Dealing with Aggression

  • Difficult Dogs that are not easy to handle.
  • Learn from the most experienced evaluator
  • Domination issues
  • According to scientific research, dog aggression is not rooted in dominance behavior or the owner’s lack of “alpha” status.
  • Most of the aggressive behavior originates in fear and anxiety.
  • For your dog, it is a form of self-defense.
  • Reacting to dog aggression with physical confrontation such as forcing the dog down by the collar or pushing down his head or back only increases the dog’s stress.
  • Punishment
  • This approach is not only it is detrimental for the psychological wellbeing of the dog, but it also leads to an increase in aggression.
  • Punishment sends the dog down an emotional roller-coaster.
  • On one moment, its owner seems to be loving and caring, but on the other, he is the source of pain and suffering.
  • What punishment fails to do is sending the right message.
  • Your dog often fails in associating the punishment with his own bad behavior, especially when it is delivered with delay.
  • Scientists recommend reward-based training as the most successful approach.
  • Trigger Stacking
  • Stress is not only psychological. It is the body’s physiological response to a perceived threat. During stress, the brain releases hormones cortisol and adrenaline.
  • When your dog faces stress repeatedly, the levels of cortisol build up in its body. This mechanism is called trigger stacking.
  • Expose your dog to stress in a controlled way and always give it some time to rest in a quiet and calm environment to regain balance.
  • Keep in mind that some of the signs of dog stress are less readily visible than barking and growling.
  • Your dog’s aggressive displays come from stress and anxiety.
  • Your pet observes your emotional state all the time, detecting even the slightest changes to your body language and smell.
  • One of the worst things you can do during the dog’s aggressive display is to panic.
  • If you remain calm and collected, you can project your leadership onto your dog.

Dog Aggression over the last 25 years has been broken into new categories and types. It is important to understand and to get help for your dog. After 10 plus years helping agencies and rescue groups I have turned to prevention as the best method to help the public. Once your dog is ruined by an incident it is difficult for owners to know exactly how to fix them. I have success with the most difficult challenges but also have heart breaking stories and have decided to share some of them to teach awareness and prevention. Rehabilitating dogs has been my personal choice for over 25 years and is very difficult for families that want a pet and companion. It is a choice and needs to be done with the utmost control over both environment and handling to succeed.

Stay tuned to our blog for more helpful insight as it will be growing as we publish our work.

We also offer a private video channel to our members and consult with agencies and the public

Our Blog on aggression

Emory University Dog project

Emory University is a private research university in Atlanta, in the U.S. state of Georgia.

In 2012, for the first time they managed to traind dogs to withstand fMRI. Gregory Berns

Since then, they have been doing multiple research projects scanning dog brains

  • How dogs process words. Used fMRI

  • “Our experiment last year was really a proof of concept, demonstrating that dogs could be trained to undergo successful functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI),” says the lead researcher Gregory Berns, director of Emory’s Center for Neuropolicy. “Now we’ve shown that the initial study wasn’t a fluke: Canine fMRI is reliable and can be done with minimal stress to the dogs. We have laid the foundation for exploring the neural biology and cognitive processes of man’s best, and oldest, friend.”

They train the dogs to withstand fMRI

Both the initial experiment and the more recent one involved training the dogs to acclimatize to an fMRI machine. The task requires dogs to cooperatively enter the small enclosure of the fMRI scanner and remain completely motionless despite the noise and vibration of the machine.

  • “Our findings show that dogs have an innate way to process faces in their brains, a quality that has previously only been well-documented in humans and other primates,” says Gregory Berns, a neuroscientist at Emory University and the senior author of the study.

    Having neural machinery dedicated to face processing suggests that this ability is hard-wired through cognitive evolution, Berns says, and may help explain dogs’ extreme sensitivity to human social cues.

  • “It was amazing to see the first brain images of a fully awake, unrestrained dog,” says Gregory Berns, director of the Emory Center for Neuropolicy and lead researcher of the dog project. “As far as we know, no one has been able to do this previously. We hope this opens up a whole new door for understanding canine cognition and inter-species communication. We want to understand the dog-human relationship, from the dog’s perspective.”

The experiment involved 12 dogs of various breeds. The animals had all undergone training to hold perfectly still while undergoing an fMRI scan. As they were being scanned, the subjects were presented with five different scents that had been collected on sterile gauze pads that morning and sealed in Mylar envelopes. The scent samples came from the subject itself, a dog the subject had never met, a dog that lived in the subject’s household, a human the dog had never met, and a human that lived in the subject’s household.

List of Dog project publications:

Cook P, Prichard A, Spivak M, Berns GS: Jealousy in dogs? Evidence from brain imaging. Animal Sentience 22:1, 2018. PDFLink.

Berns GS, Brooks AM, Spivak M, Levy K: Functional MRI in awake dogs predicts suitability for assistance work. Sci Rep 7:43704, 2017. PDFLink.

Cook PF, Prichard A, Spivak M, Berns GS: Awake canine fMRI predicts dogs’ preference for praise versus food. Soc Cog Affect Neurosci, 11:1853-1862, 2016. PDFLink.

Cook PF, Spivak M, Berns G: Neurobehavioral evidence for individual differences in canine cognitive control: an awake fMRI study. Anim Cogn, 19:867-878, 2016. LinkPDF.

Dilks DD, Cook P, Weiller SK, Berns HP, Spivak M, Berns GS: Awake fMRI reveals a specialized region in dog temporal cortex for face processing. PeerJ, 3:e1115, 2015. LinkPDF.

Cook PF, Spivak M, Berns GS: One pair of hands is not like another: caudate BOLD response in dogs depends on signal source and canine temperament. PeerJ, 2:e596, 2014. PDFLink.

Berns GS, Brooks AM, Spivak M: Scent of the familiar: an fMRI study of canine brain responses to familiar and unfamiliar human and dog odors. Behavioural Processes, 2014. Link.

Berns GS, Brooks A, Spivak M: Replicability and heterogeneity of awake unrestrained canine fMRI responses. PLoS ONE 8(12):e81698, 2013. Link.

Berns GS, Brooks AM, Spivak M: Functional MRI in awake unrestrained dogs. PLoS ONE 7(5):e38027, 2012. LinkPDF.

Review articles:

Berns GS & Cook PF: Why Did the Dog Walk into the MRI? Current Directions Psychol Sci, 25:363-369, 2016. Link.

Cook PF, Brooks A, Spivak M, Berns GS: Regional brain activations in awake unrestrained dogs. J Vet Behav: Clin Appl Res, 16:104-112, 2016. Link.


The Domestication of Social Cognition in Dogs

Department of Anthropology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.

  1. 1.2 Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Inselstrasse 22, D-04103 Leipzig, Germany.
  2. 2.3 Wolf Hollow Wolf Sanctuary, Ipswich, MA 01938, USA.


Dogs are more skillful than great apes at a number of tasks in which they must read human communicative signals indicating the location of hidden food. In this study, we found that wolves who were raised by humans do not show these same skills, whereas domestic dog puppies only a few weeks old, even those that have had little human contact, do show these skills. These findings suggest that during the process of domestication, dogs have been selected for a set of social-cognitive abilities that enable them to communicate with humans in unique ways.

Training and maintaining the performance of dogs (Canis familiaris) on an increasing number of odor discriminations in a controlled setting

Alabama Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, J.S. Tarwater Developmental Center, Wetumpka, AL, USA

Auburn University Department of Psychology, Auburn University, Auburn, AL, USA


The number of substances detector dogs are trained to detect varies depending on the mission of the agency they serve. No studies have been conducted concerning how training multiple odor discriminations affects detection performance and refresher training requirements. This study used a controlled field setting to examine the effects of training dogs to detect multiple substances on their subsequent detection performance and refresher training requirements. Dogs were first trained to detect a single odor. Their detection performance was tested 10 days later and refresher training was then given to bring their performance back up to a predetermined standard. Following refresher training, detection of a new substance was trained, and approximately 10 days later the detection of both trained substances was tested. This sequence of testing, refresher training, and new odor training continued every 10 days until the dogs had been trained and tested on 10 odors. The detection of previously learned odors did not decrease as the number of substances trained increased. In fact, the amount of training required to refresh detection performance and to train new odor discriminations tended to decrease as more odor discriminations were trained.

Explaining Dog Wolf Differences in Utilizing Human Pointing Gestures: Selection for Synergistic Shifts in the Development of Some Social Skills

The comparison of human related communication skills of socialized canids may help to understand the evolution and the epigenesis of gesture comprehension in humans. To reconcile previously contradicting views on the origin of dogs’ outstanding performance in utilizing human gestures, we suggest that dog-wolf differences should be studied in a more complex way.

Thus, we provide evidence for the first time that socialised adult wolves are as successful in relying on distal momentary pointing as adult pet dogs. However, the delayed emergence of utilising human distal momentary pointing in wolves shows that these wild canines react to a lesser degree to intensive socialisation in contrast to dogs, which are able to control agonistic behaviours and inhibition of actions in a food related task early in development. We suggest a “synergistic” hypothesis, claiming that positive feedback processes (both evolutionary and epigenetic) have increased the readiness of dogs to attend to humans, providing the basis for dog-human communication.


Márta Gácsi

* E-mail:

AFFILIATION Department of Ethology, Eötvös University, Budapest, Pázmány, Hungary

Borbála Gyoöri

AFFILIATION Department of Ethology, Eötvös University, Budapest, Pázmány, Hungary

Zsófia Virányi

AFFILIATIONS Department of Ethology, Eötvös University, Budapest, Pázmány, Hungary, Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research, Altenberg, Austria, Wolf Science Center, Grünau im Almtal, Austria

Enikö Kubinyi

AFFILIATION Department of Ethology, Eötvös University, Budapest, Pázmány, Hungary

Friederike Range

AFFILIATIONS Department of Neurobiology and Cognition Research, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria, Wolf Science Center, Grünau im Almtal, Austria

Beatrix Belényi

AFFILIATION Department of Ethology, Eötvös University, Budapest, Pázmány, Hungary

Ádám Miklósi

AFFILIATION Department of Ethology, Eötvös University, Budapest, Pázmány, Hungary

This study was done in Hungary. One of the authors, Miklosi, seems to be specialized in the field of canine psychology. He wrote a book about it:

Functional MRI as a tool to assess vision in dogs: The optimal anesthetic

Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ont., Canada

  • ·bRobarts Research Institute, London, Ont., Canada
  • ·cDepartment of Biology, University of Regina, Regina, Sask. S4S OA2, Canada

This study was done in 2001, in Canada. They performed an fMRI scan on sedated dogs.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging of the ascending stages of the auditory system in dogs

Small Animal Clinic, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation, Germany

Institute for General Radiology and Medical Physics, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation, Germany

Medical Physics, Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg, Oldenburg, Germany

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is a technique able to localize neural activity in the brain by detecting associated changes in blood flow. It is an essential tool for studying human functional neuroanatomy including the auditory system. There are only a few studies, however, using fMRI to study canine brain functions. In the current study ten anesthetized dogs were scanned during auditory stimulation. Two functional sequences, each in combination with a suitable stimulation paradigm, were used in each subject. Sequence 1 provided periods of silence during which acoustic stimuli could be presented unmasked by scanner noise (sparse temporal sampling) whereas in sequence 2 the scanner noise was present throughout the entire session (continuous imaging). The results obtained with the two different functional sequences were compared.

  • Early dog brain research used invasive lesion studies:

Conditioned behavior in a decorticate dog

Journal of Comparative PsychologyVolume 18, Issue 3, December 1934

Normal dogs passed through two stages in becoming conditioned to auditory and visual stimuli. They very soon made a diffuse type of response upon and subsequent to the presentation of the stimulus, and later they responded specifically by lifting the foot as soon as the stimulus was presented, thus avoiding the shock. A decorticate dog (examination disclosed but a few shreds of cortical tissue) established the diffuse response as readily as normal animals, but failed to establish the specific avoidance reaction. The authors conclude that “the cortex is not at all needed for ‘conditioning’ as such in its most primitive and diffuse forms; but is definitely needed for an adaptive, problem-solving response (the latter is in any event grossly delayed by absence of cortex).” If the dog had been deprived of only half of its cortex, one might, according to the authors, have assumed that the intact half was functioning vicariously in what conditioning was obtained. Actually the conditioning was being mediated by sub-cortical levels. Thus the doctrine of vicarious functioning in cases of partial cortical ablation “needs careful scrutiny and restriction because it ignores conditioning at subcortical levels.” Bibliography. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved). © 1934 American Psychological Association.


The effect on affective and cognitive behavior in the dog of lesions of the pyriform-amygdala-hippocampal complex

Journal of Comparative and Physiological PsychologyVolume 50, Issue 1, February 1957


The effect of lesions in the p-a-h complex of dogs is more similar in most respects to the results obtained in monkeys than to those found with cats. Dogs were less responsive to stimulation in general, although appropriate response would be made to persistent stimuli. Effects on social behavior were found to be importantly dependent upon the particular test situation used, the dogs being less timid post-operatively in relations with their handlers but markedly less competitive in group feeding situations. No consistent abnormality of sexual behavior was noted. There was, in general, marked impairment in visual discrimination performance. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved). © 1957 American Psychological Association.

Prefrontal cortex control of differentiation behavior in dogs.

Acta biologiae experimentalisVolume 26, Issue 4, 1966,

Differential localization of pain-related neural responses during acupuncture stimulation using blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) fMRI in a canine model

American Journal of Chinese MedicineVolume 40, Issue 5, 2012

aDepartment of Radiology, Daejin Medical Center, Seongnam 463-774, South Korea

  • ·bDepartment of Radiology, Kyung Hee University, Kyung Hee University Hospital of Gangdong, #149 Sangil-dong, Gangdong-gu, Seoul, 134-727, South Korea
  • ·cDepartment of Veterinary Surgery, College of Veterinary Medicine, Konkuk University, Seoul 143-701, South Korea
  • ·dDepartment of Meridian and Acupuncture, Graduate School of Applied Eastern Medicine, South Korea
  • ·eDepartment of Radiology, Kyung Hee University Hospital, KyungHee University, Seoul 130-701, South Korea

The objective of this study was to differentiate the neuronal responses, which was related or unrelated, to pain associated with acupuncture stimulation, and to localize the brain regions with response to stimulation that is unrelated to pain by using Blood Oxygen Level Dependent (BOLD) functional MRI (fMRI). BOLD fMRI was performed in six normal healthy beagle dogs, during placebo and verum acupuncture stimulations, at the right side of BL60 (KunLun) acupoint before and after local anesthesia of the acupoint. The order of the four sessions was placebo; verum acupuncture stimulation; before local anesthesia; and followed by the same stimulation after local anesthesia. One-sample t-test analysis was performed to localize the activated or deactivated areas, during both pre-anesthesia and post-anesthesia. In order to compare the pre-anesthesia to post-anesthetic responses, and placebo to verum acupuncture stimulation, within-subject analysis was performed. The post-anesthetic verum acupuncture stimulation resulted in increased activations in the left somatic afferent area I and II, right visual and auditory association area, and the descending reticular activating system of the brainstem. In addition, differential areas during post-anesthesia compared to that of the pre-anesthesia were in the left olfactory peduncle and descending reticular activating system of the brainstem. These results indicate that the areas of specific neural pathway are considered to be unrelated to the pain response during acupuncture stimulation. © 2012 World Scientific Publishing Company & Institute for Advanced Research in Asian Science and Medicine.

