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Showing posts from June, 2014

Do Children Help Care for the Family Pet?

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…Or does mom do it all?


By Zazie Todd, PhD

How should children learn to take some responsibility for family pets such as dogs and cats? New research by Janine Muldoon et al (University of St Andrews) investigates children’s perspectives of the division of labour in relation to their pets.
The exploratory study involved focus groups with children aged 7, 9, 11 and 13. The researchers planned equal numbers of boys and girls, but constraints meant that 30 girls and only 23 boys took part. 
The main ‘caring’ activity that children took part in with their pet was playing with it. Some of the children were very honest in admitting they did not otherwise take care of the animal. For example, one 13-year old girl, Isla*, said,
“She (mum) cleaned it and I just played with it.”
The older children suggested they played in a way that included what the animal wanted, compared to when they were younger when they treated it more like a toy. The children were vague, however, on other aspects of animal…

The Effects of Canine Personality and Joint Activities on the Dog-Owner Relationship

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How do owner characteristics and canine personality influence the relationship between dogs and their owners? A study in Denmark by Iben Meyer and Bjørn Forkman (University of Copenhagen) investigates.


By Zazie Todd, PhD

The study of 421 dog owners aged 18 to 75 used data from dog personality tests taken between six months and two-and-a-half years earlier, and a questionnaire of owners that included the Monash Dog Owner Relationship Scale. The dogs were all pedigrees since these were the dogs that had taken the personality test for the Danish Kennel Club. Several breeds took part, including Golden Retrievers, Icelandic Sheepdogs, Danish Broholmers, Boxers and Rottweilers.
The canine personality test was the Dog Mentality Assessment, which gives dogs scores on five personality traits. The researchers analyzed the DMA sub-scales to give the five traits used in this study: chase proneness, non-social fear, playfulness, social fear and sociability.


However, only one of these traits (social…

Do Dogs Get that Eureka! Feeling?

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Does successful problem solving make dogs happy, or does simply getting the reward make them happy too?


By Zazie Todd, PhD

New research by Ragen McGowan et al (University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden) investigates whether dogs enjoy the experience of solving a problem in order to obtain a reward, or if it is just the reward itself that makes them happy.
Rather unusually, the idea came from a study that found cattle who completed a task to earn a reward seemed to be happier than those who just received the reward. The design of McGowan et al’s study is very similar, but adjusted for dogs.
The results show that when dogs solved the problem and earned a reward they wagged their tails more and were more eager to repeat the experience than if they were just given a reward. The study also found that food was a preferred reward over time with another dog and petting from a familiar human.
Six matched pairs of beagles took part (12 dogs in total). Each dog was an experimental dog for half …

Is Cruelty to Animals in Childhood a Predictor of Later Criminal Behaviour?

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Does cruelty to animals as a child predict interpersonal violence in adulthood?


By Zazie Todd, PhD

New research by Kelly Knight, Colter Ellis and Sara Simmons (Sam Houston State University) investigates how many children are cruel to animals and whether it persists through generations. The study is especially valuable because it uses a sample that is representative of the US population and tracks families over the years.
There are two main theories about childhood cruelty to animals. One theory is that if children are cruel to animals they will grow up to be violent adults. This is called the “graduation hypothesis”. It rests on the idea that there is something wrong with the individual and that they ‘graduate’ from animal abuse to interpersonal violence. This seems to be the theory we hear about most in the popular press. Although there is some evidence to support it, it may not be the whole story.
An alternate theory is that if a child is cruel to animals, it is a sign they have been…