Animal Behaviour and Welfare
Animal Behaviour and Welfare
This research is led by The Animal Behaviour Centre and research programmes focus on fundamental and applied aspects of domestic, farm and zoo animal behaviour. This group also looks at well-being and the impact of animals on human health.
Laterality and Animal Welfare
Researchers at the Animal Behaviour Centre have carried out extensive research (funded by BBSRC) on the link between laterality and animal welfare, specifically exploring whether lateral bias in the form of paw preference can be used as a tool for assessing welfare risk. Studies have investigated the association between motor bias and various measures of physical/psychological well-being in species including dogs, cats, primates and even sea-lions. Ultimately, the research aims to determine whether behavioural asymmetry can be used as a reliable, harmless and independent predictor of welfare risk in animals, offering a viable tool for the early targeting of vulnerable individuals.
The Centre is heavily involved in finding ways of improving the psychological well-being of captive animals through the implementation of scientifically tried and tested environmental enrichment schemes. Over the years, researchers have led the way in evaluating the efficacy of various types of sensory stimulation (auditory, visual, olfactory) and other enrichment schemes on the behaviour and welfare of animals housed in rescue shelters (dogs, cats), zoos (primates, cats, elephants) and on farms (pigs). Funding for this work has been provided by a variety of organisations including DEFRA, the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare and the British Psychological Society. The findings from the work have attracted prestigious research awards, informed policy and practice, and helped to improve the housing of animals kept in institutional settings.
Pets and Human Health
The notion that pets are good for us is by no means a new one; scientific evidence for a link between companion animals and human health, however, is still relatively sparse. Researchers at the Animal Behaviour Centre have thus been exploring the ability of animals to serve as social facilitators and act as mediators to stress. Studies have explored the effect of pets on people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME (funded by the Society of Companion Animal Studies) and the ability of dogs to serve as detectors of hypoglycaemia in people with Type 1 diabetes (funded by Diabetes UK).
Pets and Social Cognition
Social cognitive deficits, such as those seen in individuals with psychopathic traits, may have an influence on how people perceive, and consequently treat, animals. Similarly, a sensitivity to social cues and signs of vulnerability in animals may reduce the risk of engagement in acts of animal cruelty. Researchers at the Animal Behaviour Centre are currently exploring how human personality, attitudes and social cognition may impact on the welfare of companion animals in the home and shelter environment.
Farm Animal Welfare and Human Behaviour
There is increasing interest in the application of human behaviour change theory to animal welfare. Researchers at the Centre are reviewing and designing behaviour change interventions to address a number of farm animal welfare problems in which human influence has a role to play in determining welfare standards. Studies are also exploring ways of automatically monitoring farm animal welfare post-mortem, helping farmers to improve herd health, welfare and track the success of newly implemented systems.
In addition to exploring the value of odours as a method of environment enrichment for captive animals (see above), researchers at the Centre have been investigating biomedical detection dogs, the tracking skills of domestic dogs and, more recently, prenatal olfactory learning in dogs and cats. This work has shown that dogs are proficient at following the correct direction of a human-laid trail, and can successfully following trails after only a small number of footsteps have been laid.
The olfactory acuity of the great apes is also the focus of research attention, exploring, for the first time, the importance of odour cues to one of our closest living cousins.
Reeve, C., Cummings, E., McLaughlin, E., Smith, S., & Gadbois, S. (2019). An idiographic investigation of diabetic alert dogs’ ability to learn from a small sample set. Canadian Journal of Diabetes.
Reeve, C., & Koivusalo, M. (2018). Biomedical Scent Detection Dogs: Would They Pass as a Health Technology?. Pet Behaviour Science, (6), 1-7.
Gadbois, S., & Reeve, C. (2016). The semiotic canine: scent processing dogs as research assistants in biomedical and environmental research. Dog Behavior, 2(3), 26-32.
Wells, D.L., Morrison, D. & Hepper, P.G. (2012). The effect of priming on perceptions of dog breed traits. Anthrozoos 25, 369-377.
