Secondary Emotions in Animals

I'm working on an article for The APDT Chronicle on what are called "secondary emotions" in non-human animals. I have an article in the latest issue (May/June 2009) about "primary emotions" like fear and anger, and am following up with a smaller one about emotions like jealousy, guilt and empathy. I guess it's obvious from my last big book, For the Love of a Dog, that I'm fascinated by the topic of emotions in other animals, and equally fascinated by our perception of them. Almost by definition, primary emotions are accepted as occurring in a wide variety of species; and yet, I've had numerous people disagree with the concept that animals can experience some of them, with the most concern about attributing anger to non-humans. (As I've written earlier, anger is an extremely primitive, Read More

Send Podcast Questions!

We are soon going to tape the pilot of a potential podcast and would love some questions from dedicated readers. Each podcast will have an interview with an author or professional of interest (we have Temple Grandin and Karen Pryor lined up first, how fun is that?) and the answers to two to four questions about behavior or training, and that's where you come in.  We'd love to get some real questions from you... we could make them up (that is VERY common by the way on lots of shows) but would much rather get them from you. So here's your chance... send in a question you'd like us to consider for the podcast.  The good news is that we might use it on the show and you'll get your question answered. The bad news is that you'll send in a question and never hear a thing in response. That will Read More

Words Fail, The Dog-O-Matic

I wondered if you have seen this --- an automatic 'dog washing machine,' in which you put your dog into a metal box, streams of water and soap engulf him or her, then presumably the dog is dried with blasts of hot air.  Here's a link to the Dog-O-Matic (sent to me by an alert UW student). I'm relieved to say it's only in France so far, but honestly, keep your eyes peeled for it to show up in your area (and be ready to stop it!). Poor poor dogs! Speaking of animal welfare, thanks to everyone who wrote interesting and informed comments about my last blog, basically a rant on the problems associated with horse racing. If you are interested in the topic you might want to read the comments, there are some very good ones. Thanks to everyone who wrote in, and keep up the Read More

Angst for R. Alexandra

Please don't run Rachel Alexandra in the Belmont. If you don't follow horse racing, that request if meaningless. If you do, you know that the Belmont is the third race in the Triple Crown, the be-all and-end of American Thoroughbred horse racing. You also know that "fillies" rarely win horse races (could we call her a mare, please?) and that Rachel's win yesterday in the 2nd leg of the Triple Crown was historic. What you may or may not know is the depth of controversies that currently runs rampant (pun intended) in the world of horse racing about the welfare of the horses involved. My knowledge of the arguments for and against horse racing have recently been enriched by the term papers written in the class I teach at UW- Madison.  Each student has to write two papers about the biological Read More

Reinforcing Fear II, Thunder Phobia III

Earlier I wrote that you "can't reinforce fear" and used a dog who is afraid of thunder as an example.  For so long we have been told that we'll just make our dogs worse if we try to comfort them when they run to us in fear when the skies rumble and the rain falls. In this context, it really is doubtful that comforting your dog is going to make him worse. As I said previously, fear is designed to be aversive, and dogs who are terrified of thunder aren't going to get worse because you stroked their belly. Indeed, there is research that some interpret to mean that our petting has little effect at all: As I mentioned in a 2008 Bark column (and an alert reader posted), Dreschel & Granger (Applied Animal Beh Science, 2005) found that cortisol levels, a measure of stress, did not decrease Read More