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Showing posts from 2019

Invitation to the 2019 Train for Rewards Blog Party

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Join the pet blogging community in supporting reward-based training of dogs, cats, and other companion animals. #Train4Rewards



Are you a blogger? Do you support reward-based training for dogs and other animals? Would you like to take part in the fourth annual #Train4Rewards blog party?

You are invited to write a blog post about reward-based training of dogs or other companion animals, post it on your own blog on the set date, then come and share a link to it here. Bloggers from anywhere in the world are invited to take part.

In the past, posts have covered the training of dogs, cats and horses. Posts on the training of rats, mice, ferrets, rabbits, and fish are all welcome too.

Read on to find out more.

On Friday 14th or Saturday 15th June: 1. Publish a post on your blog in support of the #Train4Rewards blog party. It can be words, photos, video, a podcast, or a combination, and relate to any kind of companion animal.  I’ve put some suggestions below to get you started.

Double-check y…

Companion Animal Psychology News May 2019

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Insect-detecting dogs, the challenges of science with cats, and spider's brains...



Some of my favourites this month “Three very good dogs – named Bayar, Judd and Sasha – have sniffed out the endangered Alpine Stonefly, one of the smallest animals a dog has been trained to successfully detect in its natural habitat.” Sit! Seek! Fly! Scientists train dogs to sniff out endangered insects by Dr. Julia Mynott.

“The cats performed as well as the dogs. But, foreshadowing a headache that would plague the field of feline social cognition, several cats "dropped out" of the study, according to the research paper. Some stopped paying attention. Others simply walked away from the testing site.” Cats rival dogs on many tests of social smarts. But is anyone brave enough to study them? This post by David Grimm is a must-read.

“Many trainers advise against these types of collars altogether, in part because the risk of injury to dogs is significant.” Should dogs be shocked, choked or pron…

Three Important Ways to Give Your Pet Choices

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Do you do these three things for your pet?


I just went to brush my tabby cat, Harley, at the usual time of day. He was up in his cat tree and, unusually, did not come down. No matter; I can try again later as he loves to be brushed. Surprisingly, my tortoiseshell cat Melina came running to be brushed. She stood to be brushed, then laid down on her side, all the while purring away. Then when she'd had enough, she hopped up and walked off.

It made me think of my post about the importance of choices for pets, the right to walk away. That post has been enduringly popular and so I decided to revisit the topic of choices for dogs and cats. Choice, control, and routine, are important ways to look after our pet’s welfare and help them feel safe.

I'm not the only one who thinks choices are important. In 2017, when I asked experts how to make the world better for dogs, Mia Cobb picked up on the issue of choices. She said we should,
“ask ourselves at every step, "is this what my dog…

Fellow Creatures: Two Recent Posts

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I have two recent posts at my Psychology Today blog Fellow Creatures.

The first post looks at links between a cat owner's personality and their cat's health and behaviour. In particular, when owners have a neurotic personality, this is associated with negative outcomes for their cat. Read more in cat owners,  personality, and pet parenting style.


The second post looks at a recent study of the relationship between military veterans with PTSD and their psychiatric service dog. The results show just close the human-animal bond is, even for veterans with severe symptoms. At the same time, the bond is closer in those who use more positive reinforcement to train their dog. Training methods affect the service dog--veteran relationship.




Interview with Cat Warren

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Cat Warren on working with her cadaver dog, Solo, and her bestselling book, What the Dog Knows.



Cat Warren’s New York Times bestseller, What the Dog Knows: Scent, Science, and the Amazing Ways Dogs Perceive the World, was the Companion Animal Psychology Book Club choice for April. I interviewed Warren about her wonderful book, training scent detection dogs, and caring for working dogs’ welfare.

The Young Readers Edition of What the Dog Knows will be published in October.


Zazie: What inspired you to write this book?

