Home About Browse Search

Assessing positive emotional states in dogs using heart rate and heart rate variability

Zupan, Manja and Buskas, Julia and Altimiras, Jordi and Keeling, Linda (2016). Assessing positive emotional states in dogs using heart rate and heart rate variability. Physiology & behavior. 155 , 102-111
[Research article]

[img] PDF - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.



Since most animal species have been recognized as sentient beings, emotional state may be a good indicator of welfare in animals. The goal of this study was to manipulate the environment of nine beagle research dogs to highlight physiological responses indicative of different emotional experiences. Stimuli were selected to be a more or a less positive food (meatball or food pellet) or social reward (familiar person or less familiar person). That all the stimuli were positive and of different reward value was confirmed in a runway motivation test. Dogs were tested individually while standing facing a display theatre where the different stimuli could be shown by lifting a shutter. The dogs approached and remained voluntarily in the test system. They were tested in four sessions (of 20 s each) for each of the four stimuli. A test session consisted of four presentation phases (1st exposure to stimulus, post exposure, 2nd exposure, and access to reward). Heart rate (HR) and heart rate variability (HRV) responses were recorded during testing in the experimental room and also when lying resting in a quiet familiar room. A new method of 'stitching' short periods of HRV data together was used in the analysis. When testing different stimuli, no significant differences were observed in HR and LF:HF ratio (relative power in low frequency (12) and the high -frequency (HF) range), implying that the sympathetic tone was activated similarly for all the stimuli and may suggest that dogs were in a state of positive arousal. A decrease of HF was associated with the meatball stimulus compared to the food pellet and the reward phase (interacting with the person or eating the food) was associated with a decrease in HF and RMSSD (root mean square of successive differences of inter-beat intervals) compared to the preceding phase (looking at the person or food). This suggests that para-sympathetic deactivation is associated with a more positive emotional state in the dog. A similar reduction in HF and RMSSD was found in the test situation compared to the resting situation. This is congruent with the expected autonomic effects related to postural shift i.e. sympathetic activation and parasympathetic withdrawal, during standing versus lying, but it cannot explain the parasympathetic deactivation in response to the more positive stimuli since the dogs were always standing in the test situation. We discuss the systematic pattern of responses, which support that increased HR and LF:HF ratio are associated with emotional arousal, but add the new proposal that a combined decrease in RMSSD and HF may reflect a more positively valenced emotional state even when an individual is already in a positive psychological state. (C) 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Authors/Creators:Zupan, Manja and Buskas, Julia and Altimiras, Jordi and Keeling, Linda
Title:Assessing positive emotional states in dogs using heart rate and heart rate variability
Series Name/Journal:Physiology & behavior
Year of publishing :2016
Page range:102-111
Number of Pages:10
Publication Type:Research article
Article category:Scientific peer reviewed
Version:Accepted version
Copyright:Creative Commons: Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0
Full Text Status:Public
Agris subject categories.:L Animal production > L70 Veterinary science and hygiene - General aspects
Subjects:(A) Swedish standard research categories 2011 > 4 Agricultural Sciences > 405 Other Agricultural Sciences > Other Agricultural Sciences not elsewhere specified
Agrovoc terms:dogs, autonomic nervous system, psychology
Keywords:Positive psychology, Emotion, Autonomic nervous system, Welfare, Dogs, Stimulus
Permanent URL:
Additional ID:
Type of IDID
Web of Science (WoS)000369455200013
ID Code:13456
Faculty:VH - Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science
Department:(VH) > Dept. of Animal Environment and Health
Deposited By: SLUpub Connector
Deposited On:14 Jul 2016 10:17
Metadata Last Modified:09 Sep 2020 14:17

Repository Staff Only: item control page


Downloads per year (since September 2012)

View more statistics