Yawning by Dogs Support Link to Empathy


Research Article
Familiarity Bias and Physiological Responses in Contagious Yawning by Dogs Support Link to Empathy

Teresa Romero,Akitsugu Konno,Toshikazu Hasegawa

In humans, the susceptibility to yawn contagion has been theoretically and empirically related to our capacity for empathy. Because of its relevance to evolutionary biology, this phenomenon has been the focus of recent investigations in non-human species. In line with the empathic hypothesis, contagious yawning has been shown to correlate with the level of social attachment in several primate species. Domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) have also shown the ability to yawn contagiously. To date, however, the social modulation of dog contagious yawning has received contradictory support and alternative explanations (i.e., yawn as a mild distress response) could explain positive evidence. The present study aims to replicate contagious yawning in dogs and to discriminate between the two possible mediating mechanisms (i.e., empathic vs. distress related response). Twenty-five dogs observed familiar (dog’s owner) and unfamiliar human models (experimenter) acting out a yawn or control mouth movements. Concurrent physiological measures (heart rate) were additionally monitored for twenty-one of the subjects. The occurrence of yawn contagion was significantly higher during the yawning condition than during the control mouth movements. Furthermore, the dogs yawned more frequently when watching the familiar model than the unfamiliar one demonstrating that the contagiousness of yawning in dogs correlated with the level of emotional proximity. Moreover, subjects’ heart rate did not differ among conditions suggesting that the phenomenon of contagious yawning in dogs is unrelated to stressful events. Our findings are consistent with the view that contagious yawning is modulated by affective components of the behavior and may indicate that rudimentary forms of empathy could be present in domesticated dogs.

Citation: Romero T, Konno A, Hasegawa T (2013) Familiarity Bias and Physiological Responses in Contagious Yawning by Dogs Support Link to Empathy. PLoS ONE 8(8): e71365. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0071365

Editor: Cédric Sueur, Institut Pluridisciplinaire Hubert Curien, France

Received: November 19, 2012; Accepted: June 29, 2013; Published: August 7, 2013

Copyright: © 2013 Romero et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


Dogs use their color vision

Colour cues proved to be more informative for dogs than brightness
Anna A. Kasparson1,Jason Badridze2 andVadim V. Maximov1?

It has long been known that dogs’ eyes are physically equipped to perceive colors, thus, they are not colorblind. But dogs are believed to see only shades of yellow, blue, and gray. That’s because their eyes have only two types of color-sensitive “cone” cells as compared to three in the human eye.


The results of early studies on colour vision in dogs led to the conclusion that chromatic cues are unimportant for dogs during their normal activities. Nevertheless, the canine retina possesses two cone types which provide at least the potential for colour vision.

Recently, experiments controlling for the brightness information in visual stimuli demonstrated that dogs have the ability to perform chromatic discrimination. Here, we show that for eight previously untrained dogs colour proved to be more informative than brightness when choosing between visual stimuli differing both in brightness and chromaticity. Although brightness could have been used by the dogs in our experiments (unlike previous studies), it was not. Our results demonstrate that under natural photopic lighting conditions colour information may be predominant even for animals that possess only two spectral types of cone photoreceptors.

Proceeding of the Royal Society B

Assessment tool :Quality of life in Canine Cancer patients

Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association
June 15, 2013, Vol. 242, No. 12, Pages 1679-1687
doi: 10.2460/javma.242.12.1679

Development of a survey instrument to assess health-related quality of life in small animal cancer patients treated with chemotherapy
Maria A. Iliopoulou, DVM, MS; Barbara E. Kitchell, DVM, PhD, DACVIM; Vilma Yuzbasiyan-Gurkan, PhD
Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences and the Comparative Medicine and Integrative Biology Program, College of Veterinary Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824. (Iliopoulou, Kitchell, Yuzbasiyan-Gurkan)

This manuscript represents a portion of a thesis submitted by Dr. Iliopoulou to Michigan State University as partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Master of Science degree.

Presented in abstract form at the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists-American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior Veterinary Behavior Symposium, St Louis, July 2011.
Address correspondence to Dr. Iliopoulou (iliopoul@msu.edu).

Objective—To develop a quality of life (QOL) survey for use in a canine cancer chemotherapy setting, validate the instrument’s utility, identify key questions that facilitate client and clinician communication regarding decisions in patient care, and use human and veterinary QOL literature to develop a comprehensive yet simple proxy survey instrument.


Animals—29 canine chemotherapy patients.

