Do Dogs Laugh Like Humans Do?


Dogs bring us so much joy and happiness in our lives that it wouldn’t be surprising if dogs were gifted with the ability to laugh, just as we humans do. Last time we checked though, we never saw our dogs chuckling, giggling, or burst out laughing even when they were tickled or were told an irresistible joke. Max Eastman though seemed to be on the right track when he coined his famous quote “Dogs laugh, but they laugh with their tails. ” Just because dogs don’t laugh as humans do, doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’ enjoy a nice chuckle. A study conducted by Simonet, a Cognitive Ethologist and Animal Behaviorist, has actually shown that dogs do have the ability to laugh, and if we pay close attention, we can hear them “laughing” too.

playA Different Laugh

While humans tend to laugh when they are tickled, told a joke or when watching a funny movie, in dogs laughter seems to occur in different contexts. Dogs tend to “laugh” mostly when they are playing. When dogs were observed during play, they were found to use several different vocalizations: the familiar high-pitched barks, several whines and playful growls. Among these vocalizations was also a fourth type: a breathy forced exhalation that Simonet refers to as “the dog laugh.”

According the study, dogs used these doggy laughs to initiate play and the other dogs responded to them with a play face, game of chase or a meta-signal such as a play bow to invite to play. Interestingly, these dog laughs were found to take place exclusively for play encounters or friendly encounters with people and dogs. What does this dog laugh sound like? According to Simonet, it’s somewhat similar to a human laugh, but with the vowels removed. So instead of the quintessential “hah, hah, hah!” it would sound more like a “hhh, hhh, hhh,” with the same amount of forced air released. For those who wish to hear what it sounds like, they can found a brief clip on Simonet’s Laughing Dog Website. The website also has a clip on  a dog panting so one can differentiate between the two.

Did you know? A study by  Rooney et al. back in 2001 revealed that humans were more successful in initiating play with their dogs by whispering to their dogs rather than mimicking a play bow. It’s likely that the whispering was perceived by dogs as an approximation of the “doggy laugh.”

Calming Dogs Downdog laugh

Have you ever noticed how listening to people laughing on shows has the power of influencing your mood and brightening your day? American sound engineer Charles  Douglass was the first to introduce the sound of audience laughter in several prime-time sitcoms aired between the late 1950s to the late 1970s. In honor of his invention, this fake laughter was referred to as the “Douglass laugh track.” Well, it appears that dogs seem to exhibit a similar response when listening to “doggy laughs.”

Interestingly, when recorded and played back using a recorder, the “dog laugh” has been shown to reduce stress in dogs kenneled in an animal shelter. On top of exhibiting lower levels of stress, the dog listening to the play back also manifested pro-social behaviors such as approaching and tail wagging. This is important considering the considerable stress dogs in shelters go through due to confinement and being in a poorly stimulating environment. There are therefore chances that the exhibition of pro-social responses manifested as a consequence to the play backs could lead to reduced residencies at the shelter before adoption. Happier looking dogs make for happier adoptions, a win-win!

Just for Fun: Five Dogs Who Broke Up Laughing

These dogs may not be “laughing” in the real sense of the word (who knows what they were really thinking!) but we thought these funny expressions might cheer you up and brighten your day.

dog laughing 1


dog laughing 3

DOG laughing 4

funny dog laughter 5




  • Simonet, P. Versteeg, D. and Storie, D. (2005). “Dog-laughter: Recorded playback reduces stress related behavior in shelter dogs” (PDF). Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Environmental Enrichment.
  • Rooney, N. J.; Bradshaw, J. W. S.; Robinson, I. H. (2001). Do dogs respond to play signals given by humans? Animal Behaviour, Vol 61(4), 715- 722.

Photo Credits:

  • Flickr, Creative Commons, Jelly Dude, My bloody Valentine, Shorty laughing his head off at the latest 3D horror flick, CCBY2.0
  • Flickr, Creative Commons, Rachael, Laughing dog, hehehe…funny 🙂 CCBY2.0
  • Flickr, Creative Commons, Jack Berry injun laughing, the plan worked hehehe :O) CCBY2.0
  • Flickr, Creative Commons, Danny Ayers, Basil hears a good one, CCBY2.0
  • Flickr, Creative Commons, PRO Tony Alter, Link and Frank, It was pointed out to me that Link looked like he is laughing, that gave me the idea for a use for fdflickrtoys captioner. CCBY2.0


Surprise, Dogs May Have Taste Buds for Water Too!


Just like us, dogs are equipped with taste buds, those special taste receptors located on the upper surface of the tongue. Don’t be too impressed though by the way Rover licks his chops and wolfs down those tasty morsels you offer him: if there was ever a competition between humans and dogs over who had more taste buds, our dogs would rank rather poorly. With a mere 1700 taste buds compared to our astounding 10,000, contrary to what dog food commercials may try to make us think, the number of a dog’s taste buds aren’t really that impressive. However, dogs seem to come back as winners when it comes to tasting meat and water. Pass me down that bottle of Fiuggi water, Rover would you?

Sophisticated Taste Budspanting dog

Dogs may have only 1700 taste buds, but Mother Nature ensured that those taste buds were specialized so to match the needs of the dog’s evolutionary past and present time. In addition to having taste buds specialized for detecting sweet, salt, sour and bitter flavors, dogs have sophisticated buds specifically crafted for appreciating meats. These special taste receptors help dogs detect meat, fats and other meat-related chemicals, explains Gary M. Landsberg, Wayne L. Hunthausen and Lowell J. Ackerman in the book: Behavior Problems of the Dog and Cat.

On top of boasting buds for meat, as mentioned, it looks like dogs may allegedly have special taste buds. Where are these taste buds located? These dogs’ taste buds for water appear to be mostly distributed on the tip of the dog’s tongue, the actual part that curls when dogs lap water from a bowl, according to Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. So while you will never find Rover competing at a wine-tasting contest, he might make a good luxury water connoisseur!

idea tipDid you know? While it may seem like us humans can taste water, what we really taste are all the chemicals and impurities in the water.


dog drinkingBalance of Fluids

It appears that not all researchers agree that it is possible to taste water, so some studies are sure needed on this before claiming it as a fact. The main issue that researchers argue about is the ability to taste hydrogen and oxygen considering that these two components likely do not have any properties that could be tasted.

A question may at this point arise though: why would it be important for our dogs to have taste buds for water? Some researchers believe that dogs were likely gifted with specialized taste buds for appreciating  H2O because of their diets. For an animal whose ancestors relied mostly on eating meat, it might have been important to make sure that Rover’s fluids stay in balance considering that meat is high in sodium.

” This area responds to water at all times but when the dog has eaten salty or sugary foods the sensitivity to the taste of water increases… It certainly appears that when these special water taste buds are active, dogs seem to get an extra pleasure out of drinking water, and will drink copious amounts of it.” ~ Stanley Coren

“Eau De Toilet”dog toilet bowl

If dogs really have taste buds for water, why on earth do dogs drink water from the toilet bowl? Perhaps it’s a matter of freshness. How many time do you fill up your dog’s water bowl? And how many times do you flush the toilet? Most likely, that toilet is flushed a whole lot giving Rover access to fresh water that is kept nice and cool courtesy of the “porcelain” throne. Generally, given the choice, dogs would instinctively choose running water over stagnant water which may harbor potentially harmful bacteria, molds and algae.

