Companion Animal Psychology Blog

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84 posts · 45,891 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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  • April 16, 2014
  • 08:30 AM
  • 82 views

Does Animal-Assisted Therapy Help At-Risk Boys?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

If existing behavioural programs aren’t working, can therapeutic sessions with a dog help boys who have problems at school?Photo: criben / ShutterstockA new paper by Abbey Schneider et al (2014) investigates the success of a program designed to help boys who are considered ‘at-risk’ – by matching them up with a specially trained dog and handler.In Colorado, a group of elementary schools take part in a program called the Human Animal Bond in Colorado (HABIC). It is designed to help ........ Read more »

Schneider, A.A.,, Rosenberg, J., Baker, M., Melia, N., Granger, B., & Biringen, Z. (2014) Becoming relationally effective: High-risk boys in animal-assisted therapy. Human-Animal Interaction Bulletin, 2(1), 1-18. info:/

  • April 9, 2014
  • 08:30 AM
  • 103 views

How Clever Do You Think Your Dog Is?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Maybe as smart as a four year old child?Photo: DragoNika / ShutterstockCanine researchers have been investigating dogs’ cognitive abilities: whether they can solve puzzles, recognize our emotions, and so on. But are ordinary people aware of these findings, and do they have a realistic view of dogs? A paper by Tiffani Howell (Monash University) et al investigates owner’s beliefs about their dog’s intelligence.The research, published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, involved a web surv........ Read more »

Howell, T., Toukhsati, S., Conduit, R., & Bennett, P. (2013) The Perceptions of Dog Intelligence and Cognitive Skills (PoDIaCS) Survey. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 8(6), 418-424. DOI: 10.1016/j.jveb.2013.05.005  

  • April 2, 2014
  • 08:30 AM
  • 86 views

How About that Doggy at the Hair Salon?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Can we speed up the process of re-homing shelter dogs by getting the dog out of the shelter and into the community?Photo: AdamEdwards / ShutterstockEvery year, many dogs find new homes through animal rescues and shelters, but some have a long wait and many are never re-homed.  What if there was a way to free up shelter space and encourage people who would not visit the shelter to adopt? A new paper by Heather Mohan-Gibbons et al (2014) assesses the success of a scheme in which dogs were mov........ Read more »

  • March 26, 2014
  • 08:30 AM
  • 93 views

Animals, Pets and Vermin

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

What do animals mean to you and what role do they play in your life? These and related questions were recently asked of ordinary people by the Mass Observation Project in the UK, and the results, in a paper by Alison Sealey and Nickie Charles, are fascinating.Photo: pjmorley / ShutterstockSince 1937, the Mass Observation Projecthas been collecting information from ordinary people about life in Britain. Set up with the idea of creating “an anthropology of ourselves,” data collection con........ Read more »

Sealey, A., & Charles, N. (2013) "What Do Animals Mean to You?": Naming and Relating to Nonhuman Animals. Anthrozoos: A Multidisciplinary Journal of The Interactions of People , 26(4), 485-503. DOI: 10.2752/175303713X13795775535652  

  • March 5, 2014
  • 08:30 AM
  • 118 views

Will Work for Hot Dog?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Do you ever wonder how dogs are rewarded for taking part in scientific research? In some studies dogs are allowed to act naturally, but in others they need to learn something such as how to operate an apparatus they haven’t seen before, or to observe people interacting. Either way, you can’t guarantee canine cooperation. This week we thought we’d take a look at how dogs are motivated during the course of the research itself.Photo: kitty / ShutterstockNeedless to say, food is a common denom........ Read more »

Burman, O., McGowan, R., Mendl, M., Norling, Y., Paul, E., Rehn, T., & Keeling, L. (2011) Using judgement bias to measure positive affective state in dogs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 132(3-4), 160-168. DOI: 10.1016/j.applanim.2011.04.001  

Range F, Huber L, & Heyes C. (2011) Automatic imitation in dogs. Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society, 278(1703), 211-7. PMID: 20667875  

  • February 26, 2014
  • 01:00 PM
  • 144 views

Enrichment and Play in Domestic Ferrets

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Ferrets are popular pets because they are curious, playful and engaging. A new study by Sarah Talbot et al (Charles Stuart University, Australia) looks at play, behaviour problems and enrichment in domestic ferrets. Despite a reputation for aggression, it seems that ferrets rarely bite – and they love toys.Photo: grynold / Shutterstock Normal 0 false false false EN-CA X-NONE X-NONE ........ Read more »

