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Nocturnal behaviour of domestic dogs Canis familiaris

Adams, Graham Joseph (1994) Nocturnal behaviour of domestic dogs Canis familiaris. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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This thesis describes aspects of the nocturnal behaviour of the domestic dog Canis familiaris. Human-animal relationships were studied between companion dogs and their owners and families, between drug detector dogs, their handlers and possible drug carriers, and between guard dogs, their owners and potential intruders.

Sleep-wake cycles and other night-time behaviours were observed in 24 domestic dogs living in urban habitats. On average these dogs woke 3 times an hour during 8 hour observations, in cycles consisting of an average 16 minutes asleep and 5 minutes awake. Dogs slept in as close proximity to their owners as they were permitted.

Twelve dogs were filmed at night in their usual urban habitats at 8 locations, whilst alert, in Quiet sleep and in Active sleep. Dogs were more likely to bark in response to other dogs barking than to other auditory-stimuli. Dogs apparently perceived the significance of auditory stimuli even when in Active sleep, and were far more responsive to barking than to stimuli of concern to owners.

Sleep-wake cycles of six drug detector dogs were video recorded, and the effects on them of shift-work were assessed. The rhythms, duration and nature of Active sleep were closely comparable to REM sleep patterns recorded electrophysiologically by other workers; it is concluded that Active and REM sleep in dogs are probably identical. 4 Patterns of sleep-wake cycles were not affected when handler-dog teams worked different day and night shifts.

Sleep-wake cycles and the responses to natural stimuli were studied in 17 guard dogs working without the direction of humans; detailed video recordings were made of 10 of these dogs. During 8 h, recordings showed that the guard dogs were inactive for 84% of the night, and 70% of the day. During the day guard dogs permanently on-site had far more sessions of activity per h than commercial guard dogs which were resting off-site, p < 0.025. However, at night where they were guarding, there was no significant difference between the sleep-wake cycles and activity levels of the two groups.

Frequent regular waking and the ability to respond to significant sounds even from sleep provide dogs with a considerable flexibility in and awareness of their surroundings. As a result at night, dogs can bark, roam the streets, and be a considerable nuisance to people. However the same animals offer many advantages for people both in law enforcement and for the protection of property. At the personal level dogs are especially valuable for protection against intruders, and perhaps most importantly, for their dedicated companionship during the times when people feel most vulnerable, at night.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary Studies
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Johnson, Ken
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