Commentaries

Waterboarding and the Bond

Waterboarding: a torture technique whereby individuals are treated in a manner that makes them believe they are going to drown. Surely, you may be thinking, this is not a suitable subject for the post-holiday season! Emotionally, I agree. On the other hand, you may be as surprised as I was to discover how many behavioral/training concepts directly or indirectly relate to water. This connection popped into my mind because two of these tend to raise their heads during the pre-holiday season and often linger into January, fueled by a human desire for quick results when animals have problems. First

Read more

Endangered Holiday Gifts

Endangered Holiday Gifts No, this isn’t a commentary about gifts made from the hides or other body parts of endangered animals, or decorations, culinary delicacies, or cure-alls made from endangered plants. It’s about giving yourself and your loved ones of all species two gifts—or maybe just a taste of two gifts—far more endangered than that. Can you guess what they are? Some additional clues: December through mid-January people worldwide from diverse backgrounds will celebrate multiple holidays. As we have become a more global community traditions from one religion or group of people become incorporated into others to the enrichment

Read more

Internal Clocks and the Diurnal Human-Animal Bond

We may tell ourselves that technology enables us to ignore our internal clocks and those of our diurnal animal companions. But as the cost of doing so mounts up, could becoming more in sync with those clocks be the better option?

Read more

The Ethology of the Bond

This month I want to explore the ethology of the human-animal bond. In my pre-ethology days, I’m the first to admit that my views of the bond were shaped more by the media than science…

Read more

The Importance of Ethology

As often happens, I stumbled upon material I wrote almost a decade ago while looking for something else. When I  stumbled on this, couldn’t help noticing how little has changed. One welcomes exception is that increasing numbers trainers and behavioral consultants recognize the difference between the animal behavior as traditionally perceived by psychologists that dominates training, and that perceived by those in the biological sciences. Although Konrad Lorenz suggested the  word ethology to reflect the study of the animals within their normal environments more than a half century ago, it didn’t enter the mainstream training/behavioral lexicon until relatively recently.

Read more

Catching the Feline Drift

I saved cats for last in this series on instinctive drift in companion animals because they occupy a unique niche in the domesticated species line-up. That unique niche, in turn, owes its existence to behaviors that make cats anything but little dogs or fur-covered humanoids. Add that they’re the most recent addition to the self-domesticated/domesticated population and it’s no surprise that cats may drift more readily toward their deeply entrenched behaviors, some or many of which may confound any humans, canines, or members of other domestic species with whom the cats interact.

Read more

Drifting Toward Home

One unintended consequence of the mass transportation of unwanted dogs nationally and internationally is that people like me with an interest in animal health and behavior may now encounter problems seldom if ever previously seen.

Read more

Drifting Toward Animal Behavioral Awareness

In retrospect I can appreciate how becoming proficient in animal behavior, like most animal-related professions, consists of a process that in some ways mimics the co-evolution of humans and other domestic animals. First you understand the normal behaviors of the animals around you at the same time as you acknowledge that those animals also are trying to make sense of human behavior. At some point in this process, you also realize that it would help enormously if you understood your own normal and problem behaviors too.

Read more

That Time of Year

It’s that time of year here in the northern hemisphere when hormone levels shift and thoughts turn to mating, reproduction, and raising young. Some of us find ourselves getting all gooey when we see photos or videos of baby animals; the urge to add a companion animal to the household may increase. Then one day we find ourselves trolling the Internet and scrolling through pages of photos on purebred, shelter, or rescue sites looking for THE ONE… Back by popular request is the list of questions that kindhearted and well-intentioned but ill-prepared folks have told me over the years that they

Read more

Taxidermy and the Human-Animal Bond

No sooner did I finish Never Have Your Dog Stuffed, a memoir written by Alan Alda, than I began thinking about how experiences with companion  animals may carry over into other parts of our lives. For young, only child Alda, a black cocker spaniel made the isolation, boredom and pain of polio bearable. When the dog died unexpectedly, he became so distraught that his father took the body to a taxidermist in hopes of lessening the loss. I won’t give away what happened except to say that the result was not what they expected, much worse than Ollie’s camera-phobic expression in

Read more