Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Call for Research Papers

Clio’s Psyche Call for Papers - Psychology of Human-Animal Relationships

Special Issue, June 2012 

Throughout history, humans have experienced many different relationships with animals: companion and helper, enemy, food, entertainment, totem and god. We anthropomorphize animals. We grieve at the loss of our animal companions. We learn about humans from the work of ethologists in the scientific study of animal behaviour.

For June 2012 Special Issue of Clio’s Psyche: Understanding the “Why” of Culture, Current Events, History and Society, Clio’s Psyche welcomes peoples thoughts on a variety of related subjects including those below:
  • The healing power of pets and animal companions, & animal-assisted therapy
  • Control & power in human-animal interactions: obedience training, etc.
  • Ethology: what we learn about humans from the scientific study of animals
  • Working dogs for the disabled, military and police  

Submissions due April 1, 2012. For further details visit

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Psychiatric Service Dogs

In the UK at the present time, there are no charities that train dogs for people with mental health issues where this is the only disability.

Psychiatric Service Dogs are trained in some other countries, but not in the UK. 

This is a very specialist area of work and whilst in time, it is likely that a charity in the UK will offer this service, at present it is not available...

Source: Assistance Dogs UK  

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Guide Dogs for the Mind: dogs trained to give dementia suffers a new life

Dementia Dog is an exciting new research project, which aims to discover the impact a pet dog can have on a person with dementia. The project is a collaboration between Glasgow School of Art, Alzheimer Scotland and Dogs for the Disabled, with expert advice from Guide Dogs UK. It has received funding from the Design Council and the Scottish Government.

Dementia DogUnder the Dementia Dog project, dogs will be trained to respond to an alarm that goes off whenever a person who is struggling with memory loss needs to take medication, remind people to take their tablets, raise the alarm in an emergency and help out around the home. 

Dogs will also be trained to help people undress, open cupboards, drawers, fridges and washing machines, flick light switches and fetch medication.

Animals can be taught to recognise a specific movement that their owner would make when in distress. The dog would then either press an emergency button on a telephone or bark loudly to raise the alarm. Dogs will undergo 6 month training program using positive reinforcement techniques.

So far the project has been given £52,000 of Government funding, but needs to raise a further £130,000 to launch a Pilot Scheme later this year. Eventually, it is hoped the initiative will allow many more of the 750,000 Britons who suffer from dementia to retain their independence for longer. If the scheme developed by Alzheimer Scotland, gains funding, it will be the first time that dogs have been used to assist those with dementia...

‘We’re really hopeful the dogs will not only be a huge practical help but also provide great emotional support. People with the condition can easily become isolated and the dog will be a constant companion, which will help them to keep social.’  Joyce Gray - Alzheimer Scotland

Four students at Glasgow School of Art came up with the idea after Alzheimer Scotland challenged the college to suggest an innovative way to improve the lives of dementia sufferers. The concept was pitched to the Design Council, which in partnership with the Department of Health was offering funding for projects that helped those with early-stage dementia.

The Dementia Dogs scheme has now gained the backing of charities Dogs for the Disabled and Guide Dogs, which already provide dogs with similar skills to help those with physical disabilities.

The number of people with dementia is set to hit one million by 2021 and 1.7mil by 2050. It’s believed that 6 out of 10 people with the condition are undiagnosed.

PAWS Research Project UK

Dogs for the Disabled is seeking to define specifically: ‘What it is about the behaviour of pet dogs that improves the development of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders’; and pinpoint the ‘traits that trigger desirable behaviour’.

Dogs for the Disabled have 20+ years experience of training assistance dogs to help adults & children with physical disabilities, and children with autism.

Following positive experiences of training autism assistance dogs and the anecdotal evidence available, the charity, in collaboration with the National Autistic Society (NAS) and the University of Lincoln, is investigating exactly what it is about dogs and their behaviour that can bring about amazing changes and helps to improve the social and emotional development of children with autism.

paws siteSince the pioneering PAWS (Parents Autism Workshops and Support) Research Project, funded by the Big Lottery was established in 2010, nearly 200 UK families have benefitted from workshops that are run alongside the research project - the charity is now seeking more families to participate.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Paging all ‘Dog-tors’ to Northridge Hospital

OK so they may not be real doctors but Pet Therapy Dogs tend to patients throughout Northridge Hospital. Accompanied by its trained owner-volunteer, a Paws That Refresh Pet Therapy Dog visits most of the medical floors, twice daily. 

Meet the dogs who deliver unconditional love to the bedside of patients and visit hospital staff and physicians who may be dealing with one of life’s challenges. See these great dogs in action with this light-hearted but heartfelt video...

Pet Therapy provides inpatients with a special opportunity to interact with dogs that are certified by Therapy Dogs, Inc. or the Delta Society. These dogs are well trained, good natured and enjoy attention. Often, abilities not seen in structured therapy may become evident while interacting with the animals. The program promotes positive emotions and helps patients progress in the areas of communication, cognition, activities of daily living and mobility.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Angelyne the Amazing ‘Deaf’ Cattle Dog

Angelyne is an Australian Cattle Dog who was born completely deaf. She’s an outstanding example to what usually happens with deaf dogs. Many deaf dogs are misunderstood, abandoned, left in shelters or euthanized.

Angelyne the Amazing DEAF Cattle DogLike most cattle dogs she is very intelligent, work-driven and loyal. She has no idea that she is deaf. She does bark and her sight, smell and sense of surroundings are amazing. 

Angelyne knows & responds to 46 different hand signals and non-verbal commands.  

Angelyne’s talents and gifts have allowed her and her owner, Eric Melvin, a new purpose in life.

Since 2007, Eric & Angelyne have given 230 talks and demos at schools, special events, carnivals, festivals, pet expos, at-risk youth, centres for the elderly and disabled. In 2011, they made 76 public appearances, demos and presentations to 14000 people of all ages, abilities and social situations...

Friday, 17 February 2012

A dog's 'sense of smell’ is 100,000 times better than ours

This canine skill has been put to good use for decades, in the form of drug-sniffing dogs at ferry terminals and airports as well as the Army’s bomb detection canines. But, in recent years, teams of researchers have been developing what is potentially an even greater breakthrough. 
A dog's sense of smell is up to 100,000 times better than ours 
Recent research (in Germany) discovered that dogs could sniff out lung cancer from breath samples of sufferers. The four dogs in the study learned to get it right 71% of the time, too high to be mere coincidence.

Can a dog smell cancer before doctors can diagnose it? 
It’s believed that cancers produce volatile chemicals that dogs can be trained to smell, which could have dramatic implications for early diagnosis of the disease.

Trailblazing UK charity,
Medical Detection Dogs not only train dogs to sniff cancer, but also is responsible for training ‘Medical Alert Dogs’ which live with people who have health problems. 

They have taught 22 dogs to recognise when a diabetic’s blood sugar gets low and alert them to stop hypoglycaemia, aid narcoleptics by working out when an attack of sleep paralysis is about to start - and may soon be able to teach dogs to tell when someone with a severe allergy is about to have an allergic episode. 

This all relates to the same idea - that dogs can recognise the minutest changes in smell when certain processes happen in the human body. 

‘We are only at the start of working out everything that dogs can detect,’ says Dr Lisa Guest. ‘It would seem that almost any medical event has an odour change. The clever thing is that the dogs are able to work out what the norm is, and when it changes.’

While only a small group of people (mostly diabetics) have benefited from the services of the medical alert dogs so far, it is the charity’s cancer research work that could really make a difference to millions...

So far, bladder cancer has been the focal point for testing, but the charity is about to launch a new trial into prostate cancer to broaden their research.

For more information, visit

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Puppy Love Aids Abused Children

Working with victims of physical, sexual and mental abuse is an area filled with difficultly. It becomes even harder when dealing with children.

Mary Jo McVeigh, a counsellor and child trauma expert, is the founding principal of Cara House, which helps children dealing with trauma. In addition to traditional counselling, the clinic offers special sessions with a loveable Spoodle (poodle cross cocker spaniel) named Toby.

Toby Canine Clinical Lead - Cara House SydneyToby is the canine clinical lead at Cara House. He's been helping trauma survivors for 5 years and an integral part of the work done at Cara House. It’s very difficult for a child who has been traumatised by abuse to trust people, especially adults.

"We work through Toby, we say what would Toby be feeling, what would Toby be thinking... this encourages children to take on a caring role for Toby and vice versa."

According to the Australian Institute of Family studies, there were 46,187 claims of child abuse across Australia in the 2009-2010. Experts say this is a conservative number because many cases are never reported.

