Sunday, 25 June 2017

Companion Animal Psychology News June 2017

Favourite posts, photos and podcasts of the last month.

June 2017 news about dogs and cats

Some of my favourites from around the web

“None of us see animals clearly.  They’re too full of the stories we’ve given them.” What animals taught me about being human by Helen MacDonald

Can dogs help solve our childhood obesity problem? Hal Herzog PhD on childhood obesity and dog ownership.

Sniffing kitten butts for science  to find out how mother cats recognize their kittens, by Mikel Delgado PhD.

Should we call these canine behaviours calming signals? By Karen London PhD at The Bark.

"Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: My dog used to love to play with other dogs, and then one day she didn’t." Tracy Krulik on dog-dog reactivity.

“Making a fearful dog's life better is a long game.” Living with and loving a fearful dog, by Casey McGee at Upward Hound.

If you need a cheerful story, read this: It takes a village… love hope and a lucky Penny by Lori Nanan from Your Pit Bull and You.

Pets in the news

Important new position statement from International Cat Care on declawing in cats  “The operation to declaw does not just remove the claw, but also the end bone of the toe (equivalent to removing the end of a finger to the first joint in humans).”

Earliest evidence for dog breeding found on remote Siberian island.

Animal abuse in some form is present in 89% of domestic violence cases.

Canada needs laws to prevent the euthanization of healthy pets, says lawyer.

Diabetes-sniffing cat Charlie is a lifeline for his owner.

The Economist wonders whether emotional support animals should be allowed in the cabin of planes.

A massive study of ancient and modern cat genomes reveals an interesting history.

Sadly, a ban on the docking of puppy’s tails has been scrapped in Scotland after MSPs vote to allow exemptions. You can read Dogs Trust’s response here.

And senior nurses in the UK say pets should be allowed to visit their owners in hospital.


But my dog isn’t food motivated. Webinar by Kathy Sdao for Doggone Safe 28th June 2017

A brief history of corporal punishment by Jean Donaldson for Doggone Safe 5th July 2017

Dr. Clive Wynne Behavioural solutions to behavioural problems. 29th July 2017 in Melbourne, Australia

Photos, videos and podcasts

Dog photographer of the year 2017.

Cones of fame turns dreaded collars into fashionable accessories that help shelter dogs find homes.

Why do dogs have whiskers? Featuring Dr Jessica Hekman.

Adorable animal photos by Gerry Slade help rehome unwanted pets in Bury.

Why are some animals pets and others are lunch? Featuring Dr Hal Herzog.

Learn to sniff like a dog and experience the world in a new way. The Invisibilia podcast from NPR spoke to Dr. Alexandra Horowitz.

Here at Companion Animal Psychology

There’s still time to purchase a Companion Animal Psychology t-shirt. 100% of the proceeds go to help animals at the BCSPCA Maple Ridge. Thanks to everyone who has bought one!

29 blogs took part in the Train for Rewards blog party, which was on its second year of celebrating and encouraging reward-based training. Dogs, cats, and even a pet pig featured in the posts. As well as enjoying the posts themselves, it’s a chance to find new bloggers to follow. Don’t miss it.

My interview with Dr. Christy Hoffman has had a wonderful response, and I also published a post about her recent research (with Dr. Malini Suchak) on dog rivalry.

This month, the Companion Animal Psychology book club has been reading The Inner Life of Cats by Thomas McNamee. The book club takes July off, but stay tuned to find out August’s pick.

And finally, I chatted to Colleen Pelar and Julie Fudge Smith at Your Family Dog Podcast about how to make happy dogs even happier.

If you’re not already a subscriber, why not sign up to follow Companion Animal Psychology by email?

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Wednesday, 21 June 2017

What Helps Shelter Dogs Get Adopted and Stay in Homes?

A new literature review looks at how shelters can increase adoptions and reduce animal relinquishment.

A cute mixed breed dog lies down with a ball in its mouth

The review, by Dr. Alexandra Protopopova (Texas Tech University) and Lisa Gunter, looks at the factors that affect adoption rates, the effects of interventions, and how to decrease the numbers of people giving their dogs to shelters (or returning dogs after adoption). The review is important because it will help shelters to know about evidence-based ways to reduce the number of dogs in shelters.

