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Companion Animal Psychology Book Club October 2017

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"What if the secret to great dog training is to be an expert 'feeder' rather than a strong leader?" The book for October is Plenty in Life is Free by Kathy Sdao. By Zazie Todd, PhD This page contains affiliate links. The  Companion Animal Psychology Book Club choice for October 2017 is Plenty in Life Is Free: Reflections on Dogs, Training and Finding Grace by Kathy Sdao. From the back cover, "What if the secret to great dog training is to be an expert 'feeder' rather than a strong leader? A skilled reinforcer rather than a strict enforcer?  "Over the past two decades, countless dog trainers across the world have embraced the liberal use of positive reinforcement. Often accompanying this trend, however, is an underlying emphasis, inherited from more coercive models of dog training, that each human in the family must be the dog's leader. Adopting the role of leader through the use of "Nothing in Life is Free" training pr

Even Shy Shelter Cats Can Learn Tricks

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Researchers show that even old or shy cats can learn new tricks like high five or sit. By Zazie Todd, PhD If you think training cats is all the rage lately, you might be right. Recently I wrote about a study that found the best way to train cats was with food (rather than click-then-food or just click). Now another study, by Dr. Lori Kogan (Colorado State University) et al, investigates training shelter cats to do four different behaviours. Not only did most of the cats learn the tricks, but it shows this is possible even in a shelter setting which is inevitably stressful for the cats. 100 shelter cats were taught to nose-target either a chopstick or the trainer’s finger, to spin, to sit, and to high-five (touch the trainer’s hand with one of their front paws). The trainers took the traditional clicker training approach, in which the click is a bridge that marks the behaviour and predicts a food reward. Fifteen 5-minute training sessions took place over

Companion Animal Psychology News September 2017

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Make sure you haven't missed a thing with the latest favourites and news from Companion Animal Psychology By Zazie Todd, PhD Some of my favourite posts from around the web this month "When you have a frenzied dog barking, growling, screeching, and lunging at the end of a lead, the idea that the dog is simply frustrated by an inability to investigate that other dog is not the first thing that comes to mind."  Dog play and cognitive biases by Lisa Skavienski at Your Pit Bull and You . Puppy-farmed dogs show worse behaviour, suffer ill health and die young – so adopt don’t shop by Catherine Douglas. “Ever heard the phrase “you get the dog you need”? Or even the thought that some dogs are “special” or universally arranged to land in our lives at the right time? The idea that some of our dogs will be game-changers over the course of our career.” Game changers by the Cognitive Canine .   What it’s like to be a dog . Marc Bekoff interviews Gregory Berns abo

Resources at Companion Animal Psychology

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From the people and blogs to follow to dog training research, there are lots of resources for dog and cat people here at Companion Animal Psychology. Cardboard boxes are a useful resource for cats; resources for cat and dog people in this post. Photo: isumi1 (Shutterstock) By Zazie Todd, PhD In the five and a half years that I’ve been writing Companion Animal Psychology, I’ve built up a sizeable back catalogue of blog posts about science and our pets. I’ve also made a number of resources for readers who want to know more. Since there are many new readers lately, I thought I’d make a list so you can find everything. Dog Training Research Resources The science of dog training is a source of fascination for many dog trainers, and it makes an important contribution to animal welfare too. Research in this field looks at topics such as the methods ordinary people use to train their dogs (and how obedient they think their dog is as a result), the potential effects of differe

Shortlisted for Canada's Favourite Science Blog

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Companion  Animal Psychology is shortlisted for the People's Choice Award: Canada's Favourite Science Blog. Vote for your favourites! By Zazie Todd, PhD I am thrilled to have been short-listed for the People's Choice Award: Canada's Favourite Science Blog. You can see the shortlist and vote here  on the Science Borealis website. Voters can select their three favourite blogs and three favourite science websites (so you have six votes in total). It's a great way to show support for your favourite science sites and blogs and find new ones to follow too. You can follow the contest on social media via the hashtag #CdnSciFav. Every day from now until the close of voting on 14th October, Science Borealis and SWCC will be promoting the short-listed blogs and websites on social media. The contest is part of Science Literacy Week  (#scilit17) here in Canada which celebrates science with events across the country.  Three finalists in each category

Do Dogs Use Body Language to Calm Us Down?

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Are lip licking and looking away signals of discomfort and expressions of peace in the domestic dog? Guest post by Georgina (Gina) Bishopp (Hartpury College, UK) Photo: StudioCAXAP A study by Dr. Angelika Firnkes (Ludwig Maximilians University Munich) et al., 2017 has found that the domestic dog uses appeasement gestures both when feeling threatened and during greetings with humans. For the first time it has now been shown that dogs will use at least two of these signals, the lip lick and look away, to appease their human social companions. Turid Rugaas (2005) had previously described a set of behaviours in dogs, including the lip lick and looking away, through years of working as a behavioural consultant, that she described as ‘Calming Signals’. Rugaas (2005) explained that the dogs would use these ‘Calming Signals’ when feeling uncomfortable and attempting to prevent aggressive responses from their conspecifics and humans. For the first time scientific research has suppor

The Best Way to Train Cats is With Food

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Using food alone is the quickest way to train cats to touch a target, according to this pilot study. Photo: Esin Deniz (Shutterstock) By Zazie Todd, PhD You can train cats to go up to a target and touch it with their nose. This in itself will be news to many people, but researchers at Massey University have investigated the best way to train cats to do this. It involves food. There’s a lot of interest in training cats at the moment, not necessarily to perform obedience behaviours like sit and stay, but to help them in their daily lives. You can teach your cat to like going in their cat carrier so trips to the vet don’t have to begin with you getting scratched-up arms. And you can use positive reinforcement to help teach your cat where they are allowed to scratch (along with provision of the right scratching post , of course). Erin Willson et al picked the behaviour of touching a red wand target with the nose, and set about training 9 cats to do this. They divided them i