Military dogs, especially improvised explosive device (IED)-detection dogs, work in war zones under harsh conditions. Being attuned to fear-inducing sounds and recovering quickly is a critical requirement. Margaret Gruen and her colleagues recently investigated a new method to assess sound induced fear and anxiety in candidate IED-detection dogs – specifically, Labrador retrievers.
We cannot stay behind when it comes to the end-of-year lists, so here is a top 14 of 2014’s most popular animal behavior posts on our Noldus behavioral research blog. (For a top 3 on human behavior research, see this post) As expected, the list is dominated by zebrafish research, but it’s not the topic of our most read post!
If you’ve ever been to a shelter to adopt a dog, you know that when you walk into the holding area, the dogs can get very noisy. At the introduction of a stranger to the room their kennels are in, the dogs will start barking, which encourages the other dogs around them to bark as well. Barking has been documented as a stressor for dog, as have repetitive behavior and lots of movement. All of these behaviors seem to increase by the access of visitors to the kennel area. Lynn Hewison and colleagues decided to investigate if preventing visitor access to the dogs could lower stress levels and therefore increase general welfare of the animals.
As anyone who owns a pet could probably tell you, animals are great comforts to their human partners. The relationship between animal and human can go beyond just pet and owner, however, and become a therapeutic relationship. For example, dogs have been used with adult substance abuse patients in animal-assisted interventions (AAIs) and animal-assisted therapy (AAT). Why use dogs in therapy? They can be a good motivator for participation in an intervention and become a source of trust and comfort to the patient, thus improving the chance of therapy success. There has been a lot of research done on the impact that using dogs in therapy can have on humans. But what about the effect it has on the welfare of the dogs?
When finding the right dog for yourself, you probably won’t choose an aggressive one, will you? You don’t want it to attack your friends, kids, or other dogs. You could try using a temperament test to predict behavior in dogs, but how reliable are they?