Blog Posts by Mother Nature Network (mnn.com)

  • Do Dogs Feel Guilt?

    What we interpret as guilt may be something else entirely.If you've ever had a dog, you know the signature canine guilty look: ears back, head cowered, tail tucked.

    Seventy-four percent of dog owners believe their dogs experience guilt, but animal behaviorists say dogs lack the ability to feel shame. They say that guilty look is simply a reaction to you.

    While there's plenty of evidence that man's best friend experiences primary emotions, such as fear and happiness, there's little evidence that dogs feel secondary emotions like pride, jealousy and guilt.

    Scientist say this is because secondary emotions require self-awareness and a level of cognition that dogs may not have.

    Also see: How fluent are you in dog-speak?

    Alexandra Horowitz, a psychology professor and principal investigator at the Horowitz Dog Cognition Lab at Columbia University, conducted one of the first studies on dog "guilt" in 2009.

    She videotaped 14 dogs in a series of trials and observed how they reacted when their owners left the room after instructing

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  • Group Reunites Soldiers with Stray Dogs They Met During the War

    No Dog Gets Left Behind raised funds to bring Stinky the puppy to her new home in Pennsylvania.When Sgt. T.J. Homan met a white-and-brown spotted puppy in Afghanistan in 2011, he never expected the canine would become his companion.

    He named the dog "Lil B," short for Beethoven because she resembled the St. Bernard from the famous movie. The dog slept in his cot at night, and he says she served as a reminder that there were other things in the world besides war.

    When it was time for him to return home, Homan told his sister he wanted to bring Lil B with him. His sister started looking for ways to make that happen, and she discovered No Dog Gets Left Behind (NDGLB), a nonprofit that helps soldiers connect with the dogs they met overseas.

    Also see: 10 sweet reunions between soldiers and their dogs

    Philadelphia resident Trish Gohl founded the organization in 2010 after her dog died and her nephew was deployed to Afghanistan. She got the idea from watching the Military Channel documentary "No Dog Left Behind."

    "In the soldiers' minds, these dogs have earned the

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  • In the Land of Second Chances, Fluffy Chicken and 2-legged Chihuahua Rule

    Penny Chicken and Roo are inseparable.More people are stopping by the Duluth Animal Hospital these days, but they're not there to pick up or drop off any pets - they're there to meet Penny Chicken and Roo.

    The silky chicken and two-legged Chihuahua have risen to Internet fame since the Duluth, Ga., animal hospital began sharing photos of the unlikely duo on Facebook.

    Penny was 9 weeks old when hospital employee Alicia Williams took her in. Penny was an experimental chicken at a local veterinary school that had run the course of her study.

    Williams didn't know much about caring for chickens, but she learned quickly - and Penny began living the leisurely life of a pampered pet chicken.

    The only downside to her new life was that Penny got restless being home alone.

    "They are flock animals, so she was getting lonely," Williams told the Gwinnett Daily Post. "That's when I started bringing her to work. She just became a regular."

    It was at the hospital that Penny met Roo. The tiny Chihuahua was found freezing

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  • Do Animals Get Divorced?

    swan

    The better question might be: do animals get married in the first place? As a whole, animals are largely a promiscuous group, with only a very select species choosing to mate with only one partner over a lifetime. As a matter of fact, more than 90 percent of the animal kingdom mates with multiple partners. Most animals do not choose one mate for a long time -- or even a short time, for that matter. Most animals just mate with each other and move on.

    Some interesting ones to note: Bees, for example. Queen bees can mate with anywhere from one to more than 40 partners. Worker bees actually prefer a more promiscuous queen. And by mating with so many partners, the queen increases the genetic diversity of her offspring. (This is one of the main reasons that animals choose multiple partners to begin with.) Oddly enough, after a male bee mates with the queen, he dies.

    Also see: How Facebook knows you'll get divorced (even before you do)

    Another promiscuous animal is the bonobo

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  • 4 Popular Dog Behavior Myths Debunked

    dog looks up at owner

    This is a popular time of year to add a pet to the family. But once all the squeaky toys have been destroyed, it's time to call an animal trainer. Animal behaviorist Faye Owen of Atlanta offers several common misconceptions about dogs, along with how to solve the bad behavior.

    1. Dogs respond best when you're the leader of the pack

    Plenty of dog trainers have gained popularity by teaching a "pack leader" approach, which calls for humans to assert dominance over their canine companions. Owen, who is certified by the Council of Professional Dog Trainers, says this method can do more harm than good, particularly if your dog is already fearful or sensitive. She adds that punishment-based training methods such as prong collars can increase a dog's stress level, leading to a more anxious dog over time.

