Fellow Creatures: New Post on Millennials and Pet Dogs

I have a new post at my Psychology Today blog Fellow Creatures that looks at some new research on dog ownership amongst millennials.

The research shows pet dogs bring routine and stability at this time of emerging adulthood, but there are some challenges, especially when it comes to finding pet-friendly rental housing. Take a look: Millennials' pet dogs: an anchor to an adult world.

Millennials and Pet Dogs. Photo shows a little white dog at home.
Photo: Fran_/Pixabay

America’s Changing Relationship with the Pet Dog

How pet dogs moved from the streets to their owner’s beds, adoptions from shelters went up, and euthanasia rates went down.

How America's pet dogs moved from the streets to their owner's beds. Photo shows a Golden Retriever puppy in bed.
Photo: NotarYES/Shutterstock

From large numbers of free-ranging dogs in the 70s, fast forward to today where many pet dogs sleep in their owner’s bed, and you can see how much Americans love their dogs.

A review of the dog and shelter dog population from the early 1970s to today by Dr. Andrew Rowan (Humane Society of the United States) and Tamara Kartal (Humane Society International) charts some encouraging trends.

Shelter Euthanasia Rates

In the 70s, an estimated 25% of dogs in the US were allowed to run free in the streets. In 1973, The HSUS estimated that 20% of America’s dogs and cats were euthanized in animal shelters.

That’s 35 million dogs and cats in one year.

Animals arriving at shelters were typically looked after for 3-7 days (in case they were claimed by the owner) and then euthanized.

In 2010, the proportion of pet dogs euthanized by shelters each year is estimated at just below 2.5% of the dog population.

American changing relationship with the pet dog includes declines in shelter euthanasia rates, shown here
Since the 1970s, shelter euthanasia rates for dogs and cats have dropped substantially. Figure from Rowan & Kartal (2018) reproduced under Creative Commons licence

Responsible Pet Ownership

In the mid-late 70s, groups such as The HSUS, American Humane Association, and the National Animal Control Association began to campaign on responsible pet ownership.

This included the idea that people should spay or neuter their pets. One factor the review identifies as important in encouraging this is the introduction of differential licensing fees that mean people who do not spay/neuter their dog have to pay more in their licence fee.

"95% of people say their pets are family members, according to a 2015 survey"

The development of clinics that offer low-cost spay/neuter surgeries is another factor in reducing the number of unwanted pets.

These days, the proportion of dogs that are spayed or neutered is very high – the review says almost 100% for dogs in Los Angeles compared to just under 11% in 1971.

Dog Adoption Rates and Microchips

Another big change mentioned in the report is the increased numbers of people who adopt dogs from animal shelters and rescues. They say that from 2010 the rate of adoptions increased such that it helped to reduce euthanasia rates at shelters.

A national advertising campaign that began in 2009 is credited as helping to increase the number of pet adoptions. (Incidentally, research shows that most people who adopt a shelter dog say the dog meets their expectations and that most cat and dog adopters are satisfied with their new pet).

Another factor in reducing euthanasia rates, although not as big as adoptions, is the increase in shelters’ abilities to return lost pets to their owners. As more and more people get their pets microchipped, it is possible to scan dogs and contact their owners to pick them up. (However, the report does note that early competition between different microchip standards was a problem).

America's changing relationship with the pet dog shows an increase in dogs adopted and returned to their owner, as shown in this chart
Reproduced from Rowan and Kartal (2018) under Creative Commons licence

Pets as Family

The review also comments on people’s changing relationship with their pets, which means dogs are now increasingly thought of as family, and the amount of money spent on pets has gone up substantially.

Over the past ten years, they say, people have become more likely to get a pet “purposefully” (62%) rather than “serendipitously” (26%). Ten years ago, those numbers were 46% and 37% respectively.

America's changing relationship with the pet dog shows an increase over time in dogs adopted from rescues and shelters, as shown in the graph
Data shows an increase in the percentage of people saying they adopted their dog from a shelter or rescue. Reproduced from Rowan and Kartal (2018) under Creative Commons licence.

Surveys put the proportion of dogs that sleep on their owner’s bed at between about 50% and 71%.

Finally, 95% of people say their pets are family members, according to a 2015 survey.

Rowan and Kartal write,
“Owning a dog has become a conscious choice rather than incidental and with this shift we see a changing relationship. One of the first indicators is the level of confinement of companion dogs (from free roaming to confined and clearly associated with a household). This happened around the same time that sterilization became part of the basic care. Following this change, dogs moved into homes and became identified as more formal members of the family.”

