Companion Animal Psychology News November 2016

The latest news on dogs and cats from Companion Animal Psychology, November 2016.

By Zazie Todd, PhD Some of my favourite posts from around the web this month
Hot dogs offer window into canine emotions by Julie Hecht, MSc (DogSpies).

Camera shy to camera guy: Helping an anxious dog to overcome their fears by Kristi Benson CTC.

Why you should stop chanting cues at your dog by Allison Wells CTC.

Think like a cat. John Bradshaw PhD considers the latest research on feline intelligence.  
It’s more than just a box!Ingrid Johnson CCBC takes a pictorial look at all the enrichment cardboard boxes can provide for cats.  

Pets in the news…
“Our canine companions developed the ability to digest starchy foods during the farming revolution thousands of years ago, according to DNA evidence.” Dog’s dinner: DNA clue to how dogs became our best friends. BBC News.  
"Veterinarians have an ethical responsibility to the animals they treat and tail docking goes against that responsibility” Vets in BC, Can…

Interview with Jean Donaldson on The Culture Clash

To mark 20 years since the publication of The Culture Clash, I spoke to Jean Donaldson about dogs and dog training.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

This year is 20 years since the publication of Jean Donaldson’s influential book Culture Clash. Funny, intelligent, and very much about the dog’s point of view, The Culture Clash is still highly recommended by dog trainers around the world. The book shows a strong commitment to training without aversives and provides the technical know-how too. Dr. Ian Dunbar called it “Simply, the best dog book I have ever read!”

I was thrilled to speak with Jean about the book, how things have changed for dogs, and how we can continue to change things for the better.

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Zazie: It’s been 20 years since the publication of The Culture Clash. It’s a book that’s still in print, and it’s been tremendously influential and I think a life-changer for many, many people. So it’s definitely something to celebrate. And I wanted to ask you, how much d…

Vertical Space is Good Enrichment for Cats

Cats make good use of added vertical space, study shows.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

A study by Emma Desforges (Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition) et al finds that adding a vertical screen is good enrichment for cats. And while the study used cats that live at the Waltham research centre, the results suggest pet cats could benefit too.

The scientists took an Ikea bookcase called Kallax in which the shelves are subdivided. They put half the backing on one side and half on the other, so that some shelves faced one way and the rest the other way (8 spaces arranged 2 x 4 per side). Then they put it in the middle of a room.

If you’re thinking crazy cat lady organizer, you’re not far off, but this version is taller.

They observed the cats for set time intervals for two days before the screen was added, four days while it was there, and two days after it was removed.

Cats used the screen and spent more time off the ground when it was there, even though they already had some shelves around the walls of…

Companion Animal Psychology Book Club: November 2016

The book of the month is The Trainable Cat by John Bradshaw and Sarah Ellis.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

The Companion Animal Psychology Book Club starts this month with discussion of The Trainable Cat. Are you reading alongside us?

The Facebook group to discuss the books filled up in less than three days. Apologies but no new members are currently being accepted.

However you can still follow along on the blog.

Each month I will post a list of the discussion questions, along with some highlights of the discussion. You will be able to leave your thoughts on the book in the comments section.

Through the book club, we will learn more about companion animals and our relationship with them, build up a nice library of books about animals, and of course enjoy talking about the books.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on The Trainable Cat. I’ll post an update on the discussion later in the month.

Zazie Todd, PhD, is the author of Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy. She is the founder of the…

Testing an Automated and Humane Way to Resolve Barking

Teaching a quiet behaviour using an automatic feeder is a promising solution to barking problems.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

Some dogs bark when their owner is out and they are left home alone. A recent study by Alexandra Protopopova  (Texas Tech University) et al investigates the effectiveness of a humane, automated approach to solving barking problems.

The research was conducted because some owners use citronella or shock collars to try and prevent their dogs from barking. While the devices may sometimes work, there are concerns they may also have adverse effects.

For example, if a dog barks when they see people going by the window and then receives a burst of citronella or an electric shock, they may associate the unpleasant experience with people and become fearful and/or aggressive. Because of these welfare concerns, some organizations recommend against their use (see the AVSAB position statement on the use of punishment).

This study used a humane approach that rewarded dogs with food (vi…

Study Shows Just How Stressed Dogs Are at the Vet's

Most dogs show signs of impaired welfare at the vet, according to their owners.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

A survey of 906 dog guardians in Italy found most people report their dog as being stressed at all stages of the visit to a vet clinic, from being in the waiting room to being examined by the vet. 6.4% of dogs had actually bitten their guardian at the vet and 11.2% had growled or snapped at the vet.

The report by Chiara Mariti (University of Pisa) et al draws important conclusions about what owners and vets need to do to help dogs at the vet, including teaching them to be handled.

The scientists write, “It is in fact alarming that only one third of dogs seemed to tolerate all kinds of clinical handling carried out by the vet.

“The proportion of guardians who resorted to scolding their dogs if they refused to be treated is also alarming. Veterinary surgeons have a duty to ensure their patients’ welfare, and therefore, they should take advantage of every situation to advise guardians that t…

A Windstorm is a Reminder of Disaster Preparation for Pets

The best time to start disaster preparation for your pet is now.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

Recently, like many people in this part of the world, we heard there was a big storm on the way. The third of three windstorms was said to be the most powerful. Since we live in an area with many beautiful trees and the power lines are above ground, it does not take much to knock out the power.

In the end, we were lucky. The storm was not as strong as predicted, and it changed track and went further north. But it’s a reminder that we all need to be prepared for emergencies. And pets are an important part of our emergency preparedness.

Planning starts with thinking about the kinds of emergencies you might face. Maybe you live in an area that is prone to floods or forest fires, or has the potential for big earthquakes. It’s helpful to think about smaller events too, that might impact you without affecting others: house fires, job losses, illnesses. These could all have an impact on your ability to care fo…