CLOSE
Original image

14 of Your Dog's Wild Relatives

Original image

All the domestic breeds of dogs that we are familiar with, from chihuahuas to pit bulls, are the same species: Canis lupus familiaris. In fact, our dogs are a subspecies of Canis lupus, or wolf. Your dog could interbreed with most wolves -if you weren't a responsible pet owner who spayed or neutered your dog. Photograph by Flickr user Fatemeh.

Dogs belong to the taxonomic family Canidae (canines) which is divided into two tribes: those related to wolves (Canini) and those related to foxes (Vulpini). A couple of canine species lay outside these two tribes, but hyenas are not canines. They look like and act like dogs, but as we learned in a post last week, hyenas are more closely related to cats than to dogs! Let's look at some wild dogs that are related to your pet.

1. Gray Wolf

Lone Wolf, Colchester Zoo

The species Canis lupus covers a lot of dogs. There are 39 subspecies, one of them being all domestic dog breeds. Thirty-seven of these subspecies are wolves, the largest and most common being the Eurasian gray wolf (Canis lupus lupus), the common ancestor of domestic dog breeds. The gray wolf is found throughout the Northern Hemisphere and comes in black, brown, grey, and white, or a combination of these colors. It is not considered to be a threatened species, but is protected in some areas. Photograph by Flickr user BBM Explorer.

2. Arabian Wolf

Quite a few wolf subspecies look like the common gray wolf, but a few are strikingly different. The Arabian wolf (Canis lupus arabs) evolved to live in the deserts of the Middle East, which is why its hair is so short. The fur varies over time according to the season and local temperatures. Photograph by Wikipedia user ???? ?????.

3. Arctic Wolf

Arctic wolf

The Arctic wolf (Canis lupus arctos) is pretty much just a wolf that lives in the Arctic. The subspecies has adapted to its habitat by growing thick white fur that grows longer between the toes to protect its footpads and shorter ears and snout to conserve heat. Photograph by Flickr user dankos-unlmtd.

4. Coyote

Coyote_Crop

Coyotes (Canis latrans) are a species that has evolved as a canine predator but subsists alongside civilization better than most wolves. With less fear of humans, they've learned to help themselves to livestock, or will scavenge for garbage if no easy prey is available. However, we know at least one who is obsessed with a certain desert bird. Photograph by Flickr user Jean-Guy Dallaire.

5. Jackal

There are three Canis species classified as jackals, or Old World coyotes. Shown here is a black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas) which is native to several areas of Africa. The side-striped jackal (Canis adustus) and the golden jackal (Canis aureus) are the other two species. Jackals are predators, but are also scavengers like the coyote, and while they prefer fresh meat, will eat anything available. Photograph by Wikipedia user Raoulduke47.

6. Dingo

Fraser Island 0573

The subspecies of Canis lupus that is neither domestic nor a wolf is Canis lupus dingo. However, there is some argument that dingos are indistinguishable from domestic dogs except for the fact that they are not domestic. The subspecies covers the Australian dingo plus some feral dogs of Asia such as the New Guinea Singing Dog. The Australian dingo is descended from domestic dogs that were brought to the island thousands of years ago which became feral over many generations. The dingos of Australia still interbreed with more recent domestic dogs, and so the subspecies is considered "vulnerable." Photograph by Flickr user Michael Dawes.

7. Dhole

A tale of two tales

The dhole (Cuon alpinus) of Asia is a dog of the Caninae family and Canini tribe, but has its own genus. You would recognize this creature as a dog, but it has more teats and fewer teeth than Canis, and whistles more than it barks or howls. They live in the forests and steppes of Russia, the Himalayas, and even as far south as Java. The biggest number of these endangered dogs live in India. Photograph by Flickr user Amit Kotwal.

8. Red Fox

Fox Kit Up Close

The other tribe of dog is the fox, or Vulpes. When we think of foxes, the image that comes up is usually the common red fox (Vulpes vulpes) which lives all over the Northern Hemisphere, plus Australia. It is the largest of the true foxes. Despite its name, it comes in varying colors, and there are 45 recognized subspecies. Photograph by Flickr user Brad Smith.

9. Kit Fox

The kit fox (Vulpes macrotis) is native to the deserts of the western United States and Mexico. Its skinny body and large ears are adaptive to desert life, like the coyotes it somewhat resembles. There are eight subspecies of kit fox, mostly named after their habitats, like the San Joaquin Kit Fox (Vulpes macrotis mutica).

10. Arctic Fox

Arctic fox (Alopex lagopus)

The Arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus) is sometimes classified as Alopex lagopus, which is an older classification that taxonomists still quarrel about. The lagopus sounds like a relation to rabbits, but in this case it refers to the fur that grows between the fox's toes to help protect them from cold surfaces. The Arctic fox could be mistaken for other fox species when seen in summer. Photograph by Flickr user Billy Lindblom.

