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It started when two canine scientists decide to become pen pals in an era of digital media...


24 May 2013

What music do dogs prefer? Bach vs. Snoop Dogg

Hey Julie,

I hope you've had a fun week.

I saw a new in-press publication with your name on it - "Smelling more or less: Investigating the olfactory experience of the domestic dog" - looks like a really great study, and so timely after my last post about dogs and olfactory enrichment

Looking forward to reading it (and all those other cool Learning and Motivation articles) over the weekend.

So did you do your homework? Did you watch this clip from the Sydney Opera House's Ship Song Project

I wanted you to watch this clip, and more importantly, LISTEN to it, because it features lots of different musical styles. I don't know about you, but I certainly have a different reaction to the different styles. Some appeal to me more than others. Some I find relaxing, while others make me want to nod my head to keep the beat or even hum along.  I was talking about this clip recently with my friend Mark (from SARC, in my head that always runs together "Mark-from-SARC") and of course we shifted to talking about dogs and music. As you do. That's normal - right?!

What kind of music do dogs prefer?

As part of my PhD research into kennel enrichment, I looked into this very question. 
The research in this area has been conducted in two kennel environments.  

Headphones on dog = silly (they hear around x4 better than us!) source
In the first study, scientists played five different recordings to dogs housed in a shelter kennel: 

- a control (nothing) 
- human speech
- classical music
- pop music
- heavy metal music

to the dogs and recorded the behaviours of the dogs using an ethogram. Then they looked at the differences in the behaviour of the dogs during each condition.
The dogs were significantly more likely to run around barking when the heavy metal music was played; and lie down, apparently resting quietly, when the classical music was on. 

There was no difference to their behaviour when the control, human speech or pop music were played. The second study showed similar results, with classical music linked to more sleeping and heavy metal correlating with more body shaking.
It's probably worth noting that these changes in behaviour may not reflect dogs' actual PREFERENCE for music. To assess that, we'd need to set up a study design that offered dogs a choice of multiple sound environments. But it certainly suggests that if we want to encourage behaviours associated with relaxation, like lying down, not barking, and sleeping; we should be piping some gentle classical music to the environment our dogs are in. I reckon my dogs quite like Chopin's Nocturnes, but maybe that's just me.

The Australian ABC's fabulous science program, Catalyst, have a great (~6min) story about this research that you might enjoy watching here.

(can't embed their vid, but click this pic to go to video)
Have a great weekend, I look forward to hearing what else is going on with you now those students have been set free!


Further reading:

Hubrecht, R. C. (1995). The welfare of dogs in human care. Chapter in Serpell's book: The domestic dog, its evolution, behavior and interactions with people, 179-198.

Kogan L.R., Schoenfeld-Tacher R. & Simon A.A. (2012). Behavioral effects of auditory stimulation on kenneled dogs, Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 7 (5) 268-275. DOI:  

Wells D., Graham L. & Hepper P. (2002). The influence of auditory stimulation on the behaviour of dogs housed in a rescue shelter., Animal Welfare, 11 (4) 385-393. Other: Link

© 2013 Mia Cobb
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19 May 2013

Reflecting on Applied Animal Behavior

Time for reflection (By Wieselblitz)
Hi Mia!

Love the lavender research! Learning that dogs show different behaviors when exposed to different scents could help us prime environments to be associated with particular dog behaviors and moods (you noted that exposure to peppermint and rosemary are associated with activity and barking while exposure to lavender and chamomile bring out resting). At the Horowitz Dog Cognition Lab, we have a new paper coming out soon in Learning and Motivation -- the study included testing the effect of lavender on dogs' food preference. More on that later!

Speaking of being in a calm, more restful state, I know 15 people who recently (hopefully) just entered a period of calm. I teach an Applied Animal Behavior class to Anthrozoology Masters students at Canisius College, and the semester just ended. The Anthrozoology program is a unique hybrid Masters program, hybrid in the sense that at the beginning of each semester, students and teachers meet for 4-days of in-person learning at the Canisius campus in Buffalo, NY. I get to meet the awesome students, although Buffalo in January can be incredibly cold with quickly changing weather. I say this even after spending 4+ years in Madison, WI where people deal with the winter like this. So I guess Canisius is a good place for me.

