By now in any normal year, I would expect to be almost fully booked for Christmas cat sitting & pet sitting. It’s odd then, in this period of covid, to open the diary and find that my busiest day of the year is looking like a day off. That’s a first for me in 29 years of pet sitting and dog walking. Here are my thoughts in brief..

Dilemmas..

My dilemma is whether to decide now to formally close for the day and enjoy a ‘normal’ Christmas Day or wait until December 2nd and make a decision at the end of lockdown.

My question to you is: what are you going to do? Have you thrown in the Christmas towel and abandoned all plans to visit family and friends or are you, like me, waiting to see what happens next?

All pet sitters – at least those who usually provide Christmas cat sitting, (and, to be frank, those who have survived this terrible year), must be asking themselves the same questions.

I wonder if there will be a sudden rush of enquiries in early December. I wonder whether pet sitters will hike their prices as we get nearer to the holiday period and exploit a shortage of supply. (Be assured: IF I open I won’t make any changes to our usual Christmas cat sitting / pet sitting prices or policies.)

I think on balance with regard to remaining open over the Christmas period, that I am currently open to persuasion. If I receive enough enquiries over the next fortnight to make it worth my while then I will work the holiday weekend. If I don’t hear from you soon well.. woohoo, my first Christmas Holiday since 1992! Ohhh.. now I need to think about shopping. How do you buy a turkey these days? (I guess I’m already too late for that.)

Keep abreast of government covid rules here.

ukpets.co.uk

Ouseburn Bridlepath region showing wasps' nest
Location of ground level wasps’ nest

Gosforth dog walkers using the bridle path at the northern end of the Ouseburn River are warned to watch out for wasps if they venture off the beaten path.

This summer a ground-based wasps’ nest has established itself close to one of the tracks into the woods on the east side of the lake. This, of course is not a right of way but it has become the habit of many Gosforth dog walkers to take their dogs through this wood. If your dogs are gambling in the undergrowth around this area it would be very easy for them to inadvertently trample the nest. This I know from bitter experience.

I would advise you to keep close control of your dogs or keep them on a lead when passing the location shown on the accompanying map.

My Dog Stood On A Wasps’ Nest!

If a dog stands on, disturbs or even gets too near to a wasps’ nest it will get stung. When that happens it is likely to react and try to alleviate the pain by rolling around on the ground. What it will NOT do is think “Ahh.. a wasps’ nest! Let’s get out of here!” It won’t think about running away. It will begin writhing as it feels another sting and another…

These first wasps will send a chemical alert to the nest and within seconds they will attack as a swarm. Soon your dog’s fur will be filled with angry female wasps.

..and by now your dog will be screaming.

You have to act immediately and decisively. Get into a position so that the dog is between you and the nest. Grab its harness or collar and drag it away as fast as you can. Expect to get stung yourself but keep dragging your dog away. Whether or not your dog can stand doesn’t matter at this point.

If there is water nearby head for it. Submerge its body. You want to do whatever you can to cool down your dog and slow the metabolisation of the wasp venom.

If you are some way from a road or your dog is a large breed, phone for help. You want your helper to bring a towel, a comb and/or a brush if you don’t already have these things, (and a tub of baking soda if possible). Also phone the vet – to pre warn them and to get their advice.

Providing your dog remains conscious you should keep it in the water until help arrives. Keep agitating the fur with your fingers to remove the dying wasps. Pluck them out, flick them out. Get rid of as many as you can.

Check inside your dog’s mouth, nose and ears, looking for swelling.

When help arrives lay your dog on the bank and brush any remaining trapped wasps away on one side. Roll your dog over, clear anything from the underbelly and then brush out the other side. If at any stage your dog loses consciousness stop what you are doing, wrap the dog in a towel and get it to the vets.

If you have it, you can make a baking soda and water paste and rub this on any obvious swollen areas. But in any case, don’t hang around. This is an emergency and you need to get your dog to the vet as soon as possible

Yes, This Happened To Me!

The dog was between 15 & 20kg. Luckily she hadn’t put her muzzle into the nest but had simply trampled it. So the wasps didn’t attack her face. After examination the vet said she had been stung nearly 400 times. She was treated with pain-killers, antihistamine, anti-inflammatories and steroids. She was kept in for observation and released to her owner after a few hours.

Her immediate risk following the swarming was from an allergic anaphylactic shock which would have manifested very soon after the attack, as general weakness, difficulty breathing and possible collapse.

A longer term risk – over the following few days – was to her kidneys as her body tried to rid itself of the large amount of venom she’d been subject to.

We were very lucky to come away from the situation as well as we did.

So to Gosforth dog walkers venturing off the beaten path – please heed my warning and control your dog around that area marked on the map.

For positive training and handling methods and one-on-one dog-walking visit: https://ukpets.co.uk/pet-sitting/dog-walking/.

See also: https://www.hillspet.co.uk/dog-care/routine-care/what-to-do-when-wasp-bee-sting-dog

ukpets.co.uk

Sansa
Sansa heard the car pull up.

It is unlikely that you will need someone to provide cat sitting during the Coronavirus pandemic. People almost always only require a cat sitter’s service when they are travelling for work or heading off on holiday. In line with the rest of the travel industry, the Government’s mitigation lockdown rules have reduced cat sitter bookings virtually to zero.

I say ‘virtually’ because on occasion we are asked to provide cat sitting cover for someone who is being admitted to hospital. And very rarely we might even be called upon to do the same for someone who has already been admitted, i.e. there is an emergency.

I have taken calls from relatives of our clients, telling me that the client is in hospital and requesting that as their key holder, I need to provide pet care cover for them until further notice. It should be noted that the next of kin were only able to contact us because of the forethought of these clients. The clients had passed on our details to them in anticipation of just such an emergency.

