Department: Production and Population Health

Campus: Hawkshead

Emma is a PhD student in the Animal Welfare group. Her thesis title is "Objective and subjective assessments of positive emotional states in companion dogs"

Emma graduated from the University of Bristol in 2009, after completion of the BSc (Hons) Animal Behaviour and Welfare programme.

Emma spent 18 months (July 2009 - November 2010), as a research assistant at the RVC, studying the welfare of companion dogs in the UK. Sponsored by a major animal charity, the work aimed to provide an objective outline of the best way to focus limited resources to tackle multidisciplinery companion dog welfare issues. This work incorporated estimating the number of pet dogs in the UK, using stakeholder and expert opinion on tackling welfare issues, and the development of a quantitative tool to measure welfare priority using risk assessment principles. 

In December 2010, Emma began a 4-year PhD studentship programme funded by BBSRC and RVC (fees and stipend only). She is supervised by Drs Siobhan Abeyesinghe, Holger Volk and Charlotte Burn.


Emma's PhD research aims are to:

a) identify reliable behavioural and physiological signals of positive emotion in companion dogs

b) examine the influences of personality or temperament traits, breed, age, and other variables on the expression of positive emotion in dogs

c) assess the accuracy and reliability of interpretation of canine emotional states by key stakeholders

The research aims to provide more information on positive emotions and associated indicators to improve objectivity of welfare assessments that include positive welfare, promote positive experiences and strengthen the human-animal bond. 

Emma was awarded a UFAW Research and Project Award (2011-2012) for research costs towards her PhD studies.

Emma was awarded the Nestle Purina Petcare Travel Award to attend and present her research at the 48th congress for the International Society for Applied Ethology (ISAE), 2014

Buckland EL, Volk HA, Burn CC & Abeyesinghe SM (2014) Owner perceptions of companion dog expressions of positive emotional states and the contexts in which they occur. Animal Welfare 23 (3): 287-296. Accessed here:

Buckland EL, Cor SA, Abeyesinghe SM & Wathes CM 2014 Prioritisation of companion dog welfare issues using expert consensus. Animal Welfare 23(1): 39-46. Accessed here: 

Buckland, EL 2013 Priority welfare issues for dogs and the veterinary nursing profession. The Veterinary Nurse 4(7): 448. Accessed here:

Buckland EL, Whiting MC, Abeyesinghe SM, Asher L, Corr S and Wathes CM 2013 A survey of stakeholders' opinions on the priority issues affecting the welfare of companion dogs in Great Britain. Animal Welfare 22: 239-253. Accessed here:

Buckland E, Volk H, Burn C and Abeyesinghe S 2012 Owner-percieved behavioural indicators of positive affective states in companion dogs. Proceedings of the 46th Congress of the International Society for Applied Ethology: Quality of life in desinged environments? 31 July- 4th August 2012, Vienna, Austria, page 200. Accessed here:

Asher L, Buckland EL, Phylactopoulos IC, Whiting M, Abeyesinghe S and Wathes CM 2011 Estimation of the number and demographics of companion dogs in the UK. BMC Veterinary Research 7: 74. Accessed here: 



Emma co-supervises undergraduate research projects related to companion animal behaviour and human-animal interactions, and has engaged in undergraduate teaching commitments in the College on the topics of canine behaviour and welfare.