Wells, D.L. & Hepper, P.G. (2012). The personality of “aggressive” and “non-aggressive” dog owners. Personality and Individual Differences 53, 770-773.
Hepper, P.G. & Wells, D.L. (2005). How many footsteps do dogs need to determine the direction of an odour trail? Chemical Senses 30, 291-298.
Wells, D.L. (2004). A review of environmental enrichment for kennelled dogs, Canis familiaris. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 85, 307-317.
Ellis, S.L.H & Wells, D.L. (2010). The influence of olfactory stimulation on the behaviour of cats housed in a rescue shelter. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 123, 56-62.
Ellis, S.L.H & Wells, D.L. (2008). The influence of visual stimulation on the behaviour of cats housed in a rescue shelter. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 113, 166-174.
Wells, D.L. & Egli, J.M. (2004). The influence of olfactory enrichment on the behaviour of black-footed cats, Felis nigripes. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 85, 107-119.
Courtney, N. & Wells, D.L. (2002). The discrimination of cat odours by humans. Perception 31, 511-512.
Hepper, P.G. & Wells, D.L. (2012). Olfactory discrimination in the western lowland gorillas, Gorilla gorilla gorilla. Primates 53, 121-126.
Hepper, P.G. & Wells, D.L. (2010). Individually identifiable body odors are produced by the gorilla and discriminated by humans. Chemical Senses, 35, 263-268.
Wells, D.L., Hepper, P.G., Coleman, D. & Challis, M.G. (2007). A note on the effect of olfactory stimulation on the behaviour and welfare of zoo-housed gorillas. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 106, 155-160.
Wells, D.L. (2005). A note on the effect of zoo visitors on the behaviour and welfare of captive gorillas. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 93, 13-17.
Laterality in Animals
Wells, D.L., Hepper, P.G., Milligan, A.D.S., & Barnard, S. (2019). Lack of association between paw preference and behaviour problems in the domestic dog, Canis familiaris. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 210, 81-87.
Barnard, S., Wells, D.L., Hepper, P.G. (2018). Laterality as a predictor of coping strategies in dogs entering a rescue shelter. Symmetry 10, 538.
Barnard S., Wells, D.L., Milligan, A.D.S., Arnott, G. & Hepper P.G. (2018). Personality traits affecting judgement bias task performance in dogs (Canis familiaris). Scientific Reports, 8, 6660.
Wells, D.L., Hepper, P.G., Milligan, A.D.S. & Barnard, S. (2018). Stability of motor bias in the domestic dog, Canis familiaris. Behavioural Processes 149, 1-7.
McDowell, L.J., Wells, D.L., Hepper, P.G. (2018). Lateralisation of spontaneous behaviours in the domestic cat, Felis silvestris. Animal Behaviour 135, 37-43.
Wells, D.L., Hepper, P.G., Milligan, A.D.S. & Barnard, S. (2017). Cognitive bias and paw preference in the domestic dog, Canis familiaris. Journal of Comparative Psychology 131, 317-325.
Barnard S., Wells, D.L., Hepper P.G., Milligan A.D.S. (2017). Association between lateral bias and personality traits in the domestic dog. Journal of Comparative Psychology 131, 246-256.
McDowell, L.J., Wells, D.L., Hepper, P.G. & Dempster, M. (2016). Lateral bias and temperament in the domestic cat, Felis silvestris. Journal of Comparative Psychology 130, 313-320.
Wells, D.L., Hepper, P.G., Milligan, A.D.S. & Barnard, S. (2016). Comparing lateral bias in dogs and humans using the KongTM ball test. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 176, 70-76.
Wells, D.L. & McDowell, L. (2019). Laterality as a tool for assessing breed differences in emotional reactivity in the domestic cat, Felis silvestris catus. Animals 9, 647.
Wells, D.L. & Millsopp, S. (2012). The ontogeny of lateralised behaviour in the domestic cat, Felis silvestris catus. Journal of Comparative Psychology 126, 23-30.
Wells, D.L. & Millsopp, S. (2009). Lateralised behaviour in the domestic cat, Felis silvestris catus. Animal Behaviour 78, 537-541.
