Visiting Researchers to share findings on Animal Cognition and Welfare

On Thursday 19th July 2018, the Clinical Animal Behaviour Doctoral Research Group at the School of Life Sciences will be hosting three visiting researchers, Dr. Naomi Harvey, Dr. Leanne Proops and Dr. Jennifer Wathan in a series of talks about their latest exciting research work in the area of animal cognition and welfare.

All University of Lincoln staff and students are welcome to attend, however, please send your RSVP to Luciana Assis (lassis@lincoln.ac.uk) to register interest and to pass on any dietary requirements.

The talks will take place in the Joseph Banks Laboratories in JBL3C01 and will commence from 1pm until 5pm.

More information about the speakers and their talks below.

Dr. Naomi Harvey, University of Nottingham: “From itchy dogs to depressed (?) dogs and the pitfalls of cognitive bias testing in shelters”

The focus of this talk will be my most recent work across two projects: the latest findings from my current post-doctoral position evaluating behavioural differences in dogs with and without skin allergies; and the results of a collaboration with Dr Carole Fureix looking at shelter dog behaviour and cognition. Using data gathered from the C-BARQ, comparisons between dogs with skin allergies and healthy skinned controls revealed that dogs with itchy skin from allergies displayed more stress behaviour, comfort-seeking behaviour and grooming behaviour, and were less trainable than their non-itchy counterparts. The results of this behavioural analysis are the first of their kind exploring the impact of skin allergies from the perspective of the dog itself by evaluating the behavioural changes it causes. The fact that many of the stress and attention-seeking behaviour exhibited by itchy dogs are considered to be ‘problem’ or ‘nuisance’ behaviour by owners could contribute to a break-down in the dog-owner relationship and an increased risk of relinquishment for dogs with skin allergies. Inactivity in captive animals can be reflective of many different things and is still poorly understood. Together with Dr Carole Fureix, we have been investigating the prevalence of a specific form of inactivity in shelter dogs; being awake (with eyes open) but motionless in the home pen. Dr Fureix has shown that this form of inactivity correlates with anhedonia in riding horses and laboratory mice, and thus could be in indicator of a ‘depression’ like state. We aimed to test whether time spent in this state also correlated to anhedonia and cognitive bias in a population of shelter dogs. I will discuss our progress on this project to date, including the practicalities and unforeseen issues of working with shelter dogs.

Dr. Jennifer Wathan, Global Animal Welfare of Brook: “Research in Practice”

Handling describes how humans work with, respond to, and interact with animals within their surroundings. Brooke sees humane handling of animals as critical to their welfare. Suffering as a result of poor handling can occur daily and over time can cause cumulative mental and physical damage to an animal, whereas good handling and positive human-animal interactions contributes to positive welfare. Brooke champions positive human-animal interactions; humane and respectful handling of animals has no cost and can be done anywhere in the world, yet can have a considerable impact on animal welfare. Here we outline a project to collate what we know and consider how best to use that knowledge to expand the reach of this important work.

Dr. Leanne Proops, University of Portsmouth: “Why the Long Face? Affective Cognition in Horses”

The ability to recognise and respond appropriately to the emotional signals of others has clear adaptive advantages. Recognition of such signals allows an individual to predict the positive or negative consequences of social interactions, thus facilitating social cohesion and avoiding potentially costly conflict. In humans, emotional intelligence is believed to play a key role in social behaviour and has important effects on social competency. Darwin was the first to recognise parallels between emotional signalling in humans and other species that suggest it would be adaptive for animals to also respond in functionally relevant ways to emotional cues. However, it has been recently that researchers have turned their focus to affective cognition in animals. Here I will present the work we have been conducting that assesses emotional awareness in the domestic horse. For horses, conspecifics and humans represent significant social partners. Our research shows that horses are highly sensitive to the emotional signals of both species, using face, body and vocal cues successfully to inform current and subsequent social decisions. The ability of horses to discriminate between human and horse emotions raises interesting questions regarding the evolution of emotion signalling across species and the relative importance of lifetime experience.

Refreshments and snacks will be provided after the talks and guests will also have the opportunity to chat with speakers on a one-to-one basis.