While having a “potty mouth” may seem like an innocent habit when the toilet bowl is just filled up with water, the practice can become potentially dangerous when the water is treated with bathroom cleaners, bleach, Lysol and other products that can cause chemical burns to the dog’s mouth, tongue and esophagus, warns veterinarian Dr. Primovic in an article for Pet Place. Best to therefore keep that toilet bowl down and keep the water bowl always full with some fresh, “tasty” water so Rover can savor it with gusto.

“Taste buds for water or not, we’ve all seen dogs lap up water with gusto long after it seems they would have already quenched their thirst.” ~Tufts University

Ever wondered why dogs are messy drinkers?  Watch the video above and here’s an answer that will further”quench” your curiosity:

“The everyday experience of dogs as messy drinkers results from the backward curl of the tongue, which increases the size of the water column and thus enables dogs to drink more per lap than with a straight tongue.” ~Gart, Sean, et al.



  • Behavior Problems of the Dog and Cat, By Gary M. Landsberg, Wayne L. Hunthausen, Lowell J. Ackerman, Saunders Ltd.; 3 edition (December 28, 2012)
  • Gart, Sean, et al. “Dogs lap using acceleration-driven open pumping.”Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112.52 (2015): 15798-15802.
  • Psychology Today, How Good Is Your Dog’s Sense of Taste?, by Stanley Coren, retrieved from the Wed on March 4th, 2016.

Photo Credits:

Flickr, Creative Commons, Lulu Hoeller, Dog Drinking Toilet, Every dogs dream – a working toilet fountain in the back yard, CCBY2.0


How Dogs Develop Fear Memories


Your dog might not remember exactly what kind of treat you fed him yesterday or what color of shirt you were wearing, but if you were to ask him precisely where he was when he heard a loud noise and startled, he would likely be able to identify the exact location. When it comes to recollecting stressful and scary events, dogs seem to have the uncanny ability to remember quite well. Owners of dogs suffering from noise phobias know this too well, all it takes is a loud noise for their dog to activate all sorts of avoidance behaviors when they encounter the same area again. As much as this sounds like a bad thing, the fact that fear sinks in deeps, is  survival instinct working at best.

dog pheromonesThe Power of Stress

During times of stress, the dog’s body is bombarded with the release of stress hormones into the blood stream. These hormones and all their associated physiological changes are there for a good reason: to up the dog’s chances for survival. The dog’s heart rate and breathing increase, his senses are amplified, the ears are ready to capture the slightest sounds and the pupils dilate so Rover can see with more clarity.

At the same time, muscles receive increased blood flow so that the dog can sprint into action, blood pressure increases, a surge in blood sugar released from the kidneys provides a boost of energy and a dog’s appetite is suppressed as blood flows away from the digestive tract to the muscles for action (try dangling a slice of baloney in the face of a terrified dog). Several changes also take place at a mental level. Dogs who are stressed and frightened, often have a hard time concentrating, their impulse control and bite threshold may lower. When it comes to memory though, the ability to recall the event seems to sharpen.

Everlasting Bad Memoriesdog anxiety

Ask anybody what they were doing on September 11th 2001, and most people will have a clear recollection. ” I was stacking supplies at the store” or “I was eating lunch with a friend” or “I was playing soccer when my sister called me and gave me the news.” Then ask anybody what they were doing a week ago at this same exact time, and they’ll likely give you a blank stare. It is natural for people and animals to remember bad episodes, especially when they are situations that had a strong emotional impact or that could have hurt somebody significantly. It makes sense for stress hormones to help recollect memories of events that take place when we’re undergoing stress,  explains Roger Abrantes, PhD in Evolutionary Biology and Ethology and director at the Ethology Institute Cambridge where he holds regular lectures.

“We cannot know what dogs “perceive,” but we do know that dogs have excellent memories and the same brain architecture and functions as humans do, so when we see behaviors consistent with true panic, even if the stimuli are not present, we need to consider that memory of these stimuli… could be what is distressing the dog.”~ Karen Overall.

Fear Through Generationspuppies nursing

Interestingly, fearful responses to certain stimuli may be even passed from a generation to another. In a study published in the Journal of Nature Neuroscience, rats were given an electric shock each time they were presented with acetophenone, a compound that gives off a scent resembling cherry blossoms. Shock after shock, the rats soon becomes sensitized to the the scent resembling cherry blossoms and they would show a fearful response.

After being bred, these rats gave birth to offspring who,without any prior conditioning (learning,) showed fearful responses to the scent despite never having witnessed it before.  This demonstrates that it is possible to pass down fear of a smell even in several generations, which makes evolutionary sense if you think about it, since teaching future generations to recognize the scent of dangers, can up the chances for survival. This is quite fascinating, and surely more studies are needed on this to understand the exact dynamics.

Did you know? When an intensely unpleasant or aversive event leads to a dog developing a fearful lasting memory, it’s known as “one-event learning,” explain  Gary M. Landsberg, Wayne L. Hunthausen and Lowell J. Ackerman in the book “Behavior Problems of the Dog and Cat.



  • Parental olfactory experience influences behavior and neural structure in subsequent generations, by Brian G Dias & Kerry J Ressler, Nature Neuroscience17,89–96
  • “How epigenetic memory is passed through generations: Sperm and eggs transmit memory of gene repression to embryos.”University of California – Santa Cruz. ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 September 2014.
  • Ethology Institute of Cambridge, Bonding and Stress, by Roger Abrantes, retrieved from the web on July 29th, 2016
  • Manual of Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Dogs and Cats, By Karen Overall, Mosby; 1 Pap/DVD edition (July 9, 2013)
  • Behavior Problems of the Dog and Cat3: Behavior Problems of the Dog and Cat, By Gary M. Landsberg, Wayne L. Hunthausen, Lowell J. Ackerman, Saunders Ltd.; 3 edition (December 28, 2012)


Why Does My Dog Like to Run Away?


Let’s face it: a dog who likes to run away can make you feel as if you or your home aren’t attractive enough and you may somewhat feel betrayed by your dog’s running away behavior. You might also feel a bit offended especially when you think of dogs being depicted as loyal companions who just want to stick by their owner’s side, take “Shadow”, for instance, your next door neighbor’s dog who follows her around all day. Don’t take it too personal though, not all dogs carry the word “Shadow” as their nickname. As social animals, from a dog’s perspective venturing in the great outdoors is quite an attraction, and the exhilarating sensation associated with it may even beat those doggy cookies you are trying to offer to convince your dog to come back home.

dog fencePossible Reasons Why Your Dog Likes to Escape

There are several reasons why dogs like to escape, but you may have to put on your investigative hat to discover what may be triggering your dog’s behavior. Does your dog get stressed when you are getting ready for work? Where does your dog go when he escapes? What does he do? By investigating what keeps your dog’s escaping behavior alive, you may be able to come up with some resources that can potentially make the behavior less desirable to engage in in the future. Following are several reasons why your dog may like to escape.

Looking for Entertainment

If your dog is in the yard all day, there are chances he may be bored and under-stimulated. Each and every day, he is secluded to that space where nothing special really happens. After sniffing around and urine marking some spots, life gets boring quickly. Dogs can’t play Sudoku or play that new video game that just came out. Oh, and playing tug with some tree roots, chewing up the garden hose and barking at the mailman gets old after some time. Yet, life beyond that fence seems quite the opposite and attractive. There are kids playing with a ball, people are walking their dogs and the breeze keeps wafting the scent of a roaming cat. Soon temptation sets in. It’s sort of like a child looking over a fence that unveils Disneyland on the other side. Soon, the dog sees an opportunity to escape. The gate was accidentally left ajar or your dog may have come to realize that the fence has a weak spot through which he can crawl under or squeeze through.

