Today, thanks to social isolation and YouTube, I watched a video of Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world, performing a warm-up routine. A trainer took each of his legs and put the hip and knee joints into flexion for about 1 second. Then Usain Bolt did some dynamic stretching, including normal running and running with high knees for short distances, and some sudden accelerations from a stopped position. A little walking around, and he was ready to go! In the comments section were many submissions like “I thought we weren’t supposed to stretch!” and “But he’s only stretching for a few seconds!” and so on.
Did you know that your dog has something in common with vampire bats, pit vipers and black fire beetles? What could that possibly be?
It all started when some scientists from Sweden and Hungary went into a bar….
Well, that might not be exactly true. I’m not sure where they were when they got together and asked the question, “Why is a dog’s nose moist and cold, when most other mammals’ noses are warm and dry?” No doubt this is a question that has also kept you awake many a night…
At first they considered that the canine cold wet nose might help with cooling in hot weather. But they discarded that idea because the surface area of the nose is just too small to make much of a difference.
Have you ever parked outside a restaurant or concert, had an exciting few hours, and then walked outside to realize you have no idea where you left your car? Why can we easily recall our childhood street address but forget something we knew just a short time earlier?
Just like us, dogs have short-term and long-term memory. Short-term memory helps us remember where we parked, or where to go next on an agility course. It helps your dog remember where he put the bully stick he was enjoying before he had to leap up and bark at the door when the doorbell rang.
When we train our dogs, we want what they learn to persist much longer than a few hours. To accomplish this, those lessons need to be placed in long-term memory. Numerous studies have shown that reward-based training is the most effective way for dogs to learn. Dogs trained with positive reinforcement and without aversives are less stressed, which permits optimal learning. (Have you ever tried to memorize some facts with your boss or teacher staring at you as opposed to in the comfortable solace of your bedroom?) However, training methods aside, a recent study examined what kinds of post-training activities will help your dog send those newly learned lessons into long term storage. To find out more, check this out.
Well that’s one wish that you can make come true! You can easily increase your dog’s life span by up to 2 years and it won’t cost you a thing. In fact, it will save you money! Too good to be true?
In 2019, a group of scientists published a study that looked at the lifespans of over 50,000 dogs of 12 different breeds living in North America (1). That’s a LOT of dogs! They asked a very simple question. What is the expected lifespan of dogs that are overweight when they visit a veterinary hospital in middle age (between 6 ½ and 8 ½ years) as compared to dogs that are of normal weight?
Picture this: you’re riding in a car with a friend and she yawns. A few seconds later, you yawn too, even though you’re not tired or bored. Your friend yawns again and this time you decide you are going to resist yawning. But you can feel the darn yawn building in your throat until you just have to let it out! In fact, you might actually be stifling a yawn just from reading this! Congratulations – you’re human. Contagious yawning affects about 45 to 60% of healthy adult humans. It is thought to be associated with our capacity for empathy, so pat yourself on the back if you just yawned. When people yawn contagiously, neural networks responsible for empathy and social skills are activated.(1) In addition, people who score higher on self-recognition, theory of mind, and empathy are more susceptible to yawn contagiously.(2) Further, the contagious effect of yawning is impaired in subjects suffering from empathy disorders, such as autism.(3) Well, it turns out that dogs also yawn contagiously.
Remember the first time you had to give a presentation in public? You probably wrote down what you wanted to say, then read it out loud over and over, repeating the words just as you wanted to say them in the presentation. It was really, really boring, and you were thinking, “How often do I need to do this before it will stick in my head?”
Researchers at Johns Hopkins’ Department of Rehabilitation Medicine studying how people learn made an interesting discovery (1). They found out that the old adage, “perfect practice makes perfect,” was actually not quite true. Whether it’s memorizing a presentation or learning how to do a front cross in agility, it turns out that we learn faster if we don’t practice perfectly. Let me explain…
How We Learn
When we first begin to learn something, new neuronal pathways send messages to an area of the brain where they are stored. The more those pathways continue to deliver information to the memory storage area, the more permanent the memories become.
Here’s an analogy. There is a huge parking lot on the south end of Baltimore with an elevated highway nearby. When you drive by that parking lot, you can see hundreds, if not thousands, of cars, all identical except for their different colors. These cars arrive by train and are offloaded and then parked in incredibly neat rows – row after row of the same make and model of car. As the train keeps delivering cars, the lot gradually gets full (Figure 1).
CHRIS ZINK DVM PhD DACVP DACVSMR CCRT CVSMT CVA is one of the world’s top canine sports medicine and rehabilitation veterinarians.