Wednesday, 13 December 2017

How to Make the World Better for Cats

Cat experts – including Mikel Delgado, Pam Johnson-Bennett, Sandra McCune, Kersti Seksel and Nicky Trevorrow – weigh in on the one thing that would make the world better for cats.

How to make the world better for cats, like this beautiful cat in the snow, and your cat at home
Photo: JRJfin


We love our feline friends, but at the same time there’s a lot that we, as a society, could do to make cats happier. So I asked several experts on cats to answer the question, “What’s the one thing that would make the world better for cats?”

Read on to see what they have to say. And if you're a dog person, there's a related post on how to make the world better for dogs to check out next.



Sebastiaan Bol, PhD


Founder and CEO of Cowboy Cat Ranch (Website http://www.cowboycatranch.org/  TwitterFacebook)

Sebastiaan Bol on how to make the world better for cats. "Cats love plants (but only the ones that are safe for them)"
"Cats love plants (but only the  ones that are safe for them)"











“In general, creating a safe, fun and challenging environment for cats will make them truly happy. Environmental enrichment such as a catio, cat trees, shelves on the wall, hiding places and food puzzles really make a huge difference for a cat's well-being. But you asked me to name one thing that would make the world better for cats, I am sorry. Plants. Cats love plants (but only the ones that are safe for them). Not only do they really like to eat the grass from oat, rye, wheat and barley seeds, they also love to lie on or in the grass. Seeding your own grass is easy to do and will give much nicer grass compared to when you buy cat grass in the store. Other plants that deserve a place in each house with a cat are living catnip plants, silver vine and Tatarian honeysuckle. Or, to be more specific, wood sticks or powder from the fruit of the silver vine plant, and the wood of Tatarian honeysuckle. They are like catnip, but just a little different. These plants contain chemicals not present in catnip, allowing cats who do not enjoy catnip to have a good time too. Cats who do enjoy catnip may of course still love silver vine and Tatarian honeysuckle as well. The big pieces of honeysuckle wood (stem or branch) look beautiful and will last a lifetime. So, make a difference for your cat today and invest in a huge piece of Tatarian honeysuckle wood, sprinkle some silver vine powder on the carpet, and grow some super fresh cat grass! They'll love you even more!"


Mikel Delgado, PhD


Postdoctoral Fellow at the School of Veterinary Medicine, UC Davis and Certified Cat Behavior Consultant at Feline Minds (Twitter)

"if everyone who lived with a cat played with them daily, with interactive toys"






“I usually answer a question like this with “If everyone recognized that cats are not dogs or humans.” But this time, I’d rather say, the world would be a better place for cats if everyone who lived with a cat played with them daily, with interactive toys (e.g. a cat dancer). Many of my behavior consulting clients tell me their cats don’t or won’t play. But cats are obligate predators, and they all (even seniors and cats with disabilities!) have the capacity for interactive play that mimics the hunting experience! I take great pleasure in showing clients how to get their cats stalking, pouncing, or even just mentally engaged with an interactive toy. I think many people don’t play with purpose, and get frustrated when their cat doesn’t respond enthusiastically to a randomly waving feather. But if you move the toy like a prey animal would move, and use all your cat’s senses, and remember they are a “stalk-and- rush” hunter, you will have GREAT SUCCESS (to quote Borat)! So many housecats are leading under-stimulated lives. We give them love, but that isn’t enough. They need the benefits of physical exercise (both for staying fit and for reducing stress), and playing with your cat a few minutes a day with a wand toy is a fun bonding experience for you both!”



Lauren Finka, PhD


Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Lincoln (Twitter)

Lauren Finka on how to make the world better for cats. "we can help by choosing cats that we think will be able to enjoy the type of lifestyle we have"
“an appreciation of the evolutionary history of the domestic cat, and how important this is for a better understanding of this species"








“It would be great for owners and those caring for cats to have an appreciation of the evolutionary history of the domestic cat, and how important this is for a better understanding of this species and their biological and psychological needs today. Many of these needs are still similar to those of their closest ancestors, the North African/Arabian wildcat; a self-reliant predator which is territorial, spends a large proportion of each day exploring and hunting, and values solitude and the ability to escape from threats by hiding or getting up high. However, we now expect the domestic cat to live in a world very different from that of its relatives – often restricting their ability to explore and hunt within a complex environment (i.e. by confining them indoors), expecting them to live a much more social lifestyle (i.e. with other cats and with us), and to tolerate a lot of physical handling (i.e. we love to cuddle and fuss over cats). Whilst many cats are able to cope well and live up to our expectations, many may also struggle, either due to a lack of suitable socialisation during their early development (i.e. 2-7 weeks) and beyond, other aspects of their temperament, or simply a lack of opportunity to behave as they are biologically motivated to. How we can help is by choosing cats that we think will be able to enjoy the type of lifestyle we have, supplying them with many opportunities for positive cognitive and sensory stimulation, the ability to escape from things they find stressful, and also being careful about how much ‘social pressure’ we are exerting upon them; providing them with many opportunities to have time alone undisturbed.”


