Dr Nicola J Rooney

B.Sc.(Leic.), Ph.D.(Soton.)

  • BS40 5DU

  • BS40 5DU

    United Kingdom

20012020

Research output per year

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Personal profile

Research interests

My research focuses on the behaviour and wellbeing of companion animals, and their interactions with humans. I am particularly interested in play behaviour as shown below, and in developing ways of measuring, prioritising and improving the welfare of companion species. 

Dog at play 

Much of my work has focussed on domestic dogs, and I have an international reputation in the field of working dog performance and welfare having spoken at many international meetings, and contributed to numerous policy documents and guidelines. In November 2013, I will give the keynote address at the inaugural Conference of the Australian Working Dog Alliance.

I have also studied pet rabbits and a range of species (wild and domestic) and their interactions with people.

 

Working Dogs

For the past fourteen years I have headed a team conducting research on working dogs, working collaboratively with many agencies worldwide. My research aims to improve both dog team performance and also individual dog welfare. Research topics included: 

  • Examining working dog selection criteria and breed differences in ability.
  • Investigating the effects of rearing environments on search dog ability.
  • Exploring the effects of different types of training method upon the behaviour and welfare of domestic dogs.
  • Developing methods for measuring working ability.
  • Determining optimal handler selection.
  • Developing training resources for military handlers to recognise and quantify dog behavior.
  • Assessing and examining ways of improving the welfare of kenneled dogs. 

 

Military dog reward via play

Several of the findings of this research have been adopted by working dog agencies in the UK and overseas to derive policy aimed at improving performance and welfare of their dogs. I am currently part of a team researching aspects of racing greyhound welfare, working with the industry in order to improve welfare.

 

Hypoglycaemia Alert Dogs

Hypoglycaemia alert dogs

Medical detection dogs

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Damien McFadden

Courtesy of Medical Detection dogs 

  

Recently I have undertaken a new and exciting avenue of research, examining hypoglycaemia alert dogs and their value to people living with Type I diabetes. This was the first scientific study to examine dogs trained for this potentially life-saving role. All owners reported positive effects including reduced paramedic call outs, decreased unconscious episodes and improved independence. Owner-recorded data showed that dogs alerted their owners, with significant, though variable, accuracy at times of low and high blood sugar. Dogs also alerted consistently more often when their owner’s blood sugars were reported to be outside, than within, target range. This study points to the potential value of alert dogs, for increasing glycaemic control, client independence and consequent quality of life and even reducing the costs of long-term health care, and is an exciting first step in this new research area.

For further information about Medical Detection dogs please click the link, and to find out about the study published please go here.

Express: How a dog can save your life

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

Companion animal welfare

I also work as a consultant to the RSPCA and has helped produce Codes of Practice for the care of both dogs and cats, the RSPCA Performing Animals Guidelines, and coordinated and co-authored the influential Independent Report entitled “Pedigree dog breeding in the UK: a major welfare concern?”.

I am concerned by effects of pedigree dog breeding and hence my research interests include:

  • The effects of exaggerated anatomical features upon the behavior and welfare of breeds of domestic dog.
  • Dog-dog and dog-human signaling, specifically play signaling and inter-breed differences.

 

Pet rabbits 

Rabbit

Along with a team at Bristol, I have recently completed two large scale studies  

  • Assessing the state rabbit welfare in the UK and prioritising welfare issues.
  • Investigating the spatial needs of socially housed pet rabbits.

We hope the finding of these studies will soon be adopted into guidelines by welfare organisations and pet industries in order to improve the welfare of this currently understudied species, and to this end presented the work at the Pet IndustryForum & Awards in October 2013. 

Further information can be found about Nicola Rooney here.

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Research Output

Investigation into the Value of Trained Glycaemia Alert Dogs to Clients with Type I Diabetes

Rooney, N. J., Morant, S. & Guest, C., 7 Aug 2013, In : PLoS ONE. 10.1371/journal.pone.0069921

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

  • 46 Citations (Scopus)

    A lesson in standardisation -subtle aspects of the processing of samples can greatly affect dogs' learning: subtle aspects of the processing of samples can greatly affect dogs' learning

    Guest, C., Harris, R., Anjum, I., Concha, A. & Rooney, N. J., 8 Jul 2020, (Accepted/In press) In : Frontiers in Veterinary Science.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

  • Analgesia in pet rabbits: A survey study on how pain is assessed and ameliorated by veterinary surgeons

    Benato, L., Murrell, J. C., Blackwell, E. J., Saunders, R. & Rooney, N., 17 Apr 2020, In : Veterinary Record. 8 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

    Open Access
    File
  • 25 Downloads (Pure)

    Datasets

    Confounder investigation

    Rooney, N. J. (Creator), Guest, C. (Contributor), Harris, R. (Contributor), Concha, A. (Contributor) & Anjum, I. (Contributor), University of Bristol, 25 Mar 2020

    Dataset