Posts

A Short Petting Session Improves Wellbeing in Shelter Dogs

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For shelter dogs, spending 15 minutes with a volunteer who will pet them when they want is beneficial according to both physiological and behavioural measures.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

Dogs in shelters may be deprived of human company. Can a short petting session help them feel better? A study published earlier this year by Dr. Ragen McGowan et. al. and published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science investigated the effects of petting from a stranger and found positive results.

The scientists set out to answer the question, “Does one 15-min petting session make a positive difference for shelter dogs?”

And the answer was yes.

The report concludes,
“As predicted, positive physiological and behavioral changes were evident in shelter dogs even after only a single 15-min petting session with an unfamiliar volunteer. A complete understanding of the human-animal bond from the dog’s perspective is still in its infancy, however this work contributes to the mounting evidence that humans play an importa…

Do Dogs and Cats Get Along? Ask the Cat!

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Dogs and cats living together get along most of the time, but it’s the cat’s level of comfort with the dog that is the defining factor, according to research.


By Zazie Todd, PhD

With 94.2 million pet cats and 89.7 million pet dogs in the US, it’s inevitable that some dogs and cats live together. While we don’t know how many households have both a dog and a cat, scientists Jessica Thomson, Dr. Sophie Hall and Prof. Daniel Mills (University of Lincoln) recently published a questionnaire study of how well people think their dog and cat get along.

The results show that in general, dogs and cats living in the same house are friendly towards each other – but it’s the experience of the cat that is most important in mediating this relationship.

Early introduction of the cat to the dog (preferably before the cat is 1 year old) helped them to have a good relationship, whereas the age of the dog at first introduction was not important. (This is different to an earlier study that found early age o…

Companion Animal Psychology Book Club October 2018

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"An accessible and richly illustrated introduction to the natural history of dogs―from evolution, anatomy, cognition, and behavior to the relationship between dogs and humans"



By Zazie Todd, PhD

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The Companion Animal Psychology Book Club choice for October 2018 is The Dog: A Natural History by Ádám Miklósi.

From the cover,
"As one of the oldest domesticated species, selectively bred over millennia to possess specific behaviors and physical characteristics, the dog enjoys a unique relationship with humans. More than any other animal, dogs are attuned to human behavior and emotions, and accordingly play a range of roles in society, from police and military work to sensory and emotional support. Selective breeding has led to the development of more than three hundred breeds that, despite vast differences, still belong to a single species, Canis familiarisThe Dog is an accessible, richly illustrated, and comprehensive introduction…

Happy Thanksgiving

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Happy Thanksgiving!



By Zazie Todd, PhD

It is Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada and there is much to be grateful for.

I am thankful for such a wonderful community of people who want to learn more about companion animals. I am thankful to have met so many amazing people as a result of writing this blog. And I am thankful for every one of you who, in your own way, does something to make the world a better place for pets (and people).

Happy Thanksgiving!


The beautiful photo of a tabby cat with pumpkins and walnuts is by Nailia Schwarz/Shutterstock.

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Zazie Todd, PhD, is the author of Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy. She is the founder of the popular blog Companion Animal Psychology, where she writes about everything from training methods to the human-canine relationship. She also writes a column for Psychology Today and has received the prestigious Captain Haggerty Award for Best Training Article in 2017. Todd lives in Maple Ridge, BC, with her …

Fellow Creatures: Another New Post

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I have a new post at my Psychology Today blog, Fellow Creatures, about a pilot study that upturns some conventional wisdom on dogs.

Should you pet your dog before an absence? looks at a study that compared signs of stress when the dog is petted or ignored before an absence. (It's important to note the study is with dogs that do not have any separation-related issues).

By Zazie Todd, PhD


This page contains affiliate links.

Zazie Todd, PhD, is the author of Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy. She is the founder of the popular blog Companion Animal Psychology, where she writes about everything from training methods to the human-canine relationship. She also writes a column for Psychology Today and has received the prestigious Captain Haggerty Award for Best Training Article in 2017. Todd lives in Maple Ridge, BC, with her husband, one dog, and two cats.

Useful links:
Check out what the Animal Book Club is reading this monthGet Companion Animal Psychology merchSupport me on Ko-fiVisi…

Five Fun Things to Do to Make Your Dog Happy Today

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Five enjoyable activities to provide enrichment for your dog (and fun for you).



By Zazie Todd, PhD

Enrichment means giving your dog opportunities to engage in species-specific behaviours and to use their brain and all the senses. Environmental enrichment means making your dog’s living spaces fun and interesting so your dog does not get bored.

There are lots of ways to provide enrichment for your dog. It can involve play with toys, spending time in social activities with people or other dogs, making the environment more interesting, or training activities.

Here are five great ways to provide enrichment for your dog and make your dog happy today.

1. Go on a sniffari We all know that dogs have amazing noses, but did you know scent is more important to dogs than sight?

In fact, as well as their nose, dogs have something called the vomeronasal organ, which detects pheromones (chemical signals). If you see your dog lick something smelly, it could be because this is one way they make molecule…

Fellow Creatures: A New Post

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I have a new post at my Psychology Today blog Fellow Creatures on how we can help overweight dogs.

Typically when dogs are overweight, changes are made to the diet, but perhaps the owner is an important part of the equation too. For overweight dogs, owner behavior matters looks at a review of the literature on interventions designed to change owner behavior. The results show they can be an effective way to improve the body condition of pet dogs.


By Zazie Todd, PhD

This page contains affiliate links.

Zazie Todd, PhD, is the author of Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy. She is the founder of the popular blog Companion Animal Psychology, where she writes about everything from training methods to the human-canine relationship. She also writes a column for Psychology Today and has received the prestigious Captain Haggerty Award for Best Training Article in 2017. Todd lives in Maple Ridge, BC, with her husband, one dog, and two cats.

Useful links:
Check out what the Animal Book Club is re…