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April 18, 2024 77 mins

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Ever find yourself marveling at the uncanny connection you share with your furry best friend? Our latest podcast episode takes us on an expedition into the heart of human-canine relationships, with Melissa McCue-McGrath, a true trailblazer in dog training and conservation, leading the way. Celebrating Melissa's birthday, we tap into her wealth of knowledge, from the psychological bonds we forge with our dogs to their astonishing roles in ecological conservation.

Navigate the bustling world of urban canines with us as we examine the sensory challenges these city dwellers face and the importance of fulfilling their intrinsic needs. Discover how the power of scent enriches a dog's life and strengthens our bond with them. Then, we shift to the open fields, where working dogs like border collies find joy and purpose in tasks that tap into their natural instincts. These stories are not just about companionship; they're about acknowledging and harnessing the innate drives that make our dogs feel most alive.

Turning the focus beyond companionship, this episode also shines a light on the critical environmental work dogs are carrying out. From tracking down invasive species like the spotted lanternfly to assisting in marine biology research, our four-legged friends are on the front lines, aiding in the protection of our ecosystems. As we wrap up, we touch on the cozy debate about dogs sharing our beds and the warmth of the bonds we share. Join me, Vikram Baliga, for an enlightening journey through the remarkable world where humans and dogs meet, work, and thrive together.

Find all things Melissa, book her for dog training, and pick up her book on her website, and follow her on Instagram!

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As always, thanks so much for listening! Subscribe, rate, and review Planthropology on your favorite podcast app. It helps the show keep growing and reaching more people! As a bonus, if you review Planthropology on Apple Podcasts or Podchaser and send me a screenshot of it, I'll send you an awesome sticker pack!

Planthropology is written, hosted, and produced by Vikram Baliga. Our theme song is "If You Want to Love Me, Babe, by the talented and award-winning composer, Nick Scout.

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:00):
What is up?
Plant people it's time onceagain for the Plantthropology
podcast, the show where we diveinto the lives and careers of
some very cool plant people tofigure out why they do what they
do and what keeps them comingback for more.
I'm Vikram Baliga, your hostand your humble guide in this
journey through the sciences and, as always, my friends.
I am so excited to be with youtoday, and even more excited to
be with you today because I getto talk to my friend on this

episode, my friend whosebirthday it was, as we recorded,
so I say this several timesduring the episode, but happy
birthday, melissa.
Melissa McHugh-McGrath is apodcaster, a science
communicator, an educator and adog trainer, an author as well,
and so many other things thatwe'll talk about through this
Melissa's background is inpsychology, the human side, but

that translated well into how werelate to our canine friends,
and in this conversation we talkabout everything from what a
dog does and why a dog does whatit does, whether it's in your
home or in a city environment orout in the field working,
because a big part of whatMelissa has done over the past
couple of years is trained dogsfor conservation, which is just

the coolest thing, and whetherthey are planting trees or
looking for invasive species ordetecting spotted lanternflies
or so many other things, dogswork hard for us and they enjoy
doing it.
So this is such a funconversation about dog training
and what your dog is doing, anddoes your dog love you?
It does Spoilers, and how hardthey work, and I think you're

really going to enjoy this.
So again, I'm not going to stopsaying it Happy birthday,
It was so cool that you spentyour birthday with me.
So grab a nice comfy chair, puton your headphones, turn up
your car stereo.
Give your dog a nice littlescratch on the head on your

headphones, turn up your Melissa.
Happy birthday.

Speaker 2 (02:17):
Cheers To me With you , yeah.

Speaker 1 (02:22):
Like, I'm honored that you're willing to spend
part of your birthday with metalking about plants and insects
and dogs and whatever elsecomes up.

Speaker 2 (02:32):
The Niners, whatever comes up.
I am just so happy to be herewith my friend Fit Room and I
poured myself a whiskey, eventhough it's a little too early,
because it is my birthday and Ijust wanted to celebrate and
hang out with a really coolperson and just have a really
good day.
And so far, so good.

Speaker 1 (02:49):
That's awesome, and I'm pretty sure there's no
actual rules on your birthday.
I think you can just dowhatever you want.
I don't know if that's true,but I'm going with that.

Speaker 2 (02:56):
I'm not going to run any red lights because that's
But barring that, I'm going tohave a fun afternoon no good for

Speaker 1 (03:06):
Well afternoon, no good for you.
Great well, melissa, we'veknown each other for a little
while through the podfix networkand just podcasting and the
internet interwebs and all thattwitter that was oh, whatever
Yeah, I know smoking crater onthe internet, now some people
wallowing around in the bottomof it.
That's what it feels like.

Speaker 2 (03:22):
I don't know I can't even get back in, like I'm
locked out of Twitter and I'mlike I'm not even going to try,
Like I can't get back in and I'mlike you know it's better.
This way it's fine, I'm fineyeah.

Speaker 1 (03:34):
Yeah, it's worth it.
It's not worth it.

Speaker 2 (03:35):
It's not worth it.

Speaker 1 (03:38):
So why don't you introduce yourself?
Tell us about you.
Where'd you grow up, what doyou do?
How'd you get there?
Just whatever you want to knowabout you.

Speaker 2 (03:46):
Okay, so my name's Melissa Mickey McGrath.
I grew up in Midcoast Maine,which is about halfway between
the only two cities thatanybody's ever heard of here,
portland and Bangor, and we hadwhat I affectionately call an
accidental sled dog team.
These dogs actually ran theIditarod, like the big race that
they now, because of globalwarming, have to truck snow into

for the official start.
But at the time they didn't,because it was the 80s.
The 80s had different troublesand snow was not one of them.
Those dogs were kind of giftedto my dad when his friend ran
the Iditarod, came back, I thinkhe decided he was too cold,
gave my dad 10 dogs and thendisappeared and we never heard

from him again.
So my brother, sister and I gotoff the bus and we discovered
we had 10 dogs.
We're like that was the bestday ever.
So I grew up in what Iaffectionately call an
accidental sled dog family.
We were not prepared to havethose dogs.
They were working dogs.
They were different dogs thanwhat I had envisioned as a kid,
like a golden retriever, whereyou like throw a ball, they
bring it back.
You throw a ball for a husky,they give you a middle finger if

they had them, and so I likegrowing up in that part of Maine
You would have to drive an hourand a half to get to the
nearest highway the only highwayin our state and I couldn't
wait to get out, so I left.
I went to college in Ohio, lakeErie College.
It used to be an all men'sschool, I'm sorry, an all
women's school, and in 1986,they started inviting men.

So then they called it LakeCollege for Erie Women for a
while, which I really wish I hadthat shirt.
It really does, and you have noidea how truthful that was.
So I graduated from there,moved to Boston for 20 years and
then spent like the last threeyears before COVID and then

COVID year trying to get back toMaine.
I tried so hard to get out ofit that I wanted to go back
because it was so quiet and likethe nature and everything and
give my daughter a nice place toexplore and run around and
smell fresh air.
Because being in Boston like wedidn't have, you know, the moon
or stars, because it was solight, polluted, we didn't have
quiet, there was no.

Like she couldn't just gooutside like I could, she would
have to.
Like it was all sidewalks andscary and people were constantly
hit by cars in our area so wecouldn't just go outside.
So we moved back to Maine andwe've been here for the last
three years and I'm a dogtrainer.

I've been doing dog trainingand animal behavior work for the
last 20 years pretty much myentire time in Boston.
Animal behavior work for thelast 20 years pretty much my
entire time in Boston.
I've done everything fromcompetitive Frisbee dogs to now
invasive species detection andeverything in between.

Speaker 1 (06:31):
That is so cool.

Speaker 2 (06:32):
Yeah, that's so cool, and I didn't mean to.
I went to that college LakeErie College because I really
wanted to teach people how toride horses therapeutically.
This was at the time of likethe just before 9-11, the Iraq
war was still in full swing, wehad not yet gone to Afghanistan
to screw things up over thereand I my dad being in the

military, my sister being in themilitary I was like I want to
help people coming back from themilitary with PTSD and I can
use horses to do it.
So I've always wanted to workwith animals, specifically
And then, two months into thepony program at this college, I
got bucked off and broke myspine and decided you know what,
maybe I'll get my psychologydegree instead, because couches

don't buck you off.
So I gave up on animals incollege.
The thing that brought me toOhio, the thing that I loved
dearly, that I thought I wouldbe teaching and I would be
working with animals, I thought,was off the table two months,
like by October of my freshmanyear of college.
And at the time, if you wantedto work with animals, all you

had was be a police caninehandler, which I was certainly
not built for, be a veterinarian, which I didn't think that was
quite right for me, or to be afarmer.
Those were the only threeoptions, and now there are so
many and I kind of haphazardlyfell into dog training and
behavior, which is where I thinkI should have been all along.

