The sad, imploring expression held such power over humans during 33,000 years of canine domestication that the preference for dogs that could pull off the look steered the evolution of their facial muscles, researchers have said.
The result is that dogs gradually acquired a new forehead muscle named the levator anguli oculi medialis, or LAOM, and have used it to deploy the doleful look to devastating effect ever since.
“They are very powerful animals in how they capture our hearts,” said Prof Bridget Waller, the director of the Centre for Comparative and Evolutionary Psychology at the University of Portsmouth. “We pay a lot of attention to faces, they are meaningful to us, and this expression makes dogs look juvenile and sad. It induces a nurturing response. It’s a cute factor.”
The author blames his dog for the fact that he was blocked for two years. But pets provide a vital emotional lifeline for anybody who spends time alone…
In an essay for the New Yorker, Karl Ove Knausgaard has detailed two difficult years of owning a dog, wondering if its presence in his home was connected to the fact that he did not write a line of literary prose during that period. (“Merely essays and articles,” he notes.) It was such a problem for him, he writes, that his six-volume autobiographical series, My Struggle, was originally called The Dog. “Has a single good author ever owned a dog?” he asks drily.
The essay is not an indictment of dog ownership, as such. Knausgaard admits that the dog was barely trained, that he saw too much of himself in the animal and that the failings were his own. He ended up giving it to a family, he says, that knew how dogs should be treated.
But Ernest Hemingway had dogs, as did, to name just a few others, Virginia Woolf, Kurt Vonnegut, EB White, John Cheever, PG Wodehouse and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. For writers who are not struggling to get down six volumes of painfully detailed autobiography – or freelancers without fixed hours, or anyone who works from home, or anyone who lives alone – having a pet can be a salve. A good dog is good company, less demanding than another person and far more devoted, in exchange for ear scratches. I have found that isolation feels muted with an animal around, even if the only things you have said that morning are: “Was that you?” and “What haveyou been eating?”
Crucially, a dog forces you into the world. If you have a problem to solve, time away from a screen in the fresh air makes you think differently. Before having a dog, if I had a busy week, I could stay indoors for longer than is healthy. Without exercising social skills, it’s incredible how quickly they start to collapse. Dogs take you outside, they make you walk and move, they train you in the art of polite chat with strangers. Dogs make the world seem less cold and less alien. Isn’t that the point of the best writing, too?
Posted onJune 3, 2016byrsmalley|Comments Off on Dogs are twice as friendly to humankind as previously thought, suggests study
Humankind’s long friendship with the dog may have begun at least twice. Grey wolves in western Eurasia may have started hanging around Stone Age hunter-gatherer clans even before humans and dogs clinched the relationshipperhaps 14,000 years ago in east Asia.
New research based on DNA samples from prehistoric hounds, as well as genetic studies of modern dogs and wolves, suggests that two populations of grey wolves – separated by thousands of miles and thousands of years – may have begun the connection that turnedCanis lupusintoCanis lupus familiaris.
“Animal domestication is a rare thing and a lot of evidence is required to overturn the assumption that it happened just once in any species,” said Professor Greger Larson, one of the authors and the director of the Wellcome Trust palaeogenomics and bio-archaeology research network at Oxford University.
Our ancient DNA evidence, combined with the archaeological record of early dogs, suggests that we need to reconsider the number of times dogs were domesticated independently. Maybe the reason there hasn’t been a consensus about where dogs were domesticated is because everyone has been a little bit right.”
The domestication of cattle, sheep and goats began with the first farm settlements in the Fertile Crescent at the end of the last Ice Age 10,000 years ago. The only animal known to have been domesticated twice is the pig, in both east Asia and the near East. The same story might be true for Rover and Fido. If so, grey wolves must have started hanging around human settlements for food scraps: the step from scavenger to hunting companion would have taken many generations.
An episode of QI from a couple of years ago included the statement that dogs don’t sleep upside down. Well that’s just ridiculous – as any dog owner would know. Here is Couscous from yesterday afternoon. I’m watching tv and she’s snoring away on my lap – upside down.
The author and ex-vet Gill Lewis shares photographs of the dogs that inspired Puppy Academy, her new series for younger readers, from her faithful childhood pet Zak the Alsatian, to companion dogs for autistic children to the wonderfully brave search and rescue dogs