Sam Gaines, PhD


Head, Companion Animals Department, RSPCA (Sam's Twitter; RSPCA on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram)

Sam Gaines on how to make the world better for cats
"more realistic expectations around the interactions which cats appreciate: frequent but short."










“Sadly the social behaviour of cats, and especially their interactions with people, is very misunderstood. Most cats typically want high frequency but lower intensity interactions whereas many people want fewer interactions but for a longer period of time. This mismatch can lead to defensive aggression in cats with some being labelled as grumpy or spiteful. Having more realistic expectations around the interactions which cats appreciate; frequent but short, will avoid unnecessary stress, fear and worry and will help strengthen the bond between cat and owner.”



Naomi Harvey, PhD


Research Fellow, Itchy Dog Project, School of Veterinary Sciences, University of Nottingham (Twitter)

Naomi Harvey on how to make the world better for cats
"That people accept them as individuals, with rich personalities and complex social needs."






“That people accept them as individuals, with rich personalities and complex social needs. People who haven’t had a close relationship with a cat often assume the stereotype that cats are ‘independent’ and just ‘use’ people for food and warmth. This leads some people to consider cats as an option for a pet that requires less attention and responsibility than a dog. However, as I’m sure cat lovers will be happy to tell you, cat personalities differ greatly, as do their social needs. Many cats are capable of great affection, and if given a choice would choose to be in your company rather than alone, which can mean their welfare is easily compromised when left alone for long periods or are shut outside all day.”



Ingrid Johnson, CCBC


Certified Cat Behavior Consultant at Fundamentally Feline (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram)

Ingrid Johnson on how to make the world better for cats
“a better understanding of a cat’s environmental necessities."











“I think the single most important improvement in the care and welfare of cats is quite simply, a better understanding of a cat’s environmental necessities. This greater grasp needs to be industry-wide. There is a distinct disconnect between what cats need and what is being offered to feline caregivers to help meet those needs. A clearer understanding of a cat’s physical and emotional needs must be improved across the board from veterinary professionals to pet product designers and cat guardians alike. Forcing cats to comply with our human world and expectations sets them up to fail. Less environmental stress leads to less physical illness and fewer behavior problems. There is a recent trend to change the term “environmental enrichment” to a more fitting “environmental needs” and I embrace that trend. Many “behavior problems” would never become problems at all if cats were simply provided with an environment that embraces their inner “catness”. They need bigger litter boxes (and more of them). They need taller and more abrasive scratching posts, not these ridiculous carpet scraps that hang from doorknobs. Cats need to be challenged and offered a stimulating world that evokes their inner predator while simultaneously providing the safety and security they crave. The movement is growing as the public demand for more knowledge and better products increases, but we still have a long way to go towards making our homes more feline friendly.”

Experts give their ideas on how to make the world better for cats, from more play opportunities to learning to appreciate what a cat truly is


Pam Johnson-Bennett


Best-selling author and star of Animal Planet UK's Psycho Kitty. (Website http://www.catbehaviorassociates.com/Twitter, Facebook)

"if we could finally change the misconceptions people have about them."










“One thing that would make a huge difference in the lives of cats is if we could finally change the misconceptions people have about them. Hatred of cats, punishment, neglect and callous attitudes develop because people believe myths and false information about what drives cat behavior. Cats are often viewed as either sinister bird killers or low maintenance alternatives when you don’t want to put much effort into being a pet parent. Education can open hearts to how wonderful it is to love and be loved by these magnificent animals.”



Kat Littlewood, BVSc(dist) PGDipVCS(dist)


Small animal veterinarian and PhD candidate with Animal Welfare Aotearoa (AWA) at Massey University.  (Website https://katwelfarematters.wordpress.com/, Twitter, Facebook)

Kat Littlewood on how to make the world better for cats
"I would like veterinarians and owners to work together to make judgements on quality of life - before it is significantly compromised."










“Sooner rather than later: If owners, and their veterinarians, considered death earlier, then quality of life would be better for cats. Most cat owners tell us, after they have euthanased their beloved cat, that they wish they had done it sooner. It can be really difficult to make the decision at the time – especially if owners are strongly attached to their cat and/or think of them as a member of the family. Owners also adapt to their cat’s declining quality of life and poor welfare becomes the new normal for their pet. However, for the cat’s wellbeing, it is better to start thinking about ‘how it is doing’ sooner rather than later. I would like veterinarians and owners to work together to make judgements on quality of life - before it is significantly compromised. We need to break down the taboo of talking about death. When a cat is diagnosed with an illness, particularly if it’s terminal, its death should be discussed. When a cat reaches a certain age, we need to have ‘that’ conversation. What does a good life look like for this cat? How will we know when it is no longer enjoying life? By having these frank discussions earlier, we can help reduce the ‘wish I had done it sooner’ effect and improve the quality of our cats’ lives.”