Once out, a stimulating world unveils beyond a bored dog’s eyes. He gets to play a game of ball with the kids, he follows at a distance other people walking their dogs, he gets to chase the neighbor’s cat, and as bonus, while he’s out there, he may even get some tasty goodies such as a taste of a leftover piece of sandwich left over the curb.  In just one outing he gets exercised, receives attention and even gets something to eat, quenching those hunger pangs he has been feeling for some time! Rover sure has a fun day out there until his owner returns home, snaps a leash on his collar and returns him to, yes, you got it, that super boring yard. What party poopers dog owners are!

“Fenced dogs may not get much exercise and may get less than dogs that are leash walked, played with Frisbees and balls, taken to agility training or obedience training or involved in competitive jumping.” ~ Karen Overall

Searching For a Matedog love

If your dog is intact, meaning that he wasn’t fixed, he may be escaping to find a soul mate. No, dogs don’t look at newspaper ads to meet attractive singles nor do they join clubs like “Doggy Matchmakers” or “Canine Mingle.” If you think your dog is not escaping to meet a new love because you’re not aware of any intact “ladies” in your area, think again. Dogs can smell a female dog in heat from quite some distance, and those sure are powerful hormones! Female dogs in heat will urine mark quite a lot so to advertise their availability and it sure seems to work better than ads or dating sites. All it takes is a whiff of that stuff and soon intact males will be showing up by her doorstep in hopes of meeting Princess Fluffy, the new French poodle in town. And just to get the facts straight, intact male dogs aren’t the only ones to roam for love. Even intact female dogs may run away in search of a mate, given the opportunity.

“When your dog is in heat she gives off pheromones which a male dog can smell from miles away. Male dogs will become interested in her and may fight over her.”~ Banfield Pet Hospital

Desperately Seeking Owneranxiety

At the opposite side of the spectrum, there are dogs who escape for the simple fact that they want to be re-united with their owners. Perhaps one of the best examples of these loyal pooches is the story of Hachiko, the famous Akita who would escape so he could meet and greet his owner at the end of each day at the nearby Shibuya Station.

In particular, dogs suffering from separation distress may try to escape their homes and yards in hopes of reaching their owners. In the home, these dogs may focus on scratching at doors and windows, while in the yard they may dig their way under the fence.

Just following their owner’s fresh scent and getting to greet their owner even if at the end of the day is self-fulfilling as these dogs may feel as if they have gotten a bit closer to their goal.

Responding to Fear

In some cases, dogs may be escaping as a response to frightening situations. Out of desperation, a dog may dig his way out of the yard if he feels frightened by scary noises such as thunder storms or firecrackers. If crated, these dogs may even injure themselves as sheer panic takes over and they try to chew or dig their way out. In some cases, dogs may be escaping when they move to a new home and they want to find their way to their former home where they felt more secure and had a strong sense of belonging.

10 Tips for Dogs That Escapedog escape

Dogs who escape and roam the neighborhood are at risk from being hit by cars, being exposed to toxic material and being injured by other animals. Dogs may also be a liability to other people and animals they encounter. Worth mentioning is also fecal contamination. Controlling roaming behaviors in dogs is a public health and community matter that’s often restricted. It’s therefore in the dog’s best interest to minimize his chances for escaping. Following are some important tips:

  • Always keep proper identification on your dog. If your dog doesn’t wear ID tags or has a microchip, he may never be returned home and he can even be potentially euthanized by the shelter.
  • Ensure proper containment. Install secure fencing, make sure that all gates are securely latched, and if your dog has a habit of bolting out of the door, make sure he’s secured in a room when you must head out.
  • For bored dogs, try implementing changes to make their lives more stimulating. Add environmental enrichment , games and fun reward-based training so that staying home becomes more attractive.
  • Ensure your dog has ample of opportunities for releasing pent-up energy during the day. Walk your dog,and if you don’t have the time, hire a dog walker.
  • Train a strong recall and use it to call your dog for meal times, play or when you have a new toy.
  • Remove any reinforcement your dog gains should he/she manage to ever escape again. Ask your neighbors to ignore your dog and refrain from giving him/her any goodies, ask kids to not play with your dog when he/she escapes.
  • Dogs suffering from anxiety need to be treated accordingly.
  • In dogs escaping to search for a mate, neutering and spaying may reduce the behavior. According to a study, castrating male dogs resulted in a 60 to 90 percent reduction in roaming behaviors. Of course, this would address only hormone- induced roaming (to search for a mate).
  • Never punish your dog for escaping, no matter how frustrated you feel. Your dog will think he’s being punished for coming to you rather than escaping and next time this may result in your dog running away when called or your dog running away when you try to approach him. Instead, when you get your dog, praise him lavishly and reward with a fun game of tug or stroll around the block before returning home. This way your dog doesn’t associate coming to you with something negative such as returning to the ho-hum… so boring yard.
  • Keep in mind that electronic fencing won’t help dogs who tend to escape. These fences not only may not work as dogs may still escape from them, but they can also potentially cause serious behavior consequences such as fear, anxiety and re-directed aggression overtime. Invest in a solid fence instead.



  • Effects of castration on behavior of male dogs with reference to the role of age and experience. Neilson JC, Eckstein RA, Hart BL. JAVMA 211:180-182, 1997.
    Banfield Pet Hospital, Is my dog in heat, retrieved from the web on July 28th 2016
  • Manual of Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Dogs and Cats, 1e 1 Pap/DVD Edition by Karen Overall, Mosby; 1 Pap/DVD edition (July 9, 2013)


Dog Word of the Day: Melena


In simple words, melena is the medical term for blood in a dog’s stool. Dog owners who are observant of their dog’s daily outputs are at an advantage as they can readily identify signs of trouble such as melena. Presence of melena can be a sign of some type of bleeding taking place in the dog’s upper digestive tract requiring immediate vet attention. It’s therefore important that dog owners learn how to recognize what melena looks like so they can report their findings to their vet and the vet can identify the underlying cause.

dog poopWhat Dog Melena in Dogs Look Like?

Melena is something that may be missed by dog owners because it’s not readily recognized unless dog owners are accustomed to seeing what their dog’ normal stools look like. Melena in dogs looks like jet black, tarry stools. Some dog owners describe it as “my dog has a burgundy color stool” or “my dog has black coffee ground stools or “my dog’s stools  look like dirt, tar or potting soil.”

The appearance of dark, tarry stools can be significant because it may be indicative of a sufficient large quantity of blood being lost from the body. The blackening of dog stool basically derives from a large volume of blood being digested. The black color is  due to oxidation of hemoglobin being altered by digestive chemicals.

It is generally the duration of passage of blood that determines the color more than location. For instance, in humans, it’s estimated that blood must be retained in the intestinal tract for at least 8 hours before it’s capable of turning the stools black.

dog pain goes away at the vetWhat Does it Mean When a Dog is Pooping Blood?

Dark stools aren’t necessary a sign of a particular problem. In some cases, a black tar-like stool in dogs may be simply due to something that the dog ingested (for instance, pepto-bismol,which is sometimes given under the guidance of a vet for a dog’s upset stomach, can cause a dog’s stool to become dark) and is therefore not a reflection of a condition a dog may have However, it’s important to have a dog checked out for dark, tar-like stools as it may be indicative of several disorders.