Antiemesis effect and brain fMRI response of gastric electrical stimulation with different parameters in dogs

Neurogastroenterology and MotilityVolume 26, Issue 7, July 2014

Department of Gastroenterology, Wuhan Union Hospital, Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China

  • ·bDepartment of Radiology, Wuhan Union Hospital, Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China

Background: The aims of this study were to investigate the effect of gastric electrical stimulation (GES) with different parameters on emesis induced by apomorphine, and possible center mechanisms by brain functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Methods: Six dogs implanted with electrodes on gastric serosa were used in this study. Part 1: Apomorphine was injected in the control session and GES sessions. GESs with different parameters were applied in GES session. Gastric slow waves and emesis and behaviors suggestive of nausea were recorded in each session. Part 2: Each dog was anesthetized and given GESs with different parameters or sham stimulation for 15 min after baseline (5 min), respectively. The location of cerebral activation induced by GES was investigated by fMRI. Key Results: Apomorphine induced emesis and behaviors suggestive of nausea, and gastric dysrhythmia. The emesis frequency in control session was 5.5 ± 0.99, and symptoms score was 22.17 ± 1.01. GES with short pulse and long pulse could not improve emesis and symptoms induced by apomorphine. The emesis frequency (4.5 ± 0.76 in short pulse and 6.33 ± 1.05 in long pulse) and symptoms scores had no significant difference compared to control session (each p > 0.05). GES with trains of short pulse reduced emesis time frequency (3.83 ± 0.7, p = 0.042 vs control) and symptoms score (p = 0.037 vs control) obviously. Brain fMRI showed that GES with short pulse and long pulse activated brain stem region, and trains of short pulse made amygdala and occipital lobe activation. Conclusions & Inferences: Apomorphine induced emesis and gastric dysrhythmia. GES with trains of short pulses relieves emetic responses through activation of amygdala region

Functional MRI as a tool to assess vision in dogs: The optimal anesthetic

Veterinary OphthalmologyVolume 4, Issue 4, 2001

Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ont., Canada

  • ·bRobarts Research Institute, London, Ont., Canada
  • ·cDepartment of Biology, University of Regina, Regina, Sask. S4S OA2, Canada

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is a recent advance in neuroimaging that provides a picture of brain activity with excellent spatial resolution. Current methods used to evaluate canine vision are poorly standardized and vulnerable to bias. Functional MRI may represent a valuable method of testing vision in dogs if the impacts of anesthesia on fMRI are understood. Six dogs were scanned during visual stimulation, each under three different anesthetic protocols (isoflurane, propofol, fentanyl/midazolam) to address the questions: (1) Can visually evoked fMR signals be reliably recorded in anesthetized dogs? and (2) Which anesthetic agent permits the least suppression of visually induced fMR signal in dogs? This study confirms that visual stimuli reliably elicit neural activity and fMR signal change in anesthetized dogs. No significant differences in images acquired under the three anesthetics were found, and there was no significant relationship between anesthetic dose and brain activity, within the range of doses used in this study. Images obtained during isoflurane anesthesia were more consistent between dogs than those obtained with the other two agents. This reduced variation may reflect the fact that inhalant anesthesia is more easily controlled than intravenous anesthesia under conditions associated with high field fMRI.

Cortical recovery following gene therapy in a canine model of achromatopsia

Journal of Vision August 2009

Main affiliations:

Guy Gingras

Neurology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA

  • Andras M. Komaromy

Clinical Studies, University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, Philadelphia, PA

  • Ben Tseng

Thomas Jefferson University Medical College, Philadelphia, PA

Purpose: To measure the cortical response to visual stimulation in dogs with hereditary loss of retinal cone function using rod- and cone-directed stimuli.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging of the ascending stages of the auditory system in dogs

BMC Veterinary Research  9, Article number: 210 (2013) 


This study shows that with the proper experimental setup it is possible to detect neural activity in the auditory system of dogs. In contrast to human fMRI studies the strongest activity was found in the subcortical parts of the auditory pathways. Especially sequence 1 showed a high reliability in detecting activated voxels in brain regions associated with the auditory system.


Small Animal Clinic, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation, Germany

Institute for General Radiology and Medical Physics, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation, Germany

Medical Physics, Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg, Oldenburg, Germany

Regional cerebral blood flow changes in dogs with anxiety disorders, measured with SPECT

Brain Imaging and BehaviorVolume 3, Issue 4, December 2009

Department of Veterinary Medical Imaging and Small Animal Orthopaedics, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, 9000 Ghent, Belgium

  • ·bDepartment of Psychiatry and Medical Psychology, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
  • ·cDepartment of Nuclear Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
  • ·dDepartment of Clinical Biology and Medicine of Small Animals, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

Alterations of regional brain activity in the prefrontal cortex and in limbic areas have been reported in humans with anxiety disorders. This animal study reports the results of brain perfusion imaging with single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) in dogs with anxiety disorders. Based on the human literature, we hypothesized altered prefrontal and higher temporal brain perfusion. SPECT acquisitions were performed using the 99mTc-labelled tracer ethyl cysteinate dimer (ECD). Eighteen dogs with pathological anxiety were compared with 18 normally behaving reference dogs. We found, in the group of dogs with anxiety disorders, lower perfusion in the left frontal cortex (p=0.003), in the subcortical region (p= 0.007) and increased perfusion in the right (p=0.05) temporal cortex. Taken together, our rCBF findings are suggestive for a dysfunction of the prefrontal cortex and the limbic system in canine anxiety disorders.

Neuro-imaging the serotonin 2A receptor as a valid biomarker for canine behavioural disorders

Research in Veterinary ScienceVolume 91, Issue 3, December 2011

aDepartment of Veterinary Medical Imaging and Small Animal Orthopaedics, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Merelbeke, Belgium

  • ·bDepartment of Psychiatry and Medical Psychology, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
  • ·cDepartment of Clinical Biology and Medicine of Small Animals, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Merelbeke, Belgium
  • ·dDrug Quality and Registration Group (DruQuar Group), Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
  • ·eDepartment of Nuclear Medicine and PET Research, VU University Medical Center Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • ·fDepartment of Nuclear Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

The serotonergic system is disturbed in different mood and affective disorders, with especially the serotonin (5-HT) 2A receptor involved in impulsive aggressiveness and anxiety. The aim of the study was to evaluate the involvement of the brain 5-HT 2A receptor in dogs with different behavioural disorders. Three groups of drug naive dogs were studied: 22 dogs showing impulsive aggressive behaviour, 22 showing normal behaviour, and 22 showing anxious behaviour. The serotonin 2A receptor was evaluated with Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT) and the serotonin 2A receptor-selective radiopharmaceutical 123I-R91150. A serotonin 2A receptor binding index (BI), proportional to the cortical receptor density, was calculated. A receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis was performed to determine cut-off values at which optimal sensitivity and specificity are achieved and to evaluate the general performance of the BI in reflecting the state of the dog, i.e., impulsive aggressive, normal or anxious. Significantly (P< 0.0056) altered 5-HT 2A receptor binding indices were found in bilateral frontal, temporal and occipital cortical brain areas of the dogs behaving abnormally, with consistently increased BI in impulsive aggressive dogs and decreased BI in anxious dogs. These results provide clear evidence for a disturbed serotonergic balance in canine impulsive aggression and anxiety disorders. A right frontal cut-off value of ≥1.92 with 86.4% sensitivity and 2.3% (1-specificity) was obtained for the impulsive aggressive dogs. Differentiating the anxious dogs from the rest of the population was possible with a cut-off value of ≤1.73 with 86.4% sensitivity and 18.2% (1-specificity).We conclude that SPECT imaging with the radioligand 123I-R91150 can be a helpful tool in evaluating the involvement of the serotonin 2A receptor in the complex mechanisms of impulsive aggressive and anxious behaviour. The 5HT-2A binding index of the right frontal cortex appears to be a valid biomarker in differentiating the studied canine behavioural disorders.

Regional brain perfusion in epileptic dogs evaluated by technetium-99m-Ethyl cysteinate dimer spect

Department of Small Animal Medicine and Clinical Biology, Salisburylaan 133, 9820 Merelbeke, Belgium

  • ·bDepartment of Medical Imaging and Small Animal Orthopaedics, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Salisburylaan 133, 9820 Merelbeke, Belgium
  • ·cDepartment of Psychiatry and Medical Psychology, Faculty of Medicine, Ghent University, De Pintelaan 185, 9000 Ghent, Belgium

We evaluated the feasibility of interictal single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) to detect alterations in regional cerebral blood flow and neuronal activity in dogs with idiopathic epilepsy. Twelve dogs with idiopathic epilepsy underwent interictal technetium-99m-ethyl cysteinate dimer SPECT of the brain. Different cortical regions of interest (ROIs), 1 ROI at the cerebellum and 1 ROI at the subcortical area were evaluated by semiquantitative analysis and compared with a control group (18 dogs). Significant hypoperfusion (P=0.02) was present in the subcortical area of epileptic dogs. This hypoperfusion was not associated with seizure frequency, age at onset of seizures, duration of epilepsy, or time since the last seizure. Interictal SPECT did not reveal cortical or cerebellar perfusion alterations. The subcortical area may play an important role in the pathophysiology of canine idiopathic epilepsy. © Copyright 2009 by the American College of Veterinary Radiology.

Voice-sensitive regions in the dog and human brain are revealed by comparative fMRI

Current BiologyVolume 24, Issue 5, 3 March 2014

aMTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group, Pazmany Peter setany 1/C, 1117 Budapest, Hungary

  • ·bDepartment of Ethology, Eötvös Loránd University, Pazmany Peter setany 1/C, 1117 Budapest, Hungary
  • ·cResearch Centre for Natural Sciences, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychology, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Magyar tudósok körútja 2, 1117 Budapest, Hungary

Summary During the approximately 18-32 thousand years of domestication [1], dogs and humans have shared a similar social environment [2]. Dog and human vocalizations are thus familiar and relevant to both species [3], although they belong to evolutionarily distant taxa, as their lineages split approximately 90-100 million years ago [4]. In this first comparative neuroimaging study of a nonprimate and a primate species, we made use of this special combination of shared environment and evolutionary distance. We presented dogs and humans with the same set of vocal and nonvocal stimuli to search for functionally analogous voice-sensitive cortical regions. We demonstrate that voice areas exist in dogs and that they show a similar pattern to anterior temporal voice areas in humans. Our findings also reveal that sensitivity to vocal emotional valence cues engages similarly located nonprimary auditory regions in dogs and humans. Although parallel evolution cannot be excluded, our findings suggest that voice areas may have a more ancient evolutionary origin than previously known. 

Functional MRI of the Olfactory System in Conscious Dogs

Published: January 23, 2014


Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama

We depend upon the olfactory abilities of dogs for critical tasks such as detecting bombs, landmines, other hazardous chemicals and illicit substances. Hence, a mechanistic understanding of the olfactory system in dogs is of great scientific interest. Previous studies explored this aspect at the cellular and behavior levels; however, the cognitive-level neural substrates linking them have never been explored. This is critical given the fact that behavior is driven by filtered sensory representations in higher order cognitive areas rather than the raw odor maps of the olfactory bulb. Since sedated dogs cannot sniff, we investigated this using functional magnetic resonance imaging of conscious dogs. We addressed the technical challenges of head motion using a two pronged strategy of behavioral training to keep dogs’ head as still as possible and a single camera optical head motion tracking system to account for residual jerky movements. We built a custom computer-controlled odorant delivery system which was synchronized with image acquisition, allowing the investigation of brain regions activated by odors. The olfactory bulb and piriform lobes were commonly activated in both awake and anesthetized dogs, while the frontal cortex was activated mainly in conscious dogs. Comparison of responses to low and high odor intensity showed differences in either the strength or spatial extent of activation in the olfactory bulb, piriform lobes, cerebellum, and frontal cortex. Our results demonstrate the viability of the proposed method for functional imaging of the olfactory system in conscious dogs. This could potentially open up a new field of research in detector dog technology.

A Digital Atlas of the Dog Brain

Published: December 20, 2012


University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia,

There is a long history and a growing interest in the canine as a subject of study in neuroscience research and in translational neurology. In the last few years, anatomical and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies of awake and anesthetized dogs have been reported. Such efforts can be enhanced by a population atlas of canine brain anatomy to implement group analyses. Here we present a canine brain atlas derived as the diffeomorphic average of a population of fifteen mesaticephalic dogs. The atlas includes: 1) A brain template derived from in-vivo, T1-weighted imaging at 1 mm isotropic resolution at 3 Tesla (with and without the soft tissues of the head); 2) A co-registered, high-resolution (0.33 mm isotropic) template created from imaging of ex-vivo brains at 7 Tesla; 3) A surface representation of the gray matter/white matter boundary of the high-resolution atlas (including labeling of gyral and sulcal features). The properties of the atlas are considered in relation to historical nomenclature and the evolutionary taxonomy of the Canini tribe. The atlas is available for download (

Evaluation of the C-BARQ as a measure of stranger-directed aggression in three common dog breeds

Applied Animal Behaviour ScienceVolume 124, Issue 3-4, May 2010

aUniversity of Twente, Faculty of Behavioural Sciences, Department of Research Methodology, Measurement and Data Analysis, P.O. Box 217, 7500 AE Enschede, Netherlands

  • ·bUtrecht University, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Clinical Sciences of Companion Animals, P.O. Box 80163, 3508 TD Utrecht, Netherlands
  • ·cLeiden University Medical Center, Department of Pediatrics, Department of Human Genetics, S4-P, P.O. Box 9600, 2300 RC Leiden, Netherlands
  • ·dUniversity of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Clinical Studies VHUP, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6010, United States

Most test development in animal behaviour research is based on classical test theory. Modern test theory, also known as item-response theory, has however a number of advantages. Here, item-response theory was applied to confirm the stranger-directed aggression subscale of the Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire (C-BARQ). The sample consisted of a total of 1000 German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers. Results showed a good fit for a 1-parameter (Rasch) model. Although there were statistically significant violations of the measurement invariance assumption across breeds, the violations were only minor and without practical consequence. It is therefore concluded that the subscale consisting of 10 items can be used to quantify stranger-directed aggression in these three breeds, and that scores of different dogs can be compared meaningfully regardless of the dogs’ sex, breed or neutering status.