(Just a little bike ride)
Digression #1: Anthrozoology Intern
Speaking of Anthrozoology in the online sector, y’all at the Anthrozoology Research Group are looking for an Intern! Applications due by May 24, 2013. Intern responsibilities and requirements listed here.

Digression #2: Hybrid courses

Maybe you are familiar with hybrid degree programs? I first learned about them through one of my mentors, Darcy Luoma, who holds a Masters of Science in Organization Development through Pepperdine University. Darcy is now the Lead instructor for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Professional Life Coaching Certificate, which is a blended-learning certificate program. I follow Darcy on Facebook.

I have been finding my way as a teacher in the hybrid / online academic world and enjoying it -- although a helpful, approachable guide is paramount! Leah MacVie, a learning advocate, instructional designer and cupcake connoisseur, is my go-to person at Canisius College. Leah is a bonafide rockstar in helping online teachers create and manage classes. I follow her on Twitter @leahmacvie and her blog.

Reflecting on Applied Animal Behavior
Applied Animal Behavior in action
Anyway, hopefully the students in my Applied Animal Behavior class are having some moments of calm and rest since the class ended. We covered A LOT of material this semester. The journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science reminds us that this field can include hundreds of topics, and then some! Broadly speaking, we covered ethology of domestic animals, pain and stress physiology, needs and preference assessment, abnormal behavior, affective states, welfare, naturalness, ethological approaches to human-animal interactions, species management and reintroductions, and assessing and treating behavior problems.

As the end of the semester neared, we reflected on our 15 weeks of Applied Animal Behavior. Here some of the class’s big take-ways.* 

General Reflections
Don’t jump to conclusions
This class has expanded my knowledge of animals in captive environments and practices like reintroductions. It gave me a way to look at these situations from multiple angles and not jump to conclusions.

Sometimes, behavioral problems can be in the eye of the beholder and dependent upon our own lifestyle and expectations. Jumping is not an abnormal behavior for dogs but can be perceived as problematic based on the dog’s home environment.

Explore our assumptions
Dogs have been behaving quite the same for thousands of years. What is different now is our expectations of them. We’ve raised the bar. We bring them into our homes, almost expecting them to act like well-behaved children.

Blogs are awesome!

To complement primary research readings, the class read blog posts. Students noted that posts helped drive home fundamental concepts. In particular, they were fans of:

Jason Goldman of The Thoughtful Animal on the Scientific American blog network. You and I follow him on Twitter @jgold85
Ethologist Roger Abrantes 
Veterinarian and Applied Animal Behavior consultant Sophia Yin
Ethologist and Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist Patricia McConnell

Guest speakers rock!
We had three guest speakers this semester, experts in reintroduction and conservation, abnormal behavior and the assessment and management of companion animal behavior challenges. 

With the help of Bryant Tarr, Curator of Birds, and Anne Lacy, Crane Research Coordinator, we learned all about the International Crane Foundation (ICF)-- particularly the rearing and reintroduction process as well as the challenges that cranes face once out in the world.  

Their mission: The ICF works worldwide to conserve cranes and the ecosystems, watersheds, and flyways on which they depend. ICF provides knowledge, leadership, and inspiration to engage people in resolving threats to cranes and their diverse landscapes

The ICF's excellent short videos give more than a sneak peak into their programs and objectives, including my favorite: costumed biologists.

(Raising cranes via ICF)
Abnormal repetitive behaviors
We were also joined by Georgia Mason, the Canada Research Chair in Animal Welfare from the Department of Animal and Poultry Science at the University of Guelph. She reminded students just how complex abnormal repetitive behaviors can be.  

