Invitation to the Companion Animal Psychology Book Club

If you love reading and animals, you are invited to join the Companion Animal Psychology Book Club.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

The Companion Animal Psychology Book Club is for discussion of books about dogs, cats, and our relationship with companion animals.

The club will discuss one book a month except for January and July, so we will read ten books a year.

Most books will be non-fiction, although fiction will be considered if a companion animal plays a prominent role.

Books may cover a wide variety of perspectives, but there is a preference for humane and kind treatment of animals (and people), and for scientific or critical approaches to the human-animal bond. Books do not have to be recent, but they will be available in book stores.

The book for discussion in November 2016 is The Trainable Cat by John Bradshaw and Sarah Ellis.

The book for December 2016 is The Secret History of Kindness by Melissa Holbrook Pierson.

Everyone is welcome to join, whether or not you are a regular reader of Com…

Training is Purrfect Enrichment for Frustrated Shelter Cats

Training shelter cats leads to more contentment and better health.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

The study, by Nadine Gourkow and Clive Phillips (University of Queensland), tested the effects of training sessions on cats that were frustrated when they arrived at an animal shelter. The cats in the training group became more content and were healthier compared to the cats who just experienced normal shelter conditions.

Prof. Clive Phillips says,
“Confining a cat into a small cage after it has been roaming free, in someone’s home or as a stray, is a huge challenge for any cat. A significant proportion of them develop serious behaviour problems and one of these is extreme frustration, manifested by trying to escape or turning their cage contents upside down.  “We can help these cats adapt by training them to do a task, taking time with them and encouraging them to have trust in human contact. Then they will be happier, healthier and more likely to get adopted.” The study took place at the Vancouver b…

Interview with Dr. Sarah Ellis on the Trainable Cat

An interview with Dr. Sarah Ellis about teaching cats the key skills they need to live in society with us.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

This week, I was thrilled to speak with Dr. Sarah Ellis about her new book with John Bradshaw, The Trainable Cat. The Trainable Cat: A Practical Guide to Making Life Happier for You and Your Cat is published by Basic Books and is a New York Times bestseller. Every cat owner needs to read this book.

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Zazie: How did you get into training cats?
Sarah: I started training cats unbeknown to myself when I was a child. I grew up with cats from the day I was born, but I got my first-born cat when I was 7 and he was a Burmese, very very intelligent. I lived in the rural countryside in Scotland with no siblings and not much to do so I spent a lot of time with him. He was very food motivated and very very social. And so I – not on purpose, but I inadvertently trained him to go over little obstacles of furniture in the living room, walk on my s…

Book Review: Men and Their Dogs

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

By Zazie Todd, PhD

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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,…

Happy Dogs in Harnesses: Photos

Gorgeous photos of happy dogs in their no-pull harnesses. Which one is your favourite?
By Zazie Todd, PhD

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.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

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 ou…