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10 Smart Facts About Dobermans

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Dobermans have a reputation as menacing security dogs, but that doesn't mean they don't have a soft spot for their two-legged pals. Learn more about the second best guard dog in the world. 

1. THEY’RE A FAIRLY NEW BREED. 

Unlike some dogs that have been hanging around since ancient times, Dobermans are newer to the scene. The breed originated in Germany and began to take form in the early 1880s, making it less than 150 years old.   

2. THEY WERE FIRST BRED BY A TAX COLLECTOR. 

Herr Karl Louis Dobermann was a man with many jobs: He was a tax collector, who would sometimes work as a police officer, night guard, and dog catcher. Because of his career, Dobermann often found himself traveling with bags of money through dangerous parts of town at late hours; it left him feeling uneasy. With his access to the pound, breeding a canine bodyguard to keep him—and his money—safe seemed like a natural decision. He wanted a medium sized dog that was refined but intimidating. The resulting dog is lean and muscular with dark fur and brown markings. 

3. A LOT OF DOGS WENT INTO THE PROCESS. 

Dobermann did not take a lot of notes on his breeding process, so no one is exactly sure what breeds went into making the Doberman pinscher. However, some possible dogs believed to be in the mix include the Rottweiler, German Shorthaired Pointer, Weimaraner, Manchester Terrier, Beauceron, Great Dane, Black and Tan Terrier, and Greyhound. 

4. EAR AND TAIL DOCKING SERVED A PURPOSE. 

Since these dogs were bred to be personal guards, they needed to be ready to engage in fights. Some owners would remove weak spots, the tail and ears which can be pulled or torn, to avoid potential altercations. Today, most Dobermans are no longer used for fighting purposes, but there are some health concerns to consider. Doberman tails are very thin and sensitive, and can break a lot easier than other dogs'. Additionally, floppy ears prevent air from easily flowing into the ear canals and can cause ear infections. Some owners will dock these appendages simply to avoid future injuries. But many see this process as cruel and unnecessary, and certain countries, included Australia and the U.K., have even banned the practice. 

5. NO JOB IS TOO BIG FOR THESE DOGS. 

Dobermans are extremely athletic and intelligent dogs, so no task is out of their league. (And that includes the job of lap dog, even if you’re less enthused about it.) Dobies have been used for a variety of jobs and sports including police work, scent tracking, coursing, diving, search and rescue, therapy, and guiding the blind. 

6. THEY CAN BE MOVIE STARS.

The ‘70s had their share of hokey films, but 1972’s The Doberman Gang takes campy to the next level. The movie, as the trailer’s voiceover explains, is about "six savage Dobies with a thirst for cold cash that leaves banks bone dry.” The dogs are all named after famous bank robbers: Dillinger, Bonnie, Clyde, Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson, and Ma Barker. Using their persuasive barks and growls, these trained dogs manage to make off with heaps of money. If that concept seems silly to you, consider the fact that there were two sequels and talk of a remake as recently as 2010. 

7. AND WAR HEROES. 

Kurt the Doberman was the first canine casuality in the 1944 Battle of Guam during WWII. He went ahead of the troops and warned them of the approaching Japanese soldiers. Although an enemy grenade killed the brave dog, many soldiers were saved from the same fate because of his bravery. Kurt became the first of 25 war dogs to be buried in what is now known as the United States Marine Corps War Dog Cemetery on Guam. 

A memorial featuring a bronze statue of Kurt has been erected in the cemetery, with the names of the 24 other dogs inscribed on the side. Artist Susan Bahary was asked to create it. 

“To me, this is more subject, more about love, even though it is a war monument,” she said. “I hope that people can take a piece of love back when they see that piece. That they’ll feel the love we had for the dogs and that the dogs had for us.” 

8. THEY’RE SMART. 

Dobermans are the fifth smartest breed and easily trained. That intelligence comes at a price—to their human friends. Dobermans are known for outsmarting their trainers and getting easily bored

9. THERE HAVE BEEN DOBERMAN DRILL TEAMS. 

The first of many Doberman Drill Teams, started by Tess Henseler, performed at the 1959 Westminster KC dog show at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The groups performed at various celebrations and sporting events and showcased the dogs’ intelligence and superior agility. Later, Rosalie Alvarez formed her own team that toured for 30 years

10. BREEDING IS MAKING THEM MORE GENTLE. 

Since Dobermans are transitioning from guard dogs to loving companions, breeders are moving them away from aggressive qualities. Although Dobies have a softer personality today, all dogs are different and a lot of their temperament is dependent on proper training. These dogs can be great with families and children, but only when correctly trained and socialized. 

