Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Bond Between A Horse And His Rider

Different riders recognize that they have an exceptional bond with their ponies, and they are correct. Different steeds and their riders enter a locale of "Co-Being." Co-being is a relationship wherein each partner makes to fit better with the other party, physically and equitably. Late assessments express that ponies and riders will really comply with one another so as to "fit" better together. Anita Maurstad, PhD educator and expert in the Part of Sociologies in Tromso School Presentation corridor of Tromso in Norway, says that "as riders become progressively acquainted with their steeds, they comply with them. They learn both mental and physical strategies for acting versus their colleague. Steed moreover change as per their family; all things considered co-being is a not all that awful purposely thought for talking about these bits of the relationship." Maurstad worked with other American analysts Dona Davis, PhD, and Sarah Cowles, both of the School of South Dakota's Division of Human examinations and Humanism, to all the practically certain grip the impact of working with steeds. They talked with 60 male and female riders in North America and Norway of fluctuating solicitations, introducing demand about how the relationship they had with their steed impacted them after a short time. Their answers drove the inspectors to think about co-being "as a fundamental portion to understanding the relationship," Maurstad said. She additionally joins that "their answers base on activities and between activities with genuine repercussions for the two get-togethers." This goes past the "reflect hypothesis" that nuances that steeds are an impression of their proprietors. Maurstad says that "(co-being riders) ended up being progressively acquainted with their steeds as characters through consistent strategy of huge obligation. They accept ponies to be various characters, both in the estimation of steeds being varying just, and being various characters from themselves, the people. Riders don't accept steeds to be torpid impressions of themselves." This correspondingly lines up with the "nature-culture" hypothesis that says that nature and culture, for a couple, can't be seen as people yet as one. Many recognize that human-horse connection isn't customary; paying little respect to how co-being with a human isn't totally run of the mill in the "horse world," it is at any rate particularly positive for the two parties and fits in the nature-culture hypothesis. Maurstad besides says that "the ponies in our assessment have comprehends how to live with people, strong with their aura culture, steeds lead their lives almost the entire way with people, generally with different ponies, learning as people how to relate in propensities that outfits them with mind blowing singular satisfaction. As our evaluation appears, ponies are embellishments two by two, and their physical and mental prospering is something that riders care for. This, I recognize, is useful for the steed, profitable for this specific nature-culture species, and not contrary to their inclination." People comprehend the best possible conduct and pass on in propensities that work with their steed; in this way the steed besides learns approaches to manage satisfy his rider. Physically, each modify better approaches to manage adapt to the accompanying in one of a kind ways; every once in a while in spite of framing novel muscles to have the decision to move more in a condition of congruity with the other. Maurstad and her accomplices imparted in their evaluation, "(Individuals) are changing as appeared by a vibe of the other, the steed, adjusting their bodies to impressions of the steed bodies. Activity and reaction between the species recognize riding as a communitarian practice, where bodies become in a state of congeniality. In addition, arrange is a delayed consequence of correspondence in that both are changed through an arrangement of preparing from the social affair between the two - really substance to tissue." She likewise says that a relationship like this requires some theory and piles of joint exertion between the two. Steed Getting ready: 7 Essential Steps for Safely Managing Your Steed's Feet Giving your steed's feet usually is essential for his flourishing and flourishing. Nevertheless, did you comprehend that how well your steed carries on about having his feet managed is additionally an indication of the total he confides in you? It takes a huge extent of trust for your steed to be free while having a foot held. As a flight creature your steed's ordinary nature is to negate having his feet confined in any capacity. In the event that your steed won't let you handle his feet or acts truly when you attempt, it isn't just puzzling it can correspondingly be hazardous. Look for after these tips on the off chance that you are anxious about managing your pony's feet or if your steed has any of these or for all intents and purposes indistinguishable practices: won't lift his foot pounds his foot down when you lift it up inclines his weight on you when you get his foot backs, strikes or kicks when you attempt to get a foot or contact his leg Look for after these tips to enable your steed to get his feet vivaciously and securely. Set up for Advancement: Reliably work with your steed in a calm locale where you are both away from distractions so you can concentrate on one another. In the event that you tie your steed, dependably utilize an enthusiastic discharge cut or not and have the tie long enough so his neck can be level. Set up your own space. Steeds pick their place in the social occasion by who move who. Consciously demand your steed to move out from your space. On the off chance that your steed reacts commandingly (gnawing, striking or kicking), get help from an expert steed manage. Make trust about being come to all over the place. Utilizing a whip to extend your augmentation, stroke your steed delicately beginning his advisors and shoulder by then down his front leg wrapping up by tapping the foot. Next, stroke along his back, barrel, and croup by then down his back and back legs tapping the foot. Focus on your steed's non-verbal correspondence. On the off chance that he offers hints of weight, come back to some place that he was satisfying until he slackens up once more. Night out issues. Your pony is adjusted when he is remaining with his feet square and under him. When he is standing square, request that he move his weight off the leg you need him to get. As he lifts the foot, bolster the fetlock and foot with your conscious hand. Keep the foot agreed with the knee to abandon pulling on the shoulder, knee or fetlock. Delicately lower the foot to the ground putting the toe down being careful not the drop it. Plan for picking and cutting. From the earliest starting point, essentially hold the foot up an inch or two for a second or two. Very much arranged increase the stature and the time period. Precisely when your steed viably holds his foot up for around 30 seconds, delicately brush progression by then tap the underside with your hand, a brush or a foot pick. Secure your back. When managing your steed's feet, keep your knees bowed and your weight moved somewhat progressively over your outside leg (most expelled from your steed). Stay near your pony yet consider where your feet are to avoid being meandered on. Your steed can't see your feet. Quality could without quite a bit of a stretch diverge from entirety. The length of your sessions is less immense than the possibility of the experience for your steed. The objective is for him to be even more tranquil toward the bit of the arrangement than he was near the start. The Primary concern - The most perfectly astounding approach to manage build up a confirmed association with your pony is by structure your conviction and trust in one another. Is This You? Recommendations For Riding Safely They state "It looks direct" and "It's not hard, anybody can do it". I've as regularly as conceivable heard individuals state about riding steeds "You simply skip on and kick them to keep on pounding on their mouth to stop". When I was in the Horse Guardian (the most arranged living Calvary in the US) different years back, it was a military development with steeds. Rank was goliath and Sergeants and Lieutenants were to be regarded. The essential issue with this was everybody in the outfit had day occupations and many "of respected men of their promise" would go to the Watchman and pass on their swagger with them. Insensible men to the round of riding (would lean toward not to assault anybody yet) immense amounts of these men couldn't ride to spare their lives. In any case, one thing they had that the ladies did not was unmatched quality. Regardless, no human is more grounded than a steed in light of how most ponies are around various events our size. Steeds are huge, solid creatures with the cerebrum of a multi year old. They acknowledge verbal and non-verbal prompts or all the more all else they recollect things like an elephant. On the off chance that they have a horrible encounter it will remain with them until the piece of the course of action. It may be amazingly hard to get them over the impediment in their brain of somebody being insensitive or short with them and they accessory old issues even down to the bits of garments you wear. My pony gets steamed when I wear a baseball top since something horrendous unfurled with a man wearing a comparative top. He besides experienced certified difficulties with bovines rustler tops and boots with desires. Since he is goliath (17.1), he was misused and his coaches thought he was "colossal and incompetent". Nothing could be logically remote from this present reality yet he was pushed and whipped when he was vexed not imprudent.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Companion Animal Psychology News July 2019

