Showing posts from June, 2016

Reward-Based Training is for All Our Pets

And it can teach us about ourselves too. Highlights from the first Train for Rewards blog party.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

Recently, I invited fellow bloggers to join me in writing about reward-based training of our companion animals. I did not know how many (if any) would want to join in. So when the big day came and 25 other bloggers joined me in sharing posts on this topic, I was delighted.

I was especially pleased that dogs, cats and horses were all represented, because dogs aren’t the only animals that need training.

Reward-based training for dogs, cats, horses...
“Nobody bats an eye if you talk about dog training, but mention cat training one time and the couch delivery guys give you a look and refuse your offer of a glass of water (obviously spiked with a crazy cat training potion). The perception that cats are untrainable is false, and it can hinder happy unions between cats and their people. Dogs and cats learn every day, and through training, we can harness the associations they mak…

How Many Cats Are Stressed at the Vet?

New research shows just how stressed cats are at the vet, but there’s a lot we can do to help.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

A recent study found 30% of dogs are very stressed in the waiting room at the vet, and it turns out things are even worse for cats.

It comes as no surprise to learn many cats are stressed by visits to the veterinarian. A new study by Chiara Mariti (University of Pisa) et al explores the scale of the problem, and has important suggestions for both cat guardians and vets on how to make things better.

The survey found some cats are so stressed the vet is not able to examine them properly. 789 of the 1,111 cats in the study were reported to have been aggressive to a vet at some point. 24% had bitten or scratched their guardian at the vet.

Many cats had areas that were off-limits for being touched by the vet, including the tummy, tail and genital area. Only 32% of the cats let the vet touch them anywhere.

When it came to vet procedures, cats were none too happy about these eithe…

The Train for Rewards Blog Party is now on

There is a fantastic set of posts by some brilliant bloggers in the Train for Rewards blog party. Check it out now!

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 and two cats.

Useful links:
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Seven Reasons to Use Reward-Based Dog Training

Reward-based training is the best way to train dogs. Here's what it means, and seven reasons to give it a try.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

What is reward-based dog training? Put simply, it's using rewards to train dogs - giving rewards for good behaviour and withholding rewards for behaviours we don't like.

Instead of using ideas like respect or dominance to train dogs, reward-based training looks at what motivates dogs and uses that in a humane manner to improve your dog's behaviour.

Reward-based training is also commonly known as force free dog training or positive dog training, because it relies on positive reinforcement.

Whether you're new to training or an experienced pro, here are seven reasons to use reward-based dog training.

1. Positive reinforcement is recommended by professional organizations
Many professional organizations have spoken out against the use of punishment in dog training because the scientific evidence shows that it carries risks.

For example, Dogs T…

The Train for Rewards Blog Party

This is the place for the Train for Rewards Blog Party to celebrate rewards-based training of our companion animals. Bloggers can add a link to their contributing posts below (please read the rules and get the button first).
By Zazie Todd, PhD
Take Part in Train for RewardsOn 16th June:
Read the blog posts listed below, comment on them, and share your favourite posts on social media with the hashtag #Train4RewardsShare a photo of your dog (or other companion animal) who is trained using rewards on social media with the hashtag #Train4RewardsReward yourself for participating with a cup of coffee, slice of cake, a walk in the woods, or whatever makes you happy.

An InLinkz Link-up

Canine Science is Better than Common Sense

We need canine science because common sense can lead us astray.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

Recently I wrote about why science matters to our dogs and cats, based on findings from Dr. Paige Jarreau’s research that suggests science blogs (like this one) may contribute to readers having a better knowledge of science.

I thought of this again recently because a comment I often see from readers – on any kind of science story on the internet – is "don’t we know this already? Isn’t it just common sense?"

I understand the comment because sometimes, when the findings of a study happen to line up with our existing beliefs, it can feel like science is just common sense. But common sense can easily hold conflicting views simultaneously. And common sense often leads us astray (even in our knowledge of basic physics, as illustrated by Peter Ellerton writing about why we can’t trust common sense but we can trust science).

We don’t have to look too far for examples relating to dogs and cats. We all k…

What is the Best Enrichment for Your Ferret?

New research finds out how hard ferrets will work to access different types of enrichment.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

Providing environmental enrichment is an important part of good animal welfare. For example, cats whose owners play with them regularly have fewer behaviour problems. We know a lot about enrichment for cats. What about ferrets? Earlier research has shown that more play behaviours are reported when there are more enrichment items. But although ferrets are a popular pet, we know little about their personal preferences. A new study by Marsinah Reijgwart (Utrecht University) et al has important tips for ferret owners.

Of course, you can’t just say, “Ferret, what would you like?” One way of testing how much animals value certain things is to put a door between them and the item. By gradually increasing the difficulty of opening the door, we can see how much effort they will put in to reach the item, and therefore how much it is worth to them. This is known as a motivational test, or…