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Showing posts from September, 2018

Fellow Creatures: Another New Post

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I have a new post at my Psychology Today blog, Fellow Creatures, about a pilot study that upturns some conventional wisdom on dogs.

Should you pet your dog before an absence? looks at a study that compared signs of stress when the dog is petted or ignored before an absence. (It's important to note the study is with dogs that do not have any separation-related issues).


Five Fun Things to Do to Make Your Dog Happy Today

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Five enjoyable activities to provide enrichment for your dog (and fun for you).



Enrichment means giving your dog opportunities to engage in species-specific behaviours and to use their brain and all the senses. Environmental enrichment means making your dog’s living spaces fun and interesting so your dog does not get bored.

There are lots of ways to provide enrichment for your dog. It can involve play with toys, spending time in social activities with people or other dogs, making the environment more interesting, or training activities.

Here are five great ways to provide enrichment for your dog and make your dog happy today.


1. Go on a sniffari
We all know that dogs have amazing noses, but did you know scent is more important to dogs than sight?

In fact, as well as their nose, dogs have something called the vomeronasal organ, which detects pheromones (chemical signals). If you see your dog lick something smelly, it could be because this is one way they make molecules available to the…

Fellow Creatures: A New Post

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I have a new post at my Psychology Today blog Fellow Creatures on how we can help overweight dogs.

Typically when dogs are overweight, changes are made to the diet, but perhaps the owner is an important part of the equation too. For overweight dogs, owner behavior matters looks at a review of the literature on interventions designed to change owner behavior. The results show they can be an effective way to improve the body condition of pet dogs.



Survey Shows Changes as Dogs Age (and How You Can Help Your Dog)

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A study of dogs across the adult lifespan has important lessons for owners of dogs of any age. They range from tooth-brushing, training, and helping dogs cope with traumatic events.



As dogs get older, they undergo changes similar to those that happen to humans as they age. This means dogs may be a good model for human aging, but also that those of us with older dogs could use more information about how to help them age well. The Senior Family Dog Project is looking at cognitive aging in dogs by combining behavioural, genetic and neuroscientific approaches.

A new paper from the team, first-authored by Dr. Lisa Wallis and published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science, looks at the demographics of dogs across the lifespan.

Perhaps the most poignant finding is that dogs in the oldest age group (over 12) know fewer commands, take part in either one or no dog training activities, and spend less than 30 minutes a day engaged in play or other activities with the owner. Of course, older dogs ma…

Companion Animal Psychology News September 2018

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Newborn kittens, a puppy searching for owls, and clever raccoons - the latest news from Companion Animal Psychology.



Some of my favourites from around the web this month
 “in a last-ditch conservation effort, a crack team of Canberra researchers plan to harness Zorro's superior canine nose to help find and monitor Tasmania's masked owl.” Scientists want to train this puppy to save endangered owls.

Meanwhile, sniffing out error in detection dog data looks at the issues that can cause dogs to identify the wrong kind of poop. You will learn something new about coprophagy (poop-eating).

How kittens go from clueless to cute. A fun article (with lots of pictures) on Kitten Central, newborn kittens, and a new project by Dr. Mikel Delgado that is looking at whether incubators can help orphaned kittens.

“As the floodgates of genomic information open, society will often find itself grappling with the question of how to clearly and accurately present that information to the public.” Jessi…

Shock collars, Regulation, and Education on the Alternatives

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Shock collars should be banned, according to a survey of the use of electronic collars to train dogs in France.



Recently, I reported on a study by veterinary behaviourists in Europe that concluded by calling for a ban on all three types of electronic collar across Europe (remote-controlled, boundary, and bark-activated collars). Another paper by Dr. Sylvia Masson et al, published in the Journal of Veterinary Behaviour, investigates the use of shock collars in France, and some of the results are surprising.

For one thing, they show that even amongst people who use shock collars there is a lot of support for regulating them.

But they also show a sizeable minority – even amongst people who do not use shock collars – that say they are the most effective way to resolve behaviour issues. This shows a need to get the message out that positive reinforcement is an effective way to train dogs (see seven reasons to use reward-based training methods and literature review recommends reward-based t…

Can an "Ease of Care" Labeling Scheme Help Exotic Pets?

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Could a standardized grading scheme that rates pets from “easy” to “extreme” improve the welfare of exotic pets?



Exotic pets face many welfare issues, according to a new paper in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior by Clifford Warwick et al. The paper suggests a standardized scheme for rating the difficulty of caring for exotic pets that it is hoped will make people think twice about keeping pets with hard-to-meet environmental needs.


What is an exotic pet?
Exotic pets are unusual pets. Essentially they are animals that are not native to a particular area, and are not domesticated (or only semi-domesticated).

Another definition of an exotic pet is anything that is not a cat or dog. That’s the approach taken by the Calgary Humane Society, for example.

Whichever definition we choose, it means there are many exotic pets in North America. For example, most of the fish that are kept as pets are not native to Canada or the USA, which means they are exotic species.

The same applies to small a…

Companion Animal Psychology Book Club September 2018

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"The controversial story of one infamous breed of dog."



The Companion Animal Psychology Book Club choice for September 2018 is Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon by Bronwen Dickey.
From the back cover, "When Bronwen Dickey brought her new dog home, she saw no traces of the infamous viciousness in her affectionate pit bull. Which made her wonder: How had the breed—beloved by Teddy Roosevelt and Helen Keller—come to be known as a brutal fighter? Dickey’s search for answers takes her from nineteenth-century New York dogfighting pits to early twentieth‑century movie sets, from the battlefields of Gettysburg to struggling urban neighborhoods. In this illuminating story of how a popular breed became demonized--and what role humans have played in the transformation--Dickey offers us an insightful view of Americans' relationship with their dogs"
Are you reading too? Let me know your thoughts on the book!