Do Thundershirts Mute Arousal In Dogs?
Contact Information of Principle Investigators
Judy C. Songrady
130 Biological Sciences
Durham, NC 27708
Deep pressure stimulation can be applied by massages, swaddling, hugs, and in some animals, being petted. Deep pressure touch (DPT) can effectively modulate anxiety across several species of animals. DPT therapy could save the animal care industry from significant expenses by allowing them to treat animals displaying anxious behaviors without continually purchasing drug treatments. This proposed study will examine the role that DPT plays in muting arousal in pet dogs. The experimental group will be swaddled throughout the entire test session by a mesh cloth, and the control will not. The experimental (N=30) and control (N=30) groups will be exposed to startling stimuli that have been established as methods of behavioral and hormonal arousal (unexpected exposure to umbrella openings, a falling bag, and loud noises 110-120dbs). After exposure, latency of recovery and behavioral responses will be recorded. Salivary samples will be collected to measure the impact that DPT has on cortisol will be collected at baseline and 20, 40, and 60 minutes after exposure to startle stimuli. If DPT is effective in muting arousal in dogs, then the methods could potentially be adapted and implemented as a treatment for humans or other animals at kennels, zoos, and sanctuaries. If adaptable to humans, DPT therapy could help patients suffering from anxiety disorders, and potentially decrease the financial burden and dependency on life-long drug prescriptions.
This proposed study will examine the role that DPT plays in modulating anxiety. DPT can be applied by massages, swaddling, hugs, and in some animals, being petted1. College students, children with autism and ADHD have all reported feeling less anxious after receiving massage therapy or using a “squeeze machine,” a bed-like machine that applies pressure over a large portion of the body1,2,3,4.. Additionally, it has been demonstrated in autistic children that after receiving DPT they had decreased galvanic skin response measures4. Temple Gradin, the designer of the squeeze machine, observed cows waiting to be examined by the veterinarian behaved nervously and reported that after application of DPT they seemed to be calmer1. Premature infants that received DPT therapy benefited by more weight gain, higher activity levels during wake periods, and leaving the hospital earlier5. Animal care givers in zoos, labs, and kennels, have reported animals pressing against walls of their enclosures and monkeys that exhibit self-clasping and self-biting behaviors1,6,7. It has been suggested that these behaviors are self-applied tactics taken by animals to fill the absence of DPT in their current environment1. Research demonstrating DPT can be utilized to consistently lower feelings of anxiety in humans and animals is needed because of the several implications it may hold for future medical and psychological treatments and animal welfare programs.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is characterized by a mix of psychological distress, anxiety, depression, physical pain, sleep disturbances, and changes in mood, physical activity, and cognitive function8,9.. PTSD affects about 15% of combat military personnel and individuals that have endured traumatic life events9. Additionally, kennel dogs and military dogs display PTSD-like behaviors after exposure to trauma10,11,12,13,14. The training of military dogs is time consuming and expensive, costing the government several thousand dollars for each dog. When a dog comes back from training sessions or from military combat with problematic behaviors related to trauma, that dog is no longer able to do its job and must be discharged, forcing the military to invest its time and money all over again10. Currently, the most frequently used treatments for PTSD in humans and animals are prescription medications8,10,15. Talk therapy is also a common form of treating PTSD patients8. However, these two modes of treatment aren’t always effective and require long-term funding. Other treatments, like acupuncture16, have been tested for effectiveness in treating PTSD, but little research has focused on the possibility of DPT as a treatment for the anxiety experienced by individuals or canines suffering from PTSD. I propose to investigate the effectiveness of DPT in muting arousal in dogs. Initially, I will use pet dogs for my study. If the pilot data is successful I plan to recruit nervous pet dogs or dogs with a thunder phobia, and kennel dogs that exhibit anxious behaviors. Finally, I would like to utilize the relationship the Duke Canine Cognition Center (DCCC) has with K2, a company contracted to buy and train working military and police dogs, to implement my study with their dogs that suffer from PTSD-like symptoms.