Social learning in dog training: The effectiveness of the Do as I do method compared to shaping/clicker training

Applied Animal Behaviour ScienceVolume 171, 1 October 2015

Department of Ethology, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary

Dog training methods traditionally rely on individual learning (mainly operant conditioning). Yet dogs are adept in acquiring information socially and are able to imitate humans. Dogs’ predisposition to learn socially has been recently introduced in dog training with the Do as I do method. With this method dogs first learn to match their behaviour to a small set of actions displayed by a human demonstrator on command ‘Do it!’ and later are able to generalise this rule to use it to learn novel actions. In the present study, we compare the effectiveness of the Do as I do method with that of shaping/clicker training, a method that relies on individual learning, for teaching dogs two different kinds of actions: a body movement and an object-related action. As measures of effectiveness, we use the number of dog-trainer pairs experienced with either method, that succeed in obtaining five performances in a row of the predetermined action within 30. min and the latency to the fifth performance. Additionally, we assess the effect of these training methods on dogs’ memory of the trained action and its verbal cue in different contexts. Our results show that the Do as I do method is more effective than shaping/clicker training to teach dogs object-related actions within a relatively short time and suggest that this method might be also applied for training body-movements. Importantly, the use of social learning enhances dogs’ memory and generalisation of the learned action and its verbal cue.

Training methods and owner-dog interactions: Links with dog behaviour and learning ability

Applied Animal Behaviour ScienceVolume 132, Issue 3-4, July 2011

Animal Welfare and Behaviour Group, School of Clinical Veterinary Sciences, University of Bristol, Langford, Bristol BS40 5DU, United Kingdom

The methods by which owners train their pet dogs range widely, with some exclusively using rewards, and others using a combination, or only punishment-based methods. This paper examines links between the way in which owners reported to have trained their dogs and observations of the dogs’ subsequent behaviour. It also explores associations between behaviour of owner and dog when tested in their own home. A total of 53 owners were surveyed about their preferred methods for training each of seven common tasks, and were each filmed interacting with their dog in a series of standardised scenarios. Dogs owned by subjects who reported using a higher proportion of punishment were less likely to interact with a stranger, and those dogs whose owners favoured physical punishment tended to be less playful. However, dogs whose owners reported using more rewards tended to perform better in a novel training task. Ability at this novel task was also higher in dogs belonging to owners who were seen to be more playful and who employed a patient approach to training. This study shows clear links between a dog’s current behaviour and its owner’s reported training history as well as the owner’s present behaviour. High levels of punishment may thus have adverse effects upon a dog’s behaviour whilst reward based training may improve a dog’s subsequent ability to learn.

Breed differences in canine aggression

 December 2008 

Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society, Department of Clinical Studies,

School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, 3900 Delancey Street,

Philadelphia, PA 19104-6010, USA

Department of Life Sciences, National Taiwan Normal University, Taipei 116, Taiwan

Canine aggression poses serious public health and animal welfare concerns. Most of what is understood about breed differences in aggression comes from reports based on bite statistics, behavior clinic caseloads, and experts’ opinions. Information on breed-specific aggressiveness derived from such sources may be misleading due to biases attributable to a disproportionate risk of injury associated with larger and/or more physically powerful breeds and the existence of breed stereotypes. The present study surveyed the owners of more than 30 breeds of dogs using the Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire (C-BARQ), a validated and reliable instrument for assessing dogs’ typical and recent responses to a variety of common stimuli and situations. Two independent data samples (a random sample of breed club members and an online sample) yielded significant differences among breeds in aggression directed toward strangers, owners and dogs 

Early experiences modulate stress coping in a population of

German shepherd dogs

Applied Animal Behaviour Science 146 (2013

FM Biology, AVIAN Behaviour Genomics and Physiology group, Linköping University, Linköping 581 83, Sweden

b Department of Military Studies, Military-Technology Division, Swedish National Defence College, Stockholm 115 93, Sweden

c Swedish Armed Forces Dog Instruction Centre, Märsta 195 24, Sweden

Early experiences may alter later behavioural expressions in animals and these differences can be consistent through adulthood. In dogs, this may have a profound impact on welfare and working ability and, it is therefore interesting to evaluate how experiences during the first weeks of life contribute to shaping the long-term behaviour. We analysed data from 503 dogs from 105 litters, bred at the Swedish Armed Forces Dog Kennel. For each dog, the data comprised information on dam and sire, sex, litter size, sex ratio of litter, date of birth, and weight at birth, and at 10 days of age. Between the ages of 377 and 593 days, the dogs were tested in a temperament test, assessing their suitability as working dogs. The behaviour test comprised 12 different sub-tests, and was scored on a behavioural rating scale. A principal component analysis showed that the test performance could largely be attributed to four principal components (explaining 55.7% of variation), labelled Confidence, Physical Engagement, Social Engagement and Aggression. We analysed the effects of the different early life variables and sex on the principal component scores (PC scores) using linear modelling. PC scores on Confidence were affected by parity, sex and litter size, and Physical Engagement was affected by parity, growth rate, litter size and season of birth. Social Engagement was affected by growth rate and sex, and Aggression was affected by sex. Some of these effects disappeared when they were combined into a single linear model, but most of them remained significant also when controlling for collinearity. The results suggest that the early environment of dogs have long-lasting effects on their behaviour and coping styles in a stressful test situation and this knowledge can be used in the work with breeding of future military or police working dogs.

Survey of the use and outcome of confrontational and

non-confrontational training methods in client-owned dogs

showing undesired behaviors

Department of Clinical Studies, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, 3900 Delancey Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6010, USA

Applied Animal Behaviour Science 117 (2009)

Prior to seeking the counsel of a veterinary behaviorist many dog owners have attempted behavior modification techniques suggested by a variety of sources. Recommendations often include aversive training techniques which may provoke fearful or defensively aggressive behavior. The purpose of this study was to assess the behavioral effects and safety risks of techniques used historically by owners of dogs with behavior problems.

A 30-item survey of previous interventions was included in a behavioral questionnaire distributed to all dog owners making appointments at a referral behavior service over a 1-year period. For each intervention applied, owners were asked to indicate whether there was a positive, negative, or lack of effect on the dog’s behavior, and whether aggressive behavior was seen in association with the method used. Owners were also asked to indicate the source of each recommendation. One-hundred-and-forty surveys were completed. The most frequently listed recommendation sources were “self” and “trainers”. Several confrontational methods such as “hit or kick dog for undesirable behavior” (43%), “growl at dog” (41%), “physically force the release of an item from a dog’s mouth” (39%), “alpha roll” (31%), “stare at or stare [dog] down” (30%), “dominance down” (29%), and “grab dog by jowls and shake” (26%) elicited an aggressive response from at least a quarter of the dogs on which they were attempted. Dogs presenting for aggression to familiar people were more likely to respond aggressively to the confrontational techniques “alpha roll” and yelling “no” compared to dogs with other presenting complaints (P < 0.001). In conclusion, confrontational methods applied by dog owners before their pets were presented for a behavior consultation were associated with aggressive responses in many cases. It is thus important for primary care veterinarians to advise owners about risks associated with such training methods and provide guidance and resources for safe management of behavior problems.

Canis familiaris As a Model for Non-Invasive Comparative Neuroscience

Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE), Institute of Biology, Department of Ethology, Pázmány Péter sétány 1/C, 1117 Budapest, Hungary

Hungarian Academy of Sciences, MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group, Pázmány Péter sétány 1/C, 1117 Budapest, Hungary

Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychology, Magyar tudósok körútja 2, 1117 Budapest, Hungary

Available online 29 May 2017.

A stereotaxic breed-averaged, symmetric T2w canine brain atlas including detailed morphological and volumetrical data sets

February 2019

  • University of Lübeck, Lübeck, Germany
  • Department for Nuclear Medicine, University Hospital of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany
  • Institute of Anatomy, Histology and Embryology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany
  • Department of Translational Medicine and Cell Technology, Fraunhofer Research Institution for Marine Biotechnology and Cell Technology, Institute of Medical and Marine Biotechnology, University of Lübeck, Lübeck, Germany
  • Clinic Unit of Diagnostic Imaging, University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, Austria
  • Department of Small Animals Medicine, Veterinary Faculty, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany
  • Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, Clinic for Small Animals – Neurosurgery, Neuroradiology and Clinical Neurology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Justus-Liebig-University Gießen, Gießen, Germany
  • Department of Radiology, New England Center for Stroke Research, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA, USA
  • Division of Veterinary Anatomy, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland

The First Canine Behavior and Genetics Conference: Summary and recommendations for future directions in canine behavioral science

November–December 2016

The conference was set in London in June 2015 and had 91 attendees from 10 countries.

Genetics and genomics
 Dissecting genetic and nongenetic influences on dog personality Pam Weiner, UK
 The genetics of complex traits—applying theory to selection on behavior Tom Lewis, UK
 Genetic evaluation of behavior in dogs Per Arvelius, Sweden
 Complex genetics in the domestic dog Heidi Parker, US
 Using breed splits to explore the genomics of canine working behavior Claire Wade, Australia
 Canine opioid receptor gene polymorphism and behavior associations Enikö Kubinyi, Hungary
Sensory processing
 Middle latency response testing for auditory cognition in canines Peter Scheifele, US
 The genetics of canine olfaction Francis Galiber, France
 Domestic dog evolution and genes under selection in the dog genome Robert Wayne, US
 Nature and nurture—how different environmental conditions interact with the behavior of the maturing dog Erik Wilsson, Sweden
 Measuring working dog performance Nicola Rooney, UK
 Performance assessments in dogs—determining “good” behavioral measures and phenotypes Bjorn Forkman, Germany
 Canine anxiety genetics: challenges of phenotyping complex traits Katriina Tiira, Finland
 Canine behavioral phenotypes: what makes a crisp phenotype and where does trouble lie? Karen Overall, US
Novel research possibilities
 The contribution of nuclear medicine in the research of canine behavior disorders Kathelijne Peremans, Belgium
 Exploring future possibilities for studies in canine anxiety disorders Niwako Ogata, US
 Regional brain activity in awake unrestrained dogs Peter Cook, US

Neurogenesis and precursor cell differences in the dorsal and ventral adult canine hippocampus

Regenerative Neuroscience Group, Brain and Mind Research Institute, University of Sydney, Australia

UNSW Stem Cell Laboratory, University of New South Wales (UNSW), Australia

Neuroscience Research Australia, Australia

Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing, UNSW, Australia

McKnight Brain Institute, University of Florida, Gainesville, USA

Available online 14 March 2015.


 Adult canine hippocampal neurogenesis is dependent on dorsal–ventral location.

 Canine dorsal dentate gyrus has markedly higher rate of neurogenesis than ventral.

 Precursors from post mortem hippocampus differentiate into neurons & glia.

Neural processes of vocal social perception: Dog-human comparative fMRI studies

Department of Ethology, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary

MTA-ELTE ‘Lendület’ Neuroethology of Communication Research Group, Hungarian Academy of Sciences – Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary

MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group, Hungarian Academy of Sciences – Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary

Available online 26 December 2017.

Effects of diet and behavioral enrichment on free fatty acids in the aged canine brain

Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders, University of California Irvine, Irvine, CA, USA

Department of Pharmacology, University of California Irvine, Irvine, CA, USA

Unit of Drug Discovery and Development, Italian Institute of Technology, 16163 Genoa, Italy

Available online 13 December 2011.

Activation of the unfolded protein response in canine degenerative myelopathy

Department of Veterinary Medicine, Faculty of Applied Biological Sciences, Gifu University, 1-1 Yanagido, Gifu, 501-1193, Japan

The United Graduate School of Veterinary Sciences Gifu University, 1-1 Yanagido, Gifu, 501-1193, Japan

Laboratory of Biofunctional Evaluation and Molecular Pharmacology, Gifu Pharmaceutical University, 1-25-4 Daigakunishi, Gifu, 501-1196, Japan

Laboratory of Veterinary Clinical Pathology, Joint Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Kagoshima University, 1-21-24 Korimoto, Kagoshima, 890-8580, Japan

Center for Highly Advanced Integration of Nano and Life Sciences, Gifu University, 1-1 Yanagido, Gifu, 501-1193, Japan

Available online 29 September 2018.

Development of a head-mounted, eye-tracking system for dogs

Department of Biological Sciences, Riseholme Park, University of Lincoln, Riseholme, Lincoln LN2 2LG, UK

Department of Psychology, University of Lincoln, Brayford Pool, Lincoln LN6 7TS, UK

Available online 11 November 2010. interest in canine cognition and visual perception has promoted research into the allocation of visual attention during free-viewing tasks in the dog. The techniques currently available to study this (i.e. preferential looking) have, however, lacked spatial accuracy, permitting only gross judgements of the location of the dog’s point of gaze and are limited to a laboratory setting. Here we describe a mobile, head-mounted, video-based, eye-tracking system and a procedure for achieving standardised calibration allowing an output with accuracy of 2–3°.

The setup allows free movement of dogs; in addition the procedure does not involve extensive training skills, and is completely non-invasive. This apparatus has the potential to allow the study of gaze patterns in a variety of research applications and could enhance the study of areas such as canine vision, cognition and social interactions.

Neural processes of vocal social perception: Dog-human comparative fMRI studies


Author links open overlay panel  

Department of Ethology, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary


MTA-ELTE ‘Lendület’ Neuroethology of Communication Research Group, Hungarian Academy of Sciences – Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary


MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group, Hungarian Academy of Sciences – Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary

Available online 26 December 2017


Dog is an emerging new model in comparative social cognitive neuroscience.

Dogs’ vocal repertoire, cooperativity and trainability make them an ideal model species.

Dog-human comparative fMRI reveals mammalian neural mechanisms for voice processing.

Dog-human comparative fMRI studies may shed new light on language evolution.

What does it take to become ‘best friends’? Evolutionary changes in canine social competence


Author links open overlay panel  


Department of Ethology, Eötvös University, Budapest, Hungary


MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group, Budapest, Hungary


Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychology, Research Centre for Natural Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary

Available online 3 May 2013.

