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Behavioural, saliva cortisol and heart rate responses to different types of stimuli in dogs

By B. Beerda, M. B. H. Schilder, J. A. R. A. M. van Hooff, H. W. de Vries, J. A. Mol

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Ten dogs of both sexes, different ages and various breeds were each subjected to 6 different stimuli: sound blasts, short electric shocks, a falling bag, an opening umbrella and 2 forms of restraint. Each type of stimulus had been selected for its assumed aversive properties and was administered intermittently for 1 min. Behavioural responses were recorded and saliva cortisol and heart rate were measured. The stimuli that could not be anticipated by the dogs, sound blasts, shocks and a falling bag, tended to induce saliva cortisol responses and a very low posture. The remainder of the stimuli, which were administered by the experimenter visibly to the dog, did not change the cortisol levels but did induce restlessness, a moderate lowering of the posture, body shaking, oral behaviours, and to a lesser extent, yawning and open mouth. Pronounced increases in the heart rate were non-specifically induced by each type of stimulus. Heart rate levels normalized within 8 min after stressor administration had stopped. Saliva cortisol levels decreased to normal within the hour. Correlations between behavioural and physiological stress parameters were not significant. It is concluded that in dogs a very low posture may indicate intense acute stress since dogs show a very low posture concomitant with saliva cortisol responses. Dogs may typically show increased restlessness, oral behaviours, yawning, open mouth and a moderate lowering of the posture when they experienced moderate stress in a social setting. The non-specific character of canine heart rate responses complicates its interpretation with regard to acute stress.

Date 1998
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 58
Issue 3/4
Pages 365-381
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
Language English
Author Address Department of Clinical Sciences of Companion Animals, Utrecht University, Utrecht, Netherlands.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal rights
  3. Animal welfare
  4. Cortisol
  5. Dogs
  6. Heart rate
  7. Hydrocortisone
  8. Mammals
  9. peer-reviewed
  10. Pets and companion animals
  11. responses
  12. saliva
  13. stimuli
  14. Stress
  1. peer-reviewed