Behavior of Laboratory Beagles Towards Humans: Assessment in an Encounter Test and a Simulation of Experimental Situations

Scientific Journal Articles

Because of the close emotional bonds between the man and the domesticated dog, husbandry of laboratory dogs is regarded with particular interest by the public. The relationship between laboratory dogs and the man is particularly important for animal welfare, and daily contact with caregivers and handlers should not elicit fear in dogs. The aim of this study was to investigate the behaviors of laboratory dogs toward humans. In 4 research facilities, 90 male and female 1- to 10-year-old laboratory beagles of different origins (facility bred or from other origins) were tested in an “encounter test” and a setting that simulated realistically general research situations. No significant differences were observed in the encounter test when the dogs were approached by a familiar caretaker or by an unfamiliar person. Nearly all of the dogs could be caught easily, and they exhibited pronounced interest in and established contacts with both persons. We simulated an experimental manipulation by placing the dogs on a treatment table in an examination room and having them restrained by a familiar caretaker; this resulted in submissive behavior and/or signs of distress in many dogs (e.g., 12% urinated when being lifted onto the examination table and most dogs showed muzzle licking on the table). Multifactorial analysis of variance revealed that, based on most of the calculated scores, the facility-bred dogs were significantly less fearful than those obtained from commercial breeders or from other research facilities. Sex differences were not observed, and younger dogs were significantly more difficult to catch. The data revealed that good relationships were established between the caretakers and the dogs in all 4 research facilities. The facility-bred dogs in particular were friendly and exhibited little fear toward both the familiar and unfamiliar persons.

Döring, D., Haberland, B.E., Ossig, A., Küchenhoff, H., Dobenecker, B., Hack, R., Schmidt, J., and Erhard, M. (2014). Behavior of laboratory beagles towards humans: Assessment in an encounter test and a simulation of experimental situations. Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 9, 295-303. DOI: 10.1016/j.jveb.2014.08.007.

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Topic(s): Behavior, Problem Abnormal Behavior, Recognition, Research and Teaching