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Companion Animal Psychology News March 2019

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Animal cruelty investigations, cat music, dog parks, and interviews with dogs...the latest Companion Animal Psychology news.




By Zazie Todd, PhD Favourites from around the web this month:
If you’ve ever tried to get a wriggly puppy into a harness, this post is for you. Gearing up: How to harness your dog or puppy by Joan Grassbaugh Forry CTC.

“The one symptom I cannot ignore, however, is my dog’s tiny head, resting on my leg during a portion of the day when she’s usually ignoring me.” How your dog knows when you’re sick, by Amanda Mull.

"When you’re training a dog using a good plan and good treats, the dog is so keen to work it feels almost criminal." Kristi Benson CTC ponders the question, is training your dog unnatural?

“I have been leading a team studying animal cruelty investigation work and workers for the last few years. It is difficult research, to put it mildly.” Preventing animal cruelty is physically and emotionally risky for front-line animal workers by Dr. Kendra C…

Dogs' Personality Traits Vary With Age (and Dogs Tend to Be Like Their Owners)

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Dogs are most trainable during middle age, and there are some fascinating links between the personality of dogs and their owners, research shows.



By Zazie Todd, PhD

Do you ever think much about the different personalities of dogs? New research looks at the personality profiles of dogs (and their owners) and finds that dog personality seems to change with age.

As well, the owner’s personality is linked to the dog’s personality. The study, by Dr. William Chopik and Dr. Jonathan Weaver (both Michigan State University) is published in Journal of Research and Personality.

The results show that some personality traits are more pronounced in dogs in middle age (6-8 years).

This was the case for responsiveness to training, which peaked at age 7.44. Younger dogs were rated as less responsive to training, and older dogs were not much different from middle-aged ones. As well, dogs scored higher on this trait if they were trained by their owners.


Aggression towards people was lower in young dogs, …

The 2019 BC SPCA Animal Behaviour Science Symposium

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The BC SPCA Animal Behaviour Science Symposium takes place 7-10 June 2019.



By Zazie Todd, PhD

The keynote speaker is Jean Donaldson of The Academy for Dog Trainers.

Other speakers include Dr. Chris Pachel, Debbie Martin, Dr. Claudia Richter, Kim Monteith, Dr. Karen van Haaften, Sarah Pennington, Renée Erdman, Lisbeth Plant, and myself.

As well, there is a learning lab on humane handling and cooperative veterinary care.

Full details are available on the Animal Behaviour Science Symposium website.

Maybe I'll see you there?

Overweight Dogs Don't Live as Long, and Scientists Have Calculated How Much Less

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Research on 12 popular dog breeds finds the average difference in life span between normal weight and overweight or obese dogs, and it makes for worrying reading.


By Zazie Todd, PhD

We know that being overweight or obese is bad for pet dogs, but just how bad is it?

For the first time, scientists have worked out the difference in average life span for normal weight and overweight pet dogs of 12 breeds. The study by Carina Salt (WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition) et al. is published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.

The scientists looked at some of the most popular breeds of all sizes, from Chihuahuas and Pomeranians to Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds.


The study only looked at dogs that have been spayed or neutered.

Co-author Prof. Alex German (University of Liverpool) told Science  Daily,
"Owners are often unaware that their dog is overweight, and many may not realise the impact that it can have on health. What they may not know is that, if their beloved pet i…

Companion Animal Psychology Book Club March 2019

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"To live in harmony with our cats... we first need to understand their inherited quirks."



By Zazie Todd, PhD

This month, the Companion Animal Psychology Book Club has chosen Cat Sense: How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet by John Bradshaw.

From the back cover,

"In Cat Sense, renowned anthrozoologist John Bradshaw takes us further into the mind of the domestic cat than ever before, using cutting-edge scientific research to dispel lingering myths and explain the true nature of our feline friends. Tracing the cat's evolution from lone predator to domesticated companion, Bradshaw shows that although cats and humans have lived together for eight thousand years, cats remain independent, predatory, and wary of contact with their own kind, qualities that often clash with our modern lifestyles. To live in harmony with our cats, Bradshaw explains, we first need to understand their inherited quirks including understanding their body language, and …

Into the Middle of Things: Dog Training Lessons from the Best Fiction

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Why dog trainers are like stalwart detectives, and how it all begins mid-scene.

Guest post by Kristi Benson CTC


A while ago, a client got in touch asking for help with the family dog. The dog was a young and lovely Golden retriever, smart as a whip and sweet as pie. The problem? He was barking. A lot. As I packed up my bag of tricks, I grabbed a few different hand-outs to make sure I had all the usual suspects covered: boredom barking? Check. Fearful barking? Check. Guarding, alarm, attention, and play? Check, check, check. My bait bag and some treats followed the hand-outs into my bag and I was off to the races.

When a story  begins in the middle of some action, it’s called “in medias res”, which is a Latin term meaning "into the middle of things". Have you ever read a thriller that opens with the characters sitting around a table in a tense meeting of political hotshots? Or a murder mystery starting with a car chase, sirens whooping? The story starts part way in, and we, as…

Cats Trained to Use Their Carriers Find Vet Visits Less Stressful

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Training cats to go in their carrier and for a short car ride leads to less stressful visits to the vet, study shows.


By Zazie Todd, PhD

When it’s time for cats to go to the vet, many owners struggle. It can be almost impossible to get the cat in the carrier (or even locate them if they flee at the sight of it). And this stress is a bad start to a vet visit that will likely be stressful in itself.

But research by Dr. Lydia Pratsch and colleagues at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna shows there is something that can be done: Train the cat to use their carrier.

In a blinded, randomized controlled trial, 11 cats were trained to use the cat carrier, while 11 cats were in a control group that was not trained. All 22 cats had a mock visit to the vet. The results showed cat carrier training reduces stress.

The scientists write,
“Training proved to be effective in reducing stress during the car ride and led to a shorter veterinary examination. Owners should be encouraged and inst…