Dogs: Behaviour and Training


We've given you two headlines, the first (in blue) being the original, and the second (in red) aims to be a more informative headline, so you can gain an idea of what the article is about more quickly. The source is also given in case you want to track down the original article.

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Aromatherapy for travel-induced excitement in dogs

The smell of lavender can calm dogs travelling in cars

Source: Deborah Wells
Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association
Sep 15 2006 Vol 229, No 6 pp 964-967

A study by Deborah Wells from Queens University, Belfast, Ireland, has found that dogs that tend to be excited on car journeys can be calmed by the smell of lavender. The dogs were tested while travelling in cars to a place where they usually walked, for three days without the lavender, and for three days with the smell of lavender. They were more likely to rest and be quiet, and less likely to be noisy and move around when there was a smell of lavender. This result was apparent for dogs whatever their sex, whether or not they had been spayed or castrated. The result also held whether they had experienced the first three days of journeys with the smell of lavender and the second without lavender, or whether there was no lavender for the first three days, and lavender for the second three days. It appears that aromatherapy may help some dogs who become overexcited in cars, and it is cheaper and less time-consuming than some alternatives, as well as being unlikely to have side-effects.


Follow your nose

How dogs may perceive scent

source: New Scientist vol 211 no 2826, August 20 2011 starts p36, 2 pages long

Dogs may experience strong smells in a different way from humans, perceiving them as layers, with different sorts of information. Alexandra Horowitz of Columbia University, New York, sees dogs as able to perceive scent in a complex way, rather than as mono-smells. Dogs use visual cues as back-ups. Police tracker dogs rely on their noses, ignoring the visual cue of footprints. Just one object may offer different sorts of information, according to Horowitz. Dogs may sense the time that has passed since smells were left, so have a sense of time. Dogs' nostrils are far enough apart for them to smell from different regions and work out the direction of a smell. Dogs have 300 million olfactory receptors. Humans have six million. The olfactory cortex of dogs accounts for 12.5% of total brain mass, but in humans it is only 1%.


The babysitters' club

Shared childcare fosters co-operation and altruism in social animals like wolves and dogs

source: Mairi MacLeod
New Scientist vol 209 no 2804, March 19 2011 starts p48, 4 pages long

Some researchers believe that shared childcare encourages co-operation and altruism in certain species. In humans this also helped foster language, technology and culture. Humans can collaborate in teams, read emotion in others, and may even be kind to strangers. Captive marmosets show more altruism than chimps, when able to pull food in the direction of a neighbour's cage. Marmosets are co-operative breeders, while chimps are independent breeders. Infants in co-operative societies may survive better if they can judge non-related adults. Elephants are also co-operative breeders, as are African wild dogs. Wolves also share water and food, and may help disabled or injured members of a group.

Domestic dogs are descended from wolves, and perform better on tasks such as imitation in comparison with animals that have simuilar sized brains. Researchers have observed dogs consoling victims after fights. Socio-cognitive tasks, like imitation, also include gaze understanding and social learning. Co-operative breeders donate information as well as food, in other words they are teachers. Tamarins bring young dead insects, then live prey, then show where prey is hidden, according to the youngsters' ability. Matrilineal groups may also encourage co-operative breeding because adults in a group are related to the young.


Puppy Power! Using social cognition research tasks to improve socialization practices for domestic dogs (Canis familiaris)

Cognition research and the socialization of puppies

Source: Howell, T., and Bennett, P
Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 6 (3): May 2011 p195-204

Recent research with dogs has shown that they are extremely effective at communicating with humans. They can follow human pointing gestures to find treats or toys; they can look at their owner as if requesting assistance to solve a problem that they cannot solve on their own; and, they even use eye contact to ‘show’ their owner the location of a treat or toy that they want to access. Dogs also learn to perform certain actions by watching other dogs or humans performing them. All of these skills are of real interest to animal behavior and cognition researchers, but few dog owners are surprised by any of these revelations.

Our paper reviews five experimental setups used in dog cognition research to test for the skills mentioned above. We suggest how they could be modified for use in homes, as tasks for puppies to practice both in the litter and in their new home. Three of the tasks are designed to encourage eye contact with the owner, and the other two are observational learning tasks, or learning by watching others. Dogs tend to develop these skills over the course of their lifetime anyway, as shown by their success in these kinds of tests as adults. We propose that training puppies in these skills could provide a sort of ‘fast-track’ to the knowledge they possess as adult dogs. This could help improve the dog-owner relationship because, a. the owners and breeders are given specific, but simple, tasks that will encourage fun interactions with the dog on a regular basis, and b. these tasks are all designed to teach the dog to watch and make eye contact with their owner. Eye contact between owner and dog has been shown to activate neurochemicals that are related to bonding, so these tasks might provide the opportunity to strengthen the bond between dog and owner early and often. It is our hope that this strong, early bond would reduce the number of dogs surrendered to shelters and euthanized.

We wrote this article partly because of a criticism that some members of the community have toward dog cognition research: it doesn’t tell them anything new. The field of dog cognition research is less than 15 years old. There were researchers studying dog behavior earlier in the 20th century, but after Scott and Fuller’s landmark puppy research in the 1960s, there has been very little follow up until the late 1990s. Because the field is so young, and science is necessarily slow, in some ways the field is ‘catching up’ to the knowledge that lay people have about dog behavior. There are a few studies that are particularly inspired and really tell people something new and interesting, but it will probably be a few more years before the scientific community can regularly contribute surprising or unexpected information to the lay community about dogs. This review article synthesizes existing knowledge in a way that might be beneficial to members of the dog-loving community. A portion of the article also stresses the need for more puppy research within the dog cognition field.
If you would like more information about the article or the tasks set out within it, please email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Border collie is fluent in toyspeak

Border collie's linguistic skills

source: Jessica Griggs
New Scientist vol 208 no 2792/2793, 25th December 2010 p8

Chaser, a border collie, has learnt 1,022 words for different items. She was taught by John Pilley and Alliston Reid, psychologists from Wofford College, S Carolina. Chaser learnt names through fetching toys, and each time she was correct in her selection, the name of the toy was repeated. She also fetched toys from a separate room, so researchers could not give her unintentional cues. Her score was never under 18 correct selections out of 20 commands to select. She can also categorise named objects, touch toys with her paw or nose, and work out what a new object is called when placed among familiar objects, through eliminating the names of the familiar objects.

Adam Miklosi, who has set up the Family Dog Project in Hungary's Etvos Lorand University, sees Chaser's intensive training as the key to her good performance, not yet matched by other dogs. He notes that, while Chaser can understand human speech, she cannot produce it.


