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Stereotypies: Antecedents and Consequences in Domestic Dog

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Stereotypies their antecedents and consequences in the domestic dog (Canis Familiaris)

1 Chapter 1: Introduction (2000 words) 1424

1.1 Repetitive Behaviours 2

The simplest behaviours are repetitive including normal play but this usually has a challenge, an example is avoiding cracks in the pavement (Williams and Hill, 2012). There are many kinds of repetitive behaviour, when learning a trick the behaviour is practiced until the whole trick is flawless. Many believe that the young play as a way of practicing the skills needed when adults; however research by Fagen (1981) and Smith (1982) found that “play is not practice”.

1.1.1 Normal behaviours

Normal behaviour is essential to promote an animal’s psychological and physical homeostasis so the animal can interact with and modify its environment. One of the five freedoms used to assess animal welfare is the ability to express normal behaviours (FAWC, 2009). However, the definition of normal behaviours in human terms is relative to a person’s culture and age and may be related to an animal’s culture. Kilgour (2012) asserts the definition of normal behaviour is not straightforward; however, an ethogram of domestic animals nearest wild relatives gives some idea of an animal’s different behaviours and time budgets. Lindsay (2001:pp.40-42) provides a dog ethogram of ‘normal behaviours’.

Daily activity for dogs and their owners tends to vary day to day but over the seven days affords a more constant estimate of activity (Dow et al., 2009) this indicates that many companion dogs’ activities tend to be routine.

Stressed dogs frequently find grooming calming, if the stress is long term this can lead to over grooming causing hair loss and damage to the skin.

1.1.2 Abnormal behaviours

Abnormal behaviours are those that are atypical of animal’s in the wild (Birkett and Newton-Fisher, 2011). Abnormal repetitive behaviours are unvarying and apparently functionless that can be readily interrupted, whereas for stereotypy the behaviour must be difficult to interrupt (Mason and Latham, 2004; Haverbeke et al., 2008) these can be either impulsive/compulsive or stereotypies (Garner, 2006).

1.1.3 Stereotypic behaviours

Stereotypic behaviours are all repetitive unexplained behaviours but are not necessarily predictable (Bergeron et al., 2006). Repetitive stereotypic behaviours may be symptomatic of stress but may not necessarily be a problem (Rooney et al., 2009), in the dog this could be grooming to relieve stress and only becomes a problem if it results in hair loss or damage to the skin.

1.1.4 Stereotypies

Many people understand the term stereotypy to indicate that an individual exhibits a problem behaviour.

1.1.5 The Evolutionary view of Stereotypy

Japyassú and Malange (2014) write that from the evolutionary view the term abnormal behaviour should be avoided, because phenotypic diversity in genes, morphology and behaviour are major forces driving evolution. Phenotypic diversity is important as enables an organism to adapt to new environments; those behaviours that seem abnormal now could become the new normal depending upon evolutionary selection. The apparent lack of function in behaviour is questionable as eventually some function may be determined, or help in coping with stress or a means of communication. The function of stereotypes may also be revealed in unexpectedly perhaps related to communication (Japyassú and Malange, 2014).

1.1.6 The Ethological and Animal Welfare view of Stereotypy

The animal welfare view is that stereotypies are abnormal, functionless repetitive behaviours (Japyassú and Malange, 2014). look for another ref??. The ethological view is that stereotypies are repetitive behaviours that are unchanging irrespective of the context (Japyassú and Malange, 2014). These views are drawn together by Mason (1991) defining stereotypy as repetitive, unvarying, uninterruptable behaviours with no apparent proximate or ultimate function. However, Rapp and Vollmer (2005) write that frequently stereotypic behaviours provides their own reinforcement and not social consequences.

1.1.7 What are Impulsive/Compulsive Behaviours

Impulsive/compulsive repetitive behaviours are variable and have a goal directed; but the behaviour persists even after the achieving the goal or the goal becomes inappropriate (Garner, 2006).

1.1.8 Impulsive repetitive behaviours

Impulsive repetitive behaviours are identified in humans with Tourette’s syndrome manifesting as complex tics, or as trichotillomania, hair plucking.

1.1.9 Difference between Impulsive/Compulsive Behaviours

Clinically the distinction between impulsive and compulsive repetitive behaviours is important, however differentiating them is more complex in animals than in humans (Garner, 2006).

1.1.10 Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Mills and Luescher (2006) state that stereotypy and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are hard to differentiate Eilam et al. (2012) add that OCD is a disabling condition affecting the sufferer’s quality of life. Ethology is the study of animal behaviour aiming to understand proximate and the ultimate causes of behaviours; the concept of the ethogram methodology is extended to the study of OCD behaviour (Eilam et al., 2012). Observations by Eilam et al. (2006) showed animals performing rigid behaviour sequences in specific locations, according to Kalueff et al. (2007) these are the spatiotemporal and locomotor characteristics of OCD.