In these rare situations we are able to provide cover because:

a. we hold the key.
b. we know the pet(s) and importantly, the pet(s) know their sitter.
c. we hold detailed written instructions on caring for the pet(s).
d. we have a signed agreement with the client to enter the property, (which also means we are insured).

How prepared are you for an emergency where control is taken out of your hands?

What If I Have SARS-CoV-2, (Covid-19)?

First of all make sure you have given your contact details to all of the right people. Then consider who is going to be your key holder and who will be the person who knows your pet(s) well enough and is willing to enter a Covid-19 house to look after them.

If you don’t do that, (and I strongly suggest you begin doing it right now), you are left with the Government’s single sentence of advice for someone in your, (Covid-19), situation:

“If you are too unwell to care for your animals and there is no one to help, you should call your local authority.”

Following this advice will involve a stranger in full Personal Protective Equipment, (PPE) entering your house to look after your pet(s) while you are in hospital. From the point of view of your pet(s) this is a harrowing experience in which they will display fear and possibly fear aggression. Not only will your pet(s) be afraid but also they will most likely be very hungry. Why? Because this person will not risk entering the house until 72 hours have passed since you were last there. 72 hours is the time period that the virus is thought to remain active on surfaces such as your kitchen counter, door knobs and so on. 72 hours is the length of time your pet(s) will be left before the RSPCA will enter your house – to collect them for rehousing..

Here’s an article from the Manchester Evening News: “Three dogs and a bird had to be rescued from house after owner taken to hospital with coronavirus symptoms.”

If you don’t want this to happen, you need to prepare now.

Some Background..

The task of cat sitting during the Coronavirus pandemic presents new and difficult challenges. It is a big ask for someone to come into your Covid-19 house while you are in hospital. So it is important that you and they are aware of what is involved.

SARS-CoV-2, (Coronavirus), which causes the disease Covid-19, is highly transmissable, rapidly infectious, quite persistent as an aerosol and very persistent on some hard, smooth surfaces.

Fortunately, on pet fur, which is fibrous and porous, it is thought that the SARS-CoV-2 gets trapped in the hair making it much less transmissible through contact events with pets.

There has been some preliminary evidence however which indicates that cats (and ferrets) may be susceptible to infection by SARS-CoV-2. In a test report, (not yet peer reviewed), it was found that the virus could transfer between cats via respiratory droplet, i.e. airborne infection. In the same report, traces of the virus were also found in cat faeces.

A caveat to the previous paragraph: It should be emphasised that this was a preliminary paper originally puiblished before its peer review. In light of this, the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA), was prompted to note a lack of evidence in this respect:

“While we do not yet know for sure, there is limited evidence that companion animals can be infected with or spread SARS-Cov-2. We also do not know if they could get sick from this new coronavirus. Additionally, there is currently no evidence that companion animals could be a source of infection to people. This is a rapidly evolving situation and information will be updated as it becomes available.” (dated 20 March 2020)

I would advise you to keep checking the WSAVA website for updates.

It is also important not to confuse Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 with the highly infectious feline coronavirus (FCoV) which causes infectious peritonitis in cats. However it might be worth noting the reported results of a comparison test of cat-litters: Dust-free, Fullers earth based, clumping litters were found to greatly reduce the transmission of the FCoV virus between cats in multiple cat households. Sawdust based litters were least effective at reducing transmission.

So, Things For You To Do..

While you are still well you should provide your cat sitter with the food or at least a list of the foods your cat usually eats. Make out a list of instructions that you consider important. Provide health, medicinal & veterinary details. Note where things can be found in the house. Explain the confinement situation of your pet(s). Be honest about any faults in the house – these are booby-traps to your cat sitter: a door knob which is not secure, a tap which leaks etc. Be sure to leave next of kin contact details so that they can get updates on your condition and report on your cat(s).. And finally, tell your cat sitter what, in the event of your death, your preference is for the future of your cat.

The general advice regarding cat sitting during the coronavirus pandemic is that you should if at all possible keep your cat in the house throughout the pandemic period.

Should you feel yourself falling ill and before your illness gets worse, certainly try to ensure that your cat is kept indoors. Contact your next of kin and contact your key holder/cat sitter. Your cat sitter should then regularly phone/text you to check on your condition, (so keep your phone charged!)

Put down enough cat food to last 24 hours.

If you can manage this next bit and can do it without letting the cat back out, try to ventilate the house. Then close off as many rooms as you can. Especially your bedroom if that is where you have been spending most of your time.

By doing this you are protecting your cat sitter.

Your cat sitter must begin their job only when they know you have been admitted to hospital. It is vitally important that the message: “I am in hospital” gets to them. This is because it is extremely unsafe for your cat sitter to walk into your house while you are still inside. So keep them informed about what is happening.

Advice To The Cat Sitter..

Cat sitting during the Coronavirus pandemic presents new and difficult challenges. Did I say that already?

I am assuming you don’t need to be instructed about how to look after a cat under normal circumstances. So let’s directly address the additional measures you need to take to protect yourself with regard to a Covid-19 house and its animals.

The first thing you must do is wait. Wait for as long as you can before going into the property. It can take 3 hours for aerosol virus to fall out of the air in an enclosed environment. If you can put your first visit back 24 hours then that will not only remove the aerosol risk but the extended time lag will also reduce the total amount of active virus lying around on surfaces.

The volume of SARS-CoV-2 particles on a smooth plastic surface reduces by half every 7 hours (this is its ‘half-life’). So after 14 hours the ‘viral load’ on the surface will be one quarter of what it was when the patient went into hospital. (See: Surface Half-Life)

Should you become infected, the lighter the ‘viral load’ in your body the better are your chances of experiencing mild, non-life-threatening symptoms of the Covid disease.