The experimental group will be swaddled throughout the entire test session by a mesh cloth called the “Thundershirt,” donated to us by the creator Phil Blizzard. The two test groups will be exposed to startling stimuli that have been established as methods of behavioral and hormonal arousal (unexpected exposure to umbrella openings, a falling bag, and loud noises 110-120dbs)17,18,19,20. After exposure I will monitor the following behavioral responses: avoidance/approach of startle stimulus, flinching, crouching, rapid avoidance with recovery within 10s and rapid avoidance without recovery within 10s, and I will record the time it takes them to return baseline. Additionally, I plan to collect saliva samples to measure the impact DPT has on the stress hormone cortisol. Research has demonstrated that in dogs it takes 15-20 minutes for cortisol to enter the saliva and 60 minutes for them return to baseline after arousal17. Therefore, for the experimental group I plan on collecting a sample upon arrival and 20 minutes after applying the Thundershirt. The control group will also be sampled upon arrival for baseline measures and both groups will undergo saliva sampling 20, 40, and 60 minutes after exposure to startle stimuli. This research is innovative and highly practical because of the several possible social benefits that may come from utilizing DPT as a treatment for PTSD. DPT therapy could save individuals in the military and animal care industry from significant expenses by allowing them to treat anxious animals without continually purchasing drug treatments. Additionally, the military may be able to apply this treatment and discharge fewer dogs after they’ve been exposed to trauma. Finally, if DPT is effective in treating dogs with anxiety, then the methods could potentially be adapted and implemented as a treatment for humans or other animals at kennels, zoos, and sanctuaries. If adaptable to humans, DPT therapy could help veterans and other patients suffering from PTSD, and potentially decrease the financial burden and dependency on life-long drug prescriptions.
For this pilot study, using pet dogs, I expect that the experimental group will display less anxious behaviors during exposure to startling stimuli and smaller amounts of cortisol in their saliva when compared to the control group. The pilot data will be beneficial not only in developing methods to test anxious dogs in future, but also to dog trainers and behavior consultants. By scientifically demonstrating that DPT is an effective method to modulate anxiety in dogs, trainers and consultants will be able to utilize an economical method to treat dogs with problematic behaviors stemming from anxiety. Furthermore, kennels and shelters may highly benefit from DPT therapy as they may be able to use this technique to get more dogs adopted.
I plan to test a total of 60 dogs for this pilot study, 30 dogs in the control group and 30 dogs in the experimental group. Since the nature of this study is somewhat sensitive, in that I will be intentionally startling peoples’ pet dogs, I anticipate some difficulties in recruiting volunteers. However, the DCCC has access to well over 100 dogs and I already have had 15 out of 21 owners whom I’ve contacted agree to participate in this study. To account for these difficulties I have set the timeline at a rate of testing one dog per week. I plan to begin testing in March 2013; therefore all of the data should be collected by late May 2014. Behavioral measures will be recorded live, and videos will be coded for reliability throughout the entire study by student volunteers. Saliva samples will be sent out for analysis at a rate of every two months. I expect all the data will be ready for analysis by no later than late July 2014. For this study I will have 5 milestones. First I will collect data on the control group. Collecting data on the first 15 dogs will indicate the first milestone, and data collection on the second half of the control group will signify the second milestone. Once data on the control group is collected I will begin collecting data for the experimental group. Collecting data on the first 15 dogs in the experimental group will indicate the third milestone, and data collection on the last 15 dogs in the experimental groups will signify the fourth milestone. The final milestone will be when all of the data is ready for analysis. I expect data analysis to take no longer than one month; therefore results should be ready to be written up in a manuscript by August 2014. With this time schedule I should be able to publish the results of the pilot study well before the end of the two year deadline in February 2015.
Use of Funds
This pilot study will be sharing the control group’s data with another study examining temperament. Therefore, the costs of their cortisol analysis will be covered and I already have obtained all the materials necessary for collecting saliva samples for both the control and experimental groups. Additionally, the Thundershirts have already been donated to the DCCC lab therefore posing no extra costs and student volunteers will be utilized to code the data. This grant will only be used to help cover the costs of cortisol analysis in the experimental group. The experimental group will have five saliva samples taken for each dog. Each sample costs $20.00 to process, and although this grant does not cover the entire cost for cortisol analysis in the experimental group it significantly contributes to the costs of processing the samples. A table below indicates how the $1,500.00 grant will be used:
|# of dogs||# of samples per dog||cost of analysis for each sample||cost of analysis for each dog||cost of analysis for 15 dogs|
Previous studies have found that behavioral fear responses are correlated with higher cortisol levels18,19,20. Thus, it is expected that there are three likely outcomes to this study. The first being that the experimental group will exhibit less fearful behavioral responses to startle stimuli and lower levels of cortisol when compared to the control group, suggesting that DPT is able to mute arousal in dogs. The second possible outcome is that there is no difference between the experimental and control groups suggesting that there DPT has no effect on modulating arousal in dogs. The final possible outcome is that there is in an increase in cortisol levels and fearful behaviors in the experimental group suggesting the Thundershirt could actually cause a fear response in dogs.
Evaluation of data will be measured through behavioral observations and salivary cortisol levels. For the first behavioral measure animals will be coded on a scale from 0-4. The behaviors will be scored as follows: 0) subjects exhibit no response 1) flinching 2) crouching 3) rapid avoidance with recovery within 10s 4) rapid avoidance without recovery within 10s in response to occurring startle stimulus.
