THESIS: Endogenous Oxytocin Release In Canis Familiaris Through Natural Activities

By Laurine Jenner

Below is the background to the thesis, and the entire paper is available for download in PDF format here:

Laurine Jenner Thesis
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Corgi and terrier dogs running together

Background

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.


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