A lesson for the human classroom that comes from dog training, music at the vet's for cats, and a dancing parrot... this month's Companion Animal Psychology News.

Companion Animal Psychology News July 2019

My favourites this month 

"“Learning shouldn’t hurt” is an adage among progressive dog training and animal behavior communities, and it’s the main idea I took from training dogs that informs my approach to pedagogy." Learning shouldn’t hurt, or how my dog made me a better teacher by Ryan Donovan.

“Adding music might help, but also take the opportunity to think more broadly..” Promising results from a study of music for cats in the vet clinic, in Can special music for cats reduce their stress at the clinic by Linda Lombardi at Fear Free Pets.

"Dogs aren't the only ones who can do science. The era of cat science is now." Do you play with your cat? This online study is for you! by Julie Hecht. You can take part in the study at

“Puppies will give us a clear “yes” “not yet” or “no” with their body language and willingness to participate.” Three take-home tips on puppies that Meghan D’Arcy learned from Ocean Park Dog Training’s workshop with Chirag Patel.

"His initial headbangs and foot-lifts are movements that parrots naturally make while walking or courting. But his newer set aren’t based on any standard, innate behaviors. He came up with them himself" What Snowball the dancing parrot tells us about dance by Ed Yong.

Ancient dogs’ spines and modern dogs’ puppy eyes tell us a lot about the human-animal bond. Two new studies shed light on our early relationship with dogs by David Grimm.

"But there’s a sadder story, too, one that gets less publicity, because each person thinks it’s happening only to him or her." 'I am my dog's emotional support animal' by Beth Teitell.

Can dogs heal hearts and minds? Recording of a discussion at LaTrobe University on how psychological assistance dogs can help people with and the need for scientific research in this area. Features Mia Cobb, Prof. Pauleen Bennett, Dr. Tiffani Howell, and others.

Puppies from a breeder’s perspective. Your Family Dog podcast from Julie Fudge Smith and Colleen Pelar speaks to Flat-Coated Retriever breeder Judy Gladson about being a breeder and very early puppy development.

Wonderful goat photos by Kevin Horan at The Guardian.

Animal Book Club

The Animal Book Club takes July off, but you find a list of all the books in my Amazon store.

If you want to get an early start on next month’s book, it's What's a Dog For?: The Surprising History, Science, Philosophy, and Politics of Man’s Best Friend By Jon Homans.

Support Companion Animal Psychology on Ko-Fi

Companion Animal Psychology is open to everyone and supported by animal lovers like you. If you like what you see, you can buy me a coffee on Ko-fi, or even make it a monthly thing.

This month I’d like to say a big thank you to J Hawn and several anonymous people for their support and kind words. You help me keep this blog going and I really appreciate it!

Here at Companion Animal Psychology

I had the incredible honour of interviewing veterinarian Dr. Mark Goldstein about his book, Lions and Tigers and Hamsters. As you can tell from the interview, he’s an amazing story teller and there are some great stories in the book. For each story, he shares a lesson he learned about the human-animal bond and the work of a veterinarian. Check out the interview to learn more.

Also on the subject of books, I published a second instalment of the animal books that changed people’s lives. People who work with animals (or love having animals in their life) share the one book that made a difference to them.

An important study of dog bites in Calgary finds that most dog bites happen at home. As well, no particular breed group can be blamed, as the data shows bites from all kinds of dogs.

I wrote about the inspiring class about art and animals that Dr. Marc Bekoff teaches to the inmates at Boulder County Jail and also shared a guest post from one of the former students in the class. Don’t miss the piece or the beautiful artwork that accompanies it.

And finally, the five pillars of a healthy environment for cats tells you what you need to know to get your house set up to keep your feline friend happy.

Pets in Art

This month's pets in art is titled Kaufman (dog) and dates from 1905-1909. The portrait is by C.M. Bell, photographer, and is in the Library of Congress collection.

Companion Animal Psychology News July 2019. Pets in Art shows a dog portrait

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Sunday, July 7, 2019

The Healing Power of Art and Animals for Inmates: Moon Bear Has a Place

An essay by a former inmate shows how other animals can help people move on.

An essay by a former inmate shows how Dr. Marc Bekoff's class helps inmates move on
Dr. Jane Goodall visiting Dr. Marc Bekoff's class at the Boulder County Jail. Photo: Marc Bekoff.

On Wednesday I wrote about Dr. Marc Bekoff’s inspiring class at the Boulder County Jail, and his new website, Boulder Art for Animals, that shows the work of students in the class.

