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Showing posts from February, 2019

Into the Middle of Things: Dog Training Lessons from the Best Fiction

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Why dog trainers are like stalwart detectives, and how it all begins mid-scene.

Guest post by Kristi Benson CTC


A while ago, a client got in touch asking for help with the family dog. The dog was a young and lovely Golden retriever, smart as a whip and sweet as pie. The problem? He was barking. A lot. As I packed up my bag of tricks, I grabbed a few different hand-outs to make sure I had all the usual suspects covered: boredom barking? Check. Fearful barking? Check. Guarding, alarm, attention, and play? Check, check, check. My bait bag and some treats followed the hand-outs into my bag and I was off to the races.

When a story  begins in the middle of some action, it’s called “in medias res”, which is a Latin term meaning "into the middle of things". Have you ever read a thriller that opens with the characters sitting around a table in a tense meeting of political hotshots? Or a murder mystery starting with a car chase, sirens whooping? The story starts part way in, and we, as t…

Cats Trained to Use Their Carriers Find Vet Visits Less Stressful

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Training cats to go in their carrier and for a short car ride leads to less stressful visits to the vet, study shows.



When it’s time for cats to go to the vet, many owners struggle. It can be almost impossible to get the cat in the carrier (or even locate them if they flee at the sight of it). And this stress is a bad start to a vet visit that will likely be stressful in itself.

But research by Dr. Lydia Pratsch and colleagues at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna shows there is something that can be done: Train the cat to use their carrier.

In a blinded, randomized controlled trial, 11 cats were trained to use the cat carrier, while 11 cats were in a control group that was not trained. All 22 cats had a mock visit to the vet. The results showed cat carrier training reduces stress.

The scientists write,
“Training proved to be effective in reducing stress during the car ride and led to a shorter veterinary examination. Owners should be encouraged and instructed to carrier train…

Companion Animal Psychology News February 2019

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Dog training standards, the puppy brain, and the crow that called for food… the latest Companion Animal Psychology news.



Favourites from around the web this month
These are my favourite articles, photos and podcasts about animals this month. As usual, I've included links to people's Twitter accounts so you can easily follow them.

"A new training program from Canada's BC SPCA is a model for all to follow.” At Psychology TodayDr. Marc Bekoff interviews Dr. Karen van Haaften and Dr. Sara Dubois of the BC SPCA about their new AnimalKind accreditation scheme for dog trainers in BC.

In very cold temperatures, does dog urine do what boiling water does? Find out in, What happens when it’s 30 below and the dog’s gotta go? By Karin Brulliard at The Washington Post.

“The puppy brain still has a lot of developing to do after birth, and understanding that process is important to raising confident, well-adjusted dogs.” Fear, stress, and puppy brain development: what to know by Linda L…

Breed Specific Legislation Had No Effect on Dog Bites in Odense, Denmark

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In 2010, Denmark banned 13 breeds of dog. It made no difference to hospitalizations for dog bites.



One approach that some countries or municipalities take to attempt to reduce injuries from dog bites is to ban certain breeds, known as Breed Specific Legislation (BSL). A new study by Dr. Finn Nilson  (Karlstad University) et al investigates the effects of BSL in Denmark’s third-largest city, Odense. The results show that it had no effect on hospitalizations for dog bites.

In 2010, Denmark banned the ownership, breeding and import of 13 breeds of dog, including the American Staffordshire Terrier, the Dogo Argentino, Fila Brasiliero and American Bulldog.

Two of those breeds, the Pitbull Terrier and the Tosa Inu, had to be euthanized.

Any existing pets of the remaining 11 breeds could be kept, but they had to be muzzled and leashed in public.

Dr. Finn Nilson told me in an email,
“The findings in our article largely support previous studies on the subject of whether banning certain breeds of dog…

New Study Identifies our Different Ethical Beliefs about Animals

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New research finds four ethical orientations towards animals, and some surprising links to cat and dog ownership and to other behaviours such as eating “welfare-friendly” meat.



We all have different views about what we think are ethical ways to treat animals. New research by Dr. Thomas B√łker Lund et al. (University of Copenhagen), published today in PLOS ONE, finds four different ethical orientations that are commonly held by the general public.

The results show just how complicated our ethical beliefs about animals are – and include some surprising results.

Two of the different orientations will probably be familiar:

Anthropocentrism – the idea that “human beings matter most”. This view may stem from religious beliefs or from beliefs that humans and animals are different, with humans being considered rational and more important than non-human animals.

Animal rights – this approach values all animals and argues that as sentient beings, animals also have rights and should be treated accordi…

Finding Hidden Food in Nosework Increases Dogs' Optimism

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Opportunities to use the nose and make choices in nosework are good for dogs’ welfare.



We all know that dogs like to sniff. Is it possible that providing opportunities to find food in nosework can improve dogs’ wellbeing?

New scientific research by Dr. Charlotte Duranton (Ethodog) and Dr. Alexandra Horowitz (Barnard College) finds that dogs who participate in nose work have increased optimism compared to dogs that took part in heelwork instead.

Importantly, both activities involved perambulation, as well as food rewards as positive reinforcement. The difference is that in nosework the dog has the opportunity to use their nose and to exercise choice in what they are doing.

The study used a test of optimism – also known as cognitive bias – in which dogs were first trained that a bowl in one location would always contain food, whereas a bowl in another location never did. Then the test involved an empty bowl placed in an ambiguous location, equidistant from the other two places.

The idea is t…

Companion Animal Psychology Book Club February 2019

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This month's choice by the book club is a favourite about dogs that "...causes one's dog-loving heart to flutter with astonishment and gratitude..." according to the New York Times.




This month the Companion Animal Psychology Book Club is reading the best-selling Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know by Alexandra Horowitz.

From the cover,
"The answers will surprise and delight you as Alexandra Horowitz, a cognitive scientist, explains how dogs perceive their daily worlds, each other, and that other quirky animal, the human. Horowitz introduces the reader to dogs’ perceptual and cognitive abilities and then draws a picture of what it might be like to be a dog. What’s it like to be able to smell not just every bit of open food in the house but also to smell sadness in humans, or even the passage of time? How does a tiny dog manage to play successfully with a Great Dane? What is it like to hear the bodily vibrations of insects or the hum of a fluorescent ligh…