Companion Animal Psychology Blog

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136 posts · 108,403 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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  • May 20, 2015
  • 08:30 AM
  • 55 views

Pets: Building Community One Friend at a Time

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Even indoor pets help us get to know other people, according to new research in four cities in the US and Australia.It’s easy to see how people who regularly walk their dog can get to know others. They might strike up friendly conversations about dogs, or learn to avoid certain people because of the way their off-leash dog charges up with unwanted “friendly” advances. It’s less obvious for people who don’t walk their dogs, or who have pets that are always indoors. But a new study by re........ Read more »

  • May 13, 2015
  • 08:30 AM
  • 64 views

6 Reasons to Love Canine Science

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Recent years have seen a blossoming of the field of canine science. Here are some reasons to love it.Because dogs are amazing, and science proves it!We love our dogs, and fMRI studies show how important people are to dogs (their caudate lights up on smelling a familiar human, Berns et al 2014). Dogs can learn to follow pointing gestures,  will try to comfort a crying stranger and respond to the sound of a baby crying. Chaser the border collie knows 1000 words. And we mustn’t forget how am........ Read more »

Freedman, D., King, J., & Elliot, O. (1961) Critical Period in the Social Development of Dogs. Science, 133(3457), 1016-1017. DOI: 10.1126/science.133.3457.1016  

Hall, N.J., Lord, K., Arnold, A-M.K., Wynne, C.D.L., & Udell, M. (2015) Assessment of attachment behaviours to human caregivers in wolf pups (Canis lupus lupus). Behavioural Processes, 15-21. info:/

Morrow, M., Ottobre, J., Ottobre, A., Neville, P., St-Pierre, N., Dreschel, N., & Pate, J. (2015) Breed-dependent differences in the onset of fear-related avoidance behavior in puppies. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research. DOI: 10.1016/j.jveb.2015.03.002  

O'Haire, M., McKenzie, S., McCune, S., & Slaughter, V. (2013) Effects of Animal-Assisted Activities with Guinea Pigs in the Primary School Classroom. Anthrozoos: A Multidisciplinary Journal of The Interactions of People , 26(3), 445-458. DOI: 10.2752/175303713X13697429463835  

  • May 6, 2015
  • 08:30 AM
  • 99 views

Loss of a Dog: The Importance of Social Support

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

New research finds that losing a pet dog is a stressful life event.Sooner or later, all pet owners have to face the realization that the lives of our animals are far too short. Grieving for a lost pet is further complicated by some people who fail to understand what a pet means. Comments like, “It was just a dog” can be very hurtful. A new study by Lilian Tzivian (Ben Gurion University of the Negev) et al investigates the psychological effects of pet loss. The study compared 103 dog owners w........ Read more »

  • April 29, 2015
  • 08:30 AM
  • 262 views

Different Dog Breeds, Different Sensitive Period?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

A study of three breeds finds differences in the sensitive period, and shows socialization should begin before you even take your puppy home.Puppies have a sensitive period between 3 and 12-14 weeks old in which they must be socialized. This means positive introductions to new people, dogs, places, etc. If not, they will be fearful as adult dogs. A fascinating new study by Mary Morrow (Ohio State University) et al investigates whether this period is the same for three breeds of dog: Cavalier Kin........ Read more »

Morrow, M., Ottobre, J., Ottobre, A., Neville, P., St-Pierre, N., Dreschel, N., & Pate, J. (2015) Breed-dependent differences in the onset of fear-related avoidance behavior in puppies. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research. DOI: 10.1016/j.jveb.2015.03.002  

  • April 22, 2015
  • 08:30 AM
  • 118 views

Does Animal-Assisted Therapy Help Adolescents with Psychiatric Problems?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

A new study finds that a dog might be just what the doctor ordered.Can animal-assisted therapy can help adolescents who are in hospital because of an acute psychiatric crisis? A new randomized controlled trial investigates. The study, conducted by M.C. Stefanini et al (University of Florence) randomly allocated patients to either an animal-assisted therapy intervention or no intervention. Both groups continued to receive psychiatric treatment as usual, and those treating them did not know w........ Read more »

Kamioka, H., Okada, S., Tsutani, K., Park, H., Okuizumi, H., Handa, S., Oshio, T., Park, S., Kitayuguchi, J., Abe, T.... (2014) Effectiveness of animal-assisted therapy: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 22(2), 371-390. DOI: 10.1016/j.ctim.2013.12.016  