"...stereotypies should always be taken seriously as a warning sign of potential suffering, but never used as the sole index of welfare; non-stereotyping or low-stereotyping individuals should not be overlooked or assumed to be faring well..." (Mason & Latham 2004)

Mason is an author of over a hundred publications and the book Stereotypic Animal behavior. In case you don't know, her Lab has a blog!

In the field

Lauren Hays, M.S., ACAAB is an Associate Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist at Austin Canine Consulting. As a practitioner for over 8 years, she discussed the realities of working with companion dogs and their owners. Some challenges include failure to comply with instructions and being
realistic about a dog’s behavioral change prospects. Hays reminded students that dogs have had the same behavioral repertoires for many, many years and that the real difference may lie in our expectations of dogs and the situations in which they find themselves.

That's reflecting on Applied Animal Behavior!

I’m sure you have more sensory enrichment research up your sleave. Do tell! 



Horowitz, A., Hecht, J., Dedrick, A. (2013, in press). Smelling more or less: Investigating the olfactory experience of the domestic dog. Learning and Motivation.

Mason G., Clubb R., Latham N. & Vickery S. (2007). Why and how should we use environmental enrichment to tackle stereotypic behaviour?, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 102 (3-4) 163-188. DOI:

Mason, G. J., Latham, N.R. (2004) Can't stop, won't stop: is stereotypy a reliable animal welfare indicator? Animal Welfare, (13) 57-69.

*not direct quotes

© 2013 Julie Hecht
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9 May 2013

Stop to smell the flowers. Especially lavender.

Hi Julie,


Dogs in clothes

Corgis in bikinis at the beach

Greyhounds in onesies

We people do some weird things to our canine friends, no?! 

I'm pretty sure I wouldn't enjoy being dressed up in a padded outfit all day long, so I think I'll pass on sharing that experience with my dogs. 

As you said, cultural perceptions, ethics and expectations add a whole layer of extra consideration. It's not always easy to work out what dogs want or need. That's why I like science. It helps us work this stuff out.

I've been super busy this week - working hard (as always!) and still thinking a lot about dogs living in kennel facilities. So I wanted to pull your head away from dogs dressed as flowers, back to dogs getting the opportunity to smell the flowers

No, really. Lavender in fact.
Dogs should stop to smell the flowers. Especially lavender.
When I talk to people about the body of research that's been conducted in the area of environmental enrichment for dogs housed in kennels, they never fail to be amazed at what has been studied. Or what hasn't. One topic that usually results in a snort, a laugh or a quizzical raised eyebrow is olfactory (smelly) stimulation. 

Which is kind of weird. Because we know that dogs can smell on a level that's basically in another galaxy compared to our smelling experiences.

Research conducted in a rescue shelter kennel in 2005 exposed dogs to five different diffused aromas: 
- a blank control,

or essential oil of
- chamomile 
- lavender 
- peppermint
- rosemary

The study showed that olfactory stimulation had a significant effect on behaviour. 

Dogs were more likely to rest and less likely to bark when exposed to the smells of lavender and chamomile. Peppermint and rosemary exposure resulted in more active and noisy behaviour. The researchers suggested that the welfare of dogs in shelter kennel environments (and also their attractiveness to potential adopters) could be improved by using this kind of aromatherapy. 

What a dog's nose knows.
Further research has shown a similar effect of lavender in effecting the behaviour of dogs with travel-induced excitement in cars: they spent more time sitting, resting and less time vocalising when they were exposed to the smell of lavender.

Interestingly, human studies show a similar effect of lavender on us: reduced mental stress.

So if a dog is in a kennel environment and can't get out to romp in a field of flowers, or chomp them up (as dogs tend to do!), perhaps we can help them out by giving them something lavender to smell.

It's certainly one of the elements I included in the enrichment program for my PhD research.