Sandra McCune, PhD


Scientific Leader – Human-Animal Interaction, Science Engagement and Communications Team, WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition. (Sandra on Twitter, Waltham website www.waltham.com and Twitter)

Sandra McCune on how to make the world better for cats
“owners understanding better the role food plays in their relationship with their cat."







“One thing that would make a better world for cats is owners understanding better the role food plays in their relationship with their cat. For many owners, food is a currency of love. Offering excess food and especially highly palatable food not intended for cats can harm their health. Helping owners to understand their cat’s need for the appropriate amount of a complete and balanced diet is key to tackling the problem of feline obesity, now an issue for almost 60% of US cats. We need to help cat owners change their behaviour without diminishing their bond. #ABetterWorldForPets”



Kim Monteith, CTC

Manager, Animal Welfare, BC SPCA. (Kim's Twitter; BC SPCA website: http://spca.bc.ca/, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram)

Kim Monteith on how to make the world better for cats
"Early socialization will help them not be afraid of new things or changes in their environment"










"If we promote and teach kitten socialization the way we do with puppies the world would be a better place for cats. The socialization window - open from 3 to 7 weeks - is so important for them and what they learn about the world. We need to provide kittens with good experiences during this time. Introduce them to different people, environments, objects, animals and handling. Think of how different their experiences and life would be if we did this. Early socialization will help them not be afraid of new things or changes in their environment which are bound to happen. It's so simple, yet we don't often think of the importance of cat socialization like we do with dogs. Maybe that's it, we need to change the way we think about cats ..."



Kate Mornement, PhD


Pets Behaving Badly – Solutions with Dr. Kate. (Website http://petsbehavingbadly.com.au/, TwitterFacebook)

Kate Mornement on how to make the world better for cats
"Pet cats, especially those confined to the home, must have appropriate outlets for the expression of normal feline behaviours"










“One thing that would make the world a better place for cats is if cat owners understood that, although domesticated, companion cats retain the instinct and desire to perform normal feline behaviours. These behaviours include scratching and scent marking; seeking, hunting and stalking, and maintaining a secure territory. Until fairly recently, pet cats were free to roam their neighbourhoods at will. This freedom allowed them to maintain a larger territory, to hunt and stalk prey, climb, scratch, problem solve and keep physically fit – in essence, to be a cat. This is no longer the norm in many cities where cat curfews are now enforced. Pet cats, especially those confined to the home, must have appropriate outlets for the expression of these normal feline behaviours - without them problem behaviour, such as destructive scratching of furniture and aggression towards people/other animals in the home, is common. Stress and anxiety, especially common in multi-cat homes where cats compete for access to valued resources, can lead to inappropriate toileting and territorial marking – a common reason for relinquishment to animal shelters. Providing cats with appropriate outlets for normal feline behaviours should include: the provision of scratch posts and cat scratchers; cat towers or high shelving to provide a safe place to retreat to; ready access to several litter trays (especially important in multi-cat households); and safe access to outdoor space if possible. The opportunity for daily play with toys that mimic prey provides an outlet for hunting and stalking behaviour, which can reduce aggression towards people or other animals in the home.”



Kersti Seksel, BVSc (Hons) MRCVS MA (Hons) FANZCVS DACVB DECAWBM FAVA


Veterinary Behaviour Specialist at Sydney Animal Behaviour Service. Website: http://sabs.com.au/

Kersti Seksel on how to make the world better for cats
"Education of people about cat behaviour is the biggest key to helping cats around the world"










“Education of people about cat behaviour is the biggest key to helping cats around the world. Knowing how cats “tick” and what they like would be helpful. Teaching this at Kitten Kindy classes is the easiest and most effective way besides being lots of fun for kittens and owners alike. Cats are social animals but that does not mean all cats are socialised. Being socialised means that the individual accepts the close proximity of others – cats and people. It does not mean they have to like all others – sounds like us really doesn’t it? The socialisation period – when it is easiest to help kittens learn about their world – occurs between 3 and 7 weeks of age. So the way the breeder raises the kitten is so important. However, socialisation can occur at any age. So what can make a difference to cats during and after the socialisation period? Many people want cats to have a best friend, but many (most) cats are more suited to being an only cat. Some other behavioural needs of cats that are not widely known include: Cats prefer their food and water to be a good distance apart. The ideal litter tray is 1.5 times the length of the cat, and very few are made this big. Some also have lids and flaps to keep the smell out for the owner. Many cats will cope but they don’t necessarily like them, and those cats may develop toileting problems as a result. So knowing about the cat's behavioural needs and respecting them would really make the world a better place for cats and starting during the socialisation period is best.”



Jenny Stavisky, PhD


Assistant Professor, Shelter Medicine, School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, University of Nottingham (Jenny on Twitter; Vets in the Community on Twitter)

Jenny Stavisky on how to make the world better for cats
"for us to have a better understanding of how they see the world."








