Making Vet Visits Less Stressful is Essential, and Here's What We Can Do to Help Dogs

Why we should monitor dogs for signs of stress at the vet, and the steps dog owners and veterinary professionals can take to help, according to a new review of the literature.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

Many people know their dog is afraid of going to the vet. It’s not surprising because a vet visit is very different from the dog’s usual daily experiences, and yet it’s essential for them to get good veterinary care. A new literature review by Petra Edwards (University of Adelaide) et al examines the scientific literature to find out what helps dogs at the vet, and what we still need to know.

Making vet visits less stressful has several benefits, including increasing the likelihood of people actually taking their dog to the vet, making it easier for the vet to make the right diagnosis, and reducing the risk of the vet staff or owner being bitten. In addition, stress is bad for dogs’ physical health, just as it is for people.

Petra Edwards, PhD Candidate and first author of the paper, told me in…

Reasons to Be Positive About Being Positive in Dog Training

Why debunking out-dated ideas can backfire, the importance of spreading quality information, and the best ways to counteract the misleading duds.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

Many dog trainers who rely on using reward-based methods feel passionately about the importance of using humane methods that don’t cause dogs to experience fear or pain. Thus, they feel it strongly when people use or share articles about methods that involve shock collars, dominance, pack ‘theory’, or any form of positive punishment, because they know aversive methods have risks for dogs

What are the best ways to counteract this kind of misleading information?

This is a question that preoccupies me (and many of you, I know) because it is such an important one for animal welfare. I’ve written before about the many factors that influence people’s choice of dog training methods (Todd, 2018) and in this post I want to look at some of those factors in more detail.

The importance of social norms in dog training A social psycho…

Companion Animal Psychology Book Club April 2019

"A firsthand exploration of the fascinating world of “working dogs”—who seek out missing persons, sniff for explosives in war zones, and locate long-dead remains..."

By Zazie Todd, PhD

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The Companion Animal Psychology Book Club choice for this month is What the Dog Knows: Scent, Science, and the Amazing Ways Dogs Perceive the World by Cat Warren.
From the back cover, "Cat Warren is a university professor and former journalist with an admittedly odd hobby: She and her German shepherd have spent the last seven years searching for the dead. Solo is a cadaver dog. What started as a way to harness Solo’s unruly energy and enthusiasm soon became a calling that introduced Warren to the hidden and fascinating universe of working dogs, their handlers, and their trainers.  Solo has a fine nose and knows how to use it, but he’s only one of many thousands of working dogs all over the United States and beyond. In What the Dog Knows, Warren uses her…

Which Dog Lives the Longest? Smaller Dogs Have Longer Lives

Being mixed breed versus purebred, spay/neuter status, and regular dental cleanings at the vet, are also linked to lifespan.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

A study of over 2 million dogs attending veterinary clinics in the US answers some recurring questions about lifespan and dogs. The research, by Dr. Silvan Urfer (University of Washington) et al., analysed data from over 169,000 dogs in this cohort that died or were euthanized within a three-year period.

In all size groups (small, medium, large, and giant), mixed breed dogs live longer than purebred dogs, although the difference is not that large. The study found that, on average, a mixed-breed dog lives for 14.45 years compared to 14.14 years for a purebred dog.

For purebred dogs there was some variability in lifespan according to the breed. For example, amongst the breeds the scientists classified as giant, Great Pyrenees live longer (11.55 years) than Great Danes (9.63 years), with the mastiff, St. Bernard, and cane corso in between.

Small d…

Companion Animal Psychology Turns Seven

Celebrating seven years of blogging about science and pets here at Companion Animal Psychology.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

Today is exactly seven years since I started Companion Animal Psychology with the aim of finding out what science tells us about how to have happy dogs and cats.

In this time, I’ve been writing evidence-based articles about how best to care for our cats and dogs, and about new scientific research papers that are relevant to the everyday lives of people and their pets.

It’s wonderful to see how much the general public wants to know about science and our pets.

Over the years I’ve been honoured to speak to many scientists, veterinarians, dogs trainers, and others about their work with animals. As well, I’ve been lucky to publish some wonderful guest posts.

One thing that keeps me cheerful is to see just how many amazing people are working so hard to make the world a better place for both pets and their people.

This is my 445th post. In the last year, my most popular post was 

Which Dog Breeds Are the Best Alternatives to the French Bulldog?

If you love Frenchies but the health issues give you pause, these are the dogs like  French bulldogs that you might like too.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

In 2018, French bulldogs became the most popular breed of dog in the UK, overtaking the Labrador retriever, which had the number 1 spot for almost thirty years. French bulldogs are also in the top ten dog breeds in the US (no. 4), Canada (no. 5),  and Australia (no. 3).

French bulldogs are lovely dogs but unfortunately they can suffer from a number of inherited conditions, which can be distressing for the dog and heart-breaking for the owner.  Because they have a squashed face, they are at risk of Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome, can have trouble breathing, be reluctant to exercise, and may overheat in hot weather.

Veterinarian Shaun Oppermann recently told The Guardian,
"We tend to say: ‘Oh, it’s a French bulldog – it’s normal for them to breathe like that. But if your child sounded like that after a walk in the park, you’d ha…