Showing posts from September, 2015

Research Resources for Animal Shelters and Rescues

There’s a growing evidence base on ways to increase animal adoptions and reduce relinquishment. By Zazie Todd, PhD Over the last few years, there have been many studies of direct relevance to those involved in animal shelters and rescues.  From considering what people look for in a new pet, how to increase adoptions, and what goes wrong to cause people to surrender animals, there’s a lot of useful information. I’ve covered many of these stories here at Companion Animal Psychology , and I thought it would be helpful to put them all in one place.  Whether you want a better understanding of why so many companion animals end up in shelters, or to take action to improve adoption rates, you'll find plenty of food for thought here. Shelter cats like a box to hide in . The importance of providing a kitty-sized hiding space, such as a cardboard box, Hide Perch and Go or Feline Fort.  Even shy shelter cats can learn tricks . 100 shelter cats were taught four trick

Cluck Click! Training Chickens Reveals Their Intelligence

Teaching a trick to a chicken increases beliefs that chickens are intelligent and can feel emotions. Photo: Gillian Holliday/Shutterstock By Zazie Todd, PhD Learning how to train chickens changes student’s attitudes towards them, according to a new study by Susan Hazel ,  Lisel O’Dwyer (both University of Adelaide) and Terry Ryan (Legacy Canine). The chickens were trained to do a specific task (such as pecking on a red but not green circle) in order to get food. Survey responses before and after the class show more positive attitudes after the clicker-training session. Lead author Susan Hazel told me in an email, “I believe that the main reason for the students’ change in attitudes to chickens was that they realized chickens are smarter than they thought (they learn the colour discrimination tasks very fast) and also when you work with the different chickens you see their personalities.”  “Some chickens are fast and other chickens still learn quickly but just re

Make your dog happy. Train force free.

We can promote animal welfare by making learning a rewarding experience. By Zazie Todd, PhD The risks of using punishment in dog training By now, many people are familiar with the idea that using aversives to train dogs can have side effects. Studies show a correlation between aversive techniques (such as hitting, pinning, leash jerks and shock) and behaviour problems like aggression ( Herron et al 2009 ; Casey et al 2014 ).  One study found dogs in a training class that used aversives showed signs of stress and were less likely to look at their owners than in a similar class that used positive reinforcement instead ( Deldalle and Gaunet, 2014 ). The benefits of reward-based dog training Rewards bring benefits: dogs with a history of reward-based training are better able to learn a new task  ( Rooney and Cowan, 2011 ) . Nicola Rooney and Sarah Cowan say this may work “by increasing the dog’s motivation and aptitude to learn, because it learns to anticipate r

If You Lead a Lab to Water, Should You Let Them Swim?

A new study tests whether Labrador Retrievers choose the pool. Photo: Bhakpong/Shutterstock By Zazie Todd, PhD Labrador Retrievers were bred to retrieve from water, and it’s widely known they love to swim. But, how much? And, given their sociability, do they prefer to swim rather than mix with a person or another dog? A study by Sara Tavares , Ana Magalhães and Liliana de Sousa ( University of Porto ) gave Labs a free choice, and says the results are important for good animal welfare. The study involved ten Labrador Retrievers who live on a farm in Portugal. The dogs were housed in groups of 2-3 in kennels (except when females were in heat, when they were isolated temporarily). They had play sessions together, and sometimes had access to a swimming pool, but it wasn’t on a regular schedule.  On 3 separate occasions, dogs were given a free choice: taken to the pool area and left there with one other dog to play with, the water to swim in, or a human to approach.