Animal empathy

Dogs and cats can develop empathy for humans

source: Mike Flattley
New Scientist vol 208 no 2791, 18th December 2010 p28

Humans can hunt more effectively when they can think like the prey they hunt, as is shown by the Kalahari bushmen. Anthropologists see this skill as part of the evolution of the human ability to develop strategies and influence events. More empathic predators are probably better hunters, and this may apply to cats and dogs. Both can understand human behaviour to some extent, and this has helped them to co-operate and live with humans. Cats and dogs behave differently when they relate to their own species. It is anthropomorphic to believe that only humans can understand others' behaviour. Evolution is likely to have favoured empathy as a useful survival trait.


Why dogs and their owners are so alike

Dogs learn better when they imitate humans

source: New Scientist vol 207 no 2771, 31 July 2010 p116

Humans tend to copy other humans' behaviour, often unconsciously, for example, yawning when somebody else yawns. Dogs may also copy humans. A team from the University of Vienns, Austria, investigated dogs trained to open a sliding door. One group were trained to use their mouths, and the other to use their paws. The dogs found this task easier if their trainer opened the door using the method the dogs were taught. This result was first reported in Proceedings of the Royal Society, B, DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2010.1142.


Dogs know that stealth pays when your eyes are averted

Dogs can understand how humans perceive them

source: New Scientist vol 207 no 2770, 24 July 2010 p16

Researchers from Hood College, Frederick, Maryland, argue that dogs can understand how humans pereceive them. They first trained 40 dogs to leave food put on a plate. Then the dogs had access to two containers with food inside. One container had loud bells, the other had muted bells. The dogs took food from either container when they were observed. However, they chose the quieter container when the observer was not looking at them. This research was first reported in Applied Animal Behaviour Science, vol 126 p45.


Disgruntled dogs opt out of unfair play

Dogs appear to have a concept of fairness

source: Nora Schultz
New Scientist 13 Dec 2008 vol 200 no 2686 p12

Dogs that think they are being treated unfairly compared to their canine companions show their feelings. Scientists have previously found that primates dislike unfair treatment and wondered whether other species characterised by cooperative living might have a similar dislike.

Dogs were tested by a team led by Friedericke Range from Vienna University, Austria. The subjects were 43 trained dogs, who held out their paws to humans on request, whether or not they were rewarded, or were alone, or with another companion dog. This changed if one dog was rewarded and the other was not. The dog that was not given a reward complied with the request on average a third less than when alone or when neither or both dogs were rewarded. The unfairly treated dogs also showed their unhappiness by scratching or licking themselves. Range speculates that a sense of unfair exclusion may also help in understanding why some dogs appear to envy their owners' new human babies.

University of Colorado's Marc Bekoff argues that a sense of unfairness is important for wolves and coyotes, since freeloaders can jeopardise the survival of the pack.


Who's a clever boy then?

Recent research on canine cognition

source: Kate Douglas
New Scientist vol 199 no 2670, August 23 2008
starts p 33, 3 pages long

The first Canine Science Forum was held in Budapest, Hungary, in July 2008. One issue discussed was canine cognition. Previously many scientists believed that dogs were more stupid versions of wolves, since their brains are some 10% smaller than those of wolves. Now it is more accepted that domestication has affected canine cognition, for example, dogs appear to have a rudimentary sense of right and wrong, according to University of Colorado's Marc Bekoff. He has studied play in dogs and other animals, and sees play as a way of learning social rules. Meanwhile, University of Vienna's Friederike Range argues that dogs also have an aversion to inequity. In her experiments, dogs ceased to cooperate when not rewarded in the same way as other dogs, for successfully perfoming the same task. Inequity is a value that helps counter freeloading, so promotes social stability.

Dogs have learnt to communicate with humans through barking, argues Peter Pongracz, from Budapest's Eotvos Lorand University. Dog barks can convey emotional states like happiness, aggression and lonliness, and these states can be recognised from barks even by non-dog owning children. Dogs can also understand human attempts to communicate with them, for example through gazing and pointing, as well as through information from human voices. Dogs can also be trained to identify and retrieve toys by name, according to University of Cambridge's Juliane Kaminski. Furthermore, the Hungarian Academy of Science's Joszef Topal sees dogs as capable of learning from one another.

There are debates as to how recent research should be interpreted, including the notion that dogs may have a theory of mind. However, this idea is now more acceptable than it was some years ago.


A placebo-controlled study to investigate the effect of Dog Appeasing Pheromone and other environmental and management factors on the reports of disturbance and house soiling during the night in recently adopted puppies 

Effect of DAP and other factors on night time disturbances and house soiling by newly adopted puppies

source: K Taylor and D.S. Mills
Applied Animal Behaviour Science vol 105, no 4, July 2007,
starts p358, 11 pages long

New owners of puppies often have to cope with the pups disturbing them at night, crying and scratching repeatedly, and with soiling, or going to the toilet at night. A study of 60 pups, 25 of which were gundog breeds, has sought to test whether dog appeasing pheromone (DAP) may help, and to find out what other factors may be important. The pups were split into two groups, with 30 sleeping in rooms with a DAP diffuser, and 30 in rooms with a placebo diffuser. The other factors looked at by the researchers included whether the pups slept alone or with other dogs, whether the pups came from a domestic or a non-domestic setting when they lived with their previous owners, and whether the new owners crated the pups at night.

Most of the pups, ie 71%, disturbed their owners the first night, and this fell to 22% by the 7th night. There were 11 pups which slept with the owners' other dog or dogs, and these 11 pups were much less likely to disturb their owners, even during the first night. The dogs they slept with may have provided natural DAP. The DAP diffusers were especially effective in reducing the tendency of gundog pups to disturb their owners, Gundog pups without DAP in the diffusers were more likely than other breeds to disturb their owners, perhaps because gundogs are bred to be sociable. DAP had little or no effect on the non-gundogs' tendency to cry or scratch, though, whatever the breed, pups with a tendency to disturb were less likely to do so if they had DAP in the diffuser.

Most of the pups soiled the first night, ie 84% of them. This fell to 65% on the 7th night, 59% on the 14th, and 45% on the 28th. DAP diffusers appeared to have no effect on whether or not the pups soiled. What did appear to have an effect was crating. About half the pups were crated at night, ie 29, with 31 loose in a room, and crated pups soiled for a median of 10 nights in all, compared with 30 for uncrated pups. Coming from a domestic environment also helped. The 25 pups from a domestic environment soiled for a median of 16 nights in all, while the 35 from a non-domestic environment soiled for a median of 30, during the study period.

Crating may be effective because pups are constrained in terms of exercise, as well as feeling inhibited about soiling their den. Previous owners in a domestic environment may have put pups out with their dam, so helping the pups to become house trained before they went to their new homes.


It's good to bark

Barking as a way for dogs to communicate with humans

source: Kate Douglas
New Scientist vol 182 no 2451, June 12 2004
starts p 552, 2 pages long

Humans and dogs have lived close to each other for between 15,000 and 30,000 years, and communication between the two species may have developed in this time. Barking was once seen as having little meaning, but it may be that it uses similar patterns to human speech, giving humans a greater ability to understand dogs than our ability to understand other species.

