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Summer Reading

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Books about animals and some fiction too – the books on my to-read list this summer.


By Zazie Todd, PhD

It’s a tradition here at Companion Animal Psychology to publish a summer reading list. Typically the list includes links to some favourite articles by other bloggers, as with last year’s list concentrating on sound advice on dogs and cats or 2015’s play edition.

But now each month’s newsletter highlights favourite posts (see August's newsletter here), I decided to do things differently this summer. I’ll be taking a bit of time off, and I thought I would share with you some of the books on my book pile waiting to be read.

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Books from the book club
Not surprisingly, the Companion Animal Psychology Book Club choices make up a significant proportion of my reading list.

This month, the book club is reading Marc Bekoff’s Canine Confidential: Why Dogs Do What They Do. You may remember that I interviewed Bekoff about the book back in April. As this is th…

Companion Animal Psychology News August 2018

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A cat's purr, heart dogs, and the 'real' age of pets - don't miss out with Companion Animal Psychology News.


By Zazie Todd, PhD
Some of my favourites from around the web this month
Are dogs really our best friends?Marc Bekoff on the consequences of misrepresentations of dogs.

“Heart dog. Say those two words to any dog lover and their eyes will go soft.” Debby McMullen on what the phrase ‘heart dog’ means to her at Victoria Stilwell’s site.

Small dogs aim high when they pee. Julie Hecht on a fascinating new study of peeing dogs and the possible explanations.

“Determining a pet's "real" age is actually important because it helps veterinarians like me recommend life-stage specific healthcare for our animal patients.” Do you ever wonder how old your pet is in dog or cat years? Veterinarian Jesse Grady explains.

“Our cats may purr when we pet and tickle them, but it’s a much more complicated form of communication than we've assumed.” The complicated truth abo…

Eight Tips to Help Fearful Dogs Feel Safe

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The most important things to know if you have a fearful dog.


By Zazie Todd, PhD
1. Recognize that the dog is fearful
The first step is, of course, to recognize the dog is fearful in the first place.

If you know that already, well done for recognizing the signs. Hopefully you will find the following tips helpful.

If you aren’t sure, you might like to read how can I tell if my dog is afraid? If the answer is yes, come back here for some tips.



2. Help the dog feel safe
Your first priority with a fearful dog is to help him or her feel safe.

That can look different depending on what the issue is. Maybe the dog needs a space of their own (like a crate or bed) where they can choose to go if they don’t want to be around any children or strangers in the house.

Maybe it means telling other people they can’t pet your dog, because your dog wouldn’t like it.

Maybe it means walking your dog at certain times of day when you’re not likely to come across whatever it is the dog is afraid of (other dogs,…

Interview with Jane Sigsworth

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Jane Sigsworth on the things people find hard when they have a fearful dog, and the beauty of a safe space for dogs to be off-leash.



By Zazie Todd, PhD

Recently I wrote about desensitization and counter-conditioning in dog training, an important technique to help fearful dogs. As a talented dog trainer who helps clients with fearful and aggressive dogs, Jane Sigsworth uses this technique often. I spoke to her to learn about some of her case studies – and the holiday cottage where reactive dogs can roam free.



Zazie: How did you get into dog training?

Jane: A long time ago I had a dog who, looking back, didn’t really have many issues, but I felt he did at the time. He was a big barker and I was concerned about what my neighbours would think about him. So I started to look for information about how to deal with it and went on what can only be said was a very circuitous route initially. I did courses and workshops that didn’t contain good information. At the time I didn’t know anything so …

Companion Animal Psychology Book Club August 2018

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"It not only brilliantly opens up the world of dog behavior, but also helps us understand how we can make our dogs’ lives the best they can possibly be."



By Zazie Todd, PhD

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The Companion Animal Psychology Book Club has chosen Canine Confidential: Why Dogs Do What They Do by Marc Bekoff as the book for  August.
From the cover, "For all the love and attention we give dogs,  much of what they do remains mysterious. Just think about different behaviors you see at a dog park: We have a good understanding of what it means when dogs wag their tails—but what about when they sniff and roll on a stinky spot? Why do they play tug-of-war with one dog, while showing their bellies to another? Why are some dogs shy, while others are bold? What goes on in dogs’ heads and hearts—and how much can we know and understand?

Canine Confidential has the answers. Written by award-winning scientist—and lifelong dog lover—Marc Bekoff, it not only brilliantly op…

The Danger Hidden in Plain Sight in Photos of Dogs and Children

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Three lessons we need to learn to keep children and dogs safe.


By Zazie Todd, PhD

I don't know about you, but some of the photos of dogs and children I see on social media make me feel uncomfortable, even while others find them cute. The reason is we misjudge the risks of dog bites, and young children – often with their faces at the same height as the dog’s mouth – are at the greatest risk of dog bites (Davis et al 2012).

I’m not talking about staged photos, where we can assume the photographer and parent are both present and keeping a close eye. I’m thinking of the everyday photos people take at home.  We don’t know if there is anyone else in the room ready to intervene, whether the interactions pictured are common events, or even, in some cases, why someone hasn’t already stepped in.

But the advantage of a static photo is it gives us time to think about what’s going on. Here are three things to bear in mind when supervising young children with dogs.


1. Don’t assume a familiar dog…

How Can I Tell if My Dog is Afraid?

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A guide to spotting fearful body language in dogs, and a chance to test out your skills.


By Zazie Todd, PhD

You have to learn to read dog body language if you want to know when or if your dog is afraid.  This is a guide to spotting the signs.

Many people find it hard to tell when their dog is afraid and may even think their dog is okay when that’s not the case. This is very common but it can mean people are risking being bitten without knowing. And we can look after our dogs better if we know how to read canine body language.

This guide will help you recognize when your dog is showing signs of fear, anxiety, and stress. After reading it, take the quiz with photos of dogs in Holiday costumes. Can you tell which dogs are happy to wear Holiday costumes, and which are not?


Dog Body Language: Signs of Fear, Anxiety and Stress
There are many signs of fear, anxiety and stress in dogs. Things to look for include a tucked tail, ears back, licking the lips or nose, whale eye (wide eyes showing t…