This guest post is by Kyle Warner, an accomplished writer, artist, and former student of the class.(1) 

My personal hero, teacher, and dear friend, Marc Bekoff, comes to the jail faithfully every Friday to facilitate just one of Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots groups. We engage in a lot of profound, meaningful discussions and he helps us to really understand just why animals matter. He also helps us to take part in many causes and worldwide issues between nonhuman animals and humans. With Marc's help, we have had our voices heard within many discussions, court battles, online debates, and protests. Some of these include whether we should reintroduce wild wolves here in Colorado, how to stop the potential trophy hunting of grizzly bears in Wyoming, what to do about the mass killing of elephants, the injustice of rich people hunting majestic lions for sport, and other similar topics.(2)

One issue that stands out for me is the moon bear. Since learning about this beautiful crescent-stamped animal, I have felt drawn to them on a deep level. There is an industry in China where people keep them in small cages to harvest bile out of their gall bladders for Traditional Chinese Medicine. With the help of an organization called Animals Asia, these bears have hope. Animals Asia rescues these bears from coffin-like cages, attends to their medical and psychological needs, and provides them sanctuary in their very own paradise.

In 2017, I drew a few of these beautiful animals. In one was Jasper, who passed away not long after I took on this project. Also in that drawing was Oscar and BeaRtrice, whom Marc named after his parents. He was happy to share my art with Animals Asia and many throughout the world. Since then, I have had an opportunity to share my art with Jane Goodall, probably one of the most fulfilling moments of the last three years for me. Recently, in one of the other amazing groups I get to attend here at Boulder County Jail, I embarked on a brief vision quest during a guided meditation. The gentle, soft-spoken instructions began with an ascent.

Artwork from Marc Bekoff's class at the Boulder County Jail shows how animals can help people move on
Oscar, Jasper, and BeaRtrice. Source: Kyle Warner

Meeting my spirit animal

I imagined my conscious awareness being granted liberty from the limitations and confinement of my body I first hovered above myself before floating up to the ceiling, above the jail, higher and higher, hoping to come back with an animal name.

I was instructed to fly west toward the Rocky Mountains and to proceed past the foothills, deep into the jagged, snowcapped Rockies. I landed in a clearing, perhaps some sort of valley surrounded by mighty aspens on high mountains. It was an almost-familiar place, but nowhere I’ve been before. Everything was much bigger and the colors more vibrant. Most of the mountain peaks were hiding in the heavens, camouflaged by clouds.

I walked for a while, grateful for every stop I took. I found a cave. My group leader, who was guiding the meditation, instructed me to go into the cave. I really wanted to see what was in there or find out where it would lead me. The cave had to be a mile long. The light pouring in from its entrance was quenched by the darkness in minutes. The cool ceiling was dank and the floor slick. I could hear the faint sound of dripping water all around me.

The ceiling dropped lower with every step I took until I was ducking low. It wasn’t long before I was crawling. Eventually, it was so cramped I was using my knees and elbows to proceed. For me, this was a nightmare come true. I’m claustrophobic. A decade in a jail cell will do that if you’re not naturally predisposed to having an aversion to spaces tighter than coffins. No turning back now!

The healing power of animals. Jasper the bear, drawn by an inmate in Marc Bekoff's inspirational class at the Boulder County Jail
Jasper. Source: Michael S., a former student of Bekoff's at the Boulder County Jail

Finally, there was room for me to breathe. A few more yards and I was crawling. Soon the ceiling was high enough for me to walk. What a relief! Now I could see light in the distance and I knew I was approaching a way out. After exiting the cave, I quickly realized that I had just traveled through a portal. I’m not sure if it was a portal leading to somewhere on earth or some other dimension, but I knew I was no longer in the Rockies nor anywhere in or near Colorado.

I proceeded into a strange forest and decided to sit on a tree trunk. I was at a resting place where at least I was able to intentionally appreciate my experience, even the claustrophobia I had felt in the middle of the cave. The beauty around me was indescribable.

I heard rustling up ahead where there were many trees. I could see movement and be able to connect it with what I was hearing. Something was emerging. The first thing I saw clearly was the crescent. It was a moon bear and it was approaching. He came right up to me and we made eye contact.

After that moment, we consented to one another’s presence with empathy, compassion, and understanding, validating each other’s very existence. We accepted one another and connected at the level of consciousness and spirit.

I then realized that my physical self, far away and still in jail, was crying, releasing a whole world of grief, loneliness, abandonment, betrayal, fear, and suffering. This was a moment where I knew my experience would have been incomplete without purging the poison inside me.

A postcard from Jane Goodall to a student in Marc Bekoff's inspirational class with inmates at the Boulder County Jail
A postcard from Dr. Jane Goodall to Kyle Warner. Source: Kyle Warner.

I leaned into the feeling of deep sadness, grief, and attachment, but more than anything, I was saturated with gratitude. That’s when I knew it was time to say goodbye. I really didn’t want to leave and as I’m sure you can imagine, I was reluctant to return to jail. I was so free and for once I felt validated. I was glad to hear my brother who was guiding me say that even though I had to leave, my new friend would forever remain with me.

This is my spirit animal—the moon bear. I came to know that regardless of how some of these bears are treated in captivity, even they have a place in the world. I, too, have spent much of my life in captivity and confinement. I’ve done a lot of damage in this world, but deep within I’ve known all along I have a place and it is my calling to be part of something bigger than just me.

I have ventured far away for these affirmations and am returning with a new name: Moon Bear Has a Place.

(1)Posted with Mr. Warner's permission. I'm not the only person who was moved by Mr. Warner's essay. So too, were many other students and jail administrators. Another essay to which students in my class contributed is "Among Homeless People, Dogs Eat First and 'Absorb Empathy'."

(2)Here are some other essays that focus on Dr. Bekoff’s class at the jail.
Roots and Shoots: A unique program at Boulder County Jail has inmates learning from nature
Inmates, Animals, and Art: Creative Expressions of Hope
Nature Behind Bars: Animal Class Helps Prisoners Find Compassion
Inmates and Art: Connecting With Animals Helps Soften Them

This guest post was originally published on Dr. Marc Bekoff’s Psychology Today blog with the title The Healing Power of Animals: Moon Bear Has a Place.