Visiting A Covid-19 House

I am not going to advise on disinfection materials. We should all by now have learnt enough about 60% alcohol based sanitisers, anti-viral wipes/cleaners and detergents.

So..

Identify an area, preferably on a hard surface or floor just inside the front door of the Covid-19 house that you are visiting. Try to make it somewhere that the cat(s) can’t or aren’t likely to access. Disinfect that area. That is now your ‘clean area’ for this visit. It is somewhere to put down things that you have brought into the house.

If the cat(s) are able to access the ‘clean area’ during your absence, this area will need to be disinfected each time you make a visit.

Be highly vigilant about what you are coming into contact with. Assume that every door knob, drawer handle, tap, wash bowl and every surface is infectious and must be disinfected before you touch it. Your hands (or your gloved hands), need disinfecting after each bout of cleaning.

For the first few days you should keep your visits to the Covid-19 house as brief as possible.

Prepare food in a bowl before you enter the property. Leave any old food bowls in place. Don’t wash them. You can worry about cleaning them once 3 days have passed. Likewise, If it looks like you can get away with not emptying the litter tray – then leave it for now. You could even bring a pre-prepared fresh tray with you. At this early stage you should also consider not refreshing any water bowls but just top them up with some bottled water you have brought with you.

As much as you might be tempted to, you should not interact with the cat(s) especially at this early stage. If the cat(s) have lain on an infected surface just prior to your arrival the virus could have transferred to their coat(s). Whilst it is unlikely that you can contract it from there, the precautionary measure is that the virus remains viable for 72 hours.

Having said that, you may have to handle an animal if you need to administer any medicines. The pet owner should have directed you on how they would normally do this. Nevertheless an animal may become distressed during the procedure and you may need to restrain them using a towel to wrap down their forpaws. I would wear a mask and eye protection and because there is some small but unproven risk that cats can shed the virus, I would continue to wear this ppe each time I administered the medication.

Please also note that you cannot contract Covid-19 directly into the bloodstream. So do not panic if a cat scratches you. Just treat the wound as you would normally.

On leaving the property, decide what cleaning equipment (etc.), you want to leave behind in the ‘clean area’. Disinfect everything else that you are taking with you – including house keys, car keys..

If you are getting into a car assume the car is clean and that you are now the dirty thing carrying virus into the car. You need a clean area on which to put the newly cleaned things – the passenger seat?

Getting out of the car: assume that everything you have touched is now dirty – steering wheel, handbrake, gear knob, door handles seat and headrest. These can be cleaned or left for the virus to degrade via its surface half-life.

For professional pet-sitters.. here’s the rub. You cannot now just carry on with your rounds. These early visits to a confirmed Covid-19 house must be made separately from any other pet visits or dog walks. You will need to go home and decontaminate.

When you get home you will need to remove all of your top clothing – consider it as infected. It will need to be washed. And before you do anything else you will need to shower. (A point about showering: Assume that your hair is carrying virus. So you want to thoroughly shampoo it without letting water run down your face. Once you have done that, you can continue to shower normally.)

I believe this is enough information to get you through the first 3 days of cat sitting in a covid-19 house – although I am about to make some reference to PPE below.

After 72 hours (3 days), the understanding is that any surface virus will have degraded and you should be able to relax your procedures to some degree. My personal view on this is that the jury seems to be out regarding the possibility of cats contracting and transmitting SARS-CoV-2. And I personally will continue to observe cautionary measures beyond 72 hours. On precautionary principle, I certainly will not be allowing a cat to lick me unless and until more definitive evidence reports that cats are not carriers and transmitters of the virus.

Cat sitting equipment during the coronavirus pandemic
Useful PPE for the Cat Sitter
Personal Protective Equipment – PPE

Once again I am going to speak personally about this – you can take from it what you will.

In a normal day I travel from house to house walking dogs, feeding cats, ferrets, chickens. I clean out terrapin aquariums, rabbit hutches and so on – you get the picture?

Careful hygiene and sanitising between visits is just normal practice. Cat sitting during the Coronavirus pandemic has added an edge to my normal procedures.

Below is a list of what I am now carrying with me in my car for use and wear as seems necessary. Please be aware that there are procedures for the donning and doffing of some PPE. Please research this for yourself if you intend to use it. Here by way of example, is a link to instructions on how to correctly handle, put on and take off a facemask.

Commercial hand sanitiser

Pure isopropyl alcohol spray

W.H.O. recipe hand rub which I use either neat for cleaning my hands and with kitchen roll for cleaning various items that I need to handle:
((Recipe: • Isopropyl alcohol 99.8%: 7515 ml • Hydrogen peroxide 3%: 417 ml • Glycerol 98%: 145 ml) (For the sake of my skin I have replaced half of the Glycerol with Aloe Vera gel.))

Anti-viral wipes

Kitchen towels

Nappy bags/poop bags

Large & small bin bags

Single use vinyl gloves

Disposable overshoes

Eye protection

Washable reusable facemask

Updates

I will update this article on cat sitting during the Coronavirus pandemic as and when new data becomes available. If you find anything that you could add or which you believe to be incorrect in the article please don’t hesitate to contact me.

22 April 2020: CDC Confirmation of COVID-19 in Two Pet Cats in New York

For more information on professional cat sitting from Paws Indoors click here

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Coronavirus dog walking
Matilda and Bilbo from the same household – Walking dogs during coronavirus
Dog Walking During Coronavirus

It is safe to let your professional one-to-one dog walker take your dog out for you if you are a key worker at work, self-isolating or shielding from coronavirus. There is no evidence that dogs can carry Covid-19, however dog fur could carry the virus from one person to another, so the advice is that you wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling a pet, and you should expect your dog walker to do the same. You and your dog walker should also disinfect harnesses, collars and leads before and after each walk.

