Why does the United States military – and various police departments around the country – continue to spend tens of thousands of dollars per dog to buy potential working dogs from Eastern Europe?
Not long ago on DOG TALK® I spoke to Dr. Karen Overall at the University of Pennsylvania vet school on the topic of the high cost to our police departments and military of continuing their practice of buying untrained dogs from overseas. Dr. Overall is overseeing a program to breed high quality working dogs right here in the U.S. However, this will take some time to get up and running as a reliable source of these much-needed canine workers.
Right now, there’s someone doing something with rapid results to bring more working canines into the community – while saving the lives of dogs in shelters. Brad Croft thinks we’re wasting valuable money and time in the United States when our shelters are full of canine candidates that can be transitioned to work with the military or a police force. Croft founded Universal K9, a company that identifies dogs in shelters who would be good prospects for police work – especially those high-drive, high energy dogs who didn’t work out as family pets. Where purebred young dogs imported from Europe cost $ 10,000-$ 20,000 each (and still require extensive training), Croft says dogs from shelters are an inexpensive and highly effective resource to help combat crime. Each shelter selects dogs to be donated to the program based on their personality traits.Traditionally, the Universal K9 detection dogs cost approximately $ 3,000-$ 6,000 each, factoring in the professional training period that usually takes 8 weeks.
This week on DOG TALK® I talked to Brad Croft about how he goes to shelters seeking these high-drive dogs and shapes them into valuable working dogs. Universal K9 exists solely to save dogs from shelters to train them for law enforcement and detection work, as well as for military veterans.
Brad also runs the Detection Dog Program at Animal Farm Foundation, where their mission is to secure equal treatment and opportunity for “pit bull” dogs, many of which Brad has taken from Animal Farm Foundation to transition into important work with law enforcement. Using AFF’s philosophy that all dogs are individuals and should not be categorized because of their breed, Universal K9 trains the dogs to prepare them to work with police departments helping them detect drugs, explosives, and weapons. Universal K9 has already placed 46 of these dogs from the Animal Farm Foundation Detection Dog Program into the field in a number of police departments across the country, where they are assisting police officers in fighting crime – while getting a new lease on life.
Tracie Hotchner is a nationally acclaimed pet wellness advocate, who wrote THE DOG BIBLE: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know and THE CAT BIBLE: Everything Your Cat Expects You to Know. She is recognized as the premiere voice for pets and their people on pet talk radio. She continues to produce and host her own Gracie® Award winning NPR show DOG TALK® (and Kitties, Too!) from Peconic Public Broadcasting in the Hamptons after 9 consecutive years and over 500 shows. She produced and hosted her own live, call-in show CAT CHAT® on the Martha Stewart channel of Sirius/XM for over 7 years until the channel was canceled, when Tracie created her own Radio Pet Lady Network where she produces and co-hosts CAT CHAT® along with 10 other pet talk radio podcasts with top veterinarians and pet experts.
Tracie also is the Founder and Director of the annual NY Dog Film Festival, a philanthropic celebration of the love between dogs and their people. Short canine-themed documentary, animated and narrative films from around the world create a shared audience experience that inspires, educates and entertains. With a New York City premiere every October, the Festival then travels around the country, partnering in each location with an outstanding animal welfare organization that brings adoptable dogs to the theater and receives half the proceeds of the ticket sales. Halo was a Founding Sponsor in 2015 and donated 10,000 meals to the beneficiary shelters in every destination around the country in 2016.
Tracie lives in Bennington, Vermont – where the Radio Pet Lady Network studio is based – and where her 12 acres are well-used by her 2-girl pack of lovely, lively rescued Weimaraners, Maisie and Wanda.
You already know all about my long time love affair with all things avocado, so I’ll skip the gushing and just leave you with this round up of my favorite recipes from over the years here at Bubby and Bean that incorporate avocado and happen to be incredibly easy to prepare. Click on any of the images or links below them to see the recipes in full. I’m getting hungry just looking at them.