Wells, D.L., Irwin, R.M. & Hepper, P.G. (2006). Lateralised swimming behaviour in the California sea lion. Behavioural Processes 73, 121-123.
Wells, D.L. (2003). Lateralised behaviour in the domestic dog, Canis familaris. Behavioural Processes 61, 27-35.
Pets and Human Health
Wells, D.L. (2019). The state of research on human-animal relations. Anthrozoos 32, 169-181.
Wells, D.L. (2012). Dogs as a diagnostic tool for ill-health in humans. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine 18, 12-17.
Wells, D.L. (2011). The value of pets for human health. The Psychologist 24, 172-176.
Wells, D.L., Lawson, S.W. & Siriwardena, N. (2011). Feline responses to hypoglycaemia in patients with Type 1 diabetes. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 17, 99-100.
Wells, D.L. (2009). The effect of animals on human health and well-being. Journal of Social Issues 65, 523-543.
Wells, D.L. (2009). Associations between pet ownership and self-reported health status in people suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 15, 407-413.
Wells, D.L., Lawson, S.W. & Siriwardena, N. (2008). Canine responses to hypoglycaemia in patients with Type 1 diabetes. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 14, 1235-1241.
Wells, D.L. (2007). Domestic dogs and human health: an overview. British Journal of Health Psychology 12, 145-156.
Farm Animal Welfare
Knock, M., & Carroll, G. A. (2019). The Potential of Post-Mortem Carcass Assessments in Reflecting the Welfare of Beef and Dairy Cattle. Animals, 9(11), 959.
Carroll, G. A., & Groarke, J. M. (2019). The Importance of the Social Sciences in Reducing Tail Biting Prevalence in Pigs. Animals, 9(9), 591.
Carroll, G. A., Boyle, L. A., Hanlon, A., Collins, L., Griffin, K., Friel, M., & O'Connell, N. E. (2018). What can carcass-based assessments tell us about the lifetime welfare status of pigs? Livestock science, 214, 98-105.
ANIMAL BEHAVIOUR CENTRE
Leading exciting and novel research programmes on both fundamental and applied aspects of domestic and zoo animal welfare.
The Animal Behaviour Centre is involved in a diverse range of innovative research programmes involving dogs, cats, primates and other species. Our research has focused on laterality and animal welfare, environmental enrichment, pets and human health and animal olfaction.
FETAL BEHAVIOUR RESEARCH CENTRE
Researching the behaviour of the fetus
Research undertaken by the Centre will lead to a greater understanding of the behaviour of the fetus which can be used to better and improve the care and well-being of the individual.
Thousands of animals are housed in captive conditions worldwide, often to the detriment of their mental well-being. Scientists at Queen’s Animal Behaviour Centre have spent the last 20 years developing new ways of improving the psychological welfare of animals housed in captivity. Their research has shown that classical music and scents such as lavender in dog shelters calms the animals, and that shielding zoo-housed gorillas from visitors with camouflage netting over the viewing windows, prevents great apes from becoming agitated. The impact of this research extends to guidelines and regulations set by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Australian Government's National Health and Medical Research Council.
Commercial impact includes CDs of music composed specifically for dogs, now widely available to buy on the open market, and being utilised in 1700+ rescue shelters and by over 150,000 pet owners around the globe.
- The Guardian: Animal welfare: Classical music soothes the wanderlust of zoo elephants
- ABC Australia Environment and Nature - Zoo visitors stress gorillas
- New Scientist: Dogs prefer Bach to Britney
- Australian Government's National Health and Medical Research Council Guidelines on the Care of Dogs Used for Scientific Procedures (2009)
- Birte L. Nielsen
- Tadeusz Jezierski
- J. Elizabeth Bolhuis
- Luisa Amo
- Frank Rosell
- Marije Oostindjer
- Janne W. Christensen
- Dorothy McKeegan
- Glenn Levine
- Karen Allen
- Lynne Braun
- Hayley Christian
- Erika Friedmann
- Katherine Taubert
- Sue Thomas
- Richard Lange