Speaker 1 (07:59):
Yeah that's so cool.

Speaker 2 (08:00):
Yeah, so, cool.

Speaker 1 (08:02):
Yeah, that's such a fascinating thing to me and
maybe it is because, like my doghow do I say this?
No, I shouldn't blame my dog.
Oh no, not good at at traininga dog.
We tried, we took her toclasses and I think it's the
reinforcement that that like wewere not good at, like she did

great in the class and then wegot, we got home and we were
just like I do whatever you wantand she's a good dog.

Speaker 2 (08:28):
She's a good dog, so that's fine, she's fine.

Speaker 1 (08:31):
And at this point she's like 12 and we're like you
know you're okay, she's doinggreat yeah.
She's doing great, but it'ssuch like a specific way that
you have to go about it, to doit.

Speaker 2 (08:50):
I think it's just such a cool field.
Well, the the best science isartistic.
Like you can't.
Like you, you can do.
The thing that you do withplants is you make it into an
art that people appreciate,whether it's the and here are
two of us in two very differentfields, and and we're not going
to be able to use the same likebut like you, you make them

pretty and like not look deadand wilty, and you sell them and
people are happy, right andlike.
Cultivate, like, like.
What do you do with a bonsai?
Like you, you shape it like.

Speaker 1 (09:20):
Yeah, or is that a different?
It's not a bad word, okay, sureso you do that.

Speaker 2 (09:25):
But what your art is is you make that interesting to
other people and you use commonlanguage.
You don't speak over anybody'shead, you are relatable and you
make that and that piece of itis art and that is what makes
you a brilliant teacher andthat's why your podcast is so
good and I think you are verywelcome.
And I think there is an art toteaching the science, whether

it's learning theory, which iswhat I got, which is what I do
every day whether it's to theanimal in front of me or to the
Now, I'm two degrees ofteaching.
I'm teaching a human to teachthis animal, which is a
different species who hasdifferent instincts and
different motivations and thingslike that, but the neural
pathways the exact same neuralpathways in your brain, in my

brain learning theories,learning theories, learning
theory across every mammalianspecies on the planet.
And so if I know how to usereinforcement and timing and
know what's going to motivatethat individual, I can teach a
spider to hide, I can teach adolphin to jump, I can teach a
goldfish to jump over my fingerand I can teach a dog to find

invasive species.
Tools that you have, just likeyou have tools in the greenhouse
and and doing juju, true magicstuff and make it look easy and
then communicate that to apopulation yeah, that's really
cool and it's such a coolmarriage.

Speaker 1 (10:54):
I feel like of your you know love of animals, you
know you said you grew up withsled dogs, which that's such a
cool thing it was so weird yeahbut like I feel like some of the
coolest, like most interestingthings are like are the things
that get you shoved in a lockerwhen you're eight, but are
really cool when you're an adult, looking back oh, listen, I, I
relate to that so much like evenwhen I was going through

So I, I graduated college in2009, right?
So this is pre-aesthetic socialmedia right, we had facebook,
but yeah, you know, yeah, Iremember 2009.
Yeah, barely like yeah, yeah,yeah, no me too, and like you
know this, this nerd studyingplants like that wasn't cool

yeah like.
But then since then, like plantplant Instagram, plant, tiktok
plant yeah, it is so likepopular right now.
Like, oh, plant guy is cool.
I'm like I didn't.
I never saw that coming.
No, that came out of left fieldfor me.

Speaker 2 (11:53):
Yeah, I didn't know I could fit into a locker until
somebody shoved me in it becausewe had a sled dog team.
Get in there, nerd.
It was not cool at the time,but now, like the nerds unite,
we are having our moment and Iam here for it.

Speaker 1 (12:11):
Yeah, I'm going to enjoy it as much as I can while
I can.
I think it's great.

Speaker 2 (12:15):
I agree.

Speaker 1 (12:16):
So I want to dive into, I guess, that or the idea of what you
do in terms of dog training andanimal behavior and all that a
little bit more.
So sort of two questions, andwe can take them however we want
So the first one is like whatdoes that look like on a
day-to-day Sure?

Speaker 2 (12:35):
And the other is more specifically now you wrote a
book about dog behavior, correct, yeah, living in the city with
dogs specifically because therewere no resources for my
students in Boston becausethey're like, okay, if your dog
is barking, let them bark it out.
Well, you can't do that if youlive in an apartment and your
landlord can evict you.

You can't, and also not eventaking into consideration
remember how I was talking about, how different we all
functionally learn the same.
Humans are a very front facingspecies.
So if I saw you, I'd walk up toyou straight on and try to give
you a hug.
If it was, if you were coolwith it, I'd be cool, but I you
know, chest to chest, face toface, very direct, coming at

each other.
That is how humans connect Dogs.
If you see them, they do likethat butt to nose circle thing.
Head on means fight, and so ifyou look at a hallway, if you
look at a sidewalk, if you lookat straight lines that we build
in cities, that are grids and weput dogs on them and then just

start walking at other dogs,every dog your dog is passing is
basically functionally settingthem up to say fight me, fight
me, fight me, wow.
And we don't.
And some dogs override it andthink, okay, this is just my
environment, but some dogs aresuper sensitive to that and they
do not do well in that kind ofenvironment.
Pardon, that's the whiskeyHappy birthday to me.

But when you have these dogsgoing in straight lines, I
always say that a straight lineis the third circle of hell for
your dog.
Elevators are circles one andtwo.

Speaker 1 (14:13):
Straight lines are the third I can.
Yeah, you know I'm sorry justto.
I'm sorry to interrupt.

Speaker 2 (14:18):
No, no, no Please.

Speaker 1 (14:20):
But I thought of how a dog would like.
I've never taken my dog on anelevator.
How a dog would like.
I've never taken my dog on anelevator.
But I'm imagining now what thatexperience would be like trying
to get my stubby little corgimix into an elevator and deal
with her through the wholeprocess.
I can't imagine that's good.

Speaker 2 (14:33):
The wall opens up and if your dog is on the outside,
the wall closes and eats all thepeople.
So that's a good start.
And then so keep in mind, yourdog can smell way better than we
can right.
That's why they're so good atinvasive species detection and
detecting cocaine and deadbodies and narcotics and all the
other things they go into theycan smell actually.

Let's put it in this context Ifyour corgi was on the fifth
floor apartment like in a fifthfloor apartment they could smell
what deodorant or not the guyin the first floor is wearing.
That's how sensitive their noseis.
They can smell.
40 feet under your feet that'sfour basketball nets straight
into the earth.
They can smell that right, soyou take that idea of like their
entire world is olfactory.

And then you put them in anelevator, a closed moving box,
after the teen who has justrecently discovered Axe body

Speaker 1 (15:27):
Oh God.

Speaker 2 (15:28):
That poor dog, that poor dog, and they can smell
backwards in time up to 3,000years.
They have found bodies andcivilizations in Croatia buried
in the rock from 3,000 years ago.
So they're basically smellingbackwards in time the same way
that our telescopes, like theJames Webb telescope, can see
backwards in time to the firstblack holes, to the Big Bang and

I hear a lot about it becausemy in-laws are both astronomy
professors working exactly onthis.
So that is the extent of theJames Webb telescope that I know
But your dog can smellbackwards in time.
So anytime your dog walks intoa room, they're smelling the
last two to three weeks ofpeople, dogs, food, everything
that has gone through that room.

They can smell those likelittle.
I had one plugged in here likethose, like little plug-in
things Glade plug-ins.
That gives more dogs headaches.
And when I go in to do behaviorwork and dogs are a little
funky, I ask them to remove thatand see if that helps a little
And when I go in to do behaviorwork and dogs are a little
funky, I ask them to remove thatand see if that helps a little

And it does frequently helpbecause they're just so
It would be like if I was justblasting EDM music on, but like
for your nose, for your dog.
Yeah, so we just don't tend tothink of.
And they can also hearelectricity in the walls, so
like that's torturous.
So there's so many things thatwe just don't tend to think of,
and they can also hearelectricity in the walls, so
like that's torturous.
So there are so many thingsthat we just can't quite
perceive in the same way orappreciate in the same way,

because these cities and thesebuildings and these environments
are built for humans and thedogs are invited to live with us
and if they do a good job andthey're not a nuisance and
they're not barking and they'renot pulling and they're not
biting people, then they're fineand they're great and they live
a great life with us.
But when they're struggling,that's when I get called in.
I'm never called in to watchsomebody's dog have a good day.

