Showing posts from January, 2016

Shelter Dogs Live Up To Expectations (Mostly)

Testing behaviour in the shelter is tricky, but most people who adopt a dog would do so again.  Photo: Julia Siomuha/Shutterstock By Zazie Todd, PhD Animal shelters often assess the behaviour of dogs before rehoming them, but because the tests are not always scientifically validated, Mornement et al (2014) developed the B.A.R.K. protocol . Results of the B.A.R.K. on 74 shelter dogs successfully predicted in-home ratings for fear and friendliness after the dogs had been adopted, but not anxiety, activity level or compliance. A follow-up paper by Kate Mornement ( Monash University ; Pets Behaving Badly ) et al takes a closer look at how the shelter assessment compares to new owners’ ratings about four months after adoption. First, the good news. All the new owners said their dog was part of the family, 96% said their new dog adapted to their home well or very well, and 71% said the dog met their expectations. Most dogs were friendly to visitors, and the most common oc

Finding out if shelter dogs are friendly: testing the B.A.R.K. protocol

Research shows the challenges of assessing behaviour in shelter dogs. Kellymmiller73 ( By Zazie Todd, PhD We know our pets well. My dog Bodger is bouncy and friendly; he sits to be patted, then jumps up with a surreptitious kiss; he likes zucchini and hates thunder. We form these observations through time spent with our dogs. But at animal shelters it’s not so easy. How do you assess the temperament of a dog you’ve only just met? Research by Kate Mornement ( Monash University ; Pets Behaving Badly ) et al investigates this problem. Many shelters in Australia (and elsewhere) use assessments that are not scientifically validated, so the team set out to develop and assess a new test of canine behaviour. Such tests are often used to make decisions about whether or not dogs are adoptable, but the results show they may not be as useful as people think. The scientists looked at tests already in use, convened a focus group of relevant experts, and develo

How Audiobooks Can Help Shelter Dogs

New research shows listening to audiobooks can help dogs waiting for adoption. Photo: Janis Maleckis ( By Zazie Todd, PhD Imagine how it must feel to be a dog at a shelter, taken from your normal environment for reasons you don’t understand, with unfamiliar smells and noises, including other dogs barking. Could the sounds of music or a person reading help? A new study by Clarissa Brayley and Tamara Montrose ( Hartpury Animal Behaviour College ) tests audiobooks and music to see if they calm the dogs, and finds beneficial results from audiobooks. The study compared an audiobook – specifically Michael York reading C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe – to classical music ( The Best of Beethoven ), pop music ( Now 88 ), specially-designed dog music ( Through a Dog’s Ear ), and a control condition of no added sound. “Shelters frequently are stressful environments for dogs,” says Dr. Tamara Montrose, “and any reduction of this stress is

Make a Difference on Shock Collars

Scots and Canadians have the chance to support controls on electronic collars. Rohappy ( By Zazie Todd, PhD Electronic collars for dogs and cats are already banned in many jurisdictions (including Austria, Denmark, Germany, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland , Wales , Quebec , and parts of Australia ). Now, people in Scotland and Canada have the chance to let their governments know how they feel. Please support these campaigns to ban shock collars by taking part and sharing with friends and family. The Scottish Government consultation, “ potential controls or prohibition of electronic training aids in Scotland ”, is open for comment until 29 th January 2016. The website says, “This consultation seeks views on whether some or all electronic training aids should be subject to tighter controls in Scotland or whether they should be banned outright. It also seeks evidence to support these views.”  In Canada, the first ever e-petition to Parl