Assessing dogs’adaptive capacities at the vet

F. Ohl

    Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting AbstractOther research output


    We measured behavior, body temperature, heart rate variability and salivary cortisol in 105 dogs responding to a standard procedure performed in 11 different Dutch vet clinics and show that these parameters can be used as indicators of their adaptive capacity, i.e. coping ability. Dogs were: 1) placed on the vet’s exam table and fitted with a Polar heart-rate monitor recording R-R intervals; 2) observed with a videocamera for 5 minutes while they stayed on the exam table next to their owners. Owners could interact with their dogs, but not the veterinarian. At the end of the observation period 3) the dog’s rectal temperature was measured and 4) a saliva sample was collected from the dog. Dogs exhibited variable responses displaying both behaviors previously reported as being “stress indicators”, such as panting (55%), and exploratory behaviors, such as sniffing table (47%). Preliminary findings show that: 1) ‘panting’ is significantly (P < 0.05) positively correlated with salivary cortisol values and body temperature, while 2) ‘sniffing table’ is negatively correlated (P < 0.05) with cortisol values but significantly positively correlated with dog’s curiosity (assessed by owner). The rate/duration of ‘panting’ behavior during the 5 minute standardized observation varied among dogs and four different ‘coping responses’ were observed: 1) a rather invariable high response; 2) an initially low response increasing over time; 3) an initially high response decreasing over time; and 4) a low or null response (non-responders). We believe these findings have implications for assessing dog welfare.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)e28
    Number of pages1
    JournalJournal of Veterinary Behavior
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


    • animal welfare
    • dog
    • behaviour


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