DEAR DR. FOX: Did you see this article (link below) about dog genetics and temperament? What are your thoughts? -- K.K., Northbrook, Illinois
DEAR K.K.: This study has generated a lot of publicity, but I disagree with its conclusions. It asserts that a dog’s breed has less influence on its personality than is commonly thought.
As summarized on nature.com: Researchers “surveyed thousands of dog owners about their pets’ backgrounds and activities, ranging from whether they had a propensity to eat grass to how likely they were to chase toys. The researchers then sequenced the DNA of a subsection of the survey dogs to see whether ancestry could be linked to behavior.”
“When you adopt a dog based on its breed, you’re getting a dog that looks a certain way,” said Elinor Karlsson, a computational biologist and co-author of the study, as quoted in Nature. “But as far as behavior goes, it’s kind of luck of the draw.”
The main point of this study -- that extreme physical differences in dogs of various breeds and mixes are determined by heredity (nature) -- is evident and understandable. And certainly, we all know that “nurture” -- in the form of puppy socialization -- determines how dogs generally react to people later in life.
In my opinion, specific traits like herding, protecting and retrieving are more closely linked to nature -- genetics -- than to nurture. Nurture can reinforce such behaviors, as Konrad Lorenz proposed, calling it “instinct-training interlocking.” For example, much as I have tried with our Australian heeler/boxer mix, she will not retrieve items -- but she does try to round people up on our walks!
DEAR DR. FOX: Way back in the 1970s, on the “Tonight” show, Ed McMahon bet Johnny Carson that horses were smarter than pigs. McMahon’s candidate, a horse, “counted” out numbers by tapping its hoof. Carson brought out a pig. Its owner had set up a row of bicycle horns. On cue, the pig walked along the row, “playing” several notes of a popular song, in the correct order, by biting the horns. Carson won the bet. -- D.L., West Palm Beach, Florida
DEAR D.L.: Johnny Carson was quite taken with pigs, and when I was on his show, he would often ask me about their intelligence. But when I spoke about pigs’ wisdom in taking mud-wallows to keep cool and ward off flies when raised free-range (as they should be), and then how cruelly they are treated on factory farms and in transport to slaughter, he became uncomfortable and quickly changed the subject!
For more on the raising of pigs, see my article: drfoxonehealth.com/post/pharmaceutical-cruelty-in-animal-farms-consumer-beware.
DEAR DR. FOX: My English Lab, Bear, has ear infections with a black goo that I have not been able to control. The medicine I get from my vet (at $80) does not help, although I’ve tried it many times.
He is constantly shaking his head because of these infections. He is our fourth Lab; our last one had no health problems, while those before had minor issues. Grateful for any suggestions. -- A.T., Naples, Florida
DEAR A.T.: Since the medication the veterinarian prescribed is not helping rectify this ear infection, the veterinarian should take a culture and decide on a more appropriate medication. Left untreated, your dog could develop a middle-ear infection, which could affect his balance and hearing. Constant headshaking can lead to a hematoma, requiring surgical correction to prevent the ear from eventually crumpling up.
I would suspect a mixed fungal and bacterial infection. Keep your dog out of water, since wet ears become a breeding ground for such organisms. If cats are around, checking all animals for ear mites is imperative. Also, food allergies/intolerances can play a role in ear and anal gland issues in dogs.
The veterinarian should supply you with a daily lavage, or cleansing rinse, for the ears. For the time being, I advise rinsing the ears with a mixture of equal parts organic apple cider vinegar and warm water. Then dry the ears well and put a few drops of olive oil in each one -- a very healing product for many skin conditions.
The over-the-counter dog ear medication Zymox, available online, may also prove beneficial.
(Send all mail to email@example.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxOneHealth.com.)