If you are at the property when the dog walker arrives, ideally you should hand over your dog to the dog walker outside of the house. Make arrangements by text to do this when your dog walker arrives.

Handing over indoors

If it is not possible to make the handover outside, please place yourself in another room while your dog walker prepares your dog for the walk. And preferably vacate any room that the dog walker needs access to some time before the walker arrives to allow any aerosol virus breathed out by yourself to settle out of the atmosphere of the room. The same applies when the dog walker returns your dog after their walk.

Your dog walker should hand sanitise on arrival, at the front door on arrival and on leaving. They should touch as few surfaces as possible and remain in the property for as short a time as possible. You should note which surfaces your dog walker may have touched – door handles, baby gates and you should sanitise these once the dog walker has left

Stay Safe..

Please note that this advice applies ONLY to one-to-one dog walking during coronavirus. It is not clear yet whether group dog walking has been advised as safe.

Your dog walker should be carrying hand sanitisers and anti-viral wipes for use in their vehicle between visits.

Please keep in close contact with your dog walker and inform them of any changes in your health. Your dog walker will also keep you informed of the same. Let’s keep each other safe during these disturbing times.

More information about dog walking during coronavirus is available from The Blue Cross.

I will update this article should any new advice come from government.

Find out more about PAWS INDOORS ONE-TO-ONE DOG WALKING here: https://ukpets.co.uk/pet-sitting/dog-walking/

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The changing DNA history of dogs
Where did YOU come from?

In researching the DNA history of dogs it should be noted that any study of a specific ‘pure breed’ or pedigree is complicated by the fact that its historic lineage is characterised by periods of crossbred admixture followed by strict, closed-book breeding.

Expansion of genetic diversity occurs when heritable sequences of DNA, (genes), are mixed across breeds. For most of their long history it has been left to dogs themselves to do this mixing. A dog’s genome is its complete set of DNA including all of its genes. Results from many studies of canine genomes across various breeds show a large number of shared genomic regions associated with the collection of traits that make up a ‘dog’ – any dog, (Serpell J. 2017). The widely varying and complex morphologies seen in dogs, (their size, propoprtions etc.) however, are caused by a comparatively small number of their genes.

Parker DNA Comparison Report 2017

Research published in 2017, the largest genetic analysis at the time, compared DNA samples from 161 breeds from around the world, (representing a little under half of all dog breeds). The study was able to divide dogs into 23 genetically defined clades. These genetic clades coincide with particular dog traits: dogs built for strength fell into one clade, herders into another and so on. It was possible to create a DNA based bootstrapped cladogram showing canine common ancestries, (Parker H. G. et al. 2017).

The 2017 DNA comparison study confirms a two step process in the development of modern breeds. Early breeders bred for specific purposes. Then, in the nineteenth century those larger groups were divided into our modern breeds.

One remarkable result from his study of the DNA history of dogs finds the DNA of a pug appearing in many of the small and toy European breeds. Parker suggests that this was the result of a pug-type dog arriving in Europe from China in the 1500s.

The cladogram shows some breeds with ancient lineages and, so far (the study is ongoing), little or no DNA mixing. Examples are some of the Nordic breeds: Elkhound, Samoyed and Finnish Spitz. The Basenji and Tibetan Terrier are also shown by the study to be quite strongly ancient or ‘pure bred’.

References

Parker H. G. et al. [25 April] 2017, Science, Elizabeth Pennisi, Where did your dog come from? New tree of breeds may hold the answer (link checked Mar 2019)
https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/04/where-did-your-dog-come-new-tree-breeds-may-hold-answer

Serpell J. 2017, The Domestic Dog, vonHoldt B. M. & Driscoll C. A., 3.8

For positive training and handling methods and one-on-one dog-walking visit: https://ukpets.co.uk/pet-sitting/dog-walking/.

ukpets.co.uk

How the Dog Became a Pet

From Wolf.. to Toby

Evolution of Man and Dog

Enlightened evolutionary thinking puts behaviour as the driving force that changes the relationship of a species with its environment. What then follows is an evolutionary adaptation of anatomy to conform to this relationship. To be clear then: it is an animal’s ability to change its behaviour that determines whether or not it lives or dies in an ever changing world. So, have you ever wondered how the dog became a pet?

Anatomically modern humans, Homo Sapiens, began speciation from other archaic forms, in Africa around 300,000 years ago. (Schlebusch et al 2017). From that era forward, slowly at first, we began the migration that would eventually see us colonise almost every part of the globe. However, we were not the first on the move and it is likely that we met, mated with and eventually supplanted earlier forms of hominin along the way.

First Canids

The first canids probably evolved around 6 million years ago from the ‘borophagine’, a large, scavenging, hyena-like mammal. These first evolved canids were lighter on their feet and more intelligent than their borophagine ancestors and out-competed them to extinction. Early successful canids then spread around the world and split into many types. One such type gave rise to wolves and jackals, (Bradshaw J. 2011).

Evidence of the emergence of the Gray wolf, first appears about 500,000 to 300,000 years ago, (Sotnikova M. 2010). There is evidence of bones of wolves associated with archaeological sites dating back as far as 400,000 years, (Boxgrove, Kent, England). Importantly, it is thought likely that the hunting grounds of species of early wolf and archaic hominin overlapped. At this stage however, there is no evidence of social interaction between the two, (Serpell J. 2017).

Early ‘Flight’ Response

Observers of modern wild wolves report on their highly atuned flight response. Flight response can be broken into two distinct parts followed by a third ‘corrective’ action. Firstly, wolves are innately very nervous in the presence of humans, unable to tolerate much human proximity before the flight response takes over and they run off. Secondly they are likely to continue their flight much farther than is necessary for their own safety. Finally, once the perceived human threat has moved on, wolves are slow to return to the location where the encounter took place. (Coppinger R. & Coppinger L. 2001).

