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Showing posts from November, 2013

Can Dogs Eavesdrop?

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Do dogs prefer nice people? Researchers look at whether dogs notice who is 'nice' and 'not nice', and how they respond.

A Cat's Gotta Scratch ...

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Research shows that if a scratching post is available, cats will use it.

Scratching is a normal behaviour for a cat, but can be problematic for owners if a cat chooses to scratch the wrong items. A new study by Manuel Mengoli et al in Italy investigates feline scratching behaviour amongst a mixed sample of cats.


Cats scratch for a variety of reasons, including communicating with other cats via visible scratch marks and olfactory signals left behind from glands in the plantar pads. It may also keep their claws sharp and healthy. Although scratching is a normal behaviour, it can also be a sign of stress. As the authors say, “the use of scratching as a marking signal is normal in a wide territory, but when it is observed repeatedly inside the house, it is reasonable to conclude that the animal is not feeling safe in that specific environment.”

Cat owners were recruited via vet clinics and the departments of Psychology and Veterinary Medicine at the University of Padua. They completed a …

Can Dogs Cooperate With Each Other and With A Human?

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In the process of domestication, it seems that dogs have become especially attuned to human communication. Does this mean they can cooperate with a human to solve a problem? And what if they need to cooperate with another dog instead? A study in press by Ostojić and Clayton investigates.

The study is based on a “string task” in which two dogs (or a dog and a human) have to pull each end of a string in order to gain access to food that is otherwise out of reach on a platform. 
The dogs were trained initially on a task they could solve on their own, because both ends of the string were close enough together. Some dogs opened their mouths very wide to get both ends in at once, while others used their paw to bring the ends closer together to make them fit in their jaw. When they pulled, a treat fell off the platform for them to eat.
Twenty-nine dogs were trained on this initial task. They included a number of search-and-rescue dogs, some with agility training, and pet dogs who had been …

Diabetes Alert Dogs

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Can dogs be trained to alert diabetics when their blood sugar levels fall too low or too high? A new study by Nicola Rooney (University of Bristol) et al investigates the success of just such a program.

Medical Detection Dogs is a charity in the UK that trains dogs to detect disease. For example, they are investigating whether it is possible to train dogs to help with the early diagnosis of cancer, such as detecting prostate cancer from urine samples. They have bedbug detection dogs, who raise money to support the charity, which is reliant on public donations. And they also have medical alert dogs, trained to alert diabetics when their blood sugar becomes dangerously low.
Type 1 diabetes is a serious medical condition in which the pancreas is not able to produce enough insulin. Consequently, there is not enough insulin to get sugar into the cells. The symptoms include increased thirst, hunger, fatigue and blurred vision, as well as many complications that can be life-threatening. Peopl…