“The one thing that would make the world better for cats I think might be for us to have a better understanding of how they see the world. Unlike us, and unlike dogs, they aren’t naturally gregarious as a species. This means that whilst some cats like some other cats, for the most part (there are always exceptions…) cats don’t want, like or need lots of cat buddies. So when we keep them as pets, one cat in a household is fine, and certainly doesn’t need to have extra friends! Also, cats are nature’s control freaks and need some self-determination. One of the most common problems I see is when people forget that feral cats are truly wild animals and, meaning well, try to tame them. This means the cat gets guaranteed food, shelter and veterinary care but at the cost of being able to make its own choices about proximity to humans and other animals. For most feral cats, this probably isn’t overall a beneficial trade-off, any more than it would be for a weasel, badger or other wild animal. So, people respecting and understanding cats’ fundamental needs to generally behave as solitary psychopaths would I think make a better world for cats.”



Malini Suchak, PhD

Assistant Professor, Animal Behaviour, Ecology and Conservation program and the Anthrozoology graduate program, Canisius College.

Malini Suchak on how to make the world better for cats
"Listen harder when they are trying to “tell” us something."








"Listen harder when they are trying to “tell” us something. Cats are notorious for hiding their emotions from humans, even their closest companions. To some degree this can be attributed to the fact that they evolved from small wildcats who are predators, but are also prey animals. Prey animals often have adaptations which enable them to hide pain and fear. As a result, they are often a bit of an enigma to us. But as it turns out, they communicate a lot of information, it’s just subtle. The angle of their ears, the movement or angle of their tails, or even the tone of their purr might communicate information about how they’re feeling. So, if we listen really hard, and respect what cats are “saying”, we can more accurately interpret how they’re feeling and provide better care."



Nicky Trevorrow, BSc(Hons) PGDip(CABC) RVN


Behaviour Manager at Cats Protection (Website https://www.cats.org.uk/Twitter, FacebookPinterest, Instagram)

"Having a regulatory body for animal behaviourists and trainers to ensure animal welfare standards are met using up-to-date evidence-based methods."

“One thing that would make a better world for cats: Having a regulatory body for animal behaviourists and trainers to ensure animal welfare standards are met using up-to-date evidence-based methods. While this may not be the first thing that springs to somebody’s mind for improving cat welfare, ultimately this has the potential to make the biggest impact on cats around the world."

How to make the world better for cats. Experts give their tips, including play opportunities, like this cat is enjoying



Elizabeth Waring, MSc


Behaviour Distance Education Coordinator, International Cat Care (Website http://www.icatcare.org/, Twitter, Facebook)

Elizabeth Waring on how to make the world better for cats
"Having a better understanding of our cats real needs and what truly drives their behaviour"










“One thing that would make the world better for cats would be for us to better understand what a ‘cat’ is. Cats are complex creatures which have co-existed with us for thousands of years. Yet society is still playing catch up with regard to truly understanding their natural drives and needs. Compromised welfare is often the result of us misunderstanding their behaviour and the ways in which cats communicate. Cats are instinctive hunters, territorial, self-reliant and yet highly adaptable creatures. Often our modern ways of living mean compromising on a cat’s natural behaviours. For example, keeping indoor cats without access to appropriate space or outlet for their instinctive need to hunt. One of the biggest causes of stress for cats results from the common misconception by humans that they need the ‘company’ of other cats. Cats are self-reliant and highly territorial. They have no biological requirement for companionship, especially from their own kind, as they are adapted to hunt and defend their territories alone. Consequently, the introduction of another cat into their territory can often be a highly stressful experience. Having a better understanding of our cats real needs and what truly drives their behaviour could help owners to provide cats with improved environmental and social conditions. In turn, this will help reduce problems and enhance the welfare and quality of life for pet cats.”



Miranda Workman, MS, CABC, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KSA


Clinical Assistant Professor, Animal Behaviour, Ecology and Conservation and Anthrozoology, Canisius College. Website: www.mirandakworkman.com

Miranda Workman on how to make the world better for cats
"the one thing that would make the world better for cats at an individual level would be to improve opportunities for cat owners/guardians to train them"








"I think the one thing that would make the world better for cats at an individual level would be to improve opportunities for cat owners/guardians to train them - give them more information about how unique each individual cat truly is, but that they all can be trained which could give them skills that would make coping with our anthropocentric environments much easier for them. What enrichment do they like? Do they prefer treats or toys for training? At a societal level I think there are few things that could change: 1). We need to re-think how we manage cats at a community level and in animal shelters. As long as those responsible for caring for cats continue to send the message that cats are second to dogs and we can put them in cages much too small for an acceptable life, the public won't see them differently. 2). We also need to reconsider how we deal with non-human animals, particularly cats, in our legal system. How we label them (are they companion animals, wildlife, feral…) matters in how we CAN treat them."


If you like this post, please share it with your family and friends. Together we can make the world better for cats!

What’s the one thing you think would make the world better for our feline friends?


You might also like: How to make the world better for dogs.