As early migrating humans learned how to work together to bring down larger prey, despite being nomadic they would naturally have settled periodically in good hunting grounds to exploit them before moving on. In such scenarios they would likely be competing for prey similar to that of their wolf counterparts. It is a mistake to think that wolves are genetically bound to coalesce in packs. In adverse conditions, maybe a lack of large prey caused by human over-hunting (?), a wolf pack might disperse in favour of hunting individually for smaller animals.

Camp Followers

Under such adverse conditions the ‘leavings’ of a recently moved on human encampment may have offered our paleolithic wolf a foothold in its struggle between life and death. If this was the case and some wolves took up this option, they created a mortality differential between themselves and those who stayed away from the camps. An engaging example of differential mortalities can be seen in the Coppingers’ studies of village dogs, (Coppinger R. & Coppinger L. 2001). Wolves, like dogs, are remarkably cooperative and sophisticatedly exploitative of niche opportunities when they arise, (Budiansky S. 2000). Here then is a hint that the behaviours of an ancient wolf population are beginning to diversify.

Now we must speculate on the possible evolutionary path from wolf to dog. Despite, or more probably ‘because of’ the vast and growing volume of data from archaeological, archaeozoological, ethnological, genetic, chromosomal and mitochondrial studies, we do not have a definitive answer as to when or how the divergence occurred.

Population bottlenecks, extinction events, interbreeding, introgressions, admixtures, evolutionary cul-de-sacs and migrations combine to serve us with a most confusing map. It is difficult to know whose theories to follow.

An Analogy

So instead, try to picture this: A twig falls from the branch of a tree at the source of the Amazon River, this is the old gray wolf with its 78 chromosomes, (39 pairs), as it begins to latch onto the new niche opportunity presented by migrating hominims, say 100,000 years ago, (give or take a pinch of salt). Now somehow, without getting trapped against a rock or snagged in weed, our twig makes its way down one of the longest rivers in the world. Following the path of least resistance, it negotiates the sprawling options of the Amazon River Delta until it finally arrives, bashed about a bit, at the Atlantic – the Epipaleolithic era – but now in its new form it is a village dog with its lazy ways and its own brand new set of 78 chromosomes. (See illustration: Bradshaw J. 2011, p27.)

Maybe the twig broke in two and only part of it made it to the delta [some evidence points to an extinction of the original gray wolf haplotype, (haplotype: gene variant group)], which gave rise to our early divergent camp followers, (Wikipedia 2019). We might speculate that the wolves who exploited this niche opportunity – by scavenging from newly deserted human camps, clung onto life while, in a demonstration of evolutionary differential mortality, their erstwhile family members failed to thrive and died out.

Wolves Are Bright..

Wolves are much quicker learners than dogs. Indeed, to survive under difficult evolutionary pressures, they need to be on the ball and they are adaptive in both an evolutionary and developmental sense. Behaviour is a synergy of genetic nature and environment – this has been characterised as: ‘nature multiplied by nurture’, (Coppinger R. & Coppinger L. 2001). Wolves that survive and even thrive sufficiently successfully to rear offspring will teach their learned survival skills to the next generation. So it would have been with our speculative camp followers. And as humans multiplied and formed larger groups so too did the opportunities for wolves to express their newly acquired commensal niche behaviours.

But it takes a long time..

..for a twig to travel the Amazon – and things changed slowly in the olden days..

Over millennia natural variations in these divergent wolf populations selected for animals whose flight response to humans was lessened. A less intense flight response used up fewer calories and allowed earlier access to and therefore more time at the dumps of these migrant human encampments, (Coppinger R. & Coppinger L. 2001). Now we have an evolutionary selection path for wolves living in closer proximity to humans.

As I indicated in the first paragraph: Once selective behavioural changes have adapted an animal to its new environment, selective anatomical changes will surely follow. In their new niche as scavengers, smaller, less nervous specimens who expend less energy become naturally selected for because they now have a survival advantage over their bigger, cleverer, calory-expensive, large-prey hunting cousins. So here we begin to observe the changing morphology of wolf into proto or incipient dog.

This smaller species, ever increasingly isolated from its ancestral cousin loses not only its heightened fear of humans but also much of its instinct to hunt. (Indeed, a strong instinct to hunt would cause it a severe disadvantage at the dump of a human encampment, (Semyonova A. 2009). Without the need to hunt there is little point in retaining an expensive, large intelligent brain and their cranial length became shortened. Teeth became crowded into smaller, less powerful jaws, (Serpell J. 2017).

DNA & Fossil Evidence

At some point after 45,000 years ago the DNA picture becomes somewhat clearer again. Now that their progenitor direct ancestor is long extinct, proto-dogs form a sister wolf-like clade, divergent from the Gray wolf, (Serpell J. 2017).

Another 20,000 years or so pass before incipient domestication. This is indicated by evidence of modern village-dog-like featured remains at excavated cave sites dated at around 26,000 to 20,000 years ago, i.e. before the Last Glacial Maximum, (Serpell J. 2017).

By the time of the lower Natufian, an Epipaleolithic culture in the Levant, with the discovery at Ain Mallaha c.12,000 years ago, fossil evidence makes it obvious that dogs have now fully inveigled themselves within human society. The Natufian is important because it describes the transition from a nomadic way of life for humankind to the first known agricultural settlements, (Davis S. 1978). Note: Coppinger later puts the date of these settlements at 15,000 years ago, (Coppinger R. & Coppinger L. 2001).