Generally, dark stools are a sign of bleeding in the upper digestive tract. The bleeding can therefore derive from the pharynx, esophagus, stomach or upper small intestine. Bleeding can be caused by presence of ulcers, cancers (leiomyoma and leiomyosarcom),  trauma, coagulation problems (disseminated intravascular coagulationexposure to rat poison.) Administration of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Aspirin, Rimadyl, Previcox, Metacam, Deramaxx) or steroids(dexamethasone) can also be a culprit as these drugs may lead to ulcers, especially when used together or without a wash-out period. Dark, tarry stools in dogs may also be indicative of liver disease.

” Lots of dogs have dark stools and no problems or GI blood loss at all. The color of the stool is not an issue until the stool is pitch-tar-coal-asphalt black. Then it may be melena (if it is not due to Bismuth or a lot of green bile giving it a near-black appearance). If in doubt, just place some fresh feces on absorbent white paper and see if a reddish color diffuses out from the feces, confirming that there is blood present.” ~Dr. Michael Willard

What Should Dog Owners Do?vet

Upon noticing black, tarry stools, an important step would be to check the dog’s gums to make sure they are pink and that the color comes back quickly when you press on them (capillary refill time). Black, tarry stools may be a sign of significant bleeding in the digestive tract, and as such, the dog can become anemic. Pale gums or blue or gray colored gums and a slow capillary refill time are indicative of serious trouble and an emergency vet should be seen at once. Also, dogs acting lethargic and weak along with dark stools should receive immediate veterinary care.

Providing a sample of the dog’s black stool can provide an important piece of information. The vet can test the sample for occult blood, if in doubt. It’s also important to provide as much information as possible to the vet such as age of dog, what the dog eats, and any concomitant signs observed. For instance, a dog with dark stools who is also regurgitating may be suggestive of problems localized to the dog’s esophagus or pharynx. A dog with black stools who is also vomiting blood can be suggestive of stomach or duodenal bleeding. A dog with tarry stools and a yellow color of the gums may be suggestive of liver disease.  A dog who recently had a nosebleed can also develop black stools, but the nosebleed may be related to a coagulation problem and worthy of investigation.

A word of caution is always warranted: just because a dog doesn’t show signs of melena, doesn’t necessarily mean the dog is free of gastrointestinal blood loss. Bleeding can take place over time in small amounts that aren’t enough to cause the classical tar-like appearance associated with melena.

” Melena is not always seen in animals with chronic gastrointestinal blood loss since loss can occur in relatively small quantities over time.”~ Dr.Cathy E. Langston

Disclaimer: this article is not to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If your dog is sick or displaying any worrisome signs, please consult with your vet.



  • DVM360, GI blood loss: ulcer, erosions, and stuff that mimics them (Proceedings), retrieved from the web on July 27th, 2016
  • DVM360, Anemia of chronic kidney disease (Proceedings) retrieved from the web on July 27th, 2016
  • Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine,  Stephen J. Ettinger DVM DACVIM (Author), Edward C. Feldman DVM DACVIM Saunders; 7 edition (January 7, 2010)


Photo Credits

  • Flickr, Creative Commons, No pooping. Jeff Keyzer,  (CC BY-SA 2.0)
  • A vet examines a dog in New York, Archivist1174Own work, Photo of New York State Assemblyman Dr. Stephen M. “Steve” Katz at the Bronx Veterinary Center.CC BY-SA 3.0


What Dog Breed Blushes When Happy?


Among the intriguing world of dogs there are many myths and old wives’ tales going on, so it may be difficult to believe that there is a dog breed that blushes when happy or excited. Blushing in dogs may seem like something close to impossible considering that their faces are covered in fur. On top of that, blushing is something that tends to occur when some social norm has been broken, and last time we checked dogs seemed to care less whether they pooped in public places or dragged their bottoms across the kitchen rug! So what’s up with the news that there is a dog breed that blushes? Turns out, many owners of some dogs admit that they have witnessed their dogs blush, so our next question is:

What Dog Breed Blushes When Happy?

A Pharaoh Hound

B Saluki

C Basenji

D Italian greyhound

The correct answer is: Drum roll please……





The correct answer is A: the Pharaoh Hound

 dog breed blushesBlushing In Dogs

Blushing is an involuntary reddening of a person’s face that occurs when experiencing certain emotions such as embarrassment, shame or guilt. This physiological response is quite visible on people’s faces as blood vessels start to dilate, but since, as mentioned, dogs have faces covered in fur, blushing would be close to impossible to witness. Even if dogs would blush under all that fur, the incentive to blush from emotions such as shame or guilt doesn’t seem to part of a canine’s behavior repertoire–at least, research hasn’t shown any proof of dogs showing these emotions as of yet.

Dogs seem to care less about social norms as they lick their privates in public and care less about mating on the roadside, so how can you make a creature like that blush? point out D. Caroline Coile and Margaret H. Bonham in the book “Why Do Dogs Like Balls?: More Than 200 Canine Quirks, Curiosities and Conundrums Revealed.” Even Stanley Coren seems to agree as per his statement below.

” Based on current research it seems likely that your dog will not have those more complex emotions like guilt, pride and shame.” Stanley Coren

Exception to the Rulepharaoh

So how can a dog breed blush if dogs are not capable of blushing in the first place? Well, let’s say it’s a different kind of blushing. According to many Pharaoh hound dog owners, their beloved dogs tend to blush when they are happy or excited or simply enjoying some affection. You won’t see their faces literally turn red, but if you watch closely you may see their flesh-colored nose and ears turn a deep rose color. We couldn’t find any videos of Pharaoh hound dogs blushing, but we’ll keep an eye should one come out.

This tendency to blush in Pharaoh hounds is not something new. There seems to be proof that this endearing trait has been observed since the 19th Egyptian dynasty. A letter dating back those times attests of a red hunting dog “whose face glows like a God” which most likely refers to this breed’s habit of blushing.


 “It is beautiful to see a Pharaoh Hound glow with excitement or happiness—the nose and ears fuming a deep rose color, and the lovely amber eyes further enriched with a deep rose hue.” ~American Kennel Club



  • Why Do Dogs Like Balls?: More Than 200 Canine Quirks, Curiosities and Conundrums Revealed, By D. Caroline Coile, Margaret H. Bonham, Sterling (September 2, 2008)
  • The Complete Dog Book: 20th Edition, By American Kennel Club, Ballantine Books; 20 edition (January 31, 2006)

Photo Credits:

Flickr, Creative Commons, AlanPeng0730, dog CCBY2.0
Kelb-tal Fenek (Pharaoh Hound according to FCI nomenclature), Ch. Tal-Wardija Arja Helwa, owner Jan Scotland (Germany) author (photographer): photo taken by myself, November 2005 —Jan Eduard 17:59, 20 July 2006 (UTC) CC BY-SA 3.0

I am Your Dog’s Vagus Nerve


The vagus nerve is a part of the dog not many people are likely to hear about, but it’s a very important bundle of nerves that carries many different functions. It’s one of the twelve nerves that emerge directly from the brain, and as such, it’s responsible for relaying information between the dog’s brain and other body parts. Like a good captain of a ship, the dog’s vagus nerve controls a vast range of crucial functions, so let’s discover today more about where this powerful nerve bundle is located, how it works and the variety of things that may go wrong when there’s some sort of malfunction going on.

vagal nerveIntroducing Your Dog’s Vagus Nerve

Hello, it’s your dog’s vagus nerve talking! I am a nerve that emerges from the brain and travels down your dog’s neck, close to the carotid artery and jugular vein. While technically there are two of us, one on the left and one on the right, doctors tend to usually refer to me as being one. I am the longest and most complex of your dog’s cranial nerves (nerves that stem from the skull) and if you look at the etymology of my name you can learn more about me.

