Friday Funny: You’ve Got Mail!

I would do this, too, if someone gave me treats each day. Happy weekend! Until next time, Good day, and good dog! Dog Blog

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The rarity of canid hybrids

black coyote

The black allele that exists in wolves and coyotes originated in domestic dogs and entered those species because of hybridization.

Ever since Meet the Coywolf appeared on Nature on PBS and then made a long run on Netflix, the concept of hybridization within closely related Canis species has captured the public imagination.

But what is interesting about hybrids in Canidae is they have only been documented within these Canis species, which are domestic dogs/ dingoes/gray wolves, Ethiopian wolves, coyotes, Eurasian golden jackals, and African golden wolves, and between swift and kit foxes where their ranges overlap.  Sterile hybrids have been produced by crossing red foxes (usually silver phase) with arctic foxes (usually blue phase) in fur farms.

And as it stands right now, these are the only hybrids that have been documented.

This rarity is quite unusual, because the cat family has lots of hybridization by comparison.  Intergeneric hybrids have been produced by crossing cougars with leopards, which are called “pumapards,” and hybrids have even been produced crossing ocelots and bobcats. Domestic cats have been hybridized with servals and leopard cats. Pantherine hybrids are famous, including the very real liger and leopon.

But no one has produced a true intergeneric hybrid in Canidae. There are rumors of a dhole-Eurasian golden jackal hybrid from British India, but the account of this animal is literally one sentence in a book by Reginald Pocock. The Thai Bangkaew dog was said to be a dhole hybrid, but the current thinking is that the wild dog in its background is the Eurasian golden jackal.  Rumors of a dog crossed with a crab-eating fox were passed around a few years ago, but I don’t remember anyone checking out this supposed hybrid.

No one has ever produced a real vulpine fox-dog hybrid. No one.  I’ve run into several accounts of a creature called a “dox,” but they all existed before the discovery of DNA.

But no one has seen a dox since then.

It is really interesting that hybridization is far less common in Canidae than Felidae, and it certainly worth exploring why.

Losing chemical interfertility clearly does not happen at the same rate, and the mechanisms by which this happens are not clearly understood.



Natural History

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Hairy hopefuls cue up for casting call

The Poodle (and Dog) Blog

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The origins of the “turning jackal”

bat-eared fox vs cheetah

As I noted in an earlier post, I am skeptical that the extinct North American “cheetahs” are the root cause of the pronghorn’s speed.  I am not alone in this skepticism, but my skepticism is rooted in the evasion strategy that pronghorns use. They flat-out run, whereas the antelope that are part of the true cheetah’s prey sources often use complex twisting and turning behavior to evade the swift cat. The pronghorn is a super long-distance runner, and its evasion strategy is more in keeping with a creature that was hunted by long-running dogs or perhaps the only hyena that ever existed on this continent.

I’ve been thinking a lot about cheetahs lately. A few weeks ago, I was watching an episode of Nature on PBS in which the filmmakers were putting cameras on various animals. They put some cameras on some young cheetahs, and I was somewhat surprised at a species they seemed to like to target.  They were constantly harrying and harassing bat-eared foxes.

It was at that moment that two ideas I had in my head were connected.  I’d been toying around with writing something on this space about the Afrikaans name for the bat-eared fox, which is “draaijakkals.” The name means “turning jackal,” and the animal got this name because when a dog would get after one, it would start twisting and turning as it ran.  Now, this certainly would be the fox for sighthound enthusiasts to course.

But it really doesn’t need this skill to hunt its prey. In South Africa, it was believed they were a threat to lambs, but the truth is that 80-90 percent of their diet consists of one species of harvester termite, which don’t require much chasing.

Their running behavior is an evasion strategy, not a hunting strategy.

Why does this fox have such a gazelle-like evasion strategy? Well, I will engage in a bit of speculative zoology here:

The cheetah did it.

Cheetahs do not regularly target bat-eared foxes, but when they do, they are successful pretty often. Gus and Margaret Mills, who studied cheetahs in Kalahari, reported that cheetahs rarely hunt bat-eared foxes, but when they did, they managed to catch and kill their quarry 44.4 percent of the time. One emaciated cheetah queen, though, came to target bat-eared foxes as a major part of her diet.

Cheetahs are not migratory species, but many of their prey sources are.  And during times in which ungulates can’t be hunted, some of them could very well come to rely upon bat-eared foxes as their favored prey.

Although bat-eared foxes do derive from a basal lineage of vulpine foxes, the exact species first appeared in the fossil record 800,000 years ago.  And they evolvedin areas where cheetahs were present.

This little hypothesis has some problems. One of them is that cheetahs don’t often target bat-eared foxes, but we do know cheetahs will when they are unable to hunt ungulates.