  • April 15, 2015
  • 08:30 AM
  • 129 views

Earliest Memories of Pets

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Do our earliest childhood memories of pets influence our attitudes to animals?  Think back to your first memory of a pet, whether it was your own or someone else’s. Is it a happy memory, or a sad one? Were you interacting with the animal, or just watching? And is it possible that early memories like this influence your attitudes as an adult?This question was posed by Philip Marshall(Texas Tech University) et al, who compared earliest memories of a pet, a friend and an automobile. 223........ Read more »

Marshall, P.D., Ireland, M.E., & Dalton, A.A. (2015) Earliest memories of pets predict adult attitudes: phenomenological, structural and textual analyses. Human Animal Interaction Bulletin, 3(1), 28-51. info:/

  • April 8, 2015
  • 08:30 AM
  • 129 views

Why Do People Relinquish Large Dogs?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

When someone gives up a large dog to a shelter, what are the usual reasons?Research by Emily Weiss (ASPCA) et al looks at why people relinquish large dogs – and whether there are interventions that could have helped the animal stay in its home. The results show that people issues, rather than dog issues, are given as the main reason. They also highlight that owners have many good things to say about their dog, even as it is relinquished.In the US, large dogs are at a greater risk of euthanasia........ Read more »

  • March 25, 2015
  • 08:30 AM
  • 204 views

Can Street Dogs Become Good Pets?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

From free-ranging dog to new home. It sounds like a fairy-tale, but how does it work out?A recent survey by Yasemin Salgiri Demirbas (Ankara University) et al investigates how well free-roaming urban dogs fit into a family home once they are adopted. The results show the dogs adapt well to their new homes.The scientists say, “Every year in Turkey, thousands of free-ranging dogs are brought to dog shelters. These dogs are mongrel dogs with stray origins.” There is often a bias against adoptin........ Read more »

Salgirli Demirbas, Y., Emre, B., & Kockaya, M. (2014) Integration ability of urban free-ranging dogs into adoptive families' environment. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 9(5), 222-227. DOI: 10.1016/j.jveb.2014.04.006  

  • March 18, 2015
  • 08:30 AM
  • 185 views

The Right to Walk Away

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

What can pet owners learn from the way scientists give animals choices in research?When people take part in research, scientists must ensure they give informed consent. When the participants are pets, owners give consent on their behalf: they understand the risks of the research and they have the right to end their participation at any time (e.g. if they feel their dog is stressed). We can’t ask animals about their feelings, but scientists have several ways they give the pets a choice.In Sarah........ Read more »

  • March 11, 2015
  • 08:30 AM
  • 193 views

Where Do Cats Like To Be Stroked?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

People expect cats to enjoy affection, but what’s the cat’s opinion?Research by Sarah Ellis (University of Lincoln) et al investigated how cats respond to being stroked by their owner and an unfamiliar person, and which parts of the body they prefer to be petted. The results show cats have definite preferences.It is thought that animals prefer petting from humans to be similar to the ways animals show affection to members of their own species. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you are expec........ Read more »

  • March 4, 2015
  • 08:30 AM
  • 202 views

Taking Care of your Pet Rabbit

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Rabbits are the third most popular pet, but how should you look after them?A study by Nicola Rooney (University of Bristol) et al asked 1254 rabbit owners about how they housed, fed, played with and otherwise cared for their rabbit. The good news is that “many pet rabbits were found to be in good health, had compatible companions and were provided with enriched living areas.” But there were also many areas where things could be improved. The most common type of rabbit was a Lop, followe........ Read more »

Rooney NJ, Blackwell EJ, Mullan SM, Saunders R, Baker PE, Hill JM, Sealey CE, Turner MJ, & Held SD. (2014) The current state of welfare, housing and husbandry of the English pet rabbit population. BMC research notes, 942. PMID: 25532711  

  • February 25, 2015
  • 08:30 AM
  • 205 views

Why You Need to Socialize Your Puppy

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

The importance of socialization can’t be stressed enough.These days, more and more people understand that puppies need to be socialized. But sometimes people wonder, how do we know this? It’s based on classic research in canine science.Many papers contribute to our understanding of puppies. In 1950, J.P. Scott and Mary-‘Vesta Marston published a study of 17 litters, including the earliest age at which they opened their eyes for the first time, began to walk, and engaged in play. They hypot........ Read more »

  • February 18, 2015
  • 08:30 AM
  • 286 views

What Do Young Children Learn From Pets?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Is a better understanding of biology something children can learn from dogs and cats?Young children are very interested in animals. One study even found children aged 11 – 40 months would prefer to look at an animal behind a glass screen (even if the animal is fast asleep) rather than play with a toy (LoBue et al 2013). Now researchers are asking whether this interest in animals means that children with a cat or dog know more about biology than those without.The study, by Megan Geerdts (Univer........ Read more »