Village Dogs

The Coppingers’ descriptions of village dogs in modern, (pseudo-Mesolithic) settings, are animals all of a small stature, unafraid although somewhat wary of human contact, who scavenge and beg for what they can get, (cleaning up the village waste). They paint a picture something like that which the Natufians experienced. When at one point, during their travels to study village dogs of the world, the Coppingers suggest to a local on the island of Pemba that he might pat the nearby village dog, they realise with a shock that what they were asking was almost akin to suggesting to a Londoner in Trafalgar Square that they pat the head of a pigeon! (Not quite how the dog became a pet!)

This might well have been the end of the story of the possible evolutionary route to domestication of the dog. However, there’s just one more modern yet ancient twist to the story. I want to roll back a bit to the nomadic hunter-gatherers we talked about earlier. To do that, I am going to send us once again, to the Amazon Basin.

Migration

Following one human migratory route, it is thought that proto-dogs probably followed Paleoindians into temperate North America. From there they migrated into South America. However, there is little remaining archaeozoological evidence of their geographic distribution in the Lowland Neotropics because of the notoriously poor preservation of bones in Neotropical rainforest settings. (Koster J. 2009). It is likely however that post Columbian (1492 onwards), dogs imported from Europe interbred accidentally or by design with these earlier American canis populations, leaving no clear ancestral lineage, (Serpell J. 2017).

And here, in our modern-day world we have it: Among the recently contacted semi-nomadic, indiginous Amazonian Awá-Guajá hunter-gatherer people, we come across not village dogs, lazily scavenging for what we throw away but tribally domesticated animals who play a key part in the various hunting methods of their human companions. Dogs here are crucial to hunting success and thus the survival of the tribe. In terms of return rates (kg hunted/time spent), the use of hunting dogs in combination with firearms yields by far the best results for the hunter-gatherer Awá, (Forline L. C. et al 2012).

Bradshaw’s Alternative

Bradshaw, (Bradshaw J. 2011), postulates, using as an example the same Awá-Guajá people, that early hunter-gatherers may also have kept pets for pleasure and status. (Awá-Guajá women adopt the young offspring of monkeys killed during hunting expeditions.) He suggests that some prehistoric wolves may have been much less wary of humans than their more recent persecuted descendants. As such, their litters were more available to humans for adoption as pets. It is from these early adoptions he suggests, that possible domestication progressed.

I find this Bradshaw view less convincing than the arguments of Coppinger and others, not least because taming and then breeding for tameness is a concept that our early ancestors were unlikely to have understood. And unfortunately, Bradshaw uses the Dimitri Belayaev fox taming experiment to back up his argument, (Belayaev D.). However, this does not alter the fact that some ancestors to our modern dogs were predisposed to living in ever increasing proximity to humans.

So Finally..

Through thick and thin across millennia, dogs chose us. Now you know how the dog became a pet: They followed on behind, clearing up our mess. They garnered the courage to scavenge and live with us in ever closer, commensal proximity. They domesticated themselves. Finally, we learned that we could exploit their trust and engage them in a symbiotic relationship, working together to assist each other in our struggles to survive the ruthless vagaries of nature.

References for article: How the Dog Became a Pet

Belayaev D. video 2013, Fox taming experiment, with Coppinger R: narration (link checked Mar 2019)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0jFGNQScRNY

Bradshaw J. 2011, In Defence of Dogs, Where Dogs Came From, How Wolves Became Dogs

Budiansky S. 2000, The Truth About Dogs, Introduction

Coppinger R. & Coppinger L. 2001, Dogs, Natural Breeds, Introduction, Wolves Evolve into Dogs, Village Dogs

Davis S. [7 December] 1978, Nature, Evidence for domestication of the dog 12,000 years ago in the Natufian of Israel (link checked Feb 2019)
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/232793024_Evidence_for_domestication_of_the_dog_12000_years_ago_in_the_Natufian_of_Israel

Forline L. C. et al 2012, Hunting practices among the Awá-Guajá: towards a long-term analysis of sustainability in an Amazonian indigenous community (link checked Feb 2019)
http://www.scielo.br/pdf/bgoeldi/v7n2/v7n2a10

Koster J. 2009, Hunting Dogs in the Lowland Neotropics (link checked Feb 2019)
http://webcentral.uc.edu/eProf/media/attachment/eprofmediafile_837.pdf

Schlebusch et al. [28 September] 2017, Science, Southern African ancient genomes estimate modern human divergence to 350,000 to 260,000 years ago (link checked Feb 2019)
http://science.sciencemag.org/content/358/6363/652

Semyonova A. 2009, The 100 Silliest Things People Say About Dogs, Myth 5

Serpell J. 2017, The Domestic Dog, Clutton-Brock J., 2.5, 2.3, 2.2

Serpell J. 2017, The Domestic Dog, vonHoldt B. M. & Driscoll C. A., 3.3, 3.6

Sotnikova M. [1 February] 2010, Quaternary International, Dispersal of the Canini (Mammalia, Canidae: Caninae) across Eurasia during the Late Miocene to Early Pleistocene (link checked Feb 2019)
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1040618209001712

Wikipedia 2019, Origin of the Domestic Dog (link checked Feb 2019)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Origin_of_the_domestic_dog

Further Reading: Wolf VS Dog: The Forgotten History Of Your Best Friend’s Domestication & Evolution

Finally, now that you know how the dog became a pet – or rather how your dog became your pet: for positive training and handling methods and one-on-one dog-walking visit: https://ukpets.co.uk/pet-sitting/dog-walking/.

ukpets.co.uk

AAL Regulations and Matilda on Paws Indoors dog walk

What you need to know about Holiday Home Boarding..

New AAL Regulations – The Licence

When you fly off on holiday this year what arrangements have you made for the care of your dog? Are you considering placing them in a professional home boarding setting? If so, you should be aware that the Government is bringing in new and stringent animal boarding legislation (AAL Regulations), which is likely to affect your plans.

