PhD studentship Stereotypical and compulsive behaviours: classification, welfare implications and association with perseveration

We are looking for a motivated, high calibre graduate with an interest in animal behaviour and welfare science. The successful candidate will join an outstanding research team in the Animal Welfare and Behaviour group and will be required to work with employees of the funding body (re-homing charity), so strong interpersonal skills are required. Previous experience of handling dogs would be advantageous.

Compulsive or stereotypical behaviours are common in kennelled dogs. They are distressing for staff and visitors, and a welfare issue for the dogs. However there is ambiguous evidence as to how these behaviours relate to quality of life and which aspects of their presentation may be important for prevention, treatment and prognosis. Using remote video recording, this student  will conduct a detailed evaluation of kennelled dogs showing compulsive behaviours, focusing on characteristics suggested to be functionally important in other species, such as the extent to which the behaviour is invariant. They will also investigate how these behaviours may influence quality of life, using a novel cognitive approach to welfare assessment. Although the inability to inhibit a repeated response (‘perseveration’) has been associated with these behaviours in other species, no research has investigated this potentially important association in dogs. The student will explore this relationship in dogs using two non-invasive behavioural tests of ‘perseveration’ to compare affected and control groups.


Background of group:

The Animal Welfare and Behaviour group based at Bristol Veterinary School, Langford, is a centre of excellence in animal welfare science, influencing national and international policy and working with farm, companion, laboratory and zoo animals. The group provides top quality, research-informed teaching, including a BSc in Animal Behaviour and Welfare, and is renowned for developing the careers of scientists interested in animal welfare and has eleven current PhD students.

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The group’€™s research activities include the full spectrum of animal welfare and behaviour ranging from fundamental research into animal motivation, cognition and emotion to the development and implementation of practical solutions for existing and emerging welfare problems. The companion animal behaviour team conducts diverse cutting-edge research. This includes applied studies such as validating treatment programmes for clinical behaviour problems and exploring the prevalence of, and risk factors for, undesired behaviours using epidemiological approaches, but also research investigating more fundamental questions such as novel methods of welfare assessment.


This student will be supervised by Drs Rachel Casey and Emily Blackwell.

Entry Requirements:

A background in psychology, biological or veterinary science, would be advantageous, but applications are welcome from candidates from related disciplines. A minimum upper second class degree classification or equivalent is required. The position is available from 1st Oct 2013.


The studentship is funded by a tax-exempt stipend starting from £15,000 for three years.


Due to funding requirements, there are potential funding restrictions for non- EU students.


How to Apply:

Please apply online at and select Veterinary Science (PhD). Please enter details of the studentship in the Research Details section of the form.

Deadline for applications:

The deadline for applications is 9:00am on 9th August 2013, interviews 10th September 2013


For further information, please contact: Dr Rachel Casey ( or Dr Emily Blackwell ( )

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