Showing posts from July, 2014

The Attentive Look of a Dog in Training

Researchers investigate the body language of a dog that is performing well in training. Photo: Victoria Rak ( By Zazie Todd, PhD A new study puts dogs through the first stage of a basic training task and analyzes eye contact and posture in the most successful dogs. The research by Masashi Hasegawa et al (Azabu University School of Veterinary Medicine) is motivated by a desire to improve people’s training abilities by helping them recognize the posture associated with successful learning.  One of the neat things about this paper is that the study was done with completely untrained dogs. For obvious reasons, many canine science studies use well-behaved pet dogs of the kind that is calm when taken to a strange location like a university laboratory. While these studies are valuable, not all dogs are well-socialized and it’s important that research considers all kinds of dogs. What better dog for a study of dogs-in-training than one that is totally untrai

The Adolescent Dog: One Last Chance?

A synthesis of the latest research on social influences on development suggests adolescence is an important time for mammals – including dogs. Photo: dezi / Shutterstock By Zazie Todd, PhD Most people are familiar with the idea of a sensitive period for puppies that ends around 12 or 14 weeks. Is it possible that adolescence is also an important period for brain development and future behaviour? Social experience plays an important role in shaping animal behaviour throughout development according to Sachser et al (2013). They consider the way the environment influences the mother and, in turn, the behaviour of her offspring (e.g. through stress hormones). This ensures the offspring is prepared for that environment as adults. This page contains affiliate links. While the paper looks at the prenatal period right through to adolescence, it is the section on adolescent animals that is of most interest. They write that “the adolescent phase may pro

Do Puppy Tests Predict Adult Dog Behaviour?

A new study follows dogs from neonates to adults to find out if puppy tests predict adult behaviour. By Zazie Todd, PhD Lots of people want to know if a puppy’s behaviour will tell you what it will be like as an adult dog . From people choosing a pet dog from a breeder’s litter, to organizations training service, police or military dogs, making the right choice of puppy could really help later on. But there have long been concerns that puppy personality tests don’t necessarily predict adult behaviour. So Stefanie Riemer et al of the Clever Dog Lab tested border collies as brand new puppies, older puppies, and adult dogs, to investigate. This page contains affiliate links. Most previous studies have looked at dogs bred to be working dogs. This study is especially interesting for pet owners because it looked at pet dogs.  99 neonate Border Collie puppies were tested between 2 and 10 days old. 93 of them, and a further 41 dogs, were tested at 40 – 50 da

Sub-Optimal Choice in Dogs: Cheese or Cheese and Carrot?

Evidence suggests dogs do not always make the best choice. A new study finds that far as food choice is concerned, they use the same heuristic previously demonstrated in humans and monkeys. Photo: Igor Sokolov (breeze) / Shutterstock By Zazie Todd, PhD Earlier research has found that if people are asked to estimate the value of a set of 24 good condition dishes vs a set of 40 dishes (of which 31 are in good condition), they tend to think the former is more valuable. The broken dishes seem to detract from the fact the second set has more dishes in good condition. This is known as the ‘less is more’ effect. This effect has been demonstrated in monkeys, too. Monkeys like grapes and they also like slices of cucumber, although not as much. If given a choice between a grape vs a grape and a slice of cucumber, they tend to choose the grape. Does the same hold true for dogs ? Kristina Pattison and Thomas Zentall (University of Kentucky) set out to investigate. The experiment

Thank You x Half a Million

We’re thrilled to have had over half a million page views here at Companion Animal Psychology Blog. Thank you to all our readers! Photo: asharkyu / Shutterstock By Zazie Todd, PhD We’ll be back to our usual schedule next week. Meanwhile, these are our top stories of the year so far:-  Dog Training, Animal Welfare and the Human-Canine Relationship   Is training with positive reinforcement beneficial for the canine-human bond and better for animal welfare? Do Dogs get that Eureka! Feeling?   (as featured in the Daily Mail ) Does successful problem solving make dogs happy? 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.  If there are any topics you'd like to see covered in future, please leave a note in the comments. Zazie Todd, PhD , is the author of Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy . She is the founder of the popular b