Cat: You know, this goes back a little because the book first came out in 2013. I really conceived of it in 2009 and it was quite literally, Solo and I had done a very hard search that day and it had taken all day and I was just exhausted. And he had worked long and hard and honestly. My legs were covered with seed ticks, and I was on the couch with my husband and I looked at David and said, “You know what, I think I want to write about this so I don’t forget.” So that was th…

Companion Animal Psychology Book Club May 2019

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“A lovely, big-hearted book…brimming with compassion and the tales of the many, many humans who devote their days to making animals well” (The New York Times).



This month, the Companion Animal Psychology book club is reading Animal Madness: Inside Their Minds by Laurel Braitman.

From the back cover,
"Will zoo gorillas laugh if you make faces at them? Can a dog develop Alzheimers? Are some cats as anxious as their owners? Will a parrot feel better on antidepressants? Can a goat cheer up a horse? Laurel Braitman, a historian of science, answers these questions and many more as she takes the reader on a tour of the inner lives of animals, showing the surprising ways their emotional and mental health so often mirrors our own. Animal Madness tells the compelling history of our efforts to make sense of animal minds, from Charles Darwin to today's Harvard psychiatrists' work with gorilla patients. But it also tethers that history to accounts of her rescue dogs and their progress…

In Training, Pay Your Dog with the Food or Foods They Love, Science Says

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Should you use your dog's favourite food or a variety of treats as rewards in training? Scientists find it varies, depending on the dog, but in the long term variety is better.



When training dogs using positive reinforcement, it is important to use good dog training treats in order to motivate the dog. But is it better to use the same food reward every time, or do dogs prefer variety?

A study by Annika Bremhorst (University of Bern) et al, published in Scientific Reports, tested 16 pet dogs to find out if they prefer variety when it comes to reinforcement.

Previous studies have shown that dogs prefer food as a reward compared to petting or praise (see do dogs prefer petting or praise and the importance of food in dog training for summaries of some of these studies). Scientists have also shown that dogs run faster to receive a better quality food reward (sausage compared to kibble).

In this study, dogs were first of all offered three different types of high value food to see whethe…

Eight Ways to Help Your Cat Go to the Vet

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If you struggle to take your cat to the vet, here are eight things you can do to help make it less stressful for your cat, including the right way to put them in a carrier.



Everyone knows that cats can find vet visits stressful. In one study, most owners said their cat was stressed at the vet and sometimes for some time after getting home (Mariti et al 2016).

After last week’s post about dogs at the vet, several people asked for tips on taking their cat to the vet.

Here are eight things you can do to help your cat with vet visits.


1. Pick the right kind of cat carrier Picking the right cat carrier is important to ensure you have one that your cat can feel safe inside. One that is too open will mean the cat feels exposed, and one without many entry points can cause struggles when it’s time for your cat to go in.

Choose a cat carrier that:
Is made of sturdy plastic that is washable and easy to cleanHas a lockable door (to keep the cat secure) with holes in (to allow you to put treats thr…

Companion Animal Psychology News April 2019

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Cats that fetch, equine therapy, and the joy of dogs... the latest Companion Animal Psychology news.



Some of my favourites this month
“A tongue-in-cheek NPR.org headline comparing the fetching abilities of cats and dogs revealed a truth known by countless cat owners: Some cats do fetch.” All right, some cats do fetch at NPR by Matthew S Schwartz.

“I’m well aware that it just takes one second for trouble to turn into tragedy. In addition, let’s face it, I tend to be on the neurotic cautious end of the continuum.” Nothing to fear but fear itself by Patricia McConnell.  

Some tips for how to help dogs learn to use dog doors in Help! My dog won’t use the dog door by Sylvie Martin.

“If you’re a puppy parent searching for guidance on how to socialize your puppy, you risk coming across some concerning misinformation, even from professional trainers. “ In defense of puppy socialization by Kelly Lee at the Academy for Dog Trainers.

“All he asked was that we bury you in the garden.” A le…