16 December 2018

Companion Animal Psychology News December 2018

The mirror test, what we know about dogs, and some Christmas videos... the latest newsletter from Companion Animal Psychology.

Companion Animal Psychology News December 2018

Some of my favourites from around the web this month

"“There are researchers who, it seems, do not want fish to be included in this secret club,” he said. “Because then that means that the [primates] are not so special anymore.”" A ‘self-aware’ fish raises doubts about a cognitive test by Elizabeth Preston

“A while ago I saw a dog training guide that recommended that someone put a shock collar on their puppy and then hold down the shock button…” Yes, I’m angry about that training advice by Kristi Benson CTC

“It may start as nothing but a temporary relief or a distraction, but it may also grow into a newfound appetite for life.” How to get your anxious dog to play by Sylvie Martin CTC at Crosspaws Dogs (don’t miss the lovely video). 

"The main point is that there aren't any definite answers to many questions about dog behavior, dog etiquette, and dog-human interactions."  Dr. Marc Bekoff on what we know and don’t know about dogs.

“As an assistant clinical professor of veterinary medicine and veterinary behaviorist, I have experience in small animal care and animal behavior, and I am concerned about the welfare of animals on planes as well as the humans. The issues are more complicated than many imagine. “ Flying with emotional support animals: the ups and downs of life in coach by Dr Christine Calder.

“Even though it seems to be only an issue of semantics, there are associations with the concept of a pack that can harm the human—companion animal bond.” On your best behaviour: moving beyond “leader of the pack” by Dr Ilana Reisner

"Don’t get me wrong. The dog owner means well. They are out there walking with their dog and that’s more than many dogs get." Does your dog secretly hate his walk? by Tim Steele CTC at Behavior Matters Academy.

"I have a lot of vegetarian friends and most of them are happy." The puzzling link between vegetarianism and depression by Prof. Hal Herzog.

There are some great photos here. The comedy wildlife awards 2018.

There are also some lovely wildlife photos in the Royal Society Publishing Photography competition 2018. My favourite is the waxwing.

“With a tongue like this, they don’t need human help to stay fresh.” High speed video of cat tongues reveals another reason why they are superior, by Emma Betuel.

Do we know if a Great Dane meeting a Chihuahua recognises it as another dog? Naked Scientists asked Dr. Charlotte Duranton and Prof. Donald Bloom for their podcast.

Christmas videos

These two lovely Christmas videos are from British animal welfare charities. First up, this video from Cats Protection is based on a true story.

And secondly, there is this heart-warming Christmas video from the RSPCA.

Companion Animal Psychology Book Club

This month the Animal Book Club is reading The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods. It’s a fascinating book about far more than dogs.

Companion Animal Psychology book of the month - The Genius of Dogs

You can find a full list of all the books at amazon.com/shop/animalbookclub (I earn from qualifying purchases) or on the book club page, which is where you'll find more information including how to join.

Support Companion Animal Psychology

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This month I’d like to say a special thank you to Canine Kismet, Sandy and Connor, Kim Tudor, and an anonymous person for their support. It is very much appreciated!

Here at Companion Animal Psychology

Last month, Do You Believe in Dog? had an amazing campaign to use canine science to get girls interested in studying science. I was honoured to be one of the women they chose to include. In case you did not see it yet, be sure to check out their post about how women are thriving in canine science. I wrote about their campaign at Psychology Today, encouraging girls to be scientists with a girl’s best friend.

Also over at Psychology Today, I wrote about a study of whether dogs can create connections for people with intellectual disabilities who live in supported housing (short answer, yes).

Here on the blog, I wrote about the Five Freedoms and what they mean to you as a pet owner. I covered a fascinating study about whether dogs, cats or humans make the best sleep partner (and I’ve loved all the photos and stories you’ve shared with me about where your pets sleep).

And my most recent post looks at why you should not punish your dog for peeing in the house.

Apart from that, I have been working on another round of edits for my book. It will keep me busy over the holiday season!

12 December 2018

Don't Punish Your Dog for Peeing in the House

Why punishment is the wrong approach for house training mistakes, and what you should do instead.

