Posts

Showing posts from September, 2012

Getting a puppy? Ask to see both parents

Image
When you're getting a puppy, it's best to see both parents if possible, according to a new study.



When people get a puppy, a standard piece of advice from many dog welfare organizations is that you should always ask to see the mother. This week, I’m reporting on a new piece of research that investigates whether or not this is good advice.

The study, by Carri Westgarth of the University of Liverpool, UK, was designed to find out if there is a link between behavioural problems, the age of acquisition of a puppy, and whether or not the owner had viewed the mother and father of the puppy before they brought it home.

It has long been suggested that improper welfare of the mother causes behavioural problems in puppies, and that seeing the mother is one way to ensure that the puppy is being raised in an appropriate environment. (See here for research on the long-lasting effects of puppy mills on breeding dogs).

The study was designed carefully to ensure that other factors – such as …

Now where’s my treat?

Image
A study tests whether dogs and hand-reared wolves prefer food or social interaction as a reward.

Trainers often advise owners to use treats to train their dogs, but some owners want to phase them out as fast as they can. Shouldn’t a dog be prepared to work for just verbal praise and affection? That’s the question asked in a recent study by Erica Feuerbacher and Clive Wynne – and they didn’t just test dogs, but wolves too!


The question is interesting for practical reasons, since it’s useful to know how to motivate a dog if you want to train one. But it’s a very interesting question for another reason too. Some scientists have suggested that dogs are uniquely tuned in to human contact; in other words, that in the process of evolving from wolves, dogs have developed special abilities to read human emotions and communication. If this is the case, then social contact with humans should be a valuable reward in training sessions with dogs, but not wolves.

The study involved five separate expe…

Why Don’t People Want Pets? Part 2: Dogs

Image

Why Don’t People Want Pets? Part 1: Cats

Image
The American Humane Association is investigating how to increase the adoption and retention of animals from shelters. It’s a pressing question because, in the US, 3 to 4 million animals are euthanized every year even though they are healthy and adoptable.

The first part of the study, funded by PetSmart Charities, looked at the reasons why people choose not to have a cat or dog. They interviewed people who had previously had a cat or dog but don’t have one now, and those who have never had a pet as an adult. The results make depressing reading, especially for cat lovers. This week I will focus on what the results mean for cats, and next week I will look at what they say about dogs.

People who had previously owned a cat were most likely to have got the animal from a friend, family or neighbour. About a fifth (18%) had got their cat from a shelter. A sizeable number of cats had arrived as strays (22%). For most of the people in this sample, their cat had died of natural causes or been pu…