension in the mouth is a sign of stress,” Case says. “If the dog is actually feeling happy, their mouth isn’t going to have tension to it. It might be open a little bit with what we call a soft face.”

Dog wagging tail

 
Dog wagging tail
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What you think it means: I’m happy.

What else it can mean: “People think just because the tail is wagging, all is well, but that’s not always the case,” says certified applied animal behaviorist Jill Goldman. A good tail wag is side to side or in circles. This often means that the dog is excited to see someone. But a wagging tail that is a “high mast, hooked all the way over,” Goldman says, can signal a heightened emotional state that isn’t necessarily social.

Cat rolling over

Cat rolling over
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What you think it means: Rub my belly.

What it really means: Not that. “Most cats do not love belly rubs,” says feline behaviorist Marci L. Koski. “That’s where the Venus cat trap comes into play. You put your hand on the belly and then, whoo, there go the claws.”

Dog panting

Dog Panting
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What you think it means: I’m hot.

 

What else it can mean: “Panting can sometimes mean stress,” says Courtney Case, a trainer at the Granada Hills, California–based J9’s K9s Dog Training. “So if you’re sitting inside and your dog hears a noise and they start panting, it might mean that they’re a little bit stressed, and they’re just trying to get a little bit more oxygen into those lungs.”

Cat rubbing up against you

Cat rubbing up against you
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What you think it means: I like you.

What else it can mean: “It’s also as a way to leave their scent behind,” Koski says. “The most common way a cat will rub up against somebody is with their cheek. This deposits those facial pheromones that are often used in marking territory.”

Dog Barking

 
Dog Barking
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What you think it means: Someone is invading my space.

What else it can mean: “Barking can be, ‘Oh, I’m so excited to see you,’ ” Goldman says. “But it also can mean, ‘Keep your distance. I’m very territorial. Don’t come any closer.’ 

Dog rolling over

 
Dog rolling over
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What you think it means: I’m feeling lazy.

What else it can mean: “If a dog is rolling over and exposing their belly to a person that they’re comfortable with, they’re probably asking for affection,” Case says. It could also be a sign of submission. “If a dog does that to a person they don’t know, I’m going to assume that dog is trying to show me, ‘Look how small I am. Please don’t hurt me.’  ”​


Turtles Talk to Each Other

Get this from Salon - A new study reveals that, in their own special way, turtles chat with each other!

"It was a great surprise to discover they not only vocalize but also do so very often, producing very funny sounds" Turtle

University of Zurich's Gabriel Jorgewich-Cohen is part of a team of international researchers who produced a landmark new study for the journal Nature Communications. Seeking to learn about the evolutionary origins of acoustic communication in vertebrates, the scientists recorded 53 species from four major clades — turtles, tuatara, caecilians and lungfish — to analyze what they heard. In the process, they learned that there are turtles, tuataras, and caecilians that engage in vocal communication, even though those clades had previously been perceived as non-vocal.

"When put in perspective, these findings show that vocal behavior is an evolutionary innovation that first appeared in the common ancestor of tetrapods (amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals) and lungfish," Jorgewich-Cohen explained.

To be clear, this vocal behavior does not resemble anything as magnificent as a wolf howling or a bird tweeting. The Cayenne caecilian, in this journalist's opinion, produced sounds a bit like exaggerated yet strangely half-hearted armpit farts, while the mata mata turtle almost came across like a purring cat. Yet despite these seemingly alien vocalizations, the new study reveals that these creatures have much more in common with human beings than we had previously assumed. Rather than making these animals more exotic when compared to us, the new study discloses the extent to which we are part of the same family tree.


Dog Age Calculator

Happy birthday dogI tend to compute dog age into human age by multiplying the dog's age by seven. But according to Dr Leslie Brooks, an advisor at Betterpet, different breeds require different calculations.

Betterpet has developed a free online tool that is a dog age calculator that allows users to enter a dog's age and see it converted to human years. Even more, the tool provides insights like average life expectancy, weight, and height for over 100 dog breeds. 

Unfortunately, many pet owners don't always know how old their dog actually is and how they should be caring for their furry friend. If pet parents know their dog's exact stage of life, they can make better decisions about their diet, nutrition, exercise, and health. That’s why my team decided to make a resource like this free and accessible to the public. 

