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Posts Tagged ‘dogs and squirrels’

What do these two photos have in common?

couch

Fence

They both show the results of Irish Water Spaniels exploring the world of physics, specifically demonstrating the laws of momentum and the conservation of kinetic energy.

When a 25 Kg dog runs at a speed of 10 kph and is impeded by a stationary object, kinetic energy is transferred to the object, which in turn alters the object’s position in space, depending on its mass and any additional forces that affect its position, such as gravity and friction. In the case of a couch, the kinetic forces of a jumping dog combined with gravity result in a change in position of the couch. As illustrated in the top photo.

In the bottom photo, a female Irish Water Spaniel was accelerating (after a squirrel), and the stationary fence absorbed the kinetic energy of the moving squirrel and dog. This energy exceeded the elastic qualities of the cedar fencing, and the molecular bonds of the cellulose fibers where not enough to prevent the destruction of a section of fence. (Ek=1/2mv2) Both the squirrel and the IWS were adept at changing their vectors of force and velocity, and so escaped unharmed. The fence has since been repaired.

Observing science through canines is always a treat. Tooey is especially gifted at demonstrating Newtonian physics. The force of squirrels upon Irish Water Spaniels is still being examined.

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Observation has led to a theory that squirrels have developed a telepathic-type ability to “single-track” the mind of a dog.

Through a currently unidentified mechanism, when a squirrel sights a dog, that squirrel sends a pulse or signal directly to the dog’s brain.

The result for the dog is that conscious brain functions are turned off. Control of the eyes, ears, and nose is transferred to the squirrel, and for a short period, ambulation is disabled. In essence, the dog becomes unable to respond to non-squirrel-generated environmental stimuli, particularly any originating from the dog’s handler.

Some change in the modulation or frequency of this pulse or signal then enables ambulation for the dog. This sudden release of energy, accompanied by the continued directed control over the eyes, ears, and nose, causes the dog to suddenly bolt in the direction of the squirrel. Hence, the squirrel is forced into sudden, extreme aerobic activity, with attendant (but relatively low) risks of being caught and eaten.

How this mechanism might benefit the individual squirrel is in question. One proposal states that this mechanism is employed by squirrels with a highly developed need for thrill-seeking behaviors. Another proposed idea notes that this behavior seems to be evident particularly in the autumn when squirrel intake of nuts and other calorie-dense foods is high, thus necessitating the usage of some factor which can motivate the squirrel to engage in frequent and vigorous aerobic exercise.

How this mechanism benefits the squirrel as a species is more obvious. Squirrels who activate the mechanism, and then do not run fast enough are swiftly removed from the gene pool. Another possibility is that the mechanism is actually used, not by the squirrel who is chased, but by other squirrels competing for resources and access to mates.

Further daily study of this phenomenon is required. Studies using local Irish Water Spaniels will be developed to test this theory.

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And it’s NOT me.

Tooey scouting the back yard for squirrels

Tooey scouting the back yard for squirrels

The sight, or even the suspicion, of squirrels makes sweet, affectionate, reasonably biddable Tooey forget her manners, the rules about not jumping onto the counter tops, and the appropriate way to walk nicely on a leash.

Sheesh! What is the big deal about those furry tree rats, anyway? OK, so, yeah — they’re little and furry, they squeak appealingly, and they run. I get that.

But is that enough to freeze the puppy mind into a single, lizard-brain track?

It shouldn’t be. But, based on results, I have to say, yes, it is. (Dang it!)

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