Dogs Don’t Have to be Afraid of Fireworks

Preventive exercises and training are good for dogs’ fear of fireworks, study shows.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

Up to half of dogs are afraid of fireworks, but a survey of 1225 dog owners shows there is hope, both in terms of preventing such fears in the first place and helping dogs who are already afflicted. The research, by Dr. Stefanie Riemer (HundeUniBern) is published in PLoS One, and has important implications for dog owners and dog trainers.

Dr. Riemer told me in an email,
“From this study, perhaps the most important takeaway for dog owners is not to wait for problems to appear but to be proactive. Teaching dogs to associate loud noises with something positive appears to be highly effective in preventing a later development of firework fears. This is especially true for puppies, but it also has beneficial effects in adult dogs.  And maybe the other point is, if you have a dog affected by noise fears, I highly recommend to seek professional help to find the best strategy to help them to …

An Interview with Alexandra Horowitz about Our Dogs, Ourselves

“A fuller understanding of the needs of dogs is integral to good living with dogs,” says Alexandra Horowitz.

An interview with New York Times best-selling author, Dr. Alexandra Horowitz, about her wonderful new book, Our Dogs, Ourselves: The Story of a Singular Bond, the importance of dogs' sense of smell, the dignity of dogs, and what happens at the dog cognition lab. Our Dogs Ourselves was the animal book club’s choice for September 2019.

Our Dogs, Ourselves and other great animal books are available in my Amazon store: page contains affiliate links.

Zazie: You’re already written some wonderful books about dogs, including the New York Times bestseller Inside of a Dog. What made you decide to look at the relationship between people and their dogs for this book?

Alexandra: For myself, it was that, even though I’m studying exclusively dogs, I study owned dogs, dogs that live with a person. They come to my lab with people. They’re in my …

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.

This page contains affiliate links.

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 …