For more guest posts by Dr. Marc Bekoff, see "Bad dog?" The psychology and importance of using positive reinforcement. You might also like my interview with Marc Bekoff about his book, Canine Confidential.

About Dr. Marc Bekoff: Marc is professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He has won many awards for his scientific research including a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Exemplar Award from the Animal Behavior Society for long-term contributions to the field of animal behavior. Marc has published more than 30 books and three encyclopedias, and writes regularly for Psychology Today on "all things dog" and various topics focusing on animal cognition, animal emotions, and compassionate conservation. His homepage is and, with Jane Goodall,

The healing power of Marc Bekoff's class at the Boulder County Jail. Photo of Marc Bekoff
Marc Bekoff with Minnie

If you would like to propose a guest post, see the guidelines here. There is also a full list of guest posts on Companion Animal Psychology.

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Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Inmates Find Meaning in Class on Connections with Animals

Boulder Art Behind Bars has been changing lives for almost 20 years.

Wolves are a model for many students in the Art Behind Bars class. Photo shows wolf in birch trees
Wolves are a model for many of the students. Photo: Holly Kuchera/Shutterstock

For almost 20 years, Dr. Marc Bekoff, scientist and author of many books including The Emotional Lives of Animals and Canine Confidential, has been teaching a class at Boulder (Colorado) County Jail. Inmates must apply to join the class, which meets once a week and allows them to express themselves via different artistic media. It focuses on topics such as conservation, animal behaviour, and the inmates’ well-being. A new website, Boulder Art Behind Bars showcases the class and the work of the inmates.

The class is part of Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots program, which aims to “foster respect and compassion for all living things”. Goodall even visited the class in 2015 and has kept in contact with some of the students. The website was developed in collaboration with artisan and web designer Stephanie Wencl.

The class has a profound effect on the inmates who take part. Writing about the class in his Psychology Today article, Art Behind Bars: Animals, Compassion, Freedom, and Hope, Dr. Bekoff says,
“The class and the students' artwork give them meaningful experiences, and in their drawings, sculptures, and writing, they express hope and trust. The work they do provides a forum for deep and informative discussions about other animals, nature, their connections to the outer world, and themselves.”
This is apparent in the art produced by the inmates. The Boulder Art Behind Bars website shows examples of their writing, drawing, jewellery-making, and other artworks. It is divided into sections such as creativity and expression, softening and vulnerability, and trust and hope. These sections show that the work of the class is not just related to animals, but also to gaining a deeper understanding of the self and of people’s role in society and in the natural world.

In the section on acceptance, self-confidence and integration, we learn that
“Wolves are a strong model for many of the students because they have been wiped out of their historical range and in some areas they are making a comeback because they have been reintroduced to their former communities. While many people accept them, there are many who don’t.” 
Like many others, I also love wolves and find them fascinating animals. So I was intrigued to learn that they are an important symbol for many of the students. Given the way that wolves are both loved and hated by different people, I can see that discussion of wolves would be an important and valuable part of the class.

There are many success stories of inmates who have integrated back into society, and Dr. Bekoff shares a number of them in his essay. Here is one that I especially enjoyed reading:
“One day as I was cycling through Boulder, someone called out, “Hey, Doctor Coyote!” and it turned out that he had been in my Roots & Shoots class and was determined to never re-enter corrections facilities. He had worked himself up to being a road manager for the Department of Transportation.”
One former student even named his son after Marc.

One thing that all teachers know is how much we can learn from the process of teaching itself. Teaching is not a one-way transmission of information from teacher to student; rather the interactions with students cause us to reflect on our own knowledge and learn more about ourselves and our place in the world. One of the great things about Dr. Bekoff’s essay is that he reflects on what he has learned from teaching the class. He says,
“My experience at the jail had positive effects on the way I taught at the University of Colorado. The students' enthusiasm and curiosity also helped me change some of the preconceived notions I had about inmates. Our discussions about topics including fairness, resilience, rehabilitation, retribution, compassion, freedom, justice, restorative justice, and hope were, at times, riveting.”
I found reading about the program very inspiring, and I can imagine many people who are not inmates would also enjoy taking part in such a class! So it is good news that people who are in a situation that is difficult, and where they are going to need to do a lot of work to integrate back into society, can benefit from the class.

Perhaps the last word should go to one of the things Dr. Bekoff realized from the class:
“Among the many lessons I've learned are that uninformed stereotypes don't work, and there is always hope.”
Stay tuned for a guest post about this life-changing class coming soon.

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Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Animal Books that Changed People’s Lives: Part 2

The books about animals that had a profound effect on people’s lives.

The animal books that changed people's lives, part 2

This is the second post in a series on the animal books that changed people’s lives. You can read part 1, animal lovers on the books that changed their lives, here.

The Other End of the Leash by Patricia McConnell

Vanessa Mae Hajek MS CTC of Hands Full Dog training told me,

“In 2002, my dad got me a book for my 14th birthday. Patricia McConnell's The Other End of the Leash. He knew nothing about the author and nothing about the book so he took a chance. I read it in four days. McConnell introduced me to dogs as a subject of scientific study and more importantly, further introduced me to this radical idea of modifying dog behavior not with force or intimidation, but with food. During the next few years I devoured all things force-free dog training and slowly began changing how I trained which slowly began changing how I thought about training. For years I thought my dog was selectively stubborn when she was probably confused (or worse, scared) and I could not figure out why certain cues like "Stay" made my dog nervous. Now I began to understand that the very methods I had been taught were integral to dog training were also the very methods causing this response.  (Pro Tip: do not bang pots together right next to your dog to teach them not to break their stay no matter what. This doesn't do what you think it does) and your dog will not thank you. The Other End of the Leash started 14 year-old me on a path to force-free dog training and the trainers/behaviorists I discovered after this book (Jean Donaldson, Karen Pryor, etc.) cemented that path. I'm 30 now and have been working my dream job as a force-free professional dog trainer for 3 years because I read a book that changed how I viewed dogs and in turn, molded my life. So, thank you Patricia McConnell (and dad) for getting me a random dog book because I circled it in the back of a pet supply magazine.”

