What do Dogs See When They Look at "The Dress"?

A certain dress has created massive waves on the social media circuit. The question still stands- is it white and gold or blue and black? Harley and I decided to have a little debate on the topic. As you'll see Harley disagrees with me but for different reasons than you might have thought...

To learn more about the myth of dogs being colorblind, read Dr. Ernie Ward's artcle about a new study suggesting dogs can see certain colors!

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

Are Possums Dangerous?

Possums can look threatening. They look somewhat like giant rats. When threatened, they often stand their ground and bare their teeth, such as in the below photo. They have 50 sharp teeth. The look intimidating. But are they a threat to people or pets?

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The truth is that opossums are usually docile. This teeth-bearing threat display is just for show. You can poke the animal with a stick in such a state, or even put your hand near that mouth, and the opossum won't do anything! (I'm not recommending this, by the way, just sharing my own experience). In fact, as you may have heard, a more common response to danger is not for the opossum to attack, but to pass out due to sheer fright, or "play dead"!

That said, in rare instances, opossums will attack, particularly when they have to defend themselves, just like any other animal would. So if your dog messes with a possum, and the possum doesn't play dead, it might bite back. In this case, a possum is dangerous to a dog or any other pet, like a cat. Below are two stories of cases I dealt with involving an aggressive, potentially dangerous opossum, only defending itself in extreme circumstances. A possum will never attack unprovoked, and very rarely attack even if heavily provoked! It's much more likely to stay still or play dead. Still, click either of the below cases to learn more.

After you read the below information, you may want to click on one of these guides that I wrote:
How much does opossum removal cost? - get the lowdown on prices.
How to get rid of opossums - my main opossum removal info guide.
Example opossum trapping photographs - get do-it-yourself ideas.
Opossum job blog - learn from great examples of opossum jobs I've done.

It makes sense to know what you are dealing with when it comes to wild animals, especially ones that look simply terrifying such as the opossum. If you were to take away the fact that this animal is around the same size of the cat, has fifty razor sharp teeth, and claws that would rip open even the toughest of skins, you actually just have a frightened animal trying to survive, and this is what most people fail to remember.

One of the things that opossums will do in order to avoid a confrontation with humans is play dead, and although many people believe this to be a myth, it is actually a true fact that you should know when dealing with the creature.

Playing dead is now a phrase used by people often, but very few know the origins, and they stand right here with the humble opossum! A smart move that was designed to confused their opponents into thinking they had "won" the battle, causing the threat to then leave them alone to get on with their opossum lives.

According to studies, the opossum itself has no control over this method of confusion, and it is actually something that is triggered within the brain to paralyze themselves temporarily, lasting from a few minutes to a few hours.

In short, this means that the opossum has a natural inbuilt instinct to play dead when standing against bigger animals, especially humans, so rather than stay and fight, they would actually just appear to be dead. This very much works in the humans favor as the animal can then be moved to a more suitable position and placement, effectively eliminating the problem.

Are possums dangerous to dogs? While opossums are often docile, if actually attacked, they will sometimes defend themselves. At first, the possum will most likely just stand still with their mouth agape at the dog. If attacked, they might play dead, but they also might fight and scratch and bite. In general, of wild animals, I think opossums are less of a threat than others. A raccoon might really hurt your dog. An opossum probably not.

Are possums dangerous to cats? I'd say that opossums are of little risk to housecats. Whereas a dog might provoke an opossum attack in pure defense, a cat won't attack an opossum the way a dog will. The important thing to know is that cats are WAY faster and more agile than opossums. The possum may look like it has a big scary mouth in comparison to a cat, but if push came to shove, a cat would win a fight out of pure speed. That said, a cat will almost never attack an opossum, and vice versa, an opossum will almost never attack a cat. Possums and cats get along! Opossums will not eat small kittens. Cats DO, however, frequently catch and kill young opossums, which look like rats. Read more on my Can a possum kill a cat? page.

Are possums mean or nasty or aggressive? No, the natural disposition of the opossum is gentle and independent. Opossums are not mean. Opossums are not aggressive. They just want to live their lives in peace. They will never aggressively attack for no reason, and remember, they don't really carry rabies.

While opossums are rarely dangerous, you might want to read about opossum predators. In general, possums don't have many, outside of the very people who help them thrive. The bottom line is that this is a peaceful animal, and it's not involved in many altercations, either as predator or prey.

Dogs Quotes

“Mario, what do you get when you cross an insomniac, an unwilling agnostic and a dyslexic?"

"You get someone who stays up all night torturing himself mentally over the question of whether or not there's a dog.”
― David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest

“Man is the Reasoning Animal. Such is the claim. I think it is open to dispute. Indeed, my experiments have proven to me that he is the Unreasoning Animal. In truth, man is incurably foolish. Simple things which other animals easily learn, he is incapable of learning. Among my experiments was this. In an hour I taught a cat and a dog to be friends. I put them in a cage. In another hour I taught them to be friends with a rabbit. In the course of two days I was able to add a fox, a goose, a squirrel and some doves. Finally a monkey. They lived together in peace even affectionately.

Next, in another cage I confined an Irish Catholic from Tipperary, and as soon as he seemed tame I added a Scotch Presbyterian from Aberdeen. Next a Turk from Constantinople a Greek Christian from Crete an Armenian a Methodist from the wilds of Arkansas a Buddhist from China a Brahman from Benares. Finally, a Salvation Army Colonel from Wapping. Then I stayed away for two whole days. When I came back to note results, the cage of Higher Animals was all right, but in the other there was but a chaos of gory odds and ends of turbans and fezzes and plaids and bones and flesh--not a specimen left alive. These Reasoning Animals had disagreed on a theological detail and carried the matter to a Higher Court.”
― Mark Twain, Letters from the Earth: Uncensored Writings

What do Dogs See When They Look at "The Dress"? - pets

The answer seems to be ‘Yes’.

