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Our overweight labs? Blame their fat gene.

This will come as no surprise to owners of Labrador Retrievers. Researchers at the University of Cambridge have discovered that nearly one in four Labs is missing part of a gene that helps control hunger. The mutation prevents them from feeling full after eating.

In studying at least 730 dogs, the scientists found 23 percent of Labs have a deletion in the gene called POMC. This leads the breed to "greater food-motivated behavior," such as begging, foraging for scraps and obesity. The variation also occurs in Labrador assistance dogs, according to the research, published in Cell Metabolism.

Not all the dogs in the study were obese, and some were obese without the mutation. However, those with the variation weighed an average of 4.2 pounds more than canines in a control group with no mutant genes. In evaluating 38 other breeds, the scientists found only Flat Coated Retrievers, who are closely related to Labradors, had the mutation.

About those service dogs: Researchers say the dogs are more food-motivated and therefore more likely to be selected for assistance programs, which train using food rewards.

Attacks on Letter Carriers

Dog attacks on U.S. Postal Service employees increased 14.5 percent in 2015 over the previous year, reaching 6,549. The primarily reason was that the service handled more packages.

In announcing its annual rankings of attacks by city, the service launched safety initiatives to help protect employees. "Dogs are protective in nature and may view our letter carriers handing mail to their owner as a threat," Safety Director Linda DeCarlo said in Houston.

Carriers there suffered 77 attacks last year, more than any other city of the 51 surveyed. It was followed by San Diego and Cleveland with 58 attacks, Chicago and Dallas, 57, and Los Angeles, 56. The complete list is at http://about.usps.com/news.

USPS recommends securing your dog in separate room if you have mail or packages delivered to your front door, warning that, "Dogs have been known to burst through screen doors or plate-glass windows to get at strangers." It also advises against children accepting mail directly from letter carriers in the presence of the family pet--the dog may view the carrier handing mail to a child as a threat.

Stressing employee safety, the service says, "If a letter carrier feels threatened by a vicious dog or if a dog is running loose, the owner may be asked to pick up the mail at the post office until the carrier is assured the pet has been restrained."

K9 Corgis on Patrol?

Russian police are preparing to train Pembroke Welsh Corgis for search operations. The dogs, known for their loyalty and Intelligence, will use their height advantage--they're no more than a foot tall--to sniff out bombs and contraband in tight spaces. Elena Haikova, head of Moscow's canine unit, told the state news agency RIA Novosti the force plans to compare the first batch of Corgi pups with other knee-high breeds in police work.

"It is not certain that they will be able to join the ranks of service dogs," she said, "but even if they don't, the experiment will be interesting."

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Title Annotation:SHORT TAKES
Publication:Dog Watch
Date:Aug 1, 2016
Words:525
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