Newsletter – August 2015

Learning About Animals was set up to provide information and promote interest in the welfare and behaviour of animals. The aim is to bridge the gap between professionals  & scientists working with animals and the public.

If you have any suggestions for future events, if you would like to be considered to be a speaker, or if you would like to get involved in helping at the events, or projects please get in touch.


Research Round-up

1. More insight into how dogs process faces LINK

2. One in four show dogs at Crusts is overweight LINK

3. Test might help to decrease yearly pet vaccines LINK

4. Bite prevention approaches might need an over-haul LINK

5. No money for snail research? No worries - use Wisdom of Crowds LINK

6. Pupil shape linked to ecological niche (fascinating paper) LINK

7. Software converts digital images to how animals see LINK You can even download the software for free yourself

8. Data in from panda GPS LINK

9. Horses and humans share facial expressions LINK

10. Study into cats and open windows LINK

11. Not unsurprisingly research finds that riding a simulator is less complex than riding a horse LINK

12. Countering pet obesity LINK














Just in case you missed it - a selection of some of the LAA Facebook posts since the July Newsletter

1.  Are we using the wrong message in dog bite prevention? This pilot study concluded that a 'It could happen to you' message might be more effective than raising awareness about dog body language. I like the idea of this sort of research and the results are already perhaps a little surprising. LINK

2. Have you ever really looked into the eyes of different prey species of animals? This article explains why the pupil shape is different across species and the benefits of being able to rotate your eye balls 50 degrees (how cool is that?) LINK

3. A punished dog is an aggressive dog - another great blog from Stanley Coren and of course applies to horses and other animals too LINK

4. Ever get frustrated with 'wrong' arguments on Facebook? This genius blog will make you able to laugh it off. It's an old post but one to keep when you need to refer to it smile emoticon And to show your appreciation consider subscribing, EPONA is an amazing resource of horse films. LINK

5. Hiding small dog treats in and around logs can provide dog entertainment on walks

6. Love a bit of satire LINK

7. This study into the temperament of dogs and their ability to stick with a task is potentially an interesting study but brings up many questions. For example, is tail wagging a good indicator of being 'laid back' and were the service dogs used laid back or the way they were because of their training? LINK

8. Dreaming of ponies? An amazing opportunity to study the Gower ponies is being run this October by Jenni Nellist A trip not to be missed for any horse enthusiast and the chance to be part of real research. LINK

Like LAA on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LearningAboutAnimals

Non-LAA Events

Saturday 19th September
Equine Behaviour Forum’s Symposium
Three speakers on the theme of “What Horses Want”. Newcastle, UK. LINK

Monday 21st September
The K9 Project Conference
Impressive programme on the theme of dogs and emotional well-being. Ely, Cambridgeshire.  See LINK for more details.

Thursday 3rd September
Robert Falconer Taylor at the Dogs Trust, evening talk. Manchester, LINK.

If Carlsberg ran talks about behaviour they would have Dr Andrew Hemmings as the speaker ...

On September 5th Dr Andrew Hemmings is giving a talk about nutrition and behaviour. It won’t be your normal nutrition talk, where you are recommended to buy a certain type of food. Oh no, this is a talk that links nutrition to behaviour - it’s all about the b––haviour and it will be thought provoking, educational, enjoyable and in the coffee break we will all intake a totally non-nutritious cakes and biscuits.  


There are lots of tickets left for this talk - which is such a shame as it will be just brilliant. Please sign up and bring a friend.

Details are here


Separation anxiety in horses DETAILS

Equine behaviour and nutrition with Andrew Hemmings DETAILS

First aid for horses DETAILS

Equine neuroanatomy in a nutshell DETAILS

Exploring animal ethics with Dr Mark Kennedy DETAILS

Chicken behaviour and cognition DETAILS

Thinking Horsemanship Weekend - Somerset DETAILS


Gift vouchers available for talks and events

Just email for more information - suzanne@learningaboutanimals.co.uk

The Good News Box

1. Baby tortoises seen in the Galapagos for first time in over 100 years! LINK

2. The five dolphins that have been released from captivity in Korea are doing well and  have joined up to a big pod. Great news and great example of successful rehabilitation of these amazing animals.

3. Sightings of humpbacks off Irish coast up 50% so far this year. Areas of the Atlantic around the Blasket Islands and west Kerry are sighting whales on a weekly basis as they feed on locally abundant prey. The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group estimates that as many as 60 individual humpbacks are now visiting the Irish coast. Good news for UK-based whale watchers!

4. The elephants at Hanoi zoo were finally free from their 1m chains and allowed to roam their new grass enclosure recently. See this link for more info.

Interesting links

1. Dr Ingrid Visser is one of the most engaging speakers I have seen. This video was taken recently of her talk at Superpod 4 - worth a watch LINK

2. Cat enrichment! LINK

3. Bite prevention resources and FREE workshops through WoodGreen animal shelter - “We currently have a fabulous dog safety video aimed at children and are currently developing a dog safety area on our website. We also run FREE family dog safety workshops called ‘Living with dogs’ as well as having a bank of resources relating to bite prevention. LINK

4. Do dogs  understand play signals from humans? LINK

5. Exploring the ethology of dominance in horses LINK

Please consider buying a bag! I have some of these bags left - only £7 including P&P, four colours. LINK

“Isn’t it cute!” - or is it? Things people share on the Internet

A video of a young deer being held by a young man as if she was a ‘baby’. The young man is stroking the deer’s undercarriage and when he stops and goes to put her down she makes a noise and struggles. He interprets this as the wild deer ‘demanding’ to be picked up again - how endeering (spelling intentional!)?  We love to believe this - a wild animal, so taken with a human that she wants to be cradled like a human baby. Super cute? Or is something else going on?

Sadly the real story is something like this - the young deer froze when approached and unable to move in fear was picked up by the man and turned over. This action caused her to go into a state of tonic immobility, playing dead, whereby she loses muscle tone and doesn’t move in the hope that the ‘predator’ will release their grip and give her a chance to escape. So when he goes to put her down she immediately calls for her mother and struggles trying to run away. Sadly the man mistakes this for ‘wanting more’ and so she goes into tonic immobility again.

Isn’t it sad that animal behaviour is so misunderstood? I hate pointing out when the truth isn’t so cute but it seems wrong to let myths perpetuate. There is another video with animals in a state of tonic immobility circulating. In a ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ style TV show in Asia a young girl shows her skills as an animal hypnotist as she lays various animals down on their backs one by one. Sadly these animals are also playing dead and in this case the whole thing is more disturbing that no-one in the production team at any point questioned what was going on. The audience enjoyed the show and who knows how many people went on to try that with their own animals.

We must all continue to educate, gently yet persuasively, where we can. Otherwise animal abuse through misunderstanding will continue to permeate popular culture.