The research uses data from a variety of sources, including the American Pet Products Association, American Veterinary Medical Association, individual shelters, and software packages that some shelters use to track animals. While the data varies in time frame, quality, and reach, they have pulled it together to draw a national picture, as well as to consider some states in particular.

The review suggests these lessons can provide a model for other countries, but it is important to remember that cultural factors will need to be taken into account.

Even one dog or cat euthanized due to lack of a home is one too many, and so there is still a long way to go. But this review shows what has been achieved in the US in the last few decades. Let’s hope life continues to improve for our pet dogs and cats.

What do you think are the biggest welfare issues for dogs today?

The paper is open access (link below).

Rowan, A., & Kartal, T. (2018). Dog population & dog sheltering trends in the United States of America. Animals, 8(5), 68.

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The 2019 Pet Blogger Challenge

What is Companion Animal Psychology? What's my favourite post? My answers in the 2019 Pet Blogger Challenge.

A dog and cat snuggle. Text reads Companion Animal Psychology Pet Blogger Challenge

This year, thanks to some encouragement from Eileen Anderson of the wonderful Eileenanddogs blog, I’m taking part in the Pet Blogger Challenge organized by Amy Burkert of GoPetFriendly.com. It’s a chance to reflect on where my blog is at and where I’d like it to go from here. Please feel free to add your comments at the end.

For those who may be visiting your blog for the first time, how long have you been blogging and what is your main topic? 

I started blogging in 2012. At the time, I had two dogs and two cats (one of the dogs has since passed). I thought it would be fun to find out what science has to say about how to have happy dogs and cats. It turns out this is a rapidly-developing field that is very relevant to ordinary people and how they care for their pets.

I have a new post every Wednesday and a newsletter every month. Once a year – in June – I host the Train for Rewards blog party to encourage people to use reward-based training methods (look out for details in mid-May if you want to take part). I maintain a list of research resources on dog training, where you can find a list of scientific articles on dog training and blog posts about them from across the web. There’s now a corresponding cat training research page too! And then there’s the book club, which reads 10 books a year about animals, and the related Animal Books Facebook group which is for general book chat and has less of a commitment from members. 

What was your proudest blogging moment of 2018?

My proudest blogging moment was actually a complete surprise. I looked at my blog analytics one day and saw some page views coming in from the Washington Post. I assumed it was referral spam, but they kept coming. So then I clicked and found out that Companion Animal Psychology had been profiled in the Washington Post! I was absolutely thrilled and delighted.

My proudest writing moment was turning in my book manuscript to my publisher back in April. Since then, I’ve worked very hard on two rounds of substantive edits, and it’s not quite done yet. You’ll have to wait until early 2020 to get your hands on a copy!

What was the biggest blogging challenge you faced in 2018, and how did/will you tackle it?

I think my main challenge is common to most bloggers – finding the time. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing my blog, but it gets harder and harder to fit it in.

One of the things I did to help was start a Ko-fi page. Ko-fi is like a tip jar where people can buy a coffee for creators whose work they love. I chose this rather than a patreon because the point is that I want to keep blogging where the public can read my posts, rather than make subscriber-only content, and I definitely don’t have the time to make extra content just for subscribers. I am very grateful to everyone who has supported me on Ko-fi so far, and also for the kind messages you have sent. It really means a great deal.

Which of your 2018 blog posts was your favorite and why?

My favourite post was What is desensitization and counter-conditioning. I wrote it because this is such an important technique to help fearful animals but it’s also one that I often see people struggle with. I wanted something I could refer people to if they needed a little help. Even though the post is about dog training, one of the suggested readings at the end is a book about cats that happens to explain it really well. I like that because it’s an important reminder that training isn’t just for dogs!

Siamese cat with toy. One of the things I love about blogging is choosing the photos
One of the things I enjoy about blogging is choosing the photos. Photo: Xseon/Shutterstock

Which of your 2018 posts was most popular with your audience? Why do you think it does so well?

The most popular post with my audience was Don’t punish your dog for peeing in the house. I was actually surprised at how popular it was, but I think it did so well because house training issues are so common. So many people think the dog is being spiteful or stubborn and so it really helps for people to have good advice on this.

Did you implement a new series, feature, or practice on your blog in 2018 that you’re enjoying?

For the first time, I tried having a set of posts around a theme, how to help fearful dogs. Normally I don’t plan posts that far in advance but this required me to do that, including setting up some interviews to be part of the series and thinking about what each post would be. I wasn’t sure if it would work or if readers would get bored of the topic and wish I’d moved on to something else, but luckily it worked well. Maybe if I can find time to sit down and plan, I’ll do the same again this year but on a different theme.

