For companion animal behaviour the focus of the Behavioural Ecology Group is on dogs, investigating personality traits, human-dog relationships and welfare. Research with cats focusses on welfare and motivation (wanting, liking), typically in relation to the appraisal of foods.
Research is often conducted in collaboration with other chairs or companies / institutions outside Wageningen University.
We are interested in the question how personality traits of an individual pet affects its (not so) social behaviour and ability to perform specific tasks, and how the humans to whom a pet is attached play a role. The objective assessment of mental states (feelings) and the traits that govern behaviour is one of the major challenges in our ongoing work. Research results aid the understanding of how companion animals cope with man-made living conditions and how the latter may be optimized to improve companion animal welfare.
Specific research topics we are currently working on include:
- Behavioural profiling (e.g. what makes a good assistance dog, are impaired cognitive abilities conducive to fear-aggression)
- The role of owner-dog relationships in dogs expressing problem behaviour
- Task performance effects on the welfare of working dogs
- The identification and assessment of intra-specific aggression in dogs
- Developing behaviour tools for assessing aspects of food appraisal in cats