Barking is not apparently used much as a way for wild canids, like jackals, foxes and wolves, to communicate with one another. They do communicate with sound, for example, howling and whining, but generally it is only used by juveniles when they play. Dogs were thought to bark as a result of preserving juvenile traits.

Research by Dorit Feddersoen-Petersen, from Kiel's Christian-Albrechts University in Germany, has found that dog barks differ from those of wolves. Dogs have more variable barks, in terms of length, and in terms of having both harmonic and atonal sounds. Wolves tend to have short, atonal, gruff and low-pitched barks.

Dogs also bark differently according to context. They are likely to bark noisily and atonally when they feel physically distressed or socially insecure, while positive social interactions, like playing, seem linked to more harmonic barks.

Further research, this time from University of California Davis, backs this finding. Sophia Yin examined acoustical analyses for 10 dogs, and over 4,600 barks, focusing on three situations, a doorbell ring by a stranger, being isolated from the owner, and play. Low-pitched, harsh, rapid barks were linked to doorbells ringing, isolation was linked to high-pitched barks, and play to unevenly spaced, tonal barks.

Meanwhile, Adam Miklosi, from Budapest University, Hungary, has found that humans are able to guess the reason for why a dog is barking, even if the humans are non-dog owners. His study used 10 herding dogs, mudis, which are notoriously vocal, and 90 humans, one group of which owned mudis, a second of which owned other breeds, and the third did not own dogs at all. The humans assessed the dogs' barks for emotions, such as happiness, aggression, fear, despair, or playfulness, and were also asked to link the bark to one of a choice of seven situations. The humans guessed the situation correctly around a third of the time, and had an accuracy rate of around 45% when they categorised barks. This level of accuracy is better than could have been achieved by chance, and all three human groups performed well. Humans seem to have an innate ability to understand dogs.

Mammals may have some acoustical patterns in common, argues Cornell University's Michael J. Owren, and he goes on to note that his research shows how cats can meow in a way that attracts owners' attention. The trait of being able to communicate in this way may have been selected for in both cats and dogs. Dogs have even greater abilities than cats, since their repertoire is greater, and they can vary volume, pitch, tone, duration, and the length of time between one bark and another.

Miklosi is unsure as to whether humans selected this trait of being able to communicate in dogs, but humans do appear to be able to infer a range of messages that dogs send us. Dogs are less dumb than some people think.


Retrospective analysis of the treatment of firework fears in dogs

Dog appeasing pheromones and sound recordings can both help to tackle dogs' fear of fireworks

source: D.S. Mills et al
Veterinary Record vol 153 no 18, November 1 2003
starts p 561, 2 pages long

There has been little work on the effectiveness of treatments for dogs that suffer from fear of fireworks, though some work has been carried out on dog appeasing pheromone (DAP) in a controlled study. This research examines the effectiveness of three therapies, DAP, audio recording desensitisation, and psychoactive drugs. The dogs came from an English vet practice, which developed the sound recordings, and gave clients a CD with instructions on its usage. The dogs' owners could choose between therapies, and combine them. They were also given suggestions on the management of the dog when there were firework sounds, for example they were told to ignore their dogs if the dogs showed signs of anxiety.

The practice asked 200 owners to complete a questionnaire, and this yielded 48 usable returns, relating to 21 bitches and 27 dogs. These were 19 terrier-type dogs, 11 pastoral breeds, nine gun dogs, six hounds, one utility, one toy, and one that could not be classified. The mean age was 6.4 years, with a range from three years-old to 13-years-old. of the total of 48 dogs. The average (mean) length of time that the dogs had shown fear of fireworks was five years, with a range between six months and 13 years. Fearful reactions to other noises were noted by owners of 37 of the 48 dogs..

Psychoactive drugs (diazepam or acepromazine) were used by 14 owners, 32 used DAP, and 32 used the CD audio recording, with 21 owners using both DAP and the CD. One notable result is that psychoactive drugs appear to be ineffective, with no significance difference between dogs receiving these drugs, and dogs not receiving them. Owners using these drugs also appeared less likely to obey the instruction to ignore anxious dogs, and were also not as likely to make sure their dogs were relaxed prior to putting on the CD, and not as likely to use the CD every day. Medication should not be used in place of behaviour therapy, and this research reinforces concerns that owners using such drugs may be less compliant over instructions on ways to modify their dogs' behaviour.

Both DAP and CD sound recordings appear to be effective ways of tackling dogs' fear of fireworks. Owners who used both DAP and the CD noted that the dogs sought their owners less, became less vigilant, less restless, and salivated less. Owners who used DAP alone did not report a significant reduction in dogs seeking their owners or bolting. The results suggest that if owners want to control these behaviours, DAP should be used together with systematic desensitisation. There are a number of potential differences in the effects of these treatments. Owners who used DAP alone, for example, reported a reduction in dogs' tendencies to be startled, hide or vocalise, while owners who used the CD reported that their dogs were less restless. More research is needed to investigate these apparent differences between the effects of treatments. This study does indicate that the problem of dogs fearing fireworks cannot be tackled just by prescribing medication on its own.


Evaluation of dog-appeasing pheromone as a potential treatment for dogs fearful of fireworks

Pheromone helps some dogs with fear of fireworks

source: G Sheppard and D.S. Mills
Veterinary Record vol 152, no 14, April 5 2003
starts p432, 5 pages long

Dogs may show fear of fireworks, for example by whining, panting, or running away. Counter-conditioning of densitisation can be used, but may not be suitable for all dogs. Seasonal stimuli that frighten dogs, like fireworks, may be especially difficult to treat. Medication can also be used, but has to be given in advance, and it is not always easy to tell when fireworks are going to be let off. Medication may also fail to calm the dog, even if it changes the dog's behaviour, and it can have side effects. This study tests dog appeasing pheromone (DAP; Ceva Sante Animale) which is based on a synthetic mix of compounds found in secretions from bitches just after they have given birth. The pheromone is administered using an electric diffuser.

There were 30 dogs selected for this trial, and all had shown fear of fireworks, with 19 of the 30 also afraid of thunder. Owners were asked how they dealt with their dogs' fear, and 26 owners answered, with 18 trying to reassure the dogs, and eight trying to distract or ignore them. The owners were given advice on how to behave with their dogs when fireworks began, for example not rewarding the dog by making a fuss of him, but 25 of the 26 owners said that they did not change the way they treated their dogs as a result of this advice.

The symptoms shown by the dogs included panting, affecting 29 dogs, and trembling, affecting 28. After the treatment with pheromones, 22 owners noted an improvement, and only five were mainly or very dissatisfied with the treatment.

The results should be interpreted with caution, due to the small size of the sample, and there being no placebo control, however, dog-appeasing pheromone does appear to help dogs which are afraid of fireworks.