For the second behavioral measure, for 30s after exposure to startle stimulus, animals will be coded as either -1, 0, or 1, depending on whether they exhibit avoidance, no movement, or approach to the startle stimulus, respectively. T-tests will be used to test for significant differences behavioral responses between the control and experimental groups. Both groups will undergo salivary sampling upon arrival for baseline measures and additional salivary samples will be taken 20, 40 and 60 min after being exposed to startle stimuli. A repeated measures ANOVA will be utilized to test for significant differences in cortisol levels between the experimental and control groups. Finally to examine whether the DPT has an immediate effect on cortisol levels the experimental group will undergo salivary sampling 20 min after application of the Thundershirt. A paired t-test will be used examine differences cortisol levels between baseline and DPT application.
Qualifications of Principle Investigators
Judy C. Songrady
Duke University, Evolutionary Anthropology & Center for Cognitive Neuroscience
Lab Coordinator/Research Assistant for Dr. Brian Hare, 2012-Present.
National Institutes of Health, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), Laboratory of Comparative Ethology
Technical Intramural Research Training Award, Nursery Technician/Research Assistant for Dr. Steven J. Suomi, 2009-2012.
St. Mary’s College of Maryland, St. Mary’s City, Maryland
I completed a comprehensive literature review regarding enrichment, cognition, and neurogenesis in rats. Using information from my review I designed and implemented a thesis project under the supervision of an advisor. I later presented the results via poster presentation to my peers, professors, and interested members of the community. This is known as the St. Mary’s Project, 2008-2009.
Near the end of my internship at the NICHD I designed a pilot study investigating the effects of DPT in infant monkeys. Each infant in the nursery had access to a hanging cloth surrogate to which they could cling for comfort. I sewed a sleeping-bag-like pouch to some of the infants’ surrogates so that they could crawl inside and be swaddled by fleece. Upon implementing these new surrogates I assessed behavioral changes in the infants, and obtained promising results, finding a significant decrease in self-clasping and self-biting behavior. After presenting my results to Dr. Suomi he allowed me to implement the new surrogates to all the infants. The lab is currently collecting the developmental data that I will examine upon completion. I hope to publish a manuscript discussing these two projects in the near future.
I developed and implemented a new handling protocol for the nursery-reared infants at the NICHD. Infants went from receiving little to no physical contact from human caregivers to being handled for several minutes every day. Data assessing behavioral changes is currently being analyzed.
I implemented a new enrichment regiment for the nursery-reared infants at the NICHD. Infants went from receiving two hanging toys once every two weeks to receiving two new toys every day until they left the nursery. Data assessing behavioral changes is currently being analyzed.
Award of excellence for my poster presentation at the local American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (National Harbor, Maryland 2011): The Effects of Extrinsic Reward on Intrinsic Motivation in Infant Rhesus Macaques (Macaca Mulatta) J. C. Songrady, S. J. Suomi, L. C. Egan and A. Paukner.
The Effects of Extrinsic Reward on Intrinsic Motivation in Infant Rhesus Macaques (Macaca Mulatta) J. C. Songrady, S. J. Suomi, L. C. Egan and A. Paukner
Temperament Development and Sex Differences in Rhesus Macaque Infants (Macaca Mulatta) Across Different Testing Environments J. C. Songrady, M. F. S. X. Novak, A. M. Ruggiero, E. K. Mallott, N. Bowling, M. L. Miller, E. A. Kerschner, K. Synnestvedt, S. J. Suomi.
Head Orientation and Hand Preference During the First Month of Life in Rhesus Monkeys (Macaca Mulatta) E. L. Nelson, M. S. Emery, S. M. Babcock, S. J. Suomi, J. Songrady, A. M. Ruggiero, M. Miller, M. F. Novak, M. A. Novak
Neonatal Head Orientation Preference in Rhesus Macaques: Do Infant Monkeys Resemble Human Infants? E. L. Nelson, S. M. Babcock, S. J. Suomi, J. C. Songrady, A. M. Ruggiero, M. Miller, M. A. Novak
Environmental Enrichment vs. Cognitive Enrichment in Aged Rats: Effects on Cognition and Hippocampal Neurogenesis J. C. Songrady, A. M. Bailey
Dr. Brian Hare
Duke University, Evolutionary Anthropology & Center for Cognitive Neuroscience
Associate Professor, 2012-Present.
Duke University, Evolutionary Anthropology & Center for Cognitive Neuroscience
Assistant Professor, 2008-2011.
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Director of Hominoid Psychology Research Group, 2005-2007.
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Scientific Staff and Postdoctoral Associate, 2004 – 2005.
1 post-doctoral fellow (Dr. Alicia Melis); advised 2 Ph.D. students (Dr. Evan Maclean; Dr. Alexandra Rosati); co-advised 3 Ph.D. students (Dr. Alicia Melis, Dr. Esther Herrmann, Dr. Victoria Wobber); 9 Duke undergraduate thesis students.
