Fellow Creatures: A New Post

A new post over at my Fellow Creatures blog looks at the responsible use of pets in advertising, and some new guidelines from the British Veterinary Association on what advertisers should (and shouldn't) do. The report calls for advertisers to consider the five welfare needs in what they are depicting.

My post is called, Using pets to sell: Responsible use of animals in adverts.

(Photo: Daniel Frank/Stocksnap).

The Posts of the Year 2018

The posts about dogs and cats you liked best in 2018.

Top posts about dogs and cats from 2018, illustrated by happy Lab in frosty countryside
Photo: Szofia Zsemberi / Shutterstock.com

It’s been another busy year here at Companion Animal Psychology. Highlights including being featured in the Washington Post ('Your dog and cat wish they could tell you this'), being interviewed by Radio New Zealand, and speaking at the BC SPCA’s Animal Behaviour Science Symposium (where it was lovely to meet some readers of this blog).

I had the pleasure of interviewing some amazing people:

The Train for Rewards blog party was another success with fabulous posts from trainers wanting to encourage people to use reward-based training methods. Thank you to everyone who took part.

And don't forget to check out the great books we read at the Companion Animal Psychology Book Club. If you want to join (next book in February 2019), we'll be accepting new members in January and details are on that page. As well, everyone is welcome to join the Animal Books Facebook group for general chit-chat about our favourite animal books.

At the same time, this year had some challenges, not least of which was finding time to blog. I’ve had fewer posts this year simply because I’ve been so busy working on my book. I turned the manuscript in to my publisher in April and am just now finalizing edits. Look out for more news in due course.

Another challenge is simply that blogging is harder work these days. Facebook shows posts to fewer and fewer people, seo gets harder, and there are technical issues too…

I’m lucky that Companion Animal Psychology still has a large and growing readership, and I am so grateful to all of you for your support, likes, shares, comments, and the coffees on Ko-fi.

I wish you and yours a happy, healthy and peaceful 2019!

These are the posts you liked the best in 2018.

The pet people to follow in 2018

What are the five freedoms and what do they mean to you?

Is scent enriching for shelter dogs?

How to pet cats and dogs

What is desensitization and counter-conditioning in dog training

How can I tell if my dog is afraid?

Puppy socialization practices and how they are lacking

Eight tips to help fearful dogs feel safe

Study outlines reasons to ban electronic collars for dogs

Don't punish your dog for peeing in the house

At my Psychology Today blog Fellow Creatures, the top post of the year was well-behaved dogs may have happier owners.

All photos: Shutterstock.com except no. 9, Bad Monkey Photography.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Season's Greetings

Season's Greetings from Companion Animal Psychology

A happy Siberian Husky wears a Santa hat in the snow
Photo: Anna Tronova/Shutterstock.com

Thank you for your support throughout the year. It's great to have such a wonderful community of people who care about their pets.

Happy Holidays! And wishing you and yours the very best for a happy and healthy 2019!


Animal Lovers Pick Their Favourite Books of 2018

Animal lovers and readers of Companion Animal Psychology share their favourite book about animals that they read in 2018.

Animal lovers favourite books of 2018
Photo: Kimrawicz/Shutterstock.com

Here are their choices, and what they love about the book they picked. You can find copies of all the books at my Amazon store, https://www.amazon.com/shop/animalbookclub.

Kristi Benson, CTC, Dog trainer and owner of Kristi Benson Dog Training; on staff at Academy for Dog Trainers.

Animal Weapons: The Evolution of Battle, by Doublas J. Emlen. Illustrated by David J. Tuss.

Have you ever gazed in wonder at your dog’s pearly whites when they show them off in a particularly robust yawn? Or pondered what’s up with elk’s antlers, or perhaps laughed (less than charitably) at a picture of the single hilariously large claw on a fiddler crab? Antlers, club-like tails, teeth, jaws, and claws come in all shapes and sizes, and are all a form animal weaponry. Used for protection and to obtain resources like food and territory, they’re each and every one fascinating. Author Douglas J. Emlen, a biology prof with a knack for storytelling, wrote a compelling book about all sorts, sizes, and shapes of animal weaponry, and goes even further, comparing their evolution to the evolution of human weaponry over time. The author takes the book from tyrant dinosaur teeth to the peril of an unhorsed knight, and somehow manages to pull the threads together in a lively way. Extra bonus: the animal’s behaviour and biology is presented clearly and convincingly in the context of evolution. This is the exact book for the person in your life who likes to look up from a book every few minutes and say “you won’t believe this, but…”.

