Book Review: Men and Their Dogs

A new book investigates the psychology of the bond between men and their dogs.

Men and Their Dogs: A New Understanding of Man's Best Friend, edited by Christopher Blazina and Lori R. Kogan, is a collection of essays about the different roles dogs play in men’s lives, and the potential for bringing about psychological change. The book covers topics ranging from gender role conflict, the therapeutic use of programmes using dogs in prisons and with at-risk youth, the value of play with dogs and relationships with pets at different stages of the lifespan. It’s a fascinating read for psychologists interested to learn more about the human-animal bond.

The chapters explore how dogs affect psychological processes such as intrapersonal growth, attachment and empathy. Although the focus of the book is men, there is much of relevance to both men and women.

This book is a great resource for anyone interested in programs that involve animals, including those aimed at veterans, at-risk youth, ho…

Happy Dogs in Harnesses: Photos

Gorgeous photos of happy dogs in their no-pull harnesses. Which one is your favourite?

Harnesses are a Great Choice to Walk Your Dog

A new study compares a harness to a neck collar and finds both are good for canine welfare.

Harnesses are often said to be better for your dog than walking on a collar, but no one had investigated it. Now, a team of scientists at Hartpury College (Grainger, Wills & Montrose 2016) has published a study of the effects of walking a dog on a harness and on a neck collar.

The same dogs were walked on a neck collar and on a harness on separate occasions, and their behaviour was monitored for signs of stress. The results show that harnesses do not cause stress and are a great choice for walking your dog.

Dr. Tamara Montrose, one of the authors of the study, told me in an email,

“Whilst neck collars are widely used when walking dogs, concerns have been raised about their potential to damage the neck and trachea. Furthermore collars can be problematic in dogs with eye conditions such as glaucoma. Harnesses are often anecdotally proposed to be better for dog welfare. “In our study, we investi…

Are rabbits lagging behind in basic pet care practices?

A recent study highlights pet rabbit management practices. Although some owners take extra steps to protect their rabbit, many do not.

Guest post by James Oxley (Independent Researcher, UK; Twitter) and Clare Ellis (Moulton College, UK; TwitterWeb).

Rabbits sometimes get labelled as an easy pet to keep, and some owners may not consider that common pet care practices used for dogs and cats may also be beneficial for rabbits. In fact, a recent study by Oxley et al. has highlighted how few pet rabbit owners take precautions such as microchipping and pet insurance for their furry bunny friends.

In the UK, it is now a legal requirement to microchip your pet dog and a recent call for compulsory microchipping of cats has been highlighted . Millions of pet owners are microchipping their pets, including dog, cats and smaller commonly kept pets. Compulsory dog microchipping in the UK came about as an effort to increase accountability of dog owners and to reduce the number of stray dogs that en…

Clicker Training vs Treat: Equally Good in Dog Training

Scientists find unanticipated results in a study that compares the clicker to a verbal reward-marker and the use of food alone in dog training.

The study, by Cinzia Chiandetti (University of Trieste) et al  took 51 pet dogs and trained them on a novel task. 17 dogs were trained using a clicker, 17 using a verbal reward marker (“Bravo”), and 17 with only a reward. Then they tested the dogs to see how well they performed when asked to generalize the training to something similar and something more different.

The results were a surprise to the scientists, who expected to find that using the clicker would lead to better results. In fact there was no difference between the three groups of dogs.

They write,
“Although we should be cautious in drawing any strong conclusion from statistically non-significant results, our study is consistent with previous works conducted in different laboratories with both dogs and horses… which, taken together, point toward no advantage in favor of the shaping…

Brain Scans Show Your Dog Loves You And Food

An fMRI study shows different dogs have different preferences for food and social interaction.

A recent fMRI study investigates individual differences in dogs’ preferences for food and social interaction with their owner. The results have been widely – and erroneously – reported as showing that dogs prefer praise to food. In fact, the results paint a far more interesting picture of how brain activity predicts canine choice.

I think most people feel subjectively that their dog loves them. The idea they might not is perplexing. But scientists have this wonderful habit of testing ideas, and a paper by Peter Cook (Emory University) et al investigates dogs’ preferences for food and for social interaction with their owner. What if dogs love both?

The team of neuroscientists at Gregory Berns’ lab took 15 dogs who are trained to go in the fMRI machine. They designed an experiment to look at activation of the dogs’ brains in response to food, praise from their owner, and a control condition of…

In Dog Training, Balance Is Off

It’s not a good thing when dog trainers describe themselves as ‘balanced’. Here’s why.

When you think about balancing dogs, your first thoughts might be of a dog walking along a beam, all nicely balanced and not falling off. Or maybe of a dog posing for a photo with a pile of cookies balanced on their muzzle, to show off how good their balancing skills are.

But, unfortunately, this is not what people mean when they refer to ‘balanced’ dog training.

What is balanced dog training?
Balance is one of those weasel words in dog training. If we think of the word in the abstract, balance is a good thing; we don’t want to be off-balance and fall over. So it sounds persuasive. But in terms of dog training, balance has risks despite the name.

Of course, balance is just a word in the English language and may be used in various ways since it can be used by anyone.

When people refer to ‘balance’ in dog training they usually mean in terms of good and bad, i.e. not just using positive reinforcement b…