Companion Animal Psychology Blog

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109 posts · 73,565 views

This blog takes a scientific approach to understanding the behaviour of companion animals, especially dogs and cats. Topics include dog training, animal cognition, environmental enrichment for indoor cats, the development of kittens and puppies, the effects of the recession on pets, and how dogs can motivate people to exercise. Follow this blog to keep up-to-date on the research on companion animals and their relationship with people.

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  • October 29, 2014
  • 08:30 AM
  • 55 views

How Does a Dog's Brain Respond to the Smell of a Familiar Human?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

And what does it tell us about the importance of people to their dogs?Photo: hitmanphoto / ShutterstockNew fMRI research by Gregory Berns et al (in press) shows that dog’s brains respond differently to the smell of a familiar human compared to an unfamiliar human and other canines – suggesting that certain people are special to their dogs.The research focussed on a part of the brain called the caudate, which has been much investigated in humans, monkeys and rats. The scientists explain that ........ Read more »

  • October 22, 2014
  • 11:21 AM
  • 102 views

Are All Labrador Retrievers the Same?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Or do show dogs and field dogs vary in temperament?Photo: c.byatt-norman / ShutterstockIt’s often said there are personality differences between Labrador Retrievers bred to show (conformation dogs) and those bred to work (field dogs). And chocolate labs have a reputation for being different than black and yellow labs. Is it true? New research by Sarah Lofgren et al (Royal (Dick) Veterinary School, University of Edinburgh) investigates.Although many Labrador Retrievers are family pets, some&nbs........ Read more »

Lofgren, S., Wiener, P., Blott, S., Sanchez-Molano, E., Woolliams, J., Clements, D., & Haskell, M. (2014) Management and personality in Labrador Retriever dogs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 44-53. DOI: 10.1016/j.applanim.2014.04.006  

  • October 15, 2014
  • 01:52 PM
  • 92 views

My Dog Comes First: The Importance of Pets to Homeless Youth

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Dogs and cats have both advantages and disadvantages for street-involved youth.Photo: everst / ShutterstockResearch by Michelle Lem et al (University of Guelph) asks homeless young people (aged 18-24) what their pet means to them. Previous studies have focussed on the benefits to homeless people of owning a dog or cat. The aim of this study was to get a balanced picture of both the advantages and disadvantages. Ten homeless young people took part in in-depth interviews about their pet. 8 of........ Read more »

Lem, M., Coe, J.B., Haley, D.B., Stone, E., & O'Grady, W. (2013) Effects of companion animal ownership among Canadian street-involved youth: A qualitative analysis. Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, XL(4), 285-304. info:/

  • October 8, 2014
  • 11:45 AM
  • 112 views

The Surprising History of Veterinary Medicine for Dogs and Cats

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

And the ‘dangerous’ woman who played a vital role.Photo: Bildagentur Zoonar GmbHWe are used to the idea that veterinarians treat dogs, cats, rabbits and other small animals, but it wasn’t always so. Before the automobile, the main role for vets was in the treatment of horses. As the number of horses declined, two British government reports (in 1938 and 1944) suggested vets should specialize in the treatment of farm animals. The change to small animals is often explained as due to incr........ Read more »

  • October 1, 2014
  • 02:17 PM
  • 117 views

What Encourages People to Walk Their Dog?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

And is dog-walking a good way to persuade people to take more exercise?Photo: Monkey Business Images / ShutterstockWe know that most people do not get the 150 minutes of exercise per week that is recommended. Could encouraging people to walk their dogs more often help, and if so, how best to go about it? A new paper by Carri Westgarth et al (2014) of the University of Liverpool reviews the state of current research.Although to some dog owners a daily walk is an essential part of the routine, the........ Read more »

  • September 24, 2014
  • 08:30 AM
  • 146 views

What Influences Whether Owners Pick Up After Their Dog?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

What’s the scoop on picking up poop? New research by Christopher Lowe et al (2014) investigates.Photo: Jakkrit Orrasri / ShutterstockThe study consisted of an environmental survey of several popular dog walking locations, and an online survey that was completed by 933 participants from across the UK (83% were women).Eight footpaths in Lancashire, in the north of England, were visited in March/April 2010 to check for dog waste. This included a mix of urban and rural locations, and covered........ Read more »

Westgarth, C., Christley, R., Pinchbeck, G., Gaskell, R., Dawson, S., & Bradshaw, J. (2010) Dog behaviour on walks and the effect of use of the leash. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 125(1-2), 38-46. DOI: 10.1016/j.applanim.2010.03.007  