Animal weapons

Jodi Cassell, MS, CTC, Jodi's Dogs: Training and Behavior Consulting

Pitbull: The Battle Over an American Icon by Bronwen Dickey

I finally read Pitbull: The Battle Over an American Icon by Bronwen Dickey. My time volunteering at a shelter taught me to love pitties and pitty mixes I actually think they are among the dogs that provide the best fit for families in the US. They bond to their families and love human contact, but are pretty low maintenance in terms of exercise needs. Dickey did a fantastic job delving into the history, politics, and science of pitty dogs. The sections on the history of this breed group were detailed and fascinating, in terms of the traditional bull and terriers that were beloved pets in many Western societies in the 19th century to the shady side of their use as fight dogs. Who knew "bull and terriers" were common pets for many classes of people in the 19th century??? The discussion of social class and dog breeds and how this has contributed to the demonetization of the various pit breeds (and other breeds throughout history) was an eye-opener. And I enjoyed reading about how many amazing groups have formed since the renowned Michael Vicks fight bust to provide education to bust the pervasive myths about this breed group and to save many dogs.

Pit Bull: The battle over an American icon

Alex Tran, Digital Marketing Strategist with Hollingsworth.

Tamed and Untamed: Close Encounters of the Animal Kind by Sy Montgomery.

This book is amazing. I love how they get into the psychology of animals so that we better understand these creatures. The books literally are like reading a David Attenborough novel. It comes from the POV of cats, dogs and more. The authors have spent decades studying animals worldwide. This is a great read if you love animals.

Tamed and Untamed

Jackie Johnston, CTC, CPDT-KA, CSAT, Dog Trainer & Behavior Consultant

Helping Minds Meet: Skills for a Better Life with Your Dog by Helen Zulch and Daniel Mills.

A quick, easy read that provides solid ways that we can adjust our interactions with our dogs to strengthen relationships and well-being.

Helping Minds Meet cover

Elka Karl, Dadascope Communications

LOOK BIG: And Other Tips for Surviving Animal Encounters of All Kinds, by Rachel Leven and illustrated by Jeff Ostberg.

This is a beautifully illustrated, smartly written book on how to deal with  wild animals (and urban animals). It includes a handful of animal-encounter tales from acclaimed writers like Samin Nosrat (Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat). It's a great gift for animal lovers, both big and small (kids LOVE it and adults are impressed by its amazing illustrations and smart writing) as well as those who are fascinated with weird animal facts and who just want to read about animal adventures from afar. It features accurate, smart advice.

Look Big: And other tips for surviving animal encounters of all kinds

Amber Gilmore

CatWise: America's Favourite Cat Expert Answers Your Cat Behaviour Questions by Pam Johnson-Bennett.

For dispelling the myth of feline behavior being rooted in revenge or malice.

Cat Wise

Shannon B. Thier, CPDT-KA, CSAT, CTDI, ABCDT), Founder of  K-949: Training for Humans with Dogs, ThePositiveDogTrainer.com

Remember Me by Eileen Anderson.

I lost both of my littermates and the loves of my life in 2018 - Tonka in February; Pongo in July), both of them were 16 years old, and I had them since they were 8 wks old and found in a hot South Florida dumpster. Even though they were not showing signs of cognitive dysfunction, I had a feeling that Pongo, the one who lived longer than her sister, might succumb to CCD. Sadly, she had tumors in her liver, and I had to let her go mid-year.

With that said, I found Eileen's book fascinating and chock full of information that can help other guardians who don't know what to do or the signs to look for when their dog begins to show signs of canine cognitive dysfunction. Eileen has boatloads of insight and she writes meticulously. Whether or not you have a dog experiencing CCD right now or not, it's definitely a book that I believe everybody should have on their shelf."

Debbie Turner, Dean Insurance Agency

What to Expect when Adopting a Dog by Diane Rose-Solomon.

It is an excellent book in laying out the dog adoption process, instead of going to the shelter and just selecting one. It should be mandatory reading for anyone adopting.

What to expect when adopting a dog

Grace King, Grace and Luca

Making Dogs Happy: A  Guide to How They Think, What They Do (And Don't) Want, And Getting to "Good Dog!" Behaviour by Melissa Starling and Paul McGreevy.