Key takeaways about a dog's age

  • The 7:1 ratio is flawed —As it turns out, figuring your dog’s age is more complex than multiplying by seven. That old rule of thumb that one dog year equals seven human years is based on the notion that dogs live about 10 years and humans live to about 70.
  • There isn’t a perfect formula — A dog age calculator is a great way to get a better idea of your dog’s age in human years, but parents of rescue dogs may not know their pet’s birth date. There are other ways to estimate if you don’t know your dog’s age.
  • Small dogs typically live longer than big dogs — Dogs under 40 pounds aren’t as prone to conditions such as hip dysplasia that can limit their mobility and increase their risk for obesity and other health conditions.

So enjoy every moment with your fur baby and celebrate!


Dogs Can Smell Your Stress, Study Finds

As any dog owner will attest, dogs can seem eerily attuned to human behavior. When humans yell or pick a fight, dogs often respond with anger and fear. Similarly, people with sedentary lifestyle may have seemingly sedentary pets: a 2021 study found a correlation between dog obesity and human obesity.

Now, a new study sheds light on the peculiar ways that dogs seem to be able to pick up on human vibes. Specifically, researchers found that when you are stressed, your body produces a distinct odor — and our canine friends can smell it. Read the rest from Matthew Rozsa.


The Secret to Cat Longevity Revealed

A fascinating article from Atlas Obscura reveals some secrets of cat longevity.

Jake Perry is a cat man. Standing about 5-foot-7 and often clad in workman’s clothes, the 85-year-old Austin, Texas, plumber is also a father and husband. But anyone who’s met Perry will tell you—first and foremost, he’s a cat man.

Perry’s cats broke the Guinness World Record for oldest cat. Twice, actually: The first record, from 1998, was for a part Sphynx, part Devon Rex named Granpa Rexs Allen who made it to age 34; the second, from 2005, is for a mixed tabby named Creme Puff who lived to age 38. Since the 1980s, Perry has adopted and re-homed hundreds of cats, at his peak raising four dozen at once, showcasing the best and brightest in cat shows. According to Perry, it’s not just Granpa and Creme Puff who had unusually long lives: About a third of his cats, he says, lived to be at least 30 years old—about twice the average feline life span.

Jerry told me about his own cats, and what he believed were the keys to their unbelievably long lives.

First, there was their daily diet: on top of dry commercial cat food, a home-cooked breakfast of eggs, turkey bacon, broccoli, coffee with cream, and—every two days—about an eyedropper full of red wine to “circulate the arteries.” Then there was his effort to ensure the cats were sufficiently stimulated: a garage he’d converted into a home movie theater, with a working reel-to-reel projector and actual movie theater seats, where Perry screens nature documentaries exclusively for the cats (with previews, he added). Last, and perhaps most important, he swore that love and close, personal relationships helped his cats live longer. Perry adored his cats so much, he remembered each of their birthdays. (Bill Clinton was invited to Granpa’s 34th; the president sent a card with his regrets.)

The average life expectancy of pet cats in general increased from 11 years in 2002 to 12 years in 2012, according to records from Banfield Pet Hospital, a chain of more than 900 veterinary hospitals. Some of that change is associated with more people getting their pets spayed and neutered, says Lefebvre.

Neutering and the lowered testosterone levels that result from it have also been linked to increased life span in some species of birds, and even humans. (Some scientists believe that lower testosterone levels are the key reason women live longer than men.)

Of course, neutering can only increase cat longevity by so much. More than nine out of every 10 house cats in the United States are neutered, reports the ASPCA, and only a small portion of cats make it anywhere close to age 30. Using a human life span equivalency formula on the Cornell Feline Health Center’s website, 30 cat years translates to about 133 human years. By those measures, if 34-year-old Granpa were an actual human grandpa, he would have passed away at 149. Creme Puff, for the record, kept chugging until human-age 165. Surely, there must be something else at work here. 

 

 


Inside The Beagle Rescue

Many of us are aware of a massive rescue of 4,000 beagles who were bred for scientific experiments - a crime in itself but the treatment of these poor animals is especially criminal. The Washington Post researched the entire rescue operation. I cried while reading throughout this article. Here is an excerpt -

Profit, pain and puppies: Inside the rescue of nearly 4,000 beagles

How dogs being bred for research at Envigo became the target of the largest animal welfare seizure in the Humane Society’s history

 

CUMBERLAND, Va. — The first beagle out that day had brown eyes and a chunk missing from his left ear. His tail was a nub. It went from tan to white, then disappeared, maybe bitten off in a fight or caught in a cage door.