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Wednesday, 6 December 2017

How to Make the World Better for Dogs

Dog experts – including Marc Bekoff, Jean Donaldson, Alexandra Horowitz, Ilana Reisner, Kathy Sdao and Pete Wedderburn – weigh in on the one thing that would make the world better for dogs.

Photo: Bad Monkey


We love our canine friends. But at the same time there are lots of things we, as a society, could do to make dogs happier. So I asked several experts on dogs to answer the question, “What’s the one thing that would make the world better for dogs?”

Read on to see what they had to say. And if you're a cat person, you should also check out how to make the world better for cats.


Marc Bekoff, PhD 


Writer on dogs and other aspects of the cognitive and emotional lives of other animals for Psychology Today and the author of numerous books including Canine Confidential: Why Dogs Do What They Do (March 2018, University of Chicago Press). Website marcbekoff.com (Twitter)

Marc Bekoff on how to make the world better for dogs
"Let dogs be dogs."











Let dogs be dogs. Let's appreciate them as individuals with unique personalities. Let them exercise their noses and all of their senses when they're home and out and about. Let them play with their friends and do zoomies to their heart's content. To appreciate what it's like to be a dog, we need to understand how they see, hear, touch, taste, and most of all, smell. We're most fortunate to have dogs in our lives, and we must work for the day when all dogs are most fortunate to have us in their lives. In the long run, we’ll all be better for it.”



Kristi Benson, CTC 


Owner/operator at kristibenson.com and Coach and Mentor at The Academy for Dog Trainers. (Twitter, Facebook)

Kristi Benson on how to make the world better for dogs

"If things are tough and what you’ve tried isn’t helping, reach out now. It gets better."









“Oh, what a tough question to answer! Can’t I get a top ten? I think the one thing that would make the world better for problem dogs would be if their owners could take a page from the youth LGBT movement: namely, recognize that it gets better. If your dog is aggressive, scared, or destructive; or embarrassing, jumping up and playing deaf…I promise it can almost certainly get better. Your dog can get better and your relationship with your dog can get better. If you can commit to training your dog, however this ends up looking—taking a reactive rover class or working one-on-one with a qualified trainer, for example—there is help to be had. And when you come out on the other side with new skills for both human and canine, a slightly different set-up at home, and some treats in your pocket, you’ll be amazed that such a colossal change was even possible. So if things are tough and what you’ve tried isn’t helping, reach out now. It gets better."



Mia Cobb


PhD Candidate at the Anthrozoology Research Group, Monash University, director of Working Dog Alliance, and blogger at Do You Believe in Dog? (Twitter, Facebook)

Mia Cobb on  how to make the world better for dogs
"if people stopped to consider things (all the things!) from the canine point of view."










"I think the world would be better for dogs if people stopped to consider things (all the things!) from the canine point of view. Dogs in companion and working roles are often put into situations they wouldn't choose for themselves. We can improve dogs' quality of life by considering our decisions that impact them - how long we leave them alone each day, where they live, what training techniques we use, how we transport them, what we expect them to tolerate (from interactions with children, to dress ups and involvement in other human pursuits - like sky diving) and ask ourselves at every step, "is this what my dog wants to do, if given a choice?" Not all situations where our dogs would choose differently are avoidable (e.g. temperature taking at the vet clinic) but people should consider dogs and the way their lives are lived from the canine perspective. To see dogs as individuals who can experience a range of emotions with the capacity to suffer or thrive, both physically and mentally, based on the decisions we make about their lives – rather than just assuming that dogs like what we like, or that they are there to meet our whims, provide us with utility benefit or be our entertainment – would be a huge advance for many dogs in our world."



Jean Donaldson


Director of The Academy for Dog Trainers and author of books including Culture Clash, Train Your Dog Like a Pro and Mine! A Practical Guide to Resource Guarding in Dogs. (Jean’s twitter; Academy on Twitter, Facebook)

Jean Donaldson on how to make the world better for dogs
"I’m going to go with enshrinement into law of basic Dog Rights."










"It’s tough to narrow it down to one thing, but I’m going to go with enshrinement into law of basic Dog Rights, rather like the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This law would include basics such as freedom from frank abuse, pain and suffering, as well as shelter and soft bedding, freedom to move around, good food and medical care. But it would also include the right to engage in species-normal behaviors – sniffing, playing, chewing, interacting with other dogs if they wish, and corollary education documents so that people who keep dogs as companions or work with dogs recognize fear, worry, distress or other signs that a dog is not thriving. This would help people voluntarily comply. And if it doesn’t count as a second thing, let’s have vigorous enforcement worldwide."



Sam Gaines, PhD 


Head, Companion Animals Department, RSPCA, (Sam's Twitter; RSPCA on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram)

Sam Gaines on how to make the world better for dogs
"Think Dog!...many owners/guardians continue to treat dogs either as wolves or little people and/or fail to understand and acknowledge what dogs actually are."









