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Balancing skill against difficulty - behavior, heart rate and heart rate variability of shelter dogs during two different introductions of an interactive game

By Christine Arhant, Bernadette Altrichter, Sandra Lehenbauer, Susanne Waiblinger, Claudia Schmied-Wagner, Jason Yee

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Abstract

Interactive games may boost positive well-being by combining the benefits of rewards with cognitive and social enrichment. However, a hasty introduction can lead to low success and frustration. We examine two methods of introducing an interactive game to dogs to test whether they elicit differences in success rate, stress-related behavior, and autonomic regulation of the heart. Twenty-eight shelter dogs were tested with an interactive game that consists of four boxes with different opening mechanisms. Dogs were introduced to the game in one of two ways: gradually vs hastily. Gradual introduction consisted of allowing the dog to first play a partial (2 out of 4 boxes) version of the game with a human demonstrating the opening mechanism of the boxes twice, followed by exposure to the complete game. Hasty introduction consisted of the same procedures but with the complete game presented before the partial version. Dog behavior was obtained via video recordings and pre- and post-game mean heart rate (HR), its overall variability (SDNN), a measure of parasympathetic activation (RMSSD) and their balance (RMSSD/SDNN) were assessed using beat-to-beat intervals obtained with a Polar heart rate monitor (RS800CX). Linear mixed effects analyses (LMM) were calculated for success and behavior component scores and for change from pre- to post-game period in HR/HRV variables. In addition, HR/HRV parameters were analyzed with Pearson correlations. Dogs introduced to the game in a gradual manner had a significantly higher rate of success (LMM: p 

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 232
Pages 105141
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2020.105141
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Tags
  1. Dogs
  2. Emotions
  3. Environment
  4. Heart rate
  5. Human-animal interactions