But does cheetah predation on bat-eared foxes happen enough to have had that effect upon the canid’s evasion strategy?

I don’t know if we can answer that question, but it seems to me that the bat-eared foxes’ odd twisting and turning and doubling back behavior comes from cheetah predation as a selection pressure.

It is worth considering. Maybe I am way off, but I don’t know of any other canid that runs from predators in this fashion.

Or maybe it’s just another Just-So Story.



Natural History

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For the dog loving family that plays board games…

The Poodle (and Dog) Blog

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Here Comes Sunshine | 8 Sun Inspired Art Prints

8 Sun Inspired Art Prints
1. Hello Sunshine Print, YoYo Studios  |  2. The Sunshine Print, Katy Girl Designs  |  3. Sun Print, Art Prints Factory  |  4.  Sunshine Wall Art Print, The Little Inkspot Co.  |  5. You Are My Sunshine Art Print, Delivered By Danielle  |  6. You Are My Sunshine Art Print on Wood, One Strange Bird Designs  |  7. You Art My Sunshine Two Piece Art Print Set, My Printable Arts |  8. You Are My Sunshine Art Print, Home Again Creative

You guys, it’s almost one of the most wonderful days of the year… Daylight Savings Time begins this weekend! I know there are lots of people who despise this time change because we “lose” an hour, it’s dark in the early morning, and for those of us who have kids, sleep schedules are disrupted. For me, these are simply minor annoyances. I love DST with all of my being. Winter itself is a major drag for me (I’ve deal with SAD on and off for my entire adult life), and the whole getting dark at 4 PM thing is a huge part of that. I genuinely feel reborn and refreshed once the day gets longer and the sun returns. So in honor of Daylight Savings, I’m sharing a few adorable sun inspired prints (several of which are instant downloads) I came across on Etsy. Just looking at them makes me feel cheery, man. Here’s to longer (feeling) days!


Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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End of Oaks

dead white oak

Dead white oak.

They stand as edifices on the ridge-lines.  They seem as permanent as the stony ground on which they grow, but they are not eternal. Sooner or later, boring of insects and the general rot of wood bring them into death. Then, the winds of summer storms and winter gales bring them to the ground, and their matter returns to the soil from whence they came.

The oak tree played a major role in the identity of two of my ancestral people. The German people see the oak as a national symbol, and the English had a similar position for them. It was from the oak trees that the Royal Navy’s ships were made.

The forests I know best in West Virginia are called “Appalachian Mesophytic Forests.”

“Mesophytic” means not particularly wet or dry.  The oak and the hickory are the dominant trees, which has led to their other name, “oak-hickory forest.”

But the oak predominates.  In a typical West Virginia forest, around 60 percent of the trees will be oak, and unlike Western Europe, where just a few species of oak exist, our forests will be filled a great diversity of the trees. The most common species are divided into “red oak species” and “white oak” species. but there are many other types of oak that fall under neither distinction.

One of the weird delusions one must fight against in these forests is assuming they are old, that they are the same forest primeval that existed when Europeans first arrive. However, most of these forests are regenerated from old farm pastures that were left fallow after the agrarian economy fell apart in the latter decades of the twentieth century.

Those old forests certainly had many oaks, but they also shared their growing space with massive American chestnut trees.  The deer supposedly preferred the chestnuts to acorns, and even now, one can buy chestnut feeds to bait deer.

But those deer munching prepackaged chestnuts will never have the privilege of foraging beneath those old chestnut trees. In the early 1900s, a chestnut blight came sweeping through the Northeast and the Appalachians. The indigenous American chestnuts died off. And now only the deer’s ancestral proclivity manifests itself when the bait is put out.

I knew people who were alive when the last of the chestnuts died. I knew a few old farmers who missed the trees so much that they planted the Chinese chestnut as a replacement tree.  My grandpa Westfall had a massive Chinese chestnut as the “shade tree” for his deck, and I can still see him sitting on his the deck, peeling away chestnuts with his knife that he had just collected from his favorite tree.

A big storm came one summer, and the howling winds twisted that tree down to the ground. I thought it would be there forever, but the wind had other ideas.

It was a lesson in the simple reality that trees are not permanent. They are living, and they die.

This year, a firestorm went off in West Virginia.  The governor wanted to open up some of the state parks to logging. The reason for this move was never fully mentioned, but the truth is the Chinese market wants good quality oak lumber, especially from red oaks. The Chinese are buying the logs straight out and processing them over there, and the state wanted to make a few dollars selling big oak logs.

The plan has since been abandoned.

Now, it is certainly true that oak trees do grow back, but what is not mentioned much of the discussion about oak forests in West Virginia is that oaks are also under threat.