If you’ve made any of these, I’d love to hear which was your favorite. And if there are any recipes staring my beloved avocado that you think I simply must try, please leave links in the comments or shoot me an email!
I like lists. I like making lists. I like using lists. I like crossing things off of lists as tasks are completed. When I saw the new book Train Your Dog Now! Your Instant Training Handbook, from…
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This image appeared on a Kazakh instagram account.
The dog is a tazi, a sighthound of the general saluki breed complex, that has quite a few wolf-like characteristics. The breed is usually monestrus, like a wolf, coyote, or a basenji, and females engage in social suppression of estrus and sometimes kill puppies that are born to lower ranking bitches.
I wonder if the wolf-like traits of this breed are somehow reinforced by occasionally crossings with captive and wandering wolves like this. As far as I know, no one has really looked into the genetics of the Kazakh tazi, but it is an unusual dog that lives in a society with a very strong tradition of keeping captive wolves.
We know that gene flows between Eurasian wolves and dogs is much higher than we initially imagined, but I don’t know if anyone is looking at breeds like these for signs of hybridization. The only study I’ve seen looked at livestock guardian dogs from the Caucasus, and it found quite a bit of gene flow-– and it was mostly unintentional.
It would be interesting to know exactly how much wolf is in Kazakh tazis. I would be shocked to learn that they had no wolf ancestry.
I seriously doubt that this is the only time a captive steppe wolf and a tazi were found in this position.
New Jersey is a place I think of when I think of a place where animal rights ideology has become quite pernicious. It is a densely-populated state that still has a lot of wild areas still left within its borders, but wildlife management decisions that include lethal control are quite controversial in that state.
For example, in my state of West Virginia, we have plenty of black bears. Black bears are state symbol, and if you go to any gift shop in the state, there will be black bears featured on so many different object. We love our bears, but we also manage them with hunting season.
New Jersey has the same species of bear, and this bear species is one of the few large carnivorans that is experiencing a population increase. Biologists know that hunting a few black bears every year doesn’t harm their populations at all, and in my state, bear tags go to promote bear conservation and to mitigate any issues between people and bears. Hunting these bears also gives the bears a healthy fear of humans, and it is virtually unknown for a bear to attack someone here. New Jersey has had a bear hunt for the past few years, but it has been met with far more controversy there than it ever would be here. Checking stations get protesters, as do wildlife management areas that are open to bear hunting.
Since the bear hunt began, human and bear conflicts have gone down dramatically. The population is thinned out a bit, and the bears learn that people aren’t to be approached. But those potential conservation gains are likely to be erased sooner rather than later.
The animal rights people have become powerful enough in that state that no Democrat can make it through the primaries without pledging to end the bear hunt. The new Democratic governor wants to do away with the bear hunt.
But the bear hunt isn’t the only place where the animal rights people are forcing misguided policy.
A few days ago, I posted a piece about the inherent conflict between animal rights ideology and conservation, and it didn’t take me long to find an article about red foxes in Brigantine, New Jersey. Brigantine is an island off the New Jersey coast.
Like most places in the Mid-Atlantic, it has a healthy population of red foxes, but it also has a nesting shorebird population, which the foxes do endanger. One of the shorebirds that nests on the island is the piping plover, a species that is listed as “near threatened” by the IUCN. Red knot also use the island on their migrations between South America and their Canadian arctic nesting ground. This species is also listed as near threatened, and both New Jersey and Delaware have enacted regulations and programs to protect them.
At Brigantine, people began to discover dead red foxes in the sand dunes, and because red foxes are canids and canids are charismatic. It was speculated that the foxes were poisoned, and the state DEP was asked if the agency had been poisoning foxes there.
The state apparently answered that it had no been poisoning foxes on Brigantine’s beaches. It has been trapping and shooting red foxes.
