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Showing posts from April, 2015

Different Dog Breeds, Different Sensitive Period?

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A study of three breeds finds differences in the sensitive period, and shows socialization should begin before you even take your puppy home. Photo: JL Snader/Shutterstock.com By Zazie Todd, PhD Puppies have a sensitive period between 3 and 12-14 weeks old in which they must be socialized. This means positive introductions to new people, dogs , places, etc. If not, they will be fearful as adult dogs. A fascinating new study by Mary Morrow ( Ohio State University ) et al investigates whether this period is the same for three breeds of dog: Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Yorkshire Terriers, and German Shepherd Dogs.  These breeds make a particularly interesting comparison. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Yorkshire Terrier are both members of the Toy group, although Yorkshire Terriers are still “terriers by nature” according to the breed standard. The German Shepherd is a Herding dog, and the GSD puppies were chosen from breeders with international working dog lin

Does Animal-Assisted Therapy Help Adolescents with Psychiatric Problems?

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A new study finds that a dog might be just what the doctor ordered. Photo: SebiTian/Shutterstock By Zazie Todd, PhD Can animal-assisted therapy can help adolescents who are in hospital because of an acute psychiatric crisis? A new randomized controlled trial investigates.  The study, conducted by M.C. Stefanini et al ( University of Florence ) randomly allocated patients to either an animal-assisted therapy intervention or no intervention. Both groups continued to receive psychiatric treatment as usual, and those treating them did not know which group they were in. The results are very promising. The intervention group had better school attendance, higher levels of global functioning, and spent less time in hospital compared to the control group. The scientists say, “One possible explanation for this success is the role of the animal as a catalyst in the therapeutic process. Animals may represent a valid help in therapeutic contexts thanks to their ability to cata

Earliest Memories of Pets Shape Adult Attitudes

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New research suggests our earliest childhood memories of pets influence our attitudes to animals.    Photo: Happy Person/Shutterstock By Zazie Todd, PhD Think back to your first memory of a pet, whether it was your own or someone else’s. Is it a happy memory, or a sad one? Were you interacting with the animal, or just watching? And is it possible that early memories like this influence your attitudes as an adult? This question was posed by Philip Marshall ( Texas Tech University ) et al, who compared earliest memories of a pet, a friend and an automobile. 223 people answered the questionnaire, and the results show significant differences in the types of language used, and a fascinating link with attitudes. Memories of pets contained more references to both positive and negative emotion than memories of cars.  The scientists say,  “although pet memories were less positive than friend memories, in terms of overall affective language, memories of pets were mor

Why Do People Relinquish Large Dogs?

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When someone gives up a large dog to a shelter, what are the usual reasons? Photo: InBetweenTheBlinks/Shutterstock By Zazie Todd, PhD Research by Emily Weiss ( ASPCA ) et al looks at why people relinquish large dogs – and whether there are interventions that could have helped the animal stay in its home. The results show that people issues, rather than dog issues, are given as the main reason. They also highlight that owners have many good things to say about their dog, even as it is relinquished. In the US, large dogs are at a greater risk of euthanasia than other dogs in shelters. This is partly because smaller dogs tend to be adopted more quickly . The researchers decided to focus on large dogs because they might benefit the most from schemes designed to prevent animal relinquishment. For the purposes of this study, dogs were considered large if they looked like they weighed at least 40 pounds. People who surrendered dogs at shelters in Washington, DC, and New Y

Companion Animal Psychology Turns Three!

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By Zazie Todd, PhD It’s three years since I started this blog. There’s been a post (almost) every week since – this is post number 156. I’ve covered topics as diverse as how to stroke a cat , an animal's right to walk away , issues with the use of shock collars , what young children learn from pets , and the meaning of pets to homeless youth . Highlights of the last year include an interview with Mia Cobb about her research on working dogs , and our most-read post of all time, Do dogs get that Eureka! feeling .  At the heart of it all is a fascination with the human-animal bond, and a concern for the welfare of humans and their companion animals. If you want to make sure you don’t miss a post, please sign up to follow by email via the box in the top right. One of the things that makes it all worthwhile is connecting with you, the reader, whether that’s directly through the blog or via social media. Thank you to all of you for your tweets, likes, comments and shares!