Newsletter – October 2016

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. Fish make sounds just like the morning chorus of birds. LINK

2. Why aren’t some dogs walked regularly? LINK

3. Fascinating study into singing fish LINK

4. The search for regional accents in cod LINK

5. The social networks of sharks LINK

6. Blog: Whose behaviour do you need to change?












More events 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 last Newsletter

1.  I am currently preparing my talk for the UFAW-RSPCA Small rodent and rabbit conference taking place in Edinburgh at the end of October. It describes a series of three workshops I ran privately on rabbit behaviour and welfare. I ran them in slightly different ways and monitored changes made as a result - perhaps not surprisingly the group who had a more interactive workshop and more organised peer support made, and maintained, changes that benefited their rabbits. I intend to do more HBC-workshops in 2017 - putting what we know about how to drive human behaviour change into action.

2. I would argue that many adults do not understand or recognise frightened dogs either! Nevertheless another study doing its bit in bite prevention. Dr Rose said: "Young children are relatively good at accurately identifying the emotion that a dog is displaying. However, children's understanding of safety around dogs is lacking as they only demonstrated caution about approaching angry dogs. They appeared to be unaware that there might be problems approaching frightened dogs. This finding should help inform dog bite prevention campaigns."

3. Interesting paper - it is kind of inferred that if dogs are having undesirable behaviour it should be addressed for the owner's sake regarding the relationship with their dog. However, not addressing behavioural issues is of great concern for the well-being of the dog.

4. My knee-jerk response to this paper entitled “No evidence of long-term welfare problems with electronic containment of cats” was 'Did they look hard enough?' but it is good news that cats at least seem to be largely OK with electric boundary fences if used properly (I.e. not moving them around a lot so the cat just has to learn where it is once).

Human Behaviour Change for Animal Welfare

The First International Conference on Human Behaviour Change for Animal Welfare took place 19-21 September 2016. To be kept up-to-date with workshops, resources and more on this theme join the mailing list at the HBCAW website - LINK


This blog explores the different elements of human behaviour change and why many of us working in animal welfare believe that we can benefit from learning about human, as well as animal, behaviour.  LINK

All the talks were filmed and are (or will be soon) available on the conference You Tube channel. All are worth watching and range from 5 minutes in length to an hour but some highlights are listed below.

1. Manoj Gautam’s keynote talk (Lessons from the field) received outstanding praise (and a standing ovation) - worth a watch to see how mountains can be moved. LINK

2. Risë VanFleet’s keynote about communication skills will be of interest to the majority of the newsletter mailing list. LINK

3. Anne McBride’s talk about why people still use positive punishment will also be of interest to trainers and behaviourists. Anne describes the work of one of her students in analysing what elements of Cesar Milan’s behaviour (using videos of his work) gain him such a following. The researchers do not approve or condone the methods used but the study provides valuable insight as to how we can use the same interpersonal skills to promote ethical compassionate training methods. LINK

4. Three talks of particular relevance for those of us who consult with pet owners are Julie Palais’ 5 minute talk on the key Principles of Persuasion (LINK), Catherine Bell’s talk exploring persuasion in more detail (LINK), and Debbie Busby’s talk on applying transactional analysis to consultations (LINK).

The next HBCAW event will be in Nepal in Novmber 2017 partnering with the Asia For Animals conference. However,there will be a series of HBC workshops (run separately to Learning About Animals) on topics such as HBC and ethics, Frameworks and Theories of HBC, and Interpersonal skills for HBC. Do join the HBCAW mailing list mentioned above for more information.

Exploring self-control in dogs with Sian Ryan. DETAILS

Why you can’t just train good behaviour - with Helen Zulch. DETAILS

Home-checking for rescues. DETAILS

Consultation skills workshop. DETAILS

More events coming soon including with speakers Amber Batson, Ben Hart and more.

Suggestions for talks?

Any suggestions for speakers you’d like to see in 2017? Want to run a workshop yourself? Do get in touch.

The Good News Box

1. Innovative programme for community dogs in Nepal starting to work LINK

2. The eleven orcas in captivity in California will be the last LINK

3. Rare story of a species in the wild making a great recovery LINK

4. Trip Advisor to stop selling tickets to cruel attractions. LINK


To do list

1. See something in a magazine or on TV that portrayed animals in a good way or an article you liked? Remember to respond to the good as well as the bad to influence the media to increase responsible reporting on animals and training. Give some friendly feedback today!
 If you have a pet, get up, right now, and offer them some form of enrichment - something to chew/eat/smell, some company, 5 minutes reward-based training, somewhere to hide...



I am IAABC certified - a ‘Certified Horse Behaviour Consultant’ or CHBC.

I run behaviour consultations to help people with concerns about their horse’s behaviour. I also run behaviour lessons for people who are just interested in learning more in a practical way - like a riding instructor but learning about the practical application of behaviour knowledge, tailored to you and your horse. Please get in touch to find out more - suzanne@learningaboutanimals.co.uk.  


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“One thing bothered me as a student. In the 1960s, human behavior was totally off limits for the biologist. There was animal behavior, then there was a long time nothing, after which came human behavior as a totally separate category best left to a different group of scientists.”

~ Frans de Waal