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Dog Bite Strength: It's Not What You Think

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Scientists tracked down the evidence for a common statement about bite strength in dogs – and found it lacking. Photo: Matthew Lyon/Shutterstock By Zazie Todd, PhD Have you ever read comments about the strength of a dog’s jaw when it bites? These statements are often made in relation to certain types of dog , like pit bulls. Maybe some people take it as fact. But what if it’s not true? A recent paper by Dr. Gary Patronek ( Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University ) et al traced citations in the literature and went back to the original sources to investigate the truth of the published statements. They say they chose the literature on the strength with which a dog can bite for several reasons, including that this is a salient figure that jumps out at people and is remembered, and that the literature was large enough and easy to assess for accuracy. They picked a topic on which people have been sceptical for some time. Writing on his blog in 2010, Stanley Co

Why Do People Choose Certain Dogs?

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Many factors go into people’s choice of dogs. Animal welfare isn’t always top of the list, but could this change? Photo: everydoghasastory/Shutterstock By Zazie Todd, PhD English Bulldogs only live six years, according to a recent paper that highlights the lack of genetic diversity in this breed (Pederson et al 2016). Karin Brulliard of the Washington Post spoke to one of the authors of the study, Niels Pederson. “There are genetic diseases that [breeders] could test for, but they choose not to. Which means they’re more interested in the coat colors of their dogs,” Pedersen said. “The owners’ desire to own them, either as a status symbol or because they like them — and they are likable dogs — has exceeded their concern about the health and longevity of the dog.” (Read Brulliard’s full story ). Sean Wensley, President of the British Veterinary Association , says "The research released today reflects the seriousness of the health problems associated with English bulldogs

Your Cat Would Like Food Puzzle Toys

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Food puzzles will help satisfy your cat’s hunting instinct. Here's what they are and how to get (and keep) your cat interested in them. Photo: Anna Morgan/Shutterstock By Zazie Todd, PhD This page contains affiliate links which means I may earn a commission on qualifying purchases at no cost to you. A new paper on food puzzles for cats has plenty of ideas to get everyone started on these wonderful enrichment items. The research, led by Mikel Delgado ( University of California, Berkeley ; Feline Minds ), combines a review of the scientific literature on food toys as feline enrichment with practical tips gained from the authors’ work as feline behaviour practitioners. Food puzzles are toys that make your cat do some work to get the food out of them. Maybe they have to stick their paw in and pick pieces of food out, or maybe they roll it around with their nose or paw to make food fall out of the holes. There are many different types of food toys, some of which stay in one

Behaviour Problems in Guide Dogs

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The behavioural reasons why guide dogs sometimes end their working lives early, and what it means for pet dogs. Photo: LauraVI/Shutterstock By Zazie Todd, PhD A study by Geoffrey Caron-Lormier ( University of Nottingham ) et al looks at twenty years of data from Guide Dogs (UK) . During this time, 7,770 working guide dogs, who had worked with blind or partially sighted people, were withdrawn from service. By far the most common reason was retirement, which applied to 6,465 dogs (83%). The authors looked at the reasons why other dogs were withdrawn from working. Most of the dogs are bred specifically to be guide dogs, although some came from breeders. The most common breeds are Labrador and Golden Retriever x Labrador. They go through a five-stage training process before being matched with a blind or partially sighted person when they are about 2 years old. There were three main behavioural reasons why guide dogs were withdrawn from service: environmental anxiety, tra

Educating Children Reduces Risky Behaviour Around Dogs

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Dog safety education for children works, according to a systematic review of existing research. Photo: Vasil Syniuk/Shutterstock By Zazie Todd, PhD The CDC estimates that 4.5 million Americans are bitten by a dog every year . Children are at high risk, and bites to children are often more severe than those to adults. Bites to the head and neck are more common than for adults because children are smaller. The CDC says “Among children, the rate of dog-bite–related injuries is highest for those 5 to 9 years old. Children are more likely than adults to receive medical attention for dog bites.”   When young children are bitten by a dog, it is typically indoors and by a dog they know or live with, often when the child approaches a dog that is lying down or stationary. The best ways to teach children about dogs are investigated in a systematic review of the literature by Jiabin Shen (University of Alabama at Birmingham) et al. The review focussed on cognitive and behaviour

Summer Reading

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If you’re looking for some summer reading, here are some favourite stories, photos, and even a short film - plus the chance for your pet's photo to appear on Companion Animal Psychology. Photo: Dora Zett/Shutterstock By Zazie Todd, PhD “Volunteering to build fences can help deliver dogs (and their owners) from chains.” Freeing dogs with fences by Bronwen Dickey . Julie Hecht  on pointing : “this one little gesture, in all its complexity, could be a core feature of the intimate bond we share with dogs.” I was saddened to learn of the imminent demise of the science blogging site scilogs.com. The news led me to revisit one of my favourite posts in which Prof. Malcolm Campbell writes about what the dog really saw . “If ever you need to be reminded that we each have our own way of looking at the world, take a dog for a walk at night.” (If you don’t already, follow him on twitter for six incredible things before breakfast and links to all the best science writing). “Th