  • February 11, 2015
  • 08:30 AM
  • 247 views

Why Do People Take Part in Dog Sports?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Is it for themselves, for the dog - or a bit of both?People can participate in dog sports (like agility) at any level, from local classes to national and international events. A study by Joey Farrell (Lakehead University) et al investigates what motivates people to take part in dog sports, and why some compete much more often than others. They recruited people at events where at least two different sports were taking place, from a list of agility, rally, field, obedience and conformation (s........ Read more »

Farrell, J., Hope, A., Hulstein, R., & Spaulding, S. (2015) Dog-Sport Competitors: What Motivates People to Participate with Their Dogs in Sporting Events?. Anthrozoos: A Multidisciplinary Journal of The Interactions of People , 28(1), 61-71. DOI: 10.2752/089279315X1412935072201  

  • February 4, 2015
  • 08:30 AM
  • 239 views

Unanticipated Animals: What Happens When Pets Appear in Research Interviews?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

A new study finds pets are often written out of research reports.We all know the saying “never work with children or animals”. Normally it applies to actors. But what happens when a researcher goes to interview someone and a pet is there too? A new paper by Sara Ryanand Sue Ziebland(University of Oxford) says that health scientists are not paying enough attention to the importance of pets in people’s lives.Their analysis shows that pets are often ignored or are seen as an interruption in i........ Read more »

  • February 1, 2015
  • 08:30 AM
  • 227 views

A Conversation with Mia Cobb

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

On Wednesday we covered Mia Cobb’s new paper on working dogs and canine performance science. Mia's research has the potential to have a big impact on the lives of working dogs. She kindly agreed to talk to us about working dogs, animal welfare, and her new puppy Rudy.How can we improve the training of working dogs?One of the key things that would help to improve the success rates of trainee working dogs would be wider recognition of the sum of all the parts that make a successful working dog. ........ Read more »

  • January 28, 2015
  • 08:30 AM
  • 211 views

How Can We Improve Working Dog Programs?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

A new paper suggests ways to develop the welfare and performance of working canines.A search-and-rescue dog takes part in a training exerciseHave you ever stopped to think about the amazing variety of jobs that dogs do: herding sheep, chasing criminals, sniffing out cancer, assisting people with disabilities, supporting the military in the field, detecting explosives or narcotics, visiting sick people in hospital, pulling sleds, search and rescue, and so on. They bring a wide variety of ski........ Read more »

  • January 21, 2015
  • 08:30 AM
  • 300 views

Do Dogs Prefer Petting or Praise?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

A new study asks dogs to make the choice. Photo: Felix Rohan / Shutterstock Normal 0 false false false EN-CA X-NONE X-NONE ... Read more »

Fukuzawa, M., & Hayashi, N. (2013) Comparison of 3 different reinforcements of learning in dogs (Canis familiaris). Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 8(4), 221-224. DOI: 10.1016/j.jveb.2013.04.067  

OKAMOTO, Y., OHTANI, N., UCHIYAMA, H., & OHTA, M. (2009) The Feeding Behavior of Dogs Correlates with their Responses to Commands. Journal of Veterinary Medical Science, 71(12), 1617-1621. DOI: 10.1292/jvms.001617  

  • January 14, 2015
  • 08:30 AM
  • 294 views

Do Hand-Reared Wolves get Attached to their Humans?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Researchers test the bond between captive wolf pups and the humans who rear them.Photo: Geoffrey Kuchera / ShutterstockWe all think our dogs form attachments to us, but previous studies with wolf pups have suggested they don’t attach to their caregiver in the same way. While a 16-week old puppy is already attached to its owner, scientists found the same is not true of a 16-week old wolf. However, the way the wolf pup is raised and the age of testing may have an effect. New research by Nathanie........ Read more »

Hall, N.J., Lord, K., Arnold, A-M.K., Wynne, C.D.L., & Udell, M. (2015) Assessment of attachment behaviours to human caregivers in wolf pups (Canis lupus lupus). Behavioural Processes , 15-21. info:/

Rehn, T., Lindholm, U., Keeling, L., & Forkman, B. (2014) I like my dog, does my dog like me?. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 65-73. DOI: 10.1016/j.applanim.2013.10.008  

  • January 7, 2015
  • 08:30 AM
  • 312 views

Does It Matter What Age You Neuter Your Kitten?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

New research investigates whether age of neutering affects feline behaviour – and looks at punishment and other variables too.Photo: NCAimages / ShutterstockThere are so many cats without homes that some shelters neuter kittens early, at 8 – 12 weeks old, so they are neutered prior to adoption. This is the only way they can guarantee that a kitten will be neutered. Normally, cats are neutered at 6 – 8 months old. Kittens, like puppies, have a sensitive period that is an important soci........ Read more »

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