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IKEA
IKEA Is Recalling Its New Dog Water Fountain Due to Suffocation Risk
IKEA
IKEA

In late 2017, IKEA released LURVIG, its first-ever line for pets, a collection that included beds, leashes, food bowls, and other staple products for dogs and cats. Unfortunately, one of those products is now being recalled over safety issues, according to Fast Company. If you own the LURVIG water dispenser, you should take it away from your pet immediately.

The automatic water fountain poses a suffocation hazard, the company announced in a recent statement. The retailer has received two reports of pets dying after getting their head stuck in it.

A water fountain for pets sits next to a bowl full of dog food.
IKEA

The $8 water dispenser debuted in U.S. stores in October 2017 with the rest of its LURVIG line. Awkwardly enough, the product description included assurances of the product’s safety standards. It explained that “the LURVIG range was developed with the assistance of trained veterinarian Dr. Barbara Schäfer, who also works with product risk assessment at IKEA,” and went on to say that “the first thing to consider was safety: ‘Dogs will definitely chew on their toys and bring in dirt from their daily walks. Cats will definitely scratch on most surfaces and are sensitive to smell and texture. So safe, durable materials are very important.’”

It seems that smaller dogs are able to get their faces stuck in the dome-shaped plastic reservoir, which only appears to have one hole in it, at the bottom. As a result, dogs can suffocate if they can’t get out of it.

The product has been removed from IKEA’s website, and the retailer recommends that anyone who bought it stop using it and return it to the nearest IKEA store for a refund.

[h/t Fast Company]

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Alamy
10 Facts About the Portuguese Man O' War
Alamy
Alamy

Something a lot scarier than any Jersey Devil has been washing up on beaches in the Garden State lately: This month, the dangerous Portuguese Man O’ War—which has a potentially deadly sting—has been sighted in Cape May and Wildwood, New Jersey, which could lead to problems for beachgoers. Read on to learn more about these unusual creatures.

1. IT'S NOT A JELLYFISH.

The Portuguese Man o’ War may look like a bloated jellyfish, but it’s actually a siphonophore—a bizarre group of animals that consist of colonies made up of dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of genetically-identical individual creatures. A siphonophore starts out as a fertilized egg. But as it develops, it starts "budding" into distinct structures and organisms. These tiny organisms—called polyps or zooids—can’t survive on their own, so they merge together into a tentacled mass. They must cooperate as one in order to do things like travel and catch food.

Though the zooids within a Man O’ War are basically clones, they come in different shapes and serve different purposes [PDF]. Dactylozooids are long hunting tentacles built to ensnare prey; gastrozooids are smaller tentacles which digest the food; and gonozooids are dangling entities whose job is to facilitate reproduction. Every Man O’ War also has a pneumatophore, or “float”—an overgrown, bag-like polyp which acts as a giant gas bladder and sits at the top of the colony. Capable of expanding or contracting at will, it provides the Man O’ War with some buoyancy control. An expanded float also enables the colony to harness winds to move around.

2. A CLOSE RELATIVE IS THE INDO-PACIFIC “BLUEBOTTLE.”

A view of a bluebottle under water.
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When we say “Portuguese Man O’ War,” we’re talking about Physalia physalis, the bizarre siphonophore that’s scaring New Jerseyans right now. Also known as the Atlantic Portuguese Man O’ War, it can be found in warmer parts of the Pacific, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean, and of course, the Atlantic.

Another kind of siphonophore which regularly stings beachgoers is the so-called bluebottle, Physalia utriculus. It’s sometimes called the Indo-Pacific “Portuguese” Man O’ War and is restricted to the Pacific and Indian Oceans. It’s smaller than the Atlantic species and unlike its bigger counterpart—which has multiple hunting tentacles—it hunts with a single, elongated tentacle.

