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Showing posts from 2015

The Posts of the Year 2015

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By Zazie Todd, PhD

Happy New Year! Good health and happiness to all our readers in 2016.

These were the top posts of 2015. Which were your favourite? And what would you like to see covered here in 2016?


1. Different dog breeds, different sensitive period?

A study of three breeds finds differences in the sensitive period, and shows socialization should begin before you even take your puppy home. - See more at: http://www.companionanimalpsychology.com/2015/04/different-dog-breeds-different.html#sthash.yaKUk2kL.dpuf A study of three breeds finds differences in the sensitive period, and shows socialization should begin before you even take your puppy home.














2. Re-arranging metaphors for dogs

The problems with the wolf pack metaphor go deeper than you think.















3. What do young children learn from pets?

Is a better understanding of biology something that young children learn from dogs and cats?















4. Where do cats like to be stroked?

People expect cats to enjoy affection, but what's the c…

Season's Greetings!

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Happy Holidays and a very Happy New Year to all our readers from Companion Animal Psychology.

By Zazie Todd, PhD







Zazie Todd, PhD, is the author of Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy. She is the founder of the popular blog Companion Animal Psychology, where she writes about everything from training methods to the human-canine relationship. She also writes a column for Psychology Today and has received the prestigious Captain Haggerty Award for Best Training Article in 2017. Todd lives in Maple Ridge, BC, with her husband, one dog, and two cats.
Useful links: Check out what the Animal Book Club is reading this monthGet Companion Animal Psychology merchSupport me on Ko-fiVisit my Amazon storeAs an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. As an Etsy affiliate, I earn from qualifying Etsy purchases.

Make Your Dog Happy: How to Choose a Puppy Class!

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Why you should go to puppy class, what to look for in a class, and why it could be the best investment you make in your dog.



By Zazie Todd, PhD

Puppy classes provide important socialization opportunities and early learning experiences for puppies up to 5 months old. Puppy class is not just about training, it’s also (even mostly) about socialization.



Puppy Class and  Socialization
Socialization matters because dogs go through a developmental stage when happy, positive experiences with new people, dogs and things are important, and help to set them up to be happy, calm adult dogs. We know this because studies that kept puppies in isolation (e.g. Freedman, King and Elliot 1961) found they became very fearful.

Many dog trainers have socialization checklists, like this one from the late Dr. Sophia Yin that includes unfamiliar people and dogs, body handling, surfaces and sounds to which puppies should be socialized. 




We don’t know exactly when the sensitive period for socialization ends, and it m…

Illustrating Companion Animal Psychology: Favourite Photos

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A selection of favourite photos from the blog. By Zazie Todd, PhD

One of the things I enjoy about writing Companion Animal Psychology is picking out the photo for each week’s post. I wait until I’ve finished the first draft, and choose the photo before I go back to edit. It feels like a treat to browse through the images.
Most of the time I’m looking for a photo in which the animal is happy and relaxed. Although there are some gorgeous studio shots, I tend to prefer more realistic settings. There are some stories for which any puppy or kitten would do, but other posts need something specific. Sometimes it’s not obvious what kind of photo is best to illustrate a story, and then I’m looking for some kind of connection, a metaphorical thread that links the visual to the prose. 


This photo of the mouse scampering away from the sleeping cat makes me smile. I used it to illustrate a story about the role of animals in everyday life, based on research from the Mass Observation Project (Animals,…

Enrichment for Goldfish

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What keeps goldfish happy in their tank – and how do we know?



By Zazie Todd, PhD

You’ve heard about the importance of enrichment for companion animals (like dogs) and for zoo animals, but what about goldfish? Fish are the third most popular pet - kept by 12.3 million households in the US - so it’s an important topic for animal welfare. Different types of fish might have different preferences. A new study by Miriam Sullivan (University of Western Australia) et al investigates.
Enrichment “is particularly important for goldfish and other pet fish for two main reasons,” Miriam Sullivan told me. “One, people tend to underestimate how smart fish are, which probably means they spend less time and effort on enrichment for their fish compared to other pets like cats and dogs.”
“And two, fish health is really closely connected to their environment. If fish are stressed out due to a poor environment (e.g. if they lack shelter or you didn’t clean out the tank!) then they become more susceptible to b…

Reader Survey: Please Take Part!

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Would you like to help with some research on who reads science blogs like this one? ***Edit: The survey is now closed. Thank you to everyone who took part!***

By Zazie Todd, PhD

I’ve teamed up with Science Borealis, Dr. Paige Jarreau (Louisiana State University) and 20 other Canadian science bloggers to conduct a broad survey of the readers of Canadian blogs. Together we are trying to find out who reads Canadian science blogs, where they come from, whether or not Canadian-specific content is important to them, and where they go for trustworthy, accurate science news and information.

Your feedback will also help me learn more about who reads Companion Animal Psychology. People from anywhere in the world can take part, whether you’re a regular reader or you’ve only read one or two posts.
It will take around 5 minutes, and the survey is here.
Participants will be entered to win one of 11 prizes (a $50 Chapters gift card, a $20 surprise gift card, 3 Science Borealis T-shirts and 6 surprise gi…

Education about Cats may Reduce Feline Behaviour Problems

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Behavioural advice for people with a new kitten is linked to a better-behaved pet at 1 year old.




By Zazie Todd, PhD

A new pet can be hard work, and if people don’t fully understand the needs of their animals, behaviour problems can result. A new study investigates whether education for owners at their first vet appointment is the answer. 
People with a new kitten (3 months old) were given 25 minutes of standardized advice on caring for cats. The study, by Angelo Gazzano et al (University of Pisa)compared the behaviour of these cats at just over 1 year old with that of a control group where no behavioural advice was given.
The authors say, “providing simple, relatively short advice at the very beginning of a kitten-owner relationship is not only important in pleasing the owners, protecting cat welfare, and [the] cat-owner relationship but also in offering a complete service to the owners.” 
The education was given by a vet behaviourist and took 25 minutes. It included advice on cat behaviou…

Large Study Finds No Evidence for "Black Dog Syndrome"

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A study of over 16,000 adoptable dogs finds black dogs don’t take longer to be adopted after all.


By Zazie Todd, PhD

Understanding what people look for in adoptable dogs can make a big difference to animal shelters. It makes sense to target promotions in order to stop dogs having lengthy stays. But you can only do this if you know what people want. 
The idea that black dogs wait longer for a new home than dogs of other colours has been around for a while. New research by Heather Svoboda and Christy Hoffman (Canisius College) suggests it does not exist, at least at the two shelters they surveyed.
Christy Hoffman told me, “We did not find evidence of Black Dog Syndrome, but we did find that shelter outcomes tended to be worse for brindle dogs and, not surprisingly, bully breeds. A relatively recent paper by Brown et al. (2013) also concluded black dogs do not have worse than average shelter outcomes. I wonder if, perhaps, Black Dog Syndrome was never a problem, or if all the marketing effor…