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The reinforcing value of physical contact and the effect on canine heart rate of grooming in different anatomical areas

By P. D. McGreevy, J. Righetti, P. C. Thomson

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Abstract

The human-animal relationship frequently involves physical touch, and this may have benefits for both participants. Grooming of horses at the withers has a calming effect on recipients, a phenomenon regularly used to reward horses. No studies on the effect on heart rate of grooming in different anatomical areas have been conducted in dogs, even though they are often given physical contact as a putative reinforcer. Kennelled Greyhounds (n=16) and guide dogs (Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers and their crosses, n=12) were stroked for eight minutes using a grooming device in each of four areas in random order. These sites were selected on the basis of their being innervated by the dorsal branches of the spinal nerves, lateral branches of the spinal nerves, ventral branches of the spinal nerves and the caudal nerves. Heart rate measurements were taken every 30 seconds using an ECG recorder. There were no observed differences in the mean heart rate based on the region of the body groomed (p=0.893), nor was any interaction of any other factor with area of the body significant (all p>0.5). However, for all dogs, there was a highly significant trend (overall reduction) over time (p

Publication Title Anthrozoos
Volume 18
Issue 3
Pages 236-244
ISBN/ISSN 0892-7936
Publisher Bloomsbury Journals (formerly Berg Journals)
DOI 10.2752/089279305785594045
Language English
Author Address Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.paulm@vetsci.usyd.edu.au
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Tags
  1. Animal physiology
  2. Animal roles
  3. Animals
  4. Canidae
  5. Canine
  6. Carnivores
  7. Dogs
  8. Heart rate
  9. Mammals
  10. peer-reviewed
  11. Pets and companion animals
  12. sex differences
  13. Stress
  14. touch
  15. vertebrates
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  1. peer-reviewed