23rd July 2010, 12:45pm
Do dogs get down in the dumps?
inquisitive dog Canine volunteers in the London and Lincoln areas are being sought to take part in what is believed to be the first study to link dogs’ recovery from a behaviour problem to a scientific assessment of their emotions.

Veterinary surgeon, Christos Karagiannis, is undertaking the research as part of his Masters degree in Clinical Animal Behaviour at the University of Lincoln, under the supervision of one of the world’s leading authorities on companion animal behaviour problems, Professor Daniel Mills.

Christos said: “It is well known that happy people are more likely to emphasise the positive aspects of an ambiguous context, relative to sadder or more anxious people. On the other hand, people in negative emotional states attend more to threats, retrieve negative memories, and make negative judgments about stimuli more than happier people. Putting it simply, people who are happy tend to ‘look on the bright side’ whereas anyone experiencing a stressful time or feeling ‘down’ will tend to see everything negatively.

“We want to find out if this is the same for dogs. To do this we need to devise methods of investigating it scientifically.”

The study seeks to tie together not just the emotions of dogs suffering from a specific behaviour problem commonly known as separation anxiety, but also to monitor it during recovery.

“We believe this to be the first time the relationship between clinical recovery from a behaviour problem has been linked to a scientific assessment of biases in perception and thought,” said Christos.

Christos is looking for dogs with separation related problems to take part in the study. He said: “If you find that when you leave your dog for any length of time it howls or whines, or scratches and chews at objects or furniture, it’s very likely that it is suffering from separation anxiety.

“During the study, your dog will be treated with an established and effective treatment plan which involves giving it medication on a daily basis, together with a relatively straightforward behaviour modification plan. The medication has been specially formulated for dogs with separation anxiety problems and is chewable, with a meaty flavour.”

The study lasts for 10 weeks. Four visits to the dog behaviour clinic at the  Riseholme campus are required for the Lincoln dogs, with London-based participants receiving home visits from Christos.  If you are the owner of a dog with separation related problems and you are interested in taking part in this study, you can contact Christos at dogseparation@hotmail.com  
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