My favourite animal book of 2018 was ‘Making Dogs Happy’ by Dr Melissa Starling & Prof Paul McGreevy. It does what it says on the tin, discussion of dog behaviour and what we can do to make our dogs’ lives happier.

I found it discussed scientific ideas in easy to understand language. I got a lot out of it, particularly about optimism in dogs and using surprises and minor changes in routine in positive ways.

Making dogs happy

Jeff Neal, The Critter Depot

Insects: An Edible Field Guide by Stefan Gates.

Humans consuming crickets has been a trending topic within American society. It's not a topic we're prepared for, but it's a question we've been seeing more and more. So I wanted to learn more about the idea. There's a lot of insect cook books. But I wanted to find something that was more natural and down to earth. Stefan Gates does a nice job discussing a variety of insects that one finds while strolling through the woods. From crickets to grubs to worms, he discusses the nutritional value of these bugs, and what benefits animals, and humans can acquire from eating them. He does offer some cooking tips. But I thought this book did a really nice job of touching on a curious topic that many people have, without get too bogged down on recipes.

Insects an edible field guide

You can find copies of all these books via my Amazon store, https://www.amazon.com/shop/animalbookclub

Animal Books

The chance to contribute to a blog post about animal books, illustrated by this beautiful kitty relaxing on a book
Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Members of the Companion Animal Psychology Book Club will recognize the photo above. It's a stock photo, but it's one of my favourites that I've used since I began blogging.

Companion Animal Psychology News December 2018

The mirror test, what we know about dogs, and some Christmas videos... the latest newsletter from Companion Animal Psychology.

Companion Animal Psychology News December 2018

Some of my favourites from around the web this month

"“There are researchers who, it seems, do not want fish to be included in this secret club,” he said. “Because then that means that the [primates] are not so special anymore.”" A ‘self-aware’ fish raises doubts about a cognitive test by Elizabeth Preston

“A while ago I saw a dog training guide that recommended that someone put a shock collar on their puppy and then hold down the shock button…” Yes, I’m angry about that training advice by Kristi Benson CTC

“It may start as nothing but a temporary relief or a distraction, but it may also grow into a newfound appetite for life.” How to get your anxious dog to play by Sylvie Martin CTC at Crosspaws Dogs (don’t miss the lovely video). 

"The main point is that there aren't any definite answers to many questions about dog behavior, dog etiquette, and dog-human interactions."  Dr. Marc Bekoff on what we know and don’t know about dogs.

“As an assistant clinical professor of veterinary medicine and veterinary behaviorist, I have experience in small animal care and animal behavior, and I am concerned about the welfare of animals on planes as well as the humans. The issues are more complicated than many imagine. “ Flying with emotional support animals: the ups and downs of life in coach by Dr Christine Calder.

“Even though it seems to be only an issue of semantics, there are associations with the concept of a pack that can harm the human—companion animal bond.” On your best behaviour: moving beyond “leader of the pack” by Dr Ilana Reisner

"Don’t get me wrong. The dog owner means well. They are out there walking with their dog and that’s more than many dogs get." Does your dog secretly hate his walk? by Tim Steele CTC at Behavior Matters Academy.

"I have a lot of vegetarian friends and most of them are happy." The puzzling link between vegetarianism and depression by Prof. Hal Herzog.

There are some great photos here. The comedy wildlife awards 2018.

There are also some lovely wildlife photos in the Royal Society Publishing Photography competition 2018. My favourite is the waxwing.

“With a tongue like this, they don’t need human help to stay fresh.” High speed video of cat tongues reveals another reason why they are superior, by Emma Betuel.

Do we know if a Great Dane meeting a Chihuahua recognises it as another dog? Naked Scientists asked Dr. Charlotte Duranton and Prof. Donald Bloom for their podcast.

Christmas videos

These two lovely Christmas videos are from British animal welfare charities. First up, this video from Cats Protection is based on a true story.

And secondly, there is this heart-warming Christmas video from the RSPCA.

Companion Animal Psychology Book Club

This month the Animal Book Club is reading The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods. It’s a fascinating book about far more than dogs.

Companion Animal Psychology book of the month - The Genius of Dogs

You can find a full list of all the books at amazon.com/shop/animalbookclub (I earn from qualifying purchases) or on the book club page, which is where you'll find more information including how to join.

