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The “A” word

 Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human characteristics to that which is not human, and it is often denounced as a misattribution. In this talk, anthropomorphism will be considered within a psychological and ethological framework: how and why do we anthropomorphize, and do anthropomorphic assessments hold water? This talk will explore the psychological factors behind the human tendency to see human in that which is not and will briefly discuss recent canine cognition studies of guilt and fairness. I will also touch on research investigating the relationship between anthropomorphism and emotional support from companion animals. This talk aims to bring a more comprehensive understanding of anthropomorphism to interactions with both human and non-human animals.

Agonistic behavior patterns of dogs in response to a threatening stimulus

 Many studies of the domestic dog have focused on the ontogeny of behavior, clinical behavior issues faced by veterinarians, and dog bite incidents.  However, a detailed description of the agonistic behavior portfolio for domestic dogs is needed to balance our understanding of canine behaviors deemed as acceptable responses (by human society) to threats with those canine behaviors deemed unacceptable (e.g., avoidance of a threat vs. aggressive interaction). This study investigated whether adult dogs exhibited agonistic patterns of behavior in response to a threatening stimulus and whether dogs that had been bred for different purposes exhibited different patterns.  An understanding of these patterns may improve the identification of escalating behavioral responses which might resolve as aggression.

 Sixty-two dogs were tested in an outdoor arena.  All dogs exhibited agonistic behavioral components; 87% of dogs ultimately sought an agonistic solution to the threat.  Solutions ranged from avoidance to attack.  Lag sequential analysis indicated that multiple patterns of behaviors are available to dogs providing them with a large behavioral response portfolio.  Analysis of patterns according to working groups also demonstrated multiple patterns of behavior and indicated that behavioral components are utilized differently among groups, leading to different behavioral resolutions.


Discussion of “food-related” aggression

Opinions abound regarding the best way to manage puppies and their food bowls. Regardless of management, it seems some dogs spontaneously begin to growl when people are near their food. To date, there is no solid information regarding the risk factors of the behavior, the incidence of the behavior, or the management of the behavior.  The terminology associated with the behavior is also not consistent.

 After a discussion of representative cases, comments regarding a study design will be proposed. Comments and discussion with the group would be welcome.


Cats on drugs

 When veterinarians are faced with a feline behaving badly, they reach for the drug closet. It is standard for cats to come to the clinic taking at least one psychotropic medication, and uncommon for the diagnosis to be clear. Unfortunately, using mood altering drugs is not without risk and can ultimately make it more difficult to manage the patient. Two feline case examples will be presented in which the risk in medicating outweighed the benefit.


Spatially Speaking

 Proximity matters to our dogs when it comes to comfort.  One of the most common trouble spots when it comes to growing babies and dogs is a child's ability to enter into a dog's space.  This presentation will cover common pit falls and offer solutions to help support the families we consult with. Knowing about "grumble zones," "growl zones" and subtle canine posturing can decrease the risk of an unfortunate encounter between a family dog and toddler.


The interactions between sheepherding dogs, their handlers and the sheep themselves are goldmines for anyone interested in genetics, interspecific communication and training methodologies. This presentation will focus on working Border Collies, bred in the Border counties between England and Scotland to manage large flocks of sheep. Through slides and abundant videos, the talk will include videos illustrating the (presumed) key visual signals between dogs and sheep, the different personalities of dogs and how each relates to their effectiveness in different contexts, the use of acoustic signals between handler and dog, and training methodologies that allow two different predator species to control (or not!) the behavior of a prey species.


