Companion Animal Psychology Blog

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206 posts · 289,947 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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  • March 8, 2017
  • 10:30 AM
  • 221 views

Dearly Departed Dogs

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Do online pet obituaries reveal how we truly feel about our pets?Guest post by Jane Gething-Lewis (Hartpury College).“You were such a selfless and giving boy. Dad loves you with all his heart.”A heartfelt online tribute to a dearly departed loved one – but this loved one had four legs, a tail and was called Cosmo. Over the top? Not necessarily. Research suggests that many people feel the loss of a beloved pet as keenly as the loss of a child.The bond people have with each other has long be........ Read more »

  • March 1, 2017
  • 10:30 AM
  • 227 views

What kind of scratching post do cats prefer?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

It’s important to provide cats with the right kind of scratching post – and reward them for using it.Inappropriate scratching is a fairly common complaint about cats. That’s inappropriate from the owner’s perspective, because from the cat’s point of view they are just doing what comes naturally. Research by Colleen Wilson DVM et al tells us what kind of scratching post to provide in order to keep both cat and owner happy.Cats scratch in order to mark their territory. It leaves a visual........ Read more »

Wilson C, Bain M, DePorter T, Beck A, Grassi V, & Landsberg G. (2016) Owner observations regarding cat scratching behavior: an internet-based survey. Journal of feline medicine and surgery, 18(10), 791-7. PMID: 26179574  

  • February 24, 2017
  • 02:30 PM
  • 274 views

Irresistible: Emotions affect choice of breed despite welfare issues

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Knowing a breed of dog may have health problems does not stop people from wanting one, because emotions get in the way. A new Danish study by Peter S Sandøe (University of Copenhagen) et al investigates the reasons why people acquire particular small breeds of dog and how attached the owners feel to their pet. The research helps explain why some breeds are popular despite a high incidence of welfare problems. The study looked at people in Denmark with French Bulldogs, Chihuahuas, Cava........ Read more »

Sandøe P,, Kondrup SV,, Bennett PC,, Forkman B,, Meyer I,, Proschowsky HF,, Serpell, JA,, & Lund, TB. (2017) Why do people buy dogs with potential welfare problems related to extreme conformation and inherited disease? A representative study of Danish owners of four small dog breeds. . PLOSOne. info:/

  • February 22, 2017
  • 12:00 PM
  • 232 views

The Function of Play Bows in Dog and Wolf Puppies

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

New research casts doubt on an old explanation for the play bow – and suggests it’s all about more play.The play bow is a glorious signal in dogs. The bum goes up and the elbows go down, leaving the rear end sticking up, usually accompanied by a lovely happy face (as pictured above). Not just reserved for other dogs, our canine friends will play bow to us too.Traditionally, it was believed that the play bow serves as a signal to say something like, “I’m just playing, it’s not real!”,........ Read more »

  • February 15, 2017
  • 12:00 PM
  • 281 views

"Dominance" Training Deprives Dogs of Positive Experiences

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Dominance is an outdated approach to dog training – and it also means dogs miss out on fun.Approaches to dog training based on dominance rely on the idea that you have to be the ‘alpha’ or pack leader. Unfortunately, this type of dog training is not just out-of-date and potentially risky, but modern approaches to dog training are also a lot more fun – for you and the dog.What is dominance in dog training?We sometimes hear the phrase ‘my dog is being dominant.’ ‘Your dog is being do........ Read more »

  • February 8, 2017
  • 10:30 AM
  • 257 views

Timing and Attention Matter in Dog Training, New Study Shows

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Analysis of videos of dog training sessions show that getting the dog’s attention and good timing of rewards are linked to better results.A new study looks at the interactions between people and dogs whilst teaching ‘lie down’. The results show the importance of the timing of rewards and of getting the dog’s attention in order to be successful in dog training.The study is part of a wider research project at the University of Sydney into what they call “dogmanship.” I asked first auth........ Read more »

Payne, E., Bennett, P., & McGreevy, P. (2017) DogTube: An examination of dogmanship online. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 50-61. DOI: 10.1016/j.jveb.2016.10.006  

