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Showing posts from August, 2012

Late Summer

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CAPB is on vacation:


If you want to catch up on any posts you've missed, there's the series on dog training (you can start at the beginning or skip to the end), read about the long-term effects of puppy mills on breeding dogs, or find out why some owners don't walk their dogs. If you're more of a cat person, you might enjoy the cat at the window or these reasons why two kittens is better than one. And if you like both cats and dogs, which should you get first?

Back next week!

By Zazie Todd, PhD


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An Ancient Egyptian Mummified Cat

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Italian scientists have conducted a radiological examination of a mummified cat.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

In Ancient Egypt, cats were revered. It is thought that cats were first domesticated in Egypt about 10,000 years ago. The first mummified cats were buried with their owners. Over time customs changed, and mummified cats were made as offerings to the feline goddess, Bastet. From 332BC to 30BC, cats were bred specifically to be used as offerings, and cat mummies were available at different price points, ranging from ones containing a few bones, to more elaborate mummies containing the entire cat.


A team of Italian scientists led by Giacomo Gnudi at the University of Parma, in Italy, recently performed a radiological examination of a cat mummy. The mummy is part of the University’s Ancient Egyptian collection, and was bought in the 19th century. Apparently cat mummies were so abundant at this time that 180,000 were shipped to Liverpool in the UK to be turned into fertilizer.
The wrappings …

Positive Reinforcement and Dog Training VII: Summary and Conclusions

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The best way to train a dog is by using rewards, but many owners continue to use aversive techniques.



By Zazie Todd, PhD

This is the final part of the series on the scientific research on dog training methods used by ordinary dog owners in ordinary situations. Over the last few weeks, we have looked at five separate studies. The conclusion of all of them is that reward-based training is best.

Two separate questionnaire studies by Hiby et al and Blackwell et al found that dogs trained using only positive reinforcement are more obedient than dogs trained with punishment. Dogs whose owners used punishment were more likely to have behaviour problems such as fear and aggression.

A study of training small dogs versus large dogs by Arhant et al confirmed that greater frequency of punishment is linked to aggression and excitability. These problems are even worse in small dogs, which are trained with less consistency and respond more negatively to punishment.
These studies relied on owner r…

Part VI of Positive Reinforcement and Dog Training: Learning New Behaviours

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A past history of rewards-based training leads to more success in future training sessions.


By Zazie Todd, PhD

So far in the series on positive reinforcement in dog training, we have found an association between the use of punishment in dog training and unwanted behavioural issues such as aggression. The use of positive methods only is also more effective than using a combination of rewards and punishment, or punishment alone.

However, all of the studies have relied on owner’s reports of their own dog’s behaviour. What if the behaviour is assessed by someone else? Does the training technique used in the past affect a dog’s performance at learning something new? That’s exactly what Nicola Rooney and Sarah Cowan set out to investigate.

In this study, 53 dog owners were asked how they had trained their dog in the same seven everyday situations that were used in the study by Hiby, discussed earlier in the series.

They were filmed interacting with their dog at home in several scenarios that…

Part V of Positive Reinforcement and Dog Training: Dogs with Behaviour Problems

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For dogs with problem behaviours, the use of aversive techniques can lead to an aggressive response.


By Zazie Todd, PhD

In this week’s edition of the series, we take another look at the use of punishment. However, while previous posts have looked at ordinary dog owners, this week the focus is on people who are having problems with their dogs. This is from a study by Meghan Herron and colleagues in the US.

People who had a referral to an animal behaviourist were asked to complete a questionnaire. It asked about dog training techniques, whether the technique had worked, who had suggested it, and whether any aggressive behaviour resulted.

The questionnaire was completed prior to the first meeting with the behaviourist, and the dog owners were there for a range of problems including aggression to people or other animals, house-soiling, separation anxiety, and other common problems. In total, 140 people took part.

The results showed that aversive training techniques elicited an aggressive r…