  • February 12, 2014
  • 08:30 AM
  • 150 views

Dog Training, Animal Welfare, and the Human-Canine Relationship

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Many people are concerned that aversive-based dog training methods can have side-effects. A new study by Stéphanie Deldalle and Florence Gaunet (in press in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior) observes dogs and their humans at training classes using either positive or negative reinforcement. The results support the idea that positive reinforcement is beneficial for the canine-human bond and better for animal welfare.Photo: godrick / ShutterstockThe scientists looked at on-leash walking an........ Read more »

  • February 5, 2014
  • 08:30 AM
  • 183 views

Is Caring for Animals Good for Young People's Social Development?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

A new study finds that young people who have pets are more connected to their communities than those who don't.Photo: Jasmin Awad / ShutterstockThe study, by Megan Mueller (Tufts University), is published in the journal Applied Developmental Science. It is based on a survey of 567 young people in the US aged between 18 and 26, and was part of a wider longitudinal study called the 4-H study. The questionnaire asked whether or not participants owned an animal, how often they were responsible ........ Read more »

  • January 29, 2014
  • 08:30 AM
  • 173 views

The Street Dogs of Bangkok

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

If you’ve ever been to Bangkok, you will have noticed stray dogs and cats loitering on the street corners. Some are well fed, but many are scrawny, flea-ridden, and have old injuries. While many sleep away the day, others are tricky for pedestrians to navigate. New research by Nikki Savvides investigates the relationship between people and street dogs in the capital of Thailand.Photo: Krisdayod / ShutterstockThai people’s attitudes to animals are shaped by Theravada Buddhism, including........ Read more »

Savvides, N. (2013) Living with Dogs: Alternative animal practices in Bangkok,, Thailand. Animal Studies Journal, 2(2), 28-50. info:/

  • January 22, 2014
  • 08:30 AM
  • 208 views

Me and My Dog: Is the Feeling Mutual?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

You know you love your dog. Those gorgeous eyes that gaze up at you, the way she runs to greet you when you get home from work, and that cute way she drops the leash in your lap when it’s time for walkies. It’s all adorable. But does your dog feel the same way about you? Photo: Poprugin Aleksey / ShutterstockA new study by Therese Rehn et al (2014) investigates whether or not there is a link between how an owner feels about their relationship, and how the dog feels. Twenty dog-owner pairs to........ Read more »

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 15, 2014
  • 08:30 AM
  • 216 views

Dangerous Dogs: Time for a Rethink?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

What are the risk factors for aggression in dogs? New research suggests it’s time to stop thinking of dogs as either ‘safe’ or ‘dangerous’. In most cases canine aggression seems to be a learned response to a particular situation, not a personality characteristic, since a dog that growls or bites in one situation may not do so in other contexts. Normal 0 false false false EN-CA X-NONE X-NONE ........ Read more »

Hiby, E.F., Rooney, N.J., & Bradshaw, J.W.S. (2004) Dog training methods: Their use, effectiveness, and interaction with behaviour and welfare. Animal Welfare, 63-69. info:/

  • January 8, 2014
  • 08:30 AM
  • 224 views

Do Dogs with Baby Expressions get Adopted Sooner, and What Does it Say about Domestication?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Cute eyebrow movements by dogs influence people’s choice of canine companion.Photo: MrGarry / ShutterstockTheories about the domestication of dogs from wolves suggest that baby-like faces are a by-product of humans selecting for other features. But is it possible they were deliberately selected? A new study in PLoS One by Bridget Waller et al (University of Portsmouth) investigates.Selecting animals for behavioural traits can end up having unexpected effects on physical characteristics, ........ Read more »

Borgi, M., & Cirulli, F. (2013) Children's preferences for infantile features in dogs and cats. Human-Animal Interaction Bulletin, 1(2), 1-15. info:/

Waller BM, Peirce K, Caeiro CC, Scheider L, Burrows AM, McCune S, & Kaminski J. (2013) Paedomorphic facial expressions give dogs a selective advantage. PloS one, 8(12). PMID: 24386109  

  • January 1, 2014
  • 08:30 AM
  • 337 views

Do Children Benefit from Animals in the Classroom?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Many school classrooms have an animal, whether it’s a fish, rabbit or guinea pig. A new study in Australia by Marguerite O’Haire (University of Queensland) et al investigates whether an eight-week program involving a guinea pig in class leads to improved social skills and a reduction in problem behaviours.Photo: waldru / ShutterstockSchools that wanted to take part in the project were divided into two groups, one that received the program and one that was wait-listed. This meant th........ Read more »

  • December 18, 2013
  • 08:30 AM
  • 294 views

Can Fatal Dog Attacks Be Prevented?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