As the social media landscape changes, how are you promoting your blog posts and connecting with new readers?

This is such a pertinent question because it changes all the time, and sometimes so abruptly. Traffic from Facebook especially has really fallen. Pinterest traffic has fallen. Google too; an algorithm change in April led my google traffic to plummet, though it came back up again after another change in September. And then Blogger got in on the act in late October with an issue that meant some mobile views via Facebook were not being recorded (they acknowledged the issue but at time of writing still have not said if or when they intend to fix it).

The most important thing for me is my email list (you can subscribe to Companion Animal Psychology here). I still use Feedburner to send out emails because it’s free (I looked at some alternatives last week but they were pricey). Then I use Twitter and Facebook.

Two Beagles sleeping on a bed. My answers to the Pet Blogger Challenge
Photo: Bill Anastasiou/Shutterstock

Looking forward to 2019, if you accomplish only one thing through your blog, what do you hope it is?

If I’m completely honest, I feel like my main aim is simply to keep going! To get to the end of the year, having still managed to have a post every Wednesday. But I’m feeling tired, so maybe I'll come up with some better ideas during the year. And having said that, I have read some really cool scientific papers recently that I’m looking forward to blogging about. So long as there is exciting science out there, I expect I’ll keep on going! The reward is knowing it makes a difference to the welfare of our companion animals. I love learning new things and my readers do too.

What steps are you planning to take to ensure you reach your goal?

I’m trying to plan ahead and make time in my diary for my blog, not just for the writing part but also the social media and technical part. I can’t write last-minute posts, I need time to think about each one, so I need to keep that space in my diary. Also – and this won’t sound related, but it is – I took up running again. I’m having to build up very slowly because I have a dodgy ankle, and I’m very slow, but it’s doing me the world of good. Being in front of my computer all the time is not healthy so I needed something to counterbalance that.
Button for the 2019 Pet Blogger Challenge

Now it’s your turn! How can we help? Is there an area where you could use some advice, or an aspect of your blog that you’d like input on?

People keep telling me I should be on Instagram. Is a good way to send traffic to your blog? What do I need to know to make it work?

This is also a great time for readers to tell me if there are any burning topics you would like to see covered in 2019.

Thank you to Amy for running the Pet Blogger Challenge!

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Companion Animal Psychology News January 2019

Where guide dogs come from, why cats aren’t antisocial, and what pet obesity says about us…

A ginger cat and a Siberian husky puppy; text reads Companion Animal Psychology News

Some of my favourites from around the web this month

“At the risk of sounding evil, Labrador puppies aren't at their cutest as newborns. They look like wrinkly hamsters.” Guide dogs: Where do they really come from? By Rebecca Seales. And despite the quote, the photos are adorable.

“When it comes to age-related illnesses, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are some of the most notorious and least understood human afflictions. But did you know that man’s best friend can suffer from very similar ailments?” Senior dogs can suffer from dementia too by Saryn Chorney

“What do I want, and how do I reinforce it? In other words, you’re not going to “lose weight,” you’re going to lose 5 pounds by the end of the month and reinforce it by buying more sheepdog training videos.”  Patricia McConnell takes a look at what dog training teaches us about resolutions.

“Your dear dog sniffs the same fire hydrant day after day, why not use your dog’s walk to get a few things done? But, there are dangers associated with distracted dog walking.” The dangers of distracted dog walking by Joan Grassbaugh Forry at The Dog Abides.

“Many pet and shelter cats are pretty eager to interact with humans — particularly people who seek out kitty caresses.” If you think cats are antisocial, maybe it’s you, scientists find, by Karin Brulliard.

"Even animals that aren’t eating too much or exercising too little are getting fat. If we can figure out why, we may have the key to our own obesity crisis – and how to stop it." Our pets: The key to the obesity crisis? By Jules Montague at BBC Futures 

“Let’s talk about fake news. Not the political stuff cluttering up your social media feeds, but the kind surrounding canine and feline behavior.” Dr. Julia Albright on debunking behaviour myths.

“If you get to the end of this post and come to the conclusion that I'm just jealous, you're absolutely right. I'm jealous of you and your carefree dog.” Off-leash envy by Glenna Cupp at Your Practical Pup will resonate with many.

“We love them. We live with them. We are mystified by them. “ Listen to Felinology with Dr. Mikel Delgado at Alie Ward’s Ologies podcast. 

Support me on Ko-fi

Companion Animal Psychology brings you science news and evidence-based information about dogs and cats, since 2012.

If you love Companion Animal Psychology, you can support me on Ko-fi. Ko-fi does not charge fees, and you can make either a one-time or monthly donation.

