Companion Animal Psychology News October 2019

Ways to volunteer at an animal shelter, the importance of play for cats, some beautiful budgies, and more…

By Zazie Todd, PhD

My favourites this month “Studying great ape gestures has the potential to provide insight into the evolution of human language, but it is also fascinating in its own right, figuring out how another species communicates and what is meaningful to them.“ Reading the signs by Kirsty E Graham.

“A successful volunteer is someone who loves animals and appreciates the fact that no matter what they do, how small their role might seem, it has a huge impact on the pets here at the shelter,” Reading to cats, walking dogs: 5 ways to help at a shelter by Michelle A Monroe.

“We thought we would find that there has been an increase in people’s emotional investment in pets in recent times, but what we’ve actually found is that people in the early 19th century were also very emotionally invested in their animals.” A fascinating article on how the Victorians turned mere beasts in…

Training Classes and Dogs’ Fear of Loud Noises

Attendance at dog training classes is associated with reduced levels of canine anxiety in response to storms and fireworks, study shows.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

Sensitivity to loud noises such as thunder, fireworks, and gunshots is a problem that affects up to 49% of pet dogs (Blackwell et al 2013). The signs of fear in response to a loud noise can include trembling and shaking, barking, hiding, and seeking out people. A new study from Japan finds that having attended dog training school is associated with fewer anxious behaviours in adult dogs in response to storms and fireworks.

The research by Takuma Kurachi (Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology) and Mami Irimajiri (Hill’s Pet Nutrition Japan) is published in the Journal of Veterinary Behaviour. 307 dog owners attending parks or dog parks in Tokyo and Kanagawa completed a questionnaire about their dog’s anxious behaviours and their earlier attendance at puppy class and/or dog training class.

The results showed that 30.9% of dog…

Happy Thanksgiving

Monday is Thanksgiving in Canada.

I am thankful to have so many readers like you who are dedicated to good welfare for dogs and cats, and to helping people with their pets. I am grateful for your readership and all the messages of support and encouragement throughout the year, as well as the interesting questions and articles you send my way.
This year I am especially thankful to the veterinarians and vet techs for their dedication and care, and in particular to those who have helped my dog Bodger over the last few weeks. (He is grateful for this too).
Wishing you a joyous day full of great company, good health, and peace. Happy Thanksgiving!


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 Be…

Small Dogs Are Less Likely to be House Trained than Big Dogs

But small dogs are more likely to be fully house trained if they have attended training, study shows.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

It has often been suggested that small dogs are more likely to have accidents in the house than large dogs. New research in press in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior finds that small dogs are significantly more likely than big dogs to have house-training mistakes. The research was conducted by Dr. Amy Learn (resident in Clinical Behavioral Medicine at Florida Veterinary Behavior Service) with veterinary behaviourists Dr. Lisa Radosta and Dr. Amy Pike.

It’s an important topic because when dogs have house training issues, their owners may surrender them to an animal shelter, or resort to punishment (which is associated with risks such as fear and anxiety).

The study looked at differences between small dogs (up to 9kg) and big dogs (18kg or more). Dogs in the 9-18kig range were excluded from the analysis as there was some overlap with breeds in other categories.

67% o…

Companion Animal Psychology Book Club October 2019

“Lively and fascinating... The reader comes away cheered, better informed, and with a new and deeper appreciation for our amazing canine companions and their enormous capacity for love.”—Cat Warren.

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The Animal Book Club's choice for October 2019 is Dog Is Love: Why and How Your Dog Loves You by Clive Wynne.

From the book's description,

"Does your dog love you? Every dog lover knows the feeling. The nuzzle of a dog’s nose, the warmth of them lying at our feet, even their whining when they want to get up on the bed. It really seems like our dogs love us, too. But for years, scientists have resisted that conclusion, warning against anthropomorphizing our pets. Enter Clive Wynne, a pioneering canine behaviorist whose research is helping to usher in a new era: one in which love, not intelligence or submissiveness, is at the heart of the human-canine relationship. Drawing on cutting‑edge studies from his lab and others around the world, Wynne …

Making a Living in The World: Anthropology, the Evolution of Behaviour, and Training Dogs

An anthropologist learns from Dinjii Zhuh Elders in the Northwest Territories about the economics of animal behaviour, and why this matters to dogs.

By Kristi Benson CTCSpecial Correspondent

As an anthropologist, I have been given the gift of working with the Dinjii Zhuh (Gwich’in peoples) in Aklavik, Fort McPherson, Inuvik, and Tsiigehtchic for about fifteen years. These four communities form a ring around the vast Ehdiitat (or Mackenzie Delta as it is more recently known), before the Mackenzie enters Inuit lands and empties into the Beaufort Sea and the Arctic Ocean. The Gwich’in were signatories to Treaty 11 in 1921, and negotiated the Gwich’in Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement in the 1980s and 1990s. It was signed in 1992. Gwich’in lands cross a beautiful stretch of subarctic in what is now known as the Northwest Territories and Yukon. There are mountains to the west and south, and in the east, the boreal forests and taiga stretch to the horizon. The formidable Nagwichoonjik or Ma…

Neutering and “Hygge” Treats: Risk Factors for Obesity in Dogs

New research shows that overweight and obesity in dogs is a One Health issue, and neutering male dogs is a risk factor

By Zazie Todd, PhD

When dogs are overweight or obese, it can affect their health and even shorten their lifespan significantly. So understanding the causes is important. New research from Denmark on the risk factors for dogs being heavy or obese raises questions about the role of the owner and the effects of spay/neuter surgery.

The study, published in Preventive Veterinary Medicine, finds that neutering increases the risk of being heavy or obese in male dogs, but not in female dogs because they are already at higher risk. The results also suggest we need to think of overweight and obesity in dogs as a One Health issue, because the health of people and their pets is interconnected.

Dr. Charlotte Reinhard Bjørnvad, first author of the study, told me in an email,
“The finding that neutering triples the risk of developing obesity specifically in male dogs is important. It…