Showing posts from January, 2014

The Street Dogs of Bangkok

The relationship between Thai people and street dogs in Bangkok. By Zazie Todd, PhD If you’ve ever been to Bangkok, you will have noticed stray dogs and cats loitering on the street corners. Some are well fed, but many are scrawny, flea-ridden, and have old injuries. While many sleep away the day, others are tricky for pedestrians to navigate. New research by Nikki Savvides investigates the relationship between people and street dogs in the capital of Thailand. Photo: Krisdayod / Shutterstock Thai people’s attitudes to animals are shaped by Theravada Buddhism, including a belief that killing animals is wrong. Although most Thai people eat meat and fish, there is a vegetarian festival in the month of October, when for ten days people ‘ gin jeh ’ (eat vegetarian). There are spirit houses outside most buildings, where Thai people light incense and make offerings of flowers, food and other items. Acts of kindness towards animals, such as feeding strays or releasing birds from

Me and My Dog: Is the Feeling Mutual?

You know you love your dog. Those gorgeous eyes that gaze up at you, the way she runs to greet you when you get home from work, and that cute way she drops the leash in your lap when it’s time for walkies. It’s all adorable. But does your dog feel the same way about you? Photo: Poprugin Aleksey / Shutterstock By Zazie Todd, PhD A new study by Therese Rehn et al (2014) investigates whether or not there is a link between how an owner feels about their relationship, and how the dog feels. Twenty dog-owner pairs took part. The people were aged from 17 to 69 years old, and the dogs were mostly around four years old. The dogs were companion animals and had all lived with their owner for at least six months. Of course it’s easy to find out how owners feel about their dogs: you ask them. The researchers used a questionnaire called the Monash Dog Owner Relationship Scale (MDORS). Since the study took place in Sweden, it was translated into Swedish. But you can’t just ask a dog.

Dangerous Dogs: Time for a Rethink?

What are the risk factors for aggression in dogs? By Zazie Todd, PhD New research suggests it’s time to stop thinking of dogs as either ‘safe’ or ‘dangerous’. In most cases canine aggression seems to be a learned response to a particular situation, not a personality characteristic, since a dog that growls or bites in one situation may not do so in other contexts. A large survey in the UK (Rachel Casey et al, University of Bristol) investigates canine aggression towards family members, towards unfamiliar people in the house, and to unfamiliar people outside. The researchers described aggression as “barking, lunging, growling or biting.” Thus the survey incorporated a range of behaviours that are considered aggressive, instead of just looking at biting. Photo: chingyunsong / Shutterstock A total of 3897 questionnaires were completed out of 14,566 that were distributed to dog owners. The average age of dogs was 4 years old, with a range from 6 months to 17 years.  Agg

Do Dogs with Baby Expressions get Adopted Sooner, and What Does it Say about Domestication?

Cute eyebrow movements by dogs influence people’s choice of canine companion. Photo: MrGarry / Shutterstock By Zazie Todd, PhD Theories about the domestication of dogs from wolves suggest that baby-like faces are a by-product of humans selecting for other features. But is it possible they were deliberately selected? A new study in PLoS One by Bridget Waller et al (University of Portsmouth) investigates. Selecting animals for behavioural traits can end up having unexpected effects on physical characteristics, as shown in the silver fox study by Dimitri K. Belyaev in Siberia. Young foxes were tested to see how they responded to a person, and the least fearful ones were chosen for breeding. Eventually, after forty generations of breeding, the foxes became tame and domesticated. Even though they were selected for behaviour, they had physical changes such as floppy ears, curly tails, blue eyes, different coat colours, less of a ‘foxy’ smell, and a longer socialization period