Positive Reinforcement and Dog Training IV: Little Dogs vs Big Dogs

In this week’s edition of the series on positive reinforcement and dog training, we investigate whether small dogs are treated differently than large dogs.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

The answer comes from a large-scale study by Christine Arhant and colleagues in Vienna.

Since Viennese dogs must be registered with the city, they posted a questionnaire to a random sample of registered dog-owners. They received 1276 responses from owners of pet dogs that lived in the home with them. For the purposes of this study, 20kg was the cut-off for small dogs; any dog that weighed more than 20kg was considered a large dog. The questionnaire asked about training techniques and dog behaviour, as well as characteristics of the dog. 
One of the nice things about this study is the impressively large sample size. Whereas the previous studies separated out owners who used only positive reinforcement, this study instead looks at the frequency of positive reinforcement and punishment.  There was a third category wh…

Positive Reinforcement and Dog Training III

A study finds people who only use positive reinforcement report their dogs are less attention-seeking, aggressive or fearful.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

This is the third part in a series about positive reinforcement and dog training.

This week I’m looking at another questionnaire study of ordinary dog owners and the way they train their dogs. The study was conducted by Emily Blackwell and colleagues, and involved 192 dog owners that were recruited from three counties in the UK.

They seem to be typical owners of typical dogs, as the sample included a wide range of breeds, a mix of genders (neutered/spayed/or not), and a range of different ages. Owners were asked whether their dogs had attended training or puppy socialization classes, the methods they had used to train them at home, and about any problem behaviours the dogs might display.
In total 88% of the owners said they had done some training at home. The methods were classified into groups: positive reinforcement (the use of rewards), pos…

Positive Reinforcement and Dog Training II

Training with rewards is linked to more obedient dogs with fewer problem behaviours, according to a survey of owners.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

This is the second part in a series about the research on positive reinforcement and dog training. You can read the first part here.

This week, we’re looking at study by EF Hiby et al that asked dog owners about their training methods and how effective they were.

The researchers approached people walking their dogs at seven popular dog-walking locations in Southampton and Cambridge, such as Southampton Common and Gog Magog Down.

They asked them to complete a questionnaire about how they had trained their dog on the basic tasks of sit, leave it, come and walk to heel, as well as how they would react to the common issues of house training, chewing, and stealing items such as food. They also asked them to rate their dog’s obedience.

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Finally, they were given a list of thirteen problem behaviours and asked to say whether …

Positive Reinforcement and Dog Training

This week is the start of a series about the science of positive reinforcement in dog training.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

Whether you already use positive reinforcement, or you’re yet to be sold on the idea, this series is for you. I’m going to look at studies that investigate different methods of training, and consider what they mean for the average dog owner.

Some time ago, there was a change in the way dogs are trained. Instead of using punishment when dogs did the wrong thing, people started to reward dogs for doing the right thing – and ignore what they did wrong, or distract them from it.

But in everyday life, you hear people talk about dominance in dogs, even though we know that dominance – as the term is usually used – is a myth. And when you watch TV, some trainers still use punishment. You can watch two different dog programmes and see completely different approaches to the same problem, whether it’s pulling on a leash, begging at table, or growling at skateboards and bicycles. It’s…

One Kitten or Two?

This is the time of year when many people get a kitten, and cat rescues are full with cats and kittens. Is it better to get one kitten or two? Here are seven reasons why it might be a good idea to get two.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

1. It’s twice as much cute fluffy fun … if one kitten is adorable, then surely two is even more adorable? 
2. So they can play together. Kittens love to play. They have a wide variety of play behaviours: play with objects such as cat toys or shoe-laces, chasing, running, hiding, leaping, and even chasing their own (or  another cat’s) tail. Play behaviours peak at about four months old, and then tail off, but adult cats like to play too.

There are several ideas about why play is important, such as practising hunting behaviours, developing motor skills, keeping fit, and learning about the environment and social bonds. As with other animals, play seems to be important in feline development. Having another kitten around will increase the opportunities for play, and the…

Cats and Dogs: Do They Get Along?

Research shows dogs and cats that live in the same house usually get along, but if helps if the cat is there first.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

Can cats and dogs ever get along? Isn’t there always a risk that the cat will become a furry snack, or the dog will get a scratch to the nose? Although we often talk about ‘cat people’ and ‘dog people’, in reality many of us are both, and want both as pets.

There’s some good news from a study by N. Feuerstein and Joseph Turkel, who looked at cats and dogs that live in the same home. They distributed a questionnaire to pet owners who had both cats and dogs, and also spent time in the house observing how the cat and dog interacted when in the same room. Where people had multiple cats or dogs, they chose the animal to observe at random, so they were just observing the interactions of one dog and one cat. They classified the behaviours on a six-point scale that included friendly, indifferent and aggressive behaviours.
In approximately 66% of the cases, the…

Will a Dog Comfort a Crying Stranger?

Study shows that dogs will respond to someone in tears, even if they are a stranger.