  • September 17, 2014
  • 08:30 AM
  • 143 views

Does Your Cat Sniff New Food?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

New research investigates which feline behaviours show that cats find food tasty. Photo: FreeBirdPhotos / ShutterstockThere are certain things we can take for granted when feeding the cat: the pitiful miaows that become increasingly strident, the anticipatory purring when you move towards the cat food, and the way the cat wraps herself around your leg as if you’re her best friend ever. But when you put the food down, is there any guarantee she will eat it? Cat food manufacturers have team........ Read more »

Becques, A., Larose, C., Baron, C., Niceron, C., Feron, C., & Gouat, P. (2014) Behaviour in order to evaluate the palatability of pet food in domestic cats. Applied Animal Behaviour Science , 55-61. info:/10.1016/j.applanim.2014.07.003

  • September 10, 2014
  • 11:49 AM
  • 146 views

Are Deaf Dogs and Blind Dogs just like other Dogs?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Do dogs that are deaf and/or blind have specific behavioural traits? New research sets out to investigate – and finds they are very similar to dogs with normal hearing and vision.Photo: Amy Rene / ShutterstockNo one knows exactly how many dogs have hearing or vision problems. Congenital deafness and/or blindness occur in several breeds. In some cases this is related to coat colours – for example the double merle gene in Australian Shepherds is linked to deafness and blindness– and at........ Read more »

Farmer-Dougan, V., Quick, A., Harper, K., Schmidt, K., & Campbell, D. (2014) Behavior of Hearing or Vision Impaired and Normal Hearing and Vision Dogs (Canis lupus familiaris): Not the same but not that different . Journal of Veterinary Behavior. info:/

  • September 3, 2014
  • 01:22 PM
  • 155 views

Adopting Shelter Dogs: Should Fido Lie Down or Play?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

 If you go down to the shelter today, will you bring home a dog? A new study by Alexandra Protopopova and Clive Wynne (2014) finds that interactions between dogs and potential adopters predict the likelihood of adoption.Photo: Alexey Shinkevich / ShutterstockEvery year in the USA, 3-4 million healthy, potentially-adoptable, homeless animals are euthanized (AHA and PetSmart 2012). Many would be saved if there was a better understanding of how to increase adoptions from animal shelters. Previ........ Read more »

  • August 13, 2014
  • 08:30 AM
  • 82 views

The Effects of Owner Experience and Housing on Argentine Dogos

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Photo: Lakatos Sandor / ShutterstockWhat are the effects of an owner’s prior dog experience and the dog’s housing on behaviour problems? A survey of people with Argentine Dogos investigates.Some previous research has suggested people who are first-time dog owners are more likely to have a dog with behaviour problems, perhaps because they don’t have enough experience. Also, sometimes people say breed experience is helpful. The aim of this study was to investigate this by looking at only one........ Read more »

Diverio, S., & Tami, G. (2014) Effect of owner experience, living environment, and dog characteristics on owner reports of behavior of Argentine Dogos in Italy . Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 9(4), 151-157. info:/

  • August 6, 2014
  • 08:30 AM
  • 236 views

Is it Important to Attend Puppy Class?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Is a one-off puppy party a suitable alternative to a six-week puppy class? Research says you can’t skip the socialization if you want a well-rounded adult dog.Photo: Zuzule / ShutterstockA study by Ai Kutsumi et al (2013) of the Azabu University Graduate School of Veterinary Science compares four groups of dogs: those who attended a six-week puppy class, those who went to a one-hour puppy party, those who attended a six-week adult dog training class, and those who didn’t attend any pup........ Read more »

KUTSUMI, A., NAGASAWA, M., OHTA, M., & OHTANI, N. (2013) Importance of Puppy Training for Future Behavior of the Dog. Journal of Veterinary Medical Science, 75(2), 141-149. DOI: 10.1292/jvms.12-0008  

  • July 30, 2014
  • 08:30 AM
  • 204 views

The Attentive Look of a Dog in Training

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Researchers investigate the body language of a dog that is performing well in training.Photo: Markus Balint / ShutterstockA new study puts dogs through the first stage of a basic training task and analyzes eye contact and posture in the most successful dogs. The research by Masashi Hasegawa et al (Azabu University School of Veterinary Medicine) is motivated by a desire to improve people’s training abilities by helping them recognize the posture associated with successful learning. O........ Read more »

  • July 23, 2014
  • 11:54 AM
  • 274 views

The Adolescent Dog: One Last Chance?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

