Talking About Animals: The Vegan and the Foxhunter

There are surprises in the language used to talk about animals, and even similarities between a vegan and a foxhunter in how they use language. 

By Zazie Todd, PhD

A vegan and a fox hunter have completely opposed views of animals. Yet analyzing how they talk shows some similarities, according to research by Guy Cook (King’s College, London). He studied interviews with a spokesperson for the Vegan Society and a spokesperson for the pro-foxhunting group The Countryside Alliance. 
Foxhunting has been illegal in the UK since 2005, and only a quarter of one per cent of the UK is vegan, so both groups can be considered outside the mainstream. 
Prof. Cook says, “These two interviews and their language provide evidence of two conflicting ideas of human animal interaction, which despite their differences provide a mirror image of each other, as it were flanking mainstream ideas and discourse.” 
“One evokes and seeks to preserve a vanishing kind of relationship, which, while intimate, was neverthele…

The Labrador Lifestyle

A survey of Labrador Retriever owners tells us what they eat, how often they exercise, and where they sleep.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

A survey of over 4000 people with Labrador Retrievers provides a fascinating insight into the lifestyle of the average Lab. 68% of the dogs were pets, 6% working dogs, and of the remainder the largest group of people did not say (a quarter of overall responses). Black Labradors were the most common (49%), followed by yellow (27%) and chocolate (21%), with other colours including fox red and hailstone. 
The study, by C.A. Pugh et al (Roslin Institute and Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies), looks at Labradors across the UK. The researchers say, “Engaging thousands of dog owners in the DogsLife project has generated a wealth of data that begin to address knowledge gaps regarding UK LRs and their lifestyles.”
Most of the dogs lived with another pet: 31% with another dog, 22% with a cat, and 15% with another kind of pet. Families with children were more likely…

Research Resources for Animal Shelters and Rescues

There’s a growing evidence base on ways to increase animal adoptions and reduce relinquishment.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

Over the last few years, there have been many studies of direct relevance to those involved in animal shelters and rescues. 

From considering what people look for in a new pet, how to increase adoptions, and what goes wrong to cause people to surrender animals, there’s a lot of useful information.
I’ve covered many of these stories here at Companion Animal Psychology, and I thought it would be helpful to put them all in one place. 

Whether you want a better understanding of why so many companion animals end up in shelters, or to take action to improve adoption rates, you'll find plenty of food for thought here.

Shelter cats like a box to hide in. The importance of providing a kitty-sized hiding space, such as a cardboard box, Hide Perch and Go or Feline Fort. 

Even shy shelter cats can learn tricks. 100 shelter cats were taught four tricks (sit, high five, spin and nose tar…

Cluck Click! Training Chickens Reveals Their Intelligence

Teaching a trick to a chicken increases beliefs that chickens are intelligent and can feel emotions.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

Learning how to train chickens changes student’s attitudes towards them, according to a new study by Susan HazelLisel O’Dwyer (both University of Adelaide) and Terry Ryan (Legacy Canine). The chickens were trained to do a specific task (such as pecking on a red but not green circle) in order to get food. Survey responses before and after the class show more positive attitudes after the clicker-training session.
Lead author Susan Hazel told me in an email, “I believe that the main reason for the students’ change in attitudes to chickens was that they realized chickens are smarter than they thought (they learn the colour discrimination tasks very fast) and also when you work with the different chickens you see their personalities.” 
“Some chickens are fast and other chickens still learn quickly but just respond more slowly,” said Dr. Hazel. “It wasn’t so much of a surpri…

Make your dog happy. Train force free.

We can promote animal welfare by making learning a rewarding experience.

By Zazie Todd, PhDThe risks of using punishment in dog training
By now, many people are familiar with the idea that using aversives to train dogs can have side effects. Studies show a correlation between aversive techniques (such as hitting, pinning, leash jerks and shock) and behaviour problems like aggression (Herron et al 2009; Casey et al 2014). 

One study found dogs in a training class that used aversives showed signs of stress and were less likely to look at their owners than in a similar class that used positive reinforcement instead (Deldalle and Gaunet, 2014).

The benefits of reward-based dog training
Rewards bring benefits: dogs with a history of reward-based training are better able to learn a new task (Rooney and Cowan, 2011). Nicola Rooney and Sarah Cowan say this may work “by increasing the dog’s motivation and aptitude to learn, because it learns to anticipate rewards.” 

If you are used to training with …