The traditional and relatively narrow-focused research on ape–human comparisons has recently been significantly extended by investigations of different clades of animals, including the domestic dog (Canis familiaris). Here, we provide a short overview of how the comparative investigation of canine social behaviour advances our understanding of the evolution of social skills and argue that a system-level approach to dog social cognition provides a broader view on the ‘human-likeness’ of canine social competence. We introduce the concept of evolutionary social competence as a collateral notion of developmental social competence. We argue that such an extended perspective on social competence provides a useful tool for conceptualising wolf–dog differences in socio-cognitive functioning, as well as for considering specific social skills not in isolation, but as a part of a system.

Fear of noises affects canine problem solving behavior and locomotion in standardized cognitive tests

Karen L.OveralladArthur E.DunhamaPeterScheifelebKristineSonstrom Malowskic

Author links open overlay panel  


Biology Department, University of Pennsylvania, Goddard Labs, Philadelphia, PA, 19104, USA


University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH, USA


University of Akron, Akron, OH, USA


AVC, UPEI, Charlottetown, PE, CA, USA

30 August 2019.


Noise and non-noise reactive dogs were evaluated using Anxiety Intensity Rank (AIR) scores.

Noise reactive dogs had higher AIR scores and performed worse on a puzzle box test.

When solving the puzzle dogs with higher AIR scores moved erratically as measured by accelerometry.

Author links open overlay panel  

Dogs who reacted to a provocative recording had higher AIR scores (PPV of the test 100%).

All dogs should be repeatedly screened for noise reactivity to permit effective treatment.

The role of environmental and owner-provided consequences in canine stereotypy and compulsive behavior

Nathaniel J.HallAlexandraProtopopovaClive D.L.Wynne1

Department of Psychology, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florid

November 2014.


The present study evaluated whether environmental variables can reinforce and maintain canine stereotypic behavior and whether the removal of these variables can reduce the rate of the behavior. We first present an online survey in which the owners were asked to report the environmental antecedent and consequent events related to stereotypic behavior in their dogs. The survey results indicated that stereotypic behavior, as reported by the owners, was not restricted to specific antecedents. Principal component analysis identified 4 ways that the owners usually responded to stereotypic behavior. In a case study of 5 dogs, functional analysis methodology was used to evaluate whether environmental or owner-provided consequences maintained stereotypic behavior. We demonstrate that owner-provided consequences maintained circling and licking in 2 of the dogs, light movement alone maintained light chasing in 2 of the dogs, and 1 dog showed little-to-no response during sessions preventing further analysis. We subsequently manipulated the consequences of the stereotypic behavior thought to maintain the behavior for 3 of the case study dogs, which led to a reduction in the behavior for all 3 dogs. This study provides evidence that the consequences of stereotypic behavior, such as attention from the owner, can reinforce and maintain high rates of the behavior. Our results suggest that the specific owner-dog dynamic might be an important influence on canine stereotypic behaviors, and that manipulating the relevant reinforcer found to maintain these behaviors leads to a reduction in the behavior.

Nuclear medicine for the investigation of canine behavioral disorders



Department of Medical Imaging, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Merelbeke, Belgium


Department of Psychiatry and Medical Psychology, Faculty of Medicine, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

December 2016.

Author links open overlay panel


The aim of this review was to report the current literature concerning the use of nuclear imaging modalities for the investigation of the neurobiology of canine behavioral disorders. The conventionally used nuclear medicine modalities are positron emission tomography and single photon emission (computed) tomography. At this moment, information is scarce about their application in veterinary behavioral medicine and only present for single photon emission tomography studies in dogs, mainly using 99mTc-ethyl cysteinate dimer to assess brain perfusion (and indirectly neuronal function) and 123I-5-I-R91150 to evaluate the 5-hydroxytryptamine-2A receptor binding. Current results suggest that functional nuclear imaging provides useful noninvasive in vivo information about the neurobiology and therapeutic evaluation of canine behavioral disorders. Due to striking similarities with neurobiological alterations in human disorders, the dog also represents an interesting natural animal model for human neuropsychiatric diseases.

The effectiveness of the Anxiety Wrap in the treatment of canine thunderstorm phobia: An open-label trial

NicoleCottamaNicholas H.DodmanaJames C.Hab

Author links open overlay panel  


Department of Clinical Sciences, Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, North Grafton, Massachusetts


Department of Psychology, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

December 2012


The effectiveness of the Anxiety Wrap on canine thunderstorm phobia (ThP) was investigated by comparing owner-reported Thunderstorm Anxiety Scores before and after the use of this product (n = 18). The mean Thunderstorm Anxiety Score associated with the fifth use of the Anxiety Wrap was 47% lower than the mean anxiety score that was generated before the use of the Anxiety Wrap (P = 0.001). After 5 uses of the Anxiety Wrap, 89% of owners reported that it was at least partially effective in treating their dogs’ ThP, and this percentage was significantly higher than those who rated it as noneffective (χ2 = 11.842, n = 19, P = 0.001). Eighty percent of the owners reported that they would continue to use the Anxiety Wrap for their dogs’ ThP after the trial, and no owners reported any negative side effects from the use of this product. The data suggest that the Anxiety Wrap is a safe and effective treatment for canine ThP.

Citizen science: A new direction in canine behavior research

JulieHechtaEleanorSpicer Riceb

Author links open overlay panel  


Julie Hecht, Department of Psychology, The Graduate Center, City University of New York, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10016, USA


Eleanor Spicer Rice, Verdant Word, 304 Brooks Avenue, Raleigh, NC 27607, USA

ovember 2014

Highlights Author links open overlay panel  

We examine the practices and technical issues involved in citizen science.

Project design and planning help ensure scientific merit and participant outcomes.

Issues related to data quality are real, but researchers can overcome them.

Benefits and challenges of citizen science models can apply to canine projects.

Chapter Five – The World from a Dog’s Point of View: A Review and Synthesis of Dog Cognition Research

Miles K.BenskySamuel D.GoslingDavid L.Sinn

Department of Psychology, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, USA

School of Zoology, University of Tasmania, Hobart, TAS, Australia

May 2013


Driven by both applied and theoretical goals, scientific interest in canine cognition has experienced a rapid surge in popularity, especially over the last 15 years. Here we provide the most comprehensive review to date of dog cognition research, capturing all the articles (285) we could find on the subject going back to 1911. We begin by summarizing the general research trends, first documenting the rapid recent growth in dog cognition research (particularly in the domain of social cognition), and then identifying a number of trends in terms of the cognition topics and dog populations studied. Next, we summarize and synthesize the substantive conclusions emerging from research on nonsocial (discrimination learning, object permanence, object learning, categorization, object manipulation, quantitative understanding, spatial cognition, and memory) and social (responses to human cues, perspective taking, dog-human communication, and social learning) cognition. In light of the burgeoning research on individual differences in cognition and on the biological organization of cognitive domains, we highlight the potential impact of these topics on the dog cognition field. Finally, based on our syntheses, we outline some ideas for future research, including recommendations that studies focus on: (1) incorporating multiple sensory modalities (most notably olfaction); (2) using more diverse populations of subjects; (3) replicating studies where current knowledge is based on small study sets or on small samples; (4) identifying fundamental developmental patterns of cognitive development; (5) identifying individual differences in cognitive ability; and (6) identifying potential cognitive constraints (e.g. cognitive abilities that are nonindependent due to pleiotropic biological organization).

  • Here is a scientific peer reviewed journal on dog psychology:

Neuro-imaging the serotonin 2A receptor as a valid biomarker for canine behavioural disorders

SimonVermeireaKurtAudenaertbRudyDe MeesteraEvaVandermeulenaTimWaelberscBartDe SpiegeleerdJosEerselseAndréDobbeleirafKathelijnePeremansa


Department of Veterinary Medical Imaging and Small Animal Orthopaedics, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Merelbeke, Belgium


Department of Psychiatry and Medical Psychology, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium


Department of Clinical Biology and Medicine of Small Animals, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Merelbeke, Belgium


Drug Quality and Registration Group (DruQuar Group), Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium


Department of Nuclear Medicine and PET Research, VU University Medical Center Amsterdam, The Netherlands


Department of Nuclear Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

November 2010

The serotonergic system is disturbed in different mood and affective disorders, with especially the serotonin (5-HT) 2A receptor involved in impulsive aggressiveness and anxiety. The aim of the study was to evaluate the involvement of the brain 5-HT 2A receptor in dogs with different behavioural disorders.

We conclude that SPECT imaging with the radioligand 123I-R91150 can be a helpful tool in evaluating the involvement of the serotonin 2A receptor in the complex mechanisms of impulsive aggressive and anxious behaviour. The 5HT-2A binding index of the right frontal cortex appears to be a valid biomarker in differentiating the studied canine behavioural disorders.

Pilot study of a dog walking randomized intervention: Effects of a focus on canine exercise

Ryan E.RhodesaHollyMurrayaViviene A.TemplebHollyTuokkocJoan WharfHigginsb

Author links open overlay panel  


Behavioural Medicine Laboratory, School of Exercise Science, Physical and Health Education, University of Victoria, Victoria, Canada


School of Exercise Science, Physical and Health Education, University of Victoria, Victoria, Canada


Department of Psychology, University of Victoria, Victoria, Canada

March 2012

The promotion of dog walking among owners who do not walk their dogs regularly may be a viable physical activity intervention aperture, yet research is very limited and no intervention studies have employed control groups. Therefore, the purpose of this pilot study was to examine the viability of dog walking for physical activity intervention using messages targeting canine exercise.

The results are promising for the viability of increasing dog walking as a means for physical activity promotion and suggest that theoretical fidelity targeting canine exercise may be a helpful approach.

Personality dimensions that emerge in companion canines


Author links open overlay panel  

Animal Welfare Science Centre, Department of Psychology, Monash University, P.O. Box 197 Caulfield East VIC 3145, Australia

June 2007

Studies of dog personality have shown that personality concepts can be applied to dogs but suggest that canine personalities may not fall into the same dimensions as do human personalities. To investigate this, the structure of canine personality was explored using a method previously used to characterize human personality. A large number of adjectives believed by experts and companion dog owners to potentially describe canine personality traits were examined by the members of two focus groups, who identified 203 adjectives thought to be applicable to companion canines. These adjectives were rated by 92 participants in a pilot study and the number of words reduced to 67 using statistical and theoretical principles. Over 1000 owners then rated their companion dog on these 67 personality adjectives. Principal component analysis revealed five underlying factors that accounted for 32.6% of the total variance. Two of these, extraversion (8.3% of variance) and neuroticism (4.6%), are similar, but not identical, to dimensions identified in other species. The remaining three, tentatively labeled self-assuredness/motivation (6.5%), training focus (6.7%) and amicability (6.4%), may be unique to canines and reflective of the strong and unique selective pressures exerted on this species by humans.

Chapter 2 – Why tails wag: Umwelts, innenwelts, and canine “guilt”

James C.Ha

Author links open overlay panel  

University of Washington and

Tracy L.Campion

Author links open overlay panel  

Pet Connection Magazine

January 2019

This chapter introduces that concepts of “Umwelt und Innenwelt,” the outward and inward world of the animal, which are imperative for understanding the world from the animal’s perspective and not from an “anthropomorphic” view. The authors examine whether dogs feel “guilty,” what’s salient to a dog, and how the world is perceived for them. This chapter focuses on forms of communication between dogs and humans and how dogs rely heavily upon their sense of smell (olfaction) while humans rely primarily on their sense of sight. The chapter also provides an introduction to the field of ethology (animal behavior) and using the ethogram as a tool to decipher and understand another species’ perspective.

Persistence and human-directed behavior in detection dogs: Ontogenetic development and relationships to working dog success

LuciaLazarowskiabLily R.StrassbergbL. PaulWaggoneraJeffrey S.Katzb


Canine Performance Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Auburn University, 104 Greene Hall, Auburn, AL, 36849, United States


Department of Psychology, Auburn University, 226 Thach Hall, Auburn, AL, 36849, United States

 August 2019


Human-directed gazing during the unsolvable task increases with age in detection dogs.

Author links open overlay panel  

Human-directed gazing during the unsolvable task at 11 months is predictive of future suitability as a detection dog.

Persistence during the unsolvable task was high across all age groups, and was not predictive of future detection dog suitability.

Chapter 9 – Debunking dominance: Canine social structure and behavioral ecology

James C.Ha

University of Washington and

Tracy L.Campion

Author links open overlay panel  

Pet Connection Magazine

January 2019

Social structure, and hence social behavior, is largely based on limited resources. When resources are limited, a reasonable method for distribution is needed. Hierarchies are one solution, but when resources are not limited, there is no need for a social hierarchy. Species that evolved in different ecological niches have developed different social structures and have different strategies for the distribution of resources. The authors examine the “dominance theory” controversy, how it works, and whether or not it should be used with our dogs. The authors define “aggression” as it pertains to the field of ethology (and to dogs in particular) and the differences between aggression and dominance. The chapter also examines pack theory vs. punishment vs. positive reinforcement and introduces the resource holding model.

Chapter 8 – How I behave depends upon how you behave…maybe: Game theory and our canine companions

James C.Ha

University of Washington and

Tracy L.Campion

Author links open overlay panel  

Pet Connection Magazine

January 2019

This chapter introduces the concept of Game theory (conditional costs and benefits) as it applies to our dogs. The authors provide an examination of rules-of-thumb for behavior decisions, which may no longer be useful or “best,” but are deeply ingrained. The chapter provides a discussion of iterated vs non-iterated “games”: should I share or cooperate? The answer depends on whether I’ll interact with you again. If there is a small chance of interacting with someone again, the likelihood of cooperation is decreased. The authors discuss potential social strategies, including Tit for Tat (copycat, or the golden rule), grudger, always cheat, and always cooperate. The chapter provides an overview of inequity studies and also discusses the power of positive reinforcers and social pressure.

The relationship between heart rate variability and canine aggression

LydiaCraiga1Julia E.Meyers-ManoraKateAndersbStefanSütterlincdHollyMillere2

Author links open overlay panel  


Macalester College, St. Paul, MN, United States


Pretty Good Dog LLC, Minneapolis, MN, United States


Section of Psychology, Lillehammer University College, Norway


Department of Psychosomatic Medicine, Division of Surgery and Clinical Neuroscience, Oslo University Hospital—Rikshospitalet, Norway


Health Psychology, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium

January 2017


Heart rate variability (HRV) is proposed as an index of self-regulatory capacity.

Aggressive dogs had lower heart rate variability than non-aggressive dogs.

Higher levels of aggression produced lower heart rate variability.