Validity and Reliability of a Behavior Assessment for Dogs  
 A variety of behavior tests and assessments are used in shelter settings. These test are either not validated or tested partially. To systematically determine the validity and reliability of an assessment tool used in an open admission shelter, 92 randomly selected dog were tested in a prospective study between January and April 2012.This study followed a pilot study that included 20 dogs. Eighteen dogs were euthanized for medical or behavioral reasons at the shelter. Each dog was tested twice on two successive days by two handlers under strictly standardized conditions to control as many variables as possible. Both tests were video recorded and reviewed twice in random order by four blinded observers using Noldus Observer software system. The dogs were placed into new homes independently of their behavior. For ethical reasons, adopters were offered to obtain information regarding the outcomes of the test. A follow up survey using CBARQ was conducted 6-9 months after the dogs’ placement to determine retention and incidence of behavioral problems in the new home. Based on the data obtained, inter-handler reliability, inter-observer reliability, intra-observer reliability, order effects and predictability (validity) were calculated.


Introducing the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center , studying treatment of severe canine fear
 In late 2012, the ASPCA Anti-Cruelty Behavior Team (ACBT) inaugurated the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center at St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Society in Madison , NJ . The Center’s work focuses on study of the rehabilitation of fearful and undersocialized dogs rescued mainly from hoarding situations and puppy mills. Rehabilitation efforts are devoted to helping the dogs overcome their fears and learn to interact comfortably and safely with the world around them before transfer to shelter partners for placement into adoptive homes. In accomplishing this goal, we aim to reduce the resources and risks involved in accepting dogs from abusive or neglectful situations and increase the dogs’ chances of finding loving homes. Rehabilitation and evaluation are carefully documented and post-placement follow up is conducted so that the ACBT can track efficacy of rehabilitation efforts and share information with other professionals. This presentation will introduce the Center, its integration with St. Hubert ’s and the field services work of the ACBT, and provide preliminary data from the first several months of operation.


The TAZmanian Chewer: A case study on Taz the cat who chews everything.

 Taz was a 13-month-old spayed female Domestic Shorthair cat when I first consulted with her. She was rescued during hurricane Irene.   Her foster mother watched the mother cat remove all of the other kittens, yet never returned for Taz.  She was rescued at 6 weeks of age and fostered until she was adopted 2 months later.  Taz has chewed a variety of objects including:  wires (phone & HDMI), the corner of a glass table, a chair, a wall, etc.  She will become aggressive, hissing, spitting, and will even scratch if approached while chewing.  She has plenty of toys to chew on and is not deterred by the taste of bitter apple, cayenne pepper, or citrus.   She was on Buspar 2x daily, which was not helping, then switched to Amitriptyline.  There are 2 other cats in the household:  a 12 year old and a 6 year old.   At present Taz continues to chew.  Her case and condition will be followed for the next 6 months.

Back to the future

The topography of animal sheltering is experiencing a significant shift in goals and ideologies.  Animal shelters are going through a period of enlightenment, as no-kill shelters are becoming a reality in both private and public sectors.    Many municipal shelters are succumbing to the pressure of the no-kill movement, and are responding to this pressure by beginning to limit their shelter's intake, in order to achieve this goal.  "Live outcomes" have become the newest metric of success in animal sheltering.  However, this bottom-line approach is problematic, in terms of the functionality of animal shelters, and the health and safety of the communities they serve.  The reason why most shelters exist is to protect the health and safety of the community, preventing the spread of zoonotic diseases (e.g., rabies) and help decrease the number of unwanted pets.  In an effort to completely eliminate the euthanasia of every animal that ever enters an animal shelter, a growing number of municipalities are electing to relinquish their ability to manage the pet population of an individual community.   The myopic view of improving the field of animal sheltering by eliminating euthanasia represents a shift of focus.  This shift in focus reduces the municipality's ability to protect the health and safety of the community, not to mention the potential problems that are created downstream.  These potential problems will ultimately tie up community resources (e.g., time and money), that may have been used to improve a community's quality of life for both people and pets.

Do Cats That Have Access to Outside Areas Have Fewer Behavior Problems?

There is an emerging belief among some cat owners and pet professionals that cat behavior problems may be due in part to living in an “impoverished environment.”  It has been suggested that giving cats access to the out of doors may prevent or resolve behavior problems.  As far as we know, this hypothesis has never been tested.  To address the question, we surveyed 1,163 cat owners through the internet asking about the indoor and outdoor activities of their cats, time spent alone and the incidence of behavior problems.   