“Think Dog! Despite a wealth of research into the domestic dog and a greater understanding of how they behave, think, feel and interact with us and their peers, many owners/guardians continue to treat dogs either as wolves or little people and/or fail to understand and acknowledge what dogs actually are. This can have a huge impact on their physical and mental health. For example, decades of thinking of dogs as wolves has contributed to a widespread use of management and training techniques which place dogs at serious risk of poor welfare. Similarly our failure to understand what it is to be a dog and what constitutes normal behaviour can mean a poor quality of life through lack of outlets for strongly motivated behaviour such as playing, sniffing and investigating. If dogs really are our best friends and we want them to be truly happy then we have to think dog.”



Taryn M Graham, MA


PhD Candidate at Department of Community Health Services, University of Calgary. (Twitter)

Taryn Graham on how to make the world better for dogs
“if we could address the underlying factors that contribute to their relinquishment."








“One thing that would make the world better for dogs is if we could address the underlying factors that contribute to their relinquishment. Behavioural concerns and housing issues are among the main reasons why people give up their pets. I wish people would acquire dogs not based on physical appearance or on latest trends, but rather, by going through a reputable source to find the right dog that matches one's personality and lifestyle. Reputable sources can provide support for dog owners, with many going as far as partnering with local dog trainers and veterinarians. Finally, to keep dogs and their owners together, I wish rental housing policy would consider pets as part of people's families. Dogs are often banned from rental housing, which impacts people's capacities to keep and care for them. “


How to make the world better for dogs, like this cute puppy looking up at the camera
Photo: Bad Monkey



Naomi Harvey, PhD


Research Fellow, Itchy Dog Project, School of Veterinary Sciences, University of Nottingham (Twitter)

Naomi Harvey on how to make the world better for dogs
“Proper socialisation and habituation when young; this simply cannot be emphasised enough."







“Proper socialisation and habituation when young; this simply cannot be emphasised enough. Careful, positive exposure to all of the aspects of the human world they can expect to encounter as adults can greatly reduce their fearfulness when adults and help your dog to be emotionally stable and cope with the world it will live in. An important aspect of this is getting them used the vet clinics, by visiting regularly for simple weight checks and rewarding them whilst there, habituating them to traffic, and the sounds of parties and fireworks etc. Appropriate socialisation with different types of people, children and dogs (again conducted carefully to ensure a positive experience) will also help your dog to cope with the social world and be better adjusted for its life-course.”



Julie Hecht, MSc


PhD student at The Graduate Center, CUNY and blogger at Scientific American DogSpies and at Do You Believe in Dog?  (Website http://dogspies.com/, Twitter, Facebook)

Julie Hecht on how to make the world better for dogs
"Create space to question assumptions and bring in new and ever-evolving information."










“The Dog is not set in stone. In the 21st Century, we live off the Internet. With the click of a button, we can find a plethora of information — as well as misinformation — about dogs. For the love of a dog, to quote Dr. Patricia McConnell, I hope that people continually take a step back. Try and notice everyday assumptions and expectations about dogs, however small, and then consider holding on to them a little less tightly. Our beliefs about dogs needn't be set in stone because The Dog is not a stagnant, all-known being. Create space to question assumptions and bring in new and ever-evolving information, particularly from researchers, veterinarians, practitioners, and science communicators who are doing the same. This, I believe, has the potential to enhance individual dog well-being.”



Jessica Hekman, DVM PhD


Postdoctoral Associate at the Karlsson Lab in the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT and blogger at The Dog Zombie. (Website http://www.dogzombie.com/, Twitter, Facebook)

Jessica Hekman on how to make the world better for dogs
"I'd love more dog lovers to become aware of the problems with how we breed dogs."







“We can make the world better for dogs by making dogs who fit into the world better. I would love to see dog owners draw a line in the sand and insist on dogs with muzzles long enough to let them breathe normally, or dogs who are not born with a 60% chance of developing cancer at some point in their lives due to their breed, or dogs whose heads are too big for them to be born without a C-section. I'd love to see more breeders taking matters into their own hands and starting to experiment with how we breed dogs instead of continuing to use dogs from within breeds lacking in genetic diversity. I'd love to see more breed clubs supporting outcrossing projects to bring an influx of genetic diversity and healthy alleles into their breed. I'd love more dog lovers to become aware of the problems with how we breed dogs - how even the most responsible breeders breed dogs! This year, it is time for change.”



Christy Hoffman PhD 


Assistant Professor in the Department of Animal Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation and Director of the Anthrozoology Master’s program at Canisius College.  (Facebook)

Christy Hoffman on how to make the world better for dogs
"more work needs to be done to keep dogs with people who love them but need assistance."