Support Companion Animal Psychology

If you love Companion Animal Psychology and find it a useful resource, did you know you can support me on Ko-fi?

Ko-fi is like a tip jar that lets you buy a coffee for creators whose work you like.

This month I’d like to say a special thank you to Canine Kismet, Sandy and Connor, Kim Tudor, and an anonymous person for their support. It is very much appreciated!

Here at Companion Animal Psychology

Last month, Do You Believe in Dog? had an amazing campaign to use canine science to get girls interested in studying science. I was honoured to be one of the women they chose to include. In case you did not see it yet, be sure to check out their post about how women are thriving in canine science. I wrote about their campaign at Psychology Today, encouraging girls to be scientists with a girl’s best friend.

Also over at Psychology Today, I wrote about a study of whether dogs can create connections for people with intellectual disabilities who live in supported housing (short answer, yes).

Here on the blog, I wrote about the Five Freedoms and what they mean to you as a pet owner. I covered a fascinating study about whether dogs, cats or humans make the best sleep partner (and I’ve loved all the photos and stories you’ve shared with me about where your pets sleep).

And my most recent post looks at why you should not punish your dog for peeing in the house.

Apart from that, I have been working on another round of edits for my book. It will keep me busy over the holiday season!

Don't Punish Your Dog for Peeing in the House

Why punishment is the wrong approach for house training mistakes, and how you should house train your dog or puppy instead.

Don't punish your dog for peeing in the house. How to house train your dog. Photo shows sad dog lying on bed
Photo: mannpuku/Shutterstock

Suppose your dog suddenly starts to pee in the house. You clean it up the first time but it happens again…. And then again.

Or your new puppy keeps having accidents indoors even though you take her outside often.

In this situation, some people will yell at their dog. Some might even try physical punishment like hitting the dog or an alpha roll. And we’ve all come across the advice that you should rub their nose in it.

Don’t do it.

Whether you're toilet training an adult dog or house training a puppy, here’s why that’s the wrong approach, and what you should do instead.

Punishment can make things worse

First of all, let’s think about it from the dog’s perspective.

Suppose they pee in the house and you yell at them. What do they learn from this?

It’s unlikely the dog will understand why you are yelling. This is especially the case if there is a time lag between the mess being made and you discovering it.

Unfortunately what they might learn is not to pee in front of you. From the dog’s perspective, this is what causes the yelling, not peeing in the house. The dog may also feel afraid of you.

What can happen is that when the dog wants to pee, they now want to do so out of sight of you. I’m sure you’ve heard people tell tales of how the dog ‘sneaks off’ to go and pee in another room, or waits until they are out.

This means that aside from not solving the problem, punishing the dog actually makes the problem worse because it means the dog is now scared to pee in front of you outside.

This can make resolving house training issues even harder. They may avoid urinating on walks, instead waiting until they are home and you are not there.

If you punish your dog for urinating in the house, they may just learn not to pee in front of you, even outside. This Pom is peeing on the lawn.
Photo: Jakkrit Orrasri/Shutterstock

Punishing the dog for urinating inside is basically the opposite of house training.

There’s also the wider issue that punishment is not the best way to train dogs – reward-based training is a better approach.

House soiling accidents are not due to spite

When dogs pee in the house, people often think the dog is being spiteful or stubborn or sneaky. But that’s not the case.

It’s easy to see how people might think that, because sometimes dogs pick odd spots to pee in. Like the time someone told me their newly adopted dog had peed in his shoes.

Well, who knows really why the dog picked the shoes – perhaps he had been sniffing them and we all know that a lot of sniffing precedes peeing, or perhaps it was because the shoes were right by the door and the dog really wanted to go outside.

I can understand why that would feel personal! Luckily the guy knew that his dog was not fully house trained yet and it wasn’t a personal slight, it was just that he needed to house train the dog.

Even if it makes us angry when a dog has an accident inside, we need to stay calm (or try and see the funny side) and not blame the dog.

Medical issues could be the cause of house soiling

Are you thinking, "Why is my dog peeing in the house all of a sudden?"

If your dog is already house trained and they have an accident in the house, it’s time to schedule an appointment with your vet.

