Human-Animal Interactions

Type of instruction




Part of degree program


Recommended in

Semesters 1-4

Typically offered in

Autumn/Spring semester

Course description

I. The role of applied ethology in modern ethological research a. Economical aspects b. Welfare considerations c. A new category: pets

II. How can we define „pet”? a. Cultural and ecological aspects  b. The notion of „natural environment”  

III. Behavioural changes: genetical and developmental processes  a. Effect of evolution: domestication b. The role of individual experiences and learning: taming c. Habituation  

IV. Mechanisms of socialisation  a. The role of human in the conspecific recognition system b. Socialisation with conspecifics c. In what extent does living with humans change the species specific social system?

V. Aggression a. The biological function of aggression b. Where and how does the aggressive behaviour towards conspecifics and humans differ?  c. What do we know about the role of the innate and environmental factors influencing aggressive behaviour?  

VI. „Abnormal” behaviour a. How can normal or abnormal behaviour be defined?  b. Ontogenetical factors c. A possible new therapeutic method: calming pheromones

VII. The dog – an evolutionary bestseller?  a. Ethology of the canidae b. Social behaviour of wolves c. Comparison of the social behaviour of the wolf and dog   d. Useful domestic species or pet?  e. An unusual scenario for domestication

VIII. A new model for socio-cognitive studies  a. Social role in the human environment – pack or family?  b. Comparison of the intraspecific and interspecific social behaviour of dogs c. The dog is a recently emerged promising subject for studies in cognitive ethology and genetics  d. Dog-human attachment as a human analogue social relationship

IX. A non-social pet – the cat  a. The nature of social relationship between human and cat  b. Alternatives in territory use c. Predatory behaviours

X. “Beasts” as pets?  a. Natural environment and the demands for keeping conditions  b. Dangerous and/or endangered?  c. An experiment trying to model domestication: foxes selected for tameness 

XI. Interspecific communication a. Human-animal communication  b. The signals applied in interspecific communication: how do species specific behaviour patterns change  c. In what extent are pets able to comprehend human communicational signals?  

XII. The physiological aspects of functioning as a pet  a. Stress sensitivity b. Mechanisms controlling reproductive behaviour  

XIII. The behaviour of pets in shelter conditions  a. Social relations in case of different keeping conditions  b. Behaviour testing: methods and problems  c. Social rehabilitation

XIV. Welfare considerations – written and unwritten laws  a. EU regulations b. The problem of cultural differences c. Social acceptance – civil organisations, charities. 

  • Genetics and the Behavior of Domestic Animals (1998), Ed. by Temple Grandin, Academic Press, San Diego, USA

  • The Domestic Dog - Its Evolution, Behaviour and Interactions with People (1995) Ed. by James Serpell, Cambridge University Press, UK