"Relationships for these children are a dangerous place because it was in their important relationships that they were hurt," said McVeigh. "Toby has a more purposeful use; the children begin to talk emotionally through him."

"Being able to note Toby's emotions and say things like, 'Oh is Toby barking because he's being protective of us or what's Toby saying?'" said McVeigh. "That allows children, who can't talk about their emotions to talk about them through him”.

The use of animals in therapy, especially dogs, is becoming increasingly common. In June, a New York court allowed a 15 year old rape victim to have a 'comfort dog' while she testified against her father.

Professional dog trainer Steve Austin believes dogs are underused in many areas of society and could become main-stream in helping child abuse victims.

"In my opinion, we have used 15-20% of the canine's ability. With a canine, the fact that they're just with you is enough for them, they're a very giving animal," he said.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Man's best friend helping scientists understand how social cognition evolved

The Number of Research Labs Studying 'Cognition in Domestic Dogs' is Increasing

"Cognitive scientists once spurned the dog as too domesticated to study. But now many are leaping at the chance to use man's best friend to help understand how social cognition evolved."

Going to the Dogs - Virginia Morell

Dogs are fast becoming the ‘it’ animal for evolutionary cognition research. Our canine pals, researchers say, are excellent subjects for studying the building blocks underlying mental abilities, particularly those involving social cognition.

Their special relationship with humans is also seen as worthy of study in its own right; some researchers see Canis familiaris as a case of convergent evolution with humans because we share some similar behavioral traits. And because all dogs are descended from gray wolves (C. lupus), they can reveal how domestication has altered a species' mental processes, enabling the dog to survive in its new habitat, the human home.

Some researchers even think that dogs may teach us more about the evolution of some aspects of our social mind than can our closest kin, the chimpanzee, because Fido is so adept at reading and responding to human communication cues. But not everyone agrees, arguing that the skills dogs share with humans are a matter of learning rather than evolutionary change.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Meet the Founder of Assistance Dogs

Meet the Founder of assistance dogs for people living with physical disabilities, Dr Bonita (Bonnie) Bergin, and the first assistance dog organisation, Canine Companions for Independence.

“Bonnie Bergin is legendary for her groundbreaking work with dogs.” Dean Koontz 

President of the Assistance Dog Institute, Dr. Bergin originated the service dog concept and movement, and she has been training dogs to assist people with disabilities for more than thirty years. She knows that dogs have an almost limitless capacity to learn...

1981 - Bonnie set up Canine Companions for Independence to train dogs to help a person with disabilities achieve independence through service team partnerships

1989 - Assistance Dogs International (ADI) was established and Bonnie was voted the founding president of the new organization.

1989 - US Justice Department asked Bonnie for help in developing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations regarding assistance dogs. ADA was passed in Congress in 1990.

1991 - Bonnie left CCI to found the Assistance Dog Institute The Assistance Dog Institute was dedicated to both education and research and development of new and better assistance dog methodologies. Results of the Institute’s research is shared with all assistance dog programs so that more disabled individuals can benefit from the independence resulting from this unique working relationship with a dog.

1993  - Bonnie helped assistance dog partners form International Association ofAssistance Dog Partners (IAADP)

1993 - Bonnie created the Assistance Dog United Campaign, a program that provides vouchers to low income individuals with disabilities to get an assistance dog.  

2001 - Bonnie helped seed the beginning of a Euro-Assistance Dog organization

2001 - California Bureau of Private & Post-Secondary Education approved the Institute’s application to become the first college in the world to offer Assoc of Science Degrees in Assistance Dog Education and Human-Canine Life Sciences.

2004 - Bureau of Private Post Secondary & Vocational Education approved the Institute’s Masters Degree in Assistance Dog Education and Human-Canine Life Sciences.

2006 - Bachelor’s Degree in Cynology was approved.

2010 - Bergin Institute was accredited by the national Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) in April 2010 - 'The Bergin University of Canine Studies'.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Chaser, the Border Collie ‘knows more than 1,000 words’

A border collie in the US has learned the names of more than 1,000 items, according to the scientists working with her.

Chaser has been intensively trained over three years by psychologists Alliston Reid and John Pilley of Wofford College in South Carolina, who wrote up their findings in the journal Behavioural Processes.

As well as seeming to know the names of all of her 1,022 toys, her trainers say she can categorise them by function or shape, something human children learn to do when they are about 3yrs old.

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