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Westerback, Therese, 2011. Dogs' behavioural responses to repeated positive events. Second cycle, A1E. Uppsala: SLU, Dept. of Animal Environment and Health



Assessing the emotional state in animals is important in order to establish the quality of their welfare, therefore it is important to investigate under what circumstances animals experience these emotions and to find indicators of their existence. The aim of this thesis was to detect possible behavioural indicators for positive emotions in dogs. These behavioural indicators could be helpful to increase both dogs’ and humans’ overall well-being in today’s society since they could help e.g. dog owners and caretakers to interpret behaviours displayed by dogs and their intentions so they can respond accordingly.

The subjects used were 9 research beagles and each dog participated in three different treatments, assumed to be experienced as positive situations, where communicative interaction was initiated with the dog by engaging in 1) physical contact (P), 2) verbal contact (V) or 3) both physical and verbal contact simultaneously (PV). Each treatment lasted for 21 min where the possible positive situation was alternated with a neutral at 1-min intervals. During the neutral sequence the dog was completely ignored by the handler. The difference in behaviours expressed during the positive and neutral situation were analyzed, as well as the effect of the interaction type performed. Dogs’ behavioural responses to the positive and neutral situations over time were also studied.

Results showed that dogs displayed increased levels of attentive behaviour towards the handler and higher frequencies of lip licking at the front part of the mouth during treatment PV and P than during treatment V. On the contrary, dogs initiated more physical contact with the handler and displayed higher levels of passive behaviour during treatment V than during PV and P. Over time dogs showed a decrease in frequencies of lip licking at the front part of the mouth during all treatments and during treatment V this decrease in frequency was also displayed for lip licks at the right part of the mouth. Dogs kept an attentive interest towards the handler during treatments PV and P, although the duration of expressed attentive behaviour was higher in the treatment PV. However, dogs displayed a rapid decrease in expressed attentive behaviour during treatment V over time. Dogs were the most passive in treatment P and V, in comparison to treatment PV. Furthermore, it was shown that dogs increased their passive behaviour over time during treatment PV and V. These results seem to indicate that treatment PV was experienced as the most positive for the dogs and that treatment V was experienced as least positive for the dogs. This is in accordance with earlier research suggesting that physical and verbal contact upon reunion with a familiar person increases lip licking behaviour in dogs. It has also been found that dogs express higher frequencies of lip licking and attentive behaviour towards their owner upon reunion after longer times of separation. Reunion with an owner or a familiar person is suggested to be experienced as more positive for the dogs than the reunion with a stranger. Assuming that the PV treatment was experienced as most positive for the dogs, we suggest that lip licking at the front part of the mouth and attentive behaviour are plausible indicators of positive arousal in dogs.

Main title:Dogs' behavioural responses to repeated positive events
Authors:Westerback, Therese
Supervisor:Reefmann, Nadine and Rehn, Therese
Examiner:Keeling, Linda
Series:Studentarbete / Sveriges lantbruksuniversitet, Institutionen för husdjurens miljö och hälsa
Volume/Sequential designation:352
Year of Publication:2011
Level and depth descriptor:Second cycle, A1E
Student's programme affiliation:VY001 Agricultural Science Programme - Animal Science 270 HEC
Supervising department:(VH) > Dept. of Animal Environment and Health
Keywords:dog, positive emotions, behaviour, dog-human interaction, welfare
Permanent URL:
Subject. Use of subject categories until 2023-04-30.:Animal husbandry
Animal ecology
Deposited On:06 Dec 2011 09:13
Metadata Last Modified:20 Apr 2012 14:23

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