To me, the state’s management policy makes perfect sense. North American red foxes are in no way endangered or threatened. Their numbers and range have only increased since European settlement, and they are classic mesopredators. Mesopredators are those species of predator whose numbers would normally be checked by larger ones, but when those larger ones are removed, the smaller predators have population increases. These increased numbers of smaller predators wind up harming their own prey populations.
This phenomenon is called “mesopredator release.” It is an important hypothesis that is only now starting to gain traction in wildlife management science. What it essentially means is that without larger predators to check the population of the smaller ones, it is important to have some level of controls on these mesopredators to protect biodiversity.
Animal rights ideology refuses to consider these issues. In fact, the article I found about these Brigantine foxes is entitled “These adorable foxes are being shot to death by the state.” The article title is clickbaitish, because the journalist interviewed a spokesperson at the DEP, who clearly explained why the fox controls were implemented.
The trappers who took the foxes probably should have come up with a better way of disposing of the bodies. One should also keep in mind that New Jersey is one of the few states that has totally banned foot-hold traps for private use, so any kind of trapping is going to be controversial in that state. So the state trappers should have been much more careful.
But I doubt that this will be the end of the story. The foxes have been named “unofficial mascots” of Brigantine, and it won’t be long before politicians hear about the complaints. The fox trapping program will probably be be pared back or abandoned altogether.
And the piping plover and red knot will not find Brigantine such a nice place to be.
And so the fox lovers force their ideology onto wildlife managers, and the protection of these near threatened species becomes so much harder.
This sign was posted in 2016 after the first dead foxes were found:
But I don’t think many people will be posting “Save Our Piping Plovers.” Most people don’t know what a piping plover is, but red foxes are well-known.
They get their special status because they are closely related to dogs, and people find it easy to transfer feelings about their own dogs onto these animals.
This makes sense from a human perspective, but it makes very little sense in terms of ecological understanding.
And it makes little sense for the foxes, which often die by car strikes and sarcoptic mange, especially when their population densities become too high.
Death by a trapper’s gun is far more humane than mange. The traps used are mostly off-set jawed ones, ones that cannot cut the fox as it is held. The trap is little more than a handcuff that grabs it by the foot and holds it. The traps are checked at least once a day, and the fox dies with a simple shot to the head, which kills it instantly.
And the fox numbers are reduced, and the island can hold rare shorebirds better than it could before.
In trying to make a better world for wildlife, we sometimes have to kill. This is an unpleasant truth.
And this truth becomes more unpleasant when we start conflating animal rights issues with conservation issues. Yes, we should make sure that animals are treated humanely, but we cannot make the world safe for wildlife without controlling mesopredators and invasive species.
I think that most of the fox lovers do care about wildlife, but they are so removed from wildlife issues on a grand scale that it becomes harder to understand why lethal methods sometimes must be used.
My guess is these people like seeing foxes when they are at the beach and don’t really think about these issues any more than that.
It is not just the wildlife exploiters and polluters that conservationists have to worry about. The animal lovers who extend too much animal rights ideology into conservation issues are a major problem as well.
And sadly, they are often the people that are the hardest to convince that something must be changed.
I don’t have a good answer for this problem, but it is one that conservationists must consider carefully as the future turns more and more in the favor of animal rights ideology.
I caught these trout at Cooper’s Rock this evening.
The one on the bottom is a nice fat brook trout.
We think of interactions between predators as always antagonistic. Meat is hard to come by, and if one comes by meat on the hoof, it is unlikely that the owner-operator of said flesh will give it up willingly. Meat is a prized food source, and it is little wonder that most predators spend quite a bit of energy driving out competitors from hunting grounds.
Because of this antagonism, the domestication of wolves by ancient hunter-gatherers is difficult to explain. Indeed, the general way of getting wolves associated with people is see them as scavengers that gradually evolved to fear our species less.
This idea is pretty heavily promoted in the dog domestication literature, for it is difficult for experts to see how wolves could have been brought into the human fold any other way.
