Animal behaviour and psychology experts from the University of Lincoln, UK, will feature on the new Channel 4 series, Dogs: Their Secret Lives.
In the programme vet Mark Evans delves into what goes on in our dogs’ brains and how behavioural training and even canine pharmaceuticals are increasingly being used to help address problem behaviour in our pets.
Mark, the former Chief Vet at the RSPCA, visits the University of Lincoln to speak with clinical animal behaviour specialists Professor Daniel Mills and Helen Zulch; and Kerstin Meints, Professor in Developmental Psychology.
The episode focussing on aggression in dogs will air on Channel 4 at 8pm on Tuesday 26th August, 2014.
It will describe how behaviours such as barking, snarling, growling and biting are often shown to eliminate a perceived threat, either to the dog itself, or an important resource, such as food.
Professor Mills, who specialises in developing and exploring new interventions for behaviour problems in animals, discusses his collaborative research with Dr Malgorzata Pilot at the University of Lincoln on the genetics of aggression and how aggression in dogs can often be an outward sign of a range of emotional responses.
Professor Mills, from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Lincoln, said: “People often think of aggression as an emotion, but it’s really just the external manifestation of a range of different possible emotions, from fear to frustration. It also has to be born in mind that people often misread dogs and so what might appear aggressive to an individual might actually be quite harmless, and so it is important people develop the skills to manage the risks appropriately.”
Mark spends time with Professor Meints, a child development expert in Lincoln’s School of Psychology, who works on applied research in human-animal interaction, especially dog bite prevention.
Professor Meints takes Mark through her current research on dogs’ body language which aims to reduce the risks of dog bites to young children. The study examined how children aged three to five and their parents interpret the signals dogs display when they feel threatened or distressed, and how they can be taught about dogs’ body language.
A subsequent episode on ‘difficult dogs’, to be aired on Tuesday 2nd September, 2014, features Helen Zulch, a certified professional clinical animal behaviourist (CCAB) based in Lincoln’s School of Life Sciences. She discusses the growing trend for the use of canine pharmaceuticals.
She said: “Sometimes a course of medication may be beneficial in the treatment of certain behaviours in dogs. One of the drugs currently used is Fluoxetine, alongside a suitable behaviour modification programme. This drug is commonly used in humans to treat depression and has been found to have positive effects for a range of issues in dogs.”