Speaker 1 (17:21):
I'm not getting paid to be like hey can you just
watch my dog frolic in the fieldwhile, like, tchaikovsky is
playing'll be like, yeah, greatthanks if that was a job that
sounds like the dream, rightthat's anyone out there, please,
I will.

Speaker 2 (17:29):
I volunteer as tribute, like happy dogs so I
interrupted you.

Speaker 1 (17:33):
We were talking about how thefirst and second circle of hell
was a, the, the box of smellsand terror, and then the second
one was straight lines on it.
Yeah, the second one is thestraight lines on city streets.

Speaker 2 (17:45):
City, streets and hallways.
So like if, let's say, I'm inan apartment building and if
you've ever lived in a city wetend to think of, well, let me
put it this way, if you've neverlived in a city, you only
really can see a city from likewhat Hollywood presents.
So like only murders in thebuilding.
That is not a real apartmentbuilding.
Right, that is not a realapartment building.

Right, that is not real.
Like that is seven apartmentsin one, like that is not a real
But we do tend to think ofgrids little wall, like little
rooms off the side, almost morelike a hotel setup.
That's not always the case.
Sometimes there are two familyor three family apartments that
were one house, that werechopped up and redivided.
But when you bring your dog intothese environments you're
walking down one of those kindof more typical hallways.

They're walking by everyapartment.
They can hear toddlers runningor the baby who just pooped in
their diaper, whatever foodthey're cooking or burning,
whatever cigarettes are beingsmoked, every room tells a
different story.
Every building is telling.
Every apartment Apartment, Iguess, is telling its own story

as a dog is walking by.
So it's like a flipbook of likenew thing, new thing, new thing
It's basically us likescrolling on TikTok New thing,
new thing, new thing, right.
Plus they're also smelling upand down on TikTok New thing,
new thing, new thing, right.
Plus they're also smelling upand down.
So if another dog comes out ofone of those apartments and
starts walking towards your dog,and your dog is what we would

call reactive.
I don't like that other dog, orI don't like other dogs in
general, or other people arescary, or ooh, you're a little
too close and I'm sensitive tothat.
It might not even be thatanything ever happened to this
That dog is just being a dog,and they happen to be in a very
narrow hallway with anothergroup walking right at them.
You could continue to walkwhile your dog is barking,
lunging and acting a foolrightfully so or you could turn

and go back into your apartment.
But if somebody else comes outbehind you, now you're stuck
right and now you have nowhereto go.
And you've got this barking,lunging dog and everyone is
looking at you saying, ooh,there's no bad dogs, only bad
And now you feel like a beepand you're holding back on this

Who's barking, who's just?
Basically, I'm scared andeveryone's looking at you and
then you feel like a jerk.
So cities are just really hard.
Whether it's an apartmentbuilding or a sidewalk, it's
kind of functionally the same.

Speaker 1 (20:15):
Wow, yeah, and that you know that explains so much
as someone who this is all, likeyou know, I've lived with dogs
my whole life, but like, I neverthought about it in all.
Like you know, I've lived withdogs my whole life but like,
yeah, thought about it in, andI'm even someone who's, like my
wife, is very into like animalsand like has always been her
degrees in animals.
Well, not in animal science, inwildlife science.
Yeah, yeah, we're, we're sortof I don't want to say in it,

but like we're maybe moreknowledgeable than some people.
Right, like all of this is sonew to me.
Yeah, it's, I think, the kindof thing that people just never
talk about.
So, like when you're outwalking your dog, like even in
your neighborhood, in your park,in every two seconds, yeah,
like, oh, what's that, oh,what's that, oh, I'm going to

Speaker 2 (20:54):
They're checking their pee mail, yeah.

Speaker 1 (20:59):
That's really good.
But that's like such goodcontext then for, like, when
your dog is not doing thosethings.
Yeah, like how good they'rebeing.
Like just the fact that theycan walk straight with this
luxury like overload, bombardingthem all the time.

Speaker 2 (21:12):
You should be throwing a party for that dog,
or you should recognize thatthat dog may have been trained
or conditioned to just be like.
I guess I'm not allowed tosmell that thing, I guess I just
have to fall in line.
So like it depends on thespecific animal.
I think with older dogs they'rejust like I'm just happy to be
with you and they're fine.
But when it's a younger dog,when I see a two-year-old dog or

younger just kind of walkingobediently next to their owner,
it actually kind of makes me alittle sad because I'm like why
isn't that dog sniffing?
Why isn't that dog like thiswalk is for the dog?
Why, I'm like why isn't thatdog sniffing?
Why isn't that dog like thiswalk is for the dog?
Why aren't they experiencingthe world to that Like this dog
is going to go for a walk at ahuman pace and we are slow to a
dog like we're bipeds.
They've got four legs, like theyhave to slow way down to match

our pace and then they go into abuilding and they're there for
eight hours by themselves.
So they're social animals andthey don't get to have, they
don't get to read the world inthe way that they're supposed to
and they're in a building bythemselves and then they're so
excited to see us.
We're like, stop jumping on us,like.
We are so like.

When you look at it from thatcontext, it's like, okay, it
doesn't hurt me any to say, okay, we've got 20 minutes, we're
not going to walk as far, butyou can sniff all you want.
And now we're going to go homeand instead of feeding you
breakfast in a bowl, I couldgive you a puzzle toy like a
Kong that's filled with foodthat's frozen, and then you can

work on that for the first partof the morning.
So you have something to dowhile you wait for us to come
Maybe get a dog walker, let thedog out for a few minutes and
they get a little bit of asocial interaction, get a second
And then you come home andyou're like hey, buddy, like
let's go for a walk, like.
And then you get to sniff again, like just that little.

Letting them sniff is honestlythe number one thing that I can
recommend to any person who hasa dog and you are in need of
calling a dog trainer.
Just let your dog sniff and seeif anything changes, and for I
would say, about 40 to 50percent of the cases that's
going to just fix everything,because you're just letting them
be themselves and theneverything else should fall into
The other 50 to 60 percent youmight actually need some help,
but like Sure sure, but justletting them sniff is a huge

piece of it.
And it enriches their life.
They don't get Insta, facebook,twitter, things, like they're
just sitting in our living roomsjust like do I get to go for a
walk now?
Okay, I guess I'll go later.
How about now?
Okay, I guess I'll go later,because they don't have these.
We've got these magic thumbs.

We have two things that dogsdon't have thumbs and middle
And I swear if dogs had both,we would be in a lot of trouble.

Speaker 1 (23:58):
Oh well, and we get this look from our dog every now
and then.
That's more or less like I meanthe dog, what I feel like is
the dog version of a middlefinger.
Oh yeah, like, like, they're soexpressive oh yeah, and, and our
dog has these little browneyebrows and they're really cute
, I love it, like, like, and youknow, and I read it, I read a,
an article somewhere at somepoint that dogs over time and

then you can probably correct meon this if I'm wrong but they
evolved more expressive faces.
Yes, because of us.

Speaker 2 (24:28):
Because of us.
So they have what's called.
That's so crazy.
Going back to psychology, it'sall neoteny, which is like these
juvenile characteristics.
So if you look at something,poor Paul Chomo, also on our
network, volunteered to do a dogshow viewing with me and I
think I ruined dogs for PaulChomo.
I will both apologize and notapologize for it.

And so he.
We had talked about how certaindogs like let's just take a
French bulldog, for example Likethey used to have a thing
called a snout and we have bredthem to look like they ran face
first into a cement wall and nowthey have no snout, which is
physically deeply problematicbecause now they can't breathe,

they can't regulate temperaturebecause they can't sweat.
So the only way they can cooloff is by panting, and if you
have less snout there's less airthat can get in to cool off
your body.
Their head is too big for thebirth canal, so they have to be
born via cesarean section, andin many French bulldogs and all

English bulldogs they tab A andslap E don't fit, so they also
have to be produced byartificial insemination, like
yeah you know the other ai.
And so these dogs like that we,we produce them.
If you look at a french bulldog, they have no muzzle, like a

They have big eyes like a babyhuman.
They have a round face like ababy human.
We have selectively bred yeah,bred for these neoteny-like
features to look more cute forus and they developed in
response to us, like if I lookat this person and have sad
puppy dog eyes, maybe I can goeror had a little bit more social

grace and like would approachus, they would get a french fry
or they would get like ahamburger.
If they were like street dogs,if they behaved or looked a
certain way and could get closeenough, they would get resources
and maybe even protection, andso those genes get to go forward

Speaker 1 (26:43):
Yeah, that's so fascinating.
And so those genes get to goforward.
Yeah, that's so fascinating.
And what pops into my mind isthere's this concept in plant
science that we talk aboutsometimes, about how
domestication is never a one-waystreet.