“The animal shelter community has made tremendous strides toward reducing the number of dogs living in animal shelters; however, more work needs to be done to keep dogs with people who love them but need assistance. The world would be better for dogs if more dog owners knew about pet retention resources in their communities. Let’s face it, any of us could fall on hard times, making it a struggle to care for our dogs. Fortunately, many communities have pet food pantries, low-cost veterinary services, and affordable, pet-friendly housing options for people in financial distress, but these services are not helpful unless the people who need them know about them. Some of my students in Canisius College’s Anthrozoology Master’s program spent the past month compiling information about pet retention resources in their communities. Many found that excellent resources existed, but locating those resources typically required making multiple phone calls, sending many e-mails, and even making in-person visits to organizations. My students realized that people experiencing financial crises may not have the time and technology required to track down hard-to-find resources. This project helped my students and me realize that connecting information about pet retention resources with the dog owners who need them would be a way to make the world better for dogs.”



Alexandra Horowitz, PhD 


Barnard College, Columbia University and the Horowitz Dog Cognition Lab, author of books including the bestselling Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know and Being a Dog: Following the Dog Into a World of Smell. (Website https://alexandrahorowitz.net/, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram). Photo credit Vegar Abelsnes.

Alexandra Horowitz on how to make the world better for dogs
"Let them sniff... Their world is made of scents more than sights."








“Let them sniff. Perhaps because we humans are so visually-centered, it's hard for us to imagine what it might be like for our primary sensory ability to be olfaction. But that's how it is for dogs: they sniff first, and ask their eyes to confirm or deny. Their world is made of scents more than sights. As a result, when they agreeably head out with you for a walk, the two of you are experiencing parallel universes: we see what's on the street; the dog smells who's passed by and who is upcoming (on the breeze). Since humans are generally averse to closely smelling things -- in fact, we find the idea of "smelling" one another funny or even rude -- some owners discourage dogs from doing that -- from sniffing one another or the traces other dogs have left. But that is the dog's whole world. I would no more pull my dog away from a street corner he is mightily investigating than I would force my son to stare at his knees as we drive by the Colosseum. Acknowledging the dogs' otherness -- and in this case, his different way of perceiving the world you share -- is a good step toward giving them the life they deserve.”


How to make the world better for dogs, with answers from experts including Marc Bekoff, Jean Donaldson, Alexandra Horowitz, Kathy Sdao and Pete Wedderburn. Illustrated by a cute, happy puppy
Photo: Bad Monkey



Kim Monteith, CTC


Manager, Animal Welfare, BC SPCA. (Kim's Twitter; BC SPCA Website http://spca.bc.ca/  and Twitter, Facebook, Instagram)

Kim Monteith on how to make the world better for dogs
"The one thing I believe will make the world a better place for dogs is standards in dog training."










"The one thing I believe will make the world a better place for dogs is standards in dog training. The dog training business is unregulated which means any one can take a course, hang a 'professional trainer' sign on their door, and give advice. This lack of accountability often results in information and training that is either ineffective, wrong and/or abusive. Every day I see dogs who suffer from training, handling and even owner expectations, along with owners who feel guilty because they’re told to use techniques and tools that scare and hurt their dog. I truly believe owners don’t want to hurt or scare their dogs and people get into the business of training to help dogs and have good intentions. It’s the nonexistence of regulations that allow even the trainers to be misguided and misinformed. If we want to do better for dogs, demand training based on the science of learning theory and seek out trainers with the knowledge and skills to train both dogs and people using humane methods. If we bring dogs into our lives we owe it to them to do better by them. Until we have standards, remember we may not know what dogs are thinking, however we know they experience fear and anxiety, so have empathy when you’re handling, caring for and training a dog.”



Tamara Montrose, PhD

Programme Manager MRes Animal Behaviour and Welfare and BSc Hons Animal Behaviour and Welfare, Hartpury College.  (Twitter)

Tamara Montrose on how to make the world better for dogs
"Greater use of sensory enrichment would be beneficial for shelter dogs, to reduce stress."










“Large numbers of dogs are kept in rescue shelters which are often stressful environments for the residents. I believe that greater use of sensory enrichment, such as classical music and audiobooks, would be beneficial for shelter dogs to reduce stress and potentially improve welfare. Such enrichment also tends to be easily applied and relatively inexpensive which is an important consideration in shelters. In addition, using sensory enrichment that is not only beneficial to dogs but also appreciated by visitors may have the potential to encourage them to spend more time at the shelter and potentially help adoption rates.”



Kate Mornement, PhD


Pets Behaving Badly – Solutions with Dr. Kate. (Website http://petsbehavingbadly.com.au/, TwitterFacebook)

Kate Mornement on how to make the world better for dogs
“if every dog owner understood that their dog’s behaviour, good and bad, is motivated purely by consequences, not their dogs desire to be “leader of the pack”."








