The Barking Lot – America’s Finest Dog Blog (05/30/20)

The Barking Lot is a regular weekly feature of This Just In…Written by my lovely wife, Jennifer and me.  It opens with the weekend dog walking forecast followed by the main blog from dog lover, Jennifer. Then it’s DOGS IN THE NEWS and our close. Enjoy!

THE WEEKEND DOG-WALKING FORECAST: We grade the weather outlook for taking your pet outdoors.

TODAY:   Partly cloudy. High of  66.  “B”

:  Sunny. High of 68.  “B”

Now, here’s my lovely wife, Jennifer, with this week’s main blog.

If you were in trouble, would your dog take action to help?

Well sure. That was Disney drama working its magic. But seriously. What about your non-Hollywood superhero pet?

Joshua Van Bourg, a graduate student in Arizona State University’s Department of Psychology, Jordan Elizabeth Patterson of the same department, and Clive Wynne, an ASU professor of psychology and director of the Canine Science Collaboratory at ASU wanted to find out. Is your dog strong and bold and brave? Or when the chips are down, is it more like a dark night and the fireworks just went off?

In their recently released study the researchers wrote “For thousands of years, dogs have been trained to assist humans with tasks such as herding and guarding livestock, yet the extent to which dogs understand the consequences of these helpful behaviors, as well as their underlying motivations for performing these actions, remain unclear.

So they experimented. A total of 60 dogs were used, all over 9 months of age. There were three tests in the study. In the main test, each owner was confined to a large box that had a light-weight door which the dog could move aside. The owners faked distress by calling out “help,” or “help me.”  This was the distress test. The idea was to see if dogs would open the door to the box.

To be clear before any testing took place the researchers coached the owners so their cries for help sounded real. Owners could not call the dogs by name which might have resulted in the pets acting out of obedience instead of actual concern.

Then came a reading test where the owner sat in the box and read aloud from a magazine while conveying a calm and relaxed state. The owner was told to match the volume and pace of his narration in the first distress test.

Finally, the food test. Food was placed inside the box for the third task. The owner did not participate in the food test but remained in the testing room, sitting in a chair facing the wall while ignoring the dog. An experimenter dropped a food reward inside the box, released the dog, and exited into a hallway. The dog was then given two minutes to open the box. If the dog successfully opened the box and retrieved the treats, the dog was permitted an additional 30 seconds for exploratory behaviors. The test was then ended.

OK. Let’s run through that again with the help of video.

So, what happened and what does it mean?

Of the 60 dogs tested, 20 rescued the owner in the primary distress test, 19 successfully retrieved treats from the apparatus in the food control task (meaning more dogs rescued their owners than retrieved food), and 16 released the owner from the apparatus in the reading test.

“During the distress test, the dogs were much more stressed,” Van Bourg said. “When their owner was distressed, they barked more, and they whined more.”

As for the food test, “The fact that two-thirds of the dogs didn’t even open the box for food is a pretty strong indication that rescuing requires more than just motivation, there’s something else involved, and that’s the ability component,” Van Bourg said. “If you look at only those 19 dogs that showed us they were able to open the door in the food test, 84% of them rescued their owners. So, most dogs want to rescue you, but they need to know how.”

In the reading test,  four fewer dogs, 16 out of 60, opened the box than in the distress test.  Van Bourg’s explanation: “But that doesn’t take anything away from how special dogs really are. Most dogs would run into a burning building just because they can’t stand to be apart from their owners. How sweet is that?”

Wynne added, “What’s fascinating about this study is that it shows that dogs really care about their people. Even without training, many dogs will try and rescue people who appear to be in distress — and when they fail, we can still see how upset they are. The results from the control tests indicate that dogs who fail to rescue their people are unable to understand what to do — it’s not that they don’t care about their people.

But like just about every other study ever done the researchers also concluded that more study is necessary.

“Next, we want to explore whether the dogs that rescue do so to get close to their people, or whether they would still open the box even if that did not give them the opportunity to come together with their humans,” Wynne said.

To make a long research project short: Your dog really does want to rescue you.
—-Jennifer Fischer

Thanks Jennifer!

Time now for DOGS IN THE NEWS, canines that made headlines the past week.

There’s a National ‘Dog Shortage,’ But Is That the Case for Milwaukee?

How do you ease your dog out of lockdown?

Picking up poo among ‘doodies’ of dog ownership on or off base.

Wounded military working dog the most accomplished in Marine Corps history.

Why the sudden interest in the Alaskan Klee Kai?

Jason Hoke judges dog shows around the world while remaining a top-notch chef.

COLUMN: The solace of walking the dog.



Finley, a 6-year-old golden retriever, holds five tennis balls in his mouth at his family’s home in Canandaigua, Ontario County, on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020. His family first noticed his ability to hold four tennis balls a few years ago, and he’s learned to use his paws to wedge up to six balls into his mouth on his own. Finley has finally as a Guinness World Record holder for his adorable, preternatural talent of holding six tennis balls in his mouth at once.  Photo: Georgie Silvarole/USA TODAY Network New York

We close as we always do with our closing video, or two, or three.

First, an innocent dog  was part of one of the biggest news stories of the week.

The racial aspects of the story got the most attention. But what about how she’s handling that dog? Inappropriate?  Cruel?

Next: Pets of the Pandemic: Wisconsin shelters seeing historic adoption rates. CBS 58 in Milwaukee reports.

AND: The Sky Dog of Kamloops: Meet Aeris, the paragliding pup. The video is in this article.

That’s it for this week.

Thanks for stopping by.

We kindly ask that you please share with other dog lovers you know.

See ya, BARK, next Saturday morning!


Image may contain: outdoorAlaskan Klee Kai Association of America

One thought on “The Barking Lot – America’s Finest Dog Blog (05/30/20)

  1. Pingback: My Most Popular Blogs (06/01/20) | This Just In… From Franklin, WI

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