This month, I’d like to say a special thank you to Shannon and the Companion Animal Project, C. Wilson, Donna, and Ocean Park Dog Training for their support. It is invaluable!

Here at Companion Animal Psychology

This month, I was very happy to be quoted in this piece by Linda Lombardi for Fear Free Happy Homes, Can cats and dogs get along? Science says yes. And I’m delighted that the Animal Books group is included in Lincoln Pet Culture’s list of cat enrichment groups on Facebook.

"Advertising is often aspirational, and the idea that it should also be aspirational in terms of animal welfare is a good one." At my Psychology Today blog Fellow Creatures, I looked at the British Veterinary Associations new guidelines for advertisers in Using pets to sell:  Responsible use of pets in advertising. What do you think?

Did you see Dr. Christian Nawroth’s guest post, Despite all the media fuzz, goats are not the new dogs? It’s a must-read for anyone who has or is considering pet goats.

My list of the pet people to follow in 2019 is out, and you will find many talented and dedicated people with interesting social media feeds to add to your list. Thank you to everyone who has been adding their favourites in the comments on the blog. There’s still time for more!

Women and pets in art is like an online art gallery visit to see four representations of women with cats or dogs.

To round off 2018, animal lovers and Companion Animal Psychology readers told me about the animal book they had most enjoyed reading during the year. If you’re looking for something to read, take a look!

And in case you are wondering, the Companion Animal Psychology Book Club takes January off, but if you go to the page you'll find a sneak preview of February's book. You'll find all of the books (and some other cool stuff too) on my Amazon store, https://www.amazon.com/shop/animalbookclub.

Pets in Art

This beautiful colour woodblock print is Cat Pawing at Goldfish by Isoda Koryusai, dated 1770-1774.

Cat pawing goldish, Japanese colour woodblock print

It’s in the Asian Art section of the Art Institute of Chicago.

The Pet People to Follow in 2019

The canine and feline scientists, pet professionals, bloggers, and organizations to follow on social media in 2019.

Dogs, cats, science, animal behavior and animal welfare - the people to follow on social media in 2019

Are you looking for some new pet-related accounts to follow in 2019? I’ve updated my list of some of the best people and organizations to follow on Twitter and Facebook if you’re interested in companion animals, science, and the human-animal bond.

These are people or groups who produce great content of their own AND also have a varied feed that shares news, research and interesting snippets from around the web.

I’ve given links to Twitter and Facebook accounts so you can follow however you choose (some are more active on one than the other). The first link is always to Twitter so this is like a giant #FF. The second link is to Facebook if they are on there too, but I admit this list is somewhat biased towards Twitter.

The list is in no particular order, so read through and see who you would like to follow.

And if you love dogs, cats and science, please follow me too (Twitter, Facebook) if you don’t already! You can subscribe to Companion Animal Psychology to make sure you never miss a post.

Of course, there are many talented people in the world, so please add your own suggestions for people or organizations to follow in the comments below.

This page contains affiliate links.

Dr. John Bradshaw – anthrozoologist and best-selling author of The Animals Among Us: How Pets Make Us Human, Dog Sense (In Defence of Dogs), Cat Sense, and co-author of The Trainable Cat

Dr. Sarah Ellis – co-author of the The Trainable Cat and feline behaviour specialist at International Cat Care

Dr. Hal Herzog – Professor of Psychology at Western Carolina University and author of Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It's So Hard to Think Straight About Animals.

Dr. Alexandra Horowitz (Facebook) – canine cognition scientist and best-selling author of Inside of a Dog and Being a Dog: Following the Dog Into a World of Smell.

Family Dog Project (Facebook) – the canine behaviour research group shares frequent updates on the latest scientific research from their team and others around the globe

Julie Hecht (Dog Spies) – don't miss the fantastic posts on canine science at Julie's Scientific American blog Dog Spies, and stay up to date with all the best dog news via her Twitter feed

Mia Cobb (Do You Believe in dog?) – now a canine science community with guest posts from young scientists on the blog and a feed full of news about canine science and women in STEM

International Cat Care (Facebook) – a great resource for cat lovers, with information and advice for owners and professionals, as well as cute cat pictures too

Dr. Ilana Reisner (Facebook) – this veterinary behaviourist regularly deconstructs dog bite incidents to teach you how to prevent dog bites, and shares interesting and evidence-based items on animal behaviour and training

Dr. Pete Wedderburn (Facebook) – veterinary advice and news, regular Telegraph columnist, author of Pet Subjects: Animal Tales from the Telegraph's Resident Vet, and you’ll find a large library of articles on his website too.