  • January 25, 2017
  • 10:30 AM
  • 296 views

The Importance of Science in Horse Training

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Horse ‘licking and chewing’: is it a sign of learning, submission or stress?Guest post by Georgina (Gina) Bishopp (Hartpury College, UK). A little while ago I was having a lesson on my horse when my instructor beamed up at me and exclaimed, “There you go, she is licking and chewing – she’s really listening to you now, keep going!” and with excitement I continued on eagerly with the exercise we were practising. It wasn’t until the exhilaration of the moment had waned did I thin........ Read more »

  • January 18, 2017
  • 10:30 AM
  • 303 views

Finding Out if Dogs Like Cats - Or Not

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

A new study investigates the best way to find out if a dog will get on with cats.When dogs are waiting for adoption at a shelter, a common question is “what is the dog like with cats?” But at the moment there’s no validated way to test dogs to see if they will be friendly to cats.Some dogs become good friends with cats, but other dogs want to chase and kill them, so it would really help if shelters knew if a dog is cat-friendly.Sometimes the person who surrenders a dog will provide informa........ Read more »

  • January 11, 2017
  • 12:00 PM
  • 274 views

The Five Domains Model Aims to Help Animals Thrive

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

An updated approach to animal welfare includes opportunities for positive experiences for our companion (and other) animals.  “…the overall objective is to provide opportunities for animals to ‘thrive’, not simply ‘survive’” (Mellor, 2016)The Five FreedomsAnimal welfare is traditionally defined by the Five Freedoms. These areFreedom from hunger and thirstFreedom from discomfortFreedom from pain, injury and diseaseFreedom to express normal behaviourFreedom from fear and distres........ Read more »

  • December 7, 2016
  • 10:30 AM
  • 390 views

Losing a Pet Can Lead to Different Types of Grief

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

New research looks at the factors that influence how we feel after euthanizing a pet.The loss of a pet is a difficult process. People’s feelings of grief may be the same as for losing a human family member. New research investigates some of the factors that may affect people’s grief and sorrow after euthanizing a dog or cat.The study, by Sandra Barnard-Nguyen (University of Sydney) et al, is one of the first to use a survey designed specifically to measure people’s responses to loss o........ Read more »

  • November 30, 2016
  • 10:30 AM
  • 395 views

Playtime After Training Improves a Dog's Memory

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Making time for play immediately after a dog training session improves the dog’s memory.New research by Nadja Affenzeller (University of Lincoln) et al investigates whether play following learning leads to better performance the next day. The scientists wanted to know whether this effect, previously found in humans, would also apply to dogs.In people, it is thought that the hormonal response during positive arousal acts on parts of the brain called the hippocampus and amygdala and leads to........ Read more »

  • November 23, 2016
  • 10:30 AM
  • 420 views

Pets May Help Children Learn About Animal Welfare

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Children’s beliefs about animal welfare and sentience are linked to their own experiences with animals.Surprisingly little is known about children’s beliefs and knowledge about animals. Yet this information could help to improve humane education programs for children. Two recent studies begin to fill this gap, with recommendations for how humane education is taught.We know from previous research that even very young children like animals, and that children with pets are more likely to attrib........ Read more »

  • November 9, 2016
  • 10:30 AM
  • 370 views

Vertical Space is Good Enrichment for Cats

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Cats make good use of added vertical space, study shows.A study by Emma Desforges (Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition) et al finds that adding a vertical screen is good enrichment for cats. And while the study used cats that live at the Waltham research centre, the results suggest pet cats could benefit too.The scientists took an Ikea bookcase called Kallax in which the shelves are subdivided. They put half the backing on one side and half on the other, so that some shelves faced one way and the r........ Read more »

  • November 2, 2016
  • 10:30 AM
  • 401 views

Testing an Automated and Humane Way to Resolve Barking

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Teaching a quiet behaviour using an automatic feeder is a promising solution to barking problems.Some dogs bark when their owner is out and they are left home alone. A recent study by Alexandra Protopopova  (Texas Tech University) et al investigates the effectiveness of a humane, automated approach to solving barking problems.The research was conducted because some owners use citronella or shock collars to try and prevent their dogs from barking. While the devices may sometimes work, there ........ Read more »

