DOG EMOTION LABInsights into the Emotional World of Dogs
EMOMETER – Assessment of emotional functioning in dogs
EMOMETER (short for EMOtionMETER) is an EU-funded research project with the title “Developing an integrated toolbox for the assessment of emotional functioning in dogs”. The aim of this project is to find appropriate non-invasive tools to measure emotional states in dogs to achieve a better understanding of their emotional lives and to achieve and strengthen satisfactory human-dog bonds.
Dogs are an interesting species, as they are voluntarily living in close proximity to us humans and are known to be excellent decoders of our behaviour. However, we still do not know much about dogs perception of the world and especially their emotional lives. Misinterpreting dogs emotions can result in suffering of the dog, e.g. due to sub-optimal husbandry conditions, reluctance or the development of behavioural issues, but can also menace humans well-being, e.g. due to bite incidents. A main goal of this project is therefore to increase our understanding of dogs behaviour especially their emotions to prevent misunderstandings and consequently increase the welfare of both, dogs and humans.
Emotional processes and the understanding of emotions of others are important for individual survival and has significant impact on cooperation, competition, consolidation and therefore formation of relationships between individuals. Perceiving and interpreting emotions of an individual of one owns species is already a cognitively complex task but imagine the increase in difficulties when this interpretation takes place between two different species, which differ severely in their expression! For this reason, the dog-human relationship is very interesting. For this reason, we try to shed light on the question how this inter-species emotion reading is achieved so that the unique alliance between this two species is possible and how we can improve this coalition!
The research approach is interdisciplinary and ranges from investigations of basic principles like physiology to more advanced research questions like perception and cognition. It is important to combine these approaches, as only the combination of these disciplines can offer valuable clues at aggregate level consequently enabling us to precisely assess the behaviour of an individual.
All of this research is non-invasive – we do not like to harm animals, quiet in contrary. The team of this project has long standing expertise in a variety of non-invasive methods to measure physiology, perception and cognition. These methods comprise for example heart rate measures, hormone analysis on basis of saliva sampling, eye tracking or thermal imaging as well as behavioral monitoring of body postures (especially lateralization processes) or facial expressions.
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