Speaker 2 (26:55):

Speaker 1 (26:55):
No, we co -evolve with thethings around us to use wheat
and how to breed wheat anddifferent plants.
Like it was, like domesticatingus back, like our society and
the way we structure everythingfrom agriculture to food supply,
and everything is based on howthe plants operate right.

So it was definitely aco-evolution and a

Speaker 2 (27:22):
Oh yeah, Same here.

Speaker 1 (27:23):
And I'm sure there's some of that that has to do with
good dogs too right Likeabsolutely A hundred percent yes
, they here.
And I'm sure there's some ofthat.
That has to do with good dogstoo.
Right 100 percent.
Yes, they're domesticating usright back.

Speaker 2 (27:28):
Oh yeah, like the number of people that come into
my classes, like I can see it onthe daily, like they come in
and they're like he won't stoppulling me the dog is 12 pounds
and the owner is not and they'rebeing quote pulled into the
classroom and they're beingquote pulled into the classroom.
It's like you could just notmove and the pulling will not be

There's certainly an element ofhuman being human on top of it
that is feeding into the cutedog Absolutely.

Speaker 1 (28:02):
Yeah, I'm going to think about this for a while,
just because it's such aninteresting way, and I have to
think about the way I relate tomy little old dog and all of
that let the dog sniff oh, yeah,well, yeah, and you know
there's so much like a part ofour families and a part of our
We want to take good care ofthem and I think this is

actually a good time to take aquick break.
And when we come back, I wantto talk about one dogs with jobs
Two dogs with jobs inconservation and ecology work,
and I'm so excited to talk aboutthis.
So we'll go run a quickmid-roll.
I'll say whatever words popinto my head when I voice this
over and then we'll be rightback.
Well, hey there, welcome to themid-roll.

I hope you're enjoying thisepisode and I hope you'll tell
your dog hi from me.
Hey, thanks for being a part ofPlantthropology.
Thanks for listening.
It is because of you that weget to do this and you know I
enjoy doing this.
If you'd like to connect withPlantthropology, you can find us
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Just search all of them,connect with all of them.
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Please drop me a rating andreview wherever you can, whether
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I really like to hear what youthink, and I do love five-star
They look great.
In my room I put them up on thewalls and I print them all out.

I don't that might be a littlecreepy, I don't know.
Um, it's, it's not a thing thatI wouldn't do and now that I'm
thinking about it, it's a thingthat that I might do.
Anyway, thanks for being a partof it and if you want to tell a
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But once again, thanks so muchto you, the listener.

Go check out the PodFix Networkwhere Melissa and I have both
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As member shows on the PodFixNetwork Great shows, artist

owned and created and justeducational and funny and
So I hope you'll stick aroundfor the second half of this
episode, where we talk moreabout dog training but we talk a
lot about conservation.
So buckle up and let's do thething in five, four, three, two,

Okay, here it goes.
All right, we are back.

Speaker 2 (31:07):
That was so long it was I know and I'm sure it was
very educational and I learnedso much.
Listen to it.

Speaker 1 (31:14):
Yeah, yeah uh, it wasn't just me rambling for
about two and a half minutesabout whatever, uh, so, okay, I
want to to talk about the thingsthat dogs help us do, and where
I want to start with this alittle bit is there are a lot of
accounts on social media rightnow that talk about dog behavior
and dog training, and there'sone that comes to mind, not in

terms of that, but in terms ofworking dogs, and it's this.
The account's called Sean theSheep man.
I don't know if you've seenthis.

Speaker 2 (31:44):
I haven't, but I'm interested.

Speaker 1 (31:46):
You need to check it out.
So this guy's a shepherd and Idon't remember where, I want to
say in the US, but I could bemaking that up.
But he has a number of bordercollies, okay, which I think
when we think working dog, a lotof times in my mind at least
borders or healers or whateverpop up.
You, at least borders orhealers or whatever pop up.

You know bluey's family andfriends and he'll post videos of
, like you know he's out in thislike picturesque, I think,
european countryside or americancountryside with rolling hills
and grass, and he's got thesethree borders on his atv with
them and he'll slow down andthey'll jump off and, like you
know, they're rocket ships withfeet, yeah.
And then the comments sometimesare like, oh, you're being so
cruel to those dogs, making themdo this or that or whatever.

Or he'll put post videos ofthem like working a herd of
sheep and yeah, they're so smartand they're so like in tune to
just like body language andstuff from the, the trainer, and
the, the owner.
Um, so so the first question Ihave is do dogs like having jobs
Is it something?
That and that's maybe acomplicated question I have is
do dogs like having jobs?
Is it something that and that'smaybe a complicated question,

but like are these dogs happydoing what they're doing?
Because they sure look happydoing what they're doing?

Speaker 2 (32:53):
Yeah, they are.
Well, let me preface this bysaying stress is stress, is
stress right?
So like, if you won, it's goingto date me, much older than you
, but Ed McMahon coming to thedoor with the check for $5
right, that is stress.

It's good stress.
Somebody rings the doorbell andgives you a check for $5
Your heart, you get that kickof adrenaline.
Your heart starts to thump andyou're like whoa, right, you get
that kick of adrenaline.
Your heart starts to thump andyou're like whoa, right You're.

If you hear the ding dong andyou open the door and it's
Freddy Krueger with the knife,that adrenaline is prepping you
for something different.
But it all starts the same,whether it's super excitement or
So both fear and overexcitementare two sides of the exact same
It all starts with a kick ofadrenaline, and that's actually
the very crux of the work that Ido in behavior is like how is
the body processing something?
Is this really something thatyou should be worried about or

So with things like bordercollies, with dogs like border
collies, who are bred forcenturies to work in dog
training, in domesticated dogs,there's this whole sequence.
I think it's called thepredatory sequence.
There are seven steps in it.
I'm not going to remember allof them off the top of my head.
Thank you, jameson.
But they're basically like in aBorder Collie.

Specifically it's stalk wherethey get down low and they kind
of crawl on their front feet,eye, so they're staring and
they're trying to like get theirwork done with their eyes and
then they chase, run, grab,shake, kill and consume.
So that is the predatorysequence and every dog, every

domesticated dog, has that wholesequence in them, except for a
couple pieces are taken out.
So for pointers, we get thecrawl, the stalk and they'll
point and they'll eye, but theywon't chase and they won't grab,
they won't shake, they won'tconsume.
When you're dealing with aterrier, they will grab, they

will do the whole sequence up tograb and shake, but they won't
They will do the whole sequenceup to grab and shake, but they
won't consume.
So like we basically have, likeif you look at a wild dog,
whether it's a wolf or a coyote,a dingo that may or may not
have eaten your baby, all ofthese dogs, all of these wild
dogs, have that full predatorysequence and in being

domesticated we have pulled outpieces of that line, so it's not
a full sequence.

Speaker 1 (35:27):
In herding.

Speaker 2 (35:28):
We have taken out grab, shake, consume.
So they stalk like a wolf.
This is their instinct.
This is what they are supposedto do.
In place of it, we have taughtthem to work with a human.
So when I'm working with BorderCollies German Shepherds, dutch
Shepherds, belgian Malinois,dogs like that, working, herding
, guarding dogs they tend to bemore eyeball-y and less scent-y

than the other dogs that I workwith.
They're staring at things.
So when they see these bordercollies, the border collies see
the sheep, something in theirbrain goes ah.
Something in their brain goesah.
So it's up to us to like funnelthat into their natural drive,
which is please don't hurt thesheep.
Right, the ones that do hurtsheep are no longer working.

So either they are culled andtaken out of the gene pool, or
they are honed and given a jobin Frisbee dogs or agility, or
they're given something else todo.
The dogs I would wager on thataccount are very happy, very
driven, and my god they woulddrive, they.
They would be on so manypharmaceuticals if they did not

have that job.
These dogs run, if they'removing sheep, 10 miles.
The, the Border Collies, areworking 100.
And they have the stamina andendurance to do so Up and over
rocky mountains and fields inWales, in Scotland, in England
and in the US.
In the fields of the US.

It is important for working breddogs to do their job.
Important for working bred dogsto do their job.
Now, if you want a BorderCollie and don't want that, you
could get what's called a benchbred Border Collie, which are
the ones that are more for show.
They still have a lot of thesame instincts and they still
need a lot of exercise.
But you don't need to buy thatdog its own personal flock of

sheep and I still highlyrecommend that you don't have
one in this city.
Speaking from experience, I hadone in Boston for 10 years.
I should have gone onpharmaceuticals sooner for
It was hard and I loved her todeath.
She's tattooed on my arm.
She is.

