Posts

How Can We Improve Working Dog Programs?

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A new paper suggests ways to develop the welfare and performance of working canines. A search-and-rescue dog takes part in a training exercise. Photo: deepspacedave/Shutterstock By Zazie Todd, PhD Have you ever stopped to think about the amazing variety of jobs that dogs do: herding sheep, chasing criminals, sniffing out cancer, assisting people with disabilities, supporting the military in the field, detecting explosives or narcotics, visiting sick people in hospital, pulling sleds, search and rescue, and so on. They bring a wide variety of skills, and work in diverse locations from cities to forests, mountains and farms. Yet there is no one body that investigates and evaluates the training and welfare of working dogs. A new paper by Mia Cobb ( Monash University ) et al examines the role of working dogs and proposes a new canine performance science. Just as human athletes benefit from performance science, the same could be true for our canine friends. There’s a financ

Do Dogs Prefer Petting or Praise?

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A new study asks dogs to make the choice. Photo: Felix Rohan/Shutterstock By Zazie Todd, PhD A lot of people like to think they can reinforce their dog with verbal praise such as “Good girl!” But does it mean anything to the dog? We know that, given a choice, dogs prefer food over petting or praise ( Feuerbacher and Wynne 2012 ; Fukuzawa and Hayashi 2013; Okamoto et al 2009 ), and this is why food is so useful in dog training . A new study by Erica Feuerbacher ( Carroll College ) and Clive Wynne ( Arizona State University ) takes food out of the equation and investigates whether dogs prefer petting or verbal praise. In a series of two experiments, shelter dogs and owned dogs were given a choice between petting and praise. The results showed that dogs prefer petting. Now before you say this is not surprising, remember we just said many owners expect their dog to be obedient in exchange for a simple “Good boy!” It doesn’t sound like such a good deal from the dog’s po

Do Hand-Reared Wolves get Attached to their Humans?

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Researchers test the bond between captive wolf pups and the humans who rear them. Photo: Geoffrey Kuchera/Shutterstock.com By Zazie Todd, PhD We all think our dogs form attachments to us, but previous studies with wolf pups have suggested they don’t attach to their caregiver in the same way. While a 16-week old puppy is already attached to its owner, scientists found the same is not true of a 16-week old wolf. However, the way the wolf pup is raised and the age of testing may have an effect. New research by Nathaniel Hall (University of Florida) et al investigates. The results show wolf pups can form attachments to humans after all. Ten wolf pups from two litters took part in the study (although one pup was ill and not able to take part in all of the tests). From the age of 10 days old, the wolves were raised by two humans who were with them round the clock until 1.5 – 2 months. After this, the caregivers were present 16 hours a day. The research took place at Wolf Pa

Does It Matter What Age You Neuter Your Kitten?

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What science - and vets - say about early vs normal age spay/neuter for kittens. NCAImages/Shutterstock By Zazie Todd, PhD What is the best age to get your kitten spayed or neutered? For most pet owners, is recommended to spay/neuter kittens by 5 months of age in order to prevent unwanted litters, according to the American Animal Hospitals Association . There are so many cats without homes that some shelters neuter kittens early, at 8 – 12 weeks old, so they are neutered prior to adoption. This is the only way they can guarantee that a kitten will be neutered. These days, the early neutering of kittens from 6 - 14 weeks old is supported by organizations such as the American Association of Feline Practitioners (many vets set a weight limit of at least 1kg). This page contains affilliate links. In the past, cats were normally neutered at 6 – 8 months old. But even kittens can have kittens, so this does not prevent unwanted litters. It comes as a surprise

The Posts of the Year 2014

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Photo: Jaromire Chalabala / Shutterstock By Zazie Todd, PhD We wish all our readers a happy and healthy 2015! These are our most-read posts of the year. There's been a lot of competition at the top of this chart! Which stories were your favourites? And which topics would you like to read more about in future? Please let us know by leaving a comment below, or on twitter or facebook . 1. How Does a Dog's Brain Respond to the Smell of a Familiar Human? New fMRI research shows that the smell of a familiar person elicits a strong response in the canine brain. 2. Do Dogs get that Eureka! Feeling? Does successful problem-solving make dogs happy? Research by McGowan et al investigates if dogs prefer their rewards to be earned. This post was our Companion Animal Science News of the Year for the Science Borealis Blog Carnival . 3. Dog Training, Animal Welfare and the Human-Canine Relationship Observations of dogs at training classes using eit

Season's Greetings

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 Photo: gurinaleksandr / Shutterstock Season's Greetings from Companion Animal Psychology Blog! We wish you Happy Holidays and all the best for a wonderful 2015. By Zazie Todd, PhD Zazie Todd, PhD , is the author of Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy . She is the founder of the popular blog Companion Animal Psychology , where she writes about everything from training methods to the human-canine relationship. She also writes a column for Psychology Today and has received the prestigious Captain Haggerty Award for Best Training Article in 2017. Todd lives in Maple Ridge, BC, with her husband and two cats. Useful links: Check out what the Animal Book Club is reading this month Get Companion Animal Psychology merch    Support me on Ko-fi Visit my Amazon store As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. As an Etsy affiliate, I earn from qualifying Etsy purchases.

Picking a New Dog is a Complex Choice

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It’s not a case of ‘any puppy will do’ - the whole package counts. Photo: DragoNika / Shutterstock By Zazie Todd, PhD Surprisingly little is known about how people choose a new dog considering how popular they are. While it’s a personal choice, it has wider implications – humane societies would really like to know how to increase adoptions from shelters and decrease purchases from puppy mills. Could relocation programs, where dogs are brought in from out of town, be part of the solution? A new paper by Laurie Garrison and Emily Weiss (ASPCA) surveyed 1009 people who had either acquired a dog in the last year or were planning to get a dog. People were shown fake profiles of dogs and asked to say how likely they would be to choose it. The results showed people take many factors into account, and while specific details are important – such as wanting a puppy and not wanting a senior – they can be mitigated by other aspects of the dog. The authors say, “People consider