Thursday 24 May 2018

You ain't nothin' but a hound dog

We all love our creature comforts. They can help us to unwind after a long day, and make us feel content. And the same goes for dogs! 

The living quarters of Madrid's 22-strong Police dog force underwent a renovation earlier this year, in order to reduce stress and improve the overall health of these hard-working pups. The new kennels include a patio where they can lie in the shade during the summer months, a green play zone, and heated beds – which a council spokesman said will help to reduce energy bills by 80%. The dogs will also be treated to music therapy sessions, where they will be played Mozart. 

Photo credit: Andrew Winning/Reuters from The Guardian

It has been shown in a number of studies that playing classical music to dogs can help lower their stress levels. A study conducted by the Scottish SPCA back in 2015 showed that a dog's stress levels significantly decreased after hearing classical music. This non-invasive research was conducted in its own kennels, where they monitored the dogs' heart rates, collected saliva samples, and monitored their behaviour over a week. Although this study yielded positive results initially, at the end of the week, the dogs' heart rates and behaviours associated with kennel stress had returned to normal, as they had become accustomed to the classical music.

A further study in 2017, also by the Scottish SPCA, and the University of Glasgow, looked at the effects that different genres of music had when played to dogs. Professor Neil Evans said of the research;

"Overall, the response to different genres was mixed, highlighting the possibility that, like humans, our canine friends have their own individual music preferences. That said, reggae music and soft rock showed the highest positive changes in behaviour."

Combined, these two research projects have helped to highlight the importance of music in order to help the dogs in its care feel as relaxed as they can. Having shown that the key is to avoid habituation, the Scottish SPCA will be investing in sound systems for all of its kennels – much like the Spanish Police force.

With the amount of hard work that police dogs undertake, not to mention how long some pups are kept in kennels whilst they wait for their new forever home, it's no wonder that our canine companions like to let there fur down to some music!

Tuesday 1 May 2018

Pick up a penguin!

Who doesn't love penguins? From movies and Christmas cards, to the face of a well-known chocolate biscuit, everyone is well accustomed to seeing penguins in everyday life. However, a threat to penguins is looming that also has other, far-reaching effects ... 

Recent studies have shown there has been a dramatic increase in krill fishing in Antarctic waters. Though they may be small, krill play a huge part in the food chains of the world's marine ecosystems. With between 125 million to 6 billion tons in the waters around Antarctica, these tiny crustaceans are the cornerstone of the Antarctic food chain, and therefore a vital food source for penguins. Combined with the effect of global warming, the krill population is at stake.

In addition, krill help to eliminate greenhouse gases. Krill feed on phytoplankton: microscopic, single-cell plants that drift near the ocean's surface, living off harmful carbon dioxide and sunlight. With global warming already affecting the ice on which these phytoplankton live, it is vital that we do all that we can to assist in the preservation of the magnificent Antarctic.

So, what can be done?

As a way of combating excessive krill farming, companies such as Holland & Barrett, Morrisons and Superdrug have already taken krill-based products off their shelves, with pressure growing for other large companies to follow suit.

A proposed way in which to protect krill is to implement a sanctuary in the Antarctic Ocean. If given the go ahead, this sanctuary would become the largest in the world, and would prohibit krill fishing in these waters, allowing Antarctic wildlife to flourish once again.

This proposed sanctuary will be discussed by governments at the Antarctic Ocean Commission in October, and you can do your bit to be heard by signing Greenpeace's petition to protect the Antarctic Ocean.

Help to p-p-p-pick up a penguin today!