On TV & DVD: Dogs Decoded - Nova, Tuesday, November 9 - Page 2
For fifty years, researchers in Siberia have worked with silver foxes. Through selective breeding, they were able to produce tamer foxes within three generations. The surprising genetic results of this project are that as the foxes' behavior changed so did their appearances. Tame silver foxes began to look more like dogs.
So, why do we respond so powerfully to dogs? Psychiatrist Morten Kringlebach believes they appeal to our need to nurture. On an emotional level, we respond to the baby-like organization of their facial features, such as large foreheads and big eyes.
There is exciting genome research into diseases that both humans and dogs develop, and researchers share some of their findings. Since the variations within a specific breed of dog are minimal (compared to variations in human beings), research that might have taken decades in people has already been accomplished in dogs.
Amusingly, one expert describes dogs as parasites; for the most part they are not used as guards, workers, or food, and humans don’t get anything in return from their relationship (this man couldn’t have been a dog owner). But the evolution of dogs has ensured their survival. Unlike wolves (who are in the same family), dogs are not endangered; they are found all around the world. In fact, there are over 400 million domesticated dogs worldwide and over 400 breeds.
Dogs Decoded, is a fascinating, informative, and fun look into the evolution of man’s best friend, and the part dogs play in our lives and we in theirs. Dog lovers and those interested in animal behavior are certain to enjoy it. Watch Dogs Decoded on PBS Tuesday evening (November 9), on DVD, or streaming from PBS.org.