In other news, if you ever want to immortalise the nose of a dog you know - here's how you can (you're welcome):
Have a great week,


Further reading:

Graham L., Wells D.L. & Hepper P.G. (2005). The influence of olfactory stimulation on the behaviour of dogs housed in a rescue shelter, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 91 (1-2) 143-153. DOI:

Wells D.L. (2006). Aromatherapy for travel-induced excitement in dogs, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 229 (6) 964-967. DOI:

Motomura N., Sakurai A. & Yoysuya Y. (2001). Reduction of mental stress with lavender odorant, Perceptual and Motor Skills, 93 (3) 713-718. DOI:

Wells D.L. (2009). Sensory stimulation as environmental enrichment for captive animals: A review, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 118 (1-2) 1-11. DOI: 

© 2013 Mia Cobb
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2 May 2013

26 Things Corgis Are Wearing & What Dogs Want

Dog - wants - playtime (Source)

Hi Mia,

I agree. I am constantly asking the question: What do dogs want?

This question is particularly apt in the “Land of Research." When crafting an experiment we’re considering how dogs might perceive or interact with an experimental design. Most importantly, whether what dogs might do -- or want to do -- is inline with our research question or is instead revealing something else. And, if what we are trying to investigate and what dogs want to do don't match up, an experiment might need some rejigging (which apparently is a word).

In the home: Dressing dogs
Questions of What do dogs want? also enter our homes. Some companion dogs can be incredibly amenable to the various things we want -- which might make it possible to lose sight that a dog's wants might be different. I recently took a look at the unfortunate fad of dressing dogs in pantyhose. Comments on the DYBID Facebook page make it clear that people are not cool with dogs in pantyhose, for example: "Thats just wrong on so many levels," and "that is torture. i feel so sorry for the dogs."

Zelda Frog Princess (Source)
While I agree that being a dog in pantyhose can stink, from the dog's perspective, do pantyhose really stink more than all the other crazy stuff we're apt to put on dogs -- and then deem "incredibly cute"? For example, this dog in a Zelda Frog Princess outfit does not elicit a plethora of outraged comments. A comment from the DYBID Facebook page, "how embarrassing, and cute."

And you recently shared with me -- 26 Things That You're Forced To Wear When You're A Corgi. There can be a fine line between what humans consider incredibly cute (many of the above corgis) or absolutely disgusting (dogs in pantyhose). Regardless, from the dogs perspective, dogs don't know the difference between pantyhose, long johns or pants from a pirate costume.

In the home: A view
You brought up the awesome topic of visual access to the outside world for dogs in kennel facilities. This made me think of an interesting blog post by Patricia McConnell, PhD where she reflected on different dog laws around the world, with a specific focus on crating (the post also includes pictures of her homemade delicious apple butter!). She noted that in some countries it is, to some degree, illegal to crate a dog. From her blog:

"I was told when I was in Sweden that keeping a dog in a crate was illegal–any Swedes want to confirm or deny? Sweden has very strict animal welfare laws that also apply to domestic pets. For example, all indoor animals must be able to see out a “sunny window.” This is especially interesting to me, given that I’ve advised many a client to keep their dogs AWAY from windows when they leave the house because the activity outside often overstimulates and/or frustrates them. I’d never leave Willie loose in the front room with big windows facing the driveway; when I tried it earlier he was a stressed out wreck when I came home." 

In another post, McConnell continues reflecting on crating and how it plays a role in her own dog's life...  

"I got an email recently from a Calling All Pets listener who was distressed to hear that Will spends some time in a crate. (He’s in one right now.) I am the first to say that crates can be, and are often abused, but I am absolutely convinced at the same time that crates can be used to a dog’s advantage..." (read more of the post here)

Is this an example of different human cultures, ethics, animal frameworks taking a stab at the question: What's in a Dog's "Best Interest" and coming up with different answers?

I'm not informed about different dog crating laws around the world and would love to hear more. 

And also worth considering -- how do we tease apart cultural perceptions and ethics from what dogs want or need?

Hope all's well! 


Hecht, J. Dogs in Pantyhose. Dog Spies. Scientific American Blogs

McConnell, P. Dog Laws Around the World. The Other End of the Leash

McConnell, P. Lambs and Apples, Crates and Dogs. The Other End of the Leash
© 2013 Julie Hecht
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