There are several medical issues that can cause dogs to pee in the house, including urinary tract infections. Diabetes, kidney issues, prostate disease, and other issues can also be the cause. Some medications cause increased urination as a side effect.

If your dog has a medical issue, no amount of training is going to resolve it. That’s why you need to see the vet.

As well, some of these conditions can be very painful. The dog may associate urinating in the usual spots with pain and be looking for new places to pee instead.

Because people often make assumptions about the dog being spiteful, stubborn or sneaky, they may initially not realize there could be a medical cause. But it’s important to seek veterinary help sooner rather than later.

The secret to house training a puppy or dog

Puppies, of course, do not arrive fully house-trained, even if the breeder has made a good start on this. As well, dogs acquired from other sources (such as online ads or rescues) will sometimes not have been properly house trained yet.

The secret to good house training is simply to take your puppy or dog outside often, and then reward them for peeing and pooping outside. Although this sounds easy, you will have to keep it up for three weeks without mistakes.

The secret to house training puppies - like this St Bernard - is to prevent mistakes and reward them for urinating and pooping outside
Photo: Grigorita Ko/Shutterstock

You need to take the dog outside often enough that they always empty their bladder outside and don’t get chance to go in the house.

It’s up to you to stop mistakes from happening by always taking them outside in time. And go outside with them so that when they do go, you are there to reward them right away. (You’ll need to make sure you have some good training treats handy).

Reward the dog as soon as the peeing or pooping is finished.

To help prevent accidents, make sure you always have your shoes, coat and treats to hand. That way you’re always ready to take the dog outside.

You will need to supervise your dog closely in the house, which may mean keeping them on a leash or on your lap at times when they might need to go soon.

You may also learn to recognize the signs that your dog needs to go, which means you should take them outside right away.

You may want to crate the dog at times when you are not able to supervise them properly. (Of course, this means you have to crate-train the dog as a priority).

For young puppies you may need to take them outside every half an hour as they cannot hold their bladder very long at that age. You may need to carry them outside so they don’t urinate while you’re getting your shoes and coat on.

Don’t loosen up this management until you’ve had three weeks without accidents in the house.

Clean up messes properly

If there are any messes in the house, it’s important to clean them up properly. Dogs have great noses and the smell may linger for them even if it’s not detectable to us.

You can buy ready-made enzyme cleaners from pet stores and supermarkets. Or you can make your own with a 10% solution of a biological washing powder, then rinse the area after cleaning it. Of course, always do a patch test of any cleaner before using it, to be sure your carpet or other flooring won’t be damaged.

Don't punish your puppy for accidents in the house. The right way to house train includes rewarding puppies for going outside, like this little puppy peeing in the snow
Photo: Miriam Doerr Martin Frommherz/Shutterstock

Availability of water during house training

Sometimes people respond to the dog having accidents in the house by restricting access to water, or taking the water bowl away overnight.

This is not going to solve the problem as you still need to house train the dog or deal with any medical issues.

Water should be available for your pet at all times. (See: what are the Five Freedoms and what do they mean to you?).

Summary: House training do's and don'ts

The problem with punishing a dog for urinating in the house is that it doesn’t help to solve the problem, it may make your dog fearful, and it can even make the problem worse.

If there might be a medical issue, it’s important to see a vet first. Only once medical issues are resolved or ruled out can you work on house training.

If it’s a house training issue, it’s up to you to train your dog by preventing accidents from happening in the first place, rewarding the dog for toileting outside – and keeping this up for three weeks without mistakes.

Understandably this can sometimes be difficult. If you’re struggling, consider hiring a dog trainer to help. (See: how to choose a dog trainer).

If you prefer to watch a webinar, check out Housetraining 123.

How long did it take you to house train your dog?

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Fellow Creatures: A New Post

I have a new post at my Psychology Today blog Fellow Creatures about a study that looked at whether a dog walking program has benefits for people with intellectual disabilities who live in supported housing.

The results of this exploratory study found there were more friendly interactions with other people when a dog was present. Read more here.

Photo: dawnie206/Pixabay

Dogs, Cats and Humans: The Best Sleep Partner...?

Women whose dog sleeps on the bed report better sleep than those with a human or feline sleeping partner.

