Companion Animal Psychology Book Club June 2019

“How did wolves evolve into dogs? Persuasively."--Kirkus Reviews.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

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This month the Companion Animal Psychology Book Club is reading Once a Wolf: The Science Behind our Dogs Astonishing Genetic Evolution by Bryan Sykes.

From the back cover,
"The author of Seven Daughters of Eve returns with a lively account of how all dogs are descended from a mere handful of wolves.  How did wolves evolve into dogs? When did this happen, and what role did humans play? Oxford geneticist Bryan Sykes used the full array of modern technology to explore the canine genetic journey that likely began when a human child decided to adopt a wolf cub thousands of years ago. In the process, he discovered that only a handful of genes have created the huge range of shapes, sizes, and colors in modern dogs. Providing scientific insight into these adaptive stages, Sykes focuses attention on our own species, and how our own evolution from (perhaps equally agg…

How Hungarian Dog Owners Perceive "Dominance" Between Their Dogs

New research investigates how Hungarian dog owners with two or more dogs describe “dominance” in the dogs’ relationship, and which pairings are most likely to involve conflict.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

“Dominance” is a loaded word in dog training. A new scientific paper by Enikő Kubinyi and Lisa Wallis (Family Dog Project, Eötvös Lorand University) begins by noting how contested the term is in ethology and psychology, before reporting on an investigation into the factors that influence Hungarian dog owners’ use of the term to describe the relationship between two of their dogs.

They say the results show the Hungarian public’s use is broadly in line with that of ethologists. They also found that when two dogs in the same household are male and female, a spayed female dog is more likely to be considered dominant and to behave in ways that might cause conflict between the two dogs.

Dominance means different things in different circumstances, and it’s important to note this study is not about dog…

Invitation to the 2019 Train for Rewards Blog Party

Join the pet blogging community in supporting reward-based training of dogs, cats, and other companion animals. #Train4Rewards

By Zazie Todd, PhD

Are you a blogger? Do you support reward-based training for dogs and other animals? Would you like to take part in the fourth annual #Train4Rewards blog party?

You are invited to write a blog post about reward-based training of dogs or other companion animals, post it on your own blog on the set date, then come and share a link to it here. Bloggers from anywhere in the world are invited to take part.

In the past, posts have covered the training of dogs, cats and horses. Posts on the training of rats, mice, ferrets, rabbits, and fish are all welcome too.

Read on to find out more.

On Friday 14th or Saturday 15th June: 1. Publish a post on your blog in support of the #Train4Rewards blog party. It can be words, photos, video, a podcast, or a combination, and relate to any kind of companion animal.  I’ve put some suggestions below to get you start…

Companion Animal Psychology News May 2019

Insect-detecting dogs, the challenges of science with cats, and spider's brains...

By Zazie Todd, PhD
Some of my favourites this month “Three very good dogs – named Bayar, Judd and Sasha – have sniffed out the endangered Alpine Stonefly, one of the smallest animals a dog has been trained to successfully detect in its natural habitat.” Sit! Seek! Fly! Scientists train dogs to sniff out endangered insects by Dr. Julia Mynott.

“The cats performed as well as the dogs. But, foreshadowing a headache that would plague the field of feline social cognition, several cats "dropped out" of the study, according to the research paper. Some stopped paying attention. Others simply walked away from the testing site.” Cats rival dogs on many tests of social smarts. But is anyone brave enough to study them? This post by David Grimm is a must-read.

“Many trainers advise against these types of collars altogether, in part because the risk of injury to dogs is significant.” Should dogs be shock…

Three Important Ways to Give Your Pet Choices

Do you do these three things for your pet?

By Zazie Todd, PhD

I just went to brush my tabby cat, Harley, at the usual time of day. He was up in his cat tree and, unusually, did not come down. No matter; I can try again later as he loves to be brushed. Surprisingly, my tortoiseshell cat Melina came running to be brushed. She stood to be brushed, then laid down on her side, all the while purring away. Then when she'd had enough, she hopped up and walked off.

It made me think of my post about the importance of choices for pets, the right to walk away. That post has been enduringly popular and so I decided to revisit the topic of choices for dogs and cats. Choice, control, and routine, are important ways to look after our pet’s welfare and help them feel safe.

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I'm not the only one who thinks choices are important. In 2017, when I asked experts how to make the world better for dogs, Mia Cobb picked up on the issue of choices. She said we should,

Fellow Creatures: Two Recent Posts

I have two recent posts at my Psychology Today blog Fellow Creatures.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

The first post looks at links between a cat owner's personality and their cat's health and behaviour. In particular, when owners have a neurotic personality, this is associated with negative outcomes for their cat. Read more in cat owners,  personality, and pet parenting style.

The second post looks at a recent study of the relationship between military veterans with PTSD and their psychiatric service dog. The results show just close the human-animal bond is, even for veterans with severe symptoms. At the same time, the bond is closer in those who use more positive reinforcement to train their dog. Training methods affect the service dog--veteran relationship.

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. …

Interview with Cat Warren

Cat Warren on working with her cadaver dog, Solo, and her bestselling book, What the Dog Knows.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

Cat Warren’s New York Times bestseller, What the Dog Knows: Scent, Science, and the Amazing Ways Dogs Perceive the World, was the Companion Animal Psychology Book Club choice for April. I interviewed Warren about her wonderful book, training scent detection dogs, and caring for working dogs’ welfare.

The Young Readers Edition of What the Dog Knows will be published in October.

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Zazie: What inspired you to write this book?

Cat: You know, this goes back a little because the book first came out in 2013. I really conceived of it in 2009 and it was quite literally, Solo and I had done a very hard search that day and it had taken all day and I was just exhausted. And he had worked long and hard and honestly. My legs were covered with seed ticks, and I was on the couch with my husband and I looked at David and said, “You know what, I think I want t…