Separation anxiety is a common issue in dogs, and since being left home alone is a daily experience for many of these dogs, their welfare is at stake. Attentional bias to a threat refers to when an individual selectively increases its attention towards threatening stimuli, which is usually performed by more anxious individuals. Attention bias tests (ABTs) have previously been used as a way to measure welfare in prey animals. These studies showed that anxious individuals are more vigilant, have a higher attention towards a threatening stimulus, and tend to eat less in the presence of a threat.
The aim of this study was to investigate attention bias in dogs with separation anxiety and dogs without separation anxiety in situations of different emotional states. This was executed by performing three ABTs; baseline (neutral), play (positive), and isolation (negative).
That dogs with separation anxiety would pay more attention to the threatening stimulus (a lion roar audio), be more vigilant, and be less likely to eat in the presence of the threat, compared to dogs with no separation anxiety.
That dogs, no matter if they had separation anxiety or not, would pay more attention to the threatening stimulus, be more vigilant, and be less likely to eat during isolation, since I believed that the absence of their owner would increase dogs stress levels.