But there are still writers out there who posit a somewhat different course for dog domestication. Their main contentions are that scavengers don’t typically endear themselves to those from which they are robbing, and further, the hunter-gatherers of the Pleistocene did not produce enough waste to maintain a scavenging population of wolves.
It is virtually impossible to recreate the conditions in which some wolves hooked up with people. With the exception of those living on the some the Queen Elizabeth Islands, every extant wolf population has been persecuted heavily by man. Wolves generally avoid people, and there has been a selection pressure through our centuries of heavy hunting for wolves to have extreme fear and reactivity. It is unlikely that the wolves that were first encountered on the Mammoth Steppe were shy and retiring creatures. They would have been like the unpersecuted wolves of Ellesmere, often approaching humans with bold curiosity.
As I have noted in an earlier post, those Ellesmere wolves are an important population that have important clues to how dog domestication might have happened, but the truth of the matter is that no analogous population of wolves or other wild canids exists in which cooperation with humans is a major part of the survival strategy. The wolves on Ellesmere are not fed by anyone, but they don’t rely upon people for anything.
But they are still curious about our species, and their behavior is so tantalizing. Yet it is missing that cooperative analogy that might help us understand more.
I’ve searched the literature for this analogy. I’ve come up short every time. The much-celebrated cooperation between American badgers and coyotes is still quite controversial, and most experts now don’t believe the two species cooperate. Instead, they think the badger goes digging for ground squirrels, and the coyote stand outside the burrow entrance waiting for the prey to bolt out as the badger’s digging approaches its innermost hiding place in the den. The coyote gets the squirrel, and the badger wastes energy on its digging.
But there is a story that is hard to dispute. It has only been recorded once, but it is so tantalizing that I cannot ignore it.
Both of these species do engage in cooperative hunting behavior. Black-backed jackals often work together to hunt gazelles and other small antelope, and they are well-known to work together to kill Cape fur seal pups on Namibia’s Skeleton Coast. Male cheetahs form coalitions that work together to defend territory and to hunt cooperatively.
However, the two species generally have a hostile relationship. Cheetahs do occasionally prey upon black-backed jackals, and black-backed jackals will often mob a cheetah after it has made a kill, in hopes of forcing the cat to abandon all that meat.
So these animals usually cannot stand each other, and their interactions are not roseate in the least. Eaton described the “normal interaction” as follows:
The normal interaction between these two predators occurs when the jackals hunt in the late afternoon and come into a group of cheetahs. The jackals, often four or five, are normally spread out over several hundred yards and maintain contact by barking as they move. When cheetahs are encountered by one of the jackals, it barks to the others and they all come to the cheetahs, sniffing the air as they approach apparently looking for a kill. If the cheetahs are not on a kill, the jackals search the immediate area looking for a carcass that might have just been left by the cheetahs. If nothing is found, they remain near the cheetahs for some time, following them as they move ; and when a kill is made the jackals feed on the leftover carcass. If the cheetahs have already fed and are inactive and if a carcass is not found nearby, the jackals move on.
However, Eaton discovered that one particular group of jackals and one female cheetah had developed a different strategy:
At the time I was there in November, 1966, one area of the park was often frequented by a female cheetah with four cubs and was also the territory of a pair of jackals with three pups. The jackal young remained at the den while the adults hunted either singly or together. Upon encountering the cheetah family, the jackals approached to about 20 yards and barked but were ignored except for an occasional chase by the cubs. The jackals ran back and forth barking between the cheetahs and a herd of Grant’s gazelles (Gazella granti) feeding nearby. The two jackals had gone on to hunt and were almost out of sight by the time the adult cheetah attacked two male Grant’s gazelles that had grazed away from the herd. The hunt was not successful. The jackals took notice of the chase and returned to look for a kill ; it appeared that they associated food with the presence of the cheetahs and perhaps with the chase.