The term “vagal” derives from the Latin word “vagus ” which literally  means “wandering.” Yes, I wander like a vagabond providing two-way communication of nerve impulses back and forth from the brain stem to the lowest viscera of your dog’s abdomen touching the heart and other major organs along the way. As mentioned, I work like a good captain and my job encompasses overseeing your dog’s parasympathetic nervous system. Because I have multiple branches that travel to so many organs, I accomplish many functions.

I Control The Heart Rate heart

I am responsible for regulating your dog’s heart rate. Being the captain of the parasympathetic system, also known as the “rest and digest system,” (basically the total opposite of the sympathetic nervous system which is ‘fight of flight’), it’s my job to slow down the heart rate. I do so by triggering the release of a substance known as acetylcholine which helps slow down the pulse courtesy of electrical impulses sent to the sinoatrial node of the heart. Back in the old days, Otto Loewi, a German-born pharmacologist, referred to acetylcoline as “Vagusstoff” in honor of me.

“The sympathetic nervous system is geared to rev you up like the gas pedal in an automobile – it thrives on adrenaline and cortisol and is part of the fight-or-flight response. The parasympathetic nervous system is the polar opposite. The vagus nerve is command central for the function of your parasympathetic nervous system. It is geared to slow you down like the brakes on your car and uses neurotransmitters like acetylcholine and GABA to literally lower heart rate, blood pressure, and help your heart and organs slow down. “~Christopher Bergland

back massageI Help with Breathing

Interestingly, my nerves associated with respiration, cause the heart rate to increase with inspiration and decrease with expiration. For those anxious people out there, taking deep breaths followed by a long and slow exhale can calm them down as this stimulates me to biologically release vagusstuff with the associated pleasant consequence of lowering the heart rate and blood pressure. Relaxation is sure to follow as cortisol levels are reduced.

Sure, you can’t really teach dogs to say “Ommm” and take deep breaths and exhale, but if you perform a calming activity such as giving your dog a massage, chances are, you can help me release acetylcholine so your dog’s heart rate and breathing can lower. Veterinarian Narda G. Robinson and Shelly Sheets, a Canine Massage Specialist, explain in the book “Canine Medical Massage: Techniques and Clinical Applications” that moderate-pressure massage primarily works on the dog’s parasympathic nervous system, (and that includes the vagal nerve pathways) slowing the heart rate, lowering blood pressure and reducing cortisol levels.

“Dogs probably like their ears rubbed because neurologically speaking, gentle massage in these areas are relaxing. The vagus nerve serves a large part of the midportion of the ear, and stimulating this nerve is calming because it controls vegetative, restorative functions. This calming effect also counteracts the fight and flight response associated with the sympathetic nervous system.  ~ Marty Becker, D.V.M., Gina Spadafori

I am Responsible for Motilitydog eating

One of my interesting roles is my ability to “read’ and interpret the microbiome of your dog’s gut. Basically, I check whether there are any pathogenic organisms in the gut. If I detect something alarming, I will modulate the inflammatory response. Too much inflammation is not a good thing!

Also, I play a role in motility. I basically work like a walkie-talkie, relaying information from the gut to the brain. When your dog feels hungry from the sensation of his stomach being empty and he looks up at you in hope for a tasty morsel, you must thank me for relaying that message.

I am also behind general motility, orchestrating the muscles in your dog’s stomach telling them when to contract and push food into the neighboring small intestine. Now, off it goes!

I Do a Whole Lot!

There are many more important functions I play a role in, so here is a quick run down of others things I do. In the gallbladder, I help release bile, in the liver and pancreas, I help control the balance of glucose, in the kidneys, I help excrete sodium so to lower blood pressure, in the eyes, I help promote excretion of tears, in the tongue I help with taste and production of saliva and much more.

Interestingly, in the last years, I have been researched a lot. Researchers have discovered that that the neurotransmitter acetylcholine I release not only helps with relaxation, but also plays a role in learning, memory and reducing inflammation. Activation of me has also be linked with production of new cells and even repair of organs. According to Pet Education, researchers at the North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine have been studying using a pacemaker-like device to stimulate me, which can turn helpful to control seizures in epileptic dogs.

dog pain goes away at the vetWhen Things Go Wrong

While I can be a great captain when I have everything under control, when things backfire, I can quickly turn from a loyal comrade on deck into a major saboteur. Yeah, you really don’t want anything to go wrong with me; with all the tasks I perform, you may expect problems anywhere along my route from the brain to all those important organs. While stimulating me may lead to relaxation, over-stimulation can lead to problems.

At the esophagus level, several vagal receptors detect the presence of food and liquid so that the dog can swallow and the esophagus contracts. When things go wrong though and dogs start suffering from megaesophagus, defects in my vagal afferent innervation or abnormalities of the muscles of the esophagus are often to blame.

While not too common in animals as in people, dogs can sometimes faint when I am stimulated. This is often referred to as “vasovagal syncope.”  Basically, when my vagal nerves of the pharynx are overstimulated, I can trigger a lower heart rate and a drop in blood pressure. This can happen when dogs eat too fast, bark, cough or vomit. According to veterinarian Henry Green III, in small dogs suffering from heart problems, I can cause fainting when the heart rate is very low (bradycardia) and it’s then following by bouts of high heart rate (tachycardia). Also, a high vagal tone which happens when my impulses produce an inhibition in the heart beat, can cause what’s known as first-degree heart block.

As seen, I really accomplish a whole lot! Just consider that anywhere between 80 and 90 percent of my nerve fibers are dedicated to relaying important information pertaining the state of your dog’s viscera to your brain. Connect the brain to your dog’s pharynx, larynx, esophagus, ears, tongue, gut, heart, liver, pancreas, gallbladder, kidney, ureter, spleen and lungs. I guess I can say that I am largely responsible for your dog’s mind and body connection.  I hope this article has helped you understand the vagus nerve better! Oh, and I am also found in humans, so chance are today you learned even something new about yourself too!