Dr. Mikel Delgado (Feline Minds) – Certified Cat Behaviour Consultant, postdoctoral researcher, and co-author (with Jackson Galaxy) of Total Cat Mojo: The Ultimate Guide to Life with Your Cat shares information about cats and squirrels, with especially useful information on food puzzles for cats

Ingrid Johnson (Fundamentally Feline) –  education about cats and gorgeous photos from this Certified Cat Behaviour Consultant

BC SPCA (Facebook) – in amongst the photos of adoptable animals there is plenty of advice on how to care for pets, including videos packed with tips

Maddie’s Fund (Facebook) – lots of tips to help shelter dogs and cats, along with social media and website advice for the people running the shelters #ThankstoMaddie

The Academy for Dog Trainers (Facebook) – for links to top-notch dog training advice from Jean Donaldson’s Academy for Dog Trainers (“the Harvard of dog training”)

Kristi Benson (Facebook) – dog trainer, sled dog expert, and Academy tutor, with a funny and entertaining dog training blog

Dog science, cat science, animal behaviour, animal welfare, scientists and bloggers to follow on social media in 2019

Pet Professional Guild (Facebook) – advice on dog training and news from the organization for force free pet professionals

IAABC – information on behaviour problems in pets and links to journal articles and mentorships from the International Association of Animal Behaviour Consultants

Dr. Jessica Hekman DVM (Facebook) – the author of The Dog Zombie blog is a vet with a PhD in genomics, a postdoctoral associate at the Karlsson Lab, and a great explainer of canine genetics

Darwin's Ark – a nonprofit (formerly known as Darwin's Dogs) using citizen science to study dog evolution and find new insights into dog and human psychiatric diseases

Dr. Brian Hare (Facebook) – information on animal minds and evolution, especially dogs and bonobos, from the associate professor of Evolutionary Anthropology at Duke, co-author of The Genius of Dogs and founder of Dognition

Dr. Gregory Berns – scientist who uses fMRI to study dogs’ brains, author of How Dogs Love Us and What It's Like to Be a Dog

Pam Johnson-Bennett (Facebook) – cat news and tips from the best-selling author of Think Like a Cat: How to Raise a Well-Adjusted Cat--Not a Sour Puss and host of Animal Planet’s Psycho Kitty

Susan Little DVM – this veterinarian specializes in feline medicine and has a twitter feed packed with intriguing facts about cats

Dr. Melanie Rock – information about non-human animals and health, including dog parks and dog bite prevention, from this Associate Professor at the University of Calgary

Martha Smith-Blackmore DVM – this compassionate expert in veterinary forensics is a Faculty Fellow at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and shares information on animal cruelty and animal welfare

Dr. Malcolm Campbell – biologist and Vice President (Research) at the University of Guelph, follow Malcolm for science tweets and #SixIncredibleThingsBeforeBreakfast (currently on a break from Twitter, but be sure to follow when he's back)

The Centre for Shelter Dogs (Facebook) – part of the Cummings Veterinary School at Tufts University and brings you lots of resources to help shelter dogs

Anthrozoology Research Group (Facebook)  – shares links to interesting anthrozoological research by themselves and from around the globe

Dr. Sam Gaines – head of the Companion Animal dept at the RSPCA, with lots of tips to improve animal welfare and #EndBSL

Cat people and dog people on twitter and Facebook to learn about dogs, cats and science
Photo: Photo-SD/Shutterstock

Dr. Rachel Casey – veterinary behaviourist and animal welfare scientist at Dogs Trust, so look out for lots of great info on canine behaviour

UCD Vet Behaviour Services – recent research and behaviour information from the Behaviour Service at UCDavis

Dr. Chris Blazina – psychologist with a special interest in understanding men and their canine best friends, shares interesting links about human animal interaction

Dr. Alan McElligott – tweets about his research and about animal behaviour, welfare and cognition generally; look out for the entertaining goat stories and photos of Jack the Lab

Dr. Marc Bekoff – animal emotions, moral behaviour, and conservation topics from the author of The Emotional Lives of Animals and Canine Confidential: Why Dogs Do What They Do, plus a very active Psychology Today blog

ASA Animals Society (Facebook) – the American Sociological Association looks at the complex relationships between humans and animals

Dr. Marc Abraham (Facebook) – animal welfare campaigner and veterinarian of the year, founder of Pupaid (Facebook), a UK group campaigning against puppy farms, with regular games of #GuessTheBreed

Dr. Sophia Yin – the account of the company set up by the late Dr. Sophia Yin, CattleDog Publishing, shares her writings and educational links on animal behaviour.

