News Bites: Dog Brains, Animal Emotions, Stem Cell Therapy For Pets


  • A recent study indicates the selective breeding of dogs hasn’t just changed their appearance, it’s also changed their brains by causing rotation and reorganization most notable in brachycephalic dogs like pugs, some mastiffs, bulldogs, etc. The position of the olfactory lobe has dramatically moved in these dogs, possibly affecting their sense of smell, which is comparable to changing a human’s sense of sight. It’s unknown at this point if these changes in the brain have led to changes in behavior. (You can also read the original journal article on the study at PloSOne.)


  • Emotions help animals make decisions in a way similar to humans.  For example, animals and humans in a negative emotional state (anxiety, fear) “tend to judge ambiguous stimuli negatively.”  If anxious, something ambiguous like a rustling noise in the grass is judged negatively as a predator or danger of some kind.  Likewise, animals and humans in a positive emotional state tend to judge something ambiguous like rustling noise in the grass in a positive way as prey or reward of some kind.  It seems to me this could have interesting bearing on training methods, for example, the effects of coercive training versus operant conditioning such as clicker training. (You can aslo read the original journal article on this study at the Royal Society of Biological Sciences.)

Stem Cell Therapy

News Bites: Gothic Kitten Woman Sentenced

Remember the “gothic kittens” story?  Holly Crawford, the woman who pierced black kittens so she could sell them as “gothic kittens” has been sentenced to house arrest. She won’t be able to operate her dog grooming business, but will be able to keep her current pets.  The judge also ordered her to take down the web site she set up to solicit donations for her appeal.  Crawford sounds like a real peach.  She’s been “arrested 17 times and convicted of shoplifting, driving under the influence, delivery of a controlled substance, theft by unlawful taking, criminal conspiracy and possession with intent to deliver heroin.”

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