3. THE NAME “PORTUGUESE MAN O’ WAR” IS PROBABLY A NAVAL REFERENCE.

In the age of sailing, many European navies used tall warships loaded with cannons and propelled by three masts. British sailors took to calling this kind of vessel a “Man of War.”

What does that have to do with Physalia physalias? These colonies spend a lot of time floating at the water’s surface, and when the gas bladder is expanded, it looks—and acts—a bit like a sailboat, hence the “Man O’ War.” As for the Portuguese part, 19th century scientists proposed that sailors encountered it near the Portuguese island of Madeira, while modern etymologists tend to think that it looked like the Portuguese version of the ship.

Or at least that’s one explanation for the creature’s peculiar name. It’s also been suggested that Renaissance-era sailors thought the pneumatophores resembled the helmets worn by Portugal’s soldiers during the 16th century.

4. MAN O’ WAR TENTACLES CAN BE UP TO 165 FEET LONG.

Two Portuguese Man o' War washed up on the beach with their tentacles stretched out.
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At least, that’s the maximum length for the dactylozooids—which are normally around 30 feet long and use venom-spewing cells to deliver painful, neurotoxic stings. When a tentacle is detached from the rest of the colony, it might wash ashore somewhere or drift around for days on end until it decomposes. Be warned: Even a severed tentacle can sting you.

5. ON RARE OCCASIONS, STINGS CAN BE FATAL TO HUMANS.

The odds of being killed by a Portuguese Man O’ War are slim. But just because deaths are rare doesn't mean you should touch one: On February 11, 2018, 204 people in Hollywood, Florida were treated for stings, which can lead to red welts on the skin, muscle cramps, elevated heart rates, and vomiting.

Still, the creatures can kill: One unlucky victim suffered a full cardiovascular collapse and died after getting too close to a Man O’ War in eastern Florida back in 1987. More recently, a woman swimming off Sardinia was stung by one and died of what was believed to be anaphylactic shock.

6. SOME FISH LIVE IN THEM.

Given that tiny fish make up about 70 to 90 percent of the Man O’ War’s diet (it also eats shrimp and other crustaceans), Nomeus gronovii, a.k.a. the Portuguese Man O’ War Fish, is playing a dangerous game: It lives among the siphonophore's tentacles even though it's not immune to its stings, swimming nimbly between the stingers. Young fish eat planktons which wander under their hosts and, as they get older, will sometimes steal the Man O’ War’s prey—or nibble on its tentacles.

7. SEA SLUGS LIKE TO STEAL THEIR TOXINS.

The Man O’ War has a long list of enemies. Loggerhead sea turtles and the bizarre-looking ocean sunfish are thick-skinned enough to eat them. There are also “blue dragon” sea slugs, which not only devour the Man O’ War but actively harvest and appropriate its toxins. After storing Man O’ War stinging cells in their own skins, the blue dragons can use it as a predator deterrent.

8. MAN O’ WAR COME IN PRETTY COLORS.

A pink-tinted Portuguese Man O' War with blue tentacles in the surf at a beach.
iStock

Although it’s translucent, the float is usually tinted with blue, pink, and/or purple hues. Beaches along the American Gulf Coast raise purple flags in order to let visitors know when groups of Man O’ War (or other potentially deadly sea creatures) are at large.

9. EVERY COLONY HAS A SPECIFIC SEX.

The Man O' War's gonozooids have sacs that house ovaries or testes—so each colony can therefore be considered “male” or “female.” Though marine biologists aren’t completely sure how the Man O’ War procreates, one theory is that the gonozooids release eggs and sperm into the open ocean, which become fertilized when they cross paths with floating eggs or sperm from other Man O’ War colonies. This “broadcast spawning” method of reproduction is also used by many species of coral, fan worms, sea anemone, and jellyfish.

10. LOOK OUT FOR MAN O’ WAR LEGIONS.

The Man O’ War isn't always seen in isolation. Legions consisting of over 1000 colonies have been observed floating around together. Because they drift along on (somewhat) predictable winds and ocean currents, it’s possible to anticipate where and when a lot of the creatures will show up. For example, the Gulf Coast’s Man O’ War season arrives in the winter months.

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