I would not be doing my job ifit wasn't for her, but it did.
It was a nice wake-up call torealize, nope, this dog needed a
job and throwing a disc wasn'tcutting it for her.

Speaker 1 (37:54):
That wasn't it.
Well, I have a friend that hasa couple of roadies, rhodesian
Ridgebacks, oh, and like she'llliterally go like run them with
her horse.
Like, because like she's likethese dogs will run literally

Speaker 2 (38:11):
Like they've got all the energy.
Do you know what they were bredto do?
Hunt lions right Hunt lions inthe Sahara, crazy Simba.
No, these dogs are massive andthey're athletic.
They are physically beautifuland we bred them for that.
They're called a RhodesianRidgeback because they have a

line of hair that goes downtheir spine that actually grows
the wrong way.
It's a reverse growth and inshowing these dogs it's a quote
fault to have a dog that doesn'thave that genetic mutation.
So, like you could like if youwere really into the showing of
these dogs and this is where Ihave a hard time with dog shows

is that you like a quote goodbreeder would cull that or
neuter it so it can't produceoffspring, no matter how nice
that dog is and no matter howwell it does its job or not, it
is no longer a dog.
That is quote beneficial to thebreed standard, even though
you're breeding for thatmutation of just hair growing

the wrong direction.
But yeah, these guys were bredto move lions on the Sahara.
They're so cool, so cool.

Speaker 1 (39:24):
Well, you know, we're're not at least in the
central us we're not doing a lotof lion hunting, but we not a
lot, not a lot, you know, justjust occasional.
But we do have things likeinvasive species.

Speaker 2 (39:37):
Oh, good segue, I thought so.

Speaker 1 (39:40):
Thank you well done from from the spotter spotted
lanternfly to probably a bunchof other things.
This was one thing that youbrought up as we were talking
about this episode is that thereare dogs that help with the
spotted lanternfly.
What's that about?
How does that work?

Speaker 2 (39:54):
So just a quick primer on the spotted lanternfly
It is considered one of themost invasive insects in America
right now and if you are in astate, there are 14, I believe,
presently that are infected bythe spotted lanternfly.
It leaves behind every crop, ittouches what looks like

scorched earth without the fire.
This lanternfly, it's abeautiful moth-like looking
It's got these big white wingswith black spots.
The lower part of the wing, thesmaller wingy part I'm in
animal science the smaller partof the wing of a traditional

moth, is bright red and it's gotthese beautiful white spots.
Gorgeous little invasive buggerthat is killing everything.
And so what it'll do is it willlay its eggs.
Well, first, it'll feed onanything.
It'll feed on.
In Maine it's particularlydangerous if it gets here
because it'll feed on mapletrees, apple trees, vineyards,

if mommy like her vino hops, soif you like, craft beer,
hardwood and lumber is alreadyexpensive.
It'll lay on pretty muchanything.
It is an indiscriminate layer.
It will feed on pretty muchanything, although its choice,
its choice food is the tree ofheaven.
Do you know about this?
tree, it's an invasive, it isalso an invasive, very invasive

yeah yeah, so two problems forthe price of one.
But that's its choice food.
But in absence of that, it'lljust sure I'll go to the all-day
buffet on anything else andthen it'll lay.
It'll like suck it dry, andbecause the honeydew that is
sucked from these living plantscomes out and the spit grossness

that goes in causes a weirdchemical reaction, that's that
attracts black mold.
That black mold is a thing thatkills all the crops eventually,
and then what's left, like Isaid before, looks like scorched
earth without the fire.
This is already in new jersey,connecticut, massachusetts, as
of this year, indiana, ohio, newYork.

It's basically taking over,like the whole mid, the
mid-Atlantic states, and goingwest.
The worry is that it's goingsouth as well because, hey,
climate change, and within threeyears they expect it to hit
Maine, maine.
We are the only state that hasone border.
You can only get into Maine viaNew Hampshire or Canada.
So we only have one border withthe contiguous US and we have

one bridge.
It's not the Passamaquoddy,that's a different bridge, but
there's one bridge.
That, basically, is the mainroute in from New Hampshire into
And we are called Vacation Land.
We are a tourist destinationall summer and with millions of
cars coming in from all of thesestates.
The spotted lanternfly willalso lay their eggs on cars and
it millions of cars coming infrom all of these states.

Speaker 1 (42:51):
the spotted lanternfly will also lay their
eggs on cars and it looks likemud spatter.

Speaker 2 (42:54):
So you never know, you can't see it, you're like
that's just a dirty car, luckyus.
So it'll just take one of thesecars to be here for more than
two weeks for those eggs tohatch, and then it's in Maine.
And so one thing that is goingon is Virginia Tech and Texas
Tech have teamed up on aninvasive species proof of
concept idea, which was can weget trainers like me to teach

our students, who are already inclasses called scent work,
which we're teaching them, tofind things like birch oil,
clove oil, like stuff on a Q-tip?
Can they find this thing forfun?
If we're already teaching thesedogs this sport, could we also
train them to find this spottedlanternfly egg?
And if we can find the egg inthe wild, we can get ahead of

the invasion before it becomes aproblem.
And in a state like Maine thatis incredibly important because
almost all of our productiveindustry, aside from tourism, is
natural, almost all of it.
I mean excluding Dunkin' Donuts, but excluding Dunkin' Donuts,
almost all of our industry isnatural.

So, like most of our exportsare fishing, which doesn't
really count towards, likespotted lanternfly, but hardwood
, we have millions of acres thatare just dedicated for the
lumber industry.
And then, like I said, hops andwine, and all of that stuff is
here in Maine.
And maple if you like maplesyrup and you want to buy

American, you're getting it fromMaine and Minnesota.
And so if you can't get thosethings here because of spotted
lanternfly, it's really going todecimate a lot of industry here
, and we're already one of thepoorest states in the union, so
it could be really devastatingon not just our industry but on
people being able to survive.

So it's kind of a big deal,yeah, and so I was one of so
when VT and TT got together.
I don't know if they go by that, but I'm going by it If VT and
TT got together.

Speaker 1 (45:00):
Usually TTU down here at Texas Tech.

Speaker 2 (45:03):
Oh, okay, ttu.
Usually TTU down here at TexasTech.
Yeah, oh, okay, ttu.
So they get together and theyput out a call for people who
are interested to maybe learn alittle bit more about spotted
I had already done a storyabout spotted lanternfly at this
time for Bewilderbeasts, abouthow this place in Philadelphia
had discovered that theirhoneybees were producing this

really dark honey that tastedsmoky, and they couldn't figure
out why.
It was because the honeybees inphiladelphia were picking up on
the honeydew from the spottedlanternfly and it was changing
their honey, and so I ended upbuying some of this honey.
It was called doom bloom.
It was actually kind of amazing, and so I did this story.

And then one of my studentshappened to be affiliated with
Virginia Tech and was like, hey,I just heard your story on this
These two universities aredoing a proof of concept.
You should listen.
And I'm like, ok, so I signedup.
I watched their webinar.
They were expecting maybe 20 to30 trainers from across the
country to sign up.
There were some technicaldifficulties because they had to

2,000 people signed up to watchthis webinar.

Speaker 1 (46:14):
They were not expecting OK.

Speaker 2 (46:16):
You get dog people, pet dog people who might be able
to help with anything, andthey're in my little Sparky
could do this.
Even if Sparky can't, we'rewatching that video, and so I
watched it and applied as atrainer.
They selected trainers from allover the country to head up the

effort and then each trainerwas assigned five to six
students and all of my studentshappened to already be under my
wing, so they took me, which Iwas really surprised because
it's not in Maine yet and it'snot predicted to be here for the
next three years.
But I already had six studentsready to go, so I'm guessing
that's why I was picked.

So we've been working ongetting our what's called ORT,
the odor recognition test.
So I have in my little kid'slunchbox a whole bunch of dead
lantern flags, in mesh bags inmy freezer and I take those out
and I'm training these dogs sothey sniff and then they get

Sniff food, sniff food, and thenI throw it somewhere and if
they can find it they get theirfood.
So for many of them it's likecheese whiz, because it's a new
food for them and it's reallyexciting for them.
Some of them are just usingregular kibble, some are using
hot dogs, whatever that is goingto motivate that dog, but if I
find this mesh with the eggs, Iget my cheese whiz.