Just as the chestnut blight brought down our native chestnut tree, the oaks are under pressure now and have been for decades. Yes, the forests are still dominated by oak trees, and acorn mast still drives the ecosystem.

But now, it is quite difficult for oaks to reproduce. Squirrels still take acorns and bury them away from their parent tree, which makes for better growing conditions for the seedlings.

But when the seedlings arise from the leaf litter, the chomping maws of white-tails rip them from their shallow little roots.

Deer have always eaten little oak seedlings. The two species have evolved together, and during the autumn, the deer rely heavily upon acorns to build up their fat reserves.

However, we now live in a time in which deer densities are high. Sportsmen expect deer to be a high densities, and during the 80s and 90s, the numbers were even higher than they are now.

The state DNR, realizing that high deer numbers were ultimately bad for forests, for agricultural interests, and for auto insurers, decided to allow hunters to take more does from the population.  The deer numbers went down a bit.

This deer number reduction coincided with a coyote population increase, and it was assumed that the coyotes were the reason why the deer numbers dropped.  Some conspiracy theorists believed that the DNR or the insurance companies turned out coyotes to reduce the deer population. The story goes that some trapper bagged a coyote in his fox trap, and on its ear was a tattoo that said “Property of State Farm.”

Of course, the coyotes do take fawns, and some coyotes do pack up and hunt them. But there is very little evidence that coyotes have an effect on deer populations, at least in this part of the country.

Coyotes aren’t like wolves in that they don’t need to kill lots of deer to survive. They can live very nicely on rabbits and mice. Those smaller species have the added advantage that they don’t fight back with sharp hooves when the predator must make a kill.

So we have sportsmen demanding higher deer numbers and lower coyote numbers, and we have oak trees that are having harder and harder time regenerating, simply because there are too many deer eating their seedlings.

And now, fewer and fewer hunters are taking to the woods to hunt deer. State parks, of course, are off-limits to deer hunters.

So if these big oaks are taken for the Chinese market, it really could mean the end of oak trees in the state parks.

And statewide, they could become a rarity entirely.

Of course, the deer themselves will starve without acorns feeding them every September, October, and November, and maybe that crash will allow some regeneration to occur.

But it might be too late.

The truth of the matter is deer hunting is about forestry, and if more and more people see deer hunting as a cruel “sport,” then we’re going to see drastic changes to our forest ecosystem.

Our only hope is that black bears become more carnivorous and eat as many fawns as they can find, and the coyotes learn to swarm the hills like Kipling’s red dogs.

Or maybe more human hunters will take to the forests and fields in search of high quality meat.

But none of these events is likely to happen.

And in a few decades, we may very well see the end of the oak-hickory forest as we know it.

I guess it is time we thought long and hard again about selling out our natural resources to out of state concerns.  The curse of West Virginia is that we never really have, and those who dared raise the issue were either driven from office or kept as far from centers of power as possible.

Maybe times are changing.

Let’s hope they change fast enough for our forests and wildlife.





Natural History

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Dog Fancy Magazine Features Kevin Behan, Neil Sattin and Natural Dog Training

I always look forward to opening up the mailbox. Sure, email is great – but there’s something magical and mysterious about having physical, tangible items delivered to you from somewhere beyond. The other day was no exception, as I happened to receive the latest issue of Dog Fancy magazine (November 2011). And in the “Natural Dog” section is a feature on Natural Dog Training, including interviews with me and Kevin Behan, along with a couple people who have had some very positive experiences with NDT. (Cliff Abrams and Sang Koh).

The article is entitled “Push Away Stress” – and I think it does a great job of zeroing in on one of the central principles in how we interact with our dogs – that the key to establishing a rock-solid connection with your dog is to recognize that life for your dog, especially in a human world, creates stress. Your mission (should you choose to accept it) is to give your dog ways to relax that tap into their innate mechanisms for releasing stress. By doing so, you are teaching your dog that no matter how the world makes them feel, you are uniquely capable of helping them get through it.

Neil Sattin Heeling With His Dog Nola

This might all sound a little mumbo-jumbo-y, but I’ve seen it now time and time again, how tapping into your dog’s primal circuitry changes things for the better. My DVD set (and this website, and Kevin’s books, and Lee Charles Kelley’s articles, and…) gives plenty of examples of how once you’re plugged in with your dog you can turn that relationship into enthusiastic “obedience.”

Note that the reason that I put the word “obedience” in quotes is because the concept becomes almost moot. Your dog doesn’t “obey” you – because there’s no need. What happens is that you learn how to communicate with your dog in a language that they understand. So your dog listens, and responds.