The 1-year-old had never been given a name — just an identification code, ‘CMG CKA,’ tattooed in blue-green on the flap of his left ear. Like the thousands of other beagles bred for research at Envigo, a sprawling complex tucked deep in rural Virginia, he’d spent his entire life in a cage surrounded by the relentless barking of other dogs.

Now, on a Thursday in late July, that was about to change.

Uno, as he was immediately dubbed by his rescuers, and 3,775 other beagles were being sprung from their misery in an unprecedented animal welfare seizure.

After years of alarm from animal rights advocates and state legislators, after U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors found maggot-infested kibble, 300 dead puppies and injured beagles being euthanized, after an undercover investigation by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and after a lawsuit filed against Envigo by the Justice Department, the Indianapolis-based company had reached a settlement with the federal government. It agreed to shut down the Virginia breeding operation — admitting no wrongdoing and receiving no punishment or fines — rather than make what the CEO of its parent company called “the required investments to improve the facility.”

In July, U.S. District Court Judge Norman K. Moon approved the surrender of Envigo’s beagles to the Humane Society of the United States, giving the nonprofit group just weeks to organize the biggest rescue in its 67-year history. “There’s been nothing, ever, like this. Just the sheer volume of dogs, or really, any animal,” said Kitty Block, the Humane Society’s president and chief executive.

What followed was two months of beagle mania, as people across the country showered the Humane Society with $2.2 million in donations and clamored to adopt the dogs. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle took in a beagle. So did the governor of New Jersey and the chief meteorologist at a Virginia news station. But the beagle emancipation was cloaked in secrecy. Almost no one was allowed to see the dogs leave Envigo.

Here is a link to the full story.


Do Dogs Return the Favor After Strangers Feed Them?

A new study reveals that dogs don't tend to offer food back to humans when given the chance.  Check out this article from Smithsonian Magazine:

We show our love to our canine pets with treats and train them with goodies as motivation. However close the bond is between humans and dogs, though, food sharing may just be a one-way street: Dogs don’t seem to pay back the hand that feeds them.

That lack of reciprocated food sharing in dogs is the key finding of a study published today in PLOS One by dog researcher Jim McGetrick and his team. The comparative psychologist at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna in Austria found that in lab experiments, dogs who received treats by humans pushing a button didn’t then return the favor by pushing the same button so humans gained a treat in kind.

Previous studies have observed that dogs repay other generous dogs with food tit-for-tat, and take the initiative to rescue distressed humans from entrapment. McGetrick says his study is the first to look at reciprocity between humans and dogs. His team wondered whether fed dogs would reward food to beneficent humans.

To probe this question, the researchers trained 37 pet dogs to press a button for food from a dispenser. These dogs came from over ten different breeds and mixes, with diverse idiosyncrasies to match. Some dogs were gentle, laying their paws delicately on the button and nibbling their reward. Other dogs mauled the button and chewed on the box that enclosed it. One dog only pressed the button with its hind leg. “The personalities definitely varied hugely,” says McGetrick.

Once each dog associated the button with food, the button was placed in an adjacent room with a human stranger inside. The dog would remain in a different room with the food dispenser. A wire mesh fence separated the two rooms—through which the dog could observe the human controlling the coveted button. A helpful human would press the button and the dog would receive food. An unhelpful human would steel his or her heart against the dog’s pleading eyes—unbeknownst to the dog, the volunteer usually felt terrible—and press a decoy button that didn’t release any food from the dispenser.

“When they were with the unhelpful human, it surprised me how big of a deal it was for them when they didn't get food in a situation where they expected to get food,” says McGetrick. These dogs whined and made a fuss. “It could look effectively like throwing a tantrum.”

The researchers then reversed the situations. The working button was transferred to the room with the dog, and the food dispenser—with chocolate candy replacing the kibble—was relocated to the human’s room. This time, the dogs weren’t nearly so eager to press the button in their room when the food ended up with the human next door. Moreover, when it came to reciprocating the helpful human who had previously fed the dog via the button or the unhelpful one who had refused, the dogs didn’t seem to distinguish between the two. The dogs pushed the button equally for both groups.

Moreover, after each button-pressing experiment, the dogs and humans had the chance to interact in the flesh. The dogs didn’t seem to hold the volunteers’ unhelpfulness against them. They approached the volunteers equally, whether the humans had been helpful or not.

“[The result] could indicate that dogs might not necessarily … relate to something like gratitude,” says McGetrick. Or, “they don't necessarily strongly regard or consider others in their actions” in an attentionally blind kind of way, he adds. But “I would highlight that this was a very specific experimental context.”

