Why Do Some Owners Not Walk Their Dogs?

There are two factors that explain why some people don't walk their dog.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

In an earlier post, I looked at whether people could be encouraged to take more physical exercise by focusing on the benefits to their dog of going for a walk. It seems they can. But it surprises me that some people don’t walk their dog every day. To me, taking a dog for a walk is one of the lovely things about having a dog, but apparently not everyone feels that way.

A study by Hayley Cutt looks at the reasons why. Public health officials are always looking for ways of encouraging people to exercise, and as Cutt puts it, “one such under-used resource lies patiently, wagging its tail in eagerness to be physically active.”

Participants in this study were a subset of people taking part in a longitudinal survey of a neighbourhood in Perth, Australia. The dog-owners were asked to complete a questionnaire about their dog, how often they walked the dog, and the quality of their relationship.

The …

Preventing Dog Bites in Children

This is National Dog Bite Prevention Week in the US, so I thought I’d look at two recent studies that investigate dog bite prevention in children. Both studies are based on interviews with parents and children, after the children had been admitted to a hospital emergency department.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

A study by Ilana Reisner et al asked children who had been bitten by dogs about the circumstances of the bite. They wanted to know things like whether it happened inside or outside, and what the dog and child were doing immediately prior to the bite. Most indoor dog bites happened in the dog’s home (whether or not it was also the child’s home), and most outdoor dog bites happened near to the dog’s home.
They identified two main circumstances for dog bites; younger children tended to be bitten inside the home, often by a dog that they lived with, whereas older children tended to be bitten outside, by dogs they did not know. For the younger children, there was often some interaction between…

Walking a Dog: Good for You and the Dog

By Zazie Todd, PhD

We all know that owning pets is said to be good for you. One of the benefits of owning a dog is taking it for walks. And walking – like any other form of exercise – is good for your health.
It surprises me that some people don’t walk their dogs, because having to go out in all weathers is one of the things I like about having dogs. However wet and windy it is outside, it’s (usually) not so bad once you actually get out there. And walking helps prevent canine obesity as well as human obesity. Dogs that are left on their own in a yard to exercise are more likely to be obese than dogs that have an exercise regime, according to a study by I.M. Bland et al in 2009. When dogs are left in a yard, even if that yard is more than an acre in size, they just don’t seem to do enough exercise.  
A recent study looked at whether people could be persuaded to do more walking for the sake of their dog. It’s a different approach than telling people it’s for their own good. In a study …

The Cat at the Window

Why do cats like to look out of the window?

By Zazie Todd, PhD

I think all cats like windows. Even outdoors cats will still spend time sitting on a window ledge, watching the world outside. For indoor cats, windows become even more important. Since cats that live exclusively indoors can easily become bored or frustrated, it is important to provide environmental enrichment for them.

In a review of enrichment practices, Sarah Ellis (2009) says that windows with an interesting view provide important visual enrichment for cats. Of course, it’s what the cat finds interesting that counts. It’s possible that being unable to reach or interact with things on the other side of the window could cause frustration.

As with any enrichment practice, you have to take the cat’s perspective.

How much time does the average domestic cat spend at a window? In a survey of 577 cats by Melissa Shyan-Norwalt, caregivers reported that their cats spent less than five hours a day at the window, with the median…

What's Your Favourite Command in Dog Training?

On favourite commands in dog training, and the behaviours you should teach your dog to do.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

There are certain commands that many people think all dogs are supposed to learn, like 'sit' and 'heel'. If you go to a basic obedience class, these are the ones that will be taught. I like to teach my dogs hand signals as well as the verbal command, and in some cases they seem to respond more to the hand signal than the spoken word. Even within these basic commands, it's not like there is a specific set that every dog knows, and one person's exact command will be different  than another ('down' vs 'lie down', for example).

Then there are commands that are more specialist. For example, a sheepdog will learn basic commands like 'come bye' and 'away'. As far as I know, come bye means to go left or circle the flock clockwise, whereas away means to go to the right or circle in an anti-clockwise direction. A sled dog will learn…

How Often Should I Train My Dog?

Is it best to train your dog daily or once or twice a week? Scientists investigated and found that once or twice a week is the best frequency for dog training sessions, but dogs trained daily learned the commands too.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

If you want a well-behaved dog, you have to teach it how to behave. It's often advised to train the dog frequently, for example to have three short training sessions a day. On the other hand, if you go to training classes, they are usually once a week (though of course you can practise at home).

But how often is it advisable to train a dog? Is it better to train frequently or less often, and should the sessions be short or long? This is the question posed by Demant et al (2011).

For the study, they used 44 dogs that lived at a laboratory, so that they could control extraneous factors. The dogs were all the same breed (beagles), were housed and fed in the same way, and were trained by the same trainer (who they had not met before the study began).


The Effect of Recession on Companion Animals

Two studies show the effects of economic hardship on companion animals.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

With the news yesterday that the UK is in a double-dip recession, and other world economies still struggling, the effect is likely to be felt by animals too. Over the last few years, there have been many reports in the media about animal rescue charities being inundated with cats and dogs due to the recession. These reports are illustrated with heart-breaking examples such as the sixteen year-old border collie surrendered to a rescue because her owner could no longer afford to look after her.

Although many rescues are bursting at the seams, actual data is hard to come by. Two recent studies address this by looking at the effect of the recession on animal relinquishment and adoption in the US.

A paper by Gregory Morris and Jennifer Steffler considered foreclosures and dog relinquishment in the Californian city of Turlock in 2008, which was the height of the foreclosure crisis. First, they tried t…