Respectfully yours,

Your dog’s vagus nerveDog Pawprint



  1. Pavlov, V.A., and K.J. Tracey. 2005. The cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway. Brain Behav Immun 19 (6):493-99.
  2. 1999 “Use of ocular compression to induce vagal stimulation and aid in controlling seizures in seven dogs.
    Speciale, J. and J. E. Stahlbrodt (1999). J Am Vet Med Assoc 214(5): 663-5.
  3. *Zabara J. Inhibition of experimental seizures in canines by repetitive vagal nerve stimulation. Epilepsia 1992;33:1005-1012.
  4. Why Do Dogs Drink Out of the Toilet?: 101 of the Most Perplexing Questions …By Marty Becker, D.V.M., Gina Spadafori, HCI (September 15, 2006)
  5. Canine Medical Massage: Techniques and Clinical Applications, By Narda G. Robinson, DO, DVM, MS, FAAMA, Shelley Sheets, BA, CMT, CAMT, AAHA Press (February 3, 2015)

Photo Credits:

  • Plan of upper portions of glossopharyngeal, vagus, and accessory nerves, Henry Vandyke CarterHenry Gray, public domain
  • My Favorite Pet Sitter, Chester loves a back scratch, Flickr Creative Commons, CC BY 2.0


Involve All Senses In Your Dog’s Environmental Enrichment


Environmental enrichment is important for dogs as it helps stimulate the brain. Its first application took place in zoos for welfare purposes so to help captive animals cope better in their non-natural environments. Bored animals can’t play a game of Sudoku or engage in thumb-twiddling to keep themselves busy, so they end up engaging in vacuum activities such as restless pacing, stereotyped movements or excessive licking or even destructive behaviors such as chewing and digging. While today there are many resources to help dog owners enrich their dog’s environment, it’s important to involve all of the dog’s senses.

synapsysBenefits for Animals

Until the 1970’s, it was common belief among neuroscientists that the brain underwent changes only during the critical period and afterward remained  in a relatively “static” state throughout adulthood. New research (Reference 4) has shown that many aspects of the brain can change even into adulthood, leading to the term “neuroplasticity” (plasticity of the brain).  Research on rats (Reference 1,2) has found that when rats were placed in a richer, more stimulating environment where they were cognitively challenged, the were prone to developing a thicker cerebral cortex with a 25 percent increase in synapses.

Additionally, the increase in synapses seemed to be not short lived. Indeed, another study (Reference 3) revealed that when the number of synapses increased in adult rats, their numbers remained high for 30 days despite the rats being returned to an impoverished environment.



What do the results of this research mean to our dogs? It means that young dogs, adult dogs and most of all, old dogs benefit from environmental enrichment. For dogs, the focus is adding an element of novelty to an otherwise dull day such as teaching the dog a new trick or providing dogs with safe opportunities to engage in natural, instinctive behaviors without getting in trouble. It’s great news that today there is a lot of interest in providing dogs with environmental enrichment, but often they fail to fulfill all of a dog’s senses. Sure, it’s good that many dog owners now invest in food-dispensing toys to keep their dogs mentally stimulated as this is first step towards placing mental stimulation away from the back burner, but a dog’s world entails much more than extracting food from a Kong.

idea tipDid you know:? Dogs can quickly habituate to toys if the same toys are seen on a daily basis. This doesn’t mean though that you will have to break the bank and purchase a new toy every day just to make your dog happy! Instead, make it a habit to rotate toys. Keep some toys out of sight for some time and then present them again. After not seeing them for a while, the dog should show a renewed interest in them.

Involving All Senses

Dogs interact with their world through their main five senses: sight, smell, touch, hearing and taste. To enrich a dog’s life, it’s therefore a good idea to incorporate as many senses as possible. Dog walks are often a stimulating way to offer enrichment as dogs are given the opportunity to hear, see and smell many stimuli. Car rides with the window slightly open to allow a fresh flow or air along with its stimulus package of scents, may also be stimulating for dogs.  And of course, play dates with friendly dogs, games of fetch, training sessions and dog sports are all great ways to keep dogs exercised and mentally stimulated. Following are several enrichment ideas to address all senses in dogs.

Trivia: Can you guess How many senses dogs have?  Hint: it’s not easy as thought!

warning cautionWarning: While walks can be optimal for many dogs, dogs who are fearful or reactive dogs may perceive the outdoors as overstimulating. Until their behavior issues can be tackled with the help of a professional, for the time being it might be preferable to manage the environment by frequenting quiet places or the tranquility of the yard.

dog sense of visionSense of Vision

Play hide and seek games with your dog where you go out of vision and your dog must find you. Teach your dog to discriminate toys based on different shapes and colors (keep in mind though how dogs see colors). Some dogs enjoy watching TV and now there are also TV shows made purposely for dogs. Sight hounds may enjoy chasing flirt poles, while retrievers may love chasing and retrieving balls.  Instead of feeding food from a bowl, why not toss kibble for your dog to catch instead? For dogs who aren’t reactive, access to a window can provide a form of sensorial enrichment. While highly visually stimulating, it’s best to avoid using laser pointers for dogs.

dog sense of hearingSense of Hearing

Teach your dog how to play the piano. Play round-robin games using different people (with different tones of voice) and take turns calling your dog and rewarding him for coming. Also, you can have fun and train your dog to come at the sound of a whistle. For further stimulation when whistle training your dog, teach your dog that different whistle pips and blasts mean different things. For example, use a special pip for meal time and one for going on a walk. When your dog is alone during the day, play CD’S  purposely made for dogs such as Through a Dog’s Ear. Also, provide toys that make different noises. Many small terriers may enjoy squeaky toys, but be careful as some dogs ingest the squeakers.

dog sense of touchSense of Touch

A dog’s sense of touch involves receiving information about his internal and external environment.  Dogs can be mentally stimulated by offering them toys of different textures such as soft toys, hard toys, crinkly toys  etc.  Training the dog to walk on different surfaces (on grass, in a puddle, or on steps) may also be fun if you make it rewarding. Small terriers may enjoy walking through agility tunnels.

Petting our dogs is also a way to provide enrichment. Play games with your family where you take turns calling your dog, giving him a treat while briefly petting him.We are used to petting our dogs, but there are other forms of tactile stimulation such as grooming, massage and T- Touch. Find ways your dog likes to be touched the most. Notice how your dog reacts to your touch.

dog noseSense of Smell

Canine nose work has been gaining popularity. You can train your dog to discriminate between different scents by using essential oils, but check for toxicity before using certain products. There are specific nose work kits available nowadays. For dogs who love to dig, bury a toy in in a bag of kibble for a day and then hide the toy in a child’s pool full of sand so your dog must use his sense of smell to find it. Scent hounds may enjoy following trails of kibble hidden around the yard. Certain types of scents can be also calming to dogs such as lavender.

dog sense of tasteSense of Taste

Dogs are known for not having very developed taste buds compared to us, but they benefit from working for their food. Hide portions of your dogs meals around the house, stuff a Kong in different layers made a various types of treats and in the summer make frozen treats. For instance, you can place some water in an ice cube tray and insert in the middle one of your dog’s favorite treat or a couple of kibble. Once the water freezes, the treat will be suspended inside the ice cube so your dog will need to lick the ice-cube to get to it. This is a great way to keep your dog hydrated and entertained! Veterinary behaviorist Lore Haug also suggests placing vegetables or fruits safe for dogs (apples, carrots, melon, celery) out in the yard or allowing them to float in a wading pool. She warns though to avoid grapes or raisins as they’re toxic to dogs.



  1. Diamond MC, Krech D, Rosenzweig MR (August 1964). “The Effects of an Enriched Environment on the Histology of the Rat Cerebral Cortex”. J. Comp. Neurol.123: 111–20.
  2. Diamond MC, Law F, Rhodes H, et al. (September 1966). “Increases in cortical depth and glia numbers in rats subjected to enriched environment”. J. Comp. Neurol.128 (1): 117–26
  3. Briones TL, Klintsova AY, Greenough WT (August 2004). “Stability of synaptic plasticity in the adult rat visual cortex induced by complex environment exposure”. Brain Res.1018 (1): 130–5.
  4. Livingston R.B. (1966). “Brain mechanisms in conditioning and learning”. Neurosciences Research Program Bulletin4 (3): 349–354.
  5. Texas Veterinary Behavior Specialist, Environmental Enrichment for Dogs, retrieved from the web on July 24th, 2016.

