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Feedback Q&A on Behavior

by Ron Kurtus

Readers have sent in a total of 281 comments and questions on Behavior issues. They are listed according to date.

You can read them to further your understanding of the subject.

List of next 10 letters




Candid Camera Wants video clips from TV show USA
Squirrel Defenses Faimly of squirrels withough tails USA
Special Types I think my daughter is mentally ill USA
Dogs Roll Dog likes to roll in perfumed clothes USA
Observations Behaviour in observational studies UK
Squirrels Squirrel brought me an apple to eat Canada
Squirrels Upset that pet squirrel moved to neighbor's yard USA
Dogs Roll My dog rolls on cigarette butts USA
Squirrel Defenses Saw mother squirrel put her baby in her mouth USA
Dogs Roll My yorkiepoo loves to roll on vomit Australia

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First 10 letters

Wants video clips from TV show

Topic: Candid Camera


February 5, 2011

I am doing a presentation and I would like the clips that you talk about in your study. Can you send the clips to me?

Shalice - USA



Unfortunately, the material mentioned was from the old Candid Camera Show, done so long ago that it was in black and white.

You might be able to get the clips through the Candid Camera website.

Best wishes in your presentation.

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Faimly of squirrels withough tails

Topic: Squirrel Defenses


January 28, 2011

we recently moved to the country in bealeton, va and surprisingly have a family of squirrels with no tails that we feed daily. they get along with other squirrels but seem to get bullied a bit. I read somewhere this could be a genetic defect and/or ground water contamination (arsenic?) but I worry it's potentially from animal abuse (tail collectors). there are a couple of young ones, one very old one, a couple of adult male/females. they do not mingle with the other squirrels.

some have a little stub, some nothing at all. they seem to be more chatty too. the one old male has a skin problem of some sort but I think the sunflower seeds and almonds we feed them has helped it.

do you have any clue and/or referrals on this?

annie - USA



I know that some hunters collect squirrel tails after they kill the squirrel. It would seem too difficult to catch a squirrel to cut off its tail. Although I'm sure their are some nut-cases that might do such a thing.

Since it is the whole family, it probably is a genetic defect. Since they aren't as agile as the other squirrels, they probably are easier to pick on. Squirrels also communicate with their tails, so that may be another problem.

We had a squirrel at our feeder who had a stump tail. However, after about a month, he stopped coming. I assumed some animal killed him. Also, an older female with a skin ailment comes here to feed. Some of her past litters also come to feed.

Hopefully you tailless squirrels will be doing fine, since you are feeding them well.

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I think my daughter is mentally ill

Topic: Special Types


January 24, 2011

My Daughter, Leslie is i think mentally ill. She is always following squirrels around the park and is barking like dogs. No docter's have an answer to her mental problems. Please, PLEASE help me bring my daughter to be normal and social like everyone else at her school.

John - USA



It certainly depends on how old your daughter is. Some children are fascinated with animals and almost relate to them better than with other children. In fact, your daughter may not be mentally ill, but instead she has special skills.

The famous "dog whisperer" related to animals better than humans when he was a child. Now he is well-known for his ability to train animals.

Never think of your daughter as mentally ill. That is for someone who sees things that aren't there and such. Instead think of her as being special, and she should respond to your different attitude.

Best wishes for your daughter and her health.

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Dog likes to roll in perfumed clothes

Topic: Dogs Roll


October 9, 2010


I am doing some research on why dogs roll in smelly things, but my situation is a little different. Our Jack Russel Terrier mix likes to rolls in my daughters clothes that have perfume on them. We tested this theory by spraying perfume on the dogs bed...she obsessively rolled and rolled on her bed for quite a doesn't seem to matter what kind of perfume it is...Do you know why, because it isn't poop, urine or dead animal?

Kelly - USA



Well, you are lucky that your dog isn't rolling in real smelly stuff. Sometimes cats will roll on the ground around their house, eager to mark the ground as bearers or two get the smell of their property on them. This might be the same thought process of your Jack Russell. She may associate things in your house with the perfume and want to get the smell on her to indicate that a house is her place.

Sometimes dogs seem to like to roll in things that are just unusual and not something like poop. For example, our dog likes to rule on the white markings of a soccer field or football field.

Perhaps, the behavior is more complex than we understand.

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Behaviour in observational studies

Topic: Observations


October 5, 2010

how can you rate behaviour in observational studies? how can behaviour be sampled in observational studies? What are the advantages of choosing a participant observation design instead of a non-participant design? Thank you!

Jaya - UK



When you examine the behavior of individuals, animals or groups by observation, you can classify the different types of behaviors. Rating a behavior makes it a judgment, and being nonjudgmental is preferred.

Once you have a list of behavior traits, you can classify various traits you observe. You really need to have a sufficiently large sample to draw any statistical conclusions.

Advantages of participant observation are that the approach is close to everyday interaction, involving conversations to discover participants' interpretations of situations they are involved in.

Disadvantages of the participant observation design are seen at:

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Squirrel brought me an apple to eat

Topic: Squirrels


September 26, 2010

There's an apple tree on the mountain behind my work, I go there often and eat the apples. As such, one day I was having difficulty reaching the apples (I'd been picking all I could reach) and a squirrel brought one down to the ground and left it there. Then it ran back up to eat apples from above (they're messy eaters and bits of apple fall down when they're eating, then they discard the rest of the apple from the top of the tree).
I ate the apple it brought down, which I believe was for me. I'd never seen a squirrel do that in all the days I'd spend on my breaks eating the apples and watching the squirrels play.

