Wednesday, June 25, 2014
He walks into the pet boutique to get his claws clipped. He takes note of the lady with the clipboard. She puts him on the list; there are lots of dogs ahead of him.
A sociable bitch greets him. Avoiding eye contact, she approaches his flank. Dog etiquette: direct eye contact among strange dogs is a no-no; it signals aggression.
For a few moments, they sniff each other. The dogs are introducing themselves—exchanging information. All goes well; they lick each other in the face.
Calmly, fleetingly, they look into each other's eyes—another sign of mutual acceptance.
The lady sheathed in fitted pants sees her pal. She moves along with big dog by her side. The tiny male watches. Does he want to follow the bitch?
Original contents, © Bob Rosinsky, All rights reserved.
Thursday, June 27, 2013
I mostly like taking pictures of dogs. As of late, I have been wandering outside during the daylight hours to take pictures of dogs. Canines behave differently outside than they do in a photo studio outfitted with pristine seamless backdrops, an array of strobe lights, and a photographer nearby (me) aiming a lens directly at them. Liberated from the studio, I am more inclined to toss a pinch of poetic license into the mix. My creativity often spikes during the editing process in the wee hours of the night, while I am doodling and noodling in Photoshop.
Interrelationships between humans and canines have a long history. As species go, dogs and people mostly accept each others' quirks. Here is a charming picture I took at an event sponsored by the local SPCA. It took place outdoors in March; the temperature in central Florida was atypically chilly. The dog and human pictured below dressed appropriately—cute, very cute indeed.
The following week, I tested out a new telephoto zoom lens at a dog park. Curious to see how fast and accurate the combination of my eye, camera, and lens would perform, I searched for interesting and fleeting scenes. Conceptually, my intent was to capture social interactions among domestic dogs in an open space.
The trio of strangers pictured above got along well from the onset. These dogs knew and accepted their social ranks. The Great Dane obviously commanded respect and admiration. So confident, she allowed lesser dogs—a white Pit Bull and a brown Pit Bull pup to engage in a convivial meet-and-greet. Quirky? This situation appears vulgar to most people, but not to dogs.
People use conversation, eye contact, and body language to make and rate new acquaintances. Dogs sniff, lick, and employ signals with their ears and tails while sizing up each other. A stranger dog only greets an unfamiliar dog with direct eye contact to assert dominance. If the other dog disagrees, a fight ensues.
Everyone I know who is close to a companion dog deals with their pet on human terms, especially when in the company of other dog lovers. However, when dogs are free to romp in a dog park, we tend to dissociate ourselves from them. Ironically, people often perceive dogs interacting with other dogs as vulgar. Tussling about in the dirt, sniffing, snorting, licking each others' orifices, and mouthing detritus in full view falls way outside acceptable human behavior.
The picture below is an abstract interpretation of vulgarity. It started out as a picture that I took at the dog park.
I strive to avoid anthropomorphizing dogs. Intellectually, I realize dogs are simply dogs. Whatever I perceive as vulgar is my baggage, not theirs.
This dog's human companion unabashedly engages in a public display of affection. Dog behaviorists unanimously agree that dogs do not like to be hugged. Hugging is what primates do to express their feelings towards each other. Dogs do not hug each other.
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
We took Jazz, our mixed-breed bow-wow, to the dog park on only two or three occasions. Although she loves people, she is ambivalent toward dogs. She is a rescue dog. Judging by her poor doggie social skills, I assume that her puppyhood was far from ideal.
Books on dog behavior stress the importance of a pup's need to interact with other dogs, especially littermates. The first six weeks are crucial. This is the time puppies learn the boundaries between playing and fighting, and dominance and submission. A puppy deprived from socializing with other dogs does not develop the neural pathways normal dogs do. A dog's brain is hard-wired in puppyhood to enable it to negotiate the complexities of canine society throughout adolescence and adulthood.
Poor Jazz, she is oblivious to the social cues and etiquette that normal dogs possess. Her third and final visit to the dog park ended badly. Jazz unknowingly antagonized a big dog. He lost his temper and bit her tail. There are multitudes of veins and arteries that traverse the length of a dog's tail. The bite was a bloody nuisance. Whenever Jazz wagged her tail, the bandage slid off and her blood splattered everywhere. It took a couple of days for the scab to form.
Every three of four years, I replace an old camera with a new one. Digital technology moves along so fast that the shelf life of modern-day cameras is about equivalent to that of breakfast cereal.
Prior to this past Saturday, the last time I visited the dog park was to test a full-frame Sony digital camera in 2009. I wanted to try using the Sony outside the studio. Mostly, I wanted to see if the autofocus was fast and accurate enough to catch dogs-in-motion. The Sony really did not work well for that application. No matter, I purchased the camera mainly for studio photography. It is so much easier to control a canine subject in a studio. High-speed strobe lights freeze action—dogs are twitchy.
