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Do Children Help Care for the Family Pet?

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…Or does mom do it all? Photo: Samuel Borges Photography / Shutterstock By Zazie Todd, PhD How should children learn to take some responsibility for family pets such as dogs and cats ? New research by Janine Muldoon et al (University of St Andrews) investigates children’s perspectives of the division of labour in relation to their pets. The exploratory study involved focus groups with children aged 7, 9, 11 and 13. The researchers planned equal numbers of boys and girls, but constraints meant that 30 girls and only 23 boys took part.  The main ‘caring’ activity that children took part in with their pet was playing with it. Some of the children were very honest in admitting they did not otherwise take care of the animal. For example, one 13-year old girl, Isla*, said, “She (mum) cleaned it and I just played with it.” The older children suggested they played in a way that included what the animal wanted, compared to when they were younger when they treated it

The Effects of Canine Personality and Joint Activities on the Dog-Owner Relationship

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How do owner characteristics and canine personality influence the relationship between dogs and their owners? A study in Denmark by Iben Meyer and Bjørn Forkman (University of Copenhagen) investigates. Photo: Martin Valigursky / Shutterstock By Zazie Todd, PhD The study of 421 dog owners aged 18 to 75 used data from dog personality tests taken between six months and two-and-a-half years earlier, and a questionnaire of owners that included the Monash Dog Owner Relationship Scale. The dogs were all pedigrees since these were the dogs that had taken the personality test for the Danish Kennel Club. Several breeds took part, including Golden Retrievers, Icelandic Sheepdogs, Danish Broholmers, Boxers and Rottweilers. The canine personality test was the Dog Mentality Assessment, which gives dogs scores on five personality traits. The researchers analyzed the DMA sub-scales to give the five traits used in this study: chase proneness, non-social fear, playfulness, social fear an

Do Dogs Get that Eureka! Feeling?

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Does successful problem solving make dogs happy, or does simply getting the reward make them happy too? Photo: Mackland (Shutterstock) By Zazie Todd, PhD New research by Ragen McGowan et al (University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden) investigates whether dogs enjoy the experience of solving a problem in order to obtain a reward, or if it is just the reward itself that makes them happy. Rather unusually, the idea came from a study that found cattle who completed a task to earn a reward seemed to be happier than those who just received the reward. The design of McGowan et al’s study is very similar, but adjusted for dogs. The results show that when dogs solved the problem and earned a reward they wagged their tails more and were more eager to repeat the experience than if they were just given a reward. The study also found that food was a preferred reward over time with another dog and petting from a familiar human. Six matched pairs of beagles took part (12 d

Is Cruelty to Animals in Childhood a Predictor of Later Criminal Behaviour?

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Does cruelty to animals as a child predict interpersonal violence in adulthood? Photo: Rita Kochmarjova / Shutterstock By Zazie Todd, PhD New research by Kelly Knight, Colter Ellis and Sara Simmons (Sam Houston State University) investigates how many children are cruel to animals and whether it persists through generations. The study is especially valuable because it uses a sample that is representative of the US population and tracks families over the years. There are two main theories about childhood cruelty to animals. One theory is that if children are cruel to animals they will grow up to be violent adults. This is called the “graduation hypothesis”. It rests on the idea that there is something wrong with the individual and that they ‘graduate’ from animal abuse to interpersonal violence. This seems to be the theory we hear about most in the popular press. Although there is some evidence to support it, it may not be the whole story. An alternate theory is that i

What was the Role of Cats in Anglo Saxon England?

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Fascinating new research investigates what the archaeological record tells us about people and cats in Anglo Saxon times. Was the human-feline relationship very different from today? Photo: aleksandr hunta / Shutterstock By Zazie Todd, PhD New research by Kristopher Poole (University of Nottingham) investigates the role of cats in Anglo Saxon England. The period from AD 410 until the Norman invasion of 1066 was a time of great change. The Roman Empire had lost its control and many people immigrated to England, particularly from northern Europe. The urban population grew as small towns developed, and the spread of Christianity brought changes in people’s belief systems. What kind of relationship did people have with cats during this time? This page contains affiliate links. Fur is probably not the first thing you think of, but evidence from bones suggests that some cats – especially young ones – were used for fur. It isn’t known if the cats were bred f

Did Dogs, Cats and Cows Predict the Magnitude 9 Earthquake in Japan in 2011?

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Is it possible that animals had advance warning of the Tohoku earthquake? Photo: Paul Atkinson / Shutterstock By Zazie Todd, PhD There have long been reports of animals behaving strangely before large quakes, including an account of snakes, weasels and rats leaving home prior to an earthquake in Greece in 373BC . But there is still a lack of scientific evidence.   A new study in Japan investigates pet owners’ reports of cat and dog behaviour, and changes in dairy milk production, before the magnitude 9 earthquake in 2011. The earthquake and tsunami in Japan on 11th March 2011 was devastating . After the quake, in December 2011 and January 2012, Japanese scientists Hiroyuki Yamauchi et al (2014) conducted an internet survey of pet owners.  As well as obtaining demographic information about pets, they asked about any unusual behaviour exhibited in the minutes, hours and days prior to the earthquake. The checklist included things like howling and barking (for dogs), vocali

Guinea Pigs and Domestication

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Domestication changes animals in many ways. We still don’t fully understand how – or when, or where – the dog was domesticated. But it turns out the guinea pig is the guinea pig of domestication research as scientists compare guinea pigs to their wild cousins, cavies. Photo: Ase / Shutterstock By Zazie Todd, PhD A new paper by Benjamin Zipser et al (University of Münster, Germany) compares adolescent guinea pigs and wild cavies. Previous research has found differences between adult guinea pigs and cavies in things like sociability, aggression, and exploratory behaviour.   But no one had found out whether these differences were already present in adolescent guinea pigs, until now. The word cavy is sometimes used to refer to different members of the guinea pig family, including the domestic guinea pig. The wild cavies in this study were Cavia aperea , also known as the Brazilian guinea pig .   It is found in the grasslands of several South American countries including Bra