Showing posts from November, 2016

Playtime After Training Improves a Dog's Memory

Making time for play immediately after a dog training session improves the dog’s memory.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

New research by Nadja Affenzeller (University of Lincoln) et al investigates whether play following learning leads to better performance the next day. The scientists wanted to know whether this effect, previously found in humans, would also apply to dogs.

In people, it is thought that the hormonal response during positive arousal acts on parts of the brain called the hippocampus and amygdala and leads to better memory. The effect applies to a type of memory called declarative memory, which is our memory for facts and events (for example, the President of the United States, or the capital of Denmark).

Now we can’t expect dogs to tell us who is the President of the United States, but it is possible to get them to do a task very similar to one used in some of the human memory research: learning to tell the difference between two objects.

The results show that the dogs who got to pla…

The Trainable Cat: Companion Animal Psychology Book Club.

The book for November was The Trainable Cat: How to Make Life Happier for You and Your Cat by John Bradshaw and Sarah Ellis.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

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The Trainable Cat: A Practical Guide to Making Life Happier for You and Your Cat is fascinating from start to finish.

It is about how to teach your cat the things that will help him or her to have an easier, happier life. Instead of tricks or obedience, think useful skills like how to get along with a new baby or how to go in the cat carrier.

Near the beginning of the book, the authors say,
“we aim to show you how training can improve not just your relationship with your cat but also your beloved pet’s sense of well-being. That’s not to say that the training won’t be fun – it will, for both of you – but the distinction is that you will be producing a happy and well-disposed pet, not a circus star.”
Each chapter has a section on how cats see the world, followed by training information. Early chapters explain how…

Pets May Help Children Learn About Animal Welfare

Children’s beliefs about animal welfare and sentience are linked to their own experiences with animals.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

Surprisingly little is known about children’s beliefs and knowledge about animals. Yet this information could help to improve humane education programs for children. Two recent studies begin to fill this gap, with recommendations for how humane education is taught.

We know from previous research that even very young children like animals, and that children with pets are more likely to attribute biological concepts to animals than those without. Children’s experiences of caring for their pets mostly involve play, while the actual pet care is carried out by parents. Is it possible that even though these experiences are mostly social, children with pets will still have a better understanding of the care that pets need?

A series of group discussions with children aged 7 to 13 was conducted by Janine Muldoon (University of St. Andrews) et al (2016). The discussions last…

Companion Animal Psychology News November 2016

The latest news on dogs and cats from Companion Animal Psychology, November 2016.

By Zazie Todd, PhD Some of my favourite posts from around the web this month
Hot dogs offer window into canine emotions by Julie Hecht, MSc (DogSpies).

Camera shy to camera guy: Helping an anxious dog to overcome their fears by Kristi Benson CTC.

Why you should stop chanting cues at your dog by Allison Wells CTC.

Think like a cat. John Bradshaw PhD considers the latest research on feline intelligence.  
It’s more than just a box!Ingrid Johnson CCBC takes a pictorial look at all the enrichment cardboard boxes can provide for cats.  

Pets in the news…
“Our canine companions developed the ability to digest starchy foods during the farming revolution thousands of years ago, according to DNA evidence.” Dog’s dinner: DNA clue to how dogs became our best friends. BBC News.  
"Veterinarians have an ethical responsibility to the animals they treat and tail docking goes against that responsibility” Vets in BC, Can…

Interview with Jean Donaldson on The Culture Clash

To mark 20 years since the publication of The Culture Clash, I spoke to Jean Donaldson about dogs and dog training.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

This year is 20 years since the publication of Jean Donaldson’s influential book Culture Clash. Funny, intelligent, and very much about the dog’s point of view, The Culture Clash is still highly recommended by dog trainers around the world. The book shows a strong commitment to training without aversives and provides the technical know-how too. Dr. Ian Dunbar called it “Simply, the best dog book I have ever read!”

I was thrilled to speak with Jean about the book, how things have changed for dogs, and how we can continue to change things for the better.

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Zazie: It’s been 20 years since the publication of The Culture Clash. It’s a book that’s still in print, and it’s been tremendously influential and I think a life-changer for many, many people. So it’s definitely something to celebrate. And I wanted to ask you, how much d…

Vertical Space is Good Enrichment for Cats

Cats make good use of added vertical space, study shows.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

A study by Emma Desforges (Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition) et al finds that adding a vertical screen is good enrichment for cats. And while the study used cats that live at the Waltham research centre, the results suggest pet cats could benefit too.

The scientists took an Ikea bookcase called Kallax in which the shelves are subdivided. They put half the backing on one side and half on the other, so that some shelves faced one way and the rest the other way (8 spaces arranged 2 x 4 per side). Then they put it in the middle of a room.

If you’re thinking crazy cat lady organizer, you’re not far off, but this version is taller.

They observed the cats for set time intervals for two days before the screen was added, four days while it was there, and two days after it was removed.

Cats used the screen and spent more time off the ground when it was there, even though they already had some shelves around the walls of…

Companion Animal Psychology Book Club: November 2016

The book of the month is The Trainable Cat by John Bradshaw and Sarah Ellis.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

The Companion Animal Psychology Book Club starts this month with discussion of The Trainable Cat. Are you reading alongside us?

The Facebook group to discuss the books filled up in less than three days. Apologies but no new members are currently being accepted.

However you can still follow along on the blog.

Each month I will post a list of the discussion questions, along with some highlights of the discussion. You will be able to leave your thoughts on the book in the comments section.

Through the book club, we will learn more about companion animals and our relationship with them, build up a nice library of books about animals, and of course enjoy talking about the books.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on The Trainable Cat. I’ll post an update on the discussion later in the month.

Zazie Todd, PhD, is the author of Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy. She is the founder of the…

Testing an Automated and Humane Way to Resolve Barking

Teaching a quiet behaviour using an automatic feeder is a promising solution to barking problems.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

Some dogs bark when their owner is out and they are left home alone. A recent study by Alexandra Protopopova  (Texas Tech University) et al investigates the effectiveness of a humane, automated approach to solving barking problems.

The research was conducted because some owners use citronella or shock collars to try and prevent their dogs from barking. While the devices may sometimes work, there are concerns they may also have adverse effects.

For example, if a dog barks when they see people going by the window and then receives a burst of citronella or an electric shock, they may associate the unpleasant experience with people and become fearful and/or aggressive. Because of these welfare concerns, some organizations recommend against their use (see the AVSAB position statement on the use of punishment).

This study used a humane approach that rewarded dogs with food (vi…