Newsletter – September 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. Learning about social behaviour in whales through their communication LINK

2. Why cats are more independent than dogs LINK

3. Dominance in a group of dogs expressed in hard figures LINK

4. Ants take drugs LINK

5. Apes closer to speaking than we thought LINK

6. Nearly every sea bird on earth is eating plastic LINK











Some 2016 events already on the website at www.learningaboutanimals.co.uk

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

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.

Do animals dream?

We have all seen sleeping dogs twitch their paws, move their legs and sometimes vocalise in their sleep as if they are dreaming chasing rabbits. Is it scientifically likely that animals dream in the same way that humans do? Well, for humans we know that during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep there is electrical activity in the brain that is similar to that when we are awake. People woken up in this stage of sleep can usually report their dreams, which they do not if woken from other types of sleep. Animals also have REM sleep and it has been found that during this they also have electrical brain activity similar to that when they are awake. Therefore, most scientists agree that it is likely that animals do indeed dream, although we do not know what they dream about!


Some brilliant videos of animals dreaming here

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. Ok so I am biased but the formal launch of the Aquarium Welfare Association is coming up and I am a member of the team involved. Fish behaviour is not only absolutely fascinating but also misunderstood. This Association will work to provide high quality resources to disseminate information about fish welfare that can be applied by pet fish owners and aquarium owners alike.

2. Some lovely videos of rescued bears in Animals Asia’s Instagram page

3. Good news for hens as MacDonald’s announces cage free eggs by 2025. Seems a long way off but still significant progress LINK

4. Blog about the effect of the above announcement  by CIWF’s CEO Philip Lymbery here LINK

5. More footage of rescued bears - so lovely LINK

6. Encouraging news that the tide is turning in the world of marine parks as Marineland, which currently holds captive dolphins and an orca, admits that changing isn’t beyond the realms of possibility. Whether the motivation is an appreciation that public opinion is moving away from supporting captivity of whales and dolphins, or fear that they won’t be able to meet the requirements of proposed animal welfare legislation, or fear of a decreasing profit - it is good to hear this sort of news rather than a defence of captivity as is commonly heard from SeaWorld LINK

Interesting links

1. Abnormal behaviour resource: This website is a collection of photos and videos showing abnormal repetitive behaviour in animals. It is a great resource from the University of Guelph in Canada and you have permission to use them for lectures as long as you cite the source. It is also interesting for people who just want to learn more about how to recognise abnormal behaviours.

2. TED talk on mental illness in animals LINK

3. TED talk on a massive penguin rescue LINK

4. TED talk on the underwater acoustic world of whales and dolphins LINK

5. Article explaining to vets the advantages of going fear free (apparently there is some resistance?!) LINK

6. A BBC article exploring mental health in animals, including wild animals LINK

7. Why don’t we see baby pigeons? LINK

8. Which animals can count? LINK

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

Why does your choice of training method matter?

For many people talking about the methods used to train dogs and horses has the same feeling of ‘should we go there?’ as  bringing up the subjects of religion or politics. Most people reading this Newsletter will know that talking about dominance-based training methods for dogs is out-dated and inappropriate (if not then see the Welfare in Dog Training link to learn more) but what about horses?

There are so many training methods out there for horses and at first glance many seem to be based on natural horse behaviour and claim to be kind and compassionate. But are they really? When we swing ropes and play ‘games’ with our horses what is really happening at the level of learning theory and in the brain?

I am incredibly excited that Sharon Smith, who has studied this as part of her MSc dissertation, will be covering this in her talk on 3rd October. The event will cover the parts of the brain involved in emotion and learning, show how habit formation and emotions are generated at the neuroanatomical level, and bring everything together in a session exploring how our training methods effect the processes going on in the brain of the animals we work with and should this prompt us to question how we train the animals we share our lives with?

This event will be a real treat - not to be missed. Book now at http://www.learningaboutanimals.co.uk/neuroanatomy.html

1.  Some brilliant ideas for enrichment for horses, ponies and donkeys on this Facebook page Some brilliant photos and ideas on this page  LINK

2. Improving the lives of captive porcupines in Vietnam LINK

3. If you are in the UK check out the October 2015 issue of Horse and Rider magazine. I answered one of the questions in the Q&A section as part of my involvement with the Equine Behaviour and Training Association. The issue also includes a great article about equine body language by Anna Saillet, a fellow behaviourist who sometimes delivers talks in partnership with Learning About Animals in Cheshire.

4. Great article exploring not so natural horsemanship LINK

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