And so these dogs have alreadylearned through these other
classes that if I sit next tothis odor or if I stare at it or
, like my dog, shred the boxthat has the odor like he's a
frat boy, then he gets the thingthat he wants.
In the same way, the identicalway that police dogs are trained
to find narcotics and cadaverdogs are trained to find dead

bodies I am not allowed to havedead bodies or cocaine at work
anymore, so this is what we'redoing instead.
I like the anymore.

Speaker 1 (48:14):
That's fun.

Speaker 2 (48:18):
Like this is my dead guy.
We're going to be looking forhim today.

Speaker 1 (48:21):
This was Dave.

Speaker 2 (48:24):
This was Dave and let's see if we can find him.
So I've been working reallyhard to train these dogs 240
teams Some of them happen to betrainers, some were not but 240
teams from that original 2,000were selected for this proof of
concept and so hopefully byApril we will have six teams
ready to be deployed in.

Five teams to be ready to bedeployed in Maine, because I had
to pull my own dog from thestudy but which sucked, yeah,
but he had a medical issue.
He he's going in in a couple ofdays for a scan for nasal
The horrible assault in thewound of having a scent

detection dog who's done thisand got me into this to maybe be
facing nasal cancer is theworst.
But the other five dogs arethis close to getting their odor
recognition test and once theyget it we get to find a field
and hide all these dead eggs andthen see if they can find them
in like a vineyard or an apple,orchard or somebody's warehouse,

yeah yeah sure.
And then if they can do it there, then they are deployable and
then we'll be able to actuallytake them out and look in like
shipping containers at theborder.

Speaker 1 (49:39):
We could go anywhere, we're sent yeah wow, isn't that
cool, that is so cool I don't,and I'm just thinking about,
like you know, take, you know,extrapolating this out of the,
the battle against invasivespecies in general yes what was
it a couple years ago?
What were they calling them?

Speaker 2 (49:59):
murder hornets, the, the japanese, oh yeah, the
murder hornet, yeah whateverthat never really like.

Speaker 1 (50:04):
Everyone was like they're gonna be everywhere and
then I was like, yeah yeah, itwas just like a little spice on
the 2020 cake.
Yeah like it really was justlike a 2020, like blip, but yeah
yeah, you're that kept ongiving like yeah or meth
alligators, and then yeah, no,it was, it was meth alligators,
cocaine hippos, get it rightyeah that's right, yeah,

objectively scarier, by the way.

Speaker 2 (50:29):
It is my favorite story that, like Pablo Escobar,
had these four hippos after hewas assassinated.
They were like we don't knowwhat to do with these hippos.
They escaped and now they arethe world's largest invasive
species and they're just like wedon't know what to do with
these hippos.
And so, after they shut downhis 80 mile compound, they had

flown out all of the otheranimals on his compound because
he basically had a zoo.
They flew them out and inrecent history they have turned
his compound into an amusementpark and zoo and flew back some
of the same animals that used tolive there it's so wild, it's

so it's the weirdest story.
Come on, kids, let's see wherehe counted his blood money like
yeah, like you can't make thisstuff up.
That's crazy and hippos areterrifying, by the way
absolutely terrifying yeah,they're vegetarian, but they
will beep you up but oh so, butokay.

Speaker 1 (51:30):
So sorry I I got distracted by you know murder
hornets and stuff, but like justthinking about for everything
from you know I I posted a videorecently, or at least at the
time of this, recording aboutbradford pear trees and how
they're coming up all over theplace, like we could maybe train
dogs to smell specific types oftrees and plants yeah, we're
already doing it, so like inAustralia also.

Speaker 2 (51:52):
Speaking of 2020, the year that kept on giving,
remember when all of Australiawas on fire.

Speaker 1 (51:59):
Yeah, like the whole country.

Speaker 2 (52:00):
Yeah, we have dogs that were trained at that point
to find very rare trees andplants that were able to go out
after the fires and detect them,so that way, like
horticulturalists, could go outand harvest the seeds for
protection, like, so also likekoala scats.

So not just endangered animals,but also plants.
This is why I was so excited totalk to you about this because,
like you've got, like, all thesedifferent trees and all these
different plants that are onlyfound in very specific areas, in
the same way that animals areonly found in very specific
areas sometimes, and those areasare at risk due to climate
change and by teaching thesedogs many of them are shelter

dogs that were too much fortheir family, they needed a, a
real job are now being adoptedby people who volunteer their
time to go out in the middle ofthe night and traipse through
the death area that is australiafor funsies and find koala scat

and then look up and there's ababy koala that has been burned
by this fire, like, so like, andto be able to save it because
of these dogs.
They also have trained dogs towear like little backpacks with
holes punched in them to reseedareas like australia and in the
american west after forest fires, so they can reseed these areas

after fires in the hopes to tryto repopulate the plant

Speaker 1 (53:31):
That's so cool.
That is just cool.
I don't know, like if thereweren't enough reasons to love
dogs, right they're just so cute, well, and I think like kind of
from what we were talking aboutearlier, the fact that not only
like can they do these things,but they often like enjoy doing
these things.

Speaker 2 (53:51):
They love it.

Speaker 1 (53:53):
That's just.
That's the coolest thing to me.

Speaker 2 (53:55):
Most dogs are perfectly happybeing at home on our couch, but
they're almost always enrichedby doing something else.
Almost always enriched by doingsomething else, and so if we
can get them out and teach themlike okay, you can find like
there are people here in Maine.
It's a hunting state.
Blaze orange is the color ofchoice for everyone, from like

October through like December.
It's not the most flatteringcolor.
Actually, after I moved back, Iwas Googling on Etsy safety
orange, but cute.

Speaker 1 (54:31):
Did you find anything ?

Speaker 2 (54:34):
So maybe there's a market.
But there are people who traintheir pet dogs to find deer shed
or elk shed, which are like theantlers or the horns when they
fall off the antlers, becausehorns are embedded in the skull,
but when the antlers fall off,like you teach your dog to go
and find that, Like they cansmell a mile over open water.
One of the very first stories Idid on Bewilderbeast was about

a dog named Tucker who was anaquaphobic Labrador retriever.
Oh yeah, Bred to do one thinggo in the water.
What does that dog hate?
The water Aquaphobic LabradorRetriever who is owned by a
marine biologist at theUniversity of Washington in the

Pacific Northwest.
They were studying at the timewhale populations and how whale
populations were decimating andthey couldn't figure out what
was going on.
All of these female whales werebecoming pregnant.
All these orca whales werefalling pregnant, but they were
not coming to term and theycouldn't figure out why the
females were miscarrying at anexorbitant rate, at such a high
So the guy decided OK, I havethis dog.

He's afraid of water but I'mpretty sure I can do something
with this.
He taught his dog to smellwhale scat, which you wouldn't
think would be that hard to find.
It's a whale, but I guess itsinks like egg drop soup.
So once the whale poops it outI broke Vicarum it sinks really

fast and so you only have afinite amount of time to collect
that liquid gold, to do yourresearch, and if you can't see
the whale pod, you're basicallyhosed and they need to collect
this poop because they thoughtthey could get hormone levels
out of it.

Speaker 1 (56:22):

Speaker 2 (56:23):
And so he trained his dog in the same way that I'm
teaching for invasive specieshow to do conservation work with
this dog.
So if you can find the whalepoop, you get your ball, which
was this dog's favorite thing.
So they put the dog on adirection the dog would
basically like a compass donorth, and then he would just
look over the boat and theywould just take their technical

term scoopy thingy and get whalepoop because science is so
glamorous, and then the dogwould get his ball.
So they taught an aquaphobicLabrador retriever to work for
marine biology research to saveorca whales, and that
conservation work is still beingdone.
Through the University ofWashington they still have dogs

that are going out on boats andcollecting whale poop.
So whale poop for science.

Speaker 1 (57:20):
That is so cool, Coolest thing, yeah, yeah.
No, that's so fascinating and Ijust you know that opens up so
many possibilities of you know,I think, when we're looking for
tools to better manage theenvironment, better manage, you
know, the things that we need tobe caring for out there.
You know our planet in generaland it's always like, oh, what,

like technology thing can we do?
Like, what can we build?

Speaker 2 (57:46):
AI can we use?

Speaker 1 (57:48):
Like we have so many of those tools, like we spend so
much of our lives with dogsanyway, like they're our buddies
anyway and they want to havesomething to do, like I just I
think of so many applications inplant science and in ecological
recreation and so many avenuesthat could open up because of

work like what you're doing andwhat Texas Tech and Virginia
Tech are doing.
It's so cool.