The animal books that changed lives part 1. Cover of The Other End of the Leash

Animals You Will Never Forget by Reader’s Digest

Megan Leavy, ABCDT of Southpaw Dog Training told me,

Animals You Will Never Forget. This book was published the year I was born - 1969, and I think my grandparents gave it to me for Christmas one year, probably before I was 10 years old.  I poured over that book cover to cover over and over for years.

Each short story presented a different animal and gave it so much more depth than what I was exposed to as a child.  There were no 'dumb' animals in that book, they all possessed skills, emotions, and cognitive behaviors that were not believed to be possible in when I was 10.  That, combined with a variety of different things like Charlotte's Web, and Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom (that we watched religiously when I was growing up), I think gave me a deeper insight into the animals around us.  We had all sorts of animals growing up, and I've always believed they deserved richer lives than what humans afforded them due to human beliefs.

I passed my copy on to a friend's daughter years ago, but after becoming a dog trainer, I got another copy to keep for kids to read when they come to my training center.”

The Power of Positive Dog Training by Pat Miller

Sheryl Winkler told me,

“Pat Miller's The Power of Positive Dog Training. Prior to getting our first puppy we took loads of books and videos out of the library which pretty much convinced us how we DIDN’T want to train! I spent loads of time on Yahoo groups and reading what I could to find an alternative. And then Pat Miller came out with this book. I felt I had found the canine equivalent of Dr Spock’s baby care book - clear practical positive answers to everything I could think of. I lost count of how many copies of the book I bought because every time someone I knew got a dog I “loaned” them my copy and no one ever returned it!!!”

The animal books that changed people's lives, part 2. Cover of The Power of Positive Dog Training

Plenty in Life is Free: Reflections on Dogs, Training, and Finding Grace by Kathy Sdao

Kayla Block MA CTC of Understanding Dog Training told me,

“My mother used to joke that her dog must think her name is Kadie-no. A hundred times a day, my mother told her what she didn’t want her to do. It was frustrating for my mother and I’m sure it wasn’t fun for the dog. Kathy Sdao’s book, Plenty in Life Is Free: Reflections on Dogs, Training and Finding Grace recommends doing the exact opposite. Your dog might start to think his name is Fido-goodboy! Kathy recommends starting your day with a bag of small treats and watching your dog for things you like. Your goal is to have an empty bag by the end of the day. Multiply that by a week or a year and over time, without much effort, you have a dog doing so much more of what you like and you have fewer reasons to tell your dog, “no”.Once you start looking for things to reinforce in your dog, you may find yourself looking for things to reinforce in people too!”

The animal books that changed lives, part 2. Cover of Plenty in Life is Free

Animal Liberation by Peter Singer

Jean Donaldson of the Academy for Dog Trainers and author of The Culture Clash and other books told me,

“I read the book Animal Liberation by Peter Singer in 1987 and it changed my life utterly.  I became vegetarian, volunteered for animal causes, took a job between semesters at the SPCA, and that was the beginning of a migration towards doing companion dogs full time rather than sports.  It also spurred me to read other similar books to get myself educated on the plight of animals in our society.”

The animal books that changed people's lives, part 2. Cover of Animal Liberation

For more book suggestions, check out the Animal Book Club or visit my Amazon store:

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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Most Serious Dog Bites Happen at Home, and No Breed Group Can Be Blamed

A study of dog bites in Calgary finds no breed group can be singled out for serious bites, and older adults may be at more risk than previously thought.

Most serious dog bites happen at home, and BSL is not the answer
Photo: Christian Mueller/Shutterstock

Dog bites are a serious public health problem. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 4.7 million Americans are bitten every year and 800,000 require medical treatment. New research from Dr. Niamh Caffrey and colleagues (University of Calgary), published in Animals, investigates all dog bites in Calgary between 2012 and 2017. What makes this study unique is the level of detail and reliability of the data compared to most studies of dog bites.

The results show that the people most at risk of dog bites are children, youth, and older adults (aged 60 or above). While the increased risk for children and youth is as expected, the higher risk for older adults may come as a surprise. As well, the research shows no difference between breed groups in terms of serious bites.

Dr. Caffrey, first author of the study, told me in an email,
“I think the key message to take from our study is that everyone needs to be aware of the warning signs that a dog may bite. With dogs such an important part of our society, we all need to become better at understanding dog behaviour. If we can educate both dog owners and the general public in how to interact with dogs more safely then we could reduce or prevent bites.”

The city of Calgary has animal control bylaws based on responsible dog ownership. Dogs in Calgary must be licensed and have permanent identification, and spay/neuter of pets and regular veterinary visits are encouraged. Any dog bite incidents must be reported, and animal control officers will work with the dog’s owner to try to prevent future incidents. As well, funds from licensing are used to provide education programs to schools.

The city records dog bites according to a modified Dunbar bite scale (see below), and categorizes them into three levels. ‘Chases’ are bites on level 1 or 2, which can be considered low severity as they involve no punctures to the skin although there may be some bruising. It is likely there are more low severity bites than are reported to the city, given that medical attention is not needed.

Level 3 bites are medium severity and involve 1-3 punctures from a single bite, with no shaking or tearing. High severity bites comprise levels 3.5 (multiple level 3 bites) through to level 5 (multiple bites in which the dog held on and/or shook their head from side to side).

Most serious dog bites happen at home. Table shows the modified Dunbar bite scale
The modified Dunbar bite scale used in Calgary. Reproduced from Caffrey et al (2019) under Creative Commons licence.

The analysis looked at 2165 dog bite incidents, of which 51% were low severity, 35% medium severity, and 13.5% were high severity. These incidents involved 1,873 dogs, and 54 of those dogs were subsequently euthanized. The good news is that in the timescale of the study, the number of severe dog bites fell.