Procedures—Patients were evaluated by both owners and veterinarians at the time of initial visit to the clinic and at 3 and 6 weeks after the initiation of chemotherapy. This survey consisted of a longitudinal evaluation of QOL with 6 components addressing the animal’s QOL retrospectively, before onset of cancer; changes in the animal’s QOL since manifestation of disease; changes in the animal’s QOL with regard to treatment response; owner’s QOL and its impact on priorities in decision making; clinician’s impression of the owner’s priorities and QOL; and clinician’s impression of the dog’s QOL.

Results—Multiple regression analysis indicated 3 significant predictors of canine cancer patient QOL to be play behaviors, signs of illness, and canine happiness as perceived by owners.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—The QOL instrument was easy to use and enhanced client perception of patient care and clinician concern. Owners enjoyed the opportunity to complete the survey. Since questions regarding play behaviors, clinical signs of disease, and canine happiness were significant indicators of changes in QOL, these should be included in future studies. Quality of life assessment may facilitate treatment decisions and assessment of canine patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Problem-solving Strategies in Dogs Diagnosed with Anxiety

Different problem-solving strategies in dogs diagnosed with anxiety-related disorders and control dogs in an unsolvable task paradigm
Chiara Passalacqua,  Sarah Marshall-Pescini , Isabella Merola, Clara Palestrini , Emanuela Prato Previde
Accepted 10 May 2013. published online 10 June 2013.


In humans and in other animal species anxiety-related problems are associated with poor performance in different abilities ranging from decision-making, visual attention, learning and memory. Despite the increasing number of dogs showing anxiety-related problems, the relationship between cognitive performance and behavioural problems has not been investigated so far in this species. In the current study 25 adult dogs with a diagnosis of anxiety-related problems and 21 dogs with no behavioural problems were tested using the classic unsolvable task paradigm, to evaluate both independent problem solving abilities and the propensity of dogs to seek human intervention. Results showed that dogs with anxiety-related problems (ARP) took longer to solve the task in the initial solvable trial (P=0.001) and showed more stress-related behaviours in this trial (P=0.037) compared to dogs in the control group (C). Conversely, during the unsolvable part of the task, control dogs exhibited more attention-getting behaviours towards humans (P=0.006), whereas ARP dogs displayed a higher tendency to keep at a distance from the apparatus (P<0.001). These results seem to indicate a reduced proactive engagement with a novel problem-solving task in pathologically anxious dogs and suggest the presence of different coping strategies in anxious and non-anxious dogs giving impetus for further research in this area.

Applied Animal Behaviour Science

PII: S0168-1591(13)00135-4


Efficacy of dog-appeasing pheromone (DAP)

Can Vet J. 2010 April; 51(4): 380–384.
PMCID: PMC2839826
Efficacy of dog-appeasing pheromone (DAP) for ameliorating separation-related behavioral signs in hospitalized dogs
Young-Mee Kim, Jong-Kyung Lee, A.M. Abd el-aty, Sung-Hee Hwang, Jae-Hoon Lee, and Sang-Mok Lee


Dogs hospitalized in veterinary clinics are likely to show signs of separation-induced anxiety from hospitalization. Did you know that CBD For Pets can help reduce anxiety and pain in your furry friend?

The study assessed the effect of dog-appeasing pheromone (DAP) on 10 typical separation-related behavioral signs in hospitalized dogs. A DAP treated group (n = 24) was compared with a placebo control group (n = 19). There was overall amelioration of the signs without ‘vigilance’ and ‘anorexia’ in the DAP-treated dogs; marked decreases were noted in elimination (P = 0.038), excessive licking (P = 0.005), and pacing (P = 0.017). The results suggest that the use of DAP could decrease separation-induced anxiety, distress, and fear in inpatients, and possibly facilitate recovery in hospitalized dogs.

New Research; how odor is processed

“For most animals, smell is a very, very important thing,” said Harvard Professor Venkatesh Murthy. “If they are in an environment where there’s one overwhelming smell that’s irrelevant, they need to be able to detect a weak smell that may signal danger.” Earlier studies had hinted that the interneurons in the olfactory bulb are the primary target of the feedback signals, but Murthy’s study is the first to prove it.

Read the article here: http://news.harvard.edu/

Canine Devocalization Position Statement

The American Animal Hospital Association is opposed to the practice known as debarking, canine devocalization or vocal cordectomy.

Devocalization for inappropriate and excessive vocalization is often ineffective in achieving the desired results and can deprive canines of the ability to perform a normal behavior. Appropriate behavioral modification efforts should be employed that avoid the use of punishment or aversive methods. When deemed necessary, devocalization should only be performed by qualified, licensed veterinarians as a final alternative to relinquishment or euthanasia. Exceptions to this statement would be in the rare case of airway obstruction or laryngeal paralysis which cannot be addressed through other surgical procedures.