Dr Marty Becker DVM (Facebook) veterinary information and stories about the human-animal bond from America’s veterinarian, author of many books and co-author of From Fearful to Fear Free, and founder of Fear Free (Facebook) and Fear Free Happy Homes to help dogs and cats have a better experience at the veterinarian

Dr. Emily Blackwell  – clinical animal behaviourist, scientist at the University of Bristol, and TV expert, shares animal welfare and animal behaviour science and tips.

Dr. Jenny Stavisky – shelter vet and epidemiologist as well as uplifting tweets about how Vets in the Community help the most vulnerable pets

Dr. Sebastiaan Bol – researcher and found of Cowboy Cat Ranch, look out for all the cute kitty photos

Dr. Naomi Harvey – zoologist, ethologist and research fellow at the Itchy Dog Project

Dr. Kat Littlewood (Facebook) – small animal veterinarian and PhD student especially interested in cats and animal welfare, with an interesting blog too 

Dr. Sandra McCune – scientific leader in Human Animal Interaction at WALTHAM

Dog science and cat science, animal behaviour and welfare Twitter and Facebook accounts to follow
Photo: Mary Rice/Shutterstock

Kim Monteith - manager of animal welfare at the BC SPCA and volunteer at Charlie’s Food Bank helping the pets of the homeless in Vancouver

Dr Kate Mornement (Facebook) – PhD-qualified behaviourist at Pets Behaving Badly – Solutions with Dr Kate with an interesting blog on dogs, cats and parrots

Dr. Carri Westgarth – research fellow in human animal interaction and dog trainer, specializing in research on dog walking and dog bites

Dr. Zoe Belshaw – evidence-based approaches to veterinary science from this veterinary specialist at the University of Nottingham

Dr. Emma Milne (Facebook) – the vet behind vets against brachycephalism, author and animal welfare enthusiast 

Dr. Patrizia Piotti – postdoctoral research on dog behaviour and cognition 

Dr. Taryn M Graham – Graham recently completed her PhD and is interested in how dogs can help promote health in cities, and founder of PAWSitive Leadership which takes certified dogs into classrooms to teach children.

Dr. Christy Hoffman (Facebook) – regular updates on anthrozoology from the Canisius Canine research team

Dr. Caroline Spence – academic interested in animal welfare and sentience and how we understand animal minds

Dr. Debra Horwitz (Facebook) – veterinary behaviourist and author of Blackwell's Five-Minute Veterinary Consult Clinical Companion: Canine and Feline Behavior

Cats Protection (Facebook) – cat videos and advice on how to care for your cat as well as lots of cute pics from this large UK charity

Dr. Tamara Montrose – animal welfare and behaviour scientist who researches sensory environmental enrichment and how to increase shelter adoptions

Dr. Anne Fawcett – small animal veterinarian with a special interest in ethics, co-author of Veterinary Ethics: Navigating Tough Cases, and with a blog that looks at owners, veterinarians and the human-animal bond

Dr. Vanessa Rohlf (Facebook) – compassion fatigue consultant shares information on coping with animal bereavement and resiliency for people who work with animals

Dr. Nik Taylor – research and news on the sociology of human-animal interaction

Dog science, cat science, animal welfare and behaviour experts to follow on social media in 2019
Photo: matabum/Shutterstock

Dr. Christian Nawroth – postdoctoral researcher in animal cognition including goats and pigs (don't miss his post for Companion Animal Psychology on why goats are not the new dogs!)

Kathy Sdao - certified applied animal behaviourist and dog trainer and author of Plenty in Life Is Free

Malena de Martini (Facebook) – training and resources on separation anxiety from the author of Treating Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Laura Monaco Torelli (Facebook) – dog trainer and Karen Pryor Academy faculty member, with a feed full of interesting dog training and animal behaviour info

James Oxley – independent researcher on dog bites and rabbits who shares HAI information and conferences

Clare Ellis - PhD candidate interested in animal welfare and the reasons for relinquishment of rabbits

Janetta Harvey (Facebook) – tireless campaigner against puppy farms and sharer of information on dogs in general and Schnauzers in particular.

Joanna Berger – animal behaviourist and trainer who shares lots of information on behaviour and welfare for dogs, cats and birds

Jemima Harrison – campaigner for better health and welfare for purebred dogs and the director of Pedigree Dogs Exposed

Catherine Amiot – social psychologist who studies self and identity and human-animal relations

Sharklab – Dr Khristof  Dhont’s group at the University of Kent studies the psychology of intergroup relations and human-animal relations, with insights not just into animals but also into racism, sexism, and how to build compassion.

