Special Issue "New Insights into the Physiological and Ethological Dimensions of Human-Animal Interactions"

A special issue of Animals (ISSN 2076-2615). This special issue belongs to the section "Human-Animal Interactions, Animal Behaviour and Emotion".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 June 2021).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Mariangela Albertini
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Veterinary Medicine, Universita degli Studi di Milano, 20122 Milan, Italy
Interests: ethology; animal physiology; endocrinology; veterinary medicine
Dr. Federica Pirrone
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Veterinary Medicine, Universita degli Studi di Milano, 20122 Milan, Italy
Interests: ethology; animal physiology; neuroendocrinology; human-animal bond
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Human-animal interactions (HAIs) have been defined as the degree of relatedness or distance between animals and humans. Human and non-human animals interact with each other in a variety of contexts, including homes, farms, laboratories, zoos, and natural environments. HAIs may be either positive, negative, or neutral and their quality depends on a variety of factors, including species and environment-related characteristics, genetics, familiarity, and an animal’s level of exposure to humans. The quality of a HAI can have a profound impact on the welfare of both humans and animals. Therefore, assessment of physiological, behavioural, and cognitive parameters in interacting partners is required for achieving and maintaining high standards of welfare, which in turn is critical to the success of an interaction. In the past several years, there has been a growth in studies on human–animal interactions, and the potentially resulting relationships and bonds. Although most of the research has been focused on companion or farm animals, there is now a growing interest in laboratory animals, zoo animals, and wildlife. We invite original manuscripts that address any aspects of human-animal relationships with the aim of helping us to understand and promote the health and well-being of both from a One-Health/One-Welfare perspective. Articles on HAIs that involve domestic animals in various contexts, including sports, animal-assisted interventions and farms, zoo/wild animals, and laboratory animals are welcome.

Dr. Mariangela Albertini
Dr. Pirrone Federica
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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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 semimonthly 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

  • human-animal relationship
  • animal-assisted activity
  • welfare
  • zoo animals
  • laboratory animals
  • farm animals.

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

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Article
The Dog–Owner Relationship: Refinement and Validation of the Italian C/DORS for Dog Owners and Correlation with the LAPS
Animals 2021, 11(8), 2166; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11082166 - 22 Jul 2021
Viewed by 1688
Abstract
The Cat/Dog–Owner Relationship Scale (C/DORS) can be administered to both dog and cat owners. However, the scale as a whole has never been validated on a sample of dog owners. Furthermore, it has never been translated into Italian. The aim of this study [...] Read more.
The Cat/Dog–Owner Relationship Scale (C/DORS) can be administered to both dog and cat owners. However, the scale as a whole has never been validated on a sample of dog owners. Furthermore, it has never been translated into Italian. The aim of this study was to translate the C/DORS into Italian, modify its response scale in order to improve the degree of response variability, and test its validity and reliability on a sample of dog-owners. Exploratory factor analysis revealed the same three-factor structure (Perceived Emotional Closeness = PEC, Pet–Owner Interactions = POI, Perceived Costs = PC) as the original English version, although some items had to be removed because of low- or cross-loadings. The validity of the construct was confirmed by confirmatory factor analysis, by the correlations between each of the subscales and the C/DORS total score, and by the correlations with the Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale. Cronbach’s α values for each subscale were above acceptable levels. Student owners scored higher on PEC and POI than owners with other occupations. Owners of dogs with behavioural problems scored lower on PEC and higher on PC. Keeping the dog outdoor was associated with lower POI. Finally, pet dog owners scored higher on PEC than AAI dog owners. Full article
Article
Personality and Cognitive Profiles of Animal-Assisted Intervention Dogs and Pet Dogs in an Unsolvable Task
Animals 2021, 11(7), 2144; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11072144 - 20 Jul 2021
Viewed by 2672
Abstract
Dogs are biologically predisposed to communicate with humans in cooperative contexts. They show individual differences in dog–human communication and inhibition, potentially enhanced by life experience, e.g., Animal-Assisted Interventions. This study aimed to investigate whether dogs’ personality, defined by biologically meaningful neural circuits described [...] Read more.