Four cases of aggression and hypothyroidism in dogs

Hormone treatment decreases aggression in dogs with hypothyroidism

source: J. Fatjo et al
Veterinary Record vol 151 no 18, November 2 2002
starts p547, 2 pages long

Hypothyroidism is the most common canine endocrinological problem that vets see, while aggression is the most common behavioural problem. Hypothyroidism can lead to lethargy, apathy, and not being able to tolerate cold, but some dogs may become more excited, and even aggressive. This study describes four cases of dogs treated for hypothyroidism which was linked to aggression.

Three dogs of the four showed dominance-related aggression, eg when disturbed during a meal, while the fourth showed fear aggression towards strangers. The aggression in all these cases had been noted over a long period, and had worsened. The dogs underwent thyroid function tests which suggested hypothyroidism. The dogs were given levothyroxine at 12 hour intervals, and owners advised to ensure that the dogs were not exposed to situations that could trigger aggression. The dogs' doses were adjusted after periodical measurements of their thyroid hormone levels. All four showed improvement after eight months, though three of the dogs showed more improvement than the fourth.

Hypothyroidism is estimated to account for 1.7% of canine aggression cases, so testing for hypothyroidism is indicated if dogs show aggression. Endocrinologists tend to prefer tests measuring thyroxine levels with concentration of endogenous thyroid-stimulating hormone.

Serotonin turnover can be affected by hypothyroidism, and serotonin is involved in aggression control. Canine dominance aggression has been linked to low brain serotonin levels. Aggression thresholds could be reduced by hypothyroidism. One dog also growled when alone, and was reported to have suffered seizures. A previous report noted a dog suffering from both seizures and hypothyroid aggression.


The effectiveness of a citronella spray collar in reducing certain forms of barking in dogs

Dogs tend to become habituated to citronella collars worn all the time

Source: Deborah Wells
Applied Animal Behaviour Science 73 (2001)
Starts p299, 11 pages long

Dogs may bark as a warning, greeting, to attract attention, or for other reasons, and this is often seen as a problem by owners. Citronella collars release a spray which is triggered when a microphone detects the dog barking. The interruption may surprise the dog enough for the owner to be able to get the dog to do something else other than bark. The effectiveness of the collar may depend on a number of factors, such as how it is worn, and why the dog is barking.

This study involved 30 labrador retriever bitches referred to Queens University, Belfast, for therapy. Ten of the dogs barked at the TV, ten barked when in a car, and ten barked from their gardens at passing traffic. Half the dogs in each group wore a citronella collar daily for 30 minutes, while half wore the collar on alternate days for 30 minutes that day. The stimuli that triggered barking were applied only during these 30 minute periods, for example, dogs that barked in a car only went in a car for a 30 minute drive when they had their collars on, while the TV barkers only watched TV with their collars on. The dogs wore the collars for three weeks, and were observed with no collar in the fourth week.

There was a reduction in barking in both groups, but it tended to wear off, apparently because the dogs got used to the collar. The barking was reduced more, and the effect of the collar wore off less quickly when dogs wore the collar every other day, rather than when they wore it every day. This was surprising because the spray is a form of punishment, and punishments tend to be more effective when they are inevitable rather than intermittent. It is unclear whether the dogs would eventually have got so used to the spray that it would have had no effect on their barking, since the collar was only worn for three weeks.

Dogs tended to bark more often when they were not wearing the collar, if they were wearing the collar every day, which could be because they learnt faster that they could bark without punishment. The dogs wearing the collar every day wore it more often, so had more chance to learn when they could bark unpunished. Both groups increased their barking in the fourth week, when no collar was worn, but the barking was less than at the start of the experiment, and the dogs that had worn the collar intermittently increased their barking more slowly. The collar was also more effective with dogs that barked when travelling in cars than with dogs that barked at TVs and passing traffic. The owners were not told how to deal with barking, and were just told how to use the collar. This was because the aim of the study was to assess the collar. There are, however, recommendations that owners should direct their dogs to do something else at the moment when the dog's barking is interrupted, and this recommendation is worthy of further research.

Owners often buy citronella collars and leave them on their dogs all the time because they don't have information on how to use them. This study indicates that dogs get used to the collars, and the collars become less effective over time, however they are used, but that they are effective for longer if used intermittently.


Behavioural problems in cats and dogs

APBC review of cat and dog behavioural problems referred in 2001

source: Veterinary Record vol 151 no 9, August 31 2002 p252

The Association of Pet Behavioural Counsellors (APBC) has issued a review of feline and canine cases seen in 2001.

Indoor marking, mainly spraying, was the most common problem found with cats, accounting for 25.5% of cases. Housetraining problems and aggression towards people or other cats were also common cat problems. There was little difference in numbers of male and female cats seen. The domestic shorthair was most common cat breed seen, though this could be because it is the most common breed kept in the UK.

Aggression shown towards humans accounted for 36% of cases of more than 1,000 dogs seen, with dog-dog aggression accounting for 19% and phobic and separation-related problems each accounting for 9% of the total. Males were seen more often than females. The breeds most commonly seen were crossbreeds, border collies and German shepherds, though this could simply be because of these breeds are common in the dog population of the UK as a whole.


Secret lives of dogs

Researchers believe that dogs can count and communicate with barking

source: Hazel Muir and Betsy Mason
New Scientist August 3 2002 p20

Animal behaviourist, Robert Young, from Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, Brazil, and Rebecca West from De Montfort University, Lincoln, England, believe that dogs can count treats in a bowl. They used a technique previously employed with babies, which involves letting the babies see dolls, and then hiding the dolls with a screen, but letting the babies see researchers apparently removing or adding some. The screen was then taken away. The babies spent longer looking at the dolls when some had secretly been added or removed, and they hadn't been able to watch this. Eleven mongrels were used in this experiment, and doggie treats replaced dolls. The dogs did not stare as much at the treats if there was one treat to start with, they saw one apparently being added, and there was one more treat in the bowl when they got to see the final result. The dogs did seem confused if there was one treat in the bowl, the bowl was then hidden, and a treat apparently added, with the final result being three treats. This implies that the dogs had done simple sums in their heads.

Young argues that it could help dogs to be able to do maths, for example because it could allow thm to work out how many enemies or allies they had. Dogs are pack animals, with a large neocortex, a part of the brain involved with reasoning.

Meanwhile, University of California, Davis's Sophia Yin has analyzed over 4,600 barks from 10 dogs of six breeds using sound spectrogram analysis. She has found that dogs use different types of barks according to the situation they are in. They tend to have a deeper bark for doorbell rings, and a higher pitched bark when they are separated from their owners. She has been able to assign a bark to a situation, just from the sound analysis, with 80% accuracy.