Sixty-three percent of the cats lived in inside areas of 1,000 square feet or more, with only 8% living in less than 500 square feet of indoor space.  In 44% of the homes someone was always home with their cats, while in only 12% of the homes were the cats left alone more than 8 hours a day.  Sixty-six percent of the cats were exclusively indoor, while 20% went outside every day.  Of those going outside, 63% were out less than 3 hours, and only 13% were allowed out overnight.  Thirty-eight percent of those cats going outside were allowed out without supervision or allowed to roam off the property, the rest were under supervision or confined to their property.  

Fifty-five percent of cat owners reported behaviors in their cats that were a problem for them. The most commonly reported problems were fears of people, other pets or things (22%), aggression to people or other animals (13%), inappropriate elimination (13%), feeding problems (12%) and destructive clawing or chewing (12%).  The remaining complaints accounted for 27% of all problems, with no one problem accounting for more than 5% of all problems.

During our presentation we’ll present results examining the relationships between behavior problems and lifestyle characteristics, with a focus on outside time and behavior problems.

Cognition and Social Behavior in Two Hand-Reared Coyotes with Reference to Domestic Dogs 

Domestic Dogs are the direct descendants of wolves separated by 30,000 - 100,000 years of evolution.  Early research showed that domestic dogs, but not wolves, were able to follow human social cues to find hidden food.  The researchers claimed that this ability is unique to dogs and a by-product of domestication.  However, more recent work has shown that hand-reared wolves perform above chance at following human social cues in certain environments.

 Coyotes and dogs diverged from a common ancestor more than 1,000,000 years ago, yet they are both canids and may share behavioral and cognitive traits.  If dogs can follow human social cues to locate hidden food, and wolves can perform above chance at least some of the time, then how capable are coyotes when compared with dogs on the same tasks?  I will present the results of a pilot study on the ability of two coyote pups to read human social cues.  Additionally, I will share video on coyote social behavior and discuss what I've learned about their trainability relative to domestic dogs. 

The sweet smell of success?
Social status has been shown to influence multiple aspects of scent marking behaviors in domestic dogs, as in many other social mammals. However, the ability of dogs to “read” social status from scent marks has not been previously tested in any canid, and is poorly understood in most social mammals. I will report the findings of ongoing research testing dogs’ ability to differentiate marks of high and low-status conspecifics, and briefly address possible implications of this research for dog-owners and other applied fields.

Anogenital investigation in social introductions

Although a familiar part of our dogs’ social introductions, anogenital investigation is poorly understood. Why do dogs do it? How might it influence the development of social relationships? Are there observable aspects of anogenital investigation that could help us better “read” dog social introductions? Almost no empirical data have been collected on this behavior that could help elucidate the social function(s) and mechanisms of anogenital investigation. I will present data collected from observed social introductions between shelter dogs that begin to address some of these questions, and discuss some future lines of research that will build on these preliminary observations.

Sick as a Dog: Do modern veterinary anesthetic techniques foster future stress?
It is readily accepted that nausea creates long-lived and strong sensations of aversion. In the veterinary profession one of the earliest encounters with a canine patient is the appointment for the animal's surgical sterilization. In our attempt to control the animal's pain, hydromorphone is often used as a premedicant to anesthesia. This almost uniformly produces a profound sensation of nausea. I propose to conduct an experiment comparing those animals spayed/neutered that were given a premedicant that causes nausea (hydromorphone) vs. those given a premedicant that does not have this effect (butorphanol). The comparison of their cortisol levels at a veterinary visit one month after the procedure will be the primary data point of interest, though cortisol levels at other points in the experiment will also be taken. This experiment aims to better understand and control for events that may make a companion dog's veterinary care a stressful and unpleasant experience. It also aims to explore an effect of anesthesia often ignored. Pain control has too long been the only focus of animal welfare during surgical procedures. Other stresses must be examined and taken into careful consideration.