Dog Watching Treat Dispenser
A dog waits for a human to press the button and give it a treat. Lisa Poncet, the University of Caen Normandy
 

The findings don’t necessarily rule out reciprocity by dogs with humans, says McGetrick. The experimental outcome could be specific to the conditions that the researchers used, such as the dogs’ unfamiliarity with the humans. Perhaps the dogs would be more helpful in kind to their original owners. Or, button-pushing was too much of a mental leap for the dogs to associate with returning the favor. He suspects that the dogs may go by a more straightforward rule: push the button only when the dispenser is in their room. More likely, he speculates, dogs simply don’t see themselves as food providers to humans.

More research is needed to rule out all the possibilities that could explain why the dogs didn’t reciprocate with food, says Angie Johnston, a psychology researcher at Boston College who didn’t participate in the research. A good starting point would be to look at dogs who have received more training, such as military and service dogs. If even trained dogs don’t keep score, it would imply dogs in general are hopeless at tracking this information. But if they reciprocate, then training might make all the difference, allowing any canine to pay more attention to the humans they work with.

“Knowing about the dog-human interaction is important for things like training service dogs and assistance dogs,” says Johnston. “Anytime we know more about the human-dog connection and where it came from and how it evolved, that can inform our training processes with those populations.”

 

Dogs May Mourn the Loss of Other Household Pets

Smithsonian Magazine offers a fascinating article on how dogs grieve. It helps to remind us of the "humanity" in all beings. The big takeaway is that grieving canines ate less, slept more, and sought more attention from their human companions after the death of a furry friend, according to a survey.

According to a survey, researchers found nearly 90 percent of dogs that experienced the death of another canine companion living in the same house showed signs of grief. In the months following their buddy's death, dogs were less playful and more fearful. They also had reduced appetites and sought more attention from their owners, reports Clare Wilson for New Scientist.

Signs of mourning were stronger in dogs that had an amicable relationship and shared food with the deceased, reports the Guardian's Nicola Davis. The study was published last week in Scientific Reports.

"Dogs are highly emotional animals who develop very close bonds with the members of the familiar group. This means that they may be highly distressed if one of them dies, and efforts should be made to help them cope with this distress," says study author Federica Pirrone, an animal behavior expert at the University of Milan, told the Guardian.

Other animals that experience grief include dolphins, great apes, elephants, and birds. These species have been observed taking part in rituals around death and appear to mourn by touching and investigating the deceased individual's corpse, the researchers write in the study. For example, mother elephants will stand guard over their still-born baby for days. They will also hang their head and ears, moving slowly and quietly in a depressed-like manner.

Despite reports of owners observing their pets grieiving, it wasn't documented or studied in domesticated dogs until recently. For the study, researchers surveyed 426 adults who had at least two dogs and had experienced the loss of one of their dogs, per New Scientist. The study participants were asked to complete an online questionnaire about their surviving dog's behaviors and emotions after their companion's death, the Guardian reports. The participants were also asked about their own shifts in behavior and emotions.

About 86 percent of owners noted their surviving dogs had shown changes in their behavior after the death of a companion and the changes lasted between two to six months, reports Becky Ferreira for Vice. The living dogs were reported to play less, eat less, sleep more, and seek more attention from their owners. However, pets of owners who were affected by the pet's death more greatly were more badly affected by the event and suggest that they could be reacting to their human's behavior too, New Scientist reports.

 

"Dogs have become extremely sensitive to human communicative gestures and facial expressions," says Pirrone to New Scientist. "A caregiver and a dog develop an emotional connection."

While the dogs may behave this way because they have lost an attachment figure who provided safety and security, the team can still not tell if the canines were responding to the death or the loss of an affiliate, Pirrone explained to the Guardian. Because the research relies on self-reported data, the study may have some limitations influenced by how owners interpreted their dogs' behaviors, says social anthropologist Samantha Hurn from the University of Exeter, who was not involved with the study. 

Pirrone and her team cross-referenced the reports to counteract any inconsistencies in the data and used statistical analysis to see if owners were really witnessing their pets in a grief-like state, Vice reports. Pirrone tells the Guardian that the attachment levels between the owner and the dog did not appear to affect results, so the data was not skewed by their owners projecting grief onto their pets.

The team concludes that while the data suggests that pets experience grief, more research is needed to confirm grief and mourning behaviors in dogs further, Vice reports.