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Different Dog Breeds, Different Sensitive Period?

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A study of three breeds finds differences in the sensitive period, and shows socialization should begin before you even take your puppy home.



By Zazie Todd, PhD

Puppies have a sensitive period between 3 and 12-14 weeks old in which they must be socialized. This means positive introductions to new people, dogs, places, etc. If not, they will be fearful as adult dogs. A fascinating new study by Mary Morrow (Ohio State University) et al investigates whether this period is the same for three breeds of dog: Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Yorkshire Terriers, and German Shepherd Dogs. 
These breeds make a particularly interesting comparison. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Yorkshire Terrier are both members of the Toy group, although Yorkshire Terriers are still “terriers by nature” according to the breed standard. The German Shepherd is a Herding dog, and the GSD puppies were chosen from breeders with international working dog lines.
The results show that Yorkshire Terriers and German Sh…

Does Animal-Assisted Therapy Help Adolescents with Psychiatric Problems?

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A new study finds that a dog might be just what the doctor ordered.



By Zazie Todd, PhD

Can animal-assisted therapy can help adolescents who are in hospital because of an acute psychiatric crisis? A new randomized controlled trial investigates. 
The study, conducted by M.C. Stefanini et al (University of Florence) randomly allocated patients to either an animal-assisted therapy intervention or no intervention. Both groups continued to receive psychiatric treatment as usual, and those treating them did not know which group they were in. The results are very promising.
The intervention group had better school attendance, higher levels of global functioning, and spent less time in hospital compared to the control group. The scientists say, “One possible explanation for this success is the role of the animal as a catalyst in the therapeutic process. Animals may represent a valid help in therapeutic contexts thanks to their ability to catalyze social interactions and to create a more relaxed en…

Earliest Memories of Pets Shape Adult Attitudes

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New research suggests our earliest childhood memories of pets influence our attitudes to animals.





By Zazie Todd, PhD

Think back to your first memory of a pet, whether it was your own or someone else’s. Is it a happy memory, or a sad one? Were you interacting with the animal, or just watching? And is it possible that early memories like this influence your attitudes as an adult?
This question was posed by Philip Marshall (Texas Tech University) et al, who compared earliest memories of a pet, a friend and an automobile. 223 people answered the questionnaire, and the results show significant differences in the types of language used, and a fascinating link with attitudes.
Memories of pets contained more references to both positive and negative emotion than memories of cars. 

The scientists say, 
“although pet memories were less positive than friend memories, in terms of overall affective language, memories of pets were more similar to memories of friends than they were to memories of the inani…

Why Do People Relinquish Large Dogs?

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When someone gives up a large dog to a shelter, what are the usual reasons?



By Zazie Todd, PhD

Research by Emily Weiss (ASPCA) et al looks at why people relinquish large dogs – and whether there are interventions that could have helped the animal stay in its home. The results show that people issues, rather than dog issues, are given as the main reason. They also highlight that owners have many good things to say about their dog, even as it is relinquished.
In the US, large dogs are at a greater risk of euthanasia than other dogs in shelters. This is partly because smaller dogs tend to be adopted more quickly. The researchers decided to focus on large dogs because they might benefit the most from schemes designed to prevent animal relinquishment.
For the purposes of this study, dogs were considered large if they looked like they weighed at least 40 pounds. People who surrendered dogs at shelters in Washington, DC, and New York City were asked to take part.
The scientists say, “our results…

Companion Animal Psychology Turns Three!

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Can Street Dogs Become Good Pets?

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From free-ranging dog to new home. It sounds like a fairy-tale, but how does it work out?



By Zazie Todd, PhD

A recent survey by Yasemin Salgiri Demirbas (Ankara University) et al investigates how well free-roaming urban dogs fit into a family home once they are adopted. The results show the dogs adapt well to their new homes.
The scientists say, “Every year in Turkey, thousands of free-ranging dogs are brought to dog shelters. These dogs are mongrel dogs with stray origins.” There is often a bias against adopting dogs that have been stray in case they have behaviour problems, and they can spend a long time waiting for a home. The researchers wanted to know if people’s misgivings are well-founded.
75 homes that had adopted a free-ranging dog completed the survey. Some dogs came from a shelter or vet, but others were picked up on the street. This, they explain, “may be because of the pattern where in developing countries such as Turkey people encounter free-ranging dogs in everyday life, so…