I would like to know if you have any tips on communicating to the squirrels to bring me apples in the future, as I don't know what it is I did to entice it to bring down an apple and place it on the ground, unbitten. I was shaking the tree, and pulling the branches down trying to get at it, I was throwing downed half-eaten apples up into the tree in an attempt to knock a fresh one down... I don't know.

They climb up so easily, how can I train one, or get one to know that I'd like one, so it can bring one down for me in the future?

p.s. This is a serious inquiry. I'm not finding help anywhere online on getting along with squirrels, only how to get rid of them. Think outside the box, they could be very useful if we stop looking at them as pests!

Michelle - Canada



Squirrels are very intelligent and clever. It is difficult to tell if the squirrel was actually trying to help you get an apple or just happened to leave one near you. They don't normally help out other squirrels, although they will bring food to their mate or to their babies. Perhaps this squirrel felt a kinship to you.

Two particular squirrels there my whole will run to the patio door when they see become whole, seeking a handout of some peanuts or such. They recognize me, but it isn't anything where I am communicating with them.

Some people have trained nearby squirrels to come when the click acorns together, but again it is a case of reacting to potential food. I don't think it would be easy to get them to bring food to you.

I guess if you had a pet squirrel that you have at home, you might be able to train it to get apples for you. However, it might take some time to really train it to perform such a task.

It is a shame that some people consider squirrels as pests. They are good animals and enjoyable to watch and interact with.

Even if you can't get them to bring you apples, enjoy them as your little friends.

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Upset that pet squirrel moved to neighbor's yard

Topic: Squirrels


August 9, 2010

We have a squirrel we raised from a baby here in SW Colorado and we released her out behind our house and she visits us everyday plus to feed on nuts and whatever other treats we have for her. She had built a nice nest back behind our house and used it for about 3-4 weeks but now we have noticed that she has another bigger one back behind our neighbors property. My question is this: What would cause her to leave her nest she built in a tree in our backyard and build another in a tree in our neighbors? We watched her spend a lot of time on the nest in our yard, even giving her pieces of rope which she stuffed in her mouth and carried up to her nest. When she was weaned off the milk and started eating solids we bought a squirrel house for her which she started in for about 2 weeks and then built her own nest in a tree 40' high in our yard, but now we don't understand why she abandoned this home and built another up in a tree in our neighbors yard. What could be the reasons behind this?

Rick - USA



Although it is a joy to be able to watch your squirrel and to have her live in the tree in your yard, it is sort of like when children grow up and leave home to go on their own.

A probable reason your squirrel moved to the other tree is that it she wanted her own, natural nest that may seem safer to her. Perhaps she just wanted more independence.

The big thing is that she still can come back to visit and get snacks from you. Who knows, she may decide to go back to the old nest or use it as a storage bin.

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My dog rolls on cigarette butts

Topic: Dogs Roll


June 13, 2010

How come my dog rolls on cigarette butts. He does not eat them.

Susan - USA



It is unusual for a dog to roll in cigarette butts, because most do not like the smell. However, some even eat them, and that can get them sick.

Dogs do strange things, and I guess your dog must like to have this particular smell on his back. You just need to keep an eye out for the butts and pull him away when he tries to roll.

Scold only when you catch him rolling. Five minutes later is too long for him to make the association.

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Saw mother squirrel put her baby in her mouth

Topic: Squirrel Defenses


April 21, 2010

I just saw a nest of squirrels get attacked by a cat and to save one of her babies she put it in her mouth and ran to a nearby tree an started making a noise like a duck. Then we saw a dead baby on the ground one frozen in shock in a tree and on on a wall we threw rocks near the cat to scare it of when it went after on and it worked.My question is do mother squirrels normally put their babies in their mouth like nuts?




It is too bad about those poor baby squirrels.

Yes, mother squirrels will sometimes put a baby squirrel in her mouth to carry and protect it.

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My yorkiepoo loves to roll on vomit

Topic: Dogs Roll


January 2, 2010

My yorkiepoo (2yrs old) loves to roll on vomit, rotting lizards and other disgusting things.I go nuts at her by shouting and taking her back to the smell and leting her know.
Today she rolled on a dead lizard(skink). She stinks so bad I washed her 5 times and she pongs!!!!!!!!!! 5 different shampoos.

Do you have any tips on stoping her from doing this and how to get rid of these smells.
Any help would be good. Thankyou.

Peter - Australia



what you really need to do is to catch your dog in the act of rolling into something smelly and then make the experience unpleasant for her, such as squirting her with a squirt gun. Often scolding her and taking her back to the smelly stuff is too late, and she may not make the association that what she did was bad.

There is a solution called citronella that has a smell that dogs don't like, so that would be something to squirt her with immediately when you catch your rolling in something smelly.

You could set things up by placing a dead lizard nearby and waiting for her to roll in it. Then quickly give her a squirt.

But also, if she just smells it and walks away, you can give her some praise.

Since dogs seem to love to roll in smelly stuff, because it is somewhat in their nature, it is a difficult behavior to correct, so you need a lot of patience.

Best wishes on stopping her from doing this.

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