Renard Arctique / Artic Fox

But this fox is very sensitive to seasonal changes, and will grow the thick warm white coat that made it famous by winter. Photograph by Flickr user Denis-Carl Robidoux.

11. Fennec Fox

Fennek

The fennec fox (Vulpes zerda) takes the desert adaptation of large ears used to dissipate heat to the max. The small nocturnal fox lives in the upper Sahara where heat dissipation is of the utmost importance. At just a couple of pounds and 9 to 16 inches long, the fennec fox is the world's smallest canid species (toy dog breeds are not representative of the species). Fennec foxes are sometimes kept as pets. Photograph by Flickr user Joachim S. Müller.

12. Island Fox and Gray Fox

Creeping

Urocyon is a genus of foxes that climb trees. The island fox (Urocyon littoralis), also called the Channel Island fox, is barely bigger than a fennec fox. The only other existing Urocyon species is the slightly bigger gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus). Photograph by Flickr user Robert Thompson.

13. Raccoon Dog

Bawwwww

The raccoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides) is of the Canidae family, but is neither a wolf nor a fox. It is not at all related to a raccoon, but may be mistaken for one. A distant cousin of your dog, the raccoon dog is still a closer relation than a hyena. Raccoon dogs are native to eastern Asia and are farmed for their fur. Photograph by Flickr user Dennis Irrgang.

14. Bat-eared Fox

The bat-eared fox (Otocyon megalotis) is another member of the Canidae family that is neither a wolf nor fox (despite the name). It is the only species of the genus Otocyon, and lives in the African savannah, eating insects -mostly termites. Its name comes from its distinctive big black ears. Photograph by Wikipedia user Samsara.

Original image
iStock
arrow
Animals
Owning a Dog May Add Years to Your Life, Study Shows
Original image
iStock

We've said that having a furry friend can reduce depression, promote better sleep, and encourage more exercise. Now, research has indicated that caring for a canine might actually extend your lifespan.

Previous studies have shown that dog owners have an innate sense of comfort and increased well-being. A new paper published in Scientific Reports and conducted by Uppsala University in Sweden looked at the health records of 3.4 million of the country's residents. These records typically include personal data like marital status and whether the individual owns a pet. Researchers got additional insight from a national dog registry providing ownership information. According to the study, those with a dog for a housemate were less likely to die from cardiovascular disease or any other cause during the study's 12-year duration.

The study included adults 40 to 80 years old, with a mean age of 57. Researchers found that dogs were a positive predictor in health, particularly among singles. Those who had one were 33 percent less likely to die early than those who did not. Authors didn't conclude the exact reason behind the correlation: It could be active people are more likely to own dogs, that dogs promoted more activity, or that psychological factors like lowered incidences of depression might bolster overall well-being. Either way, having a pooch in your life could mean living a longer one.

[h/t Bloomberg]

Original image
iStock
arrow
Live Smarter
8 Tricks to Help Your Cat and Dog to Get Along
Original image
iStock

When people aren’t debating whether cats or dogs are more intelligent, they’re equating them as mortal foes. That’s a stereotype that both cat expert Jackson Galaxy, host of the Animal Planet show My Cat From Hell, and certified dog trainer Zoe Sandor want to break.

Typically, cats are aloof and easily startled, while dogs are gregarious and territorial. This doesn't mean, however, that they can't share the same space—they're just going to need your help. “If cats and dogs are brought up together in a positive, loving, encouraging environment, they’re going to be friends,” Galaxy tells Mental Floss. “Or at the very least, they’ll tolerate each other.”

The duo has teamed up to host a new Animal Planet series, Cat vs. Dog, which airs on Saturdays at 10 p.m. The show chronicles their efforts to help pet owners establish long-lasting peace—if not perfect harmony—among cats and dogs. (Yes, it’s possible.) Gleaned from both TV and off-camera experiences, here are eight tips Galaxy and Sandor say will help improve household relations between Fido and Fluffy.

1. TAKE PERSONALITY—NOT BREED—INTO ACCOUNT.

Contrary to popular belief, certain breeds of cats and dogs don't typically get along better than others. According to Galaxy and Sandor, it’s more important to take their personalities and energy levels into account. If a dog is aggressive and territorial, it won’t be a good fit in a household with a skittish cat. In contrast, an aging dog would hate sharing his space with a rambunctious kitten.

If two animals don’t end up being a personality match, have a backup plan, or consider setting up a household arrangement that keeps them separated for the long term. And if you’re adopting a pet, do your homework and ask its previous owners or shelter if it’s lived with other animals before, or gets along with them.

