Behavioural Reactions in Dogs – Call for Participants in New Study

Researchers at the School of Life Sciences, University of Lincoln, UK, are conducting a study looking at behavioural reactions in dogs.

If you are a dog owner, you are invited to take part in our research involving:

  • Owners of dogs who react to other dogs
  • Owners of dogs who do not react to other dogs

To take part in this research, owners are invited to complete a questionnaire and, where possible, upload supporting video footage of their dog. The footage required would be the dog becoming aware of another dog(s) in its vicinity.

The aim is to model the signalling used by dogs in such situations, so please only film your dog if it is safe to do so.

The questionnaires can be found at: www.dogreactivity.com and it is possible to upload the footage within the survey (this is signposted once the questionnaire begins). 

For the purposes of this research, reactive behaviours will be considered to include: barking, growling, snarling, whining, lunging, snapping, nipping, biting, stiff posture with raised hackles and intense staring. Please note, lots of non-reactive dogs data is also required too.

Please feel free to share this survey far and wide and we thank you in advance for your participation.

Fighting like cats and dogs? Research shows a different picture

Animal behaviour researchers at the University of Lincoln have discovered that the relationship between our cats and dogs may be more amicable than originally perceived.

The relationship between the species is often portrayed as fractious, however, Professor Daniel Mills, Dr Sophie Hall and Jessica Thomson at the School of Life Sciences conducted an online survey to find out what it is that makes cats and dogs harmonious.

Results showed that 80% of homeowners felt their pets were comfortable with one another and a mere 3% stated that their cats and dogs could not stand one another.

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It was found that that 50% of owners reported their cats displayed negative behaviours such as hissing and spitting at dogs, and 18% said their dogs threatened cats, less than 10% of cats and only 1% of dogs ever harmed the other animal. Domestication may play a huge part in this interaction, as dogs have been domesticated for longer than cats and are a lot easier to train.

Overall, the majority of owners perceived their cat and dog as being comfortable living under the same roof.
The idiom ‘fighting like cat and dog’ may not ring true after all!

The paper, titled ‘Evaluation of the relationship between cats and dogs living in the same home’ was published in the Journal of Veterinary Behaviour and can be read online.

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Student Trip to South Africa Enhances Conservation and Ecology Skills

As part of their studies at the University of Lincoln, students from the School of Life Sciences visited Mankwe wildlife reserve in South Africa in June 2018.

During their stay, the group of staff and students were able to explore the stunning South African landscape whilst carrying out scientific research on the health, behaviour, welfare, conservation and ecology of the wildlife in this biodiversity hotspot.

In the beautiful and fragile ecosystem of Mankwe, students and staff worked alongside a group of  local community-level conservationists. Throughout their trip, students learnt and developed field and identification skills as well as finding out about reserve management and anti-poaching strategies.  In addition, they were able to apply skills and knowledge gained during their degree programme to develop a self-driven research project on an aspect of animal health, behaviour and/or ecology.

Mankwe is a 4750 hectare reserve in the North West Province of South Africa, approximately 5km east of Pilanesberg National Park. The accommodation is a selection of safari tents, wooden cabins and a clinker brick chalet at the Waterbuck camp, where students have the opportunity to experience a true bush adventure. There are no fences so students live among the wildlife.

To find out more information about the School of Life Sciences Overseas Field Trips, click here.

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.

Garden Seed Influences Young Turtle Doves’ Survival Chances

Young turtle doves raised on a diet of seeds from non-cultivated arable plants are more likely to survive after fledging than those relying on food provided in people’s gardens, new research into Britain’s fastest declining bird species has shown.

Ecologists at the University of Lincoln, UK, investigated the dietary habits of adult and nestling European turtle doves – an IUCN Red List Threatened Species – breeding in the UK, using DNA analysis of faecal samples. They found significant associations between the body condition and the diet of the bird.

Nestling turtle doves still being fed by their parents were found to thrive on seeds foraged from non-cultivated arable plants such as scarlet pimpernel and chickweed, but the birds were in poorer condition when their diet was high in seeds provided by humans in back gardens or public spaces. In contrast, adult body condition was better when more cultivated seeds such as wheat, oil seed rape and barley were present in the diet.

Data collected for the study, which was carried out in collaboration with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the University of Sheffield and Cardiff University, was compared with the results of previous studies carried out in the 1960s and 1990s. It revealed a fundamental shift in the diet of turtle doves, showing that the birds are now relying more heavily on food found in gardens, such as sunflower and niger seeds, than they did 50 years ago.

As the UK’s fastest declining bird species, the results of the study have important implications for conservation strategies to save the turtle dove. Previous research has shown that nestling birds with better body condition are more likely to survive after fledging and strategies should be developed to provide the correct diet for the bird at each stage of its life.

Dr Jenny Dunn, Lecturer in Animal Health and Disease in the University of Lincoln’s School of Life Sciences, led the research while based at the RSPB. She said: “Turtle doves are the UK’s fastest declining bird, with a loss of 98% of breeding birds since 1970. Researchers are trying to tackle the problem by identifying ways to provide food resources for the species while they are breeding in the UK, but for this to be effective we need to understand the birds’ food sources and the impact they have on both adults and their young.

“The results of this study suggest that conservation strategies should include provision of anthropogenic seeds for adults early in the breeding season, coupled with habitat rich in accessible seeds from arable plants once chicks have hatched.”

To understand the diet of the birds, researchers caught turtle doves on breeding grounds at 11 sites across East Anglia, and extracted DNA from the faecal samples which enabled them to identify the diet of each bird. Their body condition was also examined, and nest sites monitored.

Further research is now needed to link the findings of the study to the use of habitats provided for turtle doves through agri-environment schemes.

The study was part-funded by the RSPB, Natural England and the NERC Biomolecular Analysis Facility at the University of Sheffield.

The full paper, ‘The decline of the turtle dove: dietary associations with body condition with other columbids analysed using high throughput sequencing’ has been published in the journal Molecular Ecology and can be viewed online at: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/mec.14766