“The world would be a better place for dogs is if every dog owner understood that their dog’s behaviour, good and bad, is motivated purely by consequences, not their dogs desire to be “leader of the pack”. The myth that we must dominate dogs, or else they will assume the alpha position, is outdated and incorrect. Thanks to a recent explosion in the depth and breadth of canine research over the last 15 years, our understanding of dogs has improved dramatically. We now know that dogs are not trying to be the boss; they just do what works for them. Behaviours that have a desired consequence are repeated whereas behaviours that don’t tend to stop. It’s the same for us humans and, in fact, every other living being on the planet! This is why positive reinforcement training is so effective. When dogs (and other animals) are reinforced with things they like for desired behaviour, they quickly learn to repeat those behaviours. Recent science has also taught us that physically punishing dogs (smacking; popping the check chain) for undesired behaviour can adversely affect their welfare and the human-animal bond and punishment doesn’t teach the dog what to do instead. Unfortunately, this relatively new understanding of dog behaviour, learning and training has not become common knowledge amongst the general population and the old paradigm persists. It’s up to those of us who have this new understanding of dogs to share our knowledge far and wide to make the world a better place for dogs.”



Ilana Reisner, DVM PhD DACVB


Reisner Veterinary Behaviour and Consulting Services (Website http://www.reisnervetbehavior.com/, Twitter, Facebook)

Ilana Reisner DAVCB on how to make the world better for dogs
"We are capable of making choices; choosing to train dogs with kindness and generosity is an important one."










“We can make the world better for dogs by recognizing that we are ultimately responsible for everything they experience, from their eating and elimination schedule, to their exercise and access to both wonderful and frightening things. Once we recognize that we humans are responsible for all of it and that dogs are powerless animals whose welfare depends on us, kindness and consideration naturally follow. Dogs make choices when they have the opportunity – to be warm, well fed, near the people and animals to whom they’re attached (an important one!), and to be safe; we humans are the ones to present those opportunities. Force-free behavior modification then makes sense: if you want to influence what a dog does, offer appropriate choices, give the dog time to choose, and reinforce the behavior you want. If the dog makes the wrong choice, try again – don’t punish. Punishment leads to stress and unravels trust so that choice-making is inhibited. We are also capable of making choices; choosing to train dogs with kindness and generosity is an important one."



Kathy Sdao, MA


Bright Spot Dog Training and author of Plenty in Life Is Free: Reflections on Dogs, Training and Finding Grace (Website http://www.kathysdao.com/, Twitter) Photo credit Michael Hanson.

Kathy Sdao on how to make the world better for dogs
"I’d ask humans to take their dogs’ misbehaviors less personally."











“If I got to choose just one thing that would make the world better for dogs, I’d ask humans to take their dogs’ misbehaviors less personally. Your dog isn't trying to be boss or ruin your day; he’s trying to get his needs met. Imagine if each training challenge we faced – to create a more responsive, cooperative, civilized dog – was viewed as our invitation to become more curious about how behavior functions and changes. Then every lunging, barking or biting dog would be recognized as a learner, evolutionarily prepared to adapt his behavioral repertoire to the changing environment. What freedom we’d have to stop punishing and to start exploring the joy of true dialogue with another species.”




Pete Wedderburn, BVM&S CertVR MRCVS 


Media veterinarian and author of books including Pet Subjects: Animal Tales from the Telegraph's Resident Vet. (Website https://www.petethevet.com/Twitter, Facebook, Instagram)

Pete Wedderburn on how to make the world better for dogs
“If humans started to breed dogs with good health as the only priority."










“If humans started to breed dogs with good health as the only priority. Currently, dogs are bred to meet human ideas of cuteness, with flattened noses, bulgy eyes, short legs, and an assortment of other physical features. Often these physical features cause ill health and suffering, such as the difficulties brachycephalic dogs have with breathing (who doesn't know a snorting, snuffling Bulldog?) with many other examples too. Meanwhile pedigree dogs are also, by definition, in-bred, from a small pool of animals of the same breed, and this directly causes an increased incidence in some illnesses (such as cancer in Flat Coated Retrievers). If humans stopped worrying so much about the cute appearance and "breed pureness" of puppies, the resulting canine population would be healthier, and the dogs would be happier too.”



Carri Westgarth, PhD


Tenure Track Research Fellow at the Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, Institute of Infection and Global Health and School of Veterinary Science, University of Liverpool. (Twitter, Facebook

Carri Westgarth on how to make the world better for dogs
“One thing I think would make the world better for dogs is if they all got taken for an off-leash walk every day."







“One thing I think would make the world better for dogs is if they all got taken for an off-leash walk every day. There is no greater joy as a dog owner than to see bum tucked under, head back, doing zoomies across the grass. So many dogs don’t get this opportunity. Perhaps their owners don’t have access to a suitable and safe environment to walk them in this way, or don’t have enough time in their busy schedules. Perhaps they are struggling with their dog’s behaviour on walks and having to confine them to a lead, a vicious circle. Most worryingly to me, many dogs are incapable of running around due to the conformation they have been bred with, or most commonly the fact that they are overweight. In order to run around like this and experience this joy of what it is to be a dog, fitness and lean body condition are key. We often think about obesity being caused BY lack of exercise, but it is also a massive cause OF lack of exercise. When I worked as an Assistance Dog trainer, we sometimes had to manage dogs through a weight loss programme. It was amazing seeing both the physical and mental transformation from pudgy plodder to lithe racer. If my wish could be achieved, both dogs and their owners would live much happier lives.”



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