Hunter College ABC – animal science from the Hunter College Psychology department

Sarah-Elizabeth Byosiere –  studies social play behaviour in canids and dog perception and behaviour at the Thinking Dog Centre at Hunter College

OVC Companion Animal Behavior and Welfare Lab (Facebook) – The team from Ontario Veterinary College has an active Facebook feed with details of their own research and articles on how to care for all kinds of pets

American College of Veterinary Behaviourists (Facebook) – Veterinary behaviourists are specially trained veterinarians who can help with your pet’s behaviour problems and even prescribe psychotropic medication if needed. Follow the ACVB for up-to-date information that will help you understand your pet better; they are also the authors of Decoding Your Dog.

Dog science blogs, cat science blogs, researchers and behaviourists to follow in 2019
Photo: Inha Makeyeva/Shutterstock

Debbie Jacobs (Facebook) – if you have a fearful dog, don't miss the essential tips from Debbie Jacobs, author of A Guide to Living with & Training a Fearful Dog; there's also an associated Facebook group for those with a fearful dog in their life

Dr. Wailani Sung – Veterinary behaviourist and co-author (with Dr. Marty Becker and others) of From Fearful to Fear Free

Insightful Animals (Facebook) – the Twitter feed of veterinary behaviourist Dr. Kelly Ballantyne  shares insights into our companion animals and their behaviour

Marilyn Krieger (Facebook) – Cat Coach and author of Naughty No More, Krieger shares tips about feline behaviour and wild felidae conservation 

Lucia Lazarowska – postdoc canine scientist at Auburn studying canine olfactory detection who shares her research and general canine science articles and info

Dr. Clive Wynne – Director of the Canine Science Collaboratory and author who tweets on canine science and all things dog

Dr. Susan Hazel – with a background in veterinary science, animal welfare, and animal behaviour, Hazel’s research includes dogs, sheep and chickens

Molly Crossman – Clinical psychology grad student who looks at the benefits of interactions with animals for human stress and mental health

Dr. Páraic Ó Súilleabháin (Facebook) –  This psychologist studies animal behaviour and personality, including breed specific legislation, his feed has stories about many species of animal

Bronwyn Orr – This vet and animal welfare PhD candidate writes for The Conversation and has an interesting feed about companion animals and wildlife

Melissa McCue McGrath – The author of Considerations for the City Dog tweets about modern dog training and current affairs.

O’HaireLab – Dr. Maggie O’Haire is an associate professor of human-animal interaction who researches how service dogs can help veterans with PTSD

Victoria Stilwell (Facebook) – dog training advice and rescue stories from the TV star and author of It's Me or the Dog

Thomas McNamee – links to science stories and cat videos from the author of The Inner Life of Cats: The Science and Secrets of Our Mysterious Feline Companions

Mikkel Becker (Facebook)  – follow  on Facebook for expert advice from this professional dog trainer who is also co-author of From Fearful to Fear Free

Nick Honor K9 and Puppy Stars (Facebook) – cute photos of pets mingle with news and advice on dog training

Canine Correspondence – Laura Spackman’s Facebook hub sharing information from across the web on our canine best friends, with a mix of helpful information and amusing memes

Family Paws (Facebook) – Tips on how to properly supervise babies and children with dogs, and how to use baby gates, pens and the layout of your house to set your dog and child up for success

Dewdney Animal Hospital (Facebook) – veterinarian Dr. Adrian Walton has a feed that is both local (for his clients) and broad in themes that resonate for all pet owners, like puppy mills and his pink tutus for pit bulls campaign

Now it's your turn. Who would you add to the list? Add a comment below to share your favourite people to follow.

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Despite all the media fuzz, goats are not the new dogs

Why people should not keep goats in a dog environment, and what to do instead.
Guest post by Christian Nawroth, PhD.

How to care for pet goats. Goats are social and should be housed in groups, like here
Photo: Christian Nawroth

Media coverage of recent goat cognition research gives the impression that goats might be the new dogs when it comes to communicating with humans, and so can make good pets. But can you keep a goat in a dog environment? Short answer: You shouldn’t, if you care about their welfare.

Recent media coverage on research on the cognitive skills of goats might have falsely given the impression that goats are horned dog-equivalents. Indeed, goats show surprisingly dog-like skills: They gaze at humans in the same way as dogs do when asking for a treat that is out of reach. Similarly to dogs, goats are also skilful readers of the human pointing gesture when it comes to using this information to find a hidden reward. They also understand that people who have turned their back on them are unable to see them. Recently it was discovered that goats, much like humans, prefer happy human faces. These findings provide strong evidence that goats have excellent communication skills when interacting with humans which seem to, at least partly, mirror those found in dogs.

