Category Archives: Langley Cornwell

What is a Flehmen Response in Cats?

flehmen bruceBy Langley Cornwell

Have you ever noticed your cat wrinkle up his nose like he smells something rancid? He may also lift up his head a bit and even pull back his lips, almost like a cartoon snarl or grimace. If you have seen it, you would know. It’s a distinctive look that catches your attention. Sometimes referred to as making a funny face or pulling a stinky face, this look is a real thing. It’s a biological response with a technical name: it’s called a Flehmen Response or a Flehmen Reaction. Sometimes the verb is shortened and simply called flehming.

Fun fact – Flehmen is a German word that means “lip curl” or “curl the upper lip.”

Some pet owners see their cat with a Flehmen Response and mistakenly think he is panting. Unlike dogs, cats don’t pant much. In most cases, cats only pant under extreme circumstances such as when they are in an overly stressful situation, when they are becoming dangerously overheated or when they are in labor.

So when your cat makes that funny face, even though it looks like he is either panting or smelling something bad, it’s really quite the opposite. When your cat has a Flehmen Response, he smells something he likes and he wants to further investigate the odor. That facial position allows him to taste the good smell so he can gather more information about it. Cats have a finely honed sense of smell, but the action is not all located in their noses.

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How Dogs Interpret Human Body Language

body language quinnBy Langley Cornwell

We all know how powerful a dog’s sense of smell is. In fact, smell is a dog’s primary sense; they interpret the world predominately through their olfactory system while humans interpret the world predominately through our visual system. Even so, both humans and dogs use senses to understand what’s going on around them. But did you know that, just like humans, dogs rely on more than just their senses to figure things out? Dogs are experts at reading body language, and not just each other’s. In the same way that humans have learned to read canine body language, dogs can read human body language. Our movements, posture and even our glances tell our canine companions a lot about what we are thinking and feeling.

Have you ever glanced over at your dog’s leash? If your dog sees you look at his leash, what does he do? My dogs jump up and run to the door, ready to go on a walk. I used to think their reaction was based on the time of day, because we usually keep a pretty regular walk schedule. To rule that out, I looked at the leash random times and got the same reaction. Because I didn’t say the tell-tale “w” word, I knew they were not reacting to my verbal cue. And because it was at an unusual time, I knew they were not reacting to a specific time of day. No. They were reading my body language!

Social Cognition

Social cognition is a popular field of study, and research into a dog’s ability to pick up on human behavior signals is thriving. It’s long been understood that most social mammals are adept at reading cues from members of their same species, but the study of social cognition recognizes that dogs are amazingly good at reading human body language. A dog’s social cognition crosses species type.

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Why Puppies Steal Things, and How to Get Them to Stop

By Langley Cornwell

Puppies love to be the center of attention and will do anything they can to engage you in consistent interaction. Some of the things they do are charming and endearing, and other things can be downright exasperating. It’s a good thing they are so darn cute! And their breath…don’t get me started on puppy breath.

Why Puppies Steal Things

Oh, sorry, back to the subject at hand. So, why do puppies steal things? You guessed it: to get your attention. That, and to lure you into playing with them. Puppies are naturally naughty – in a playful way. They like to get something of yours and sneak it away when you aren’t looking in the hopes that you’ll chase them around and try to get it from them. This little game is big fun for a puppy.

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Bathing Tips for Dogs with a Skin Condition

bath tonyBy Langley Cornwell

If you have a dog with sensitive skin or a predisposition to skin conditions, you may have fallen into this circular trap – you need to bathe him more often because of the condition but the more you bathe him, the worse his skin condition seems to get. That’s because a regular dog bath can exacerbate his problem. Dogs with acute allergies or a propensity for other skin conditions need special care when receiving a bath.

Symptoms and Causes

In many cases, you will know if your dog is suffering from a skin condition simply by looking. Excess hair loss or bald spots are an indication of a problem, as are dry, flaky patches, scabs or rashes, lumps and bumps or anything out of the ordinary. If there are no visual indications, but you notice your dog chewing, scratching or licking himself excessively, then a skin condition may be the issue and you should make an appointment with your veterinarian to determine the cause of the skin condition and the best treatment plan.

A variety of things can cause skin conditions for dogs. The most obvious reason is fleas and/or an allergic reaction to them. Other external parasites could also be the culprit. It could be a result of an infection, hormonal or metabolic issues, allergies, yeast overgrowth, stress and boredom, or even a reaction to the shampoo or grooming products you are currently using on your pet.

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Do Dog Whistles Really Work?

dog whistle andreaBy Langley Cornwell

Have you ever seen those whistles that people blow and no sound comes out? I’ve always been intrigued by the thought that our canine friends can hear something that makes no perceptible sound to the human ear. When I think of a dog whistle, that’s what I think of, those whistles that make no sound. But we were at a pet expo recently, and there was a demonstration that involved police service dogs performing a variety of exercises. Throughout the program, the dog handlers used whistles we could hear. What’s more, the whistles were different for different dogs. In other words, each dog had a whistle that was specific to him.

When I was young, my dad taught me to curl my tongue, shove two fingers in my mouth and blow. I can make a whistling sound that you can hear in the next time zone. I don’t overuse this super skill, but sometimes when the dogs are hiking with us off-leash and they get out of our range of sight, I let the whistle rip. When they hear it, they come back immediately. Could my fingers be considered a dog whistle? What is a real dog whistle?

The Background

A curious genius and relative of Charles Darwin developed the first dog whistle, kind of by accident. Sir Francis Galton was interested in human hearing and how it all worked. In 1876, he developed a small brass whistle with a slide so he could alter the whistle’s frequency, thereby testing the range and limitations of man’s hearing. Thus the Galton whistle was born.

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Do Dogs Really Get Jealous?

By Langley Cornwell

The other day I ran across a research article that I completely disagree with and I want to get your opinion. The topic was emotions, and it explored the differences between what scientists consider primary and secondary emotions in animals. Feelings like anger, disgust, fear, joy and surprise are often called primary emotions. These are emotions that are collectively experienced; they’re universal. Feelings like envy, guilt, jealousy and shame are considered secondary emotions and reserved for those with higher cognitive abilities.

Secondary emotions are believed to involve a more intricate reasoning process. In terms of jealously, for example, the subject has to display complex rational thinking in order to experience it; he has to recognize and understand what the other subject is receiving and measure it against what he is receiving.

According to this article, secondary emotions are experienced by some animals, namely primates, but these emotions are not experienced by dogs. The rationale for that conclusion is that some behavioral scientists don’t think dogs possess a developed level of cognition or self-awareness. Therefore, they conclude that dogs cannot experience secondary emotions.

What?! I beg to differ. As someone who has spent her entire adult life in a multiple dog household, I can tell you that dogs get jealous. Granted, some dogs display their secondary emotions more animatedly than others, but I honestly believe that dogs feel secondary emotions.

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