Because of the large number of breeds and mixed-breeds, dogs were classified according to breed group. No particular breed group was more likely to bite than any other (see graph below). For all of the breed groups, low and medium severity bites were much more common than high severity bites.

Most serious dog bites happen at home. Table shows bites by breed group; no group poses a particular risk
Bites of low, medium, and high severity by breed group. No particular breed group can be singled out as causing more bites. Image reproduced from Caffrey et al (2019) under Creative Commons licence.

The kind of bite that occurred in public places was most often of low severity. Medium and high severity bites were more likely to occur in the home or on the owner’s property, or at an off-leash dog park. The finding that high severity bites are most common in the owner’s home is in line with previous research. Children, youth, and older adults were more likely to be bitten than adults.

Medium and high severity bites were more common from male dogs (whether neutered or not). Dogs aged 3 or more were more likely to bite, although it is hard to assess the effects of age as the city uses broad age groupings rather than the actual age of the dog.

Even low severity bites can affect people profoundly, including how safe they feel when out and about in public. The researchers point out that preventing low severity bites is an important part of any dog bite prevention program. As well, responding to this kind of bite is an opportunity to prevent future bites, for example by teaching dogs to like strangers.

These results show that dog bite prevention needs to be aimed at all age groups. They also show the importance of close supervision of dogs with children, even when the dog is familiar. Other research has found that many people misinterpret dogs’ body language around children which underlines the need for more education. Learning how to recognize signs of fear in dogs,  and to give them the space to back away or not interact if they are afraid is useful for everyone to know. As well, it is important to socialize puppies during the sensitive period, something which many dog owners don’t seem to manage enough of

Calgary’s approach to dog bite prevention is internationally known as an alternative to breed specific legislation. BSL does not seem to reduce dog bites (see e.g. breed specific legislation had no effect on dog bites in Odense, Denmark). The important message is that any dog can bite.

The use of the Dunbar bite scale in this study is particularly helpful, as it provides more information about the risks and shows the most serious bites tend to happen at home. While everyone needs to know about preventing dog bites, it seems that targeting parents (e.g. at medical services, after school clubs) as well as seniors would make the biggest difference. This is valuable information because it means messages can be targeted to those groups most at risk.

The full paper is open access and can be read at the link below.

You might also like: Preventing dog bites in children and a new approach to dog bite prevention.

Caffrey, N., Rock, M., Schmidtz, O., Anderson, D., Parkinson, M., & Checkley, S. L. (2019). Insights about the epidemiology of dog bites in a Canadian city using a dog aggression scale and administrative data. Animals, 9(6), 324.

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Sunday, June 23, 2019

Companion Animal Psychology News June 2019

What pigeons teach us about home, the view from a catcam, and stunning photographs of dogs... this month's Companion Animal Psychology news.

Cat cams, homing pigeons, and stunning dog photos... Companion Animal Psychology News June 2019

Wag news

I am very excited to share the news that my publisher, Greystone Books, has made the official announcement that my book, Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy, will be published in Spring 2020. This month I have been responding to the proof-reader’s queries and have also seen the page spreads. After all this hard work, it is finally starting to look like a real book.

Some of my favourites this month

 “When they were in their homes, the cats spent a lot of time following their humans around. They liked to be in the same room. A lot of my students were surprised at how attached cats were to people.” David Grimm interviewed one of the researchers behind the recent catcam study (don't miss the video!) and Dr. Mikel Delgado wrote about Can “catcams” help us study behaviour?

“I thought that keeping pigeons might teach me something about what home meant, and that by training them I would discover the new landscape we now inhabited alongside them.” Home to roost: My life as a pigeon fancier by Jon Day. An extract from his new book, Homing: On Pigeons, Dwellings and Why We Return.

Warm weather safety tips for cats by Pam Johnson Bennett covers a whole host of things you probably haven’t thought of.

“And yet, as I was driving yesterday, listening to another podcast, I had an “aha moment” about something I’d been told at least a dozen times.” We’ve been training backwards by Tim Steele.

“Polydactyl cats are often nicknamed “Hemingway cats” for their association with the Pulitzer- and Nobel Prize-winning author, who had a number of them at his Key West home." Why some cats have extra toes by Dr. Marty Becker.

“As science grapples with just how little it knows about the mysteries of human consciousness, it's also reassessing the complexity of animal minds.” Dr. Marc Bekoff was interviewed by CBC on Science is revealing more about animals’ rich complex inner lives.

“Unfortunately, in the United States, where dog registration is not consistently enforced, it is impossible to know how many dogs of different breeds live among us.” Prof. Clive Wynne on the issues with a recent study of dog bites.

Hidden Brain on NPR explores the contradictions and quandaries of our relationship with animals, with psychologist Dr. Hal Herzog.

Artist Aja Trier reimagines Van Goth with dogs… Starry night dogs by Kelly Richman-Abdou.

Dogs in focus looks at a selection of photos of dogs by famous photographers that are part of an exhibition in London in honour of Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.

Animal Book Club

This month, the Animal Book Club is reading Once a Wolf: The Science Behind Our Dogs' Astonishing Genetic Evolution by Bryan Sykes. The book club reads 10 books a year, and new members are welcome. For those who prefer general chit-chat about animal books without a commitment to read, there's also the Animal Books Facebook group.

Once a Wolf is the Companion Animal Psychology book club book of the month

You can find all the books in my Amazon store:

Upcoming webinar

On 16th July at 2pm Eastern time, I will be doing a webinar for the Pet Professional Guild called Debunk, Support Science, or Tell a Story? How to Communicate About Dog Training and Animal Welfare. If you want to know how to deal with misinformation in our field and how to craft an engaging message, this webinar is for you.

The webinar is open to anyone whether or not they are a member of the PPG, and everyone who signs up will automatically get a recording after the event. (Those in the British Isles can sign up via this link instead:

Support Companion Animal Psychology on Ko-fi

Companion Animal Psychology is open to everyone and supported by animal lovers like you. If you like what you see, you can buy me a coffee on Ko-fi, or even make it a monthly thing.

