Saturday, April 30, 2016

Reading Into Things

The Dodo, surely our favorite source of questionable material, picked up on this video from the Humane Society of Missouri recently, about a creative new program that's supposedly benefiting kids and dogs alike: 

It’s really great to see shelters trying to make themselves into welcoming, educational places for kids–let me get that straight first of all. However,  this video isn’t showing many dogs that look like they’re getting much out of the experience. I'll go through chronologically:

Two of the dogs in the second shot are clearly barking at the window; very definitely no relaxation for those guys. 

The tan and white bully type, in the front between 0:21 and 0:29 almost seems like it’s adorably trying to follow along with the words, but look how still he is.  The dog is staring, with a half-bowed head and tense front legs—all in all, probably not a picture of relaxation. 

The black and white one is exhibiting classic signs of stress - we can see panting, pacing around the room, looking around, and yawning. Again, the behavior suggests a dog who is not having a chill time of things.

And the last dog, with the cone—fast asleep, so who knows? Dogs sleep when they’re recovering, when they’re relaxed, and also when they’re highly stressed. It’s impossible to tell which of those is happening, so again, this isn’t showing us much.

Getting kids involved in learning about dogs is a great thing, but placing them outside their habitats and having them make incomprehensible noises without interacting with the dogs seems like it’s more likely to be a stressful experience than a calming one. 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Husky Backpack

This is probably the weirdest video I’ve come across in a while. It’s supposed to be a husky that prefers piggyback rides to regular walking:

There are several confusing things about this video —not least of which, whoever heard of a husky that doesn’t want to walk? Aren’t they supposed to be bred to go go go?

Well, in theory any dog can be a lazy, demanding jerk, so let’s leave that to one side. We actually have a much bigger problem with this video, namely, that it’s not all the same video. It’s two completely separate events stuck together. The first “scene”, by a busy road, shows the husky jumping about on its leash, which is pretty normal for an excitable dog. In the second, at what looks like a creek bed, the dog’s owner picks him up and carries him past another dog. Somehow, the man has managed to be in a completely different location, in a completely different pair of trousers, between 0:11 and 0:12. 

My suspicion, with no real evidence, is that the husky is difficult to handle around other dogs—we can see him staring at the black dog walking past—which is why its owner has gotten into the habit of hoisting it onto his back. Whether the husky enjoys it or not, we’ll never know. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Sneaky Weenie

Here’s a dachshund that’s supposedly demonstrating a flair for the theatrical - lulling her friend into a false sense of security by pretending to be asleep until she has a chance to share a toy.

MI6 should probably hold off sending their recruiter, however, because this dog is not a future secret agent. She’s actually giving us a pretty great demonstration of how to respond to something called Resource Holding Potential.

The big dog is having a great time with the toy, but the little dog wants it. However, it’s pretty clear that she’s not going to get it by asking nicely - she tries, but the big dog moves to cover the toy with her body, and gives her a bit of side-eye into the bargain. These are ways to tell the dachshund to back off. The dachshund responds by yawning, which is a calming signal. The conversation is going like this:

“Toy! Yay, I’m biting it! Wheeeee!”
“Can has?”
“No. Mine.”
“But what if it was….maybe mine instead?”
“Nope. Not happening. My toy.”
“Okay, okay. Chill. I’m going over here. Enjoy your stupid toy”

When it seems like the big dog might be done with the toy, the dachshund gets right back in there - but alas, she’s jumped the gun! Once again, the big dog makes it clear that she’s pretty invested in keeping it all to herself, and once again the dachshund makes the smart choice. 

The little dog might not be a candidate for covert ops, but she’s definitely got great social skills!