1.1.11 What is the difference between OCB and stereotypy

Chok and Koesler (2014) used functional analysis to assess the differences between stereotypy and obsessive compulsive behaviours (OCB) by identifying physiological states internal (heart rate) and external (defined by facial expression or vocalisations). Signs of pleasure were regarded as a measure positive reinforcement, hence stereotypy and of displeasure regarded as signs of OCB.

1.1.12 Obsessive-Compulsive Behaviours (OCB)

Humans exhibiting obsessive-compulsive behaviours (OCB) are aware that these behaviours are irrational but are unable to resist their compulsion to continue to perform the behaviour.

1.2 Stereotypies and the environment

1.2.1 Maternal Deprivation

Captive animals particularly in commercial environments but including companion animals are frequently removed from their mothers earlier than would occur in the wild (Latham and Mason, 2008). Maternal deprivation leads to an increase in the frequency and severity stereotypes these can be short term as with belly-nosing in piglets or can cause neural changes inducing later persistent stereotypes (Latham and Mason, 2008).

The relationship between the animal’s stereotypic behaviour and the environmental deficit is not always clear. Wiedenmayer (1997) found that providing a substrate suitable for digging did not reduce stereotypies in gerbils but providing a tunnel system did. Digging was not the controlling motivation just means to achieve a burrow.

1.2.2 Stereotypy: Interdisciplinary Communication

The term stereotypy has different uses in different research areas ethological, medical and animal welfare; there is not even an agreement about including lack of function or abnormality in the definition (Japyassú and Malange, 2014). Edwards et al. (2012) asserts the lack of a consistent definition for stereotypies is insufficient for both academic and medical diagnostic purposes.

1.3 Stereotypies Behaviours

1.3.1 Ungulate stereotypies

Ungulates are the most common mammal exhibiting stereotypy; many ungulate stereotypies tend to resemble species typical feeding and foraging behaviours (Bergeron et al., 2006).

Examples of typical stereotypies for ungulates are given in Table 1. Cattle at pasture spend between 7 to 9 hours grazing and similar time ruminating; possibly herbivores have evolved to require a minimum feeding period each day (Redbo and Nordblad,1997). This could explain the number of oral stereotypies reported for animals fed on a concentrate food with restricted roughage as their time budget eating and ruminating is less that at pasture.

Stereotypy Examples





Lindström and Redbo (2000)


Lauber et al. (2012)



Houpt (2012)

Object Licking


Lindström and Redbo (2000)


Lauber et al. (2012)


Lindström and Redbo (2000)

Vacuum chewing


Whittaker et al. (1999)

Tongue rolling


Lindström and Redbo (2000)

Wind sucking


Sarrafchi & Blokhuis (2013)

Wood chewing


Sarrafchi & Blokhuis (2013)

Table 1: Examples of ungulate stereotypy

1.3.2 Carnivore stereotypies

Some species of carnivores do well in captivity do not exhibit abnormal behaviours and breed successfully. While carnivores that have high activity levels and patrol large ranges have high levels of stereotypy. Vickery and Mason (2005) found carnivore stereotypies are mostly locomotory pacing and weaving, other reported stereotypies was some oral and head swaying. Clubb and Mason (2007) found the carnivore stereotypy levels are significantly predicted by their typical travel distances and natural home-range size. Perhaps some species are unsuitable for zoos and should be conserved in large areas that enable their natural behaviours.

1.4 Overall Research Aims

1.4.1 Relationship between breed type and stereotypy

To try to measure the spread of different stereotypies across breed groups. It has been found that some breeds have their own particular set of stereotypes for example flack sucking in Doberman Pinchers (Houpt, 1992).

1.5 Outline Research Methods and Timescales

1.5.1 Research method

A questionnaire will be used to measure the relationship between breed type and the stereotypy emitted. The survey was initially created using several survey software programs available online; many were restricted either the number of questions asked or the variety of question types was limited, or the resultant output file was not in a format readily converted for SPSS. Eventually Google Docs was selected and the survey created and was piloted on social media the resulting file of about 20 responses was downloaded in text format that could be readily input into a spreadsheet which then needs to be reformatted for input into SPSS for processing. The questionnaire included some questions that had open questions in the form of the ‘other’ option a free text input area. This was to allow flexibility and for respondents to feel empowered and encourage more accurate replies. This means these responses need interpreting and the formation of new categories or allocated to available options for processing (Questionnaire, 2015). These questions are qualitative but once the responses have been interpreted in allocated to categories, the subsequent treatment of the data will be quantitative and analysed using quantitative statistical methods.

The social environment shared by the domestic dog and their human companions unique and investigating the environment care must be taken not introduce bias by the questions asked.

1.5.2 Comparability of Responses Outline Research Method 1 Timescales

During May 2015 the survey was deployed in several different social media and forums across a number of interest groups including relating to dogs: trainers, problems, breed categories and general chat forums. The number of respondents stalled by June and further locations sort.


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