Companion Animal Psychology Blog

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143 posts · 121,280 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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  • July 29, 2015
  • 08:30 AM
  • 73 views

Should Vets Give Treats to Pets?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Do treats at the vet mean fewer bites and a less fearful pet? Many companion animals are scared of visits to the vet. There is an established procedure for treating fear called desensitization and counter-conditioning (DS/CC) which involves feeding nice food in order to make something less scary. Yet many vets do not give treats to animals. A new paper by Karolina Westlund (Karolinska Institute) considers this reluctance, and looks at the evidence for and against.Westlund says, “Veterinarians ........ Read more »

  • July 22, 2015
  • 08:30 AM
  • 58 views

Re-Arranging Metaphors for Dogs

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

The problems with the wolf pack metaphor go deeper than you think.One of the metaphors many dog trainers despair of is that of the wolf pack. According to this, you are supposed to be ‘leader of the pack’ to your dog, who is trying all the time to be ‘dominant’. The way you stop this is to be ‘dominant’ yourself which involves awful things like ‘alpha rolls’. It’s surprisingly pervasive. It is not really based on science but on a kind of folk science, of how wolf packs are........ Read more »

  • July 15, 2015
  • 08:30 AM
  • 80 views

Great Photos are Important to Dog Adoption

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

What if the adoption of shelter dogs could be sped up with better photographs? A new study by Rachel Lampe and Thomas Witte (Royal Veterinary College, Herts) studies the effect of photographs of black Labrador Retriever crosses on the length of time before they found a new home. ... Read more »

Lampe, R., & Witte, T. (2014) Speed of Dog Adoption: Impact of Online Photo Traits. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 1-12. DOI: 10.1080/10888705.2014.982796  

  • July 8, 2015
  • 08:30 AM
  • 97 views

Six Ways to Entertain Your Dog Indoors

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

When walks are limited, these ideas will help you tire out your dog.Lately my dogs have been getting fewer walks due to unusually hot weather and smoke from forest fires. You can beat the heat by walking in the early morning or late evening, and sometimes there is better air quality just down the road. But there are times when there’s no choice but to limit walks. Then what do you do? These ideas will help you to entertain your dog. Feed Your Dog CreativelyYour dog’s food does not have to ar........ Read more »

  • June 24, 2015
  • 08:30 AM
  • 108 views

Going for a Song? The Price of Pet Birds

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

The price of birds for sale in pet stores in Taiwan sheds light on legal (and illegal) trade, with consequences for native wildlife. Taiwan is an interesting place to study birds. Songbirds are kept for singing competitions, and there is a tradition of taking caged birds out for a walk (‘bird walking’). As in other Asian countries, birds and other animals are set free in order to make merit (prayer release), potentially adding significantly to the numbers of alien birds living wild. The........ Read more »

  • June 17, 2015
  • 01:54 PM
  • 167 views

Emergency Planning Is For Pets Too

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Failure to include pets in emergency planning puts human lives at risk.“There is no other factor contributing as much to human evacuation failure in disasters that is under the control of emergency management when a threat is imminent as pet ownership.” So say Sebastian Heath(FEMA) and Robert Linnabary(University of Tennessee) in a review of the ways in which pets should be included in emergency planning. Emergency management has five stages: planning, preparedness, mitigation, ........ Read more »

  • May 27, 2015
  • 08:30 AM
  • 197 views

Where Do People Get Information About Dog Training?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Can people be blamed for dog training mistakes when there is so much erroneous information out there?Recently I saw a man walking a German Shepherd. Even from a distance it was clear the dog was nervous: his posture was low to the ground and the way he was walking made me wonder what kind of equipment he was on. As I waited at the traffic lights, I got a chance to see: a prong collar, tight, positioned high on his neck.There are easy alternatives, the simplest being a no-pull harness. I began to........ Read more »

Branson, N., Cobb, M., & McGreevy, P. (2009) Australian Working Dog Survey Report. Australian Animal Welfare Strategy. info:/

Deldalle, S., & Gaunet, F. (2014) Effects of two training methods on stress-related behaviors of the dog. Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 9(2), 58-65. info:/http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jveb.2013.11.004

  • May 20, 2015
  • 08:30 AM
  • 190 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
  • 201 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
  • 213 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
  • 416 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
  • 268 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
  • 264 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
  • 226 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
  • 370 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
  • 325 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
  • 348 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
  • 334 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
  • 318 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
  • 428 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 »

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