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The Surprising History of Veterinary Medicine for Dogs and Cats

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And the ‘dangerous’ woman who played a vital role.


By Zazie Todd, PhD

We are used to the idea that veterinarians treat dogs, cats, rabbits and other small animals, but it wasn’t always so. Before the automobile, the main role for vets was in the treatment of horses. As the number of horses declined, two British government reports (in 1938 and 1944) suggested vets should specialize in the treatment of farm animals. 
The change to small animals is often explained as due to increasing standards of living and people’s desire for companion animals after the Second World War. A new report by Andrew Gardiner of the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies (University of Edinburgh) shows the real reason is the rise of animal charities, and the role of one woman in particular: Maria Dickin.
It’s a tale of politics and intrigue. Gardiner says that in the period between the two wars, “a new territory of animal care was opening up. By the time the veterinary profession realized that things were m…

What Encourages People to Walk Their Dog?

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And is dog-walking a good way to persuade people to take more exercise?


By Zazie Todd, PhD

We know that most people do not get the 150 minutes of exercise per week that is recommended. Could encouraging people to walk their dogs more often help, and if so, how best to go about it? A new paper by Carri Westgarth et al (2014) of the University of Liverpool reviews the state of current research.
Although to some dog owners a daily walk is an essential part of the routine, there are also people who never walk their dog. For example, a 2008 study in Australia (Cutt et al 2008) found that on average people walk their dog four times a week for a total of 134 minutes, and that 23% of dog owners never walk their dog. 
Encouraging more people to take their dog for a regular walk would be good for both the dog and owner.
The research found that as well dog-related and owner-related variables, aspects of the physical and social environment also influence dog walking behaviour.
The dog’s size, age …

What Influences Whether Owners Pick Up After Their Dog?

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What’s the scoop on picking up poop? New research by Christopher Lowe et al (2014) investigates.


By Zazie Todd, PhD

The study consisted of an environmental survey of several popular dog walking locations, and an online survey that was completed by 933 participants from across the UK (83% were women).
Eight footpaths in Lancashire, in the north of England, were visited in March/April 2010 to check for dog waste. This included a mix of urban and rural locations, and covered the path as well as about 3m either side. A tow path along the canal had 40 dog poos in the space of 25m; at a nature reserve, a path by a railway embankment had a wall along it with a pile of bagged dog faeces on the other side. On a footpath at a reservoir, the researchers found 269 bags of dog waste in 1000m.
The presence or absence of suitable receptacles for bags is not the whole picture, as one path with no trash cans or dog waste bins had very low levels of faeces. In order to understand more about this, the re…

Does Your Cat Sniff New Food?

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New research investigates which feline behaviours show that cats find food tasty.


By Zazie Todd, PhD

There are certain things we can take for granted when feeding the cat: the pitiful miaows that become increasingly strident, the anticipatory purring when you move towards the cat food, and the way the cat wraps herself around your leg as if you’re her best friend ever. But when you put the food down, is there any guarantee she will eat it? 
Cat food manufacturers have teams of cats that work as food testers, to make sure new foods are as tasty as can be. This study, by Aurélie Becques et al (in press) took place at the Panelis Diana Pet Food Division. Here, cats are housed in groups in an indoor environment with access to the outdoors. Two such groups of cats (17 cats in total) took part in this study.
The cats are given free access to kibble for twenty hours of the day, to mimic the most common way of feeding cats in the home. They are fed via a feeding station, which only one cat c…

Are Deaf Dogs and Blind Dogs just like other Dogs?

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Do dogs that are deaf and/or blind have specific behavioural traits? New research sets out to investigate – and finds they are very similar to dogs with normal hearing and vision.




By Zazie Todd, PhD

No one knows exactly how many dogs have hearing or vision problems. Congenital deafness and/or blindness occur in several breeds. In some cases this is related to coat colours – for example the double merle gene in Australian Shepherds is linked to deafness and blindness – and at other times not, as with inherited cataracts in many breeds.

Very little is known about how dogs with inherited or acquired vision or hearing disorders behave, which was the motivation for this study by Valeri Farmer-Dougan et al (in press) of Ilinois State University.
The results showed many similarities between dogs with a hearing or vision impairment (HVI) and those without. This shows that HVI dogs can make good family pets. In fact, the non-HVI dogs were rated as more aggressive and more excitable than those w…

Adopting Shelter Dogs: Should Fido Lie Down or Play?

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If you go down to the shelter today, will you bring home a dog? A new study by Alexandra Protopopova and Clive Wynne (2014) finds that interactions between dogs and potential adopters predict the likelihood of adoption.


By Zazie Todd, PhD

Every year in the USA, 3-4 million healthy, potentially-adoptable, homeless animals are euthanized (AHA and PetSmart 2012). Many would be saved if there was a better understanding of how to increase adoptions from animal shelters. Previous studies have looked at whether it is possible to train dogs to behave in ways that will increase the likelihood of adoption, but so far there is a lack of consensus. Protopopova and Wynne’s study is a welcome addition to the literature since it focusses on interactions between dogs and potential adopters.

The study took place at the Alachua County Animal Services in Florida. A researcher observed 250 interactions between dogs and potential adopters. About a third of the people saw more than one dog, and some dogs w…

Summer Break / Summer Reading

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By Zazie Todd, PhD

Companion Animal Psychology Blog is taking a summer break. Meanwhile, on twitter and facebook we continue to share links to the best writing about companion animals and their people. Why not join us?

If you’re looking for some summer reading (and listening and viewing), these are some of our favourites:
We’re delighted that some CAPB stories now appear in Pacific Standard, including Dog Training, Animal Welfare and the Human-Canine Relationship Can Playing with your Cat Prevent Behavior Problems?Mikel Delgado investigates.
Wild behaviour: The science of cats in boxes is explored in this Human Animal Science podcast with Sandra McCune.
We can’t resist this video from Japan of a cat falling asleep on a watermelonWhat the pug is going on? by Mia Cobb at Do You Believe in Dog.
The First Thing to Teach Your Puppy by Eileen and Dogs
Five Things You Can Do to Bite-Proof your Puppy by Anne Springer of Paws for Praise
Fading Food Lures by Lori Nanan at Your Pit Bull and You.
Sud…