Exploring the canine mind: Studies of dog cognition

KristaMacphersonWilliam A.Roberts

Department of Psychology, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada N6A 5C2

May 2013

Lupine and canine scientific mythologies


Author links open overlay panel  

Canid Behavior Lab, Department of Psychology/Neuroscience & Neuroscience Institute, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada B3H 4R2

October 2012

For the past twenty years the media and the public have been avidly consuming science. The popularization of science has become a lucrative market in journalism. Many scientists and other professionals now dedicate an impressive amount of their time taming scientific information for the consumer. Is this infatuation for science behind the complete chaos within popular science about the genus Canis? Three canine species (dogs, wolves, and coyotes) are victims of misinformation and endure a few persistent myths (e.g., dominance, submission). Science progresses by the polarization of ideas/theories, even contradictory ones, in order to attain a consensus, sometimes leading to syntheses. The study of canids in captivity has generated fertile research programs and has allowed scientists to identify behavioral phenomena that would have been otherwise overlooked in the natural habitat of these species. The biological origins of the wolf’s domestication are now the object of speculations that are no longer founded in science. Moreover, relevant questions that could generate powerful theories are ignored. Why are we so fascinated by the dark side (mostly based on legends) of the ancestor of our best friend? Worse, why does the coyote need to take over this sad role? Why declare a genocide on a species that is responsible for only two fatal attacks on humans, when significantly more dangerous species are ignored?

Learning emotion recognition from canines? Two for the road

Birgit U.StetinaaKarolineTurnerbEvaBurgerbLisa M.GlenkcJulia C.McElheneybUrsulaHandlosdOswald D.Kothgassnerab

Author links open overlay panel  


Department for Clinical, Biological and Differential Psychology, University of Vienna, Wien, Austria


Research and Training Practice, University of Vienna, Wien, Austria


Department for Neurophysiology, Vienna Veterinary University, Wien, Austria


Vienna School City Board, Wien, Austria

February 2011

The ability to recognize emotions is a prerequisite for interpersonal interaction and essential for emotional competencies. The present study aimed at exploring the possibility of enhancing the emotion recognition capability of human beings by using an animal-assisted intervention focusing on emotional expressions of dogs. A pre–post design was applied to 32 children aged 5-7 years and 34 adults aged 19-45 years, who received the multiprofessional animal-assisted intervention in groups of 6-12 participants. To measure emotion recognition, a computerized test, Vienna Emotion Recognition Tasks, was used to identify the emotion recognition capacity of the participants before and after 12 weeks of training. The hypotheses were tested using a general linear model with repeated measures, and effect sizes were calculated to gain further insight. The effect size eta square was used to analyze the variables on practical relevance. Results showed that the highest changes with relevant effect sizes in the adult group concerned the correct identification of anger and fear as well as the overall number of correctly identified facial expressions, including a decrease in latency to respond. The children also significantly increased their capacity for the recognition of anger and fear as well as disgust and neutral facial expressions. Additionally, they identified 5 more emotions correctly after the training and also decreased their latency to respond. The participants identified more emotions correctly and decreased their latency to respond significantly, even though “only” facial and/or emotional expressions of dogs were part of the program. A generalization process from human–dog interaction to human–human interaction seems to occur.

Studies in canine olfaction, taste and feeding: A summing up and some comments on the academic-industrial relationship

Robert W.Griffin

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Technical Research, General Foods Corporation, 555 South Broadway, Tarrytown, NY 10591 USA

Lloyd M.Beidler

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Department of Biological Science, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306 USA

Arch 2003

The authors discuss two principal points. First, what appear to be contradictory findings in the feeding studies in this monograph can be resolved by clarifying two terms: palatability and preference. Second, some of the work in the monograph resulted from an academic and industrial relationship. This relationship was judged mutually beneficial and productive. The primary benefits are discussed along with what are considered the key ingredients for a successful joint venture.

What is the evidence for reliability and validity of behavior evaluations for shelter dogs? A prequel to “No better than flipping a coin”

Gary J.PatronekaJanisBradleybElizabethArpsb

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Center for Animals and Public Policy, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, North Grafton, Massachusetts


The National Canine Research Council, Amenia, New York

March 2019

Conversations with stakeholders, as well as remarks in the literature, suggest that there may be confusion about what can be concluded when a canine behavior evaluation has been described as being “validated,” “reliable,” or “predictive.” To assess the evidence, we searched PubMed and ScienceDirect using the terms “canine,” “behavior evaluation,” “temperament test,” and “shelter” to identify articles that assessed the validity or reliability of evaluations based on battery of tests used or intended for screening shelter dogs for behavior labeled aggressive and/or for adoption suitability. Despite 25+ years of publications, including solid studies performed under good to ideal conditions by skilled investigators, findings indicate there is no evidence that any canine behavior evaluation or individual subtest has come close to meeting accepted standards justifying claims that it is validated for routine use in shelters. Furthermore, the mean reported false-positive error rate in study populations was 35.1%, whereas in more typical shelter populations, it was estimated at 63.8%. We propose that the discrepancy between the actual state of the science and what people assume has been accomplished is primarily due to the following: [1] confusion from mixing colloquial with scientific uses of words such as “validated,” “predictive,” “reliable,” and “agreement”; [2] the limitations of correlation and regression as statistical methods for demonstrating agreement or predictive ability; [3] failure to account for the difference between predictive validity of an instrument in populations of dogs in a research exercise versus predictive ability and error rate for individual dogs in real-world settings; [4] conflating statistical significance with clinical significance; and, as a result of 1-4 aforementioned, [5] conferring overall validation status, despite the results of studies being much more circumscribed. Given their published error rates, one explanation may be that behavior evaluations lack basic face validity and/or a clear focus as to what is being measured and its relevance to postadoption outcomes. This argues against use of any behavior evaluation to make important decisions for shelter dogs, especially if the behavior(s) of concern were only observed during provocative testing. These findings indicate an opportunity to acknowledge what has been learned and bring together all stakeholders to consider the real needs of shelter dogs and what the future might look like.

Owner characteristics and interactions and the prevalence of canine behaviour problems


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Companion Animal Research Group, Department of Clinical Veterinary Medicine, University of Cambridge, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0ES, UK


Department of Clinical Studies, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, 3850 Spruce St., Philadelphia, PA 19104-6010 USA

March 1999

Despite the popular idea that dog owners are often responsible in some way for their animals’ behaviour problems, the scientific evidence is scarce and contradictory. Some studies have failed to detect any links between the quality of the owner-dog relationship and the occurrence of behaviour problems, while others suggest that some behaviour problems may be associated with certain aspects of owner personality, attitudes and/or behaviour.

Applied personality assessment in domestic dogs: Limitations and caveats

Diana J.RaymentBertDe GroefRichard A.PetersLinda C.Marston

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La Trobe University, Bundoora, VIC 3086, Australia

December 2014


Common non-human animal personality models are examined and compared.

Limitations of existing shelter dog behaviour tests are highlighted and discussed.

Possible improvements for test protocols are suggested.

Physiological measures of arousal may increase accuracy of behaviour tests.

A mixed-model approach combining tests and day-to-day observations is recommended.

Male and female dogs respond differently to men and women

Deborah L.WellsPeter G.Hepper

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Canine Behaviour Centre, School of Psychology, The Queen’s University of Belfast, Belfast, BT7 1NN, Northern Ireland, UK

December 1998

The effect of canine and/or human gender on the response of the domestic dog towards humans has been little studied. This study investigated the reactions of male and female dogs housed in an animal rescue shelter towards the presence of men and women to determine how a dog’s response towards a person was influenced by canine and human gender. The response of 30 dogs housed in the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (USPCA) to each of six people (three men and three women), who stood individually for a period of 2 min at the front of the dog’s cage, was observed. The amount of time that the dog spent at the front of the cage, barking, looking towards the human, wagging its tail, and engaged in activities of sitting, standing, moving, resting, was recorded. Canine gender exerted an influence on the amount of time that dogs spent looking towards the humans. Female dogs showed a greater decrease in the amount of time they spent looking towards the humans over the course of the testing than male dogs. Human gender had an effect on both dog barking, and eye orientation. Dogs showed a stronger decrease in their barking and their tendency to look towards the human whenever the subject was a woman than a man, suggesting that dogs may be more defensively-aggressive towards men than women. There was no interaction between canine and human gender on the dog’s response towards the persons. This study indicated that both canine and human gender influence certain elements of a dog’s response towards the presence of a human. The findings may have practical implications for the re-housing of dogs from rescue shelters.

Accelerated high-frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation positively influences the behavior, monoaminergic system, and cerebral perfusion in anxious aggressive dogs: A case study

R.DockxabC.BaekenaD.De BundelcJ.H.SaundersbA.Van EeckhautcK.Peremansb


Department of Psychiatry and Medical Psychology, Ghent Experimental Psychiatry (GHEP) lab, Faculty of Medicine and Health, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium


Department of Veterinary Medical Imaging and Small Animal Orthopaedics, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Merelbeke, Belgium


Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Drug Analysis and Drug Information (FASC), Research group Experimental Pharmacology, Center for Neurosciences (C4N), Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium

July 2019

Accelerated high-frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (aHF-rTMS) was proven to produce fast clinical effects in humans suffering from psychiatric illnesses. Although dogs also frequently present behavioral symptoms similar to mental illness, rTMS treatment was not yet investigated in this species. The aim of this study was to apply an aHF-rTMS treatment over the frontal cortex in an anxious aggressive dog. Because aHF-rTMS is used to treat anxiety and mood disorders in humans and shows changes in neuronal activity and on monoamine concentrations, it was hypothesized that the dog’s behavior would improve after such a treatment. This improvement was expected to be accompanied by alterations in regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) as well as in monoamine levels in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and serum. An aHF-rTMS protocol was applied twice (3 weeks separated) over the left frontal cortex (5 sessions, 20 Hz, 110% cortical motor threshold) in a 5-year-old neutered male Belgian Malinois dog showing anxious aggressive behavior. Each protocol was preceded and followed by a behavior assessment and a d,1 hexamethylpropylene amine oxime single-photon emission computed tomography scan. A Z-score for each volume of interest at each time point was obtained, whereby a |Z|-score > 3.09 (P-value of 0.001) indicated significant differences. Monoamines and their metabolites were quantified in CSF and serum using liquid chromatography coupled to electrochemical detection. An improvement of the dog’s aggressive behavior was detected. At baseline, only a decreased rCBF of the left frontal cortex was noticeable (Z-score = −3.87). Twenty-four hours after the first protocol, the perfusion in the left frontal cortex was normalized and decreased in subcortical region (Z-score = −6.97). Three weeks after each stimulation protocol, no deviations in the rCBF were found. Parallel time-dependent changes of 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC) concentrations in serum and CSF were observed. This case study demonstrates that a single day aHF-rTMS treatment reduces a dog’s anxious/aggressive behavior. This behavioral change was accompanied by immediate and long-lasting alterations in the rCBF and DOPAC concentration. This study confirms the interaction between the frontal cortex and the subcortical region in canine anxiety. Finally, DOPAC is put forward as a possible biomarker for the improvement of this behavior.

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Canine Aggression Toward People: Bite Scenarios and Prevention

John C.WrightPhD*


Associate, Professor, Psychology Department, Mercer University, Macon, Georgia

January 2015

This article reviews studies of different dog bites directed toward people. Typical bite events are summarized by describing the characteristics of the dog, victim, and wound; serious bites (severe and fatal bites) are described separately. Suggestions for the prevention of dog bites are presented.


Development of a non-invasive polysomnography technique for dogs (Canis familiaris)



Department of Ethology, Eötvös University, H-1117 Pázmány P. stny. 1/c, Budapest, Hungary


Research Centre for Natural Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, H-1117 Magyar tudósok krt. 2, Budapest, Hungary


Department of Cognitive Science, Budapest University of Technology and Economics, H-1111 Egry József u. 1, Budapest, Hungary


Institute of Behavioural Sciences, Semmelweis University, H-1089 Nagyvárad tér 4, Budapest, Hungary


MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group, H-1117 Pázmány P. stny. 1/c, Budapest, Hungary


Nyírő Gyula Hospital National Institute of Psychiatry and Addictions, H-1135 Lehel u. 59, Budapest, Hungary


Department of General Psychology, Pázmány Péter Catholic University, H-2087 Egyetem u. 1, Piliscsaba, Hungary

April 2014


We present a non-invasive, easily replicable, canine polysomnography method.

The method is validated by direct comparison of sleep EEG spectrum to human data.

Dogs’ sleep EEG spectrum is related to their age.

Macrostructural and spectral aspects of dogs’ sleep are affected by activity and sleep deprivation.

An apparatus for making fine-grained measurements of canine eating behavior


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Department of Psychology, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306 USA

March 2003

An apparatus for making fine-grained measurements of eating and drinking in dogs is described. Examples of how this computer controlled measurement system can be used to illustrate eating behavior in one- and two-pan tests are given. Also, very fine-grained measurements are illustrated in illustrating a single meal segment and a single water drinking bout.

Emotional contagion: Dogs and humans show a similar physiological response to human infant crying

Min HooiYongTedRuffman

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Department of Psychology, University of Otago, Box 56, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand

November 2014


Dogs and humans show similar increase in salivary cortisol after listening to crying.

Dogs show a unique behavioral combination of alertness and submissive behavior after listening to crying.

Canine behaviors were not repeated in either babbling or white noise.

The combined physiological and behavioral responses indicate emotional contagion.

Dogs choose a human informant: Metacognition in canines

ShannonMcMahonKristaMacphersonWilliam A.Roberts

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Department of Psychology, University of Western Ontario, 1151 Richmond Street, London, Ontario N6A 5C2, Canada

 August 2010

The presence of metacognition in animals has been suggested by the observation that non-human primates will seek out information about the location of a hidden reward before responding. In experiment 1, dogs failed to make an information-seeking response that involved re-positioning themselves in space so that they could view a cue that indicated the location of food. In experiments 2 and 3, dogs were allowed to choose between two people, an informant that pointed to the location of food and a non-informant that provided no information. Dogs showed a clear preference for the informant, even when choice of the informant led to no greater chance of reward than choice of the non-informant. In a procedure that involves human communication, dogs show information-seeking behavior.

Relational concept learning in domestic dogs: Performance on a two-choice size discrimination task generalises to novel stimuli

Sarah-ElizabethByosiereLynna C.FengPhilippe A.ChouinardTiffani J.HowellPauleen C.Bennett

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School of Psychology and Public Health, La Trobe University, Victoria, Australia

October 2017


A two-choice discrimination task assessed relational class concept learning in dogs.

Dogs exhibited conceptual behaviour in the form of relational concept learning.

There were differences in dog’s generalization capabilities across certain shapes.

Behavioral stimulus generalization does not explain performance.