2. TRAIN YOUR DOG.

To set your dog up for success with cats, teach it to control its impulses, Sandor says. Does it leap across the kitchen when someone drops a cookie, or go on high alert when it sees a squeaky toy? If so, it probably won’t be great with cats right off the bat, since it will likely jump up whenever it spots a feline.

Hold off Fido's face time with Fluffy until the former is trained to stay put. And even then, keep a leash handy during the first several cat-dog meetings.

3. GIVE A CAT ITS OWN TERRITORY BEFORE IT MEETS A DOG.

Cats need a protected space—a “base camp” of sorts—that’s just theirs, Galaxy says. Make this refuge off-limits to the dog, but create safe spaces around the house, too. This way, the cat can confidently navigate shared territory without trouble from its canine sibling.

Since cats are natural climbers, Galaxy recommends taking advantage of your home’s vertical space. Buy tall cat trees, install shelves, or place a cat bed atop a bookcase. This allows your cat to observe the dog from a safe distance, or cross a room without touching the floor.

And while you’re at it, keep dogs away from the litter box. Cats should feel safe while doing their business, plus dogs sometimes (ew) like to snack on cat feces, a bad habit that can cause your pooch to contract intestinal parasites. These worms can cause a slew of health problems, including vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and anemia.

Baby gates work in a pinch, but since some dogs are escape artists, prepare for worst-case scenarios by keeping the litter box uncovered and in an open space. That way, the cat won’t be cornered and trapped mid-squat.

4. EXERCISE YOUR DOG'S BODY AND MIND.

“People exercise their dogs probably 20 percent of what they should really be doing,” Sandor says. “It’s really important that their energy is released somewhere else so that they have the ability to slow down their brains and really control themselves when they’re around kitties.”

Dogs also need lots of stimulation. Receiving it in a controlled manner makes them less likely to satisfy it by, say, chasing a cat. For this, Sandor recommends toys, herding-type activities, lure coursing, and high-intensity trick training.

“Instead of just taking a walk, stop and do a sit five times on every block,” she says. “And do direction changes three times on every block, or speed changes two times. It’s about unleashing their herding instincts and prey drive in an appropriate way.”

If you don’t have time for any of these activities, Zoe recommends hiring a dog walker, or enrolling in doggy daycare.

5. LET CATS AND DOGS FOLLOW THEIR NOSES.

In Galaxy's new book, Total Cat Mojo, he says it’s a smart idea to let cats and dogs sniff each other’s bedding and toys before a face-to-face introduction. This way, they can satisfy their curiosity and avoid potential turf battles.

6. PLAN THE FIRST CAT/DOG MEETING CAREFULLY.

Just like humans, cats and dogs have just one good chance to make a great first impression. Luckily, they both love food, which might ultimately help them love each other.

Schedule the first cat-dog meeting during mealtime, but keep the dog on a leash and both animals on opposite sides of a closed door. They won’t see each other, but they will smell each other while chowing down on their respective foods. They’ll begin to associate this smell with food, thus “making it a good thing,” Galaxy says.

Do this every mealtime for several weeks, before slowly introducing visual simulation. Continue feeding the cat and dog separately, but on either side of a dog gate or screen, before finally removing it all together. By this point, “they’re eating side-by-side, pretty much ignoring each other,” Galaxy says. For safety’s sake, continue keeping the dog on a leash until you’re confident it’s safe to take it off (and even then, exercise caution).

7. KEEP THEIR FOOD AND TOYS SEPARATE.

After you've successfully ingratiated the cat and dog using feeding exercises, keep their food bowls separate. “A cat will walk up to the dog bowl—either while the dog’s eating, or in the vicinity—and try to eat out of it,” Galaxy says. “The dog just goes to town on them. You can’t assume that your dog isn’t food-protective or resource-protective.”

To prevent these disastrous mealtime encounters, schedule regular mealtimes for your pets (no free feeding!) and place the bowls in separate areas of the house, or the cat’s dish up on a table or another high spot.

Also, keep a close eye on the cat’s toys—competition over toys can also prompt fighting. “Dogs tend to get really into catnip,” Galaxy says. “My dog loves catnip a whole lot more than my cats do.”

8. CONSIDER RAISING A DOG AND CAT TOGETHER (IF YOU CAN).

Socializing these animals at a young age can be easier than introducing them as adults—pups are easily trainable “sponges” that soak up new information and situations, Sandor says. Plus, dogs are less confident and smaller at this stage in life, allowing the cat to “assume its rightful position at the top of the hierarchy,” she adds.

Remain watchful, though, to ensure everything goes smoothly—especially when the dog hits its rambunctious “teenage” stage before becoming a full-grown dog.

Cat vs. Dog Airs on Saturdays at 10 p.m. on Animal Planet

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios