Special Issue "Companion Animal Cognition, Communication, and Behavior"

A special issue of Animals (ISSN 2076-2615). This special issue belongs to the section "Companion Animals".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 September 2021.

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Silvia Michela Mazzola
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Veterinary Medicine, Universita degli Studi di Milano, Milan, Italy
Interests: ethology; animal physiology; endocrinology; medical detection dogs; animal personality
Dr. Cannas Simona
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Veterinary Medicine, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milan, Italy
Interests: dog behavior; cat behavior; pets’ behavioral problems; behavioral therapy; dog and cat welfare

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Companion animals play multiple roles in modern human society, where they may act as pets, auxiliaries, medical detectors, livestock guardians, military, and partners in sports activities. However, in a human-companion relationship, animals do not always benefit from welfare; humans may not be aware of their companion's cognitive skills and may not always respect their ethological needs. Also, cultural differences may enhance the lack of intra- and inter-specific communication and the poor understanding of the animal's needs. Communication, defined as the physiological ability to send and receive signals in the visual, auditory, tactile, electric, and chemical modalities, is essential to the development and maintenance of any social system. For companion animals, communication within and between species may be impacted by both the social and physical environment, which very often are profoundly different from those in which their signal evolved. In this context, companion animals may exhibit behaviors that are perceived negatively by owners, which may also reflect underlying communicative, affective, or cognitive disorders. In these circumstances, assessment of physiological, endocrinal, behavioral, and cognitive parameters in companion animals may be fundamental to achieve and maintain higher welfare standards.

This Special Issue is interested in both reviews and research papers on all aspects of companion animals' communication, cognition, and physiological behavior, and it is also interested in how dogs, cats, and horses are affected by their roles in society, including predicting, preventing and treating behaviors perceived as problematic by owners. Research articles focused on individual differences in behavior and cognition, measurement of emotions in companion animals, as well as applied studies in the field of clinical animal behavior, are welcome.

Prof. Silvia Michela Mazzola
Dr. Cannas Simona
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Animals is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Animal behavior
  • Companion animal social behaviour
  • Companion animal behavioural problems
  • Prevention of companion animal behavioural problems
  • Treatment of companion animal behavioural problems
  • Companion animal cognition
  • Cognitive abilities
  • Emotions
  • Emotional expression

