The behavioral and physiological effects of dog appeasing pheromone upon canine behavior during separation from owner

Sienna Taylor, Lucy Webb, V. Tamara Montrose, Jane Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Article

Abstract

Behavioral problems in the domestic dog (Canis familiaris) increase the likelihood of the dog being rehomed or relinquished to a rescue shelter. Problem behaviors that result in relinquishment include unwanted elimination, destructive behavior and excessive vocalization when owners are absent. Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) is currently marketed via veterinarians as a stress relief product and purported to help dogs cope in stressful situations and as a potential solution to reduce anxiety. This study investigated whether a DAP diffuser affected behavioral and physiological stress parameters in 10 dogs in a laboratory environment. A repeated measures design with and without the use of DAP, and in the presence and absence of the owner was used. Behavioral responses, such as barking, passive behavior, scratching, whining, orienting behavior, exploration and locomotion, were recorded in real time and video recorded using a focal instantaneous sampling technique. In order to control for potential bias, 10% of the videos were scored using a second blinded scorer to assess inter-rater reliability. Heart rate (HR), heart rate variability (HRV) using Standard Deviation of Normal to Normal beats (SDNN), eye temperature and ear temperature (°C) were also collected to assess dogs’ physiological state. When dogs were separated from their owner, there was a significant increase in orienting behavior during both the DAP and without DAP application trial phase suggesting arousal due to owner absence rather than any discernible effect of DAP. A significant increase was recorded in core eye temperature when the owner was absent and the DAP diffuser was not switched on however, eye temperature also increased when the owners were present after the DAP condition suggesting that it may be the owner’s presence and the dog’s arousal levels that affect core eye temperature rather than any effect of DAP. There was no significant effect of DAP on HR or ear temperature. Overall, our results suggest that the application of a DAP diffuser did not markedly influence the behavior, heart rate, eye or ear temperature of dogs.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research
Early online date13 Aug 2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Aug 2020

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