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 Dr Nicola Rooney

Research Fellow in Animal Behaviour and Welfare

My Academic Background:

I graduated in Biological Sciences from Leicester University (Hons, 1st class), before completing a Post Graduate Certificate in Education. I then worked as a research assistant at the Wildlife Conservation and Research Unit, at the University of Oxford, studying mink anatomy and diet analysis.

I then moved to Southampton University to study for my PhD, entitled “Play Behaviour of the Domestic Dog, and its Effects upon the Dog-Human Relationship”, which I completed in 1999. I have since continued to work in the field of human-animal interactions, and have run many research projects on working dogs including: examining selection criteria, determining effects of rearing environment, measuring working ability, and assessing and improving the welfare of specialist search dogs. I have supervised PhD, MSc and BSc projects, on various aspects of the welfare of pet and working dogs. I have also conducted several research trips to Indonesia, studying and supervising research on rainforest-dwelling primates, and their interactions with humans.

Since 2003, I have worked as a part-time Research Associate within the Animal Welfare and Behaviour Group at the University of Bristol. I also currently pursue my interest in wildlife tourism in the developing world, leading tours in Africa several times per year. In addition, I work as an independent consultant to the RSPCA and helped produce the RSPCA Codes of Practice for the care of both dogs and cats, the RSPCA Performing Animals Guidelines, and recently coordinated and co-authored an Independent Report entitled “Pedigree dog breeding in the UK: a major welfare concern?”

I regularly review papers from five international journals, have presented papers at numerous international conferences, and, in 2008, I represented the University of Bristol at the International Symposium on the Trends and the Confrontation of the Farm Animal Welfare in South Korea, presenting information on UK Animal Welfare legislation and Bristol’s research work.


My Research Interests:

I am interested in applied aspects of the interactions between humans and animals including the follow areas:

·  Development of indicators of welfare and quality of life for domestic dogs;

·  Play behaviour as an indicator of welfare in domestic and captive animals (e.g. dogs and guinea pigs);

·  The effects of different types of training method upon the behaviour and welfare of domestic dogs;

·  Methods for assessing, and determination of factors affecting the ability of working dogs and their handlers;

·  Determination of optimal rearing and housing conditions for companion species;

·  The effects of exaggerated anatomical features upon the behaviour and welfare of breeds of domestic dog;

·  Dog-dog and dog-human signalling, specifially play signalling and inter-breed differences;

·  The effects of tourism upon the behaviour of wild animals.

My research has been funded primarily by grants from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl).


Recent publications:

Rooney, N.J., Gaines, S.A. & Hiby. E.F. 2008. Practitioner's guide to working dog welfare Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 3(4), 180.

Gaines, S.A.  Rooney, N.J. & Bradshaw, J.W.S. 2008. The effect of feeding enrichment upon reported working ability and behavior of kenneled working dogs. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 53 (6), 1400-1404.

Rooney, N.J.  2008. Book review Ádám Miklósi, Dog Behaviour, Evolution, and Cognition, Oxford University Press, Oxford (2007). Animal Behaviour 76( 2), 515-516

Rooney, N.J., Gaines, S.A., & Bradshaw, J.W.S. 2007. Behavioural and glucocorticoid responses of dogs (Canis familiaris) to kennelling: Investigating mitigation of stress by prior habituation. Physiology and Behavior 92, 847-854.

Rooney, N.J, Gaines S.A, Bradshaw, J.W.S. & Penman S. 2007. Validation of a method for assessing the ability of trainee specialist search dogs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 103(1-2), 90-104.

Hiby, E.F., Rooney, N.J., & Bradshaw, J.W.S. 2006. Behavioural and physiological responses of dogs entering re-homing kennels Physiology and Behavior 89(3), 385-391.

Rooney, N.J. & Bradshaw, J.W.S. 2006. Social cognition in the domestic dog: behaviour of spectators towards participants in interspecific games. Animal Behaviour 72(2), 343-352.

Hiby, E.F., Rooney, N.J. & Bradshaw, J.W.S. 2004. Dog training methods: their use, effectiveness and interaction with behaviour and welfare. Animal Welfare 13(1), 63-69.

Rooney, N.J. & Bradshaw, J.W.S.  2004. Attributes of specialist search dogs - a questionnaire survey of UK dog handlers and trainers. Journal of Forensic Sciences 49(2), 300-306.

Rooney, N.J. & Bradshaw, J.W.S. 2004. Breed and sex differences in the behaviour of specialist search dogs - a questionnaire survey of trainers and handlers. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 86 (1-2), 123-135.

Rooney, N.  & Gaines, S. 2004. How should we select and rear specialist search dogs? Research at the Defence Animal Centre Chiron Calling RAVC Magazine, Winter / Spring Edition.

Gaines S.A. & Rooney, N.J. 2004 Specialist Search Dog Procurement. Introducing dogs into training kennels is stressful - an investigation into how we can ease this transition. Chiron Calling RAVC Magazine, Summer Edition.

Rooney, N.J. & Bradshaw, J.W.S. 2003. The effects of play upon dominance and attachment dimensions of the dog-owner relationship. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 6(2), 67-94.

Rooney, N.J. & Bradshaw, J.W.S. 2002. An experimental study of the effects of play upon the dog-human relationship. Applied Animal Behaviour Science,75(2), 161-176.

Rooney, N.J., Bradshaw, J.W.S. & Robinson, I. 2001. Do dogs respond to play signals given by humans? Animal Behaviour 61(4), 715-722.

Rooney, N.J., Bradshaw, J.W.S. & Robinson, I. 2000. A comparison of dog-dog and dog-human play behaviour. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 6, 235-248.