Working dog owners invited to take part in study with Nestlé Purina

Researchers at the School of Life Sciences, University of Lincoln and Nestlé Purina PetCare Company are interested in looking at factors which affect working and being a dog owner. Many people own a pet dog and have to leave them at home every day to work in an office, however, some offices allow employees allow to take their dog to work.

All those who own a pet dog and work in an office are invited to take part in a short survey, with the opportunity to be entered into a prize draw to win a £50 (or currency equivalent) Amazon voucher.

Click here to take part!


Please note the following before completing the survey:

  • We are interested in hearing from dog owners who regularly work in an office environment.
  • We are interested in hearing from people who are and are not allowed to bring their dog in to the office with them.
  • For the purpose of the survey, we define ‘office’ as a room, set of rooms, or building used for commercial, professional or bureaucratic work. We include teachers working in a school.
  • You must be 18-years of age, or over, to take part.
  • You can take part if you work part-time or full-time, but we ask that you attend your office at least once a week.
  • You must currently own one (or more) pet dog(s).

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New Genetic Research Shows Extent of Cross-Breeding between Wild Wolves and Domestic Dogs across Europe and Asia

Original article can be found online.

Mating between domesticated dogs and wild wolves over hundreds of years has left a genetic mark on the wolf gene pool, new research has shown.

The international study showed that around 60 per cent of Eurasian grey wolf genomes carried small blocks of the DNA of domestic dogs, suggesting that wolves cross-bred with dogs in past generations.

The results suggest that wolf-dog hybridisation has been geographically widespread in Europe and Asia and has been occurring for centuries. The phenomenon is seen less frequently in wild wolf populations of North America.

Researchers examined DNA data from grey wolves – the ancestors of the domestic dog – to determine how much their gene pool was diluted with the DNA of domestic canines, and how widespread the process of hybridisation is.

Despite the evidence of hybridisation among Eurasian grey wolves, the wolf populations have remained genetically distinct from dogs, suggesting that such cross-breeding does not diminish distinctiveness of the wolf gene pool if it occurs at low levels.

The results could have important conservation implications for the grey wolf, which is a keystone species – meaning it is vital to the natural balance of the habitat it occupies. The legal status of hybrids is still uncertain and unregulated.

The study was led by researchers from the University of Lincoln, UK, the Italian National Institute for Environmental Protection and Research and the University of California, Los Angeles.

Dr Malgorzata Pilot, from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Lincoln, said: “The fact that wild wolves can cross-breed with dogs is well-documented, but little was previously known about how widespread this phenomenon has been and how it has affected the genetic composition of wild wolf populations.

“We found that while hybridisation has not compromised the genetic distinctiveness of wolf populations, a large number of wild wolves in Eurasia carry a small proportion of gene variants derived from dogs, leading to the ambiguity of how we define genetically ‘pure wolves’.

“Our research highlighted that some individual wolves which had been identified as ‘pure wolves’ according to their physical characteristics were actually shown to be of mixed ancestry. On the other hand, two Italian wolves with an unusual, black coat colour did not show any genetic signatures of hybridisation, except for carrying a dog-derived variant of a gene linked to dark colouration. This suggests that the definition of genetically ‘pure’ wolves can be ambiguous and identifying admixed individuals can be difficult, implying that management strategies based on removal of suspected hybrids from wolf populations may be inefficient.

“Instead, our study has highlighted a need to reduce the factors which can cause hybridisation, such as abundance of free-ranging dogs, small wolf population sizes, and unregulated hunting.”

Studying a specific type of genetic variation in the DNA sequences of wolves and domestic dogs – called Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) – the scientists identified the transfer of dog gene variants into wolf genomes.

A single DNA sequence is formed from a chain of four nucleotide bases and if some individuals in a population do not carry the same nucleotide at a specific position in the sequence, the variation is classified as an SNP.

This study was funded by a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship, the University of Lincoln, the Polish Committee for Scientific Research, the Italian Ministry of Environment, the US National Science Foundation, the Intramural Program of the National Human Genome Research Institute, and the Italian National Institute for Environmental Protection and Research.

In the US, research collaborators were from Princeton University, the National Human Genome Research Institute based at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland, and UCLA.

The international team also included researchers from the Italian National Institute for Environmental Protection and Research, Aalborg University in Denmark, the Mammal Research Institute, and the Institute of Nature Conservation, both at the Polish Academy of Sciences, as well as the Institute of Zoology at the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus.

The findings have been published in the journal Evolutionary Applications, and the full study can be found here:

Research on human-dog emotional understanding

Researchers at the School of Life Sciences and Psychology, University of Lincoln, recruited participants over 2017, to take part in a study which focussed on relationships between humans and dogs, and how emotion is perceived between the two species.

The School of Life Sciences researchers involved were Cátia C. Caeiro (Postgraduate researcher) and Prof. Daniel Mills.

Participants were invited to watch a series of short videos which displayed the faces of both people and dogs, whilst a camera recorded their eye movements. After watching each video, the participants were then asked to try and recognise the emotions displayed on each face, along with a final task of completing a short survey about themselves and their experience of dogs.

