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Digging Into Our Common Ground with Dogs

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It’s unassailable: we’re truly different than dogs, in really important ways. But that doesn’t mean we can throw the baby out with the bathwater and deny our similarities, either.

Guest post by Kristi Benson CTC.



Much of the information about dogs available to dog owners (even to really thoughtful and careful information ‘consumers’) is uneven at best, and flagrantly damaging to dogs at worst. In fact, dog trainers often have the unenviable and rather delicate task of breaking down some passionately held, well-intentioned, but generally unproductive‒or even counter-productive‒convictions in the very people who have hired us to help them.


We’re different from dogs 
Many of the misconceptions about dog behaviour and in particular, dogs’ motivations, are born from anthropocentrism.

Anthropocentrism is likely a familiar concept‒it is an (inappropriate, for our purposes) willingness to ascribe human emotions, cognition, or motivation to other animals. Dog trainers regularly greet dog owners …

The Ultimate Dog Training Tip

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The one thing every dog owner should know about how to train a dog.



There’s a lot of incorrect dog training advice on the internet, which makes it hard for people with dogs to sort out which advice is good and which is not.

Does it matter? Some of the time, despite using methods that aren’t recommended by professional organizations, you can get away with it. Maybe you will have a well-trained dog or maybe you will muddle along. Maybe your dog will actually be a bit afraid but you won’t notice (people aren’t very good at recognizing fear).

But unfortunately, for some dogs, there will be issues. And perhaps, instead of blaming the method, you'll blame the dog.

Here’s what one scientist concluded after reviewing the evidence on dog training methods (Ziv, 2017):
“it appears that aversive training methods have undesirable unintended outcomes and that using them puts dogs’ welfare at risk” Dog training is not regulated and so trainers do not have to be transparent about how they describ…

Companion Animal Psychology News April 2017

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Favourite posts and the latest news about dogs and cats this month.


Some of my favourites from around the web this month…
“It hit me that there is such a massive disconnect between what people think their dogs are doing and saying and what is really happening, and everyone suffers because of it. “ Marc Bekoff interviews Tracy Krulik about the impetus for iSpeakDog.

So you think you have a ‘master forager’? Ingrid Johnson at Fundamentally Feline on how to make food toys harder for your cat.

Shocker: some cats like people more than food or toys by Karin Brulliard.

Joii the sniffari movement. Why I DON’T train my clients’ dogs to heel by Kristi Benson.

Jeff deYoung: The dog who saved my life and came to live with me.

Is there such a thing as a “purr-cebo” effect?Mikel Delgado looks at new research on the placebo effect in cats.

Things to know on dog farting awareness day by Julie Hecht.


Pets in the news
Dog day care put shock collar on my dog without permission, owner says. An anxious dog in …

It's Not Just Catnip: Olfactory Enrichment for Cats

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The olfactory enrichment cats love but you’ve (probably) never heard of: silvervine, Tatarian honeysuckle and valerian. Find out how many cats respond to each and the best type to get for your cat.



Did you know there are alternatives to catnip? And that if your cat does not respond to catnip these other plant substances may still get a response? And that tigers and bobcats can respond to them too?

Silver vine, Tatarian honeysuckle, valerian and catnip for cats
A new study tests domestic cats with four different types of olfactory enrichment: catnip, silver vine, Tatarian honeysuckle and valerian. Tigers and bobcats were also tested. The results show almost all domestic cats love at least one of these.

These compounds are safe and not addictive, meaning owners have an easy way to provide enrichment to their cats (provided they can get hold of them).

First author, Dr. Sebastiaan Bol told me in an email,
“This research gave us insight in how many cats in the USA go crazy for catnip and pl…

Best Friends of Companion Animal Psychology

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Share a photo of your happy pet for a chance to win a Companion Animal Psychology mug.

Companion Animal Psychology just turned five! As I said in that post, one of the best things about this blog is the community of people who read, share and support it.

Several recent posts have shown photos of happy dogs who are friends of Companion Animal Psychology.

This time, it’s over to you to join the celebrations by sharing a photo of your contented pet.

One person will win a Companion Animal Psychology anniversary bone china mug.

Click the link-up and follow the instructions to add your photo. The winning photo will be published on the blog and shared on social media when the winner is announced. More details are below.



An InLinkz Link-up

The photo link-up is open until 4pm Pacific Time on Friday 14th April.

To add a photo of your pet, click the link and follow the instructions. You will have to supply an email address but this will only be used if necessary to communicate with you about the …

New Literature Review Recommends Reward-Based Training

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A review of 17 papers concludes that reward-based dog training has fewer risks and may even work better than aversive methods.



The review, by Dr. Gal Ziv (The Zinman College of Physical Education and Sport Sciences) looks at the scientific literature on dog training methods. Seventeen studies were identified that include surveys of dog owners, intervention studies, and reports from veterinarians.

The paper identifies some methodological issues with the literature, but the conclusion is that people should use reward-based methods to train their dogs.

Ziv writes,
“Despite the methodological concerns, it appears that aversive training methods have undesirable unintended outcomes and that using them puts dogs’ welfare at risk. In addition, there is no evidence to suggest that aversive training methods are more effective than reward-based training methods. At least 3 studies in this review suggest that the opposite might be true in both pets and working dogs. Because this appears to be the…

Companion Animal Psychology Book Club April 2017

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The book of the month is The Other End of the Leash by Patricia McConnell.



The book for April 2017 is the dog training classic The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs by Patricia McConnell.

From the back cover, “Dr. Patricia McConnell reveals a revolutionary, new perspective on our relationship with dogs – sharing insights on how “man’s best friend” might interpret our behaviour, as well as essential advice on how to interact with our four-legged friends in ways that bring out the best in them.”

Book club members can join in the discussion on Facebook. Alternatively you can leave your comments on the book below, or just enjoy reading alongside us.

The Companion Animal Psychology Book Club reads one book a month, with January and July off.