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Summer Reading: Books about Animals, Fiction, and Nonfiction for Summer 2019

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My pick of the books to read this summer, from books about animals to the latest fiction and nonfiction from Canada and elsewhere.



By Zazie Todd, PhD

It’s beautiful weather here, and time for pottering about in the garden and sitting with a book. These are the books I’ve read or am reading this summer.

You can find them all in my Amazon store: https://www.amazon.com/shop/animalbookclub


Our Dogs, Ourselves: The Story of a Singular Bond by Alexandra Horowitz
In Our Dogs, Ourselves, Horowitz takes a fascinating look at the human-dog relationship, ambiguities and all. She’s been listening in on the ways people talk to their dogs and details the fun things that happen in a dog cognition lab. In reflecting on historical changes in breeds, such as the increasingly flat faces of some dogs, she urges dog owners to do better. And the relative risks and benefits of spay/neuter surgery may not be what you think. This is a beautiful, thoughtful, and heart-breaking book. Delightful and hard-hitting i…

Fellow Creatures - New Post

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At my Fellow Creatures blog on Psychology today, a new post looks at some research on how the owners of Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, and Pugs, perceive the health of their dog.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

The study shows they have a very close bond with their dog, but the concern is some health issues are missed or as seen as 'normal' for the breed. Read more in health issues in brachycephalic dogs are often missed.

The study also reports on common health issues in these dogs, and on the common surgeries they may have as a result of the conformation.

Animal Book Club August 2019

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"A remarkable chronicle of the domestic dog’s journey across thousands of years and straight into our hearts, written with equal parts tenderness and scientific rigor." (Brain Pickings)



By Zazie Todd, PhD

After a month's break, the Companion Animal Psychology Book Club resumes in August with What's a Dog For?: The Surprising History, Science, Philosophy, and Politics of Man’s Best Friend by John Homans.
"As dogs take their place as coddled family members and their numbers balloon to over 77 million in the United States alone, it’s no surprise that canine culture is undergoing a massive transformation. Now subject to many of the same questions of rights and ethics as people, the politics of dogs are more tumultuous and public than ever—with fierce moral battles raging over kill shelters, puppy mills, and breed standards. Incorporating interviews and research from scientists, activists, breeders, and trainers, What’s a Dog For? investigates how dogs have r…

Time with a Person Benefits Fearful Dogs in Shelters

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For fearful dogs in shelters, 2x15 minute human interactions per day over 5 days improves scores on a screening test and makes most of them be classed as adoptable.



By Zazie Todd, PhD

Arriving at a shelter is a stressful experience for any dog. For fearful dogs, being unable to escape from something threatening – such as a person entering the kennel – can cause them to show aggressive behaviour such as growling. New research by Regina Willen (HALO) et al, published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science, shows the effectiveness of an enrichment program in helping such dogs be classed as adoptable.

The scientists write,
“While fearful dogs in shelters are vulnerable, the vulnerability is not inevitable. Providing relatively brief human interaction in a quiet area with other elements of enrichment (e.g., treats, toys) can be a powerful means of reducing the aggressiveness of these animals, and appears to also improve their affective state, at least under the conditions tested with our cogni…

The Lifespan and Health Conditions of French Bulldogs and Labrador Retrievers

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Two large studies reveal the kinds of health problems that affect French Bulldogs and Labrador Retrievers – the two most popular breeds in the UK.



By Zazie Todd, PhD

Two of the most popular breeds of dog in the USA, Canada, and the UK are French Bulldogs and Labrador Retrievers. In fact in 2018, French Bulldogs knocked Labrador Retrievers off the top spot in the UK for the first time.

Because pedigree dogs are bred from a closed genetic pool, they can develop health issues related to the breed. As well, of course, any dog can be affected by various canine conditions. In the UK, a large database (VetCompass) that records details of primary care vet visits has been used to find out what kinds of health problems certain breeds have, and how long they tend to live, on average (O’Neill et al, 2018; McGreevy et al, 2018). The studies are based on health records for 2013.

Having a better understanding of how common different disorders are in particular breeds means that breeders and Kennel Cl…

Companion Animal Psychology News July 2019

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A lesson for the human classroom that comes from dog training, music at the vet's for cats, and a dancing parrot... this month's Companion Animal Psychology News.



By Zazie Todd, PhD My favourites this month  "“Learning shouldn’t hurt” is an adage among progressive dog training and animal behavior communities, and it’s the main idea I took from training dogs that informs my approach to pedagogy." Learning shouldn’t hurt, or how my dog made me a better teacher by Ryan Donovan.

“Adding music might help, but also take the opportunity to think more broadly..” Promising results from a study of music for cats in the vet clinic, in Can special music for cats reduce their stress at the clinic by Linda Lombardi at Fear Free Pets.

"Dogs aren't the only ones who can do science. The era of cat science is now." Do you play with your cat? This online study is for you! by Julie Hecht. You can take part in the study at catsdoscience.com.

“Puppies will give us a clear “ye…

Interview with Dr. Mark Goldstein

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"I wanted to pull back the curtain a little bit on some of these questions... It was all centred around two things: life lessons learned as a veterinarian and the human-animal bond."


By Zazie Todd, PhD

An interview with Dr. Mark Goldstein about his book Lions and Tigers and Hamsters: What Animals Large and Small Taught Me About Life, Love, and Humanity. We talked about the human-animal bond, challenges for animal welfare, why veterinarians are at risk of depression and suicide, and favourite stories from the book.


Zazie: I really loved your book, and I’m going to ask you in a moment why you decided to write it, but I have to start with the elephant, because the book starts with an amazing story about this elephant called Donia who almost ended your veterinary career. Tell me about Donia.

Dr. Mark: Donia was an Asian elephant. She was a matriarch on an island of 8 elephants and she had a permanent impact on my life and career, in a positive way, surprisingly. She was a beautiful…