Animal Activities Licensing: AAL Regulations, officially the: “Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018”, come into effect on 1st October 2018. By that date providers of home, (domestic) boarding services will need to comply with detailed requirements of new regulations in order to apply for a Local Authority licence to continue offering their services.

The new AAL regulations will affect businesses involved in dog and cat boarding (kennels, daycare, home boarding etc). Actually, the aim is to introduce one ‘animal activities’ licence which will cover four areas of animal activities; dog breeding, dog & cat boarding, selling pets and hiring out horses for riding.

A Local Authority inspector must inspect any premises subject to AAL Regulations before a license is granted. A copy of the licence must be clearly and prominently displayed on any premises in which the licensable activity is carried on. The name of the licence holder followed by the number of the licence holder’s licence must also be clearly and prominently displayed on any website used in respect of the licensable activity.

Home Boarding For Dogs

Under the new AAL Regulations specifically for home boarders of dogs, service providers need to look closely at their set-up to ensure they are compliant:

Firstly under the description of ‘home boarding’ dogs must be accommodated within the home. Any outdoor accommodation comes under a separate subsection of the regulation and is governed by rules for kennelling.

The home must include direct access to a private, non-communal, secure and hazard-free external area, and at least two secure physical barriers between any dog and any entrance to or exit from it.

Dogs from different households may only be boarded at the same time with the written consent of every owner and each dog must be provided with its own designated room where it can, if necessary, be kept separate from other dogs.

Each dog must have a clean, comfortable and warm area within its own designated room where it can rest and sleep and each designated room must have a secure window to the outside that can be opened and closed as necessary.

Crating

A dog must not be confined in a crate for longer than three hours in any 24-hour period and in any case must not be kept in a crate unless:

(a)it is already habituated to it,

(b)a crate forms part of the normal routine for the dog, and

(c)the dog’s owner has consented to the use of a crate.

Any crate in which a dog is kept must be in good condition and sufficiently large for the dog to sit and stand in it at full height, lie flat and turn around.

Welfare

Each dog must be fed separately in its designated room unless its owner has given written consent to the contrary.

Before a dog is admitted for boarding, all equipment to be used by or in relation to that dog must be cleaned and disinfected. Any equipment that a dog is likely to be in contact with and any toy provided must not pose a risk of pain, suffering, disease or distress to the dog and must be correctly used.

Every dog must be exercised at least once daily as appropriate for its age and health. Any which on the advice of a veterinarian cannot be exercised must be provided with alternative forms of mental stimulation.

Written consent must be obtained from all owners (as the case may be) to keep dogs together in a designated room.

Keeping Records

A register must be kept of all the dogs accommodated in the home which must include the following:

(a)the dates of each dog’s arrival and departure;

(b)each dog’s name, age, sex, neuter status, microchip number and a description of it or its breed;

(c)the number of any dogs from the same household;

(d)a record of which dogs (if any) are from the same household;

(e)the name, postal address, telephone number (if any) and email address (if any) of the owner of each dog and emergency contact details;

(f)in relation to each dog, the name, postal address, telephone number and email address of a local contact in an emergency;

(g)the name and contact details of each dog’s normal veterinarian and details of any insurance relating to the dog;

(h)details of each dog’s relevant medical and behavioural history, including details of any treatment administered against parasites and restrictions on exercise;

(i)details of each dog’s diet and related requirements;

(j)any required consent forms;

(k)a record of the date or dates of each dog’s most recent vaccination, worming and flea treatments;

(l)details of any medical treatment each dog is receiving.

When outside the premises, each dog must wear an identity tag which includes the licence holder’s name and contact details.

Finally..

If you find a home boarding provider who can demonstrate that they comply with all of the above even before the new AAL Regulations come into force in October, you are probably leaving your dog in good hands. You should also check that they are currently licensed under the existing Local Authority scheme and are properly insured by a specialist pet business insurance.

Paws Indoors does not provide home boarding services but in certain circumstances we will consider overnight house-sitting alongside our dog walking offer. If you think this would work for you please get in touch.

ukpets.co.uk

Matilda

Don’t lose that sparkle..

I have been following the arguments and writing about electronic shock collars since the Kennel Club, KC first campaigned to ban them. This was at the turn of the century. I also remember reporting on the formation of the Electronic Collar Manufacturers Association, ECMA (in 2004). This dubious bunch got together to defend their products against a general public outcry.

Eighteen years on and my country still allows their sale and use. Maybe now, after many false starts and following the Scottish Government’s announcement on 24 January that it would be instituting a “prompt and effective” ban, we may be about to see that implemented UK-wide.

Finally, A UK Wide Ban?

Last Friday two Scottish National Party, SNP MPs Tommy Sheppard and Deirdre Brock, joined SNP MSP campaigner Ben Macpherson to launch a Westminster public petition demanding that the UK Government ban the sale of shock collars and other harmful electronic training aids for dogs.

It’s time for England to join its Scottish and Welsh neighbours in their condemnation of these barbaric dog training methods. (The Welsh Government banned the use of shock collars way back in March 2010.)

What we need now is a UK-wide ban on their sale.

BVA Reacts To Sottish Ban

The British Veterinary Association, BVA welcomed the Scottish Government’s decision to ban the use of electric shock collars and other electronic training devices.

Melissa Donald, BVA Scottish Branch President, said:

“This is a real win for animal welfare. Electronic training devices have a negative, painful effect on dogs and, as the Scottish Government has now recognised, can cause unnecessary suffering.”

The BVA continues to push for a ban on the sale and import of electronic shock collars across the UK.

John Fishwick, BVA President:

“With effective bans on the use of these devices in Wales and Scotland, we want to see action taken in England and Northern Ireland, including a UK-wide ban on their sale and import.”

