Companion Animal Psychology Blog

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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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  • September 23, 2015
  • 08:30 AM

Cluck Click! Training Chickens Reveals Their Intelligence

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Teaching a trick to a chicken increases beliefs that chickens are intelligent and can feel emotions.Learning how to train chickens changes student’s attitudes towards them, according to a new study by Susan Hazel, Lisel O’Dwyer (both University of Adelaide) and Terry Ryan (Legacy Canine). The chickens were trained to do a specific task (such as pecking on a red but not green circle) in order to get food. Survey responses before and after the class show more positive attitudes after the ........ Read more »

  • September 16, 2015
  • 08:30 AM

Make your dog happy. Train force free.

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

We can promote animal welfare by making learning a rewarding experience.By now, many people are familiar with the idea that using aversives to train dogs can have side effects. Studies show a correlation between aversive techniques (such as hitting, pinning, leash jerks and shock) and behaviour problems like aggression (Herron et al 2009; Casey et al 2014). One study found dogs in a training class that used aversives showed signs of stress and were less likely to look at their owners than in a s........ Read more »

  • September 9, 2015
  • 08:30 AM

If You Lead a Lab to Water, Should You Let Them Swim?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

A new study tests whether Labrador Retrievers choose the pool.Labrador Retrievers were bred to retrieve from water, and it’s widely known they love to swim. But, how much? And, given their sociability, do they prefer to swim rather than mix with a person or another dog? A study by Sara Tavares, Ana Magalhães and Liliana de Sousa (Universityof Porto) gave Labs a free choice, and says the results are important for good animal welfare.The study involved ten Labrador Retrievers who live on a farm........ Read more »

  • September 2, 2015
  • 08:30 AM

Preparation Makes a Difference to Pets in an Emergency

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

After the Great Earthquake in Japan, preparation was key to evacuating with pets - including training and socialization.When the magnitude 9 earthquake struck Japan in 2011, causing a tsunami and subsequent accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant, over 15,000 people were killed. Many people had to evacuate at short notice. In 2012, pet owners from two of the most badly affected areas, Iwate and Fukushima Prefectures, were asked about whether or not they took their pet and the types of planning t........ Read more »

Heath, S.E., & Linnabary, R.D. (2015) Challenges of managing animals in disasters in the US. Animals, 5(2), 173-192. info:/10.3390/ani5020173#sthash.7n7gGyyg.dpuf

Thompson, K.,, Every, D., Rainbird, S., Cornell, V., Smith, B., & Trigg, J. (2014) No pet or their person left behind: Increasing the disaster resilience of vulnerable groups through animal attachment, activities and networks. Animals , 4(2), 214-240. info:/10.3390/ani4020214

A survey of companion-animal owners affected by the East Japan Great Earthquake in Iwate and Fukushima Prefectures, Japan. (2015) Yamazaki, S. Anthrozoos, 28(2). info:/

  • August 26, 2015
  • 11:09 AM

Summer Reading: The Play Edition

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Our summer reading list is all about play.Why do animals play? In Dog Sense, John Bradshaw writes “In wild animals, play must promote survival; otherwise, evolution would select against it – a young animal that is playing out in the open is much more obvious to a predator than one sleeping in its den. However, the benefits of play do not usually become apparent until months later, when they emerge in the form of better social integration or more sophisticated hunting techniques (to name........ Read more »

Bradshaw, J., Pullen, A., & Rooney, N. (2015) Why do adult dogs ‘play’?. Behavioural Processes, 82-87. DOI: 10.1016/j.beproc.2014.09.023  

  • August 19, 2015
  • 08:30 AM

The Beneficial Effects of Watching Fish

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Spending time observing an aquarium leads to improvements in mood and reductions in heart rate.There are psychological benefits to watching fish and crustaceans in an aquarium, according to a new study by Deborah Cracknell et al. They observed people’s natural interactions with a marine life display, and took heart rate, blood pressure and questionnaire results from 84 experimental participants. But the display wasn’t a fish tank that you could fit in your living room – it was a large exhi........ Read more »

  • August 12, 2015
  • 08:30 AM

Proof the Internet helps Cat Adoptions

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

And that toys are important in photographs of adoptable cats.We all assume that internet photos and adverts play an important role in pet adoption these days, and now it’s possible to put a figure on it, at least for cats. 82.5% of people who adopted a cat from a shelter in Western New York said Petfinder strongly or moderately influenced their adoption. The length of time cats waited for adoption varied from 1 to 126 days. Cats whose Petfinder profiles were clicked more than once a day were t........ Read more »

  • August 5, 2015
  • 08:30 AM

De-Stressing with a Puppy for Parents of Children with Autism

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

A pet dog can reduce stress for parents of a child with autism spectrum disorder, according to a new study.Research by Hannah Wright et al (University of Lincoln) finds that a family dog reduces stress in the caregivers of a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This result is especially striking because it applies to pet dogs rather than specially trained service dogs. But there are caveats, because a dog is not right for all families.The study looked at parents of children with ASD, and c........ Read more »

  • July 29, 2015
  • 08:30 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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:/

  • May 20, 2015
  • 08:30 AM

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

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

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

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

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  

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