Between dog and wolf

I really like the company of dogs and cats; I find that they bring a lot of happiness and spontaneity to our lives. I’ve had the good fortune to live with a number of pets throughout my childhood and although I know them well, some of their behaviour remains a mystery to me. I remember that when I was younger, I dreamed of being able to decode my cat’s meows so as to communicate with him. Sadly, I’ve never had Dr. Dolittle’s skills and I don’t always understand what these creatures expect from me. So I’ve been addressing my shortcomings by reading books and all the articles I come across.

I’ll admit right off the bat my preference for cats, as I find canine exuberance a bit unsettling. But my penchant for felines doesn’t stop me from being seduced by a dog from time to time. This is what brings me to talk to you about Roxy, who’s been part of my life for a few months now. Roxy is a superb two-year-old Golden Retriever, full of energy and affection. From our first meeting, she charmed me with her kindness, and after some petting, I found that she had already accepted me as a member of her family! In fact, Roxy is so friendly that I ended up thinking about this trait found in many dogs. I imagine that, like me, you’ve heard that dogs are a close relative of wolves and that at some point, because of their high degree of sociability, they ended up feeling a deep friendship for human beings. But this theory has been challenged by a group of scientists from Princeton University and Oregon State University, who tested 18 domesticated dogs and 10 domesticated wolves. The test consisted in placing a box of treats in a room. Animals had to open it alone or in the presence of a human being. Here’s an interesting fact: when a person was present in the room, dogs spent more time looking at the individual in question than opening the box, compared to wolves who ignored the person in favour of the treats.

So what really differentiates the two species? According to scientists, the key to the mystery would appear to be genetic. Thanks to their research, they can now state that all dogs have a common geographical origin and that they actually descend from a single and same wolf population. It would seem that canine hyper-sociability appeared over the millennia, caused by a mutation of two genes: GTF2I and GTF2IRD1. And here’s a surprising fact: these genes are also part of our DNA! Moreover, when there aren’t enough of them in our chromosomes, this deficiency causes a rare genetic disease, Williams-Beuren syndrome, characterized in particular by hyper-social behaviour and stunted growth. Funny coincidence, right? It’s for sure that the studies are embryonic and need to be deepened before drawing a definitive conclusion, but I wonder what future research in the area will reveal!

Something new in national parks

In conclusion, good weather is fast approaching, and this is the perfect time to enjoy nature! If you’re like me, you own a dog with whom you love to do some exploring. If so, I advise you to set off to discover a national park with your faithful companion. Naturally, you’ll have to follow a few rules, including keeping your dog on a leash (no more than three metres long), picking up his or her excrement, and staying on the trails. To find out where your dog will be allowed, I invite you to consult the Parks Canada website.

Enjoy yourself and have a nice spring!