Aetiology of separation-related behavior in domestic dogs

Two studies of separation anxiety in border collies and labrador retrievers

source: J.W.S. Bradshaw et al
Veterinary Record vol 151 no 2 July 13 2002
starts p 43, 4 pages long

Some dogs may show separation anxiety by howling, and/or destroying furniture, especially objects that smell of the owner, or that are near where the owner left the house. Dogs may also eliminate, and even mutilate themselves. Some 15% of dogs are thought to suffer from this condition, and it has been seen as possibly linked to rescue dogs, and dogs of mixed breeds are thought possibly more vulnerable. Rescue dogs are more likely to be mixed breed dogs. Whether or not behaviourists see cases depends a lot on how owners react, rather than how severe the case is, so these two studies look at a general population of dogs, rather than cases reported by owners to behaviorists.

The first study looked at 17 border collies and 23 labrador retrievers from when they were born to 18-months-old. Their social experiences were examined, especially their relationships with their owners. Information came from owners and breeders. The second study used information from dog walkers stopped in three locations in southern Hampshire. Information was collected on 105 dogs, with 11 of these later excluded, since they were never alone. The median age was four years, with the oldest being 18-years-old, and the youngest 3-months-old.

The labradors showed more separation anxiety at three and six-months-old, but the collies and labradors showed similar results at 12 and 18-months-old. 13 Labradors of the total sample of 23 had problems with separation anxiety that lasted over one month. Destructive dogs destroyed objects at exit and entry points. Interaction levels with owners and breeders did not affect the likelihood of separation anxiety developing. Dogs with most social referencing, or a varied social experience, at age six-months to nine-months-old appeared to be less likely to develop separation anxiety. However, dogs with very extensive social referencing at age 3-months were more likely to develop problems when they were between six and nine-months-old.

The problem was found in 29% of the dog walkers' dogs, or 27 of 94. Barking, destructive behaviour and howling were the most common problems, with three dogs reported to be defecating or urinating, and two reported as showing self-mutilation. Eight dogs showed more than one problem behaviour. Six owners had sought professional help. There appeared to be no link between neutering and whether a dog showed this behaviour, or between whether a dogs was a pedigree or mixed-breed, and separation anxiety. Rescue dogs did not appear to be more affected. Males were three times as likely as bitches to show current separation anxiety, and two thirds of bitches had never had the problem, while this applied to only a third of males.

This sex link was not found in the longitudinal study, however, both studies found the problem to be more common than the previously estimate of 15%. Rescue dogs do not appear to be more vulnerable, nor do mixed-breed dogs, though the number of mixed-breeds was quite small, with only 18 dogs. Previous studies may have found rescue dogs apparently more vulnerable because owners of rescue dogs may be more attached to them, so more likely to seek help. Mixed-breed dogs may also be left home alone more.

The message from the longitudinal study seems to be that separation anxiety can be prevented if dogs are given a wide social experience at between some five and 10-months-old. Very extensive social experience in younger dogs appears to have the opposite effect. However, this may be because the puppies may come to expect a lot of varied social interaction, and suffer when they get less varied and less frequent interaction. Pups do need varied interactions, and a socially rich environment, and the problem of separation anxiety can be avoided if they continue to have a varied interactions after they have had their vaccinations and have gone to their new homes from the breeders. It is also worth letting puppies learn to be separated from humans.


Wuff justice

Device to allow handlers to communicate with dogs at a distance

source: New Scientist June 1 2002 p23

Temko of Tokyo has developed a device allowing handlers to control dogs at a distance. The handler uses a loudspeaker transducer attached to the dog’s head at the back, and this transducer sends sound to the dog’s eardrums via its skull. The device could be helpful for handlers of rescue and police dogs.


Teaching old dogs new tricks

Preparing cats and dogs for the arrival of a new baby

source: Beverley Cuddy
Guardian Weekend May 12 2001 p73

Dogs and cats can live harmoniously with new babies, so long as owners use common sense and supervise them properly. However, parents are often under pressure to give up their pets. The National Canine Defence League has discovered that concerns relating to children and babies account for 15% of cases of dogs being given up to their centres.

Dogs need to learn that there are new restrictions on where they can go in the house, and they should be taught this before the arrival of the baby. This means that the baby’s arrival is not linked to a loss of privileges. Carrying round soft toys can help get dogs used to babies being carried around. Owners should remove dog toys that appear similar to children’s toys. Mothers-to-be can also invite friends round with babies, to accustom dogs to the way babies smell and sound, and they can allow a dog to smell clothing from a hospital-born baby, prior to that baby coming home.

Cats can be taught about babies in similar ways, and need teaching that they should not go inside pushchairs and cots. Cats may show signs of stress when babies arrive, and may urinate in the house.

Owners need to reduce the time spent with both cats and dogs before babies arive, since otherwise jealousy is more likely to occur when owners have to spend time on their babies, and can’t spoil their pets as much. Neither dogs, nor cats should be left unsupervised with babies.


Owner characteristics and interactions and the prevalence of canine behaviour problems

Links between owner characteristics and/or how owners relate to their dogs, and the dogs’ behaviour

source: Andrew Jagoe and James Serpell
Applied Animal Behaviour Science vol 47 no 1-2, April 1996
starts p31, 12 pages long

Retrospective data have been used to assess links between canine behavioural problems and owner behaviour, and/or the relationship between owners and dogs. Statistically significant links emerged from this sample of 737 dogs for different behaviour, such as a reduction in competitive aggression (aggression when others are paid attention, or to other dogs in the home), roaming and escaping, and problems relating to separation (eg urination, barking and destructiveness) among dogs that had undergone obedience training. Obedience-trained dogs were also seen as more overexcitable and disobedient - which may be because they had been taken to classes precisely because of this problem. It is possible that formal training does not help with these two problems.

There also appears to be a link between territorial aggression (eg towards strange dogs, and people approaching the owner or dog) and dogs being fed after their owners. No link was found between dominance aggression (eg aggression when handled and disciplined) and feeding a dog prior to the owner.

Dogs sleeping near their owners seem more likely to have separation-related problems and show competitive aggression. Dogs may, however, sleep near their owners because they show separation-related problems, rather than having such problems because they sleep near their owners.

First-time owners are more likely to have dogs with dominance-aggression, problems relating to separation phobias relating to loud noises, and higher degrees of excitability. This may be due to lack of experience in communicating with dogs and handling them, or to breeds selected by first-time owners. Novice owners may also see certain behaviour as problematic that experienced owners do not see as a problem.

Competitive, dominance and territorial aggression also appear to be linked to reasons why owners initially decided to acquire a dog. Dogs selected as companions were less likely to show competitive aggression. Dogs chosen for protection were more likely to show territorial aggression, which may be due to breeds selected, types of behaviour encouraged, or how owners perceive behaviour. Those chosen for exercise were less likely to show competitive and dominance aggression, which may be because owners interact and lead more with such dogs. Dogs chosen for showing and breeding showed less dominance aggression, which may be due to training to accept invasive procedures.

It is not helpful to blame owners for problems shown by their dogs, but information on possible links between how owners relate to their dogs, and their dogs’ behaviour, can both help us to understand canine-human relationships and suggest better treatment for dogs when problems do arise.