Don't punish your dog for peeing in the house. How to house train your dog. Photo shows sad dog lying on bed
Photo: mannpuku/Shutterstock

Suppose your dog suddenly starts to pee in the house. You clean it up the first time but it happens again…. And then again.

Or your new puppy keeps having accidents indoors even though you take her outside often.

In this situation, some people will yell at their dog. Some might even try physical punishment like hitting the dog or an alpha roll. And we’ve all come across the advice that you should rub their nose in it.

Don’t do it.

Here’s why that’s the wrong approach, and what you should do instead.

Punishment can make things worse

First of all, let’s think about it from the dog’s perspective.

Suppose they pee in the house and you yell at them. What do they learn from this?

It’s unlikely the dog will understand why you are yelling. This is especially the case if there is a time lag between the mess being made and you discovering it.

Unfortunately what they might learn is not to pee in front of you. From the dog’s perspective, this is what causes the yelling, not peeing in the house. The dog may also feel afraid of you.

What can happen is that when the dog wants to pee, they now want to do so out of sight of you. I’m sure you’ve heard people tell tales of how the dog ‘sneaks off’ to go and pee in another room, or waits until they are out.

This means that aside from not solving the problem, punishing the dog actually makes the problem worse because it means the dog is now scared to pee in front of you outside.

This can make resolving house training issues even harder. They may avoid urinating on walks, instead waiting until they are home and you are not there.

If you punish your dog for urinating in the house, they may just learn not to pee in front of you, even outside. This Pom is peeing on the lawn.
Photo: Jakkrit Orrasri/Shutterstock

Punishing the dog for urinating inside is basically the opposite of house training.

There’s also the wider issue that punishment is not the best way to train dogs – reward-based training is a better approach.

House soiling accidents are not due to spite

When dogs pee in the house, people often think the dog is being spiteful or stubborn or sneaky. But that’s not the case.

It’s easy to see how people might think that, because sometimes dogs pick odd spots to pee in. Like the time someone told me their newly adopted dog had peed in his shoes.

Well, who knows really why the dog picked the shoes – perhaps he had been sniffing them and we all know that a lot of sniffing precedes peeing, or perhaps it was because the shoes were right by the door and the dog really wanted to go outside.

I can understand why that would feel personal! Luckily the guy knew that his dog was not fully house trained yet and it wasn’t a personal slight, it was just that he needed to house train the dog.

Even if it makes us angry when a dog has an accident inside, we need to stay calm (or try and see the funny side) and not blame the dog.

Medical issues could be the cause of house soiling

If your dog is already house trained and they have an accident in the house, it’s time to schedule an appointment with your vet.

There are several medical issues that can cause dogs to pee in the house, including urinary tract infections. Diabetes, kidney issues, prostate disease, and other issues can also be the cause. Some medications cause increased urination as a side effect.

If your dog has a medical issue, no amount of training is going to resolve it. That’s why you need to see the vet.

As well, some of these conditions can be very painful. The dog may associate urinating in the usual spots with pain and be looking for new places to pee instead.

Because people often make assumptions about the dog being spiteful, stubborn or sneaky, they may initially not realize there could be a medical cause. But it’s important to seek veterinary help sooner rather than later.

The secret to house training

Puppies, of course, do not arrive fully house-trained, even if the breeder has made a good start on this. As well, dogs acquired from other sources (such as online ads or rescues) will sometimes not have been properly house trained yet.

The secret to good house training is simply to take your puppy or dog outside often, and then reward them for peeing and pooping outside. Although this sounds easy, you will have to keep it up for three weeks without mistakes.

The secret to house training puppies - like this St Bernard - is to prevent mistakes and reward them for urinating and pooping outside
Photo: Grigorita Ko/Shutterstock

You need to take the dog outside often enough that they always empty their bladder outside and don’t get chance to go in the house.

It’s up to you to stop mistakes from happening by always taking them outside in time. And go outside with them so that when they do go, you are there to reward them right away. (You’ll need to make sure you have some good training treats handy).

Reward the dog as soon as the peeing or pooping is finished.