Dogs are biologically predisposed to communicate with humans in cooperative contexts. They show individual differences in dog–human communication and inhibition, potentially enhanced by life experience, e.g., Animal-Assisted Interventions. This study aimed to investigate whether dogs’ personality, defined by biologically meaningful neural circuits described in the Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory of Personality (RST), predicted dogs’ communication, task orientation, emotional state, and approach of an unsolvable task. We also investigated the differences between dogs experienced in Animal-Assisted Interventions (AAI) and inexperienced dogs. The results indicated that a high sensitivity to the RST personality trait related to managing uncertainty (Behavioural Inhibition System, BIS) predicted fewer task orientations but increased referential and non-referential looking, which we interpreted as a way to obtain directions from the owner. Conversely, a high sensitivity to the traits reflecting tendencies to approach rewards (Behavioural Approach System, BAS) and avoid punishment (Fight–Flight–Freeze System, FFFS) predicted lower looking. High sensitivity to the FFFS also predicted more frequent task orientations, which we interpreted as frustration. Finally, the dogs in the AAI program looked more at their owner and were less oriented towards the task. These results provide empirical evidence of individual differences tied to the psychobiological personality traits in canine cognitive skills. Understanding such cognitive profiles may have an enormous impact on activities that rely upon dog–human collaborative interaction. Full article
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Article
Equine-Assisted Interventions (EAIs) for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD): Behavioural and Physiological Indices of Stress in Domestic Horses (Equus caballus) during Riding Sessions
Animals 2021, 11(6), 1562; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11061562 - 27 May 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1832
Abstract
Equine-assisted interventions (EAIs) are well-known complementary practices combining physical activity with emotional/cognitive stimulation. They are especially suited for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) who need a high degree of physical and psychological enrichment. Even though EAIs have become a common practice, stress [...] Read more.
Equine-assisted interventions (EAIs) are well-known complementary practices combining physical activity with emotional/cognitive stimulation. They are especially suited for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) who need a high degree of physical and psychological enrichment. Even though EAIs have become a common practice, stress responses in horses interacting with individuals that can manifest inappropriate behaviours, such as ASD children, have not been thoroughly investigated. Our multicentre study aimed to investigate behavioural and physiological indices of stress in horses involved in EAI standardised sessions with children with ASD compared to typically developing (TD) children. A controlled within-subject design with repeated measurements involving 19 horses and 38 children was adopted. Stress-related behaviours, heart rate, heart rate variability, and eye temperature were recorded during the riding sessions. Moreover, blood samples were collected from horses before and after each session to monitor changes in blood adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), cortisol, and catecholamines. Results indicate that, in general, stress responses in horses involved in EAIs did not differ as a function of the horse being ridden by children with ASD or TD. A lower sympathetic tone in horses involved in ASD sessions was found, while in the mounting and dismounting phases, horses displayed behavioural signs of stress, independently from children’s behaviour. We conclude that professionals working in EAI should increase their awareness of animal welfare and refine riding practices, taking into account horse’s needs. Full article
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Article
Quantitative Behavioral Analysis and Qualitative Classification of Attachment Styles in Domestic Dogs: Are Dogs with a Secure and an Insecure-Avoidant Attachment Different?
Animals 2021, 11(1), 14; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11010014 - 23 Dec 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2290
Abstract
Since several modified Strange Situation Procedures (SSP) have been used to investigate dog-to-owner attachment, in this study two different samples of dog-owner dyads underwent two modified versions of the SSP. Dogs’ attachment style to the owner was assessed based on a novel adaptation [...] Read more.