A sobering new report shows such tragic attacks are a multi-factorial problem.Dogs should be part of family life. Photo: V.J. Matthew / ShutterstockCases of humans being killed by dogs are investigated in a new paper by lead author Gary Patronek (Center for Animals and Public Policy, Tufts University).The scientists analyzed dog bite fatalities in the United States from 2000 to 2009, and discovered there are usually multiple contributing factors, many of them preventable.During this time, there ........ Read more »

Dixon, C., Mahabee-Gittens, E.M., Hart, K.W., & Lindsell, C.J. (2012) Dog bite prevention: An assessment of child knowledge. The Journal of Pediatrics, 337-341. DOI: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2011.07.016  

Reisner IR, Nance ML, Zeller JS, Houseknecht EM, Kassam-Adams N, & Wiebe DJ. (2011) Behavioural characteristics associated with dog bites to children presenting to an urban trauma centre. Injury prevention : journal of the International Society for Child and Adolescent Injury Prevention, 17(5), 348-53. PMID: 21444335  

  • December 11, 2013
  • 08:30 AM
  • 239 views

Should You Take Your Dog to the Dog Park?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Dogs are social creatures, but while some dogs clearly love to visit dog parks, others seem less happy about it. New research by Ottenheimer Carrier et al (Memorial University of Newfoundland) investigates whether the dog park is stressful, and what dogs do there.Photo: Gerald Marella / ShutterstockDog parks are open spaces, usually fenced, where dogs can be off-leash. They are particularly useful in municipalities where leash laws mean there are few spaces for dogs to run free. The researchers ........ Read more »

  • December 4, 2013
  • 08:30 AM
  • 268 views

Do Dogs Or Hand-Reared Wolves Pay More Attention to People?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Theories about the domestication of dogs often say they have evolved to pay more attention to humans than their wolf forebears. But the experimental evidence tends to only look at dogs. A new study by Friederike Range (University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna) and Szófia Virányi (Wolf Science Centre) compares the abilities of dogs and hand-reared wolves to utilize observations of human or dog behaviour to find food.Photo: Holly Kuchera / ShutterstockEleven wolves and fourteen do........ Read more »

Horowitz, A, Hecht, J, & Dedrick, A. (2013) Smelling more or less: Investigating the olfactory experience of the domestic dog. Learning and Motivation, 44(4), 207-217. info:/http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.lmot.2013.02.002

Range, F., & Viranyi, S. (2013) Social learning from humans or conspecifics: differences and similarities between wolves and dogs. Frontiers in Psychology. info:/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00868

  • November 27, 2013
  • 08:30 AM
  • 227 views

Can Dogs Eavesdrop?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Photo: Sophie Louise Davis / Shutterstock Normal 0 false false false EN-CA X-NONE X-NONE ... Read more »

Marshall-Pescini, S., Passalacqua, C., Ferrario, A., Valsecchi, P., & Prato-Previde, E. (2011) Social eavesdropping in the domestic dog. Animal Behaviour, 1177-1183. DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2011.02.029  

  • November 20, 2013
  • 08:30 AM
  • 234 views

A Cat's Gotta Scratch ...

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Photo: Imageman / ShutterstockScratching is a normal behaviour for a cat, but can be problematic for owners if a cat chooses to scratch the wrong items. A new study by Manuel Mengoli et al in Italy investigates feline scratching behaviour amongst a mixed sample of cats. Normal 0 false false false EN-CA X-NONE X-NONE ........ Read more »

Mengoli M, Mariti C, Cozzi A, Cestarollo E, Lafont-Lecuelle C, Pageat P, & Gazzano A. (2013) Scratching behaviour and its features: a questionnaire-based study in an Italian sample of domestic cats. Journal of feline medicine and surgery, 15(10), 886-92. PMID: 23492353  

  • November 13, 2013
  • 08:30 AM
  • 259 views

Can Dogs Cooperate With Each Other and With A Human?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

In the process of domestication, it seems that dogs have become especially attuned to human communication. Does this mean they can cooperate with a human to solve a problem? And what if they need to cooperate with another dog instead? A study in press by Ostojić and Clayton investigates.Photo: Jim Parkin / ShutterstockThe study is based on a “string task” in which two dogs (or a dog and a human) have to pull each end of a string in order to gain access to food that is otherwise out........ Read more »

  • November 6, 2013
  • 08:30 AM
  • 325 views

Diabetes Alert Dogs

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Photo: Mila Atkovska / ShutterstockCan dogs be trained to alert diabetics when their blood sugar levels fall too low or too high? A new study by Nicola Rooney (University of Bristol) et al investigates the success of just such a program. Medical Detection Dogs is a charity in the UK that trains dogs to detect disease. For example, they are investigating whether it is possible to train dogs to help with the early diagnosis of cancer, such as detecting prostate cancer from urine samples. They hav........ Read more »

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