If you’ve ever watched a shampoo advert, you’ll know that hair needs amino acids, would be catastrophic without a regular wash in vitamin PF16 and various extract, and that 80% of women agreed about something to do with shininess.*

Shampoo adverts have a failsafe formula. Firstly, they target your sense of wonder (wow that hair is shiny, I want to tie my hair in a knot and have it look that good etc). Secondly, they reassure you that this shampoo is the real deal (that’s a long sciency word, they must know what they’re on about, 80% is quite a lot etc).

Broken down like this, their tactics are blindingly obvious, but in the moment, whilst waiting for ‘Britain’s Got The X Voice’ to come back on, you might just buy it.

Here’s the point. TV ‘dog expert’ personalities are shampoo advertisers. Not literally of course- they tend to have less than lust worthy hair- but you buy into their way because of a nice blend of mysticism and pseudo science. Then you are a ‘follower’. People tend to stick with one doctrine- be it in religion, hair care or dog training. This can be dangerous, because the sense of loyalty you will feel trumps your common sense. You might end up viewing people of other religions as sinners, forking out way to much in pursuit of shininess, or, god forbid, listening to Caesar Milan.

What’s great about following your favourite shampoo dog trainer is that you can find their helpful hints anywhere- watch their programs, find them on youtube, buy their books, their DVDs, their products. They are a highly successful group of showmen and businessmen and his largely harmful methods spread like wildfire.

My 2 top tips to guard yourself against ‘shampoo’ dog trainers are:

  1. Be vigilant against commonly used manipulation strategies, and retain your common sense.
  2. Look for qualifications. Would you go under the knife of a surgeon who hadn’t studied medicine?

Alas, shampoo trainers are only half of the problem. The people in possession of the bulk of animal behavioural knowledge are not showmen, in fact they are quite the opposite. They are researchers, working quietly in an office/dog centre to add to a wealth of know-how. This typically ends up in a dusty journal, subscribed to only by other quiet, hard working, researcher types. What’s the use of a can of paint if you’re not going to put it on a wall?

So, I trawled through youtube on your behalf to find these two gems (in terms of worth, not shininess!). Enjoy!

Zak George  Dr Sophia Yin

Image from puppylovedogs.com


*4 out of 5 women said their hair ‘didn’t look any worse than before’.


It’s Instinct


It’s commonly said that ‘Human beings have lost the instinct that animals have’. This is not exactly true. The original, and some would say correct, meaning of instinct is a trait that is inherent from birth, and therefore doesn’t have to be learned. We instinctively breath, drink to quench our thirst and squint in bright sunlight. 

ImageThe second and more common use of the word is a little trickier to explain, so please bare with me. Imagine you are watching the Women’s Finals at Wimbledon. You are in an aisle seat, and engrossed in a very exciting match. Serena Williams is on perfect form, returning every shot, she reacts with lightning speed. The speed and accuracy with which she interrupts the ball’s trajectory is impressive, resultantly she is comfortably leading. A shout from the crowd steals your attention- someone has been mugged. Your glance up is met fleetingly by the offender, who is just about to pass your seat. Without thinking, you put a foot out, impeding the man’s escape.

Serena does very little thinking when returning the ball, and you put your foot out without thinking to stop the mugger. So here lies our second interpretation. Instinct – action without conscious thought, which can be significantly refined through repetition. In the correct context, this interpretation is completely valid. (The English language can be quite problematic in its fluidity.) The statement we are discussing, however, is not the correct context for this interpretation, and here’s why. Humans have plenty of both ‘tennis’ and ‘true’ instinct. Its a popular idea that we have lost some of our ‘true’ instinct, and that’s because we are able to suppress it based on conscious thought. For example, you might feel the instinct to run away from the fear felt when being interviewed, but conscious knowledge that it might do you good in the long-term keeps you in your seat. It is not that we have lost the ‘true’ instinct, we just have means to keep it in check. 

So, perhaps the phrase should be: ‘Humans have more ability to suppress their ‘true’ instinct than animals, who rely more on their ‘true’ instincts for survival and reproduction. But both are equally capable of developing ‘tennis’ instinct‘. It doesn’t sound quite as catchy, does it? This small example is helps to explain why science is often labelled as boring and difficult. The whole truth is difficult to package into a catchy phrase.  

Image from bucs.org.uk

Author Update


Firstly, I’d like to apologise for the lack of recent activity, and thank those who contributed to the AT’s Assistance Dog Week at the start of the year. There were some really engaging guest posts to read and due to it’s success, AT plans to host more themed weeks in the future.

Soon I will be graduating from the Animal Behaviour and Welfare degree at the University of Bristol, which has occupied much of my time in the past couple of months!

At the moment I am working on a Poultry Welfare project in Oslo, funded by the UFAW Vacation Studentship grant. The project aims to investigate the welfare of hens reared in aviaries that then go on to produce in the more restrictive ‘furnished cages’.

Watch this space for a resurgence of AT posts (some of which will feature more feathers than fur) in the coming weeks!

Picture by Martin de Witte

Maui Turtles


So, as you might have guessed from the leaking of marine life into my pet science blog, I have a great interest in all things under the sea. This blog has some beautiful photos, I especially like the humpback whale pictures.

Douglas J. Hoffman Photography

One of the things I love about diving in Hawaii are Green Sea Turtles.  The are so graceful and majestic.

Se more turtle photographs here/



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The 2nd of January kick starts Assistance Dogs Week, a week of posts celebrating the invaluable role of the assistance dog in society. Of particular interest are the guest posts we have planned, I won’t give to much away at this stage, but if you can’t wait, why not check out the following blogs:

Training a Service Dog

Safe and Sound

If there is anything relevant that you would be particularly interested in reading, or you are interested in guest posting an article, don’t hesitate to get in touch!


Who are all girls! (or castrated males). Males loose their antlers in early December, at the end of the mating season. Not to worry though! The girls have it, as reindeer are the only deer species in which both genders have antlers. (I always wondered how Santa was able to deliver all those presents without getting lost!)

Picture from www.communicatescience.eu



Welcome to Animal Translation, I hope to cover aspects of animal behaviour, welfare, training, cognition, evolution, ethics, anatomy and physiology in whatever order they occur to me!

Hopefully they’ll be something for everyone, especially those whose thoughts don’t run through their heads, but hop, lope, gallup, fly…