Modified open-field test with odor search stimulus: Anticipated canine motivation and behavioral outcomes between anxious and non-anxious dogs

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Bergeron, Savanna
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Suzanne Millman
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Biomedical Sciences
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Biomedical Sciences

Fear is an emotion that is necessary to survive, but when it’s prolonged and frequent, it can cause suffering in both animals and humans. Fear and anxiety are interrelated; therefore, fear can cause anxiety and anxiety can cause fear. Treatments for anxiety behaviors are currently an ongoing process, in order to improve the mental health of the animal. This review is focused on trying to understand anxiety behaviors through the use of a modified open-field test. More specifically, an odor search stimulus is used in conjunction with dogs on L-DOPA treatments. Previous animal models, particularly the mouse and rat, have been used for many behavioral tests, including ones to treat anxiety. Such open-field tests were examined and briefly analyzed to decide whether the behavioral measurements used could be translated across species, more particularly with the canine. Modified open-field tests were deemed applicable to measure anxiety behaviors in the canine. However, the odor stimulus in the open-field test modification is novel. An increased capacity for odor detection in the canine deems a plausible factor to consider when noting the canine’s motivation and behavioral outcomes to the odor-search stimulus. Significant results were found in both military and cancer-detector dogs for the motivation to search for a novel odor stimulus. There were also studies done in which olfactory stimuli are used to stimulate exploratory motivation, such as in zoo animals. Consequently, all studies examined concluded that future research studies within these topic areas should continue to be evaluated for better research design and training programs. This paper will address the anticipated canine motivation to pursue the odor search stimulus and the behavioral outcomes that can be measured to differentiate between anxious and non-anxious dogs. Modifying the standard open-field test with olfactory stimuli will strengthen its relevance for use in dogs. In this review I will provide an overview of the open-field test, appraise the open-field test assumptions and logic in relation to rodents, show the applicability of the open-field test in relation to canine subjects, and provide the experimental design for a pilot study that dealt with dogs on L-DOPA treatments.