The effects of co-sleeping with a dog, cat or human on women's sleep. Photo shows a dog and cat resting on the bed
Photo: Julie Vader/Shutterstock

Whether or not pets should be allowed to sleep on the bed is an age-old question. Some worry it will lead to a disturbed night’s sleep, while some old-fashioned dog trainers still claim it will spoil the dog. The latter argument is based on out-dated ideas about dominance and dog training and can be easily dismissed, but the issue of sleep quality is starting to get researchers attention.

A new study by Dr. Christy Hoffman (Canisius College) et al and published in Anthrozoƶs asked women about who sleeps in/on the bed with them and how good they thought their sleep was over the previous month.

The results show dogs are a less disruptive sleep partner than another human, while cats are just as disruptive as humans. Dogs are perceived as providing more comfort and security than another human, while cats provide even less.

Not only that, but women with a dog (or a dog and a cat) go to bed earlier and get up earlier than women with just a cat. They also have more regular sleep/wake times throughout the week, perhaps because of the need to provide toilet breaks for the dog. Regular sleep/wake times have been linked to better sleep quality in other research.

Dr. Christy Hoffman says,
“Ordinary dog and cat owners should know that there is still much to explore about the impacts that pets have on their owner’s sleep quality (and vice versa!). While our data suggest that women commonly perceive their dogs to be better bed partners than cats or adult humans, some dogs may make terrible bed partners and some cats may positively contribute to their owner’s sleep. We need more information to sort out the situations under which a pet in the bed may enhance an individual’s sleep quality and the situations under which it detracts from sleep quality.  
I hypothesize that findings from follow-up studies may be a bit mixed. That is, I anticipate we will find that pets may facilitate relaxation, which may be particularly beneficial for individuals who tend to feel they are vulnerable when they sleep; however, pets may also be associated with some night time disturbances, some of which we might not even recall the next morning.”

962 American women took part in the research. The vast majority of participants had a pet, and just over half lived in New York State. They completed a validated questionnaire about sleep quality (the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index) and questions about how they perceived their sleep had been affected by human, cat and dog bed partners in the last month.

57% of participants had a human sleeping partner, 55% shared their bed with a dog (or dogs) and 31% with a cat (or cats).

When women let their pet sleep on the bed, responses varied as to whether they slept better, worse, or no different if the pet slept in contact with them. Amongst the dog owners, a majority thought their dog spent at least 75% of the night on the bed, but responses for cats were more spread out and suggest cats spend less time on the bed than dogs.

Many participants had deficits in sleep quality, but the rates were the same for pet owners and non pet owners.

In case you are wondering, men were welcome to take part in the research but very few chose to do so, which is why these results focus on women. Researchers often find men are less likely to take part in research than women. Earlier studies have found women report sleeping less well than men, so this is an interesting topic for research.

These results are fascinating but raise many questions about co-sleeping with pets. The extent of disruption at night as well as feelings of comfort and security are all important. Women with a pet (dog, cat, or both) in the bed report higher levels of comfort and security than those without a pet in the bed.

People’s self-reports about sleep quality may not be entirely accurate, as some disturbances may not be remembered in the morning. The scientists are already investigating how to use accelerometers to assess how much time dogs spend resting or active.

Dr. Marc Bekoff did a great interview with Dr. Christy Hoffman about this research. If you want to learn more, check it out at Psychology Today. You can follow Dr. Hoffman's research via the Canisius Canines Facebook page.

Does your pet sleep on the bed, and if so, how do you think your sleep is affected?

If you love Companion Animal Psychology, you can support me on ko-fi. Ko-fi is like a tip jar that lets you buy a coffee for creators whose work you like. And why not subscribe to Companion Animal Psychology to make sure you never miss a post.

Hoffman, C. L., Stutz, K., & Vasilopoulos, T. (2018). An Examination of Adult Women’s Sleep Quality and Sleep Routines in Relation to Pet Ownership and Bedsharing. Anthrozoƶs, 31(6), 711-725. https://doi.org/10.1080/08927936.2018.1529354

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. As an Etsy affiliate, I earn from qualifying Etsy purchases.

Companion Animal Psychology Book Club December 2018

“A masterful account of the way science is revealing just how smart dogs can be."

The Companion Animal Psychology Book Club choice for December 2018 is The Genius of Dogs by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods

“A masterful account of the way science is revealing just how smart dogs can be. Fascinating and highly readable.”--John Bradshaw.

The Companion Animal Psychology Book Club choice for December 2018 is The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods.