For positive training and handling methods and one-on-one dog-walking visit: https://ukpets.co.uk/pet-sitting/dog-walking/.

ukpets.co.uk

Skype at Christmas

Delivering a treat-free Christmas to ‘Skype’ the lop.

A pet hate for this pet sitter at Christmas are pet treats that clients leave to be unwrapped for their animals on Christmas Day. It is often the case that these festive pet treats contain ingredients that pets have not been served at any other time of the year. So I always advise clients to only give pet treats that their animals have had before or, preferably, not give them at all.

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) , has published a report on the hazards our pets face at Christmas. It says that 81% of vets across the UK saw at least one case of toxic ingestion in pets during the 2016 festive period.

Chocolate poisoning remains the most common cause of toxic ingestion at Christmas for dogs, with 74% of vets seeing at least one case, according to BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey. There has also been a spike in raisin or sultana poisoning over the past two years, with 54% vets reporting treating a case during last year’s festive season.

Many cats also suffered toxic ingestion last Christmas, with a quarter of vets treating cats for antifreeze poisoning. Festive decorations, gift wrapping and seasonal plants like lilies and poinsettias are other common reasons for pets landing up at the vet’s:

“Presents, treats and decorations can often prove dangerous for our pets if we are not careful. Many pet owners are aware of the risks of chocolate or other festive foods being toxic for their pets but, as our survey shows, it’s easy to be caught out by a kind gift left under the tree or a treat left out on the table, which curious animals can find hard to resist. Our advice is for givers to tell, and owners to ask, if there is anything edible in gifts and to keep such presents safely out of reach of your pet. If you suspect your pet may have eaten something they shouldn’t, then don’t delay in contacting your local vet.”

 

Keep Your Pets Safe This Christmas

To keep Christmas merry for the whole household, BVA is urging animal lovers to ensure their home is safe for our pets by following these five simple tips:

  1. Protect your pet from poisons – a number of festive treats and traditions, such as chocolate, raisins, xylitol (found in sugar free treats), nuts, grapes, liquorice, poinsettia, holly and mistletoe are toxic to cats and dogs.
  2. Keep decorations out of reach – ribbons, wrapping paper, baubles, tinsel and tree lights can all prove irresistible to cats and dogs but can be very dangerous if broken, chewed or swallowed. Batteries for Christmas gifts also need to be kept safe as, if ingested, they may cause severe chemical burns to the mouth, throat and stomach.
  3. Forget festive food for pets – we all enjoy a richer diet over Christmas, but fatty foods and Christmas dinners shouldn’t be shared. They can trigger, sickness and diarrhoea or other conditions from gastroenteritis to pancreatitis, so try to stick to your pet’s regular diet and routine. Bones including turkey bones should not be given to pets as they can splinter and puncture the digestive tract.
  4. Give toys not treats – we all want our pets to share the fun and many of us include a gift for our pet on the shopping list. But too many treats can lead to fat pets which can have serious consequences for their health, so consider opting for a new toy, or a long walk if you want to indulge your pet this Christmas.
  5. Know where to go – even with all the care in the world, animal accidents and emergencies can still happen. Make sure you’re prepared by checking your vet’s emergency cover provision and holiday opening hours.

 

ukpets.co.uk

Christmas Pet Sitting

We don’t spend Christmas in front of the TV

This Christmas (2017) will be the 26th Christmas Day in succession on which we have provided full-service Christmas pet sitting cover. It is by tradition the busiest day of our pet sitting year. For us, the advent to Christmas is as hectic as it is for anyone else. The traffic is snarled and steaming under the street lamps. Everything is last minute. Everyone is in a queue. And we join them but we aren’t queuing for the shops. We don’t need to buy anything. Instead, we are scurrying about the city picking up keys and taking late bookings from desperate pet owners. Just doing our best to keep on top of it all.

Pet Sitting on Christmas Day

Then with an early start, the busiest day is upon us. We fill our key-chains, gather up piles of Instruction Sheets and set off. And it is silent. The roads are empty. No one is going to work, no one is shopping, we have the city to ourselves. And so we go from house to house (discreetly – because we never advertise on our vehicles), quietly looking after our charges, reading your little Christmas notes and just enjoying the peace of Christmas Day.

By the evening, with only a few calls left to make, the taxis are out, the roads are a little busier – you need to keep an eye out for drivers who have had one too many. And then it’s done. Go home, prep down. Prep up for Boxing Day and pour out a big glass of wine. That’s Christmas, the same every year and, since the children have long left home – not even a tree.

If that all sounds rather bleak to you I am not about to help matters when I tell you that this busy winter workload continues until around the third of January. Only when the schools go back can we relax for a short time before the skiing season starts up.

Makers’ Day

Now, this will be news to you no doubt but the first Saturday after the schools’ Spring term begins is known as Makers’ Day. This is a celebration for those who have worked over the festive holidays to make Christmas happen. It’s non-religious, but in every other way it is the full ‘Christmas’ works, all of the presents and a banquet with family and friends gathered round. As a rule, I will book the day off – no pet sitting at all for me on that day.

Preparations for Makers’ Day don’t need to begin until the New Year. The pre-Christmas queues are now queues for the returned goods counter. Conversely, celebrators of Makers’ Day are now shopping in earnest. We have about a week to get ready. UPS isn’t run off its feet so online orders arrive in good time. No one is fighting us for the shelves – newly stocked with this season’s offer, (and still quite a lot of stuff in the sales).

The conversion, some years ago, from Christmas Day to Makers’ Day was a painful one. The pressure to conform to the de facto commercial version of a celebration is enormous, almost irresistible. But once made, it afforded (my family at least), a wonderful sense of release. And so this year, and I hope for many years to come, I will be one of those who helps to make your Christmas happen. But once the Christmas pet sitting is done – boy will I be looking forward to Makers’ Day!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

ukpets.co.uk