"Improving Pet Welfare Award" 2020 goes to Christine Arhant

For the second time in a row, Christine Arhant received the "Improving Pet Welfare Award" from the Journal of Veterinary Behavior (Elsevier).

Elsevier's Journal of Veterinary Behavior presents two Improving Pet Welfare Awards annually for scientific contributions that focus on improving pet welfare. Christine Arhants publication “Owner reports on use of muzzles and their effects on dogs; an online survey" 1 has now been awarded one of the two prizes. Together with her colleagues, the animal welfare expert devoted herself to questions such as the ideal muzzle type, the right fit and the effects of muzzle use on the physical condition and behavior of dogs.



IMHAI: Interdisciplinary Master’s Programme in Human-Animal Interactions (in English)

Starting in the 2021 academic year, students will be able to enrol in a research-oriented master’s programme in Human-Animal Interactions for an introduction to and in-depth examination of current research questions in the relevant natural science and humanities disciplines. These include ethical questions as well as topics in behavioural and cognitive biology, comparative medicine and neuroscience as well as research questions from the fields of animal welfare, animal husbandry, psychology and philosophy of science. The programme is being offered by the Messerli Research Institute in cooperation with the Institute for Animal Welfare and Animal Husbandry, the Domestication Lab as well as the clinics and other institutes of the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, the Medical University of Vienna and the University of Vienna.


You can find further infomormation here 2


New publication: "Characteristics and Welfare of Long-Term Shelter Dogs"

In no-kill shelters overpopulation is an often-faced problem. Some individuals have better adoption chances than others and over time long-term dog populations develop. The aim was to identify certain characteristics that long-term shelter dogs share and to investigate if long-term shelter dogs experience an impairment of welfare due to the restricted environment in shelter kennels. The IMHAI master's student Christina Raudies devoted herself to this important topic in her thesis under the supervision of Christine Arhant and Susanne Waiblinger. On this basis, dogs with an increased risk can be recognized at an early stage. A long-term stay can be prevented with measures tailored to improve adoptability in individual dogs. 3

Contact: Christine Arhant




New publication: „Balancing skill against difficulty - behavior, heart rate and heart rate variability of shelter dogs during two different introductions of an interactive game“

In the recently published paper “Balancing skill against difficulty - behavior, heart rate and heart rate variability of shelter dogs during two different introductions of an interactive game” the dog toy “Poker Box 1 ©Trixie” was used to assess the effects of a gradual and a hasty introduction of the interactive toy on dog welfare. Overall, our findings suggest that the way a moderately difficult game is introduced plays a major role in determining how the experience is perceived. A gradual introduction including demonstration promoted a more enjoyable experience characterized by greater likelihood of reward, less stress-related behavior, and a physiological profile that may involve activation of both branches of the autonomic nervous system. We suggest that this may be a physiologic signature of successful achievement in which skills are balanced against difficulty and may represent evidence of ‘flow-like’ states in animals.

publication 4

Contact: Christine Arhant


New publication: The Power of a Positive Human–Animal Relationship for Animal Welfare

Domestic animals often seek and enjoy interacting with humans. Jean-Loup Rault and Susanne Waiblinger, together with two other international colleagues, reviewed the literature to understand the processes underlying positive human-animal interactions from the animal’s side, their scientific indicators, as well as implications for current practices and solutions.

Full paper at: 5

Contact: Univ.-Prof. Jean-Loup Rault


New publication: "Accelerometer systems as tools for health and welfare assessment in cattle and pigs – A review"

Animal welfare is traditionally assessed through direct human observation, which provides information at selected times. In recent years, this method of evaluation has been called into question, as “Precision Livestock Farming” technologies may produce more valid, reliable, and easily manageable real-time data at the individual level and serve as early warning systems for wellbeing. The aim of this article is to describe how accelerometers can be used to assess the principles of the Welfare Quality ® protocol in cattle and pigs.


publication: 6

contact: Kristina Maschat



Publication arouses worldwide interest

The latest publication by Tzt. Annika Lange aroused worldwide interest these days:

"Talking to Cows: Reactions to Different Auditory Stimuli During Gentle Human-Animal Interactions"

publication 7

Contact: Annika Lange


Not only CNN, but also media from e.g. Germany reported on the publication: 8 9 10



new publication: Short- and long-term effects of rearing dairy calves with contact to their mother on their reactions towards humans

In dairy cow husbandry, it is customary to separate the calves from their mother within a few hours and to supply them with milk at first with bottles, then with buckets or automatic feeders. Mother-bound calf rearing, in which the calves can stay with the mother and suck their milk on the udder, has, however, been gaining attention in recent years and has already found acceptance on some farms. In this study, we investigated whether rearing-related differences in contact with humans in the first week of life had a long-term effect on relationships with humans. Friendly contact with people during feeding in the first five days of life also improved the relationship between the calves and people in the long term.

publication: 11

contakt: Susanne Waiblinger



new publication: Play and social behaviour of calves with or without access to their dam and other cows

Calves from dairy cows are generally separated from their mother within a few hours and raised in groups of calves or even individually for a certain period of time. In this study, we examined how the social behavior and play behavior of calves differ in the first 12 weeks of life, which either grew up separately from the mother in a group of calves or were mother-bound, i.e. had access to the cowshed with the mother and the other cows. As expected, the mother-bound calves had significantly more social experiences - this explains the higher social competence and greater sociability found in earlier studies by the institute in later life. The calves raised by their mother also played significantly more, especially racing and chase games and jumps, which is an indication of the better well-being of these calves and is also supported by the larger space available in the cowshed. Increased play could also have a long-term positive effect on animal welfare. The study therefore once again emphasizes the advantages of rearing the calves in contact with the mother and the herd of cows, a procedure that is used by innovative practice companies.

publication: 12

contact: Susanne Waiblinger



New publication: Methodological terminology and definitions for research and discussion of cow-calf contact systems

Due to increasing public concern regarding separation of the dairy cow and calf within the first days after birth, alternative systems where cows and calves stay in contact for an extended period are receiving increasing interest. This Research Reflection provides definitions and propose a common terminology for the various systems allowing cow-calf contact and describe the distinct phases of cow-calf contact systems.

publication: 13

contact: Janja Sirovnik Koscica


New publication: „Duration of confinement and pen-type affect health-related measures of welfare in lactating sows“

In the interest of a more animal-friendly management, breeding sows in Austria may only be kept in the farrowing pen during the so-called “critical phase of life” of suckling piglets from 1 January 2033. Before and after this time they should be able to move freely in the farrowing pen. As part of the project "Pro-SAU", sows were assigned to one of four fixation periods and one of five farrowing pen-types in order to determine the duration of the suckling phase and to be able to make a statement about the animal welfare of different farrowing pens with the possibility of temporary crating. The aim of the present study of the ITT was to evaluate the effects of these fixation periods and pen-types on husbandry-related measures of sow welfare.

publication: 14

contact: Kristina Maschat 



New publication: Positive Welfare and the Like: Distinct Views and a Proposed Framework

The team of the "Social Behavior" working group publishes a new publication in collaboration with Sara Hintze (BOKU): 15

Contact: Prof. Jean-Loup Rault




The website of the PLF-Hub, part of working group Pigs & Precision Livestock Farming, is now online and offers lots of detailed information. 16



New publication: Farrowing prediction in Pens with Possibility of Temporary Crating

In this study, we developed a method to monitor sows’ behaviour on the basis of accelerometer data. The developed monitoring method provides a “first-stage“ alarm and a “second-stage“ alarm. On the basis of these two types of alarms a farmer can make a decision when to provide adequate nest-building material and when to confine a sow in a crate for protection of the piglets’ welfare.



Animals 2020, 10(1), 6; 17

Dynamics of Sows’ Activity Housed in Farrowing Pens with Possibility of Temporary Crating might Indicate the Time When Sows Should be Confined in a Crate before the Onset of Farrowing

Maciej Oczak, Kristina Maschat & Johannes Baumgartner