From the inside cover,
""My dog can do that." 
So said a young Brian Hare to his professor who was studying animal behavior - and a revolution in our scientific understanding of dog intelligence began. Specifically, Brian Hare's dog, Oreo, could read human gestures that monkeys were blind to. The years of research that followed took Hare around the world and changed forever what we know of how dogs think and what they understand. This book is the masterfully told story of t his revolution and the new riches it brings to our relationship with dogs. 
We have learned more about how dogs think in the last decade than we have over the last century. Brian Hare, now director of the Duke Canine Cognition Center at Duke University, pioneered research that has proven dogs have a kind of genius for getting along with people that is unique in the animal  kingdom. His seminal work has acquainted him with every kind of dog from the tiniest shelter puppy to the exotic New Guinea Singing Dog.  
The dog genius revolution is transforming how we live and work with our canine friends, including how we train them. Does your dog feel guilt? Is she pretending she can't hear you? Does she want affection--or your sandwich? In The Genius of Dogs, Brian Hare and award-winning journalist and author Vanessa Woods lay out what the new cognitive science means for you in your daily life with your dog."

Learn more about the  Companion Animal Psychology Book Club (and how to join) or visit the Animal Book Club store on Amazon.

Love Companion Animal Psychology? Support me on Ko-fi.

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Fellow Creatures: A New Post

I  have a new post at my Psychology Today blog Fellow Creatures on a wonderful initiative to interest girls in science, via canine science.

All this month, the bloggers behind Do You Believe in Dog?, Mia Cobb and Julie Hecht, are sharing inspiring quotes from female canine scientists to encourage girls to get into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. They are using a girl's best friend to encourage girls to be scientists.

A girl with her pet dog... Using canine science to encourage girls to get into science
Africa Studio / Shutterstock

What Are the Five Freedoms (and What do they Mean to You?)

The five freedoms of animal welfare, the one most people miss, and what it means for pet owners.

The Five Freedoms and what they mean to dog, cat and rabbit owners. Beautiful puppy playing tug, photo by Bad Monkey
Photo: Bad Monkey Photography

When you get a new puppy or kitten, no one tells you your new pet has five main welfare needs that need to be met. But maybe they should, because they provide a framework for how we should care for dogs, cats, and other pets. Read on to find out what they are, how many pet owners know them, and why they matter to you.

The Five Freedoms

The Five Freedoms were originally defined by the UK’s Farm Animal Welfare Council in the 1960s, and subsequently updated. They are now understood to apply to the welfare of all animals, not just livestock.

The Five Freedoms are:

  • Freedom from hunger and thirst, by ready access to water and a diet to maintain health and vigour. 
  • Freedom from discomfort, by providing an appropriate environment. 
  • Freedom from pain, injury and disease, by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment. 
  • Freedom to express normal behaviour, by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and appropriate company of the animal’s own kind.
  • Freedom from fear and distress, by ensuring conditions and treatment, which avoid mental suffering. 

The Five Freedoms define animal welfare and consequently you can find them on the websites of organizations like the ASPCA (with a downloadable poster), the BC SPCA and the RSPCA Queensland.  In the UK, the RSPCA and the PDSA write about how these welfare needs are enshrined in law.

The Five Freedoms tell us our pets have five welfare needs – diet, environment, health, companionship, and behaviour.

What are the Five Freedoms, and what do they mean for pet owners? They apply to the welfare of all pet animals, such as this sleepy cat pictured.
Many cats prefer to be solitary, while others enjoy companionship from other felines.. Photo: Anna Luopa / Shutterstock

Knowing About the Five Freedoms

How many pet owners know about these needs? Every year since 2011, the PDSA in the UK has released its PAW report on the welfare of pets. The 2018 report tells us how many people know about these five welfare needs.

The good news is that most people were able to identify four of the five welfare needs when shown a list.

  • 87% identified the need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.
  • 85% identified the need to live in a suitable environment.
  • 85% identified the need for a suitable diet
  • 67% identified the need to exhibit normal behaviour patterns.

So what did most people miss?

  • Only 18% identified the need to be housed with, or apart from, other animals.

Unfortunately these needs are not as well known as they should be. Only 13% of pet owners were able to correctly identify all five of the animal’s needs.

And 29% of people thought that a need for human company was one of the welfare needs.

The Need for Companionship

Of course, for each animal these needs will be met in different ways.