  • October 26, 2016
  • 10:30 AM
  • 407 views

Study Shows Just How Stressed Dogs Are at the Vet's

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Most dogs show signs of impaired welfare at the vet, according to their owners.A survey of 906 dog guardians in Italy found most people report their dog as being stressed at all stages of the visit to a vet clinic, from being in the waiting room to being examined by the vet. 6.4% of dogs had actually bitten their guardian at the vet and 11.2% had growled or snapped at the vet.The report by Chiara Mariti (University of Pisa) et al draws important conclusions about what owners and vets need to do ........ Read more »

  • October 19, 2016
  • 11:30 AM
  • 412 views

A Windstorm is a Reminder of Disaster Preparation for Pets

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

The best time to start disaster preparation for your pet is now.Recently, like many people in this part of the world, we heard there was a big storm on the way. The third of three windstorms was said to be the most powerful. Since we live in an area with many beautiful trees and the power lines are above ground, it does not take much to knock out the power.In the end, we were lucky. The storm was not as strong as predicted, and it changed track and went further north. But it’s a reminder that ........ Read more »

  • October 12, 2016
  • 08:30 AM
  • 419 views

Training is Purrfect Enrichment for Frustrated Shelter Cats

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

A new study finds that training shelter cats leads to more contentment and better health.The study, by Nadine Gourkow and Clive Phillips (University of Queensland), tested the effects of training sessions on cats that were frustrated when they arrived at an animal shelter. The cats in the training group became more content and were healthier compared to the cats who just experienced normal shelter conditions.Prof. Clive Phillips says,“Confining a cat into a small cage after it has been roaming........ Read more »

  • September 19, 2016
  • 03:30 PM
  • 493 views

Harnesses are a Great Choice to Walk Your Dog

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

A new study compares a harness to a neck collar and finds both are good for canine welfare.Milo. Photo: Sabrina MignaccaHarnesses are often said to be better for your dog than walking on a collar, but no one had investigated it. Now, a team of scientists at Hartpury College (Grainger, Wills & Montrose 2016) has published a study of the effects of walking a dog on a harness and on a neck collar.The same dogs were walked on a neck collar and on a harness on separate occasions, and their behavi........ Read more »

  • September 14, 2016
  • 10:30 AM
  • 452 views

Are rabbits lagging behind in basic pet care practices?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

A recent study highlights pet rabbit management practices. Although some owners take extra steps to protect their rabbit, many do not.Guest post by James Oxley (Independent Researcher, UK; Twitter) and Clare Ellis (Moulton College, UK; Twitter; Web).Rabbits sometimes get labelled as an easy pet to keep, and some owners may not consider that common pet care practices used for dogs and cats may also be beneficial for rabbits. In fact, a recent study by Oxley et al. has highlighted h........ Read more »

Oxley, J., Previti, A., Alibrandi, A., Briefer, E., & Passantino, A. (2015) A Preliminary internet survey of pet rabbit owners’ characteristics. World Rabbit Science, 23(4), 289. DOI: 10.4995/wrs.2015.3771  

  • September 7, 2016
  • 10:30 AM
  • 532 views

Clicker Training vs Treat: Equally Good in Dog Training

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Scientists find unanticipated results in a study that compares the clicker to a verbal reward-marker and the use of food alone in dog training.The study, by Cinzia Chiandetti (University of Trieste) et al  took 51 pet dogs and trained them on a novel task. 17 dogs were trained using a clicker, 17 using a verbal reward marker (“Bravo”), and 17 with only a reward. Then they tested the dogs to see how well they performed when asked to generalize the training to something similar and someth........ Read more »

Chiandetti, C., Avella, S., Fongaro, E., & Cerri, F. (2016) Can clicker training facilitate conditioning in dogs?. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. DOI: http://dx.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2016.08.006  

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