I started thinking about this again yesterday when the girl who served me at Pets at Home told me she had recently done her thesis at Lincoln University on that very subject. She was kindly lifting a heavy bag of dog food into my car when she saw my two stuffed stooge dogs.

There is a recent study mentioned in the Applied Animal Behaviour Science: ‘Consistency of shelter dogs’ behavior toward a fake versus real stimulus dog during a behavior evaluation’.

Here I quote the highlights:

  • We examined the consistency of shelter dogs’ reactions toward fake and real dogs.
  • We found a high degree of agreement for the friendly trait.
  • Aggressive trait did not demonstrate adequate agreement.
  • Fearful trait demonstrated moderate agreement

Patricia McConnell writes about this question asked by a team of researchers in Massachusetts, ‘who did a study comparing the responses of 45 shelter dogs to a live dog and a fake, plush, stuffed dog. The real dogs were presented with a neutered, male American Staffordshire mix and a similarly sized, fake dog who was the same size as the real dog but is described as “having the appearance of a pointer breed dog”. Individual behaviors were recorded as occurring or not (approach, sniff, bark, growl, back away, etc.) and were also later lumped into three categories: “aggressive, fearful or friendly/playful”

However, they found little agreement between responses to real and fake dogs for what they labeled as “aggressive” behavior. In total, 17 dogs showed some form of aggressive behavior toward either the real or fake dog 8 toward the real dog, 12 toward the fake dog, but only 3 dogs shown any kind of aggressive behavior toward both categories.’

The stillness of a stuffed dog in itself could spook many a dog to actually be worse with a fake dog than a real one. Just because a dog knows that it’s not ‘real’ in a sense he understands or not actually in the room, he can still be scared or angry and react accordingly. Many dogs bark at other dogs on TV and at their own reflections.

To quote McConnell again: ‘I’ve always speculated that fake dogs, being stiff and motionless by definition, are more likely to elicit fear or aggression than a live dog would. After all, real dogs usually respond to another with some kind of action, whether it is looking away, flattening its ears, or lunging forward and barking. Nothing makes me more on guard than a dog who goes stiff and motionless, so it makes sense that until a dog realizes that the stuffed one is fake, it would be more reactive than usual. Note that the fearful reactions to the fake dog were over twice as common as to the real one.’

In her article McConnell includes some great photos of her own dogs – though dogs already fine with other dogs – encountering the fake dog for the first time.

So how fair or accurate is it to test shelter dogs for reactivity by using fake dogs?

The study has been concerning the accuracy of response to fake stooge dogs being used to assess a dog’s behaviour towards other dogs, not their value than as a training tool. It would be good to think that the results could influence assessors’ use of fake dogs for evaluation.

I myself only use a fake dog for distance work, to help owners with the technique of dealing with their dog-reactive dog at threshold. Even though fake, it still has to be thought out. I made a big mistake at the beginning by placing my fake stooge in the person’s drive. The dog went mental believing his territory had been entered by the enemy!

I found an interesting video. Ignore the handler (I’m not quite sure what she is actually trying to achieve) and watch the dog – particularly the marking at the end!

Here is a video of a gorgeous and gentle Pit Bull very closely engaged with the fake, who still seems to be fooled – or does he know it’s not real and is just playing anyway?

What do Dogs See When They Look at "The Dress"? - pets

I recently visited a teenage girl with autism. She was wearing noise cancelling ear muffs.

She explained to me that without them she simply has sensory overload. They enable her to function.

Her two highly-stressed little terriers, like so many dogs I go to, showed signs of suffering from sensory overload themselves. In addition, their own hearing and sense of smell is far more acute than our own.

Added to this, dogs will usually have little freedom to escape from what is, to them, ‘too much’.

To quote the Puppy Playground website:

The Ears: By the time their sense of hearing has developed, (a dog) can already hear 4 times the distance of a human with normal hearing. Dogs can hear higher pitched sounds and can detect a frequency range of 67-45,000 Hz, compared to a human range of 64-23,000 Hz.

The Nose: A human has about 5 million scent glands whereas dogs have 125 million to 300 million (depending on breed), meaning their sense of smell is 1,000 to 10,000,000 times better than humans!

I thought I would find out just little more about why these ear covers help someone with autism. Phoebe Caldwell says:

‘…. in general, people on the spectrum find it difficult to process too much incoming sensory information. Their sense organs (the eyes/ears etc…) may be working perfectly well but the brain has a limited processing capacity. ‘If you feed my brain with too much data it will crash’. ‘

Could this not be the similar with certain dogs?

This led me off ona bit of a tangent to Google ‘Can dogs have autism’ and I found this article from Nicholas Dodman. I found there was a lot more on the subject online. Dodman concludes his interesting article on Bull Terriers, ‘At least we seem have found the first canine model of autism and top psychiatrists and neurologists agree that our findings are real.’

Obviously sensory overload doesn’t necessarily mean autism. Sensory problems alone could be diagnosed as a sensory processing disorder.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could find a non-drug equivalent to noise cancelling ear muffs for little dogs like those I have just visited – to give them and their family a break if nothing else?

There are, of course, ‘Mutt Muffs‘ which I had always considered a bit of a joke.

Watch the video: Blue u0026 Black Dress or White u0026 Gold? Understanding Colour u0026 Colour Blindness - Behind the News (September 2021).