1 post-doctoral fellow (Dr. Evan Maclean); 2 Ph.D. students (Jingzhi Tan;
Chris Krupenye); co-advising 3 Ph.D. students (Kara Schroepfer; Courtnea Rainey; Korrina Duffy); 2 Duke undergraduate thesis students.
Cognitive Evolution Lab, Evolutionary Anthropology, Duke Univ., lab course, 2008-
Human Cognitive Evolution, Evolutionary Anthropology, Duke Univ., lecture, 2008-
Evolution of Social Brain & Mind, Evolutionary Anthropology, Duke Univ., seminar, 2008
Partnering and Parenting, Evolutionary Anthropology & Vice Provost Office for
Interdisciplinary Studies, Duke U., seminar, 2011-
Hare, B. & Woods, V. in press. The Genius of Dogs. Dutton: Penguin Group.
Hare, B., Call, J. & Tomasello, M. 1998. Communication of food location between human and
dog (Canis familiaris). Evolution of Communication. 2, 137-159.
Hare, B. & Tomasello, M. 1999. Domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) use human and conspecific
social cues to locate hidden food. Journal of Comparative Psychology. 113, 1-5.
Agnetta, B., Hare, B. & Tomasello, M. 2000. Cues to food locations that domestic dogs (Canis
familiaris) of different ages do and do not use. Animal Cognition. 3, 107-112.
Hare, B., Brown, M., Williamson, C. & Tomasello, M. 2002. The domestication of social
cognition in dogs. Science. 298, 1636-1639.
Hare, B. & Wrangham, R. 2002. Integrating two evolutionary models for the study of social cognition. In: The Cognitive Animal (Ed. by Beckoff, M., Allen, C. & Burhgardt, G.): The MIT Press. 363-369.
Hare, B. 2004. Dogs use humans as tools: is it the secret to their success? Encyclopedia of
Animal Behaviour. Beckoff, M. (ed). Greenwood Publishing Group.
Hare, B. 2004. Using comparative studies of primate and canid social cognition to model our
Miocene minds. Dissertation. Department of Anthropology, Harvard University.
Hare, B., Plyusnina, I., Iganacio, N., Wrangham, R., Trut, L. 2005. Social cognitive
evolution in captive foxes is a correlated by-product of experimental domestication.
Current Biology. 16, 226-230.
Hare, B. & Tomasello, M. 2005. Human-like social skills in dogs? Trends in Cognitive
Sciences. 9, 439-444.
Hare, B. & Tomasello, M. 2005. The emotional reactivity hypothesis and cognitive evolution.
Trends in Cognitive Sciences. 10, 464-465.
Hare, B. & Tomasello, M. 2006. Behavioral genetics of dog cognition: human-like social
skills in dogs are heritable and derived. The Dog and its Genome (E. Ostrander, Urs
Giger and Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, Eds). Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, New York,
Hare, B. 2007. From nonhuman to human mind: what changed and why. Current
Directions in Psychological Science. 16, 60-64.
Hare, B. 2008. Review of Dogs: Behavior, Cognition and Evolution. By Miklosi, A.
Current Biology. 18, R543-R544.
Wobber, V. Hare, B. 2009. Testing the social dog hypothesis: are dogs also more skilled
than chimpanzees in non-communicative social tasks? Behavioral Processes. 81, 423-
Wobber, V., Koler-Matznick, J., Hare, B., Wrangham, R., Tomasello, M. 2009. Breed differences in domestic dogs’ comprehension of human communicative signals.
Interaction Studies. 10, 206-224.
Hare, B. Rosati, A. Breaur, J., Kaminski, J., Call, J., Tomasello, M. 2010. Dogs are more
skilled than wolves with human social cues: a response to Udell et al (2008) and Wynne
et al. (2008). Animal Behaviour. 79, e1-e6.
MacLean, E., Matthews, L., Hare, B., Nunn, C., Anderson, R., Aureli, F., Brannon, E., Call,
J., Drea, C., Emery, N., Haun, D., Herrmann, E., Jacobs, L., Platt, M., Rosati, A.,
Sandel, A., Schroepfer, K., Seed, A., Tan, J., van Schaik, C., Wobber, V. 2011. How does
cognition evolves?: phylogenetic comparative psychology. Animal Cognition. 15, 223-
Hare, B. submitted. A culture of compassion relies on a preference based approach to
animal welfare. Anthrozoos.
Manuscripts in Preparation:
Maclean, E. & Hare, B. in prep. Do dogs understand human attention?
Tan, J. Schroepfer, K. & Hare. in prep. Do dogs differ in their ability to trust humans?
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