Evidence for an association between pet behaviour and owner attachment levels

Links between the behaviour of cats and dogs and levels of attachment shown by their owners

source: James A. Serpell
Applied Animal Behaviour Science vol 47 no 1-2, April 1996
starts p49, 12 pages long

Behavioural problems are a common reason for people giving up pets to animals shelters, but there has been little research into links between pets’ behavior and levels of owner attachment. Studies on attachment have tended to focus on companionship as a benefit, or other areas which are not linked to the animal’s behaviour. This survey, of 47 cat owners and 37 dog owners, has investigated links between owner attachment levels and animal behaviour, asking questions of owners a year after they had taken home cats or dogs from two UK animal shelters.

The survey involved a postal questionnaire asking about the pets’ behaviour, views of actual and ideal pets, and levels of attachment to their pets. No owner described themselves as not particularly attached, all choosing either moderately attached (19 owners) or very attached (65 owners).

Owners of cats and dogs did not differ in terms of attachment, but dogs were seen as different in terms of behaviour, eg more playful, affectionate, active, and confident when faced with unfamiliar situations than cats.

Actual dogs were measured against an ideal, and were found to be less confident, less obedient, and not as happy about being left alone, and more affectionate, excitable and active than ideal dogs. Actual cats were seen as less confident, affectionate, playful, obedient, and intelligent than ideal cats, and more excitable and aggressive towards their owners and others they knew.

The ‘ideal’ ratings of cats and dogs was not significantly different between very attached and moderately attached owners. Very attached owners, however, saw dogs as more intelligent, and cats as noisier than moderately attached owners. While moderately attached owners of dogs seemed generally less satisfied with their behaviour of their dogs, moderately attached cat owners seemed more satisfied with some aspects of their cats’ behaviour, such as how energetic they were, compared to their ideals.

The length of time someone owns a pet, and where the pet comes from can affect attachment levels, and these variables were controlled for in this study. Cat owners rated their cats as less intelligent than dogs. They were also not seen as significantly cleaner, quieter or more able to tolerate being left alone than dogs, though this may be linked to their having come from a shelter. Dogs tended to diverge from the ideal in terms of needing more affection and being worried about being alone - which may also be linked to their coming from a shelter. Aggression was not seen as a problem with dogs, which may be because shelters are wary of rehoming dogs showing signs of aggression. Owner-directed aggression is not common in cats, and again the prevalence of this problem in the sample could be linked to cats having been given up to shelters because of such aggression.

There was no link between ideal views of cats and dogs and levels of attachment, so lack of attachment does not appear to be linked to unrealistic expectations. ‘Actual’ ratings for most behaviour also did not appear to be linked to attachment levels, though noisier cats and more intelligent dogs seemed to have owners that were more attached. Absolute levels of behaviour may not be important for owners. However, average discrepancies between ’ideal’ and ‘actual’ ratings was linked to attachment levels, especially for dogs. This may be because dogs’ behaviour has more of an effect on owners, due to dogs being bigger and interacting more with owners.

More research is needed, since the numbers of moderately attached owners were small, but there does appear to be a link between the behaviour of pets and how attached their owners are, especially where dogs are concerned. This is worth looking into, since more attached owners are more likely to keep rather than abandon their pets.


An experimental study of the effects of play upon the dog-human relationship

Effects of playing tug of war with Golden retrievers

source: Nicola J Rooney and John W.S. Bradshaw
Applied Animal Behaviour Science vol 75, 2002
starts p161, 16 pages long

Play is often seen as having a major effect on relationships between humans and dogs, and owners are often advised not to play competitive games with their dogs, and not to allow the dogs to win tug-of-war games. However, there is some evidence indicating that play behaviour reflects dominance relationships, rather than affecting dominance. Dominance refers to who seeks to gain control over access to resources, and this can vary from one resource to another, and is affected by context.

Golden retrievers were used in an experiment to see whether winning or losing tug games affected dogs’ relationships with humans. There were 11 bitches and 3 dogs in the sample. The 14 dogs were first rated for playfulness and dominance. The dominance tests included testing the dogs’ reactions to being called, asked to sit, being groomed, being stared at, and being told to give up a toy. Owners had trained their dogs to respond to the commands beforehand. The dogs were also tested for playfulness, and the four least playful were removed from the sample for some of the analysis. The dogs were divided into two groups, balanced according to how their owners rated them for playfulness and dominance, as well as sex and age. One group played 24 games where they won most of the time (at least two thirds wins), and the other group played 24 games where they lost most of the time. The groups were then tested for dominance and swapped roles, so the first group was made to lose, and the second permitted to win. Then the dogs were again tested for dominance.

All the dogs showed greater obedient attentiveness and demandingness after playing, though this could be because they had become more familiar with the experimenter, who was always the same person.

Dogs that were always allowed to win did not appear to increase their confidence and become more dominant, nor did dogs that were always made to lose decrease their confidence and become less dominant. However, dogs were more likely to show playful attention seeking if they were permitted to win, compared with when they were made to lose. They also showed a higher degree of involvement if they were permitted to win. Other studies using other animals show that they appear to enjoy playing more when they can win, and the dogs’ greater degree of motivation may help explain their seeking attention from their play partner after being able to win 20 times.

Play between animals of the same species tends not to affect dominance, and dogs tend to be less competitive toward humans when they play, than they are in games with other dogs. Some humans, and some dogs have difficulty in assessing whether interactions are play, and they need to be able to give out and understand play signals to do so. A dog that is unable to recognise play may become more dominant by being allowed to win tug games. It may be that only a small proportion of dogs are likely to become dominant, if allowed to win tug games. Other studies have looked at different breeds, and generally, playing tug does not appear to be linked to dominance.


Early socialisation of puppies

Socialising puppies before they have finished their course of vaccinations

source: Richard Newey
Veterinary Record vol 149 no 25, December 22 2001 p780

The 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act is flawed, and was passed in too much of a hurry, but early socialisation can help to tackle the problem. Puppies need to get used to humans of different types, as well as other animals, noises, and other stimuli. They learn more easily at between one and three-months-old, though they should stay with their litters until they are about two-months-old. After that age they need to go out and explore the world.

There is, however, the problem that vaccinations against parvovirus, distemper, and other diseases aren’t effective until the pup is around 12-weeks-old, when maternal antibodies have nearly disappeared. Puppies can be vaccinated at two-months-old, with a second dose at three months, and this provides good protection after a few days have elapsed from their initial vaccination. Pups are not likely to encounter infection in most parts of the UK, so the risks they face are very small.

The organisation Guide Dogs for the Blind has had a policy of vaccinating in this way, and advising puppy walkers to take the pups out, and this has also been advised with dogs at a vet practice. No clinical cases of infection have been seen, and owners and pups appear to have benefited, while the pups also seem to have grown into dogs that bite less.


