Dog behaviours in veterinary consultations: Part II. The relationship between the behaviours of dogs and their owners

authors

  • Helsly M.
  • Priymenko Nathalie
  • Girault C.
  • Duranton C.
  • Gaunet F.

keywords

  • Behaviour
  • Dog
  • Owner-dog interaction
  • Stress
  • Veterinary examination

document type

ART

abstract

Dogs synchronise their behaviour with those of their owners when confronted with an unfamiliar situation and interactions with their owners have been shown to decrease the dog's stress levels in some instances. However, whether owners may help manage dog anxiety during veterinary consultations remains unclear. In Part I, we compared the behaviour of dogs in the presence or absence of their owners during consultations, which consisted in three phases: exploration, examination, and greeting. Our findings suggest that allowing owners to attend consultations may be beneficial for dogs. In Part II, we investigated the direct relationship between owners' actions and their dog's behaviour. Using the videos from Part I, we examined whether: (1) dogs interact more when their owner is more interactive; (2) owners' stress scores are related to canine stress-related behaviour and emotional state; (3) owners' actions influence canine stress-related behaviours, emotional state and tolerance to manipulations; (4) canine stress-related behaviours and emotional state are associated with increased eye contact with their owners. We analysed the recordings of 29 dog-owner dyads submitted to a veterinary consultation in Part I. The behaviours of the dogs and their owners were analysed, and their emotional states were scored. The ease of manipulations was also scored. Despite limitations (e.g. no physical contact during examinations, no invasive procedures, aggressive dogs excluded, no male owners, limited sample size), our study showed a link between dog and owner behaviours: when owners attended an examination, their negative behaviours intensified the signs of anxiety in their dogs. Additionally, visual and verbal attempts to comfort their dog had no significant effect. However, we observed that the more dogs displayed stress-related behaviours, the more they established eye contact with their owners, suggesting that dogs seek information (through social referencing) or reassurance from their owners.

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