This month I’d like to say a special thank you to Jane Appleton, Vetanswers, and several anonymous people for their support and kind words. You help me keep this blog going and I really appreciate it!

Here at Companion Animal Psychology

Earlier this month, I was honoured to speak at the BC SPCA Animal Behaviour Science Symposium about what dog trainers need to know about cat behaviour. Jean Donaldson’s key note speech was a rousing call for regulation and standards in dog training. Other highlights for me included Dr. Chris Pachel’s workshop on communicating with clients, Debbie Martin’s talk on how trainers can work more closely with vets, and Kim Monteith’s inspiring talk about her work with the pets of vulnerable people in Vancouver’s poorest neighbourhood. There were also wonderful talks from Dr. Karen van Haaften , Dr. Claudia Richter, Sarah Pennington, and Lisbeth Plant. The date for next year’s conference is already set: 6 – 8 June 2020.

Recently I was quoted in how to pet a dog the right way on Mother Nature Network, and in nosework is scentsational for dogs on Fear Free Happy Homes (this story also includes some tips on nosework from instructor Sarah Owings for those wanting to give it a try).

At my Psychology Today blog Fellow Creatures, I just wrote about a new literature review on the challenges and benefits of pets for seniors. With an aging population, it’s important topic to consider.

My own post for the Train for Rewards blog party looked at three ways we can help support and encourage people to use reward-based training methods. It follows on nicely from an earlier post on new research that found confidence and emotions affect people’s use of positive reinforcement. If you’ve got a reactive dog, you’ll recognize some of the feelings mentioned in that post. As well, I looked at how Hungarian dog owners perceive “dominance” in the relationship between their dogs in multi-dog homes.

The Train for Rewards blog party

In mid-June, pet bloggers came together to celebrate the benefits of reward-based training in the fourth annual Train for Rewards blog party.  It was a huge success and I want to say a big thank you to everyone who took part.

Train for Rewards blog party button 2019

There are some incredible posts about dogs and cats, and a record number of entries this year. Dr. Marc Bekoff wrote about recent research on positive reinforcement training, in “Bad dog?” The psychology and importance of positive reinforcement training. Jessica Ring told the story of how she helped keep Gus occupied during a long period of crate rest, and Kristi Benson interviewed Suzanne Bryner about the Bruisers play group she runs for big dogs with a tricky play style. In one delight of reward-based training by Joan Forry you can even see a dog take a selfie. And Eileen Anderson explains that she likes to “teach the dog that treats fall from heaven whenever anything weird happens in the environment” as part of teaching your dog to self-interrupt.

Cats are not forgotten. Amongst others, Feline Engineering shares some tips on training cats  and ChirpyCats explains how to train your cat to stay off countertops and to do a high five (with some very cute videos!).

As well, a hilarious post from Melissa McCue McGrath’s dog explains why he should be allowed to roll in goose poop…   but you should also read McGrath’s more serious post about the magic of positive reinforcement dog training. But there are many other awesome posts, too many to mention here. Be sure to check them all out!

Pets in art

This month’s pets in art is titled Cat on Doorstep, and is by Henry Stacy Marks.

Cat on Doorstep, drawing, part of Companion Animal Psychology News June 2019

It’s in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago and is dated 1849-1848.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Fellow Creatures: Seniors and Pets

I have a new post at my Psychology Today blog, Fellow Creatures, about a new review study of seniors with pets.

It shows that while pets can have many benefits for older people, there are can also be some issues, and the report has some suggestions. Read more in the challenges and benefits of pet ownership for seniors.

Photo: Peter Baxter/Shutterstock.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

The Train for Rewards Blog Party is live

The Train for Rewards blog party is now live. You can read an amazing set of posts from talented dog trainers and animal behaviour professionals on the reward-based training of dogs and cats.

Check it out here.

Then share your favourite posts on social media with the hashtag #Train4Rewards.

There is also a photo post where you can add a photo of your pet to show your support for training with positive reinforcement. (It's a pet-ition, geddit?!).

The Train for Rewards blog party is now live

Saturday, June 15, 2019

To Promote Positive Reinforcement Dog Training, Teach, Engage, and Amplify

Three tips to encourage and support people to use reward-based training methods with their dog or other pet.

Tips to promote positive reinforcement dog training
Photo: D.K. Grove/Shutterstock

How can we encourage more people to use positive reinforcement to train their dog?

Those of you who know me know that this question is often on my mind. It’s because positive reinforcement is good for animal welfare and fun for the dog. I explore some of this in the post that kicked off the very first Train for Rewards blog party, seven reasons to use reward-based training methods. I even wrote an article for the Journal of Veterinary Behavior about the barriers to the adoption of humane dog training methods, which you can read about in why don’t more people use positive reinforcement to train dogs.

Today, for the fourth annual Train for Rewards blog party, I want to share three tips that we all can use to help encourage and support people to use reward-based training methods with their dog, or other animal (because reward-based training is for all our pets).

Tips on R+ for the 2019 Train for Rewards blog party

Teach people how to use positive reinforcement successfully

We know that positive reinforcement is an effective and successful way to train dogs, but for beginners in particular there can be some technical roadblocks. These can be especially frustrating if we suddenly get a dog that seems harder to train. Or if we’ve simply forgotten what it’s like to train a novice dog who has still to learn that doing the right stuff results in food and is busy bouncing all over the place instead.

Perhaps it’s especially difficult when the dog’s unwanted behaviour happens in public, which can make us feel embarrassed, awkward, or even upset.

In fact a recent study of the training choices made by owners of reactive dogs shows that these negative emotions can get in the way of the right decision. As well, people are more likely to say they will use positive reinforcement if they feel confident in their abilities to do so.

What this means is that dog trainers need to work hard to support their clients in developing their training skills, and provide scaffolding on which future training can be based. Just as we make things easy for the dog to begin with, we should also make it easy for the person so they don’t become discouraged.

Teach people how to use positive reinforcement dog training. Photo shows puppy high-five
Photo: manushot/Shutterstock

This means paying attention to things like using the right rewards (see the best dog training treats  and do dogs prefer petting or praise). As well, it means paying attention to timing, both the timing of the click (if using a clicker) and the timing of the food reward (whether using a clicker or not).