One month later, while observing the same cheetah family, I noticed that the entire jackal family was hunting as a group. The cheetah and her cubs were about 300 yards from a herd of mixed species. This same herd had earlier spotted the cheetahs and given alarm calls. The adult cheetah was too far away for an attack,there was little or no stalking cover and the herd was aware of her presence. The cheetahs had been lying in the shade for about one-half an hour since the herd spotted them when the jackals arrived. Upon discovering the cheetahs lying under an Acacia tree, one of the adult jackals barked until the others were congregated around the cheetah family. The jackal that had found the cheetahs crawled to within ten feet of the adult cheetah which did not respond. The jackal then stood up and made a very pneumatic sound by forcing air out of the lungs in short staccato bursts. This same jackal turned towards the game herd, ran to it and, upon reaching it, ran back and forth barking. The individuals of the herd watched the jackal intently. The cheetah sat up and watched the herd as soon as it became preoccupied with the activity of the jackal. Then the cheetah quickly got up and ran at half-speed toward the herd, getting to within 100 yards before being seen by the herd. The prey animals then took flight while the cheetah pursued an impala at full speed.
Upon catching the impala and making the kill, the cheetah called to its cubs to come and eat. After the cheetahs had eaten their fill and moved away from the carcass, the waiting jackals then fed on the remains.
Eaton made several observations of this jackal family working with this female cheetah, and by his calculations, the cheetah was twice as successful when the jackals harassed the herds to aid her stalk.
Eaton made note of this behavior and speculated that this sort of cooperative hunting could have been what facilitated dog domestication:
If cheetah and jackal can learn to hunt mutually then it is to be expected that man’s presence for hundreds, of thousands of years in areas with scavenging canines would have led to cooperative hunting between the two. In fact, it is hard to believe otherwise. It is equally possible that it was man who scavenged the canid and thereby established a symbiosis. Perhaps this symbiosis facilitated the learning of effective social hunting by hominids. Selection may have favored just such an inter-specific cooperation.
Agriculture probably ended the importance of hunting as the binding force between man and dog and sponsored the more intensive artificial selection of breeds for various uses. It is possible that until this period men lived closely with canids that in fossil form are indistinguishable from wild stock (Zeuner, 1954).
Domestication may have occurred through both hunting symbiosis and agricultural life; however, a hunting relationship probably led to the first domestication. Fossil evidence may eventually reconstruct behavioral associations between early man and canids.
Wolves are much more social and much more skilled as cooperative hunters than black-backed jackals are. Humans have a complex language and a culture through which techniques and technology can be passed from generation to generation.
So it is possible that a hunting relationship between man and wolf in the Paleolithic could have been maintained over many generations.
The cheetah had no way of teaching her cubs to let the jackals aid their stalks, and one family of jackals is just not enough to create a population of cheetah assistants.
But humans and these unpersecuted Eurasian wolves of the Pleistocene certainly could create these conditions.
I imagine that the earliest wolf-assisted hunts went much like these jackal-cheetah hunts. Wolves are always testing prey to assess weakness. If a large deer species or wild horse is not weak, it will stand and confront the wolves, and in doing so, it would be exposing itself to a spear being thrown in its direction.
If you’ve ever tried a low-carbohydrate diet, you will know that your body will crave fat. Our brains require quite a bit of caloric intake from fat to keep us going, which is one of those very real costs of having such a large brain. Killing ungulates that stood to fight off wolves meant that would target healthy animals in the herds, and healthy animals have more fat for our big brains.
Thus, working together with wolves would give those humans an advantage, and the wolves would be able to get meat with less effort.
So maybe working together with these Ellesmere-like wolves that lived in Eurasia during the Paleolithic made us both more effective predators, and unlike with the cheetah and the black-backed jackals, human intelligence, language, and cultural transmission allowed this cooperation to go on over generations.
Eaton may have stumbled onto the secret of dog domestication. It takes more than the odd population of scavenging canids to lay the foundations for this unusual domestication. Human agency and foresight joined with the simple cooperative nature of the beasts to make it happen.