Many dogs suffer from separation anxiety and other behavioural problems. Dogs with separation anxiety show undesirable behaviours such as destructive behaviours, inappropriate urination or defecation and excessive barking and howling in the absence of the owner. Such undesirable behaviours can quickly damage the human-animal relationship and these dogs are at a higher risk of being abandoned or destined for adoption, but may be unable to find a new home. However, we do not fully understand the emotional states in dogs with behavioural problems, and we have limited methods to assess this.
Measuring emotions in animals is difficult because they cannot tell us how they feel. Developing better ways to assess animal emotions could help us to improve management practices and interventions and so improve the welfare of dogs. In this study, we are interested in finding better ways to measure emotions in dogs, as well as understanding the cognitive processes underpinning different emotions.
We are looking for an independent and motivated student who likes to work with dogs. There will be different opportunities for thesis work within this project. There will be the option to analyse video and heart rate variability data, which can be done from home. There is also the option of hands-on work with the dogs. For example, the student may train the dogs to respond to different visual cues and so ‘ask’ the dog how it feels, assess the personality of the dog, or apply other behavioural tests in a standardized setting.
The main experiment will take place in throughout 2021 in Uppsala, Sweden. If you are interested in this project and want more information, don’t hesitate to contact me!
Dr. Else Verbeek
SLU, Department of Animal Environment and Health