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Humans can understand different dog growls - study
"Dog owners recognised better the context of the growls compared with participants who did not own a dog."

Women and dog owners better at the task 

Humans can decipher a dog’s emotional state by the sound of its growl, according to a new study.

Published in Royal Society Open Science, the study also found that women are more capable of working out the meaning of a dog's growl than men.

In the study, researchers from Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary, played recordings of growls from 18 different dogs. The growls were from dogs guarding food, dogs being threatened by an approaching stranger and dogs playing tug of war.

The researchers asked 40 adults to listen to two sets of the recordings and record their feelings about the first set on a sliding scale. The participants could rate the growls by emotions: aggression, fear, despair, happiness and playfulness.

For the second set of recordings, the researchers asked the participants to choose one of the three possible contexts (food guarding, threatening, play).

The participants correctly classified 63 per cent of the growl samples - significantly more than chance level, the researchers said. Moreover, the participants correct classified 81 per cent of the play growls, yet found it more difficult to recognise food guarding and threatening growls.

The study also found that women and dog owners performed better in the recognition task, while dog bite history of the participants had no effect.

“It is known that women have a higher emotional sensitivity, and probably this higher sensitivity can help to differentiate better context of the growls,” the authors write.

“Additionally we found that, in contrast with the case of dog barks, the individual dog-related experience had a positive effect on the performance of the participants.

“Dog owners recognised better the context of the growls compared with participants who did not own a dog, which is probably due to their extended experiences with dog growls.”

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Scheme to protect wildlife and reduce flooding

News Story 1
 Natural England has announced a new scheme to improve flood protection, boost wildlife and create 160 hectares of new saltmarsh. The £6 million scheme in Lancashire will effectively unite the RSPB’s Hesketh Out Marsh Reserve and Natural England’s Ribble Estuary National Nature Reserve. The completed reserve will be the largest site of its kind in the north of England. 

News Shorts
Welfare event to discuss ethical dilemmas faced by vets

Students and ethics experts will host an event on the difficult moral challenges facing vets. Ethical issues, such as euthanasia and breeding animals for certain physical traits, will be discussed by prominent speakers including TV vet Emma Milne and RSPCA chief vet James Yeates. Other topics will include how to tackle suspected animal abuse and the extent of surgical intervention.

The conference will look at how these dilemmas affect the wellbeing of vets, and explore how to better prepare veterinary students for work. It will be held at the University of Edinburgh’s Easter Bush Campus from 30 September - 1 October 2017. Tickets can be purchased here.