If Your Dog is Afraid, Avoid These Two Mistakes

Pay attention to emotions and timing when training a fearful dog.

By Zazie Todd, PhD
When working with fearful dogs, an effective and commonly-used technique is desensitization and counter-conditioning. It’s a very powerful technique, but there are some technical aspects that you need to get right in order for it to work. This post looks at two common mistakes that people make, and how you can fix them. The process is about emotions, not behaviourIn a lot of dog training, our aim is to change the dog’s behaviour, typically by using positive reinforcement to make the behaviours we like happen more often. This is not the case in desensitization and counter-conditioning. Here, the aim is to change the dog’s emotions so that they become okay with and even like the thing they were previously scared of.Suppose you have a dog that is afraid of people they don’t know. One thing that might make a nice outcome is if your dog saw a stranger and previously they would have been afraid, but they now l…

The Writer's Pet: Grant Hayter-Menzies and Woo

Grant Hayter-Menzies on his dog, Freddie, and his biography Woo, The Monkey Who Inspired Emily Carr.

No. 2 in the series The Writer's Pet by Zazie Todd, PhD

In Woo, the Monkey Who Inspired Emily Carr: A Biography, Grant Hayter-Menzies tells the story of legendary Canadian painter Emily Carr and her pet monkey Woo from a contemporary perspective. The book is described by Anny Scoones as, "Truthful and tender, a meticulously researched and fine reflection on the connection between art and animals."Hayter-Menzies told me about the book, his dog Freddie, and how his pet influences his writing.This page contains affiliate links.
What is your pet’s name?Freddie came to us from the BCSPCA, a rescue from a B.C. interior puppy mill, with the name Frederick. But we’ve always called him Freddie.  (He has cute nicknames that he’d be embarrassed to have made public!)Type of pet?Freddie is a purebred Pomeranian; for his size (17 lbs), that makes him a Spitz, the type of Pom favoured b…

Dog Dementia: What is Canine Cognitive Dysfunction?

Cognitive dysfunction can affect senior and geriatric dogs. These are the signs to look for. 

Guest post by Dr. Gurpal Chahal
Cognitive dysfunction is a progressive degenerative process associated with a pet’s brain aging. It is similar to Alzheimer’s disease in humans. It can have a major effect on the dog's behavior, mood, and routine activities. The pet owner may see changes in their pet’s alertness, responsiveness to stimuli, altered learning capability, and a decrease in the pet’s memory. What causes cognitive dysfunction in dogs?The exact cause of this degenerative disorder is not known. Chronic illness or stress may increase a dog’s chances of suffering from cognitive dysfunction, but some or all of the following factors may contribute toward this dysfunction and affect the normal functioning of the dog’s brain.A decrease in neurons with ageThe deposition of toxic free radicals with chronic illness or stressA decrease in blood flow to the brain with ageA decline in transmissio…

Companion Animal Psychology News September 2020

Dog poop, how many mice cats prefer, and the things we’re afraid of in this month’s Companion Animal Psychology News. 

By Zazie Todd, PhD
My favourites this month
“I realized that there are many lessons from my studies of antipredator behavior that have implications for how we humans make decisions.” Dr. Marc Bekoff interviews Dr. Daniel Blumstein in The nature of fear: why we’re all afraid of something.   “In an off-the-cuff remark to the audience, he casually mentioned a study of wolves and dogs in the mountains of Ethiopia. The dogs, it seems, but not the wolves, regularly consumed human feces. The idea spun my head around.” Did eating human poop play a role in dogs’ evolution by Dr. Hal Herzog. “In most places, remaining natural habitats are squeezed between intensive agriculture and urban sprawl.” "’Extinction: The Facts’: Attenborough’s new documentary is surprisingly radical by Julia P.G. Jones.  “These myths echo and reinforce negative beliefs we already have about poor pe…

Fellow Creatures: Animals Aren't It

I have a new post over at my Psychology Today blog, Fellow Creatures.
By Zazie Todd, PhD
The piece looks at the pronouns we use for animals and how our relationship with those animals affects the choices we make. Some style guides require writers to use it to refer to animals, but increasingly pet owners feel that animals aren't it. The piece also includes quotes from David Grimm, Alexandra Horowitz, and Aislinn Hunter. Check it out here: Animals Aren't It: Pets, Pronouns, and Choices.
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 Best Training Article in 2017. Todd lives in Maple Ridge, BC, with her husband and two cats.

Useful links:
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The Writer's Pet: Aislinn Hunter and The Certainties

Award-winning Canadian writer Aislinn Hunter on her gorgeous dogs and her latest book, The Certainties.
The first in a new series of The Writer's Pet, by Zazie Todd PhD.

Aislinn Hunter's latest book, The Certainties, is a bestseller that is described as "a wonderful mystery, a masterful piece of storytelling that will grip you the first time you read it, and a work of careful art that will reward you when you read it again" (Jon McGregor). 

For this first post in the series, Hunter told me about her book - and, of course, her pets.

I loved The Certainties and will be giving a copy away on Twitter to celebrate the launch of The Writer's Pet. Be sure to follow me on Twitter and enter for a chance to win. I'll draw the winner on 22nd September (now closed).
This page contains affiliate links. What are your pets’ names?Cooper, Juniper, and Clara. Type of pet?Border collie, Border collie, English setter.What do you love most about your pets? Their depth, complexity and…

Introducing The Writer’s Pet

A new series about writers and their companion animals coming soon to Companion Animal Psychology.

By Zazie Todd, PhD

Charles Dickens had his pet raven, Grip; Ernest Hemingway had many polydactyl cats; Virginia Woolf had a cocker spaniel called Pinka; and Alice Walker keeps pet chickens. Authors love their pets, but how do they influence their writing? The Writer’s Pet explores the world of contemporary writers and their companion animals. My own pets have been a tremendous influence on my writing. I started this blog, and ultimately wrote my book, Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy, because I was inspired by my own pets. I wanted to learn more about them, and to share information about animal behaviour and good animal welfare with cat and dog guardians. Even if writing means I am alone in my thoughts, I am not alone when I write. In Wag, I write of my dog Bodger watching me write whilst waiting for me to stop, because of what would happen next:“Bodger has a good internal clock. …