    Instead, try this: Introduce structure and routine to help dogs learn house rules. For example, Owen doesn't mind allowing a dog on the couch, as long as the animal heeds everyone's

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  • Play Mind Games with Your Cat with These Optical Illusions

    An optical illusionDon't say it too loudly around your own feline, but cats tend to be easily tricked by all manner of quick-moving illusions or sleights of hand (i.e., laser pointers, shadows, movements under the sheets, etc.).

    For an ounce of pure comedy, watching a cat try to pounce on these amazing optical illusions. It speaks to just how convincing the tricks are that they work across the species barrier.

    To be mesmerized by the illusions yourself, check out this video.

    The illusions were created by YouTube sensation brusspup, who has been filming illusion, magic and science videos since 2008. You can view his catalog of mind-bending videos at his YouTube channel here.

    Also see: Your cat thinks you're a much larger cat with good taste in food

    Unlike magicians who never reveal the secrets behind their tricks, brusspup is more than happy to divulge how his illusions work. He has even offered templates for the cat-fooling illusions in the video mentioned above, which can be downloaded

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  • How to Avoid Pet Theft

    You may think your pet is safe running around your fenced-in backyard or alone in the car with the windows cracked, but pet thefts are on the rise. Last Chance for Animals (LCA) urges pet owners to keep an eye on their four-legged family members.

    There are no reliable figures on the number of animals stolen in the U.S. annually because police rarely distinguish between property theft and pet theft. Also, when a pet disappears from a yard, there's often no way to prove the animal didn't just escape.

    However, LCA estimates that 2 million pets are stolen each year. The American Kennel Club, which tracks pet thefts through news reports and customers, reported a 31 percent increase in pet thefts from 2012 to 2013.

    Also see: My pet is missing! What should I do?

    Why people steal pets

    Cats, dogs and other animals are stolen for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the theft is financially motivated. Purebred dogs and pets with special skills are the most likely to be targeted, but

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  • Josh Duhamel Produces Web Series to Help Shelter Pets

    Josh Duhamel with rescue puppies.

    One of the first projects for actor Josh Duhamel's production company, Dakotakid Media, is a Web series that follows homeless dogs as they travel thousands of miles for a better chance of being adopted.

    Duhamel teamed up with PetSmart Charities to create "Rescue Waggin': Tales from the Road," an eight-episode series that includes cameos from celebrity pet adoption advocates like Kristen Bell and Bret Michaels.

    PetSmart Charities' Rescue Waggin', a cross-country transport program, has saved more than 70,000 dogs since it launched in 2004.

    Duhamel learned about the program last year and vowed to use Dakotakid Media to raise awareness and funding for it.

    "Adopting my dachshund, Meatloaf, changed my life," he said in a news release. "He was a clumsy little dude with horrible breath - but we adored him."

    Also see: How to save lives at a shelter near you

    Duhamel's Web series will follow dogs and puppies in overcrowded shelters as they're transported to communities where adoptable pets are

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  • What Do You Call a Kitten with Only 2 Legs? King of the World

    Curious kitten

    Mercury is a kitten from Oklahoma who proves that cats don't need four legs to pounce and play.

    The two-legged tabby was 4 days old and weighed just 5 ounces when he was discovered in a yard in September. He hadn't even opened his eyes yet.

    He was missing his two front legs and all but one of his toes on his back legs.

    His injuries are thought to be the result of a run-in with a weed whacker because neighbors had recently been doing yard work in the tall grass he was found in.

    A local family took the tiny tabby to the vet where his wounds were treated, and then they brought him home.

    Also see: 9 inspiring animals that use prosthetics

    They named him Mercury, bottle-fed him around the clock and cleaned his injuries multiple times a day. Despite his disabilities, he quickly grew into an otherwise healthy and playful kitten.(You can see Mercury in action in this video.)

    "Mercury does everything other cats do - he plays with toys, he jumps, plays with other cats

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  • Could Cat Cafes Come to America?

    What snuggly attractions do Japan, Korea and several European countries have that the United States doesn't? Cat cafes.

    But that's about to change.

    Courtney Hatt and David Braginsky plan to open the nation's first combination tea house and cat sanctuary in San Francisco.

    Aptly named KitTea, they envision a space with plenty of natural lighting where patrons can sip tea while stroking a tired tabby or dangling a toy for a playful Persian.

    And if a customer makes a connection with a certain calico, an adoption is possible.

    According to the KitTea website, the business will partner with a local cat rescue shelter to pick about 10 cats that "will be selected based on their personalities and whether they have been socialized to be comfortable around both humans and other cats."

    Given Americans' fondness for both cats and caffeine, why don't we have a cat cafe already? Health codes are mostly to blame.

    Also see: 19 works of latte art

    A Boston cat cafe called Miaou

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