The Posts of the Year 2013

A white calico cat playing with a ribbon against a white background
Photo: Mila Atkovska / Shutterstock

By Zazie Todd, PhD

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A big thank you to all of our readers! We wish you a very happy and healthy 2014!!

The most popular posts of the year were:

1. Are Young Children More Interested in Animals Than Toys?
A boy looks at a fish in a tank

A set of three studies by Vanessa LoBue et al looked at young children in a naturalistic play environment in which they could choose to interact with animals or toys.

2. The End for Shock Collars?
A collie playing peek-a-boo

Research funded by Defra in the UK found that electronic collars do not work better than positive reinforcement training for recall and chasing, and have negative welfare consequences for some dogs, even when used by qualified trainers. In addition, "some end-users either fail to read the instructions, misunderstand or deliberately disregard the advice in the manuals."

3.  How Do Hand-Reared Wolves and Dogs Interact with Humans?
A gray wolf standing in the snow

The question of how dogs evolved from wolves is complicated, but it is clear there are important differences that could arise from genetics, domestication, experience, or a combination of these.  A study by Marta Gácsi in Budapest investigates whether dogs and hand-reared wolves behave the same during a changing social situation with a human.

 4.  Will Grey Parrots Share?
Psittacus erithacus

A fascinating study by Franck Péron and colleagues looks at the question of whether or not grey parrots (Psittacus erithacus) will share, with each other or with a human.

5. Why Do People Surrender Dogs to Animal Shelters?
A cocker spaniel in the woods during Springtime, surrounded by bluebells

Five to seven million companion animals arrive at animal shelters in the US each year, and about half of these are animals being surrendered by their owners. Why do people surrender their pets? To find out, a study by Jennifer Kwan and Melissa Bain compared dogs being relinquished at three Sacramento animal shelters to those dogs that were there simply to receive their vaccinations.

6. Do Dogs Try to Hide Theft of Food? 
A border collie pup takes a bit out of a sandwich

Will your dog steal food even if you can see or hear the theft take place? Two studies investigate whether dogs can take a human’s perspective in deciding whether to take a piece of forbidden food.

7.Is Attachment to Pet Dogs Linked to their Behaviour?
A woman fast asleep with her beagle

Some people are more attached to their dogs than others.  Recently, we wrote about a study that found that people who relinquished their dog to animal shelters had lower attachment to them than people who were keeping their dog (see no 5 above). Now, a study by Christy Hoffman et al asks whether there is a link between a dog’s behaviour and how attached the owner is to the dog.

8. Why are some Breeds of Dog more Popular than Others? 
A white standard poodle against a pink background

There are so many breeds of dog, it can be hard to choose which one you'd like most. Some are always popular, while other breeds rise or fall in popularity.  A new study by Stefano Ghirlanda et al 2013 investigates whether changes in the most popular breeds over the years reflect personality characteristics, health, or fashion.

9. Do Dogs Find Their Owner's Presence Supportive When a Threatening Stranger Comes Near?
A young girl holds her pet poodle

How does your dog compare to a toddler? Recent animal research is comparing the abilities of dogs with young humans. A study by Márta Gácsi et al in Hungary investigates whether dogs have the same response as infants to a test called the Strange Situation.

10. Stereotypes and Breeds of Dog
A Staffordshire Bull Terrier jumping over the bar in agility

Can social psychological theories of stereotypes about people also explain people’s attitudes and stereotypes of different breeds of dog? That’s the fascinating question posed in a new study by Tracey Clarke, Jonathan Cooper and Daniel Mills of the University of Lincoln

What were your favourites? And are there any topics you would particularly like to see covered next year?

This post contains affiliate links.

Zazie Todd, PhD, is the award-winning author of Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy and Purr: The Science of Making Your Cat Happy. She is the creator of the popular blog, Companion Animal Psychology, writes The Pawsitive Post premium newsletter, and also has a column at Psychology Today. Todd lives in Maple Ridge, BC, with her husband, one dog, and two cats. 

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Photo credits: 1. oksankash. 2. Ksenia Raykova. 3. Dennis Donohue. 4. Eric Isselee. 5. rashworth. 6. Anneka. 7. Igor Normann. 8. bikeriderlondon. 9. Raywoo. 10. dezi. All: Shutterstock.

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