It is hoped that the findings will help identify how humans and dogs read each other’s emotions, in what continues to be a very successful and long-lasting interspecific relationship.

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Dogs mouth-lick to communicate with angry humans

Animal behaviour researchers in the UK and Brazil have found that dogs lick their mouths as a response to angry human faces, according to a new study.

Scientists examined the behaviour of dogs in response to emotionally significant images and sounds, and found that mouth licking in domestic dogs is not simply a response to food or uncertainty, but appears to be used as a signal to try to communicate with humans in response to visual cues of anger.

Significantly, audio cues of angry human voices did not elicit the same response.

Dogs were exposed simultaneously to two facial expressions (one positive and one negative from the same individual), which could be either human or canine of either sex, along with a sound, which could be positive or negative from the same species and gender.

The findings, published in the scientific journal Behavioural Processes, shine new light on our understanding of the emotional world of dogs.

The research was conducted by researchers from the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and the University of Lincoln, UK.

Lead author Natalia Albuquerque from the University of Sao Paulo, said: “Mouth-licking was triggered by visual cues only (facial expressions). There was also a species effect, with dogs mouth-licking more often when looking at humans than at other dogs. Most importantly, the findings indicate that this behaviour is linked to the animals’ perception of negative emotions.”

The researchers believe that this behavioural trait may have been selected during domestication. The findings, combined with previous evidence of the cognitive processing of emotional expressions, suggest that dogs may have a functional understanding of emotional information and greatly increase our understanding of their emotional world.

Co-author Professor Daniel Mills of the School of Life Sciences at the University of Lincoln, said: “Humans are known to be very visual in both intra and inter-specific interactions, and because the vision of dogs is much poorer than humans, we often tend to think of them using their other senses to make sense of the world. But these results indicate that dogs may be using the visual display of mouth-licking to facilitate dog-human communication in particular.”


New study offers insights into a dog’s life in families with children

Millions of families know how rewarding and enjoyable dog ownership can be – but now a new study has for the first time examined the quality of life for a pet dog owned by a family with children.
There is now extensive scientific research showing the many benefits that pet dogs bring to families, including improved family functioning and wellbeing for those with children with neuro-developmental disorders such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and ADHD. For all children, dogs can provide valuable companionship, encourage exercise and family activities, and teach them about responsibilities.Until now, little attention has been paid to how living with children affects quality of life for pet dogs (those not trained as assistance dogs). Funded by Dogs Trust – the UK’s largest dog welfare charity – a team of animal behaviour and welfare specialists from the University of Lincoln’s School of Life Sciences are examining this question.

Published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, their latest research involved interviewing parents who own a dog – half with typically developing children and half with children with Autism or ADHD, with all children aged between four and 10 years old.

The research revealed that the child-dog relationship has a number of beneficial aspects for the dog, including a sense of routine, more time for fun and play, and companionship.
Dr Sophie Hall, a Research Fellow specialising in human-animal interactions at the University of Lincoln’s School of Life Sciences, said: “Our study involved 36 dog-owning families, who all highlighted some key benefits that their pet dogs receive from living with young children.”For example children provide close companionship for pets as well as imposing a sense of predictable and consistent routine in the home, in terms of feed and walk times, which we know is extremely important for a dog’s wellbeing. Of course, children also play regularly with their pet dogs and activities such as throwing a ball and doing assault courses represent really valuable opportunities for exercise and positive mental stimulation.

“The study also highlighted some potentially negative impacts on the pet, which it is important for parents to be aware of when bringing a dog into a home with children.”

The negative impact could be brought on by children having tantrums, with parents observing their dogs running away, shaking or hiding on some of these occasions. Parents also observed a change in their dog’s behaviour if it became ‘over stimulated’ – such as barking, becoming agitated, or seeking a place to escape – when their children were very noisy.

Other events that could cause potential distress for dogs in homes with children could include rough play or accidents such as collisions with toys or pulling the dog’s tail.

The study suggests that in a home with small children, it is important for dogs to have a ‘safe haven’ to escape to if needed, and for parents to understand both the obvious and more subtle signs of distress in their pets and to teach their family about these signs. For example, pet dogs often have wide eyes or lick their lips when they are mildly stressed.

Dr Hall added: “The positive and negative aspects of the child-dog relationship were similar in families with typically developing children and in those with children with a neuro-developmental disorder.

“As such, providing they are aware of key risk events and how to cope with these, and ensuring adequate supervision, parents should not necessarily be dissuaded from acquiring a pet dog because of their child’s developmental issues. As we know, pet dogs can really enrich family life and support child development and wellbeing.”

The results of this initial study are now being developed further by the team at the University of Lincoln with support from Dogs Trust, to develop an innovative new tool to help monitor the quality of life of pet dogs living in family homes. It is hoped that this tool could help to prevent potentially dangerous situations, which may lead to dog bites, and help owners to maximise the benefits of dog ownership.

The paper is freely available to view online at PLOS ONE.