Owner-companion dog interactions: Relationships between demographic variables, potentially problematic behaviours, training engagement and shared activities

Pauleen CharmayneBennettVanessa IlseRohlf

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Animal Welfare Science Centre, Department of Psychology, Caulfield Campus, Monash University, P.O. Box 197, Caulfield East, Vic. 3145, Australia

April 2006

Many companion dogs occupy a privileged position in our society, living closely with human caretakers who go to great lengths to provide for their needs and desires. Others fare less well, being abandoned or killed, many because they are believed to exhibit behaviour problems. The aim in this study was to investigate the frequency of potentially problematic behaviours experienced by a convenience sample of companion dog owners and to establish if the presence of these behaviours was associated with demographic variables, involvement in dog training activities and participation in other dog-human interactions. Potentially problematic behaviours were reported to occur by the 413 adult participants only infrequently, but fell into five factors; disobedience, unfriendliness/aggression, nervousness, anxiety/destructiveness and excitability. Each of these factors was associated with a number of owner and dog characteristics. Engagement in training activities was predictive of lower scores being obtained for many of the behaviours, as well as increased involvement in shared activities. Some of the behaviours, particularly the perceived friendliness of the dog, were also predictive of involvement in shared activities. This confirms that strategies designed to increase participation in dog training activities and promote canine sociability may have significant benefits for both companion dog owners and their dogs.

Impulsivity and behaviour problems in dogs: A Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory perspective

PatriziaPiotti1Liam PaulSatchell2Tom StevenLockhart

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Department of Psychology, University of Portsmouth, King Henry Building, King Henry 1st Street Portsmouth, PO1 2DY, UK

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March 2018


The relationship between the DIAS and a canine version of an RST scale is evaluated.

Results show Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory factors can explain some dog traits.

RST ‘Behavioural Inhibition System’ relates to dog impulsivity and ‘Behavioural Approach System’ to dog responsiveness.

Evidence of traits related to everyday behaviour problems is also highlighted.

RST may be a useful framework for the investigation of individual differences in dogs.

Is that fear? Domestic dogs’ use of social referencing signals from an unfamiliar person

Min HooiYongTedRuffman

Department of Psychology, University of Otago, Box 56, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand

September 2014

Canine responding following a human expression of fear could indicate confusion instead social referencing.

We compared an experimenter’s happy and fearful responses to a control expression to dogs.

Dogs responded similarly in the fear and control conditions compared to happy.

It is not clear that dogs have a true understanding of human expressions of fear.

Do you see what I see? Can non-experts with minimal training reproduce expert ratings in behavioral assessments of working dogs?

Jamie L.FratkinaDavid L.SinnabScottThomascStewartHilliarddZezeliaOlsonaSamuel D.Goslinga

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The University of Texas at Austin, Department of Psychology, 108 E. Dean Keeton Stop A8000, Austin, TX 78712, USA


University of Tasmania, School of Zoology, Private Bag 5, Hobart, Tasmania 7001, Australia


Transportation Security Administration Canine Breeding and Development Center, 341 TRS/TSA Puppy Program, 1320 Truemper Street, Bldg 9122 Suite 2 Room 2701, Lackland AFB, TX 78236, USA

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Department of Defense Military Working Dog Breeding Program, 341 TRS, 9225 Truemper Street, Bldg 9225, Lackland AFB, TX 78236, USA

September 2014

Working-dog organizations often use behavioral ratings by experts to evaluate a dog’s likelihood of success. However, these experts are frequently under severe time constraints. One way to alleviate the pressure on limited organizational resources would be to use non-experts to assess dog behavior. Here, in populations of military working dogs (Study 1) and explosive-detection dogs (Study 2), we evaluated the reliability and validity of behavioral ratings assessed by minimally trained non-experts from videotapes. Analyses yielded evidence for generally good levels of inter-observer reliability and criterion validity (indexed by convergence between the non-expert ratings and ratings made previously by experts). We found some variation across items in Study 2 such that reliability and validity was significantly lower for three out of the 18 items, and one item had reliability and validity estimates that were impacted heavily by the behavioral test environment. There were no differences in reliability and validity based on the age of the dog. Overall the results suggest that ratings made by minimally trained non-experts for most items can serve as a viable alternative to expert ratings freeing limited resources of highly trained staff.

Temperament and personality in dogs (Canis familiaris): A review and evaluation of past research

Amanda C.JonesSamuel D.Gosling

The University of Texas at Austin, Department of Psychology, 1 University Station A8000, Austin, TX 78712-0187, USA

June 2005

Spurred by theoretical and applied goals, the study of dog temperament has begun to garner considerable research attention. The researchers studying temperament in dogs come from varied backgrounds, bringing with them diverse perspectives, and publishing in a broad range of journals. This paper reviews and evaluates the disparate work on canine temperament. We begin by summarizing general trends in research on canine temperament. To identify specific patterns, we propose several frameworks for organizing the literature based on the methods of assessment, the breeds examined, the purpose of the studies, the age at which the dogs were tested, the breeding and rearing environment, and the sexual status of the dogs. Next, an expert-sorting study shows that the enormous number of temperament traits examined can be usefully classified into seven broad dimensions. Meta-analyses of the findings pertaining to inter-rater agreement, test–retest reliability, internal consistency, and convergent validity generally support the reliability and validity of canine temperament tests but more studies are needed to support these preliminary findings. Studies examining discriminant validity are needed, as preliminary findings on discriminant validity are mixed. We close by drawing 18 conclusions about the field, identifying the major theoretical and empirical questions that remain to be addressed.

Exploring breed differences in dogs (Canis familiaris): does exaggeration or inhibition of predatory response predict performance on human-guided tasks?

Monique A.R.UdellabMargaretEwaldbNicole R.DoreybClive D.L.Wynnebc

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Department of Animal and Rangeland Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, U.S.A.


Department of Psychology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, U.S.A.


Department of Psychology, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, U.S.A.

January 2014

We compared point-following performance in hunting, herding and livestock-guarding dogs.

Breed differences in predatory motor sequence influenced point-following ability.

Predatory behaviour could impact performance on diverse cognitive tasks.

Genetic selection and lifetime experience both influence human-guided task performance.

Temperament and lateralization in the domestic dog (Canis familiaris)

Luke A.SchneiderPaul H.DelfabbroNicholas R.Burns

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School of Psychology, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA, Australia

November 2012

The authors investigated the relationship between paw preference (the paw with which dogs prefer to hold a food object) and temperament in the domestic dog (Canis familiaris). Hypotheses were based on the Valence-Specific Hypothesis, which broadly states that negative emotions are associated with the right hemisphere, and positive emotions are associated with the left hemisphere. To assess each dog’s temperament, an owner-rated temperament questionnaire was administered to the owners of 73 pet dogs. The same dogs were tested for paw preference using a Kong (KONG Company, Golden, CO) stuffed with food and were subsequently classified as left-pawed, right-pawed, or ambilateral. A laterality index (LI) value was also calculated for each dog in the study to provide an indication of the strength and direction of its paw preference. Positive LI values reflected a preference for the right paw, whereas negative LI values reflected a preference for the left paw. The LI ranged from −100 to +100, with numbers closer to either extreme reflecting a stronger paw preference and a score of 0 indicating no preference. The absolute value of LI reflects the strength, but not direction, of paw preference and was included in some analyses.

We found no evidence to support a relationship between paw preference and temperament, with the exception that lateralized dogs scored marginally higher than ambilateral dogs on a measure of stranger-directed aggression. We suggest that the temperament assessment used in this study may not be sensitive enough to detect differences between individuals based on their lateralization. Temperament factors were also compared with a number of “demographic” variables (e.g., age, sex, whether the dog was a purebred or a crossbreed, and the frequency of exercise) to determine the effect of these variables on temperament outcomes.

Breed differences in dogs sensitivity to human points: A meta-analysis

Nicole R.DoreyMonique A.R.UdellClive D.L.Wynne

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University of Florida, United States

June 2009

The last decade has seen a substantial increase in research on the behavioral and cognitive abilities of pet dogs, Canis familiaris. The most commonly used experimental paradigm is the object-choice task in which a dog is given a choice of two containers and guided to the reinforced object by human pointing gestures. We review here studies of this type and attempt a meta-analysis of the available data. In the meta-analysis breeds of dogs were grouped into the eight categories of the American Kennel Club, and into four clusters identified by Parker and Ostrander [Parker, H.G., Ostrander, E.A., 2005. Canine genomics and genetics: running with the pack. PLoS Genet. 1, 507–513] on the basis of a genetic analysis. No differences in performance between breeds categorized in either fashion were identified. Rather, all dog breeds appear to be similarly and highly successful in following human points to locate desired food. We suggest this result could be due to the paucity of data available in published studies, and the restricted range of breeds tested.

Personality, social behavior, and cortisol in dogs visiting a dog park

L. OttenheimerCarrierR.E.AndersonC.J.Walsh

Canine Research Unit, Department of Psychology, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, NL A1B 3X9, CANADA

June 2013

What are the relationships among personality, cortisol levels and social behaviors in companion dogs? Sixty (60) dogs were recruited at a local dog park. Dogs were videotaped and saliva samples were taken after 20 minutes of social interaction. Videotapes were coded for time budget states (time alone, in dyad, in group, with humans, and in mixed groups), and frequency of specific behaviors (play, aggression, stress-related, and mounting). Personality was assessed with the Monash Canine Personality Questionnaire (MCPQ-R; Ley et al., 2009a); owners rated their dogs along five personality dimensions (Extraversion, Motivation, Training Focus, Amicability, and Neuroticism). Saliva samples were analysed for cortisol with enzyme immunoassay.

Cortisol in focal dogs was not significantly related to either the dog’s overall behaviors or personality scores. Dog park visit frequency explained 11% of the variation in cortisol, with infrequent visitors showing higher levels. These dogs sampled in the dog park had Extraversion scores that were 13% higher than those reported for a more general sample (Ley et al., 2009b). Amicability scores correlated positively with play behavior frequency. Extraversion scores correlated positively with time in dyads and total number of changes in time budget activity states. Play frequency and mounting were positively correlated. In summary, focal companion dogs in a dog park setting demonstrate relationships among personality dimensions and social behaviors, which appear independent of cortisol levels.

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Extraverts make new friends: Multiple indicators reflect successful interactions among unfamiliar dogs

JuliePosluns1Rita E.Anderson2Carolyn J.Walsh2


Cognitive and Behavioral Ecology Program, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, NL, Canada


Canine Research Unit, Department of Psychology, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, NL, Canada

October 2014

Contexts such as dog parks and “doggie daycares” expose dogs to a variety of novel and potentially potent stimuli such as unfamiliar conspecifics. There is little empirical data on how individual dogs respond to initial contact with unfamiliar dogs. This study examined the relationships between dogs’ behavioral characteristics (based on direct observation during interactions between pairs of unfamiliar conspecifics), personality assessments and cortisol. Thirty pairs of unfamiliar companion dogs, 20 same-sexed (10 male and 10 female) and 10 mixed-sex pairs, experienced two 5-minute off-leash interactions (one week apart) in a fenced yard with three humans present. Humans were instructed not to interact with dogs. Saliva samples were obtained in the dogs’ homes prior to (baseline) and 15 minutes following interactions. Owners (n=60) and the dog walkers (n=48) completed two personality assessments: the Monash Canine Personality Questionnaire-Revised (MCPQ-R) (Ley et al., 2009) and the Dog Personality Questionnaire (DPQ) (Jones, 2008). Appropriate correlations between the dimensions of the MCPQ-R (Extraversion, Neuroticism, Training Focus, Motivation, Amicability) and the factors of the DPQ (Fearfulness, Aggression towards People, Aggression towards Animals, Activity/Excitability, Responsiveness to Training) were observed. Fearfulness (DPQ) and Neuroticism (MCPQ-R), Activity/Excitability (DPQ) and Extraversion (MCPQ-R), Responsiveness to Training (DPQ) and Training Focus (MCPQ-R), Aggression towards People (DPQ) and Amicability (MCPQ-R), Aggression towards Animals (DPQ) and Amicability (MCPQ-R) were all correlated. Notably, only one dimension, Motivation (MCPQ-R), did not correlate with any DPQ factor. To examine how the MCPQ-R and DPQ map onto one another statistically, data from both instruments were analyzed via principle component analysis (PCA) for owner and dog walker assessments separately. PCA analyzes converged on four overarching personality dimensions: Extraversion, Amicability, Fearfulness, and Training Focus. Extraversion scores (PCA) were inversely related to time spent in close proximity (i.e., within one body length) alone with a human. Dogs that spent more time in close proximity to both a conspecific and a human had lower post-greeting cortisol levels. The pattern of cortisol and behavioral responses raises the hypothesis that dogs may use humans to moderate or facilitate the interactions between unfamiliar conspecifics.

Do cortisol and testosterone levels covary with social role in domestic dogs?


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Cognitive and Behavioral Ecology Programme, Department of Psychology, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, NL, Canada


Canine Research Unit, Department of Psychology, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, NL, Canada

June 2013

The scientific knowledge about domestic dogs in the area of social organization is heavily influenced by research done on gray wolves. While feral dogs appear to exhibit submissive behavior to defuse conflicts, they do not adopt a wolf-pack-like social system that focuses around a dominant breeding pair. In popular culture, the idea of “top dog” is widespread; however, there has not yet been a study to examine whether pet dogs living in a permanent social group take on consistent social roles, and what factors are related to such.

Using animals from multi-dog homes, this study compares different methods for measuring social status: owner impressions evaluated by questionnaires; toy-possession test conducted during a visit to the multi-dog home and tail-base position and social behaviors during the toy-possession test. Saliva samples are collected before, during and after the visit to obtain cortisol and testosterone levels. Both hormones have been linked to social status and seem to regulate whether an animal comes out as more dominant or more submissive after a conspecific agonistic interaction. It is hypothesized that both baseline and changes in testosterone and cortisol levels can predict the outcomes of social interactions between cohabiting dogs. If cohabiting dogs form a consistent social rank structure, these outcomes may be predicted by owner questionnaire responses.

Neurobiological underpinnings of dogs’ human-like social competence: How interactions between stress response systems and oxytocin mediate dogs’ social skills

Alicia PhillipsButtner

Department of Psychology, Neuroscience and Behavior, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Allwine Hall, Room 419, 6001 Dodge St., Omaha, NE, 68182, USA

September 2016

Domestic dogs possess social-cognitive abilities analogous to those of humans.

Domestication reduced stress reactivity and extended sensitive periods in dogs.

Dogs establish infant-like attachments to humans due to these changes.

Oxytocin facilitates social behavior potentially by reducing stress reactivity.

Accounting for activity of stress systems can shed light on dogs’ social abilities.