A synthesis of the latest research on social influences on development suggests adolescence is an important time for mammals – including dogs.Photo: dezi / ShutterstockMost people are familiar with the idea of a sensitive period for puppies that ends around 12 or 14 weeks. Is it possible that adolescence is also an important period for brain development and future behaviour?Social experience plays an important role in shaping animal behaviour throughout development according to Sachser et al (........ Read more »

  • July 16, 2014
  • 08:30 AM
  • 247 views

Do Puppy Tests Predict Adult Dog Behaviour?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

A new study follows dogs from neonates to adults to find out if puppy tests predict adult behaviour.Photo: Mikkel Bigandt / ShutterstockLots of people want to know if a puppy’s behaviour will tell you what it will be like as an adult dog. From people choosing a pet dog from a breeder’s litter, to organizations training service, police or military dogs, making the right choice of puppy could really help later on. But there have long been concerns that puppy personality tests don’t necessari........ Read more »

McMillan, F., Serpell, J., Duffy, D., Masaoud, E., & Dohoo, I. (2013) Differences in behavioral characteristics between dogs obtained as puppies from pet stores and those obtained from noncommercial breeders. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 242(10), 1359-1363. info:/

  • July 9, 2014
  • 08:30 AM
  • 203 views

Sub-Optimal Choice in Dogs: Cheese or Cheese and Carrot?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Evidence suggests dogs do not always make the best choice. A new study finds that far as food choice is concerned, they use the same heuristic previously demonstrated in humans and monkeys. Photo: Igor Sokolov (breeze) / ShutterstockEarlier research has found that if people are asked to estimate the value of a set of 24 good condition dishes vs a set of 40 dishes (of which 31 are in good condition), they tend to think the former is more valuable. The broken dishes seem to detract ........ Read more »

  • June 25, 2014
  • 08:30 AM
  • 270 views

Do Children Help Care for the Family Pet?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

…Or does mom do it all?Photo: Samuel Borges Photography / ShutterstockHow should children learn to take some responsibility for family pets? New research by Janine Muldoon et al (University of St Andrews) investigates children’s perspectives of the division of labour in relation to their pets.The exploratory study involved focus groups with children aged 7, 9, 11 and 13. The researchers planned equal numbers of boys and girls, but constraints meant that 30 girls and only 23 boys took part.&n........ Read more »

  • June 18, 2014
  • 08:30 AM
  • 294 views

The Effects of Canine Personality and Joint Activities on the Dog-Owner Relationship

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

A new study in Denmark by Iben Meyer and Bjørn Forkman (University of Copenhagen) investigates the influence of owner characteristics and canine personality on the relationship between dogs and their owners.Photo: Martin Valigursky / ShutterstockThe study of 421 dog owners aged 18 to 75 used data from dog personality tests taken between six months and two-and-a-half years earlier, and a questionnaire of owners that included the Monash Dog Owner Relationship Scale. The dogs were all pedigrees si........ Read more »

Meyer, I., & Forkman, B. (2014) Dog and owner characteristics affecting the dog–owner relationship. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research. DOI: 10.1016/j.jveb.2014.03.002  

  • June 11, 2014
  • 11:47 AM
  • 294 views

Do Dogs Get that Eureka! Feeling?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Does successful problem solving make dogs happy?Photo: Mackland / ShutterstockNew research by Ragen McGowan et al (University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden) investigates whether dogs enjoy the experience of solving a problem in order to obtain a reward, or if it is just the reward itself that makes them happy.Rather unusually, the idea came from a study that found cattle who completed a task to earn a reward seemed to be happier than those who just received the reward. The design of McG........ Read more »

  • June 4, 2014
  • 08:30 AM
  • 278 views

Is Cruelty to Animals in Childhood a Predictor of Later Criminal Behaviour?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Does cruelty to animals as a child predict interpersonal violence in adulthood?Photo: Rita Kochmarjova / ShutterstockNew research by Kelly Knight, Colter Ellis and Sara Simmons (Sam Houston State University) investigates how many children are cruel to animals and whether it persists through generations. The study is especially valuable because it uses a sample that is representative of the US population and tracks families over the years.There are two main theories about childhood cruelty to ani........ Read more »

  • May 28, 2014
  • 08:30 AM
  • 298 views

What was the Role of Cats in Anglo Saxon England?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Fascinating new research investigates what the archaeological record tells us about people and cats in Anglo Saxon times. Was the human-feline relationship very different from today?Photo: aleksandr hunta / ShutterstockNew research by Kristopher Poole (University of Nottingham) investigates the role of cats in Anglo Saxon England. The period from AD 410 until the Norman invasion of 1066 was a time of great change. The Roman Empire had lost its control and many people immigrated to England, parti........ Read more »

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