To help prevent accidents, make sure you always have your shoes, coat and treats to hand. That way you’re always ready to take the dog outside.

You will need to supervise your dog closely in the house, which may mean keeping them on a leash or on your lap at times when they might need to go soon.

You may also learn to recognize the signs that your dog needs to go, which means you should take them outside right away.

You may want to crate the dog at times when you are not able to supervise them properly. (Of course, this means you have to crate-train the dog as a priority).

For young puppies you may need to take them outside every half an hour as they cannot hold their bladder very long at that age. You may need to carry them outside so they don’t urinate while you’re getting your shoes and coat on.

Don’t loosen up this management until you’ve had three weeks without accidents in the house.

Clean up messes properly

If there are any messes in the house, it’s important to clean them up properly. Dogs have great noses and the smell may linger for them even if it’s not detectable to us.

You can buy ready-made enzyme cleaners from pet stores and supermarkets. Or you can make your own with a 10% solution of a biological washing powder, then rinse the area after cleaning it. Of course, always do a patch test of any cleaner before using it, to be sure your carpet or other flooring won’t be damaged.

Don't punish your puppy for accidents in the house. The right way to house train includes rewarding puppies for going outside, like this little puppy peeing in the snow
Photo: Miriam Doerr Martin Frommherz/Shutterstock

Availability of water during house training

Sometimes people respond to the dog having accidents in the house by restricting access to water, or taking the water bowl away overnight.

This is not going to solve the problem as you still need to house train the dog or deal with any medical issues.

Water should be available for your pet at all times. (See: what are the Five Freedoms and what do they mean to you?).

Summary: House training do's and don'ts

The problem with punishing a dog for urinating in the house is that it doesn’t help to solve the problem, it may make your dog fearful, and it can even make the problem worse.

If there might be a medical issue, it’s important to see a vet first. Only once medical issues are resolved or ruled out can you work on house training.

If it’s a house training issue, it’s up to you to train your dog by preventing accidents from happening in the first place, rewarding the dog for toileting outside – and keeping this up for three weeks without mistakes.

Understandably this can sometimes be difficult. If you’re struggling, consider hiring a dog trainer to help. (See: how to choose a dog trainer).

If you prefer to watch a webinar, check out Housetraining 123.

How long did it take you to house train your dog?

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09 December 2018

Fellow Creatures: A New Post

I have a new post at my Psychology Today blog Fellow Creatures about a study that looked at whether a dog walking program has benefits for people with intellectual disabilities who live in supported housing.

The results of this exploratory study found there were more friendly interactions with other people when a dog was present. Read more here.

Photo: dawnie206/Pixabay

05 December 2018

Dogs, Cats and Humans: The Best Sleep Partner...?

Women whose dog sleeps on the bed report better sleep than those with a human or feline sleeping partner.

The effects of co-sleeping with a dog, cat or human on women's sleep. Photo shows a dog and cat resting on the bed
Photo: Julie Vader/Shutterstock

Whether or not pets should be allowed to sleep on the bed is an age-old question. Some worry it will lead to a disturbed night’s sleep, while some old-fashioned dog trainers still claim it will spoil the dog. The latter argument is based on out-dated ideas about dominance and dog training and can be easily dismissed, but the issue of sleep quality is starting to get researchers attention.

A new study by Dr. Christy Hoffman (Canisius College) et al and published in Anthrozoös asked women about who sleeps in/on the bed with them and how good they thought their sleep was over the previous month.

The results show dogs are a less disruptive sleep partner than another human, while cats are just as disruptive as humans. Dogs are perceived as providing more comfort and security than another human, while cats provide even less.

Not only that, but women with a dog (or a dog and a cat) go to bed earlier and get up earlier than women with just a cat. They also have more regular sleep/wake times throughout the week, perhaps because of the need to provide toilet breaks for the dog. Regular sleep/wake times have been linked to better sleep quality in other research.