Take the need to be kept together with (or apart from) other animals of the same species.

Guinea pigs need companionship from other guinea pigs and should not be kept alone. Because of this, in Switzerland it is illegal to keep just one guinea pig.

Rabbits are also very sociable, and prefer to live with at least one other rabbit that they are bonded with. (Remember to neuter them so as not to have too many rabbits).

Domestic cats as a species are flexible in their social behaviour. Some cats can live happily with other cats. This is especially likely for cats that have grown up together and/or that were socialized with other cats during the sensitive period for socialization (but there are no guarantees). On the other hand, as solitary hunters cats do not need other cats to survive, and some cats do not like to have to share their home with other cats.

What are the Five Freedoms and what do they mean to you? Companionship is one of the freedoms. These two happy dogs love to hang out together
Many dogs enjoy canine companionship. Photo: Bad Monkey Photography

Most pet dogs are sociable and like to have other canine friends. Luckily, if there are no other dogs in the home, it’s possible to arrange dog walks with other friendly dogs or visit doggy daycare or the dog park so your dog still gets to hang out with other canines.

However, if you have the kind of dog who – for whatever reason – does not like to hang out with other dogs, they should be kept separate. (This is especially the case if the dog is a risk to other dogs and will attack them).

So you need to consider the needs of the species as well as those of your individual pet.

The Five Freedoms apply to all pets, including guinea pigs like this one. In particular for guinea pigs, they should always have another pig as a companion
Photo: Ase / Shutterstock

The Welfare of Cats, Dogs and Rabbits

The PAW report looks at the welfare of the UK’s dogs and cats in terms of the welfare needs and is engagingly presented if you want to take a look (see the link below).

One of the figures that caught my eye is that 12% of dog owners have never trained their dog, a percentage that has not changed much over the years of the PAW reports.

24% of dogs were left alone for 5 or more hours on weekdays. As a general guideline, it is recommended that dogs should not be left alone for more than 4 hours.

And although 80% of people thought their dog was the right weight, 40% did not know how much the dog weighed or what the body condition score was.

For cats it is even worse, with 65% not knowing how much the cat weighs or the body condition score.

And 77% of cat owners said they would like to change at least one of their cat’s behaviours. The most common were scratching furniture (27%) or carpets (22%). (Scratching is a normal behaviour for cats and it’s up to us to provide good scratching posts). As well, 17% reported the cat waking them up, and 17% said the cat begged for food.

Weight was also an issue for rabbits, with 77% of owners not knowing the rabbit’s weight or body condition score.

And companionship is also a major concern, because 54% of rabbits are kept as solitary animals. The PDSA report says “Living a solitary life will be seriously impacting on the physical health and mental wellbeing of our pet rabbits.”

What are the five freedoms, and what do they mean for pet owners? One of the five welfare needs is companionship, and rabbits (like this one) prefer not to be solitary but to live with other rabbits they have bonded to
A solitary life is bad for rabbits. Photo: Ostapenko / Shutterstock

Updating the Five Freedoms

The Five Freedoms have been tremendously helpful in providing a framework to improve animal welfare.

If we don’t provide them for our pets, they will be stressed and unhealthy. It is also important to note that many behaviour problems are, at least to some extent, a result of the animal’s welfare needs not being met.

More recently, a complementary approach to animal welfare called the Five Domains has been proposed by Prof. David Mellor. One of the things about this approach is that it emphasizes the need for positive experiences, not just minimizing negative experiences. You can read more about the Five Domains model here.

Whatever kind of pet we have, it’s important to think about how to provide for good welfare in terms of health, environment, diet, behaviour and companionship.

What do you think is the priority for improving people’s knowledge of what their pets need?

Further Reading

Five fun things to do to make your dog happy today and how to make the world better for dogs.
Five things to do for your cat today and how to make the world better for cats.


Farm Animal Welfare Council (2009) Farm Animal Welfare in Great Britain: Past, Present, and Future.
Mellor DJ (2016). Moving beyond the "Five Freedoms" by Updating the "Five Provisions" and Introducing Aligned "Animal Welfare Aims". Animals : an open access journal from MDPI, 6 (10) https://doi.org/10.3390/ani6100059
PDSA (2018) Paw Report. Available for download at https://www.pdsa.org.uk/media/4371/paw-2018-full-web-ready.pdf 

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