Speaker 2 (58:12):
And we're already outside walking our dogs, so why
not put them to work?
I mean, jesus, thosefreeloaders like for 12 to 15
years all they do is like eatand poop and lay on our couch
and fart.
Yeah, like we could at leastput them to work.
But the coolest thing is andthis is the thing that I keep

telling people is like this is aproof of concept and the people
doing the work already knowthat these dogs can do it
because it's been proventhousands of times in every
industry Arson detection, policework, military work and I have
big concerns with some of these,but for the most part we know
we can.
So I know I can do it because Iknow learning theory and I know

that my dogs that I selected todo this, can do it.
Will every dog be happy doingthis?
No, some of them are going tojust really want to watch old
reruns of Bob Barker talkingabout getting your pets spayed
and neutered, and that's fine.
But for the dogs who reallywant to watch old reruns of Bob
Barker talking about gettingyour pets baited and neutered,
and that's fine.
But for the dogs who reallywant to do something and for the
people who are already out inthe woods walking their dogs,
and for the people who actuallywant to help, I would much

rather see them put their effortin this way than trying to take
their doodle that is likeTigger the Tiger and
amphetamines and say my dogwants a job, I'm going to take
him to a nursing home.
Like that dog does not want tobe in a nursing home.
That dog wants to do something.
So let's give them something todo, and nothing calms a dog
down more and focuses them morethan scent work.

I have a dog in this study Hisname is Woody, speaking of trees
His name is Woody, he's aBritney Spaniel and his owners
were actually seeing me forbehavior work based on
separation anxiety.
The dog is really high energy.
He's a lot of dog, he is aworking dog and I looked at him
and I'm like your dog needs todo cadaver dog work.
Your dog literally needs alegitimate dog like not just

like throw a ball for 20 minutes.
Your dog needs a job.
He will drive you crazy and hewas.
And as soon as this came up,I'm like you want to bring Woody
in for a test.
This dog, he cannot sit stillif he doesn't have something to
do when he's searching.
He is focused and quiet and hedoes his job and he is 100%

He is the most accurate dog inthis study.
He's been doing it for twomonths.
I have dogs who have been doingthis for three years who are
not hitting that accuracy levelLike these dogs can do it.
I believe these dogs can do it.
I know they can do it.
I am so proud of these handlersfor volunteering their time to

help their environment.
They all said they wanted to doit because they love their dog.
They think their dog can do it.
It's fun for their dog and theyhelp the environment.
And that just warmed the cold,cold cockles of my heart and
seeing them volunteer.
I volunteered.
The place that I work donatedthe space because they believe

in this project and we alreadyknow what the outcome is going
to be.
Sometimes you don't needscience to prove it, sometimes
you just need to have it onpaper so you can move forward.
And there are so many otherinvasive species here that we do
need to figure out how we canconquer, like the brown tailed
That is not something thesedogs are going to be able to
find, because the brown-tailedmoth, when they shed their like

little spiky, spiny things.
It causes a rash and it canhospitalize people.
My nephew was hospitalized byit.
Like you get touched by it, itjust rashes you and it's awful.
So we can't send dogs withsensitive noses in to sniff
something that's going to go uptheir nose and cause a rush.
That's a bad day.
So there are certainlylimitations, but there are other

things that these dogs can findthe Asian boring beetle Like.
There are other trees Like theBradford pear, like all of the.
That is the extent of thehorticultural knowledge I have,
and you will laugh at this.
Both of my grandparents werehorticulturalists and you will
laugh at this.
Both of my grandparents werehorticulturalists and I was the
one with the black thumb, but Igot to animals, so it worked out

Yeah, but having these dogs beable to help the environment in
a very significant way,improving that concept, I'm just
so happy to be a part of it.
But I already know the answerand it's pretty cool because I'm
like all right, we can do this.

It's not an unknown, it's notlike if we could do it.
It's like, yeah, we can do thisand it's so fun to watch them

Speaker 1 (01:02:40):
Just have to go through the steps.
That's so cool, yeah, and.

Speaker 2 (01:02:43):
I have to keep going around with my Pokemon lunchbox
for at least another two monthsbefore we can be deployed.

Speaker 1 (01:02:51):
No, that's awesome and I can't wait to hear more
about like.

Speaker 2 (01:02:54):
Oh, you will.

Speaker 1 (01:02:57):
Yeah, that's great.

Speaker 2 (01:02:57):
It's going to be all, it'll be ad nauseum.

Speaker 1 (01:02:59):
You're not going to get away Well, and as you get
deeper into this project, we mayhave to have you back on to
talk about how it's going andwhat that looks like and all

Speaker 2 (01:03:06):
Yeah, hopefully they will field test in April.
Like the hard thing was likethey wanted us to do most of our
testing or our training inMaine in winter.
Everyone, the first cohort itwas summer and the second cohort
was winter and they picked usin Maine.
I'm like we can't get outsideand like two thirds of our
training days, like the veryfirst training day, was a

blizzard so we had to do it onZoom and I was driving around
the state of Maine with alunchbox depositing, like the
dead fly egg ferry to thesehandlers before the storm so we
could do it on Zoom becauseMaine and winter, so to be able
to do our field test we have tohave decent conditions.
That's safe for the dogs, safefor the handlers.

So we're hoping for April, butthat is not a given.
It might be May, but we'rehoping for April.

Speaker 1 (01:03:55):
Okay, well, that's cool.
As we wrap up here, I have okay, I have a specific question and
then I have a question that Iask all my guests.
So the specific question isagain kind of going back to all
the dog stuff on social media,because there's a billion things
, right.
So many Do this with your dog.
Don't do this with your dog,whatever.
There was a woman a while backthat made this video like sort

of like super aggressive of likeyou know, do not let your dog
sleep in the bed.

Speaker 2 (01:04:20):
And then all the stitches were like.

Speaker 1 (01:04:25):
no, no, all the stitches of it were like this
dog tucked in, like laying on apole, like a little dachshund
with an overbite and littleteeth.

Speaker 2 (01:04:33):

Speaker 1 (01:04:33):
You just see the little teeth.
Is it fine for dogs to sleep inthe bed?
What do you think?

Speaker 2 (01:04:40):
Yes, here's what I tell my students.
Actually, I'll give theprofessional answer, which is,
if you are consistent, if you donot want your dog in the bed,
that is fine.
Give them a safe place to go, acomfortable place to go.
But if they're in your bed,it's not because they want to
take over the world, it'sbecause your bed is comfortable.

That's why we're not sleepingon the floor and they also
probably want to be close to you, which is actually kind of a
term of endearment.
However, asterisks, there is apopulation of dogs who cannot be
in the bed because theyresource guard the territory or
the person in the bed.
Right, ok, right.

Or you may have a dog who isprone to seizures and those dogs
wake up biting, like not onpurpose, but like wake up
violently, and if you're in theway, you could get hurt.
So for those dogs, I wouldrecommend big cushy bed on the
If you still want your dog inthe bed but not in the bed, you

can get like all those sidesleepers that you use for babies
I've had so many students usethese's, so funny, it's a choice
So you could do that.
You could put them in the cratelike your dog.
Will be okay as long aseveryone is consistent.
But I consistently let my dogon all the furniture, except for

our brand new couch for atleast a couple more weeks.
Oh, yeah, yeah, no, I we have wehave another old couch upstairs
and so when we want to snugglewith the dog we he's already on
the couch.
So we snuggle in next to himand watch TV, so like he's fine.

Speaker 1 (01:06:20):
Yeah, my dog Jesse is , is she?
She pretty much just has run ofeverything, and the biggest
perfect we find from her atnight is that she snores and uh,
that's, that's that's betterthan the farts oh well, no, we
get that too.
No, we get that too.
Oh okay, it's like a bioweapon,right?
Yeah, okay, so no, thank youfor clearing that up, because I

saw that and I'm always justlike one, I don't care, like,
I'm not, like we're, we'resticking with this, but two like
it didn't sound right, so Iappreciate.

Speaker 2 (01:06:51):
Well, the hard thing is, like this industry dog
training in specific,specifically dog training is not
There are no licensing.
There are certifications, butthere's no licensing, there's no
regulations in my field, and soit's really hard to get quality
information out there that'sbacked by evidence and science,
and so some of thecertifications out there do

point to evidence, science,learning theory, stuff like that
and others are promoted ontelevision by people who've
never taken an animal behaviorclass.
Popularity and being on theinternet does not make an expert
So I would beg people to lookfor reputable certifications,
and if they need guidance inthat, they are more than welcome
to reach out.
I can point them in the rightdirection.

