As an animal lover I am always keen to uncover great new stories of moggie madness and daring doggie do. Our domestic pets are an endless fascination with their unique characters and special abilities. Rarely a week goes by without an interesting story and recently I have uncovered some startling news about both dogs and their owners which I just had to share.

Panda Dogs

Some dog owners really take the biscuit! I understand that there is now a big trend in China for dogs which look like pandas. The pups are selling out as their adorable looks appear to be too much to resist but all is not as it seems. The fluffy hounds are not a new breed. They are actually common chows which have been enhanced! The dogs are pouffed up and coloured to resemble a panda and their makeover only lasts for about six weeks at which time their owners must return them for another treatment. The dogs are the brainchild of pet shop owner Hsin Ch’en who is struggling to keep up with the demand. It all smacks of turning a dog into a fashion accessory to me!

Cancer Detection

Medical treatment dogs have been used for some time to sniff out cancer in humans but now they have officially been declared more efficient than conventional medical tests. Research has revealed that dogs detect prostate cancer with 90% accuracy whereas with the usual PSA tests 75% of positive results turn out to be false. The dogs are trained to detect cancer in urine samples but despite their obvious abilities they are not yet part of mainstream medicine. Millions of pounds have been poured into improving cancer testing and so it seems to me that the dogs would be a very cost effective way forward.  Sometimes science can’t beat nature!

Developing Brainy Dogs

A group of American graduate students have developed a dog feeder which is aimed at making the animals smarter. The team are experts in cognitive science and neuroscience and have used their skills and experience of working with animals to develop the feeder which uses algorithms to set the dogs more and more difficult challenges. The successful completion of a challenge results in a food reward for the dogs.

Whilst this is fascinating work I wonder if encouraging such enhanced cognition is really a good idea. My pets get progressively more ingenious and devious as it is, especially when it comes to extracting their favourite foods from me. If these scientists aren’t careful they will create super dogs with the ability to raid cupboards, recover foods and prepare them by themselves and then where would we be? We would have a canine obesity epidemic and a raft of owners driven mad over the antics of their pets. These researchers should have met my cat Yasmin before they started their innovation. She worked out how to open the fridge and the kitchen cupboards, pour breakfast cereal onto the floor and to cover it with milk by knocking over the bottles. Trust me nobody wants a pet who can do that!

Sally Stacey is a keen writer, small business owner and animal lover who keeps a look out for interesting developments in the pet world.