Since several modified Strange Situation Procedures (SSP) have been used to investigate dog-to-owner attachment, in this study two different samples of dog-owner dyads underwent two modified versions of the SSP. Dogs’ attachment style to the owner was assessed based on a novel adaptation of the attachment pattern classification used for infant-caregivers. Dogs’ behavioral data were collected using continuous sampling and, in the second protocol, also with a scoring system for greeting and social play. In both studies, secure and avoidant dogs’ behavior was compared using the Mann Whitney test, while differences within each group across episodes were analyzed using the Wilcoxon paired sample test. The classification seemed to be effective at identifying both avoidant and secure attachment patterns in dogs. As expected, differences in key attachment behaviors, such as proximity/contact seeking toward the caregiver, between secure and avoidant dogs were more evident in the final episodes of the test. Differently from secure dogs, avoidant dogs did not show an increase in proximity/contact seeking behavior with the caregiver in any of the procedures. Further studies with larger samples are needed to support the effectiveness of this classification and investigate on the remaining attachment styles. Full article
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Article
Ethological and Physiological Parameters Assessment in Donkeys Used in Animal Assisted Interventions
Animals 2020, 10(10), 1867; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10101867 - 13 Oct 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1255
Abstract
Background: Few studies have been performed to identify objective indicators for the selection of therapeutic donkeys or to assess their welfare during animal-assisted interventions (AAIs) Objective: This study aimed to evaluate the response to the ethological test and the modifications of physiological parameters [...] Read more.
Background: Few studies have been performed to identify objective indicators for the selection of therapeutic donkeys or to assess their welfare during animal-assisted interventions (AAIs) Objective: This study aimed to evaluate the response to the ethological test and the modifications of physiological parameters in donkeys subjected to AAI sessions. Methods: Thirteen donkeys were subjected to a behavioral evaluation during an AAI session. Heart rate, heart rate variability, and root mean square of successive difference values were detected. Results: Statistically significant changes in the tested parameters were observed during AAI sessions. Conclusions: In donkeys, there was a neurovegetative involvement during AAI sessions. Our data give a contribution to the evaluation of donkey welfare during AAIs. Full article
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Article
Zookeepers’ Perception of Zoo Canid Welfare and its Effect on Job Satisfaction, Worldwide
Animals 2020, 10(5), 916; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10050916 - 25 May 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2050
Abstract
Recently, zookeepers’ role in monitoring and assessing zoo animal welfare is gaining importance. One hundred-sixteen zoo canid keepers responded to an online questionnaire aimed at assessing, on a 1 to 5 scoring scale, their perception of the importance and fulfilment of the Brambell’s [...] Read more.
Recently, zookeepers’ role in monitoring and assessing zoo animal welfare is gaining importance. One hundred-sixteen zoo canid keepers responded to an online questionnaire aimed at assessing, on a 1 to 5 scoring scale, their perception of the importance and fulfilment of the Brambell’s Freedoms for zoo canids, the bond with canids under their care, and their level of job satisfaction. Results showed that zookeepers perceive the Brambell’s Freedoms as highly important (median = 5, min–max = 3–5), but not equally guaranteed (median = 3, min–max = 1–5, p < 0.01). Although there was no difference in their perception of the importance of each freedom, those related to psychological issues (median = 3, min–max = 1–5) were perceived as significantly less guaranteed than those addressing physical needs (median = 4.5, min–max = 1–5, Mann–Whitney U test, p < 0.01). Female zookeepers tended to perceive all freedoms as more important (Ordinal Logistic Regression model, p = 0.009), as well as more guaranteed (Ordinal Logistic Regression model, p = 0.007), than male zookeepers. Regardless of gender, a more positive perception of the Brambell’s Freedoms for zoo canids was associated with higher job satisfaction (Mann–Whitney U test, p < 0.01, ρ = 0.241). The latter was also positively correlated with zookeepers’ perception of the strength of the bond with the canids under their care (Spearman Rho’s correlation, p = 0.01, ρ = 0.230). Our results highlight the need for zoos to focus on guaranteeing psychological welfare of their canids. Enhancing animal welfare may increase zookeepers’ job satisfaction. Full article
Article
Effects of Stroking on Salivary Oxytocin and Cortisol in Guide Dogs: Preliminary Results
Animals 2020, 10(4), 708; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10040708 - 18 Apr 2020
Cited by 14 | Viewed by 1688
Abstract
This pilot study aimed at investigating how salivary oxytocin levels are affected by human interaction and isolation in eight guide dogs (six Labrador retrievers and two golden retrievers; four males and four females, 21.87 ± 1.36 months old) just before assignment to the [...] Read more.
