By Laurine Jenner
Below is the background to the thesis, and the entire paper is available for download in PDF format here:
The purpose of this study is to explore whether implementing activities proven to promote endogenous oxytocin release can reduce stress behaviour and promote affiliative interaction, improving wellbeing in a group environment. The domestic dog (Canis Familiaris) is a highly social species; research suggests that when given the opportunity socialised dogs will choose to observe other dogs and behave in ways that maintain contact2 . Providing visual and physical contact with conspecifics can have a positive effect on psychological wellbeing2 by facilitating social bonds, a fundamental part of the dog’s hierarchy of needs3 . Group environments such as dog day-care can provide an opportunity to enhance social contact, allowing dogs to engage in natural social behaviours with conspecifics as well as increasing the novelty of their daily environment1 . However, the nature of group environments can also be stressful, whether positive (eustress) or negative (distress)4 , from arousal and excitement of interacting with conspecifics, stimulation from novel sounds/scents, anxiety over a shared environment, or the dog’s own past experiences for example. Research suggests the brains of higher animals function optimally when receiving a specific amount of stimulation, too much (or too little) can lead to adverse mental and physical wellbeing; and the perceived loss of predictability or control over such can elicit a physiologic stress response in the dog5, 11.