Goats show surprisingly dog-like skills, like this one taking part in research. Here's how to care for pet goats.
Photo: Christian Nawroth

Given all these exciting research findings (and multiple headlines asking “Are goats the new dogs?”), some might find it tempting to substitute a pet dog with a pet goat. But despite these shared cognitive capacities, goats are unlikely to thrive in a dog environment as they have different needs and motivations than our canid friends.

First of all, goats have been bred mainly for production purposes such as milk, meat and fibre. The picture looks quite different for dogs as their specific domestication history as companion animals over several ten thousand years adapted them far better to the human environment. While dogs are prone to establish strong bonds with humans (and often tend to prefer humans over other dogs), goats very much prefer the company of other goats over humans (although bottle-fed goats can get quite attached to humans). If you still think that a pet goat would be a good idea you should make sure you meet some of their most basic needs: give them outdoor space (i.e. a huge backyard) and good company (i.e. keep them in pairs, at least).

If you can provide these needs, many recommendations from goat farming can be useful guidelines on how to meet the needs of your pet goats:

1. Goats have an individual space which they do not like to have disturbed. Providing them with a raised area, as well as an area where they can hide away, gives them the opportunity to do this.  Another important consideration is how feed is presented. Unlike what you may have heard, goats do not eat everything! They are actually very picky eaters. This is why we often see goats ‘browsing’ or sampling different kinds of vegetation. If given the option, goats will eat at different levels (and you may even see them standing on their hind legs to reach leaves). Goats will also compete for access to the best feed, with higher ranking goats chasing away subordinate individuals. By providing multiple feeders, at different heights and providing a varied diet, aggression between goats will be reduced, and it will encourage their natural behaviour of browsing.

What goat cognition research means for animal welfare of pet goats
Photo: Agroscope

2. Horns are a means for communication in goats (and other horned species). In commercial farming situations, horns can be a source of injury to other goats and humans, so they are often removed at a young age. However, horns serve a valuable purpose, and we know that when given enough space to avoid bullies there are actually fewer aggressive interactions over feed and other resources when goats have horns. Horned goats use their horns to intimidate rivals non-physically (e.g., by lowering their head), and less dominant goats usually get the hint and move away. Dehorned goats do not have this opportunity.

3. Goats have friends and like their company. Like you might expect, the longer a group of goats is kept together, the more comfortable they with one another; they spend more and more time closer to each other. This is part of the reason new goats need to be introduced to a group of other goats very carefully. Introducing them as pairs is better than throwing a single goat into the mix. If you need to introduce a single goat, it is best to do so slowly by giving her or him their own space first, and let the rest get to know her or him over the fence. However, remember that goats are very social, and should not be kept alone for an extended period.

4. Goats love elevated spaces and hiding opportunities. This can be used to your advantage for a number of reasons. First, goats’ hooves grow continuously; providing them with an opportunity to climb, particularly hard surfaces like large rocks or concrete blocks will help you reduce the amount of times you need to trim their feet. Second, giving goats a third dimension to move not only fulfils their motivation to climb, it gives them an opportunity to isolate from other goats and gives them a choice of where they spend their time. This is known to lower aggression encounters in the group. Third, providing structures within their environment provides shelter – goats should never be kept outdoors without access to a shelter.

Goats like raised spaces, like these two relaxing on a table. How to care for pet goats
Photo: Agroscope

Like all pets, the decision to get pet goats should not be made quickly. Unfortunately, the number of relinquished goats at Humane Societies is a good indicator that more consideration should be given by hopeful goat owners. Goats are inquisitive and smart animals that have needs which are very different from other pets we are used to having; that can suffer greatly when not provided with an appropriate environment. But if you can provide them with a goat-friendly backyard, company and a structured and complex environment, they surely will raise the welfare of their human keepers, too.

Goat Care Resources

Here are some additional sources on (pet) goat behaviour and welfare:

How to House Goats Harmoniously
International Society of Livestock Husbandry
Goats animal welfare leaflet
Understanding natural behavior to improve dairy goat (Capra hircus) management systems

About Christian Nawroth

Christian Nawroth. Photo: Nordlicht/FBN

Christian Nawroth, PhD, is a postdoc in the Institute of Behavioural Physiology (Twitter) at the Leibniz-Institute for Farm Animal Biology in Dummerstorf, Germany. He is interested in how animals perceive and interact with their physical and social environment. In particular, his research focuses on the cognitive capacities of farm animals and how this knowledge can ultimately be used to improve management conditions and human-animal interactions. You can check out Christian Nawroth's website and follow him on Twitter.

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