The World of Animals

The study of animal behavior is a cornerstone of experimental psychology, shedding light on how animals interact with each other and with their environments, and why they behave the way they do. By studying animal behavior, humans can learn more about their own behavior.

Animal behavior research is particularly relevant to the study of human behavior when it comes to preservation of a species, or how an animal’s behavior helps it survive. For example, the behavior of animals in stressful or aggressive situations can be studied to help find solutions for humans in similar circumstances. Animal behavior research also contributes to the study of genetics by helping to resolve questions of nature vs. nurture, or which behaviors genes control and which behaviors the environment controls.

Animal-assisted therapy, where dogs, horses and other domestic animals help facilitate therapy, can be helpful for those who are socially isolated, coping with a diagnosis on the autism spectrum, or suffering from a mood disorder or post-traumatic stress. Interacting with animals has been found to increase human levels of oxytocin, a hormone that enhances social bonding. Animal behaviorists are also interested in the ways animals themselves can benefit from their relationships with humans.

Recent posts on Animal Behavior

The First Domestication: How Wolves and Humans Coevolved

By Marc Bekoff Ph.D. on December 11, 2017 in Animal Emotions
A new book argues that cooperation rather than competition between humans and wolves was important in wolves becoming dogs. The dumpster scavenging belief is dealt a serious blow.

Why Not Alpha?

Does your dog bite, snarl or snap at you, despite your most devoted love and affection? Are you worried you may have an “alpha” dog?

Love, Trust, and Sexual Infidelity

By Eyal Winter Ph.D. on December 09, 2017 in Feeling Smart
Can a medication based on oxytocin treat sexual infidelity?

How to Give Dogs the Best Lives Possible in a Human World

By Marc Bekoff Ph.D. on December 08, 2017 in Animal Emotions
Researchers and trainers weigh in on how to make the world better for dogs. Repeated themes include letting dogs be dogs, knowing dog behavior, and using positive training.

Are Dogs Really Smarter Than Cats?

By Stanley Coren PhD., DSc, FRSC on December 06, 2017 in Canine Corner
A look at their brain structure might help answer the question.

Punishment-Based Dog Training a Risk Factor for Euthanasia?

By Jessica Pierce Ph.D. on December 06, 2017 in All Dogs Go to Heaven
Why do some dogs with behavioral problems wind up being euthanized or relinquished, while others are able to successfully stay in their home?

How "Pet-tie" Are Dogs? What About Goldfish and Lizards?

By Hal Herzog Ph.D. on December 05, 2017 in Animals and Us
Our concepts of animal "pet-ness" raise ethical issues and have implications for the unconditional love theory of pet-keeping.

His Hormones Made Him Do It.... Or Not

What do we really know about hormones and sexual harassment?

Living With a Dog Is Good, If It's Good for You and the Dog

By Marc Bekoff Ph.D. on December 04, 2017 in Animal Emotions
A detailed study of more than three million people in Sweden shows that especially for individuals living alone, a dog has some health benefits. But, is it also good for the dog?

Giving Puppies Extra Socialization Is Beneficial for Them

By Marc Bekoff Ph.D. on December 01, 2017 in Animal Emotions
A new study shows that extra socialization for puppies makes a positive difference. It's a win-win for all and no worries about spoiling them. We're their lifelines, so just do it.

Snakes in the Toilet!

By Fredric Neuman M.D. on December 01, 2017 in Fighting Fear
When Freudian nightmares become real.

Why Giving Up Sometimes Makes Sense

By Seth Slater M.F.A. on November 30, 2017 in The Dolphin Divide
Quitting for now can mean winning later on. Giving up to conserve energy can sometimes be our best and smartest option for the moment.

Can Dogs Tell Us We're Angry When We Don't Know We Are?

By Marc Bekoff Ph.D. on November 30, 2017 in Animal Emotions
Dogs mouth-lick when they see angry human faces, but not when they hear angry voices. Might these data help therapists working with people who aren't in touch with their feelings?