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Research

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Article
Influence of Gonadectomy on Canine Behavior
Animals 2021, 11(2), 553; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11020553 - 20 Feb 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 836
Abstract
Due to the lack of unequivocal scientific evidence, gonadectomy’s effects on dogs’ behavior are still debated. Since veterinarians differ in their opinion, there may be considerable diversity in the advice received by owners. This study aimed to evaluate the effects of gonadectomy on [...] Read more.
Due to the lack of unequivocal scientific evidence, gonadectomy’s effects on dogs’ behavior are still debated. Since veterinarians differ in their opinion, there may be considerable diversity in the advice received by owners. This study aimed to evaluate the effects of gonadectomy on dog behavior across time. Ninety-six dog owners (48 control dogs and 48 experimental dogs) were interviewed twice (T0 and T1, nine months later) to obtain information about their dog’s behavior. No change was found in the eating behavior or weight of dogs of both groups. Compared to T0, at T1, experimental dogs were reported to show less mounting behavior, pull on the leash, and roaming behaviors. Marking behavior did not vary across time for both groups of dogs. A tendency to reduce owner-directed aggression was observed at T1 for experimental male dogs, while no change was observed for male controls. The literature reports conflicting information about the effect of gonadectomy on behavior, suggesting that further studies about this topic should be undertaken. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Companion Animal Cognition, Communication, and Behavior)
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Article
Friendship or Competition? Symmetry in Social Play within the Two Packs of German Shepherd Puppies
Animals 2020, 10(9), 1627; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10091627 - 10 Sep 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 939
Abstract
The symmetry of social play in Canids has been previously studied, especially in wolves, free-ranging dogs, and within mixed-aged groups, however our study focused on symmetry and asymmetry within play interactions in two litters (14 puppies) of German Shepherd dogs (GSDs). At the [...] Read more.
The symmetry of social play in Canids has been previously studied, especially in wolves, free-ranging dogs, and within mixed-aged groups, however our study focused on symmetry and asymmetry within play interactions in two litters (14 puppies) of German Shepherd dogs (GSDs). At the age of 7 weeks, we evaluated 1287 dyadic interactions (litter 1: n = 339 interactions, litter 2: n = 948 interactions), and at the age of 9 weeks we evaluated 1255 dyadic interactions (litter 1: n = 433 interactions, litter 2: n = 822 interactions). Dyadic interactions were observed and the winning indexes were calculated for 43 pairs (dyads). The groups of puppies studied were all the same age, therefore we focused on the aspects of sex and body size as primary variables. The weight and chest circumference of all puppies were measured. The distribution of interactions showed a slight inclination to mixed-sex dyads, but we did not obtain any statistically significant results concerning the impact of body size on play interactions. Symmetry in play was observed within litter 1 at the age of 7 weeks and at the age of 9 weeks, and within litter 2 at the age of 7 weeks. Since the number of puppies in this study was too small, these results should be interpreted regarding this limitation, and cannot be generalized to a larger population of domestic dogs nor the GSD breed. In further studies, it would be interesting to compare larger samples of different breeds, under different breeding conditions, and the effect of the environment on the style of social play. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Companion Animal Cognition, Communication, and Behavior)
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Article
Gut Microbiome Composition is Associated with Age and Memory Performance in Pet Dogs
Animals 2020, 10(9), 1488; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10091488 - 24 Aug 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 5194
Abstract
Gut microbiota can crucially influence behavior and neurodevelopment. Dogs show unique similarities to humans in their physiology and may naturally develop dementia-like cognitive decline. We assessed 29 pet dogs’ cognitive performance in a memory test and analyzed the bacterial 16S rRNA gene from [...] Read more.
Gut microbiota can crucially influence behavior and neurodevelopment. Dogs show unique similarities to humans in their physiology and may naturally develop dementia-like cognitive decline. We assessed 29 pet dogs’ cognitive performance in a memory test and analyzed the bacterial 16S rRNA gene from fecal samples collected right after the behavioral tests. The major phyla identified in the dog microbiomes were Bacteroidetes, Firmicutes, and Fusobacteria, each represented by >20% of the total bacterial community. Fewer Fusobacteria were found in older dogs and better memory performance was associated with a lower proportion of Actinobacteria. Our preliminary findings support the existence of links between gut microbiota, age, and cognitive performance in pet dogs. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Companion Animal Cognition, Communication, and Behavior)
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Article
Behavioural Evaluation of a Leash Tension Meter Which Measures Pull Direction and Force during Human–Dog On-Leash Walks
Animals 2020, 10(8), 1382; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10081382 - 10 Aug 2020
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 3543
Abstract
Leash tension forces exerted by dog and handler during walks affect their welfare. We developed a novel ambulatory measurement device using a load cell and a tri-axial accelerometer to record both the tension and direction of forces exerted on the leashes. Data were [...] Read more.
Leash tension forces exerted by dog and handler during walks affect their welfare. We developed a novel ambulatory measurement device using a load cell and a tri-axial accelerometer to record both the tension and direction of forces exerted on the leashes. Data were relayed telemetrically to a laptop for real time viewing and recording. Larger and heavier dogs exerted higher leash tension but had a lower pulling frequency than their smaller and lighter conspecifics. This pattern was observed in the reactional forces of handlers. Young dogs pulled more frequently during walks, which was also mirrored in handlers’ pulling. Well-behaved dogs created lower leash tension, but handlers did not respond with lower forces. This novel method of recording leash tension will facilitate real-time monitoring of the behaviour of dogs and their handlers during walks. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Companion Animal Cognition, Communication, and Behavior)
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Article
Dogs (Canis familiaris) Gaze at Our Hands: A Preliminary Eye-Tracker Experiment on Selective Attention in Dogs
Animals 2020, 10(5), 755; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10050755 - 26 Apr 2020
Viewed by 2418
Abstract
Dogs have developed a social competence tuned to communicate with human and acquire social information from body signals as well as facial expressions. However, less is known regarding how dogs shift attention toward human body signals, specifically hand signs. Comparison among visual attentional [...] Read more.
Dogs have developed a social competence tuned to communicate with human and acquire social information from body signals as well as facial expressions. However, less is known regarding how dogs shift attention toward human body signals, specifically hand signs. Comparison among visual attentional patterns of dogs toward whole body of human being, conspecifics, and other species will reveal dogs’ basic social competences and those specialized to inter-species communication with humans. The present study investigated dogs’ gazing behaviors in three conditions: viewing humans with or without hand signs, viewing conspecifics, and viewing cats. Digital color photographs were presented on a liquid crystal display monitor, and subject dogs viewed the images while their eyes were tracked. Results revealed that subjects gazed at human limbs more than limbs within conspecific and cat images, where attention was predominately focused on the head and body. Furthermore, gaze toward hands was greater in the human hand sign photos relative to photos where human hand signs were not present. These results indicate that dogs have an attentional style specialized for human non-verbal communication, with an emphasis placed on human hand gestures. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Companion Animal Cognition, Communication, and Behavior)
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Brief Report
Susceptibility to Size Visual Illusions in a Non-Primate Mammal (Equus caballus)
Animals 2020, 10(9), 1673; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10091673 - 17 Sep 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 698
Abstract
The perception of different size illusions is believed to be determined by size-scaling mechanisms that lead individuals to extrapolate inappropriate 3D information from 2D stimuli. The Muller-Lyer illusion represents one of the most investigated size illusions. Studies on non-human primates showed a human-like [...] Read more.
The perception of different size illusions is believed to be determined by size-scaling mechanisms that lead individuals to extrapolate inappropriate 3D information from 2D stimuli. The Muller-Lyer illusion represents one of the most investigated size illusions. Studies on non-human primates showed a human-like perception of this illusory pattern. To date, it is not clear whether non-primate mammals experience a similar illusory effect. Here, we investigated whether horses perceive the Muller-Lyer illusion by using their spontaneous preference for the larger portion of carrot. In control trials, we presented horses with two carrot sticks of different sizes, and in test trials, carrot sticks of identical size were shown to the subjects together with arrowheads made of plastic material and arranged in a way meant to elicit the Müller-Lyer illusion in human observers. In control trials, horses significantly discriminated between the smaller and larger carrot stick. When presented with the illusion, they showed a significant preference for the carrot that humans perceive as longer. Further control trials excluded the possibility that their choices were based on the total size of the carrot stick and the arrowheads together. The susceptibility of horses to this illusion indicates that the perceptual mechanisms underlying size estimation in perissodactyla might be similar to those of primates, notwithstanding the considerable evolutionary divergence in the visual systems of these two mammalian groups. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Companion Animal Cognition, Communication, and Behavior)
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