The influence of environmental change on the behaviour of sheltered dogs

Links between shelter dogs’ cage environments, their behaviour and desirability to potential buyers

source: Deborah L. Wells and Peter G. Hepper
Applies Animal Behaviour Science (68) 2000
starts p151, 12 pages long

Links between dogs’ behaviour, their cage environment, and desirability to potential purchasers, have been examined at an Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals shelter in Northern Ireland. Dogs are more likely to be bought if they are alert at the front of their pens, and quiet, rather than asleep at the back of their pens and barking. Potential buyers also find dogs to be more attractive if the environment is complex.

The sample comprised 120 dogs, studied over a four-hour period. Most dogs in the sample were aged between one and five-years-old, and crossbreeds, found wandering as strays. Three changes were made, they had more social stimulation, the bed at the front rather than the back of their cages, and a toy bone suspended at the front. The dogs’ behaviour was affected by having the bed at the front of their pens, and by more social stimulation, in that they spent more time at the front. They also tended to be more alert with more social stimulation. Alertness was little affected by having the bed at the front. The dogs tended to use their beds more when the beds were at the back of the cages. The dogs tended to bark a little more when there was more social stimulation, but not when the bed was at the front. Having a toy at the front had little effect on behaviour, either in terms of whether the dog was at the front, or levels of alertness, nor did it have an effect on barking.

Sales of these shelter dogs increased with all three measures. An increase in social stimulation produced the greatest change in behaviour, and boosted sales more than either of the other two changes. The increase in barking did not appear to put potential buyers off, and in any case was only slight. Curiously, sales increased when toys were present, though this did not actually affect the dogs’ behaviour, rather it affected potential buyers’ perceptions of the dogs. Presence of a toy, in fact, increased sales more than having a bed at the front.

Shelters could place toys in dogs’ cages in order to make them appear more attractive, and could have shorter visiting hours so that the dogs have more social stimulation when the potential buyers do arrive, so the dogs are more likely to appear at the front of their cages, and look more alert, so have more chance of being adopted.


Determination of behavioural traits of pure-bred dogs using factor analysis and cluster analysis; a comparison of studies in the US and UK

UK survey of dog breeds and behaviour compared to one carried out in the US

source: J.W.S. Bradshaw and D. Goodwin
Research in Veterinary Science 1998 (66)
starts p 73, 4 pages long

There are some differences between certain breeds in the US and UK, as is evident from comparing data from two surveys. The first survey was carried out in the US by Hart and Hart, published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (186) pp1811-1815, in 1985. The UK data, from a 1990s survey, studied 49 breeds, 36 of which were also studied by Hart and Hart, and 24 of which showed similar characteristics in terms of ease of housetraining, reactivity and aggressivity, as the same breeds in the US. Nine breeds showed significant differences, and an additional three showed smaller differences.

The UK questionnaire had 13 items in common with the US questionnaire, and covered traits such as playfulness, barking, and snapping at children. Four factors were developed from these questions, aggressiveness, reactivity, immaturity and housetrainability. No significant breed separation was found for trainability with the UK data, so this question was discarded. This UK/US difference may be because the UK question on trainability had a vaguer wording than did the US question.

Questions on watchdog behaviour, territoriality, aggression to dogs, and dominance in relation to owner were used to develop the aggressivity factor. Demands for affection, excitability and excess barking were seen as reactivity. Snapping at children was seen as both aggressive and reactive. General activity, destructiveness and playfulness were seen as immaturity, and ease of housebreaking is self explanatory.

Clusters of factor combinations were developed to compare UK and US findings, with just three factors, aggressivity, reactivity and ease of housetraining, used to develop the clusters. Cluster 1, for example, was comprised of dogs with medium aggression, low housetrainability, and medium to high reactivity, and included Yorkshire Terriers, Pomeranians, Cocker Spaniels, and Pekineses in both countries. Cluster two combined low aggression, low housetrainability, and low to medium reactivity, and included Bassett Hounds in both countries. Cluster three combined high aggression, low to medium housetrainability, and low to medium reactivity, and included Chows and Great Danes in both countries. Cluster four was comprised of dogs with low to medium aggression, medium to high housetrainability, and high reactivity, and included English Springer Spaniels, and Miniature and Toy Poodles in both countries. Cluster five was comprised of dogs showing low to medium aggression, medium to high housetrainability, and low to medium reactivity, and included Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and Rough Collies, in both countries. Cluster six was comprised of dogs showing very high aggression, housetrainability levels of high or very high, and low reactivity, and included Rottweilers, German Shepherds, and Dobermanns in both countries. Cluster seven was comprised of dogs showing high aggression, medium housetrainability, and medium to high reactivity, and included Fox Terriers, West Highland White Terriers, and Cairn Terriers, in both countries.

Nine breeds showed significant differences in terms of reactivity and aggression. Airedale Terriers, Beagles and Standard Poodles were seen as showing medium to low reactivity in the UK, but high in the US. Corgis and Old English Sheepdogs (OES) were classed as showing high aggression in the UK, and medium (Corgis) and very low (OES) in the US. Irish setters were seen as showing low aggression in the UK, medium in the US, while Dalmations were seen as having medium to low aggression in the UK, and high in the US. Boxers and Samoyeds were seen as medium in terms of reactivity in the UK, and low in the US.

These perceived differences could have arisen for a number of reasons, including how dogs are socialized and portrayed in the media in each country, and differences between individuals of the same breed. There do, however, appear to be a number of real differences between the same breed in the UK and US, which may be due to relative genetic isolation. These differences are important when discussing breeds and behaviour at an international level.


Mandy's new best friend, Bobby, vies to be top Labour dog

Behaviour of dogs owned by British Labour party politicians

source: Jonathan Carr-Brown
Independent on Sunday December 19 1999 p12

Lucy, the guide dog owned by British secretary of state for education, David Blunkett, has a new rival in the form of Bobby, a golden retriever owned by Peter Mandelson. Blunkett has given some advice to Mandelson on the need to be firm with his pet. He has told Mandelson to perceive Bobby as a member of the Militant tendency. Blunkett had to obtain permission to allow Lucy to be admitted to the House of Commons chamber. She usually behaves exceptionally well, sleeping by Blunkett's feet during his best speeches. She has vomited once, when the former spokesman on education for the Conservative party, David Willetts, was giving a speech. Bobby had to be removed from a Northern Ireland press reception following an accident affecting the carpet. Bobby has travelled to Belfast using the ministerial jet. Lord Hattersley is another Labour politician who owns a dog. His dog, Buster, is a Staffordshire bull terrier-German shepherd cross from Battersea Dogs Home. Buster once killed a goose in London's St James's Park.


