Strap line

It started when two canine scientists decide to become pen pals in an era of digital media...

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Working like a dog

Hello Julie,

Having consulted two of my fabulous friends who happen to be ‘real world editors’ I can happily report that the technically correct format would be “Hi there, Mia”. This is to clarify that my name is not ‘there Mia’, although one friend said “no one does it on the internet”, so maybe you can’t win – or can’t lose?! 
I’m just happy you said “Hi”.

It's so true that there are welfare issues all around us – even when perhaps we’re not expecting to see them. Or when we are so used to seeing them that we need to put on ‘fresh eyes’ to see them in a different light. I find it really interesting that some of the features we find attractive in dogs can be the very same that equate to poor welfare for the animal. I hope you can tell me some more about the why and how we humans identify certain features as attractive. It’s a really fascinating topic.

In a not-really-related-but-kind-of-interesting side note – I noticed some interested physical traits we were encountering when I worked with guide dogs. Our breeding colony was selected for good physical health and on a basis of behavioural traits deemed ‘suitable for guide dog work’, but not to a strict physical standard (as a ‘pedigree’ Labrador might be). We had some Golden retrievers and F1 and F2 crosses/crossbacks between the two breeds – always selecting for dogs that could work well as guide dogs for people with vision impairment.

(source)
We started seeing some brindle coming through in some black dogs. 
So we had some Labradors that looked like this >>>  

There were people telling us they COULDN’T BE LABRADORS

They MUST be Rottweiler crosses. But they weren't - and we had records showing 50 years+ of breeding history to show it.
(source)


Turns out that it’s not an unheard of ’mismark’ (such a dirty word for such attractive markings) to Labrador breeders. 









But here’s the neatest part – it’s even been seen in other Guide Dog schools, in other countries (how cool is that!?!).
This brindle lab is from a GD school in the USA (source)
Reminds me of those silver foxes, but man, are they a topic for another whole post.


(source)
So how have you been? 
I’ve been quite busy this past week – working hard ahead of a national workshop that’s coming up in a couple of weeks’ time. 




Speaking of that, I find it so interesting that working like a dog means to work extremely hard (at least in Australian culture – is it the same in the US o’ A?). Their industrious capacity is built into our everyday language.

Working dogs are really quite iconic here in Australia.
We have statues celebrating them, movies about them...
...we even commemorated them on a set of stamps a few years ago (I personally knew that chap on the right very well)!
One of my favourite picture books as a child was about ‘Suey the sheep-dog’. The Australian working dog industry is truly diverse. In the work I’ve been doing over the past few years, we have chosen to define working dogs as domestic dogs kept for non-companion purposes that work in a private industry, government, assistance or sporting context.
I will tell you more about that work and Australia’s working dogs next time!



I hope your weekend is full of sunshine and laughter,

Mia
References:

Trut, L. (1999). Early Canid Domestication: The Farm-Fox Experiment, American Scientist, 87 (2) DOI: 10.1511/1999.2.160

Schmutz, S.M. & Berryere, T.G. (2007). Genes affecting coat colour and pattern in domestic dogs: a review, Animal Genetics, 38 (6) 549. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2052.2007.01664.x

© Mia Cobb 2012