Articles by Giulia Cimarelli in JoVE
The Other End of the Leash: An Experimental Test to Analyze How Owners Interact with Their Pet Dogs Giulia Cimarelli1,2,3, Borbála Turcsán1,4, Friederike Range1,2, Zsófia Virányi1,2 1Comparative Cognition, Messerli Research Institute, University of Veterinary Medicine of Vienna, Medical University of Vienna, University of Vienna, 2Wolf Science Center, Messerli Research Institute, University of Veterinary Medicine of Vienna, Medical University of Vienna, University of Vienna, 3Department of Cognitive Biology, University of Vienna, 4Research Centre for Natural Sciences, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Psychology, Hungarian Academy of Sciences This article presents eight different experimental tasks, mirroring the everyday life of dogs and owners, used to analyze how owners interact with their dogs in a standardized way. The tasks included both positive (e.g. play) and negative (potentially stressful) situations (e.g. physical restriction).
Other articles by Giulia Cimarelli on PubMed
Dog Owners' Interaction Styles: Their Components and Associations with Reactions of Pet Dogs to a Social Threat Frontiers in Psychology. 2016 | Pubmed ID: 28066298 The bond dogs develop with their owner received increased attention in the last years but no study aimed at characterizing the way in which owners interact with their dogs in their daily life and how this might influence dog behavior. In order to examine how dog owners interact with their dogs, we first analyzed the behavior of 220 dog owners in 8 different standardized situations involving the owner-dog dyad. We extracted 3 behavioral factors related to "Owner Warmth," "Owner Social Support," and "Owner Control." Further, we investigated whether owner personality, gender and age are associated with these three factors. Results indicated that older owners scored lower in "Owner Warmth" and in "Owner Social Support" and higher in "Owner Control" than younger owners. Furthermore, owners scoring high in "Owner Control" scored lower in the personality trait Openness and owners scoring high in "Owner Social Support" scored lower in the personality trait Conscientiousness. Finally, we also analyzed whether the dogs' reaction to an unfamiliar woman's threatening approach was associated with the owners' interaction styles. Results showed that dogs that searched for proximity of their owners during the threatening situation had owners scoring higher in "Owner Warmth," as compared to dogs that reacted more autonomously, approaching the unfamiliar experimenter. Analogies between dog-owner interaction styles and human parenting styles are discussed considering the implications of the present findings for human social psychology as well as the practical relevance for dog welfare and human safety.
DNA Methylation Patterns of Behavior-related Gene Promoter Regions Dissect the Gray Wolf from Domestic Dog Breeds Molecular Genetics and Genomics : MGG. Jun, 2017 | Pubmed ID: 28321510 A growing body of evidence highlights the relationship between epigenetics, especially DNA methylation, and population divergence as well as speciation. However, little is known about how general the phenomenon of epigenetics-wise separation of different populations is, or whether population assignment is, possible based on solely epigenetic marks. In the present study, we compared DNA methylation profiles between four different canine populations: three domestic dog breeds and their ancestor the gray wolf. Altogether, 79 CpG sites constituting the 65 so-called CpG units located in the promoter regions of genes affecting behavioral and temperamental traits (COMT, HTR1A, MAOA, OXTR, SLC6A4, TPH1, WFS1)-regions putatively targeted during domestication and breed selection. Methylation status of buccal cells was assessed using EpiTYPER technology. Significant inter-population methylation differences were found in 52.3% of all CpG units investigated. DNA methylation profile-based hierarchical cluster analysis indicated an unambiguous segregation of wolf from domestic dog. In addition, one of the three dog breeds (Golden Retriever) investigated also formed a separate, autonomous group. The findings support that population segregation is interrelated with shifts in DNA methylation patterns, at least in putative selection target regions, and also imply that epigenetic profiles could provide a sufficient basis for population assignment of individuals.
Social Behavior of Pet Dogs Is Associated with Peripheral OXTR Methylation Frontiers in Psychology. 2017 | Pubmed ID: 28443051 Oxytocin is a key modulator of emotional processing and social cognitive function. In line with this, polymorphisms of genes involved in oxytocin signaling, like the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) gene, are known to influence social behavior in various species. However, to date, no study has investigated environmental factors possibly influencing the epigenetic variation of the OXTR gene and its behavioral effects in dogs. Pet dogs form individualized and strong relationships with their owners who are central figures in the social environment of their dogs and therefore might influence the methylation levels of their OXTR gene. Here we set out to investigate whether DNA methylation within the OXTR promoter region of pet dogs is linked to their owner's interaction style and to the social behavior of the dogs. To be able to do so, we collected buccal epithelial cells and, in Study 1, we used pyrosequencing techniques to look for differentially methylated CpG sites in the canine OXTR promoter region on a heterogeneous sample of dogs and wolves of different ages and keeping conditions. Four identified sites (at positions -727, -751, -1371, and -1383 from transcription start site) showing more than 10% methylation variation were then, in Study 2, measured in triplicate in 217 pet Border Collies previously tested for reactions to an adverse social situation (i.e., approach by a threatening human) and with available data on their owners' interaction styles. We found that CpG methylation was significantly associated with the behavior of the dogs, in particular with the likelihood that dogs would hide behind their owner or remain passive when approached by a threatening human. On the other hand, CpG methylation was not related to the owners' behavior but to dog sex (at position -1371). Our findings underpin the complex relationship between epigenetics and behavior and highlight the importance of including epigenetic methods in the analysis of dog behavioral development. Further research is needed to investigate which environmental factors influence the epigenetic variation of the OXTR gene.