This pilot study aimed at investigating how salivary oxytocin levels are affected by human interaction and isolation in eight guide dogs (six Labrador retrievers and two golden retrievers; four males and four females, 21.87 ± 1.36 months old) just before assignment to the blind person. Each dog engaged, at one-week intervals, in a positive (5 min of affiliative interaction with their trainer) and a negative (5 min of isolation) condition. Saliva samples used for Enzyme Immunoassay (EIA) quantification of salivary oxytocin were collected before and immediately after both experimental conditions. In order to assess potential hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis activation that could have affected oxytocin levels, saliva samples were collected 15 min after both experimental conditions for EIA quantification of salivary cortisol and a behavioral assessment was performed during the negative condition. The results were compared using the Wilcoxon test (p < 0.05). Oxytocin concentrations showed a statistically significant increase after the positive interaction (p = 0.036) and no difference after the negative one (p = 0.779). Moreover, no difference (p = 0.263) was found between the cortisol concentrations after each experimental condition and no signs of distress were observed during the isolation phase. These preliminary findings support the hypothesis that stroking dogs has positive effects on their emotional state independently of hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis activation. Full article
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Article
Pet Humanisation and Related Grief: Development and Validation of a Structured Questionnaire Instrument to Evaluate Grief in People Who Have Lost a Companion Dog
Animals 2019, 9(11), 933; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9110933 - 07 Nov 2019
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 3585
Abstract
People often develop strong emotional connections with their dogs and consider them to be members of the family. The purpose of this study was to develop a novel validated tool, the Mourning Dog Questionnaire, to recognise and evaluate the mourning process in people [...] Read more.
People often develop strong emotional connections with their dogs and consider them to be members of the family. The purpose of this study was to develop a novel validated tool, the Mourning Dog Questionnaire, to recognise and evaluate the mourning process in people who have lost a dog. The research model was based on a grid of five different questionnaires: the Pet Bereavement Questionnaire, the Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale, the Animal-Human Continuity Scale, the Positivity Scale, and the Testoni Death Representation Scale. The Italian version of the survey was posted on social networks. A sample of 369 Italian dog owners filled in the questionnaire (mean age ± SD 42.00 ± 10.70 years). Reliability indices were good for all instruments. The total scores of the five questionnaires correlated with each other. The results from the Mourning Dog Questionnaire support the negative view of life after the death of a pet and people’s tendency to humanise their pet, since dog owners perceived animals no differently from humans in terms of emotions, needs and legal rights. Findings arising from the use of the Mourning Dog Questionnaire will help the implementation of rationality-based strategies to improve the wellbeing, resilience and quality of life of people in the world experiencing the loss of a pet. Full article

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Systematic Review
The Research of Standardized Protocols for Dog Involvement in Animal-Assisted Therapy: A Systematic Review
Animals 2021, 11(9), 2576; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11092576 - 02 Sep 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1140
Abstract
Dogs are considered the most important species involved in animal-assisted therapy (AAT), and the scientific literature focuses on the benefits linked to the involvement of dogs in various therapeutic areas. In this study, we carried out a systematic review according to the Preferred [...] Read more.
Dogs are considered the most important species involved in animal-assisted therapy (AAT), and the scientific literature focuses on the benefits linked to the involvement of dogs in various therapeutic areas. In this study, we carried out a systematic review according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines, exploring the scientific literature from the last 5 years (2016–2021) on three databases (PubMed, Scopus, and Web of Science) to highlight the characteristics of the dogs involved in AATs. Based on the scientific literature relevant to such dogs, we considered different parameters (i.e., number, age, sex, breed, temperament, methods of choice and training, health status, research goals, and activities with dogs) to include studies in our paper. After screening 4331 papers identified on the searched databases, we selected 38 articles that met the inclusion criteria. Analysis of the included articles showed that the characteristics of the dogs were neglected. Our findings indicated a lack of information about the dogs, as well as the absence of standardized and univocal criteria for dog selection, training programs, and health protocols. Full article
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