Not because they are suddenly blindly obeying you, or because you’ve become the “authority” in their lives – but because they care what you have to say. It makes sense to them. Even more, it FEELS good to act in harmony with your desires. Because now you both want the same thing.

Neil Sattin and His Dog Nola Sit-Stay

If reading the Dog Fancy article is your introduction to Natural Dog Training, welcome! I’m sure you’re intrigued to know what “pushing” is all about – as the technique was essentially the focus of the article, without any detailed instruction on how to actually do it! As you might expect, I do explain thoroughly how to do it on my DVDs – but I also provide written instruction here on my website on How to Push with Your Dog (and the follow-up – Why to Push with Your Dog).

Thank you to Dog Fancy magazine (and writer Susan Chaney) for an open-minded article about what we do. And thanks, once again, to all of you. It’s your attention, questions, and feedback (yes, keep sending emails with your stories of your success!) that help remind me why I’m doing this in the first place.

Dog Fancy Magazine Features Kevin Behan, Neil Sattin and Natural Dog Training is a post from: Natural Dog Blog – Training and More

Want your dog to come when called, no matter what?

Want to strengthen then connection between you and your dog?

Check out Neil Sattin's Instructional Videos - step-by-step instruction that makes it easy and fun!

Natural Dog Blog – Training and More

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Dog Training – It's All About the Relationship

Your dog’s behavior doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase (or seen it written here): “The dog is always right”? The reason is that dogs are simply responding to what is happening in their environment. And, specifically, how their environment makes them feel.

Whatever your dog is doing, it is ALL about the relationship that you have with your dog. And the relationship that you have with the significant people in your life. And the relationship that you have with yourself.

The obvious relationship that matters here is how you are with your dog. Are you nervous? Rigid? Harsh? Grounded? What are you communicating with your body language? What is your emotional state communicating to your pup? 99% of the time, what your dog is doing is “right” – meaning that your dog is simply taking in all of the information that you’re giving (and primarily the physical and emotional information – NOT the intellectual or conceptual information) and doing what makes the most sense to a canine under the circumstances.

Guess who else’s behavior doesn’t exist in a vacuum? YOURS! You are affected by your self-image and beliefs, and the relationships that you’re having with those around you. One of the biggest challenges that I’ve had over the past 10+ years of working with people and their dogs has been helping the PEOPLE change their habits. I would see, over and over again, how the emotional atmosphere of a person’s life – their stress at work, or in their primary relationships, or their view of themselves – was affecting how they lived their lives. Their habits. And this is important, because…

Your habits are creating your dog’s habits.

A little over 5 years ago I decided to branch out and get some training, as a coach, from the Robbins-Madanes Institute for Strategic Intervention. For me it was an opportunity to not only focus on shifting my own habits of being, but to also develop more skills at facilitating change for the humans with whom I was working. In the time since then, it has truly been an honor to not only be helping people with their dogs, but also to be helping them with the overall quality of their lives.

During that time, it became a passion of mine to work with people on improving their romantic relationships. You may notice that my original site (yes, this existed BEFORE Naturaldogblog) has been revived. There’s a lot of great content there, and more in the works, that’s focused specifically on improving relationships. I’m also about to launch a podcast, called Relationship Alive, focused on helping you have amazing relationships (or easeful breakups – should that be the path that you choose). So stay tuned for more information on that.

In the meantime – think about it this way. Your dog is an emotional creature, picking up on everything that’s happening in the environment and responding from a place of heart – not head. What’s going on in your world? Where is the stress? Where is the tension? Where is the anger? Where is the love? Now look at your dog’s behavior, and ask yourself “how is my dog giving a voice to everything that’s happening in our world together?” I look forward to hearing what insights you uncover.

Dog Training – It’s All About the Relationship is a post from: Natural Dog Blog – Training and More

Want your dog to come when called, no matter what?

Want to strengthen then connection between you and your dog?

Check out Neil Sattin's Instructional Videos - step-by-step instruction that makes it easy and fun!

Natural Dog Blog – Training and More

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For your research, Steph: "Having a pit bull…

For your research, Steph:

"Having a pit bull … and three kids is not acceptable because we're not going to deal with the consequences of losing a life," Newsom said.

He appointed a task force led by Carl Friedman, the city's director of Animal Care and Control, and members of the mayor's office, the police department, fire department, health department and city attorney's office, and gave the group 10 days to produce a report.

Friedman said the task force will likely consider breed-specific permits and mandatory spaying and neutering of aggressive dogs." And that they did.

We don't need to be convinced that mandatory spay/neuter is an outdated, ineffective idea and welcome you to follow the success of the the honey-not-vinegar approach that our group has been enjoying in the East Bay.

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