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Showing posts from October, 2016

Study Shows Just How Stressed Dogs Are at the Vet's

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Most dogs show signs of impaired welfare at the vet, according to their owners.




By Zazie Todd, PhD

A survey of 906 dog guardians in Italy found most people report their dog as being stressed at all stages of the visit to a vet clinic, from being in the waiting room to being examined by the vet. 6.4% of dogs had actually bitten their guardian at the vet and 11.2% had growled or snapped at the vet.

The report by Chiara Mariti (University of Pisa) et al draws important conclusions about what owners and vets need to do to help dogs at the vet, including teaching them to be handled.

The scientists write, “It is in fact alarming that only one third of dogs seemed to tolerate all kinds of clinical handling carried out by the vet.

“The proportion of guardians who resorted to scolding their dogs if they refused to be treated is also alarming. Veterinary surgeons have a duty to ensure their patients’ welfare, and therefore, they should take advantage of every situation to advise guardians that t…

A Windstorm is a Reminder of Disaster Preparation for Pets

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The best time to start disaster preparation for your pet is now.



By Zazie Todd, PhD

Recently, like many people in this part of the world, we heard there was a big storm on the way. The third of three windstorms was said to be the most powerful. Since we live in an area with many beautiful trees and the power lines are above ground, it does not take much to knock out the power.

In the end, we were lucky. The storm was not as strong as predicted, and it changed track and went further north. But it’s a reminder that we all need to be prepared for emergencies. And pets are an important part of our emergency preparedness.

Planning starts with thinking about the kinds of emergencies you might face. Maybe you live in an area that is prone to floods or forest fires, or has the potential for big earthquakes. It’s helpful to think about smaller events too, that might impact you without affecting others: house fires, job losses, illnesses. These could all have an impact on your ability to care fo…

Invitation to the Companion Animal Psychology Book Club

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If you love reading and animals, you are invited to join the Companion Animal Psychology Book Club.




By Zazie Todd, PhD

The Companion Animal Psychology Book Club is for discussion of books about dogs, cats, and our relationship with companion animals.

The club will discuss one book a month except for January and July, so we will read ten books a year.

Most books will be non-fiction, although fiction will be considered if a companion animal plays a prominent role.

Books may cover a wide variety of perspectives, but there is a preference for humane and kind treatment of animals (and people), and for scientific or critical approaches to the human-animal bond. Books do not have to be recent, but they will be available in book stores.

The book for discussion in November 2016 is The Trainable Cat by John Bradshaw and Sarah Ellis.

The book for December 2016 is The Secret History of Kindness by Melissa Holbrook Pierson.

Everyone is welcome to join, whether or not you are a regular reader of Com…

Training is Purrfect Enrichment for Frustrated Shelter Cats

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Training shelter cats leads to more contentment and better health.




By Zazie Todd, PhD

The study, by Nadine Gourkow and Clive Phillips (University of Queensland), tested the effects of training sessions on cats that were frustrated when they arrived at an animal shelter. The cats in the training group became more content and were healthier compared to the cats who just experienced normal shelter conditions.

Prof. Clive Phillips says,
“Confining a cat into a small cage after it has been roaming free, in someone’s home or as a stray, is a huge challenge for any cat. A significant proportion of them develop serious behaviour problems and one of these is extreme frustration, manifested by trying to escape or turning their cage contents upside down.  “We can help these cats adapt by training them to do a task, taking time with them and encouraging them to have trust in human contact. Then they will be happier, healthier and more likely to get adopted.” The study took place at the Vancouver b…

Interview with Dr. Sarah Ellis on the Trainable Cat

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An interview with Dr. Sarah Ellis about teaching cats the key skills they need to live in society with us.


By Zazie Todd, PhD

This week, I was thrilled to speak with Dr. Sarah Ellis about her new book with John Bradshaw, The Trainable Cat. The Trainable Cat: A Practical Guide to Making Life Happier for You and Your Cat is published by Basic Books and is a New York Times bestseller. Every cat owner needs to read this book.


Zazie: How did you get into training cats?
Sarah: I started training cats unbeknown to myself when I was a child. I grew up with cats from the day I was born, but I got my first-born cat when I was 7 and he was a Burmese, very very intelligent. I lived in the rural countryside in Scotland with no siblings and not much to do so I spent a lot of time with him. He was very food motivated and very very social. And so I – not on purpose, but I inadvertently trained him to go over little obstacles of furniture in the living room, walk on my shoulder, and he used to go over lit…