Although some factors vary from one country to another, some things are consistent: people spend very little time looking at a shelter dog before deciding to adopt, and they pay attention to the dog’s size, breed, and colour.

Dogs can arrive at shelters as strays (the most common route in the US), by being surrendered by their owner (about 30% of dogs in shelters in the US), after being seized in an animal cruelty investigation, or by being returned following an adoption that has not worked out.

The review found a dog’s appearance is an important factor in its adoption. People also seem to prefer dogs that were surrendered by their owner rather than strays, and are influenced by breed labels with dogs described as pit-bull types taking longer to be adopted. One study at a Florida shelter found that removing breed labels was successful at improving adoption rates of pit-bull type dogs (adoption rates of other dogs were unchanged).

If people decide to spend time with a dog, then its behaviour becomes more important, with people adopting dogs they describe as showing calmness, friendliness and playfulness. But the decision to adopt a dog or not is typically made after only 8 minutes.

A study by Protopopova et al (2014) found people are more likely to adopt a dog if it plays with them and lies down near them. Following this, Protopopova et al (2016) found adoption rates were increased 2.5 times with an intervention that both encouraged play (using the dog’s favourite toy) and then keeping the dog on a short leash and using treats to lure it into a down position near the potential adopter.

A cute, happy mixed-breed dog looks at the camera
Photo: Tom Feist; top, Emily on Time; both Shutterstock.

Other strategies have looked at reducing the number of dogs relinquished or returned to shelters. Young dogs are more likely to be relinquished, and there are differences between relinquished dogs and those kept, as well as between the people who relinquish dogs and those who don’t. Moving house and difficulties in finding rental homes that take pets, and personal issues, all play a role too, showing how complicated an issue it is.

About 15% of adopted dogs are subsequently returned to the shelter in the US. Again, returned dogs are typically young, and there is a range of reasons including housing, personal issues, and behaviour issues that are typically spotted quite soon after the dog was taken home.

Since so many dogs end up in shelters as strays, microchipping and identification tags would go a long way to being able to return dogs to their owners. Unfortunately, studies of providing education and/or training and behaviour information to people adopting dogs have not always had the positive results you might expect. However, a program that used foster homes (including giving the foster responsibility for finding the dog a new home) had promising results.

The review also looks at the issues with behavioural assessments of shelter dogs, and points out areas where we need to know more (such as the behaviour of people thinking of adopting a dog). Finally, wider community involvement may help too.

Although we know quite a lot about how dogs end up in shelters, a lot more research is needed to help design evidence-based programs to reduce relinquishment and increase adoptions. This paper is a useful summary of what we know so far.

You can follow the researchers on Facebook: Dr. Alexandra Protopopova at the Human-Animal Interaction Lab and Lisa Gunter is part of the Canine Science Collaboratory headed by Dr. Clive Wynne.

Protopopova, A., & Gunter, L. M. (2017). Adoption and relinquishment interventions at the animal shelter: a review. Animal Welfare, 26(1), 35-48.
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Tuesday, 13 June 2017

The 2017 Train for Rewards Blog Party

Welcome to the Train for Rewards blog party! The party aims to encourage people to use rewards when training their dogs or other companion animals.

Check out all the wonderful blog posts from some amazing trainers. As well as lots of great posts, you will find new bloggers to follow.

The blog party celebrates what we can do with reward-based dog training, encourages people to use rewards in training their pets, and inspires people to improve their technical skills and understanding of how reward-based dog training (and cat training etc) works. (See the invitation and rules).

Take Part in Train for Rewards on 16th June

  • Read the blog posts, comment on them, and share your favourite posts using the hashtag #Train4Rewards
  • If you train your dog, cat, ferret, rabbit, horse, pig, etc. with rewards, share a photo of your pet on social media with the hashtag #Train4Rewards
  • Afterwards, reward yourself for participating with a piece of cake, some chocolate, a glass of wine, a walk on the beach, or whatever makes you happy. (Feel free to tell us about this part too!).

The blog party about reward-based training for dogs and other pets

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