The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

No smarter than the average bear

It turns out, trying to demonstrate that canis lupus familiaris are smarter than other similar animals winds up proving the null hypothesis instead:

If you are convinced your dog is a genius, you may be disappointed in the conclusions of a study just published in the journal Learning and Behavior.The study finds that dogs are cognitively quite ordinary when compared to other carnivores, domestic animals, and social hunters. “There is no current case for canine exceptionalism,” the authors conclude.

Nevertheless, systematically reviewing the animal cognition literature, British psychologists Stephen Lea and Britta Osthaus found dogs to be unremarkable in their cognitive capabilities compared to wolves, cats, dolphins, chimpanzees, pigeons, and several other species. For example, dogs seem no better at learning associations—such as between a behavior and a reward—than other species. Similarly, dogs can spatially navigate within small spaces, but other species can, too. And while dogs have an excellent sense of smell, the “pig’s olfactory abilities are outstanding and might even be better than the dog’s.”

On the other paw, having dogs appears linked to longer and healthier lives for dog owners. Take that, Wilbur!

A few old photos

Sometimes it's fun going through some stock shots and giving them another go with Lightroom.

Here's a digital photo from July 2004 that needed minimal tweaking:

This one needed lots of help, and unfortunately it probably needs another scan. I haven't checked the slide in a while; I hope the problems are with the scan (from 2009) and not with the slide (from 1984):

By the way, I took this photo here. Check out what that looks like today.

Finally, a slide that came out OK, though again it seems the scan leaves something to be desired. Middlebury, Vt., 28 July 1992:

Almost forgot

We can all be thankful for things this Thanksgiving weekend, but few will be as thankful as Parker, who got his cone off yesterday:

Trying something new

With my old dog apparently in permanent maintenance mode, we're trying something a little more comfortable for him:

That's a Comfy Cone, which he seemed to understand immediately would be more comfy for him. He did seem to sleep better last night.

We're going to the vet again today, to see if drugs alone can evict whatever has taken up residence in his knee. If not, he'll have to have the hardware out. Soon. The infection seems to have gone down a little in the last day or two but new oozing over the weekend did not make me feel optimistic.

At least he (and I) can sleep better with the new cone.

Off-peak travel

Yesterday around 7am, I made it from where I parked in the main O'Hare parking garage to the concourse past security in 7 minutes. Today, at Raleigh-Durham, I made it from my Lyft to the concourse past security in 4 minutes.

If you have the option of traveling to or from a smaller airport on Saturday afternoon, do it.

Also, it's gorgeous out, so I not only got a chance to walk around Durham for an hour after brunch, but I also got to play with this cutie in her yard:

That's Hazel, my host's 6-month-old pit-lab-something mix. Chillest puppy I've met in a while. And so sweet. Fortunately for my host, Hazel didn't fit in my carry-on.

Quick Parker update

Before everything descends into 18 hours of post-election punditry and chaos, a quick update on the dog.

Last week he developed an infection around the site of his April surgery, complete with oozing drainage channel just below his knee. After a couple days of antibiotics, he's stopped oozing. We met with his surgeon today, and she said that the infection is in retreat, so he probably won't need additional surgery to pull the plates out. We'll continue antibiotics for three more weeks and I'll keep an eye on his knee through the end of the year.

The surgeon also hypothesized that the proximate cause of the infection was, ironically, his teeth-cleaning last month. She said she has observed cases where mouth bacteria can get into the bloodstream during cleaning, and interfaces between surgical steel and bone make good hiding places for them.

Fortunately, at 12½ years old, Parker will probably never have his teeth cleaned again—at least not by a vet while under anaesthesia.

So, Parker is fine, with no further ill effects except for another few days with the cone.

Parker update: surgery today

Parker did not have a good morning.

I woke him up early, then "forgot" to feed him, and wouldn't even let him lick the cream cheese off my knife when I had a bagel right in front of him. All he got was an unpleasant-tasting amino supplement and a pain pill.

He did get a ride in the car, though, which might have gotten his mind off his appetite.

But then he got unceremoniously carried up two flights of stairs (the elevator at the pet hospital was out of order) and handed off to someone who smelled like frightened cats.

Let's not even talk about the thunderstorms forecast for later today.

So, Parker is chilling at the hospital right now, with his surgery scheduled for this afternoon. Because he's in the late group, I won't get to visit him tonight, which is probably OK because that might just upset him. He should be ready to go home tomorrow late morning.

I'll post again when the surgeon calls after the operation.

Canine User Experience

Yesterday, the Nielsen Norman Group released groundbreaking research on user interface design for dogs:

There are several key usability guidelines that help dogs to have the most usable experience on modern websites and apps, particularly on mobile, tablet, and other touch-based interfaces:

  • Consistency is critical. While consistency in any user experience is important, with dogs, it’s even more so. Experienced dog trainers will tell you that, for dogs to learn proper behavior, consistency in enforcing routines, expectations, and commands is critical. Some common UI culprits that provide extra difficulty for dogs are swipe ambiguity, gestures without signifiers, tap uncertainty for flat UI elements like ghost buttons, and unusual placement of common elements like navigation and search.
  • Tap targets must be large. We recommend 1cm2 for human tap targets, but paws (whether belonging to cats or dogs) require larger tap sizes (of at least 3-4cm2, or even larger for Labradors and Great Danes).
  • Gestures must be ergonomic for dog physiology. While many wearable interfaces now involve gestures such as swiping left or right to dismiss notifications or switch apps, these need to be modified for more ergonomic canine movements (such as “shake”). Dogs have a greater ability to move paws with precision up and down, but dogs’ range of motion along the horizontal axis is limited and relatively imprecise, so all gestures must account for this limitation.

They also give special guidance on the risks of using hamburger menus and pie charts.

Lying down with dogs

The New York Times last week suggested that people who sleep with their dogs sleep just as well as those whose dogs sleep elsewhere:

The dogs wore a device called a Fitbark, an activity tracker that attaches to the collar and records whether an animal is at rest and sleeping or active and at play. The people wore an Actiwatch 2, an activity monitor that records people’s movements and whether they are sleeping soundly or not. Both monitors were set to sample movement every minute, while the humans also kept a sleep diary.

Over seven days of testing, the researchers found that with a dog in the bedroom, both the humans and the dogs slept reasonably well. Humans had a mean sleep efficiency, or the percentage of time spent asleep while in bed, of 81 percent, while dogs had a sleep efficiency of 85 percent. Levels over 80 percent are generally considered satisfactory. People slept slightly better when the dog was off the bed; dogs slept the same whether they were on the bed or in another location in the bedroom.

Dr. Carlo Siracusa, a veterinarian and the director of animal behavioral science at Penn Vet in Philadelphia, added that a dog sleeping in the same room or bed with humans won’t make Sparky think he’s top dog. “Dogs can distinguish between the relationship with its human fellows and other dogs, and the way in which they regulate their interactions with humans in the house is not trying to establish a hierarchy,” he said.

First, don't think for a moment that I haven't considered getting a Fitbark for Parker. I've always been curious what he does at day camp; I suspect he sleeps about 90% of the time.

Second, no matter how well Parker sleeps, there are sometimes days like last Thursday when he woke up with an urgent matter that he immediately discussed with the bedroom floor, even though I could have gotten him outside in seconds had he asked.

Dogs.

Hell of a week

In the last seven days, these things have happened:

Meanwhile:

Can't wait to see what the next week will bring...