Thursday, 7 January 2010

Summary of 'The secret lifes of dogs' - a great BBC documentary

The secret Life of the Dog

Last night the BBC showed an amazing documentary about dogs and their involvement in our lives, which we highly recommend you watching on the iplayer at this link:

This is what the documentary covered:

  • How dog read their owners emotions, by reading their faces.
  • How humans can understand different types of barking, without even seeing the dog – such as the playful bark, the anxious bark and the aggressive bark. Interestingly dogs very rarely bark in the wild – it is something that they have picked up through domestication.
  • The hormone Oxytosin. This is a hormone produced by mothers and new-born babies during breast-feeding, which is partly responsible for the bonding between mother and baby. This hormone is also released in both humans and dogs during petting and is both associated with bonding and with reducing heart rates – one of the reasons why dog owners are 3 to 4 times more likely to survive a heart attack.
  • DNA proof that all domesticated dogs are descended from grey wolves – rather than any other type of wild dogs.
  • History of the relationship between dogs and humans, which possibly goes back over 100,000 years. Because both humans and dogs naturally hunt during the day in packs it makes sense that they would team up – leading to domestication. This ability to work together may also have led to humans using dogs to herd animals – helping our transition from hunter-gatherers to a society based on agriculture.
  • Dogs Vs Chimps – which are more intelligent
  • Dogs are one of the only animals that understand human non-verbal communication, such as pointing and gazing in a certain direction.
  • Betsy – the collie with a vocabulary of over 340 words (being able to identify different toys), more than a 2-year-old. The average dogs understand only 15 words.
  • Dogs Vs Wolves – the attempt to see if wolves brought up like puppies will behave like puppies, as dogs and wolves are 99.8% genetically identical.
  • Dogs Vs Foxes – the taming of wild. A project that has been going for 50 years. This shows that foxes can be domesticated, as dogs were. Interestingly it also shows how the looks of the foxes become more like dogs through selecting for tameness. (This is also covered in Richard Dawkin’s Book “The Greatest Show on Earth”). This possibly shows that dogs features are the features of infantile wolves.
  • The ‘need to nurture’. Dogs have features that remind us of infants and make us want to care for them.
  • Dogs and disease. How dog’s simpler genetic codes can help understand diseases that are common in both dogs and humans – which could save millions lives of both humans and dogs.
And a whole lot more....
Let us know what you think.

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