What Domesticating Siberian Foxes May Tell Us About Dogs

I recently watched a fascinating segment of the 2009 BBC show “The Secret Life of the Dog”. I’d never seen it, and wanted to share it here. It’s about domesticating foxes in Siberia.

The gist: Over the course of more than 40 years, scientists took normal foxes, which were aggressive toward humans, and looked for the tamest ones.

Then they bred them.

In just a few generations, the foxes — animals that would typically attack humans when threatened — had become completely tame creatures that snuggled the scientists rather than biting their hands.

What’s more, over time, the foxes started to look like…dogs.

Cute dogs.

The tame foxes even developed floppy ears, the color of their coats lightened, and their tails curled.

One theory is that the least aggressive foxes were less fierce because they had retained their juvenile traits into adulthood. And so dogs — domesticated wolves, that is — similarly display the traits of juvenile wolves.

For more, here’s an American Scientist article from 1999 on the experiment. And there’s a Wikipedia page, as well.

I also came across some domesticated fox footage on Youtube taken by someone who appears to own a couple of the creatures. The video becomes extra-remarkable at 1:14:

And finally, in case you’re wondering: It appears that you can purchase your own domesticated Russian fox. (The Cost: $8,900.)

(UPDATE: This post originally contained a link to and embedded clip of the show on YouTube. It’s no longer available there, so I’ve removed them.)

Here’s a Completely Gratuitous Photo of Our Dog Ashley

File under: Just because.

Here’s a recent photo, supplied by our friend P, of our beloved adopted street dog, Ashley, previously discussed here and here.

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Ashley turns five in August, so she’s technically a middle-aged pooch. But, as you may be able to tell in this image, she still has a youthful face and many puppy-like traits.

Normal programming will resume shortly.

Spotted on NYC Subway: (Fake) Ad for ‘Canine Plastic Surgeon’

I spotted this “ad” for a “canine plastic surgeon” recently on the 1 train here in New York.

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Despite the silliness of the concept, the ad is pretty convincing, since it’s done very much in the style of many local NYC subway ads. (Dermatologist Dr. Jonathan Zizmor‘s ads come to mind.)

However, a quick visit to PuppyLift.com, the (hilarious) URL mentioned, reveals that the “ad” is actually for Comedy Central’s “Kroll Show.”

Pretty clever.

Second anniversary with Ashley, our adopted Bangkok street dog

File under: The adopted soi dog chronicles…

I am late in noting this, but August 15 was the second anniversary of our adoption of Ashley, our rescued street dog.

As I mentioned in my post last year providing the back story, we got her from the fine folks at SCAD Bangkok.

SCAD stands for Soi Cats and Dogs. (Soi is the Thai word for a small street.) The group takes in sick street animals and encourages adoption, fostering, spaying-neutering, and more.

The original post has all the details, but here, again, is what Ashley looked like as a puppy when SCAD rescued her.

You can see that she underwent a surgery for a stomach injury:

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And:

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Here’s how she appeared when we took her home with us. She had been living at SCAD for about a year at this point:

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The big day:

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I think the before and after photos tell you everything you need to know about the exceptional work SCAD does.

Okay. Ashley updates for the past year:

Her likes continue to be:

  • hanging out on the patio
  • sleeping under the coffee table
  • going for walks
  • chasing birds and geckos
  • gnawing on bones and various chew toys

Dislikes, as ever, are:

  • strangers knocking on the door
  • loud noises
  • thunder
  • the guitar
  • swimming

Ashley can be a bit skittish when she encounters aggressive dogs or people she’s never met. But when there’s a knock at the door, she responds with a ferocity that belies her somewhat delicate, 12-kilo (26 pound) frame.

Here we are at the beach:

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And:

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And here she is relaxing at home.

(She sometimes has a pensive look on her face, though I’m certain I’m projecting what I imagine to be thoughts or emotions about her human companions. I truly believe her only concerns — as they are for all dogs — are food and reliable shelter. But then again, what is loyalty anyway?)

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A favorite pastime: longing to lunge at the pigeons through the screen on the balcony:

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Caught on the couch! Not only that, but she was resting her head on a silk pillow! That is just not right…

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Hmm. Doe eyes. Ears down.

Where have I seen that expression before? Oh yeah, when she was a puppy:

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And finally, an interesting tidbit we discovered — through the SCAD Facebook page, if memory serves.

One of Ashley’s litter mates, Amber, was adopted by a family in Canada around the time, or just before, we took Ashley in.

Here’s Amber. Despite the differences in color, I think you’ll see some similarities between Amber and Ashley:

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Here’s to another great year. And again, here’s a link to the SCAD site. There are, as always, adoptable dogs and cats available…

One year ago today: The story of adopting our Bangkok street dog

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One year ago today, we adopted Ashley, a rescued street dog. Just a puppy, she was found in poor condition indeed. But she was rehabilitated by the fine folks at SCAD Bangkok. SCAD stands for Soi Cats and Dogs — soi being the Thai name for alley or small street.

There are many thousands of “soi dogs,” as they’re known, in the Thai capital and throughout Thailand.

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We were told that Ashley had been abused when she was young, and that she was found living with her litter mates in a box outside of a wood dyeing factory. Their mother was nowhere to be found. Someone had kicked Ashley, apparently, and so SCAD arranged to have life-saving surgery performed.

When SCAD took her in, she appeared to be suffering pretty badly:

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The organization did a great job of fixing her up, and here’s how she looked when we got her last August, when she was roughly a year old.

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Here we are in the taxi coming home:

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She was a bit dubious at first…

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But once we got home, she settled in quickly.

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These days, she has very few puppy-like traits left. She was well socialized with other dogs when we got her, having spent her time time at the center with dozens of other canines. And she was fine with people — not aggressive, and not overly skittish. Generally, her mood is calm. She’s not overly active or insistent on human company. She is, however, extremely playful, both with people and other mutts.

Her likes include:

Hanging out on the balcony…

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And hanging out some more…

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Taking naps…

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Smiling for the camera…

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Acting daintily — even crossing her legs:

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She also enjoys the the beach, though she likes chasing birds (especially chickens) more than taking dips in the water…

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And she also loves her rubber chicken chew toy (though since this photo was taken, only a foot remains):

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…and, finally, here she is with a favorite treat — a mangosteen:

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Dislikes include swimming (and water of all kinds), loud noises, the guitar, cats, vegetables, and strangers knocking at the door.

Here’s to another great year. And hey, if you’ve been thinking of adopting a pooch, there are several available here on the SCAD Web site.

Thailand’s illicit dog meat industry

Here’s an interesting GlobalPost video about the illicit, mafia-run dog meat industry in northeast Thailand. (The video is graphic, so view it with caution.)

The story is part of series on the topic. Here are the rest of the dispatches.