Dr. Christy Hoffman says,
“Ordinary dog and cat owners should know that there is still much to explore about the impacts that pets have on their owner’s sleep quality (and vice versa!). While our data suggest that women commonly perceive their dogs to be better bed partners than cats or adult humans, some dogs may make terrible bed partners and some cats may positively contribute to their owner’s sleep. We need more information to sort out the situations under which a pet in the bed may enhance an individual’s sleep quality and the situations under which it detracts from sleep quality.  
I hypothesize that findings from follow-up studies may be a bit mixed. That is, I anticipate we will find that pets may facilitate relaxation, which may be particularly beneficial for individuals who tend to feel they are vulnerable when they sleep; however, pets may also be associated with some night time disturbances, so of which we might not even recall the next morning.”

962 American women took part in the research. The vast majority of participants had a pet, and just over half lived in New York State. They completed a validated questionnaire about sleep quality (the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index) and questions about how they perceived their sleep had been affected by human, cat and dog bed partners in the last month.

57% of participants had a human sleeping partner, 55% shared their bed with a dog (or dogs) and 31% with a cat (or cats).

When women let their pet sleep on the bed, responses varied as to whether they slept better, worse, or no different if the pet slept in contact with them. Amongst the dog owners, a majority thought their dog spent at least 75% of the night on the bed, but responses for cats were more spread out and suggest cats spend less time on the bed than dogs.

Many participants had deficits in sleep quality, but the rates were the same for pet owners and non pet owners.

In case you are wondering, men were welcome to take part in the research but very few chose to do so, which is why these results focus on women. Researchers often find men are less likely to take part in research than women. Earlier studies have found women report sleeping less well than men, so this is an interesting topic for research.

These results are fascinating but raise many questions about co-sleeping with pets. The extent of disruption at night as well as feelings of comfort and security are all important. Women with a pet (dog, cat, or both) in the bed report higher levels of comfort and security than those without a pet in the bed.

People’s self-reports about sleep quality may not be entirely accurate, as some disturbances may not be remembered in the morning. The scientists are already investigating how to use accelerometers to assess how much time dogs spend resting or active.

Dr. Marc Bekoff did a great interview with Dr. Christy Hoffman about this research. If you want to learn more, check it out at Psychology Today. You can follow Dr. Hoffman's research via the Canisius Canines Facebook page.

Does your pet sleep on the bed, and if so, how do you think your sleep is affected?

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Hoffman, C. L., Stutz, K., & Vasilopoulos, T. (2018). An Examination of Adult Women’s Sleep Quality and Sleep Routines in Relation to Pet Ownership and Bedsharing. Anthrozoös, 31(6), 711-725. https://doi.org/10.1080/08927936.2018.1529354

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02 December 2018

Companion Animal Psychology Book Club December 2018

“A masterful account of the way science is revealing just how smart dogs can be."

The Companion Animal Psychology Book Club choice for December 2018 is The Genius of Dogs by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods

“A masterful account of the way science is revealing just how smart dogs can be. Fascinating and highly readable.”--John Bradshaw.

The Companion Animal Psychology Book Club choice for December 2018 is The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods.

From the inside cover,
""My dog can do that." 
So said a young Brian Hare to his professor who was studying animal behavior - and a revolution in our scientific understanding of dog intelligence began. Specifically, Brian Hare's dog, Oreo, could read human gestures that monkeys were blind to. The years of research that followed took Hare around the world and changed forever what we know of how dogs think and what they understand. This book is the masterfully told story of t his revolution and the new riches it brings to our relationship with dogs. 
We have learned more about how dogs think in the last decade than we have over the last century. Brian Hare, now director of the Duke Canine Cognition Center at Duke University, pioneered research that has proven dogs have a kind of genius for getting along with people that is unique in the animal  kingdom. His seminal work has acquainted him with every kind of dog from the tiniest shelter puppy to the exotic New Guinea Singing Dog.  
The dog genius revolution is transforming how we live and work with our canine friends, including how we train them. Does your dog feel guilt? Is she pretending she can't hear you? Does she want affection--or your sandwich? In The Genius of Dogs, Brian Hare and award-winning journalist and author Vanessa Woods lay out what the new cognitive science means for you in your daily life with your dog."

Learn more about the  Companion Animal Psychology Book Club (and how to join) or visit the Animal Book Club store on Amazon.

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