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Dominance in domestic dogs

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Joanne A.M. van der Borg
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A dominance hierarchy is an important feature of the social organisation of group living animals. Although formal and/or agonistic dominance has been found in captive wolves and free-ranging dogs, applicability of the dominance concept in domestic dogs is highly debated, and quantitative data are scarce. Therefore, we investigated 7 body postures and 24 behaviours in a group of domestic dogs for their suitability as formal status indicators. The results showed that high posture, displayed in most dyadic relationships, and muzzle bite, displayed exclusively by the highest ranking dogs, qualified best as formal dominance indicators. The best formal submission indicator was body tail wag, covering most relationships, and two low postures, covering two-thirds of the relationships. In addition, both mouth lick, as included in Schenkel's active submission, and pass under head qualified as formal submission indicators but were shown almost exclusively towards the highest ranking dogs. Furthermore, a status assessment based on changes in posture displays, i.e., lowering of posture (LoP) into half-low, low, low-on-back or on-back, was the best status indicator for most relationships as it showed good coverage (91% of the dyads), a nearly linear hierarchy (h' = 0.94, p
Joanne A.M. van der Borg
added 2 research items
Living with dogs, encountering dogs, investigating dogs, we inevitably interpret their behavior as part of our interaction with them. In our study we tested whether interpretation of dog behavior is affected by empathy for animals. Fifty seven vet-erinary students participated in the study. Students filled out a questionnaire on their experience with dogs, and then com-pleted the Animal Empathy scale (Paul, 2000). They were shown five two-minute videos of dogs, and asked to assess 19 adjec-tives for each of the dogs, using visual analogue scales (VAS). Principal component analysis (PCA) was performed on the total VAS scorings for two videos showing dogs playing, for three videos showing dogs being mentality tested and for each of the five videos separately. For every PCA, one of the components retained related to aggressiveness. Empathy for animals showed a significant negative correlation with the aggressiveness-com-ponent for the two play-videos (r ¼ À0.35, P ¼ 0.0175), and two of the single videos (r ¼ À0.33, P ¼ 0.0230; r ¼ À0.39, P ¼ 0.0071). When looking only at subjects with little actual dog experience (zero years of responsibility for a dog), empathy significantly affected 6 out of 7 aggressiveness-components negatively. Empathy did not show any significant correlation with components related to other types of emotion or behavior. These results indicate that people with a low level of empathy for animals interpret dog aggressiveness as more pronounced than people with a high level of empathy. Our results can help improve the understanding of human-dog interaction, and are important in relation to research on dogs involving qualitative behavior assessments. Key words: empathy; dog; qualitative behavior assessment Reference Paul, E.S., 2000. Empathy with animals and with humans: Are they linked? Anthrozoös 13, 194e202. 2 Dominance and its behavioral measures in group housed domestic dogs Constructing dominance hierarchies is widely accepted to describe and explain an important aspect of the social organisation in group living animals. Dominance refers to a consistent fundamental asym-metry between individuals regarding competitive power and/or sta-tus, reflected by specific behaviors as well as in biologically relevant outcomes of dyadic interactions. Recently, this concept for dogs has been debated (e.g., Bradshaw et al., 2009), resulting in a growing consensus that dominance is not applicable to domestic dogs. How-ever, quantitative data are scarce. In the present study, in total 16 intact dogs of both sexes (3 adults, 2 sub adults, 7 juveniles, of which 4 litter mates, and 4 pups) were group housed (outdoor enclosure: 273 m2) during observations. The patterns of distribution of 7 postures and 25 behaviors exchanged within 4,874 dyadic interactions were observed over a period of 12 weeks. Data of the last 4 weeks were used for dominance analysis. We researched three properties (Van Hooff & Wensing,1987): coverage, linearity (h') of the resulting rank order, and unidirectionality or directional consistency index (DCI). Two low postures ("Low" and "Low-on-back") and two behaviors ("body tail wag" and "lick mouth", as included in Schenkel's active submission) showed to be good dominance indicators at individual level. For constructing a (nearly) linear dominance hierarchy the most suitable indicator was "lowering of posture", evaluated by comparing the beginning and ending of the interaction for posture display. These findings show the construct of dominance to be valid in this group of domestic dogs. Our results are in agreement with the findings of Van Hooff and Wensing for wolves (1987) and Cafazzo et al. (2010) for free-ranging dogs, and contradict the base for rejec-tions of Bradshaw et al. (2009). It indicates that the ethogram for dogs is best redefined by distinguishing postures from behavioral activities. Also this can be helpful in properly interpreting and diagnosing problem behavior.
A dominance hierarchy is an important feature of the social organisation of group living animals. Although formal and/or agonistic dominance has been found in captive wolves and free-ranging dogs, applicability of the dominance concept in domestic dogs is highly debated, and quantitative data are scarce. Therefore, we investigated 7 body postures and 24 behaviours in a group of domestic dogs for their suitability as formal status indicators. The results showed that high posture, displayed in most dyadic relationships, and muzzle bite, displayed exclusively by the highest ranking dogs, qualified best as formal dominance indicators. The best formal submission indicator was body tail wag, covering most relationships, and two low postures, covering two-thirds of the relationships. In addition, both mouth lick, as included in Schenkel's active submission, and pass under head qualified as formal submission indicators but were shown almost exclusively towards the highest ranking dogs. Furthermore, a status assessment based on changes in posture displays, i.e., lowering of posture (LoP) into half-low, low, low-on-back or on-back, was the best status indicator for most relationships as it showed good coverage (91% of the dyads), a nearly linear hierarchy (h' = 0.94, p