Photo Credits:

  • Looie496 US National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Aging created originalPublic Domain


What the Yuck? Dogs Get Diarrhea From Stress Too


Yes, just like people, dogs can get diarrhea from stress too. Sure, dogs don’t have to balance their checkbooks at the end of the month, they don’t have job interviews and they don’t go through divorces, but their lives at times can often get hectic and stressful too. Their sources of stress may be different than the ones we face, but their digestive tracts and nervous systems share many similarities with ours and therefore dogs show similar symptoms to some stress-induced medical conditions affecting the digestive tract such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) so common in humans. While dogs may develop stress for many reasons, stress-related diarrhea is highly contextual, meaning that it predictably flares up during stressful events.

dogThe Brain-Gut Axis

Just like humans, dogs are equipped with what is known as the “brain-gut axis,” a sort of superhighway connecting the central nervous system with the gastrointestinal system. This highway is populated by a complex network of million of neurons responsible for many regular functions that have fascinated scientists and clinicians for several decades. Among these important functions are regulation of the digestive tract’s motility and secretions, digestion, absorption, energy balance, blood flow and appetite regulation. Because the gut has a lot of similarities with the brain and there is extensive network of neurons lining the gut,  it’s often referred to as “the second brain” or more technically speaking, “the enteric nervous system.”

” Neurons were supposed to be nerve cells that only existed in the Central Nervous System (CNS), the brain and the spinal cord. But it turns out that there is a network of neurons in the gut designed to integrate the outside world with the inside of a mammal.” ~Patricia McConnell

Proof from Pavlov’s Dogs dog drooling

Dog trainers and dog behavior consultants are surely acquainted with Ivan Pavlov’s work. This Russian physiologist is known as being the “father of classical conditioning” but his discovery about pairing stimuli further proved a gut and brain connection. Here’s how the story goes.

Ivan Pavlov’s main mission was studying digestive processes in humans, so to better gain an insight, he employed several dogs in his experiments. His goal was to study the salivary glands, but he somewhat got side tracked when a curious happening started to unfold right under his eyes. As his fellow white lab coat scientists started offering food to the dogs, the dogs began salivating profusely (which was something expected to happen), but at one point, he noticed a curious phenomenon: the dogs started salivating at the mere sight of a white lab coat even in the absence of food!

This study therefore proved that the dogs have the cognitive ability to form associations pairing one stimulus to another, but beyond this important discovery, which paved the path into the enriching world of learning theory, Pavlov’s studies revealed that the digestive system is not only capable of learning, but is also capable of “memory processes.” Just like the salivary glands, the intestines of a nervous person affected by irritable bowel syndrome can learn to spasm in the presence of stimuli that have been paired with a trigger. For example, the digestive tract of a person fearful of flying may start getting upset just by being at an airport without even boarding a plane! In dogs, this can be seen too, for example in dogs who get nauseous on a car ride because the car ride has been associated with going to the vet.

“Data relating to the fact that the digestive system is able to learn and therefore shows evidence of memory processes was demonstrated experimentally in Pavlov’s research with dogs, when the Russian scholar was able to teach the dog’s digestive system (in this case the salivary glands) to respond to the presence of environmental stimuli, that, per se, would have been irrelevant to digestion, if the dogs had not learned to that they could be related to the administrating of food.”~Tullio Scrimali

The Effect of Stressscared

When a dog has a difficult time recovering from some acute stressor or is affected by repeated, chronic stress, the brain-gut axis is negatively affected. Release of the hormone norepinephrine as part of the fight or flight response triggers several physiological changes. The dog’s heart pumps faster, the breathing rate increases, blood flows towards the muscles so the dog is ready to spring into action. The pupils also dilate and the senses sharpen.

In the gastric system several changes take place too. Since blood flows towards the muscles, there is less blood flow to the dog’s stomach. Reduced oxygen is delivered to this organ triggering lack of appetite and slowed down digestion. While there is decreased stomach emptying, increased intestinal motility and changes in the intestinal microflora balance may trigger diarrhea and abdominal pain. Stress colitis, an inflammation of the colon caused by stress, causes increased motility and rapid transit times which leads to diarrhea sometimes accompanied by blood and mucus in the stool. Sometimes stress may also “wake-up” medical conditions that cause digestive problems that may have otherwise remained “dormant”. Some dogs may have a flare-up of pancreatitis or a bout of coccidiosis or inflammatory bowel disease when they are stressed and their immune system defenses get low.

Stressful Events in Dogs

At a first glance, dogs may seem to lead overall happy lives. They are fed food served in shiny bowls, have soft pillows to sleep on and they get to enjoy great perks such as bones to gnaw on and interactive toys to play with, so what kind of stress affects them? Many dogs suffer from stress and the causes of stress may vary from one dog to another. For instance, being boarding at a kennel, the presence of a new baby or a new pet in the home, moving to a new place, exposure to frightening noises or a sporting event can all be stressful happenings for dogs. Even the choice of training methods and training tools can affects dogs causing them stress if they’re based on  coercion. On top of acute stress, dogs can also suffer from the consequences of chronic, cumulative stress and this may not only affect the digestive and immune system but also the whole body.

Tackling the Stressdog eating

The best way to prevent stress-induced diarrhea in dogs is to take steps to minimize exposure to stressful triggers. If removing the source of stress is not a feasible option, there are several calming aids such as DAP collars, calming CDs and calming supplements for dogs. These aids can help take the edge off while implementing behavior modification under the guidance of a professional invested in force-free behavior modification.

Interestingly, there is a growing interest in using diet to boost tranquility in dogs. Omega-3 fatty acids are mostly known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, but have also shown the ability to “modulate neurotransmitters and to affect neuroplasticity” explains Dr. Lewellen in an article for DVM360.

According to a study, fatty acids were discovered to have the ability to influence the same pathways as fluoxetine does, a medication often prescribed to dogs suffering from anxiety disorders. McGowan, Ph.D., of Nestlé Purina Research also noticed how an increased intake of fish oil led to calming effects in dogs “from both a behavioral and physiological standpoint.”

Another promising product are probiotics, in particular the Bifidobacterium longum strain. McGowan conducted a study in 24 dogs and noticed positive effects in giving B. longum to anxious dogs. Research is expanding as a growing body of evidence has started to show the beneficial effects of nutrition on the brain-gut axis, and the good news is that promising new developments are  expected in the future to help out all those stressed and anxious dogs out there.

“Altering diet to manipulate the availability of precursors for the hormones and neurotransmitters that regulate behavior has merit as a means to mitigate many behavioral issues.” ~Dr. McGowan

Disclaimer: this article is not meant to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If your dog has diarrhea or is sick, please consult with your veterinarian.


  • McGowan RTS. “Oiling the brain” or “Cultivating the gut”: Impact of diet on anxious behavior in dogs. in Proceedings. Nestlé Purina Companion Animal Nutrition Summit, 2016:87-93.
  • Jazayeri S, Tehrani-Doost M, Keshavarz SA, et al. Comparison of therapeutic effects of omega-3 fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid and fluoxetine, separately and in combination, in major depressive disorder. Aust N Z J Psychiatry 2008;42(3):192-198.
  • Neuroscience-based Cognitive Therapy: New Methods for Assessment, Treatment and Self-Regulation 1st Edition, by Tullio Scrimali, Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (April 23, 2012)
  • Scientific American, Think Twice: How the Gut’s “Second Brain” Influences Mood and Well-Being, retrieved from the web on July 23rd, 2016.
  • The Other End of the Leash, Patricia McConnell, Your Dog Has a Brain in His Gut, retrieved from the web on July 23rd, 2016.
  • DVM360, Boosting tranquility through nutrition, retrieved from the web on July 23rd, 2016.
  • Psychology Today, Your backup brain, retrieved from the web on July 23rd, 2016.