The treatment of phobias in the dog

Institute of Applied Pet Ethology, c / o Gables Veterinary Group, 78 Bromyard Road, Worcester WR2 5DA, UK

January 1998

Since 1992 the authors have been compiling a casebook of detailed histories of canine phobia. As the work progressed modifications were made to the diagnostic criteria of anxiety in the dog. A combination of phenobarbitone with propranolol has been employed with perceived success supported by anecdotal evidence from the owners, behaviorists and veterinarians involved. An attempt is made here to set out a rational system of diagnosis with regard to published work on the neuropsychology of fear. Tentative suggestions as to the efficacy of the treatment and interpretation of results are made. It is hoped that such an appraisal might be the ground work for compilation of suitable protocols for more rigorous assessment of such cases.

Exploring the dog park: Relationships between social behaviours, personality and cortisol in companion dogs

LydiaOttenheimer CarrierAmandaCyrRita E.AndersonCarolyn J.Walsh

Department of Psychology, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s, NL, A1B 3X9, Canada

April 2013

The relationships between behaviour, owner-rated personality, and cortisol were examined in companion dogs that visited a local off-leash dog park. In Study 1, salivary cortisol increased significantly from baseline levels following 20 min in the dog park (P = 0.013), but not in the same dogs following a 20 min on-leash walk. In Study 2, cortisol was correlated with dog park visit frequency, such that dogs which visited the park least often had higher cortisol levels (r = −0.34, P = 0.013). Hunched posture in dogs was associated with higher cortisol, even after the effect of park visit frequency was removed. Cortisol appeared to be independent of all other measured behaviours and signals indicative of play, stress, agonism, and mounting, as well as dog time budgets. Nor was cortisol related to dog personality scores as measured by the Monash Canine Personality Questionnaire-Revised (MCPQ-R). Scores on the Extraversion, Amicability, and Neuroticism scales predicted some observations in the park: more extraverted dogs showed higher activity (measured as time budget state changes; R2 = 0.21, P < 0.001) and spent more time in conspecific dyads (R2 = 0.083, P = 0.033), more amicable dogs showed more behaviours indicative of play (R2 = 0.10, P = 0.014), and more neurotic dogs showed higher frequencies of hunched posture (R2 = 0.10, P = 0.008). Time budget states correlated with specific behaviours, e.g., focal dog’s time spent in dyads correlated highly with total play signals/behaviours in the session (r = 0.69, P < 0.001). Thus, in a social context such as an off-leash dog park, changes in cortisol may be largely independent of social behaviour/signalling (with the possible exception of postural changes), and personality scores may predict some social behaviours, but not necessarily changes in cortisol. Given that this dog park sample contains dogs which appear to score higher than average for Extraversion, additional relationships between personality, behaviour and cortisol may be detected in broader dog populations and/or other social contexts. As the popularity of off-leash dog parks is increasing in North America, understanding factors related to individual dogs’ experiences in such parks may be important for welfare reasons.

Cooperation and competition during dyadic play in domestic dogs, Canis familiaris

Erika B.BauerBarbara B.Smuts

Author links open overlay panel  

Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, U.S.A.

January 2007

Social play involves a dynamic combination of competition and cooperation, yet few studies have systematically evaluated the cooperative side of play. We studied dyadic play in domestic dogs to investigate factors influencing variation in cooperative play strategies like self-handicapping and role reversal. Dyadic play bouts were videotaped and coded for asymmetric behaviours. We predicted that variation in play style would reflect salient aspects of the canine social system, including dominance relationships and age and size differences, but not sex differences. Our results refute the 50:50 rule proposed by some researchers, which asserts that participants must equalize their behaviour to maintain a playful atmosphere. We observed divergence from 50:50 symmetry to varying degrees across dyads. This variability was especially linked to dominance and age advantages, such that higher-ranking and/or older dogs generally showed higher proportions of attacks and pursuits and lower proportions of self-handicapping than their disadvantaged play partners. These results contradict the notion that more advantaged individuals consistently relinquish their advantage to facilitate play. Role reversals did occur, but certain social conventions apparently dictated which behaviours could be used during role reversals. For example, role reversals occurred during chases and tackles, but never during mounts, muzzle bites or muzzle licks, suggesting that these latter behaviours may be invariant indicators of formal dominance during play in domestic dogs. Play signalling was linked to self-handicapping behaviour but not to attack/pursuit behaviour, indicating that perhaps self-handicapping and play signalling work together to communicate playful intent and reinforce existing roles.

Separation anxiety in dogs: What progress has been made in our understanding of the most common behavioral problems in dogs?


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Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana

February 2016

Separation anxiety has long been recognized as an anxiety-related disorder in dogs that is only observed in the owner’s real absence or perceived absence. Over the past four decades, this condition has been the most commonly discussed disorder in published studies, but etiology, treatment, and prevention remain elusive. A review of the literature indicates a lack of comparative studies. Little progress has been made to build a new understanding beyond the clinical symptomology. Future research employing more rigorous designs and systematically building upon a clearly defined research questions is needed to advance our knowledge of this most common behavioral problem in dogs.

Personality and performance in working dogs

SamuelGosling1Stewart J.Hilliard2Steven J.Schapiro3SimineVazire4Virginia S.Y.Kwan5Oliver P.John6

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Department of Psychology, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas


341st Training Squadron, United States Air Force, United States


M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, University of Texas, Houston, Texas


Department of Psychology, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri


Department of Psychology, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey


Department of Psychology, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, California

March 2009

It is well established that personality can be assessed in nonhuman animals, including dogs. In addition to physical abilities (in olfaction), personality traits (emotional stability) are a primary determinant of effectiveness of explosive-detection dogs in the field. Therefore, one way canine science can contribute to research on threat detection is by improving the personality assessments that are critical for selecting military working dogs (MWD). We believe MWD are by far the most effective and versatile means of identifying explosives in combat and low-intensity conflicts (e.g., Iraq). MWD are exceptionally sensitive sensors for all known threat substances and existing dogs can be trained rapidly to detect new substances.

The effectiveness of a citronella spray collar in reducing certain forms of barking in dogs

Deborah LWells

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Canine Behaviour Centre, School of Psychology, The Queen’s University of Belfast, Belfast BT7 1NN, Northern Ireland, UK

June 2001

This study examined the effectiveness of a citronella spay collar in reducing barking in 30 dogs which wore the collar continuously, i.e. every day for 30 min, or intermittently, i.e. every other day for 30 min, for a period of 3 weeks. Owners rated the frequency of their dog’s barking on a scale ranging from 1 (very infrequent) to 5 (very frequent) before the study began (pre-treatment condition) and at the end of every week that the collar was worn (treatment condition). A further evaluation was made at the end of week 4, following 7 days of collar deprivation (post-treatment condition). Dogs exhibited a significantly lower frequency of barking during the treatment and post-treatment conditions compared to the pre-treatment condition. Barking was most effectively reduced when dogs wore the collar intermittently. However, barking increased over the period of time the collar was worn, particularly in those dogs which wore the device every day. Barking continued to increase when the dogs stopped wearing the collar, albeit at frequencies lower than pre-treatment, particularly in those animals which had worn the collar continuously. The collar was more effective at reducing travel related barking than television or traffic related barking. Findings indicate that dogs generally habituate to the citronella spray collar irrespective of how the animal is exposed to the device. A longer period of efficacy occurs, however, if the collar is worn intermittently. This may appeal to owners who are concerned about their pet having to wear the collar for long periods of time.

Clicker increases resistance to extinction but does not decrease training time of a simple operant task in domestic dogs (Canis familiaris)

Shawn M.SmithaEllen S.Davisb

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Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, 800 West Main St., Whitewater, WI 53190, USA


Department of Biological Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, 800 West Main St., Whitewater, WI 53190, USA

May 2007

Despite its popularity among pet owners and professional trainers, we are not aware of any studies that have investigated the efficacy of clicker training in canines. To this end, we taught 35 basenjis to nose-touch an orange traffic cone. Upon meeting pre-determined criteria, dogs progressed through: (1) training trials, wherein correct responses were followed immediately with a click plus food (clicker group) or food alone (control group); (2) strengthening trials, wherein dogs received the same reinforcement protocol as in training trials, except nose-touching behaviour was variably reinforced; and (3) extinction trials, wherein food was withheld from both groups, but dogs in the clicker group received a click alone for nose-touches. We found that the clicker and control groups did not differ with regard to the number of trials or the time required to meet training or strengthening criteria (P > 0.05 for all). However, the clicker group required significantly more trials (log10 transformed means ± S.E. = 1.6 ± 0.03 trials versus 1.4 ± 0.03 trials, P < 0.001) and more time (log10 transformed means ± S.E. = 2.85 ± 0.03 s versus 2.73 ± 0.03 s, P = 0.008) to reach extinction criterion. Additionally, younger dogs required fewer training (, P = 0.001) and strengthening (, P = 0.029) trials and less training (, P = 0.005) and strengthening (, P = 0.013) time to meet criteria than did older dogs. However, no age effect was found on extinction for either the number or duration of trials (P > 0.05 for both), implying that persistence in previously reinforced behaviour did not influence the age sensitivity found in task acquisition. Overall, these results suggest that, whereas the clicker may prolong behaviour without primary reinforcement, it does not reduce the training time of a simple operant task in dogs when primary reinforcement is briefly delayed. We speculate that the clicker may be most useful in maintaining established behaviours when primary reinforcement is unavailable or when its delivery is impractical. Additionally, we found that basenji dogs may become progressively impaired with age in the acquisition of stimulus-reward contingencies.

Defining and measuring dogmanship: A new multidisciplinary science to improve understanding of human–dog interactions



Sydney School of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia


School of Psychology and Public Health, La Trobe University, Bendigo, VIC 3552, Australia

October 2017

It is a paradox that the animals we have domesticated most successfully are also the most likely to bring us harm. Excluding the effects of diseases transmitted via insects, such as mosquitoes and ticks, horses kill more human beings in developed countries than any other animal (Hawson et al., 2010), while dogs cause more hospital admissions (Lockwood, 2016). It is also a paradox that, although human beings have been living in close proximity with dogs for perhaps 100,000 years, our interpretations and responses to their body language are often badly flawed (Kerswell et al., 2009Mariti et al., 2012Mirkó et al., 2013). Misunderstanding of canine signals and how best to respond to them can result in inadvertent escalation of conflict between human beings and dogs, potentially resulting in injury. On the other hand, with the effects of increased urbanisation and industrialisation, and a general estrangement from the natural world, perhaps a previously widespread ability to understand animals has recently been lost from much of the population. Consistent with this possibility, research has shown that ancient people depicted animal movement more accurately than modern artists (Horvath et al., 2012). However, early documented training approaches for dogs include the use of highly punitive, as well as rewarding, stimuli (Reisner, 2016). In contrast, modern approaches to dog training emphasise rewards and eschew the use of punishment, which hints at how changing attitudes towards animals and increased understanding of learning in animals may play a role in the ways human beings choose to attempt to modify the behaviour of domestic animals.

An investigation of the relationship between response latency across several cognitive tasks in the beagle dog

Pria M.D.NippakNorton W.Milgram

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Institute of Medical Science, Department of Psychology, Division of Life Sciences, University of Toronto, 1265 Military Trail, Scarborough, ON, Canada M1C 1A4

February 2005

Response latencies (RLs) extracted from simple motor tasks are a commonly used index of human intelligence. To date few human or animal studies have investigated the relationship between an individuals RL scores across a number of diverse cognitive tasks: Does RL remain consistent between individuals across several cognitive domains? Thus, the current study examined how RL measures gathered from beagle dogs (n=13) tested on three different cognitive tasks were related. RL scores were collected following both discrimination and reversal learning and a test of visuospatial memory, the 3 component delayed non-matching to position (3-DNMP) task. RL scores were recorded from the time the choice stimulus was presented until the animal selected a response. Results indicated that strong correlations emerged between 3-DNMP RLs and both the discrimination and reversal RLs, indicating that animals that responded fast on the 3-DNMP task also responded fast on the discrimination and reversal tasks. Interestingly, 3-DNMP RLs were more strongly correlated with reversal learning RLs. Finally, when mean RL performance across the three tasks was examined, strong RL differences emerged indicating that animals displayed significantly slower RLs on the 3-DNMP task than on the discrimination task, while reversal RLs remained indistinguishable from both. In conclusion, RLs show high between task correlations, indicating individual differences, and also vary between tasks, probably because of differences in task difficulty. These results further validate the use of RLs as an index of cognition, and also highlight the importance of further studies using animal models.

Prevalence of behaviour problems reported by owners of dogs purchased from an animal rescue shelter

Deborah LWellsPeter GHepper

Canine Behaviour Centre, School of Psychology, The Queen’s University of Belfast, BT7 1NN, Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK

June 2000

This study examined the prevalence of behaviour problems exhibited by dogs within 4 weeks of acquisition from a rescue shelter in Northern Ireland. One thousand five hundred and forty-seven people who had purchased a dog from a rescue shelter in Northern Ireland were sent a postal questionnaire designed to collect information on the behaviours exhibited by their dog within the first month of acquisition. Five hundred and fifty-six people responded to the survey, representing a response rate of 37%. The majority of respondents (68.3%) reported that their dog exhibited a behaviour problem, the most common being fearfulness. Most of those respondents (89.7%) who returned their dog to the shelter did so because the animal exhibited behaviour that they considered undesirable. Male dogs showed more unacceptable behaviours than females, specifically inter-male aggression, sexual problems and straying tendencies. More stray dogs displayed undesirable behaviour than unwanteds, specifically straying tendencies. Puppies were less likely to exhibit unacceptable behaviours than juveniles or adults, particularly fearfulness, sexual problems and straying tendencies. More juvenile dogs showed excessive activity and excessive barking than puppies or adults. More adult dogs displayed aggression towards other dogs than juveniles or puppies. Findings indicate that dogs purchased from rescue shelters do exhibit behaviour problems that may lead to their return. The number of dogs admitted or returned to rescue shelters with behaviour problems may be reduced by raising public awareness regarding the value of behaviour therapy and introducing behaviour therapy schemes to rescue shelters.

Down but not out: Supine postures as facilitators of play in domestic dogs

KerriNormanabSergioPellisabLouiseBarrettacS.Peter Henziac


Department of Psychology, The University of Lethbridge, 4401 University Drive, Lethbridge, Alberta T1K 3M4, Canada


Department of Neuroscience, The University of Lethbridge, 4401 University Drive, Lethbridge, Alberta T1K 3M4, Canada


Applied Behavioural Ecology and Ecosystems Research Unit, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of South Africa, P.B. X6, Florida 1710, South Africa

September 2014

In dog play, rolling over is a combat tactic, not an act or signal of submission.

Rolling over allows a dog to deliver or avoid bites to the neck.

The likelihood of rollover occurrence is set only by play bout duration.

