The assessment of emotional expression in dogs using a Free Choice Profiling methodology
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This study explores the use of Free Choice Profiling (FCP) methodology for the qualitative behaviour assessment of emotional expression in the domestic dog (Canis familiaris). Qualitative behaviour assessment is based upon the integration of many pieces of information that in conventional quantitative approaches are recorded separately or not at all. Observers are asked to focus on an animal’s interaction with its surrounding environment, and to describe the animal’s expressive demeanor, or ‘body language’. A specific characteristic of FCP methodology is that it allows observers the freedom to devise their own descriptive terms, and then to use these personal terms to quantitatively score observed subjects. Application of FCP to qualitative behaviour assessment in animals was originally tested for pigs, and more recently for dairy cows, horses, and ponies. The goal of this study was to apply FCP to the domestic dog, and to investigate the inter-observer reliability of assessments of emotional expression in 10 individual Beagles by a group of 18 untrained observers. The data was analysed using Generalised Procrustes Analysis (GPA), a multivariate statistical technique associated with FCP. The observers achieved highly-significant agreement in their assessments of the dogs’ expressions, thereby establishing the applicability of this methodology for the first time in the domestic dog.
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