Dog Ear Shapes and Types


There’s no shadow of doubt that by tinkering with genetics, humans have made the dog the most varied species on earth, a practice leading to different body sizes, coat colors and even different types of ear shapes. Interestingly, in the world of dogs, there’s much more than erect ears and pendulous ears which are what most of us are accustomed to. So today, let’s discover a variety of ears dogs are equipped with and the quite colorful terms used by fanciers and some kennel clubs to depict them. And these are just a few, as there are many more!

Erect Earserect dog ears

As the name implies, these ears are upright, and therefore, pointing upwards. This is the traditional ear position seen in many “wolfish looking” dogs such as German shepherds, Belgian malinois and several Nordic breeds such as Siberian huskies, Alaskan malamutes and Samoyed. Erect ears are also found in smaller dog breeds such as Norwich terriers, west highland white terriers and Yorkshire terriers.

Many people are attracted by erect ears because it gives dogs an over all wolfish, alert and intelligent look. Not all erect ears though are natural. In some cases, they are the result of a cosmetic surgical procedure known as “ear cropping.”

When you see Dobermans, great Danes and boxers with erect ears, what you are likely seeing are dogs who were born with floppy or semi-erect ears who went through a surgical procedure to make them appear erect.

dog drop ears Drop Ears

As the name implies, drop ears are ears that are pendulous and therefore are hanging down. Interestingly, this type of ear is often associated with domestication. Even back in 1923, German shepherd breeder Max V. Stephanitz, speculated that floppy ears are the hall mark sign of domestication. In his book “The German Shepherd Dog In Word And Picture” he claimed: “The domestic animal living in security has no need to keep its ears continuously strained in all directions for self-protection; the muscles of the ear therefore gradually lose their tension allowing the ear to sag and then to drop altogether.” This process was proven in the famous “farm fox experiment.” As wild foxes were selectively bred based on docile temperaments, the erect ears started becoming floppy and new coat colors replaced the previous coat color meant for camouflaging in their natural environment. However, these changes only partially affect dogs as they still depend on their hearing and many breeds were selectively bred to be alert watchdogs.

Many dog owners are attracted to dogs with drop ear shapes because they tend to give a neotenous, puppy-like look. Labrador retrievers, golden retriever and Chesapeake Bay retrievers are a few breeds with drop ears. These breeds were bred for swimming and therefore there are chances those drop ears were selectively bred for to prevent water from entering the ears, explains Christine Zink in the book “Peak Performance EBook: Coaching the Canine Athlete.” Many other dog breeds are known to have drop ears.

bat earsBat Ears

Bats are known for having very big ears, so as the name implies, a dog with bat ears has erect ears that are disproportionate compared to the head. According to the American Kennel Club, the French bulldog has bat ears with ears that are broad at the base, elongated, set high on the head and with a rounded top. Bat ears are so distinctive of this breed that anything other than bat ears is means for disqualification.

Rose Earsrose ear dog

Technically, this ear is erect but it’s characterized by the fact that the skin folds backwards causing the end part of the pinna of the ear to fall to the side. The name of this ear likely derives from this ear’s shape due to the folds resembling somewhat the petals of a rose.

According to the American Kennel Club, whippets must have rose ears that are small, fine in texture and, when the dog is relaxed, should be, thrown back and folded along the neck, while when attentive the fold should be maintained. Erect ears are severely penalized in this breed. Other dog breed with rose ears are greyhounds and Italian greyhounds which also boast ears that are small, fine in texture, and thrown back and folded except when excited or alerted.

Semi-Pricked Earssemi pricked ears

Also known as semi-erect ears, cocked ears or tipped ears, some dogs may have ears that are somewhere in between erect ears and drop ears. In dogs with semi-pricked ears, the ears are basically erect, but they tend to fold over at the tip. Dog breeds with semi-pricked ears include the collie, Shetland sheepdog and fox terrier. According to the American Kennel Club, the border collie may have ears that are erect or semi-erect. When semi-erect the ear tips must fold forward or outward to the side.

button earButton Ears

Cute as a button! This ear may at a a first glance appear semi-pricked, but instead of the ear bending over at the tip, the skin fold is longer and therefore covers a larger amount of the ear. The name “button ears “derived from the appearance of this ear which somewhat resembles the buttoned fold seen on pockets on a shirt. This ear type is seen in several breeds. In the pug’s breed standard, the American Kennel Club,  describes the ears in this breed as being small and soft, like black velvet. Two kinds are accepted – the “rose” and the “button” but preference is given to the latter. Other breeds with button ears include the Jack Parson terrier and the fox terrier.  There are chances that this ear shape was selectively bred for in small terriers so to protect them from  considering these breeds were bred to hunt in tunnels.

butterfly dog earsButterfly Ears
This ear type is characteristic of the papillon breed. The butterfly ear is an erect ear that is carried obliquely and, as the name implies, tends to move like the spread wings of a butterfly. Not all papillon dog comes with this ear type though.

Within a litter, some specimens may exhibit the typical butterfly ear while some others may carry a dropped ear. The drop-eared variety is known as phalene which means moth-eared in French.


candle flame earsCandle-Flame Ears

This type of ear is exclusively seen in the English toy terrier. As the namme implies, this ear resembles somewhat the flame of a candle. Basically, these are long and narrow erect ears.

According to the Kennel Club of the United Kingdom, this breed has candle-flame ears that are erect, set high on the back of the head with slightly pointed tips.

filbert ear



Filbert Ear

The Filbert ear is a unique type of ear that is only seen in the Bedlington terrier. This ear is triangular in shape with rounded tips and is velvety in texture. Its most characteristic trait is the small silky tassel found at the tip.

The name of this ear derives from the word “filbert” which depicts a nut of the hazel family.


folded earsFolded Ears

This an extreme form of the drop ear characterized by very long ears that hang down a lot and have distinct folds. It’s the ear that touches the ground as often seen in the blood hound and basset hound. This type of ear is characteristic of dogs selectively bred for tracking.

Those long ears basically drag to the ground and help stir up scent molecules, observes Anne Legge, a breeder of bloodhound champion bloodlines in the book “Dogspeak: How to Understand Your Dog and Help Him Understand You. ” 



  • Dogspeak: How to Understand Your Dog and Help Him Understand You (Dog Care Companions) Rodale Books; 1 edition (September 18, 1999)
  • The German Shepherd Dog in Word and Picture by Max von Stephanitz, Hoflin Pub Ltd (January 1994)
  • Psychology Today, Stanley Coren  What Shape is Your Dog’s Ear?”, retrieved from the web on July 22,2016
  • Peak Performance – Coaching the Canine Athlete Kindle Edition by M. Christine Zink DVM PhD,  Howell Book House (October 1992)

Photo Credits:

Boutchie, un Bedlington Terrier en janvier 2003. David Owsiany – GFDL

English Toy Terrier (Black & Tan) at the City of Birmingham Championship Dog Show 2003 – “Ch Shanedale All Eyez On Me”Sannse at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0


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