Commentaries

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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Banishing Cabin Fever

It’s late February as I write this and I’m having a major attack of cabin fever. It began this morning when I turned on my computer, saw the screen saver I loaded the beginning of November and hated it, really hated it. Superficially it doesn’t look inflammatory. It’s merely a view of my front yard in winter. What’s so bad about that?

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The Great Grisby and the Easter Egg Phenomenon

This month’s commentary is a review of The Great Grisby: Two Thousand Years of Literary, Royal, Philosophical, and Artistic Dog Lovers and Their Exceptional Animals by Mikita Brottman.

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January Doldrums and New Beginnings

January is the Resolutions Month. At the same time the post-holiday period often doesn’t lend itself to starting big projects. Even so, the transition from holiday to daily routine does provide a good opportunity time to evaluate our interactions with our animals for any trouble spots.

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The Most Perfect Gift

It’s that time of year again when our nonhuman members of the household often serve as a good reminder of what’s really important during the holiday season…

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