When it comes to the appearance of a dog, people have different preferences as to which breeds they find to be cuter, smarter, or friendlier. But what if there was a certain physical trait that was linked to the affection and compassion of a dog’s own personality. New York Times released an article on the 10th of January in 2019 regarding the Transportation Security Administration and why they believe that their canine employees with floppy ears might be friendlier to the public eye. In this article, the science behind this premonition will be brought forward.
Astoundingly, 70 percent of the dogs trained to sniff out bombs and other explosives for the Transportation Security Administration have ears that hang down low. In fact, the T.S.A. prefers to use floppy-eared dogs, especially for jobs that require interacting with travelers. They say that these dogs appear friendlier and less aggressive to the public, especially those who are children. These breeds generally include Labrador Retrievers, German Shorthaired Pointers and Vizslas. There are some dogs of the pointy-eared variety, but few in relation to those with droopy ears. But is there science that can prove these statements from the T.S.A.?
It turns out that there actually is a scientific explanation for why people find floppy-eared dogs to appear friendlier. Evolutionary biologist, Lee Dugatkin from the University of Louisville, states that dogs have been domesticated with a preference for certain characteristics that resemble juvenile characteristics and are further from their wild ancestors. It has also been found that animals that are calmer tend ot have fewer neural crest cells which are responsible for the growth of cartilage. Floppy-eared dogs lack cartilage, hence why their ears hang down, making them look friendlier. These theories and ideas were also proven in an experiment involving foxes in Russia.
Back in the late 1950s, an experiment was conducted based on the domestication of foxes. Dmitri Belyaev and her team of biologists took foxes from the wild and put them in cages. Using gloves, they attempted to tame each individual fox. Eventually, they bred the tamer animals, trying to see if they could fully domesticate this wild canid. After 10 generations of breeding only the tame ones, Belyaev began to see physical differences such as curly tails and floppy ears. The T.S.A. has used this knowledge to better their canine program.
The T.S.A. believes that dogs with droopy ears are better suited to interact with the public as they look less menacing, but they also know that not every flop-eared dog is calm or friendly. Although there are breed tendencies, not every individual has the same personality traits. For instance, Labrador Retrievers are known to be exceptional family dogs, but that does not mean that every Lab likes children. The T.S.A. takes this into account, focusing on the main goal at hand, the security of the public. They prefer dogs that have droopy ears, but they do not exclude those with pointy ears. They find the best canine for the job. This article ended with the statement that these dogs hold extremely important roles. Even with the current shut down of the government, these animals are hard at work, being paid in tennis balls, treats and plenty of praise.
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/10/science/tsa-dog-ears-floppy.html