But your dog is not trying totake over the world.
They're just trying to getcomfortable, dude, like we're on
couches, they want to be on thecouch too.
They're not trying to like,they're not gunning for world
They are probably gunning foryour meatball sub, though.

Speaker 1 (01:07:50):
Oh, yeah, oh yes, 100 .
Yeah, don't, don't leave thesub on the side table, like
that's oh god no, no, even thebest dog has its limits, right.
The best trained dog is like uhokay, captain, took two.

Speaker 2 (01:08:03):
My husband makes sandwich bread, and twice he's
The first time that was on myhusband for having it too close.
The second time was on him fornot pushing it further back.
It's a day-long process for himto make it, and then the dog
was so fat and happy.
Okay, so I do have one morestory.

Speaker 1 (01:08:25):
Okay, yeah, before I ask the last question and I
don't, this has just got to besome specific behavior my dog,
if we give her a treat, that islike too big and it's an.
It's an arbitrary thing, right,it's okay, like, sometimes
we'll give her like a I don'tknow like a, I don't want to say
like a meat stick, but it'slike a doggy Slim, jim, or

Oh, okay, she'll be like I haveto hide this before I can eat
Okay, so she'll walk around thehouse like losing her mind,
like whining and just like, andit's like we can literally lift
up a blanket on the floor andshe'll put it over there and we
put it back, hide it, yeah, andthen she'll eat the whole thing

and sometimes it's just like I'mgoing to eat this all right now
What is that?
Why is she doing that?

Speaker 2 (01:09:16):
It's a weird vestigial thing from
So if you think about wolves,coyotes, they will take some of
their kill, dig a big hole andhide it for later or to bring
the rest of the pack over.
Now, pack theory has beenwidely debunked scientifically

in domesticated dogs.
Your dog is no more a chimpthan we are.
Sorry, your dog is no more achimp either, but your dog is no
more a wolf than we are.
Chimpanzee, right, right, andI'm not a wolf.
So your dog has some of thoselike processing, processing,
processing, redirect and likekind of like little misfires to
their old genetic programmingwhere it's like, ok, I need to

hide it, I need to hide it, likethis kind of frenetic hide, and
then they're like, oh wait, Icould just eat it, yeah.

Speaker 1 (01:10:09):
It's so funny.
And then like, one time she didget a loaf of bread off the
But we found that if she everlike gets something that she
can't eat like you know thatshe's not supposed to have and
she knows she's not supposed tohave it, she'll hide up and like
So I was sitting there one dayand I'm like what is this and

it's like half a loaf of bread.
I'm like what did you do?

Speaker 2 (01:10:32):
And she's just like I don't know, but it's always the
left corner.

Speaker 1 (01:10:36):
It's so weird, that's so funny.

Speaker 2 (01:10:39):
Yeah, dogs are also creatures of habit.

Speaker 1 (01:10:42):
Yeah, so that's awesome.
I appreciate this so much.
This has been so fascinating tome.
I've enjoyed this conversation,but what I want to leave with
this question I ask all myguests is if you had a piece of
advice that you'd like ourlisteners to take home with them
and it could be about dogtraining, you'd be about just
life in general.
Whatever it is, what would thatbe?
What would you like for them toremember from this episode?

Speaker 2 (01:11:05):
Always more garlic, unless it's your coffee, no wait

Speaker 1 (01:11:11):
I actually love that, yeah, anyway.

Speaker 2 (01:11:13):
I think truly, as far as my industry is concerned, I
think if it feels your doggenuinely loves you, they do.
Your dog might be a hot mess,but you're all they have and if

you can find a way to advocatefor your dog and to truly help
your dog see the world in a waythat they're created to see it,
I think your dog will be a lothappier.
You don't have to do a wholelot, you don't have to buy all
the things like F capitalism,but you could just like take

their dog food and throw it outinto the side yard and let them
sniff for their food.
And now they're satisfied andthey got to work their nose,
they got a little exercise, theygot to work for their food and
then they can go to bed Like.
You don't have to make thingsharder for yourself to make your

dog a little happier and thenjust give them a belly rub
because they're awesome.

Speaker 1 (01:12:22):
That's great.
I love that.
Yeah, well, melissa, this hasbeen so much fun.
Again, happy birthday.
Thanks for hanging out on yourbirthday.

Speaker 2 (01:12:29):
Thank you.

Speaker 1 (01:12:30):
And where can people find you?
What projects are you workingon, like, where Plug your stuff?

Speaker 2 (01:12:35):
So I joined the PodFix Networklast year and then told them two
weeks later I'm ending my show.
So they took me on kind ofduring the last season, which
was very kind that theycontinued to keep me on.
That last episode aired onactually last Monday.

However, all the Patreonepisodes the Patreon supporters
were like please release theseto the general public, we don't
need to squirrel them away.
And so they all agreed torelease them, so they will be
the Patreon.
I know I love them so much, andactually the one that I
released today is called Luck ofthe Irish Setter.
It's about the time thatIreland had banned drinking on

St Patrick's Day and that theonly place in Ireland that you
could get a pint on St Patrick'sDay was the National Dog Show.
So people were renting dogs orpretending they had dogs to go
to the National Dog Show and gotcompletely hammered.

Speaker 1 (01:13:35):
Oh, that's so funny.

Speaker 2 (01:13:37):
So, like Bewilderbeast was and is a real
stories of animals intersectingat humanity.
And in the last season I had astory about cadaver dogs that
are digging up historicalremains from the biggest
African-American slavegraveyards in Virginia that were
built over by a highway thathad gone completely.

Yeah so these dogs that aredoing the work of finding the
dead to give answers to theirancestors.
And then these vultures that dosky burials like if it's too
hard to dig into the earth toactually have a burial, you use
vultures for your green burials.
And, yeah, so like it's allabout the ways that animals
intersect at humanity andthere's a lot of stories in

there about dogs and vulturesand moths that look like poop
and evolution and a little slugthat photosynthesizes and like.
There's so many, so many coolthings and feminism and racism
and all the isms I was.
I was so shocked to see howmany ways animals intersected at

the very core of everythingthat makes us human, and there's
a hundred episodes ready to goBewilder, bees, pod, and I wrote
a book called Considerationsfor the City Dog and I'm under
contract to write another oneabout all the things they don't
tell you if you want to workwith animals, including the
number of times you have toclean up bodily functions that
are not yours, and what happensif you have to explain humping

to second graders, but also likebehavioral euthanasia and like
court cases with dog bites.
So it's like the whole gamut oflike.
If you end up doing a job likemine because it's not regulated,
they don't tell you what toexpect, and so it's 20 years of
a career of this is what happens.
There's so much poop though man, so much.

Speaker 1 (01:15:24):
I have no doubt, I have no doubt.
Well, no doubt.
Well, that is so awesome.
Well, I will put links to yoursocials and the podcast and
everything else you could justnot with the twitter, because I
can't get in there anyway.

Speaker 2 (01:15:35):
But, like my, facebook is fine and then
instagram is fine, okay and thenI also have like.
If you're into weird chickenstuff, like I do I.
I got a flock of chickens andI'm completely obsessed and I
did not expect to be so.
I actually have an Instagramjust for my chickens and I don't
apologize for it no, youshouldn't.

Speaker 1 (01:15:55):
It's great, it's wonderful.
Yeah, but, melissa, I hope youhave a wonderful rest of your
birthday and thank you forhaving me.

Speaker 2 (01:16:03):
I couldn't have expect I couldn't.
I mean, I did expect this to bea lot of fun, but I am so
pleased to have spent today withyou, with a friend, and to just
be able to chat and be nerdyabout dogs.
It truly made my week.
Thank you.

Speaker 1 (01:16:15):
You heard it here, folks your dog loves you and
they love having a job.
These are both very good things, and that's really what I want
to leave you with today, becausethose things are important to
me and I hope they're importantto you.
Planthropology is written,recorded, produced all of the
things by me, vikram Baliga.
Our music is by theaward-winning composer, nick

We're supported by Texas TechUniversity and the Plant and
Soil Science Department and theDavis College of Agricultural
Sciences and Natural Resources,which is such a mouthful.
And thank you most of all toyou, the listener being a part
of Planthropology, for giving mea reason to do this.
You know I love you because Ido, I do, I love you and I hope
you're having a great day.

I hope you're being kind to oneanother.
If you have not, to date, beenkind to one another, you should
probably give that a try.
It's a good way to be.
Come back in two weeks foranother episode of Plantapology.
We'll be talking aboutcommunications in a time of
Be good, be safe and keep beingreally cool.
Plant people, thank you.
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