Training engagement and the development of behavior problems in the dog: A longitudinal study


Author links open overlay panel  

Applied Animal Behaviour Unit, School of Psychology, University of Southampton, Highfield, Southampton, SO17 1BJ, UK

January 2010

Canine behavior problems have serious welfare implications for dog and owner. The first year of canine behavioral development is most critical as this is when most social and environmental learning occurs, learned behavior patterns become established and problem behaviors are most likely to become apparent (Lund et al. 1996). While experiences during the socialization period are of great importance, dogs may regress and become fearful if exposure to stimuli is not maintained (Dehasse, 1994Fox, 1978) as both social and environmental learning continue throughout the juvenile period and adolescence. There is also evidence of a second phase of heightened sensitivity to fear arousing stimuli at the age of 6 months, around the onset of sexual maturity (Fox, 1972Serpell and Jagoe, 1995), known as the ‘secondary sensitive’ or ‘secondary socialisation’ period. As with the onset of sexual maturity, the exact timing of this phase is variable between breeds and individuals. It may be that some dogs do not go through this ‘secondary sensitive period’ until later adolescence or that it lasts for a greater or lesser part of the adolescent period (Dehasse, 1994McBride et al., 1995).

Cephalic index and perceived dog trainability

William S.Helton

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Department of Psychology, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch 8020, New Zealand

August 2009

People rank breeds of dogs for trainability despite a lack of evidence of breed differences in underlying behaviour. Instead of using behavioural information, people may use dog morphology to determine the trainability of breeds. Dogs are categorized as dolichocephalic, mesocephalic, or brachycephalic based on cephalic index, a ratio between skull width and length. Dolichocephalic breeds are anatomically more specialized for running and brachycephalic breeds are more specialized for fighting. Dog breeds rated as highly trainable are instead mesocephalic, morphological generalists. Looking trainable in dogs may reflect differences in physical morphology.

Animal Communication: What Makes a Dog Able to Understand its Master?

Richard W.Byrne

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Professor of Evolutionary Psychology, School of Psychology, The University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife, KY16 9JU, Scotland, UK

May 2003

The dog has a special relationship with humans, going beyond that of other domestic animals. Recent evidence suggests this comes from domestication rather than wolf behaviour, perhaps involving something as simple as a change in natural looking behaviour.

Why nobody will ever agree about dominance in dogs


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Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, Institute of Infection and Global Health, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, University of Liverpool, Cheshire, UK


School of Veterinary Science, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, University of Liverpool, Cheshire, UK

February 2015

The concept of dominance in the training of domestic dogs is debated by both scientists and dog trainers but is not an observable truth that can be evidenced by further study. The same observed interactions between animals may be interpreted as dominance within a hierarchy or as an outcome of learning theory, depending on the theoretical perspective taken by the observer. The term “dominance” as used in everyday language may also be applied to the dog-human relationship without the need for interactions to be driven by an implicit hierarchy. Debates around the validity of dominance in dogs should instead focus on the promotion of welfare-friendly training methods that must be used by all.

The effect of oxytocin on human-directed social behaviour in dogs (Canis familiaris)


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Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychology, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Magyar tudósok krt. 2, Budapest H-1117, Hungary

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Department of Research, Faculty of Biology, Alexandru Ioan Cuza University, 11 Carol I Blvd., 700506, Iasi, Romania

June 2017.

Oxytocin plays a complex role in regulating human − dog relationships.

OXTR polymorphisms and IN-OXT have an effect on social behaviour towards humans.

Behavioural treatment with human social stimuli influences oxytocin levels.

Methodological discrepancies exist between the published studies.

Standardization in the measurement of peripheral OXT and the administration of IN-OXT is necessary.

Rollovers during play: Complementary perspectives



Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1043, USA


Animal Behavior Group, National Zoo Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C, USA


About Dogs, LLC., Ann Arbor, MI 48105, USA

April 2015

Some dog plays rollovers occurred in response to an “attack” whereas others appeared to be voluntary.

In adult dyads, the older, bigger, dominant dog tended to end up as top dog during rollovers.

A recent article (Norman et al., 2015) proposed defense as an alternative explanation for many dog play rollovers.

We show that rollovers can be both defensive and asymmetric and argue that both approaches are useful.

Does perceived trainability of dog (Canis lupus familiaris) breeds reflect differences in learning or differences in physical ability?

William S.Helton

Department of Psychology, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch 8020, New Zealand

February 2010

Researchers have reported perceived differences in trainability between different dog breeds. These reports could either be the result of underlying differences in learning or differences in physical capabilities. Four studies were conducted to investigate this issue. In Study 1 the level of agility metal-winners amongst those breeds perceived to be high and low in trainability did not deviate significantly from their respective levels of participation in the sport. In Study 2 the level of precision amongst those dogs perceived to be high and low in trainability did not deviate significantly in a real agility competition (P > 0.05), but these dogs did differ in speed (P < 0.05). In Study 3 the amount of training time necessary to achieve agility precision mastery did not significantly differ amongst dogs from breeds perceived to be high and low in trainability (P > 0.05), but there was a significant difference in speed. Finally, in Study 4 breeds considered to be high in trainability were found to be relatively physically homogenous in respects to height, in comparison to breeds considered to be low in trainability. Overall, the results of these studies are more supportive of a physical capability interpretation of perceived breed differences in trainability, than a more cognitive interpretation.

  • Shock collar studies:


Considerations for shock and ‘training’ collars: Concerns from and for the working dog community

Karen L.Overall

Philadelphia, PA

August 2007

Training dogs with help of the shock collar: short and long term behavioural effects

Matthijs B.HSchilderabJoanne A.Mvan der Borga

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Department of Clinical Sciences of Companion Animals, University of Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands


Department of Ethology and Socio-Ecology, University of Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands

December 2003

Behavioural effects of the use of a shock collar during guard dog training of German shepherd dogs were studied. Direct reactions of 32 dogs to 107 shocks showed reactions (lowering of body posture, high pitched yelps, barks and squeals, avoidance, redirection aggression, tongue flicking) that suggest stress or fear and pain. Most of these immediate reactions lasted only a fraction of a second. The behaviour of 16 dogs that had received shocks in the recent past (S-dogs) was compared with the behaviour of 15 control dogs that had received similar training but never had received shocks (C-dogs) in order to investigate possible effects of a longer duration. Only training sessions were used in which no shocks were delivered and the behaviour of the dogs (position of body, tail and ears, and stress-, pain- and aggression-related behaviours) was recorded in a way that enabled comparison between the groups. During free walking on the training grounds S-dogs showed a lower ear posture and more stress-related behaviours than C-dogs. During obedience training and during manwork (i.e. excercises with a would-be criminal) the same differences were found. Even a comparison between the behaviour of C-dogs with that of S-dogs during free walking and obedience exercises in a park showed similar differences. Differences between the two groups of dogs existed in spite of the fact that C-dogs also were trained in a fairly harsh way. A comparison between the behaviour during free walking with that during obedience exercises and manwork, showed that during training more stress signals were shown and ear positions were lower. The conclusions, therefore are, that being trained is stressful, that receiving shocks is a painful experience to dogs, and that the S-dogs evidently have learned that the presence of their owner (or his commands) announces reception of shocks, even outside of the normal training context. This suggests that the welfare of these shocked dogs is at stake, at least in the presence of their owner.

Do aversive-based training methods actually compromise dog welfare?: A literature review

JoanaGuilherme FernandesabI. Anna S.OlssonabAna CatarinaVieira de Castroabc


I3S – Instituto de Investigação e Inovação em Saúde, Universidade do Porto, Rua Alfredo Allen, 208, 4200-135 Porto, Portugal


IBMC – Instituto de Biologia Molecular e Celular, Universidade do Porto, Rua Alfredo Allen, 208, 4200-135 Porto, Portugal


ICBAS – Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas Abel Salazar, Universidade do Porto, Rua de Jorge Viterbo Ferreira, 228, 4050-313 Porto, Portugal

July 2017

Aversive-based methods are correlated with indicators of compromised welfare in dogs.

The reviewed studies have a number of limitations.

Further studies are needed to draw strong conclusions on the topic.

Electronic training devices: Discussion on the pros and cons of their use in dogs as a basis for the position statement of the European Society of Veterinary Clinical Ethology

SylviaMassonaSilviade la VegabAngeloGazzanocChiaraMariticGonçalo Da GraçaPereiradChristineHalsbergheeAnneliMuser LeyvrazfKevinMcPeakegBarbaraSchoeningh

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Behavioural Practice, Voreppe, France


Behavioural Practice, Madrid, Spain


Department of Veterinary Sciences, University of Pisa, Italy


Center for Animal Knowledge, Alges, Portugal


Behavioural Practice, Kortrijk, Belgium


Behavioural Practice, Geneva, Switzerland


University of Lincoln, UK


Behavioural Practice, Hamburg, Germany

March 2018

In recent years, the affirmation of a greater ethical sense and research generating a better knowledge of the mechanisms of animal learning, evidence of the existence of an animal mind, and studies on the dog-human attachment bond have led to changes in the dog-human relationship. These changes have caused a notable improvement in dog training techniques. Increased emphasis on dog welfare, overall, led to questioning of many training techniques and tools that used aversive means. Recent research on the use of aversive training devices has been performed and, on this basis, it has been possible to create guidelines to inform the public about utility and the possible detriments related to the use of these devices as a tool in dog training. The European Society of Clinical Animal Ethology has released a public position statement based on the current scientific information available on e-collars, punitive training techniques, and canine welfare. This study elaborates and discusses the arguments “pro and contra the use of e-collars and aversive training methods” leading to the statement in more detail. As a conclusion, European Society of Clinical Animal Ethology strongly opposes the use of e-collars in dog training and urges all European countries to take an interest in and position on this welfare matter.

Effects of 2 training methods on stress-related behaviors of the dog (Canis familiaris) and on the dog–owner relationship


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Laboratoire d’Ethologie Expérimentale et Comparée, Université Paris-Nord, UFR L.S.H.S., Villetaneuse, France


Laboratoire de Psychologie Cognitive, CNRS and Aix-Marseille University, UMR 7920, Marseille, France

January 2014

Instrumental learning plays an important role in dog–human interactions. The recent demand for pet dog training has resulted in the development of various training methods. The present exploratory study aims to compare the effects of 2 training methods on both the behavioral welfare of the dog and the dog–owner relationship: the first method is based on positive reinforcement (appearance of an appetitive stimulus), whereas the second method is based on negative reinforcement (disappearance of an aversive stimulus). The study compared behaviors linked to signs of stress and attentive behaviors toward the owner in 2 dog training schools, which used different methods. Walking on-leash activity and obeying the “sit” command were studied. The results show that dogs from the school using a negative reinforcement–based method demonstrated lowered body postures and signals of stress, whereas dogs from the school using a positive reinforcement–based method showed increased attentiveness toward their owner. However, neither method affected avoidance behaviors. This exploratory study reveals the differential effects of the 2 training methods on dogs’ behaviors; it suggests that training methods based on positive reinforcement are less stressful and potentially better for their welfare.

The effects of using aversive training methods in dogs—A review


Author links open overlay panel  

The Zinman College of Physical Education and Sport Sciences, Wingate Institute, Netanya, Israel

February 2017

The purpose of this study was to review a series of studies (N = 17) regarding the effects of using various methods when training dogs. The reviewed studies examined the differences between training methods (e.g., methods based on positive reinforcement, positive punishment, escape/avoidance, et cetera) on a dog’s physiology, welfare, and behavior toward humans and other dogs. The reviewed studies included surveys, observational studies, and interventions. The results show that using aversive training methods (e.g., positive punishment and negative reinforcement) can jeopardize both the physical and mental health of dogs. In addition, although positive punishment can be effective, there is no evidence that it is more effective than positive reinforcement–based training. In fact, there is some evidence that the opposite is true. A few methodological concerns arose from the reviewed studies. Among them are small sample sizes, missing data on effect size, possible bias when coding behavior in observational studies, and the need to publish case reports of bodily damage caused by aversive training methods. In conclusion, those working with or handling dogs should rely on positive reinforcement methods and avoid using positive punishment and negative reinforcement as much as possible.

Training methods of military dog handlers and their effects on the team’s performances


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Laboratory of Anatomy and Ethology of Domestic Animals, University of Namur (FUNDP), 6 rue Muzet, 5000 Namur, Belgium


UMR INRA AgroParisTech, Nutrition Physiology and Feeding, AgroParisTech, 16 rue Claude Bernard, 75005 Paris, France


Laboratory of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, URBM, University of Namur (FUNDP), Belgium

February 2008

While only a few studies have analysed training methods used on working dogs, a recent survey in 303 Belgian military handlers revealed the use of harsh training methods on military working dogs (MWD). The present work aims at analysing the training methods used on Belgian MWD and the behaviour of handlers to objectify the performances of the dog handlers teams (DH teams) and the welfare of the animals.

A standardized evaluation, including obedience and protection work exercises, was conducted on DH teams (n = 33). Every evaluation was done twice to assess the reliability of the observation methods. The behaviours of MWD and handlers were recorded on videotape and subsequently analysed. Results showed that handlers rewarded or punished their dogs intermittently. Stroking and patting the dogs were the most frequently used rewards. Pulling on the leash and hanging dogs by their collars were the most commonly used aversive stimuli.

The team’s performance was influenced by the training method and by the dog’s concentration: (1) low-performance dogs received more aversive stimuli than high-performance dogs; (2) dog’s distraction influenced the performance: distracted dogs performed less well.

Handlers punished more and rewarded less at the second evaluation than at the first one. This suggests that handlers modified their usual behaviour at the first evaluation in view to present themselves in a positive light. During the second evaluation the dogs reacted to this higher frequency of aversive stimuli as they exhibited a lower posture after aversive stimuli. The authors cannot prove that the welfare of these dogs had been hampered, but there is an indication that it was under threat.

Low team performances suggest that DH teams should train more regularly and undertake the usefulness of setting a new training system that would rely on: the use of more positive training methods, an increased training frequency, the elaboration of a course on training principles, and an improvement of dog handler relationship.

The advent of canine performance science: Offering a sustainable future for working dogs


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Anthrozoology Research Group, School of Psychological Sciences, Monash University, Victoria, Australia


Deakin Research, Deakin University, Waurn Ponds, Victoria, Australia


Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


School of Biological Sciences, Monash University, Victoria, Australia


Anthrozoology Research Group, School of Psychological Science, La Trobe University, Bendigo, Victoria, Australia

October 2014

Working and sporting dogs are valuable and essential contributors to industries worldwide.

Inefficiencies throughout the working dog production process result in high failure rates.

Animal production must be transparent, traceable and ethically acceptable to be sustainable.

Canine performance science is a model offering the working dog industry a sustainable future.

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