“Bailey the Wonder Dog”: a senior dog in need of medical care

Acceptance of medical handling by senior pets is an obstacle to provision of quality care. Bailey, 17 yr M/N Shih Tzu, presented for behavior consultation due to aggression to owner and veterinary staff when the owner declined euthanasia. Oral sores required intensive treatment but treatment attempts resulted in multiple uninhibited bites to the staff and the owner. The concern was not only for the owner’s welfare (79 year old woman) but also for the alleviation of the dogs suffering since the oral sores had been present for 6 months.

Bailey was adopted at 5 years of age. He had been groomed regularly and received regular veterinary care without displaying aggression previously. At presentation, the owner was still able to brush Bailey’s teeth without aggressive display but could not administer the prescribed oral solution. Medical history included major medical conditions: chronic allergies, Cushing’s disease, bladder stones and a neck injury which required surgery after a car accident.

In the 6 months prior to presentation, Bailey seemed less engaged in social interactions, displayed occasional night time waking, confusion and disorientation. Behavior consultation included detailed history, physical examination and observation. Bailey was diagnosed with defensive aggression related to cognitive decline. Other rule outs included neuromuscular pain and resistance to restraint. He paced aimlessly and displayed a dull manner.  Forced physical restraint, verbal reprimands and “ambush” medical treatments were discontinued. Senilife®, ADAPTIL® Collar and ADAPTIL® spray were initiated. The behavior technician demonstrated classical counterconditioning techniques for the empty vial of mouth wash, low-stress medical handling techniques and the client was instructed to observe and respect Bailey’s conflict signs as precursors to aggression. A dilute and palatable wash solution was prescribed (amoxidrops, prednisolone, diphenhydramine and lidocaine). Subsequent consultations at 3 and 6 weeks revealed the oral sores healed completely and Bailey displayed improved cognitive abilities, animated social interactions and solicitation rather than avoidance of veterinary procedures.


A First Draft of a Construction of a Stimulus-Response Manifold

The 2x2 response-consequence matrix appears to have become reified by the dog training community in that most if not all of the discussion of behavior modification is framed within the terminology of R+, R-, P+ and P-. There are some problems with the matrix (eg, regarding extinction) but a fuller analysis of learning would incorporate S-R, S-S and R-R relationships as well as R-S. Further, the role of elicitation/inhibition, deprivation/satiation should be considered and even further, the variation of stimulus and response contingencies/contiguities within different behavioral systems.


What do dog temperament tests test?

The history of psychological assessment includes tension between assessment of traits by skilled, expert clinical judgment and assessment by standardized tests. Good tests include multiple items for each presumed/observed trait derived from expert judgement, but ideally should, at least initially, aim for variability so traits can be statistically factored. Both presenters have been frustrated in conducting behavioral assessments in shelters by the standardization of procedures of the commonly used tests that reduce variability and do not adequately capture the variation that occurs in the "real world" we hope to provide for shelter animals. We hope for a spirited discussion.

Story of the Little Spinning Horse
Case history of a self-mutilating stallion and treatment outcome. Also short review of literature re this syndrome. Accompanied by video and PowerPoint visual aids

“Slow is smooth, smooth is fast”
The saying has its origins in the military. To the infantryman of World War 1, slow practice was target practice; it gave you time to get it right, as well as the time to correct your mistakes. In today’s army the term is associated more with training of soldiers for close quarter battle, moving fast or rushing it, is reckless and will likely get you killed. I’d like to think this old but successful combat military philosophy somehow bleed over into their K-9 training programs. For the sake of our brave military and law enforcement K-9 training community, I claim, progressive methods of dog training have just been a little more cautious in coming. I’m excited to share some immense and very refreshing changes that have come about recently in both military and law enforcement K-9 training programs, and too, discuss some of the challenges that confront both groups in the near future.  