Sniffing danger

How a dog uses its nose

source: Mark Schrope
New Scientist August 26 2000 p16

Researcher, Gary Settles, from Penn State University, has studied how dogs sniff. He found that they breathe in cool air, exhaling it as warm air, and this exhaled air is diverted away from the object they are sniffing. Dogs exhale through the side slits of their noses, so the exhaled air can be directed away from what the dog is sniffing. The scent can thus be separated from the air exhaled by the dog, while new air is pulls across the object, which makes odour molecules rise in the air. Dogs alter the shapes of their noses on inhaling, so as to be able to inhale large amounts of air. Settles carred out his research following a request by the military. This finding could help with developing mechanical dogs to locate landmines.


Watch it! My growl is as bad as my bite

Growl frequency patterns and bite severity in dogs appear to be linked

source: New Scientist October 23 1999 p29

Researchers have found that the severity of a dog's bite can be gauged from its growl. Tecumseh Fitch from Harvard, Massachusetts, and Tobias Riede from Humboldt University, Germany, have measured growl frequency patterns for 21 breeds. The growls of larger dogs tend to show formants that are more narrowly spaced, whatever the dog's head shape (Journal of Experimental Biology, vol 202, p2859). Dogs may assess each other's strength using this information.


Mind of a dog

Research on problem solving abilities of dogs and their attachment to humans

source: Kate Douglas
New Scientist March 4 2000
starts p22, 5 pages long

Research carried out at Eotvos Lorand University, Budapest, Hungary, by Vilmos Csanyi and his team, has investigated bonds between humans and dogs. Dogs show a similar attachment to their owners as human infants show to their mothers. Domestication can bring both obedience and and apparent loss of problem solving and other cognitive abilities. Dogs have smaller brains than wolves, especially the parts linked to smell and hearing, but they can make mental maps and understand object permanence.

The researchers found that dogs that have strong bonds with owners were worse at problem solving unless encouraged in the task by the owner. Guide dogs for the blind have strong bonds and good problem solving ablities, and have been trained to take control. They normally leave decisions to their owner, and take control in an emergency. Domestication involves producing animals with a predisposition to obey rules, as a result of selection. Play helps dogs learn codes of conduct from humans, argues University of Colorado's Marc Bekoff. He sees dogs as more cognitive than wolves.

Budapest researcher, Adam Miklosi, has found that dogs develop an ability to understand human gaze cues. Four-year-old dogs understand human cues better than cues from other dogs, while six-month old dogs respond to dog cues, and not to human cues. The Budapest group is also examining how well dogs understand language. Mature pets can understand between from 7 to 80 expressions, with an average of 40.


Fido stays faithful to the end

Dogs remember their original owners from puppyhood

source: New Scientist July 10 1999 p25

Dogs can remember their original owners for as long as nine years after they have been separated from them. William Carr is a biologist from Beaver College, Pensylvania. He has carried out research on dogs that went to live with new families as puppies, to see whether they remember their original owners. The dogs investigated the scent of their original owners for significantly longer than they did other people who looked after a dog of the same breed. Carr reported his findings to the Animal Behaviour Society at Lewisburg, US.


Dogs are a bunch of clever-clogs

Dogs may be aware of what their owners are looking at

source: Claire Ainsworth
New Scientist December 16 2000 p20

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Germany, have examined the behaviour of dogs to assess whether it changes if dogs are being watched. Dogs were left with treats in front of them that they were told not to eat. The dogs usually obeyed, until the person went out of the room, and then rapidly ate the treats. The researchers also tested dogs to see if they were more likely to steal the treats when someone was present and not looking at them, and found that this was the case. Different levels of distraction were tested, with the person's eyes shut, or the person using a computer, for example. The dogs used different strategies according to how distracted the person appeared to be. They were more likely to use an indirect approach, rather than going directly to the treat, if the person appeared to be looking at the dog, and less likely to if the person was playing on a computer. Dogs can work out what humans are able to see, and may be able to put together their past experiences to solve new problems. Dog behaviour appears more complex than simply automatic responses that are learnt.


RSPCA challenge police over cruel dog collars

RSPCA concerned about electronic training collars used by police

source: Jo Dillon
Independent on Sunday Feburary 13 2000 p9

The RSPCA oppose the usage of electronic training collars, arguing that rewards should be used for training. The collars can be used to punish dogs with an electric shock, and are still used by police forces in Britain. The military police, Prison Service, and Customs and Excise have prohibited the collars. Campaigners argue that other methods, such as vibrating collars, or citrus sprays, could replace electronic collars.


German dogs get English lessons as police seek canine recruits abroad

British police recruit dogs abroad due to shortage of dogs in Britain

source: Sophie Goodchild
Independent on Sunday December 31 2000 p1

The British police have had to recruit German Shepherd dogs from France and Belgium due to a shortage of dogs in Britain. The British public used to donate enough puppies, but puppy donations fell after three police dog handlers were convicted of cruelty in Essex, England, in 1998. Private security firms also compete for dogs. Some police forces are using rottweilers in place of German shepherds. Dog behaviourist and trainer, Tony Lockyer, from Devon, England, argues that rottweilers learn to bite more easily than do German shepherds, but take a long time to learn to stop biting.


Police dogs are too cowardly, officers admit

British police chief claims German shepherds are being bred more cowardly

source: Jason Bennetto
Independent February 3 2001 p4

Phil Tyson, a police dog handler from West Yorkshire, England, argues that dog shows have led to German shepherds becoming less bold and suspicious. Tyson says that it is also not unusual for German shepherds to have hip problems. He sees the defect as bred into them due to their usage as show dogs. He is using a Belgian malinois bitch in place of a German shepherd. Malinois are used by the police in Germany and the Netherlands, and are being tried out by a number of British police forces.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Apco) has a sub-committee which deals with dog handling, and which has met to tackle the problem of a shortage of police dogs. The committee attributes the German shepherd shortage to competition with private security firms, and to poor breeding. The secretary, Superintendent Clive Helliwell, argues that German shepherds have had courage and drive bred out of them over 30 years. Apco is carrying out research on breeding and usage of other types of dogs. Dobermanns and rottweilers are seen as too unpredictable. German shepherds were first used by the Metropolitan police in 1956, and the Met has 180 of these dogs, with 30 other dogs, including springer and cocker spaniels and labradors, used as sniffer dogs.


Police dog's bite fails to live up to its bark

Police argue that breeders have made German shepherds less bold

source: Angelique Chrisafis
Guardian February 3 2001 p8

West Yorkshire police spokesman, Phil Tyson, has told 'Police Review' that dog shows have meant that German shepherds have become less bold and so less suitable for police work. Shows tend to seek nice, subdued dogs, he argues, rather than aggression. The head of the dog training school for West Yorkshire is Graham Armitage, who states that other breeds considered include Rhodesian ridgebacks, rottweilers, and dobermans, though it has been decided not to use Japanese akitas. Police officers have travelled to Belgium to purchase malinois dogs, a type of Belgian shepherd dog that is smaller than a German shepherd. The Kennel Club breeders' association's Phil Buckley argues that breeders' guidelines for German shepherds are that the breed should be courageous and not nervous.