A couple of days ago, I went back to the dog park to test a new full-frame camera—this time a Nikon. My daughter Helen, and our recently rescued Chiweenie tagged along. The dog must have received coaching from his previous owner. He took to the agility course with aplomb. He was the talk of the park.
I went off on my own to test the Nikon. I used a 70-200mm zoom lens. The camera did not disappoint. It captured dogs-in-motion without a hiccup. Oddly, I prefer the static shots to the action photos. Aside from noticing improvements in digital photo technology, as evidenced by the new Nikon, I noticed that I am slower, stiffer, and creakier than I was during my last dog park excursion with the Sony. Woe is me.
I assembled "Dog Totem" from the pictures I took with the Nikon at the dog park. Dog park tales and dog totem: done. And now good news about wiener dogs and photography:
Wake up Orlando, Tampa Bay, and Lakeland! Wiener dog photo sessions are half-price at Top Dog Studios during the month of May. Schedule an appointment today— only five slots available. Call: (863) 607-9059.
Monday, April 1, 2013
It's bad for dogs, very bad indeed.
Thursday, February 14, 2013
Dedicated to my friend, CRM, and her family in Minneapolis, Minnesota
A couple of days ago, I walked out the front door to take our Chiweenie, Little Guy, out for his late afternoon constitutional. I noticed the sky–simple, beautiful, and infinite. Ironically, I had just finished reading a Facebook message from an art school pal I have not seen in thirty years. In the note, she mentioned the song "Blue Skies" reminded her of me. I conjured up a faint recollection of her singing it so long ago. We were really children then. Facebook wreaks havoc with the space-time continuum.
While looking up at a seemingly infinite blue sky, basking in the memory of a time so far and long ago, I realized that Little Guy was not sharing my reverie. I looked down and watched his snout sweep methodically over a small patch of ground. Like all dogs, he is farsighted. Color perception: he like normal dogs sees shades of grey and a narrow, muted range of yellows and blues. His visual perception of the ground beneath his nose appeared as this.
From eight inches off the ground, I view the same patch in sharp focus, albeit with the aid of reading glasses. I am able to distinguish a subtle range browns and a scatter of green blades of grass.
For Little Guy, the ground oozed a font of olfactory data. I knelt down and sniffed at what he found so intriguing. The smells were faint and overpowered by a faint whiff of exhaust fumes and a stronger scent of freshly cut grass coming from the yard up the street where a man pushed a sputtering lawn mower.
A dog's nose, depending on the breed, is anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 times keener than the average person's. Not surprisingly, a dog's primary means of perceiving and navigating the world is through smell—followed by sound, then sight, and finally touch and taste. Dogs' brains are puny compared to humans. However, the part of their brain that processes smell is forty times larger in proportion to the smell processing section of human brains.
Dogs are able to detect odors given off by molecules left behind weeks or even months prior. They gather a lot of information about the diet, health, emotional state, sex, fertility, size, shape, and home-life of other dogs by sniffing the ground for messages encoded in urine, feces, and paw prints. I think it is remarkable that my dogs sense and interpret so much of me through odor. They are able to distinguish a multitude of smelly molecules—such as the fabrics and dyes of my clothing, laundry detergents, soaps for bathing, colognes and perfumes that people in proximity to me used, foods I may have come into contact with or eaten days ago, medicines, people I have hung out with, dogs that brushed against my trousers, etc. The odors that my glands emit telegraph a lot about my mental and physical state. Our eldest dog, Jazz, is highly attentive towards me when things are amiss.
Imagine what it is like to walk into an expansive room appointed with intricately patterned oriental rugs, curtains, curios (of various sizes, shapes, textures and colors), ornate architectural details, house plants, wooden and plush furniture, a fireplace filled with ash from several different varieties of fruitwood, art, and the Sunday newspaper. Speaking for myself, I would be inclined to explore the room primarily with my eyes. I may catch a few odors here and there. Now imagine the experience from a dog's perspective: low to the ground, equipped with a highly tuned odor recognition apparatus. All of the abovementioned items emit complex olfactory harmonies from the past as well as the present. The room and the items in it have been touched, trod upon, subjected to aromas from food and drink, particulate matter from the air, solvents, inks, polishes, dust, mites, mold, etc. Any dog worth its weight in fur has the capacity to detect odors left behind by foot traffic from over the past week or two or three.
To wrap my head around the idea of a dog's hypersensitivity to detect odors, I devised a crude visual metaphor. It represents how the patch of ground pictured above might look like in smell-o-vision.
Thank you for reading this peculiar essay, Blue Sky Memory and Dog Senses. I have another thing or two to say about the sky. However, out of respect for your time and patience, I will hold off until the next post.