Case report: Role of Cat Appeasing Pheromone in the resolution of conflict between

familiar felines

Case presentation:

Long term follow-up on familiar housemate felines (age 4 and 5.5 yrs) recovering from a

redirected aggression event (cat outside home in 2009) revealed the cats were responding well to an ongoing behavior program (Reconcile, Feliway, Composure and DS/CC) and affiliative interactions included: limited near-nose touches, brief periods of sleeping in the same room and cuffed swats.1 The author speculated Cat Appeasing Pheromone (IRSEA, France) would further reduce tension and promote affiliative relationships.2

Treatment and results:

CAP diffusers were used for two one-month periods. The owner kept journals and noted an increase in cat-cat proximity, more tolerance of agnostic displays, quicker recovery following encounters and overall reduced tension, during the periods of CAP. Sleeping proximity was maintained at within 6” of each other but duration increased to 30 minute periods during the first CAP period and to 1-2 hours multiple times per week during the second CAP period. The cats were reported to be more social with familiar people. Both cats were napping or sleeping with the owners more often and for a longer duration. Cats are noted to solicit more attention from people (bunting and purring). Both cats visited the people in bed during the night more often. The cats appeared friendly and happy and were described as “kitten-like”. During the 2 month long non-CAP period, there was an increase in hissing, swatting, tailtwitching, lashing and chasing similar to pre-CAP activities. No injuries occurred. One of the cats developed mats on the hind quarters. The periods sleeping with people were reduced in frequency and duration. The cats did not solicit or invite human attention as much as they did during the CAP periods.


Cat Appeasing Pheromone may facilitate feline relationships and may also enhance feline

relationships with human companions. The effect on human relationships may be secondary to eased tension between housemate cats.


1 DEPORTER TL., 2011. Case report: role of reconciliation in the resolution of conflict between familiar felines. 18th Annual Meeting of the ESVCE European Society of Veterinary Clinical Ethology Avignon , France .

2 COZZI A., MONNERET P., LAFONT-LECUELLE C., BOUGRAT L., GAULTIER E., PAGEAT P., 2009. The maternal Cat Appeasing Pheromone: exploratory study for the effects on aggressive and affiliative interactions in cats. Proceedings of the 7th International Veterinary Behaviour Meeting, Edinburgh , Scotland , 113-114.


What is our value?

What is a credentialed pet behaviorist worth in today’s economy? What is expected of a credentialed pet behavior professional? Is the field of applied pet behavior giving away so much information that it is now expected for free? What are people and hiring agents willing to pay for the education and experience? According to the American Pet Product Association, the Pet Industry seems impervious to the economical downturn. The estimated U.S. Pet Industry expenditure in 2012 is $52 Billion, and the actual expenditures have shown consistent significant growth since 1994. This presentation will attempt to reveal the perceived financial worth of a credentialed pet behaviorist using the following variables: a) competing services (e.g. trainers, vet behaviorists, television shows, internet), b) job opportunities and requirements (private and non-profit), and c) associated service fees and salaries. What can the future generation realistically expect in years to come? What is their best course of action to retain value and worth?

Do puzzle toys have long-term benefits on canine cognitive functioning? (20-30 minutes including discussion)

Can cognitive exercises used to address human Alzheimer’s disease help stave off Canine Dysfunction Disorder?  Veterinary specialties and procedural advancements, new medications, and physical rehabilitation facilities focus on and succeed at extending the life span of pets, but what advancements have been made to extend these pets’ cognitive functioning and improve the psychological or behavioral health of senior pets.  It looks like the pet toy industry is jumping on board and inadvertently addressing the psychological counterpart of aging with an explosion of puzzle games and toys.  This presentation includes a list of dog enrichment puzzle toys, videos showing differences between and within dogs in preference and proficiency, and a proposal for a retrospective or longitudinal study to whether the increase in dog puzzle toys is having long-term as well as short-term benefits.