I have always found it interesting how different the onomatopoeias used to describe animal noises are in different languages. And so, I made it a little side project during my pilot field trip to Bulgaria to find out exactly what noise a Bulgarian dog makes!
The (true!) purpose of my trip was to carry out a pilot study and meet the Four Paws stray animal care team, who work in a clinic on the outskirts of Sofia City neutering and providing veterinary care to owned and stray dogs in this region. In the UK, if a dog were to roam the streets without an owner the dog might be thought of as a "lost pet". However, in Bulgaria, it is not unusual to regularly see dogs freely roaming the streets. A proportion of these dogs have owners, however many are stray. In my pilot field trip I have been testing out methods which will allow us to estimate the size of this free-roaming dog population, as well as giving us information about how many of these dogs are neutered, how healthy they are, along with other demographic data. This meant pretty unsociable 5am street surveys to count and record this information! However, the early starts were worth it to observe these animals at a time when the city was at its most peaceful.
Overall, the pilot trip was a success and planning for future field trips have commenced. Watch this space!
And the noise that a Bulgarian dog makes? Not too dissimilar to our barking dogs in the UK - "баф баф" (or baf baf)!
Last week I got the fantastic news that my first paper was now live on Science Direct, published in the Journal of Applied Animal Behaviour Science. I can tell you that this really was an amazing feeling! The process of writing for publication is certainly not without its challenges, but is essential in ensuring that the research we do has the impact intended.
This paper makes up one part on my PhD looking at individual differences in pain behaviour in non-human animals. Pain especially chronic pain, in non-human animals can be hard to recognise and treat, as such the broad aim of my PhD is to have a clearer understanding of what characteristics in non-human animals (not related to disease severity) might affect the pain behaviour they show.
The paper entitled ‘Emotional affect and the occurrence of owner reported health problem in the domestic dog’ is based on the results we got from a broader online survey of dog owners looking at their dog’s behaviour and health. We specifically investigated whether dogs with and without current painful conditions could be differentiated by their mood state.
Our findings suggest that dogs who had current painful conditions showed lower levels of positive affect. Positive affective states are characterised by positive emotions and interactions, such as; play, alertness, excitement, and energy. Therefore, our results suggest that painful experiences in dogs may have a detrimental effect on their mood state. Pain is a common sign in many illnesses, in both dogs and other animals, these findings really highlight how important it is to focus on the influence that individual differences can have on health-related behaviour.
If you are interested in keeping up to date with more findings from my PhD, as well as keeping up to date with our research lab please also consider following me on Twitter @sjreaney