It means working on training scenarios in easy locations, so that by the time someone has to use their skills in public, they have got those skills down pat. And it may also mean rehearsing things to say or do in case difficult situations pop up or another dog owner decides to make an unwelcome comment, because we all know it can happen.

And it means meeting the person where they are, having a sense of humour, and not being judgemental. For those of us who’ve trained dozens of dogs, it’s easy to forget what it all felt like when it was new.

For me, having treats in my pocket for those occasions when they are required is second nature, but not everyone wants stinky tripe treats on their person. I do understand.

So then it’s a case of helping the person figure out where they could keep treats so they are to hand when they need to reinforce their dog’s behaviour.

All of these things (and more) become habits as we learn to train dogs, but it’s a lot to learn when just starting out. To encourage more people to use positive reinforcement, we need to help them build their skills and confidence.

To promote positive dog training, teach, engage, and amplify. Pembroke Welsh Corgi practices recall.
Photo: Maxfromhell/Shutterstock

Engage people with positive posts about positive reinforcement

Often when we see that someone has posted something wrong about dog training on the internet, we feel the urge to write a post about it and correct it. Unfortunately, attempts to correct misinformation often backfire; one reason is that they tend to spread the misinformation further (see reasons to be positive about being positive in dog training for more on this).

But we also know that to be effective, messages should be visually appealing and easy for people to understand. Positive messages are easy for people to get behind. As well, messages should connect with the audience, for example by telling a story.

Can you see where I’m going with this? If only dog trainers had lots of positive stories about cute dogs whose lives are better (and whose owners are happier) because of positive reinforcement training…

As people with pets, we can share the positive stories of things we’ve done and the ways they’ve helped, along with nice photos of our pet to get people’s interest.

As dog trainers, we can share positive stories of clients we have helped, with little bits of information about the kind of thing that worked, and again, beautiful photos of the pet. This isn’t just helping to drum up future business for you (though it is, I’m sure) but it’s also contributing to positive change in the dog training industry by showing people examples of what can be done.

Teach, engage and amplify messages about R+ dog training. Photo of Jack Russell on couch
Photo: dezy/Shutterstock

Write for the world you want to see. The more people hear positive examples, the more likely they are to think of giving positive reinforcement a try.

So take that rant that you really feel like posting, and turn it instead into a positive story about something that has made a difference. Add a nice photo. In the end, it’s the sweeter option. The fact that it shows off your knowledge and expertise too is an added benefit.

Write for the world you want to see, banner with text over dog in bluebell woods

Amplify messages about positive reinforcement

The number of people who are putting out great content about reward-based dog training keeps on going up, which means there is a lot of amazing content out there we can amplify. Books, blog posts, newspaper articles, stories on social media, talks… it all counts.

We can amplify messages by sharing them on social media, or simply talking to friends about them over coffee.

Every time we amplify something about the benefits of using positive reinforcement to train dogs, we are helping to build up social norms that this is the way to train dogs. Which means that next time someone is thinking about dog training, they are more likely to think of positive reinforcement.

This is one of the reasons I love to share my favourite links in my monthly newsletter. If I’ve read something fantastic, I want others to know about it too. Since my newsletter appears on the web as well as in other people’s inboxes, it gives those posts a link too, which hopefully helps them with the search engines (search engines love backlinks).

Amplify messages about positive reinforcement dog training. Photo shows husky singing with two women
Photo:Milica Nistoran/Shutterstock

Even if you only have a small following on your social media account, your shares reach people who would not have otherwise seen or heard about the content. So amplification is something everyone can take part in.

Plus, these are our fellow animal lovers whose posts we are sharing. We are all part of a bigger network that wants to make the world a better place. Dog trainers, vets, pet sitters, vet techs, cat behaviourists, dog walkers, horse trainers… we all need to work together to promote the best ways to train our animals.

So be generous. Generosity feels good, and it does good.

Rewarding the right behaviours

So if we want to encourage more people to use positive reinforcement, we have to Teach, Engage, and Amplify.

Which handily spells TEA.

And I’m British, so I like tea. (Bear with me for a moment…).

What I’m building up to is that it’s important to reward yourself for doing these things (which is also a theme for participants in the Train for Rewards blog party). You might like tea and biscuits, coffee and cake, or a glass of wine… that’s up to you.

Sometimes change happens more slowly than we would like. The thing is, it can get depressing and there’s no point in trying to hide it. The more you learn about animal welfare, animal behaviour, and dog training, the more you see things that aren’t quite right. It’s hard.

So we have to take care of ourselves, because this stuff is important. One way to do that is with tea (or wine or chocolate or…) after we’ve done our TEA. So it's TEA-tea, or TEA-wine, or whatever works for you.

Teach, engage and amplify positive training methods. Photo shows cats curled up by window on rainy day
Photo:Irina Kozorog/Shutterstock

Thank you to everyone who amplifies this blog. You helped me get over half a million different visitors in the last twelve months, which is incredible.

And thank you to everyone who is taking part in Train for Rewards this year, whether as a blogger or a reader. You rock!

Upcoming webinar: If you're interested in this topic, you might like to know I presented a webinar for the Pet Professional Guild entitled Debunk, Support Science, or Tell a Story? How to Communicate about Dog Training and Animal Welfare on Tuesday 16th July 2019. If you missed the live webinar, you can purchase the recording at that link.

Join over 2,500 animal lovers and subscribe to Companion Animal Psychology.

Bush, J. M., Jung, H., Connell, J. P., & Freeberg, T. M. (2018). Duty now for the future: a call for public outreach by animal behaviour researchers. Animal Behaviour, 139, 161-169.
Todd, Z. (2018). Barriers to the adoption of humane dog training methods. Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 25, 28-34.
Williams, E. J., & Blackwell, E. (2019). Managing the risk of aggressive dog behavior: investigating the influence of owner threat and efficacy perceptions. Risk Analysis.