July 30, 2012
Have you ever noticed your dog flick his tongue? I often see this behavior in the studio. Dog tongue flicking is an involuntary response. Conveyed directly through his brain's limbic section, it is an honest and direct response to "I'm a little unsure about this." Dogs often follow a tongue flick with a good yawn. In this context, the yawn signifies feelings of uncertainty and anticipation. The next time you interview a dog for a job, be aware of the signals he is telegraphing with his tongue.
Friday, May 25, 2012
I acquired a new lens a couple of weeks ago, and yesterday I put it through a battery of tests. Along with pointing it at a brick wall and banging off a few photos to see how well it resolves tiny nooks and crannies, I decided to take photos of Jazz, our dog, lying beside the window in our dining room—a real-life situation. The lens is sharp, produces pleasing color, and it renders straight lines true. (The table leg visible in the lower right-hand side of the frame is actually crooked.)
The lens is a 50mm macro prime. It utilizes an optical design that has been around for over thirty years. Its main purpose is for copying documents and photographs on a camera stand. Being a macro lens, it is able to focus on items as small as a postage stamp so that it fills the entire frame. This lens is also perfectly well suited for general photography. It is not fancy. It is not sexy. Unlike a zoom lens, it simply stays put at one focal length—50mm. In the days of 35mm still photography (think Leicas and old Nikons loaded up with Kodachrome), photographers referred to a 50mm lens as a "normal lens" because the field of view is the same as what a normal human eye sees. This is the first prime lens that I have used on my digital 35mm (dSLR) camera. It mimics the human eye in the same manner it would on a film camera.
Normal vision for humans differs greatly from normal vision for dogs. Dogs see the world differently than humans for many reasons. Some are:
The picture below approximates how a dog will see me from the vantage point near my dining room window. The image is fuzzy, the colors are muted, the field-of-view and aspect ratio are wide, and the view is close to the ground. The furniture up close is out of focus to simulate farsightedness.
Jazz is 10.5 human years old. She is a senior dog. Her eyes are milky; she has cataracts. The picture below is a close approximation of how I think she sees.
I plan to blog more about how dogs see. Stay tuned. My next installment on dog vision will discuss motion detection, depth perception, flicker rate, and more on snout length and nearsightedness.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
My dog Jazz is remarkably consistent. Every day between 5:45 p.m. and 6 p.m., she saunters into my office, pokes her nose in my thigh, and pleads me to dispense a cup of dry dog food into her stainless steel dish. In the morning, she wakens my wife between 5:45 a.m. and 6 a.m. for breakfast. Jazz will not bother with me; I do not awaken easily.
Dogs and humans have cohabitated for at least 20,000 years. So naturally, pet dog food has gone through 20,000 years of evolution. From discarded carcasses, to table scraps, to canned meats, to dry morsels, here is a subject that deserves at least a Ph.D. candidate's dissertation.
Have you ever picked up a kibble or a pellet? Nobody that I have talked to has ever commented about how much they enjoy the smell, feel, or taste of dry dog food. This is not surprising. Dogs have about a fifth of the amount of taste buds humans do. Conversely, dogs have anywhere from forty to two hundred times the amount of smell-sensitive cells that humans have. Dogs find the odor irresistible and aren't as particular about taste.
After spending the better part of an hour researching dog food on the web, I came across an article written by Lew Olson. He states that dry dog food originally came in two varieties — biscuits and crumbled biscuits known as kibbles. Then, in the 1950s, Purina came up with a new process called "extrusion." The extrusion process involves combining ingredients into a liquid and then pushing the mush through an extruder. Upon exiting the extruder, the mush expands, and is then baked to evaporate the liquid out. I am not sure at what point the food turns into pellets — pre or post baking.
So, hence the question: what is Jazz eating — pellets or kibbles?
Sunday, February 06, 2011
In daylight, dogs see the world differently than humans. They are not able to see the world as clearly as we do, and their range of color perception is limited.
Clarity: A dog's visual acuity is approximately 20/75 (visual acuity is the ability of the eye to distinguish fine detail such as leaves on a tree or letters on a sign). So, if a dog with normal vision is just barely able to discern an object from a distance of 20 feet, its human counterpart is able to see that same object from a distance of 75 feet.
Color: A dog's eyes only have 20% of the color receptors (cones) that human eyes have. Dogs are dichromatic, meaning that they are able to only distinguish two primary colors – yellow and blue and combinations of the two. Human vision is trichromatic. People with normal color vision are able to discern three primary colors – red, green, and blue.
A normal dog's night vision is superior to that of humans. Dogs perceive motion better than humans too. I'll be addressing these and many more aspects of dog vision in the future.