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Dogs showing separation-related behaviour exhibit a 'pessimistic' cognitive bias

By Michael Mendl, Julie Brooks, Christine Basse, Oliver Burman, Elizabeth Paul, Emily Blackwell and Rachel Casey

Abstract

Up to five million pet dogs in the UK (50% of the population) may, at some stage of their lives, perform undesirable separation-related behaviour (SRB) when left home alone [1], including vocalising, destruction and toileting [2]. Some owners perceive their dog to be fine or even happy when performing SRB [3], a few seek professional help [1], and others relinquish the dog [4]. Given the magnitude of the issue and the varied perceptions and behaviour of owners, the underlying emotional (affective) states of dogs showing SRB, and hence their welfare, requires elucidation. Whilst most dogs are believed to be anxious when showing SRB [1,2], it is uncertain whether their background affective state (mood) when they are not separated is also negative [1]. Here we use a new cognitive bias measure of animal affect to show that dogs which exhibit high levels of SRB in a separation test also appear to have a more negative underlying mood

Topics: C120 Behavioural Biology, D328 Animal Welfare
Publisher: Cell Press
Year: 2010
DOI identifier: 10.1016/j.cub.2010.08.030
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.lincoln.ac.uk:3512
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