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Showing posts from March, 2017

Companion Animal Psychology Turns Five

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Celebrating five years of communicating science about dogs, cats, and the human-animal bond.




By Zazie Todd, PhD

It’s hard to believe it is five years since I started Companion Animal Psychology blog, and yet somehow this is my 278th post.

The aims of the blog remain twofold: to bring up-to-date science about people’s relationships with their pets to a wider audience; and to share evidence-based information about how to care for our cats and dogs.

These aims are nicely illustrated by the two most popular posts of the last year: losing a pet can lead to different types of grief and dominance training deprives dogs of positive experiences. The top post on cats was about the best scratching posts.

In the past twelve months, I’ve been able to bring you some excellent guest posts as well as interviews with Dr. Sarah Ellis, Jean Donaldson, and Dr. Lee Dugatkin. And the photos of happy dogs (and more happy dogs) that people have shared with me have made me very happy too.



I’ve published some u…

Interview with Dr. Lee Dugatkin about How to Tame a Fox

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Dr. Lee Dugatkin talks about the Russian fox experiment and his new book, How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog).



By Zazie Todd, PhD

The Russian fox experiment to breed tame foxes has fascinated people for decades. I was very excited to speak to Dr. Lee Alan Dugatkin about his new book with co-author Lydumila Trut, How to Tame a Fox (and Build a Dog): Visionary Scientists and a Siberian Tale of Jump-Started Evolution.


Zazie: I loved your book. I really enjoyed reading it. I thought it was absolutely fascinating from start to finish.

Lee: Thank you so much.

Zazie: So, first of all, for people who are reading this, I think most people have heard of the Soviet fox experiment, but can you just briefly explain what it was and what it was about.

Lee: Sure. Well, the experiment, which has been going on for almost six decades now, it was begun in an attempt to understand the process of domestication, especially the domestication of dogs from wolves, in a way that they could actually watch the process…

Understanding Dogs with iSpeakDog

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A fabulous new resource to help people better understand their dogs - and the reasons we need it.



By Zazie Todd, PhD

Those of us who know dogs are (sadly) used to seeing it: a dog says one thing and their owners do not understand. As a result, often the dog is scolded or chided, sometimes even hit, and the person may be risking a bite. If only there was a way to help people understand dogs better… and now there is, with the launch today of iSpeakDog.

iSpeakDog is a website with information that will help people learn how to understand their dog’s behaviour, taking account of both the dog’s body language and the context in which it occurs. This week, beginning March 27th, is iSpeakDog week. As well as the iSpeakDog webinar (which is already full, but sign up anyway so that you can get the recording), the Academy for Dog Trainers is making two webinars on canine body language available to the public.


The thing about dogs is that many people think they understand them perfectly well. Unfor…

Video helps the shelter dog (more than photos)

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Adoptable dogs seen in video get more positive ratings than those seen in photos, according to new research



By Zazie Todd, PhD

A new study by Chloe Pyzer et al (Hartpury College) compared people’s perceptions of adoptable dogs when they were shown video or still photographs. The results showed that video is the best way to show people adoptable dogs.

Dr. Tamara Montrose, one of the study authors, told me in an email,
“In our study, we found that viewing dogs in videos as opposed to photographs tended to result in more positive perceptions of the dogs’ behavioural traits. Dogs viewed by videos were considered to be more trainable, intelligent, friendly, and gentle and less dominant, aggressive, and unsociable. The positive effects of viewing dogs in videos was seen for both dogs of more desirable breeds and for dogs of less desirable and frequently stigmatised breeds.   These findings are not only of academic interest but have clear applications for rehoming shelters. Many rehoming shelt…

Companion Animal Psychology News March 2017

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A goldfish with a wheelchair, trained cats, and a ban on prong and choke collars - the latest news on dogs and cats.




By Zazie Todd, PhD Some of my favourites from around the web this month:
25 things you probably didn’t know about dogs by Hal Herzog. What the latest canine science teaches us about dogs.

Cats getting “eufloric”. Mikel Delgado reviews a new study on how cats respond to catnip, valerian, silvervine and honeysuckle. Do your cats get olfactory enrichment?

“She is my friend”. Beautiful post by Lori Nanan of Your Pit Bull and You on our relationship with dogs.

Recognizing the superhero in your senior dog by Maureen Backman. For those of you with senior dogs.

Mounting evidence to prove that flat-faced cat breeds are suffering by Marc-André at Katzenworld blog.

Traveling the world with cats and a dog by Andrew Harding.


Pets in the news…
Homeless woman’s dog ‘is my everything’. A report from the Sacramento Bee about a program that provides veterinary care to pets of the homeless.  And,…

The benefits of pets for children

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A review of the literature concludes that pets may have psychological benefits for children – such as better self-esteem – but more research is needed.



By Zazie Todd, PhD

The review, by Rebecca Purewal (University of Liverpool) et al involved searching the scientific literature from 1960 to 2016 for studies that examine the effects of pets on children’s psychological health. 22 studies were identified and analysed further.

The results show benefits in some areas, but not enough evidence to draw conclusions in other areas. The paper also considers the potential mechanisms for such effects.

The scientists write,
“This paper provides a review of the evidence on the effects of pet ownership on emotional, behavioural, cognitive, educational and social development. Overall, the evidence suggests that pet ownership, and dog ownership in particular, may benefit these outcomes for children and adolescents. However, the evidence is mixed partly due to a broad range of different methodological ap…

Happy Dogs: More Photos

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More gorgeous photos of happy dogs who are friends of Companion Animal Psychology.

By Zazie Todd, PhD


"He is a very happy boy who loves to go for long walks, exploring the woods and trails of Gabriola Island."
Photo: Jean Ballard.





"As for his favorite treat, I'd say chicken is a big contender, probably his favorite, but he loves just about all food! His favorite trick is between "spin" or his yoga pose (which is really just a play bow) that I've cued as "let's do some yoga." His absolute favorite thing to do in the world is swim."
Photo: Sabrina Mignacca.




"Shadow's favourite treat of all time is left over pizza crusts haha! His best trick is a dramatic play dead." Photo: Allison Wells (twitter)





"Her favourite reward is liver brownies."
Photo: Kristi Benson (twitter






"She is one of the happiest and most exuberant dogs I've ever met!  She worked hard on impulse control exercises, to earn rewards like st…

Dearly Departed Dogs

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Do online pet obituaries reveal how we truly feel about our pets?
Guest post by Jane Gething-Lewis (Hartpury College).



“You were such a selfless and giving boy. Dad loves you with all his heart.”

A heartfelt online tribute to a dearly departed loved one – but this loved one had four legs, a tail and was called Cosmo. Over the top? Not necessarily. Research suggests that many people feel the loss of a beloved pet as keenly as the loss of a child.

The bond people have with each other has long been debated and discussed. Generations of psychologists have attempted to explain and quantify the mechanics of attachment (or lack of) between fellow humans. But is it possible that we form similar bonds with our animal companions? Recently, researchers have been interested in exploring whether human theories of bonding apply to our relationships with our pets. No easy task, when only half of the bonding equation can talk.

Now researchers at the University of Edinburgh believe they have identified…