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Showing posts from August, 2016

Brain Scans Show Your Dog Loves You And Food

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An fMRI study shows different dogs have different preferences for food and social interaction.



A recent fMRI study investigates individual differences in dogs’ preferences for food and social interaction with their owner. The results have been widely – and erroneously – reported as showing that dogs prefer praise to food. In fact, the results paint a far more interesting picture of how brain activity predicts canine choice.

I think most people feel subjectively that their dog loves them. The idea they might not is perplexing. But scientists have this wonderful habit of testing ideas, and a paper by Peter Cook (Emory University) et al investigates dogs’ preferences for food and for social interaction with their owner. What if dogs love both?

The team of neuroscientists at Gregory Berns’ lab took 15 dogs who are trained to go in the fMRI machine. They designed an experiment to look at activation of the dogs’ brains in response to food, praise from their owner, and a control condition of…

In Dog Training, Balance Is Off

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It’s not a good thing when dog trainers describe themselves as ‘balanced’. Here’s why.




When you think about balancing dogs, your first thoughts might be of a dog walking along a beam, all nicely balanced and not falling off. Or maybe of a dog posing for a photo with a pile of cookies balanced on their muzzle, to show off how good their balancing skills are.

But, unfortunately, this is not what people mean when they refer to ‘balanced’ dog training.


What is balanced dog training?
Balance is one of those weasel words in dog training. If we think of the word in the abstract, balance is a good thing; we don’t want to be off-balance and fall over. So it sounds persuasive. But in terms of dog training, balance has risks despite the name.

Of course, balance is just a word in the English language and may be used in various ways since it can be used by anyone.

When people refer to ‘balance’ in dog training they usually mean in terms of good and bad, i.e. not just using positive reinforcement b…

Dog Bite Strength: It's Not What You Think

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Scientists tracked down the evidence for a common statement about bite strength in dogs – and found it lacking.




Have you ever read comments about the strength of a dog’s jaw when it bites? These statements are often made in relation to certain types of dog, like pit bulls. Maybe some people take it as fact. But what if it’s not true?

A recent paper by Dr. Gary Patronek (Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University) et al traced citations in the literature and went back to the original sources to investigate the truth of the published statements. They say they chose the literature on the strength with which a dog can bite for several reasons, including that this is a salient figure that jumps out at people and is remembered, and that the literature was large enough and easy to assess for accuracy.

They picked a topic on which people have been sceptical for some time. Writing on his blog in 2010, Stanley Coren PhD said,

“Let’s put these numbers into a meaningful context. Ima…

Why Do People Choose Certain Dogs?

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Many factors go into people’s choice of dogs. Animal welfare isn’t always top of the list, but could this change?




English Bulldogs only live six years, according to a recent paper that highlights the lack of genetic diversity in this breed (Pederson et al 2016). Karin Brulliard of the Washington Post spoke to one of the authors of the study, Niels Pederson. “There are genetic diseases that [breeders] could test for, but they choose not to. Which means they’re more interested in the coat colors of their dogs,” Pedersen said. “The owners’ desire to own them, either as a status symbol or because they like them — and they are likable dogs — has exceeded their concern about the health and longevity of the dog.” (Read Brulliard’s full story).

Sean Wensley, President of the British Veterinary Association, says "The research released today reflects the seriousness of the health problems associated with English bulldogs that our members are seeing in practice. Revision of breed standards,…