According to some researchers, animals show different coping styles to deal with stressful situations. In the case of social carnivores, social stress is a substantial part of the overall stress load. Previous research has established two extreme (proactive and reactive) coping styles in several animal species, but means of coping with social stress has not yet been investigated in the case of dogs. The aim of this current study was to examine whether (1) experienced working police dogs adopt different coping strategies during a short-term unexpected social challenge presented by a threatening human, (2) whether this affects post-encounter cortisol levels, and (3) whether there is an association between the cortisol response and the behavior (coping strategy) displayed during the threatening approach. Using factor analysis, we have identified three different group of dogs which were characterized by either fearfulness, aggressiveness, or ambivalence and in parallel showed specific differences in their reaction norm when threatened by an approaching stranger. This grouping also allowed to draw possible parallels between aggressiveness and the proactive behavior style and fearfulness and reactive coping style, respectively. In addition, we have revealed a third group of animals which show ambivalent behavior in a social threatening situation.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was supported by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (F 226/98) EU FP-6 NEST012787 and an OTKA grant (T049615). The authors are grateful to the Hungarian National Police Training School for Police dog Handlers (Dunakeszi, Hungary) for their cooperation and to the all participating policemen; special thanks to Dr. Frigyes Janza, police-colonel, Pál Marsi, police-colonel, Ferenc Suszter, police-major, and Attila Kovács, police-major. We would like to express our gratitude to professor Imre Oláh, head of Developmental Biology and Immunology Lab. (Semmelweis University), for cooperation. We would like to express our appreciation to Daniel H. Kaplan, assistant professor of Department of Dermatology, UMN, for being kind enough to correct the language of our manuscript as a native English speaker. We thank Dorottya Ujfalussy for her valuable comments on previous versions of the manuscript. We are also very grateful to the three anonymous referees, who gave us many valuable comments on a previous version of this manuscript.
- Ambivalent behavior
- Coping styles
- Police dogs
- Threatening test