Do Dogs Respond More Accurately to Words or Gestures?

By Stanley Coren PhD., DSc, FRSC on November 30, 2017 in Canine Corner
Voice commands and hand signals are not equally effective when directing a dog's behavior.

Dogs Are Brainier Than Cats, But Are They Really Smarter?

By Marc Bekoff Ph.D. on November 29, 2017 in Animal Emotions
New research shows dogs have more cortical neurons than cats, but what does this really mean?

The Human Ape

By Rebecca Coffey on November 29, 2017 in The Bejeezus Out of Me
When it comes to sexual politics, why do even the good guys act like apes?

How a Man's Best Friend Is More Than Just a Companion

Dog therapy may make the world a better place, one lick at a time.

Why We Have Cats

Want to understand cats? Get this: Ancestral humans who domesticated cats selected for both (a) cuteness and (b) killing prowess. Here is a brief story of cat origins.

Animal Welfare Fails Many Millions of Sentient Individuals

By Marc Bekoff Ph.D. on November 27, 2017 in Animal Emotions
A recent essay in the L. A. Times about the horrific lives of Thanksgiving turkeys shows why the science of animal welfare needs to be replaced by the science of animal well-being.

Animal Research

By John Staddon, Ph.D. on November 26, 2017 in Adaptive Behavior
Can research with animals advance human psychology? How trustworthy is a conservative commentator?

Pets As Gifts: Please Don't Surprise Me With a Life Sentence

By Marc Bekoff Ph.D. on November 25, 2017 in Animal Emotions
Gifting a pet without permission is not a good idea. One person told me, "It's not fair or appropriate to impose a 15-year life sentence on someone as a surprise." I agree.

Which Breeds of Dogs Are Best for Your Health?

By Stanley Coren PhD., DSc, FRSC on November 23, 2017 in Canine Corner
New data not only shows that dog ownership provides substantial health benefits, but also that some breeds have a more substantial positive impact.

A Solution to The Biggest Mystery You've Learned to Ignore

By Jeremy E Sherman Ph.D. on November 22, 2017 in Ambigamy
You've probably never thought to ask even though it's the question behind all your big questions: What is trying and how did it start?
Photo courtesy of Dr. Colleen Koch DACVB

The True Cost of a Nail Trim

This procedure often is more touch-and-go than you think. Let’s talk about why you should bring basic dog care back home where your friend is most comfortable.

What’s Different About Dog Owners?

By John Bradshaw Ph.D. on November 22, 2017 in Pets and Their People
Want to live longer? Check if you already have a dog.

Animals Aren't Sentient and Can't Feel Pain, Tories Claim

By Marc Bekoff Ph.D. on November 21, 2017 in Animal Emotions
The inane claim that animals are unfeeling beings counters a vast amount of science and opens the door for horrific abuse. Let's stop pretending and lying to ourselves and others.

Chimps Seem to Know What Others Know—So Do Dogs at Play

By Marc Bekoff Ph.D. on November 17, 2017 in Animal Emotions
Chimps alter alarm calls and seem to know what others know about possible danger.

Are Dogs Insanely Friendly Because of Their Genetics?

By Stanley Coren PhD., DSc, FRSC on November 16, 2017 in Canine Corner
A genetic abnormality which causes extreme friendliness in people also causes the friendliness we observe in dogs.

Happy National Slobber Appreciation Day: Let Dogs Enjoy It

By Marc Bekoff Ph.D. on November 16, 2017 in Animal Emotions
Slobbering is good for dogs—and their humans.

Compassionate Conservation Matures and Comes of Age

By Marc Bekoff Ph.D. on November 15, 2017 in Animal Emotions
Among the major goals of compassionate conservation (CC) is taking killing off the table. Conservation is a moral pursuit and as such CC focuses on individual well-being.