Reward sensitivity in dogs (PhD University of Bern)



PhD position on reward sensitivity in dogs – University of Bern

The Division of Animal Welfare, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Bern,
Switzerland, is seeking an outstanding candidate for a PhD position in
a project on “Reward sensitivity in dogs – risk factor for addictive
behaviour and key to trainability” under the supervision of Dr.
Stefanie Riemer and Prof. Hanno Würbel. The position is funded for
four years by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF).

Background and study aim

Reward sensitivity comprises reactions to reward directly, as well as
reactions to reward predictive cues. In dogs, reward sensitivity has
been little investigated; however, it can be predicted to be an
important factor influencing trainability. In humans and rats,
individual differences in this trait have been found to be associated
with impulsive behaviour, propensity for frustration, and risk of

Also some dogs show addictive-like behaviours towards ball toys or
other fast moving toy objects, often associated with high arousal
levels, impulsivity and a lack of interest in other environmental or
social stimuli.

The relationship between reward sensitivity, different cognitive
factors and trainability will be investigated in a sample of pet and
working dogs through several behavioural tests, concomitant
physiological measures, and questionnaires to assess the external
validity of tests and to explore environmental factors of influence.


Candidates need to possess a keen interest in animal behaviour and
cognition and hold an MSc degree or equivalent in a relevant
discipline. Experience with designing and conducting behavioural
experiments, skills in data analysis and fluency in English and German
are essential (the successful candidate will need to recruit and
interact with German-speaking dog owners in Switzerland).
Additionally, experience with handling and training dogs is highly


To apply for this position, please send a cover letter, C.V.
(including publication list), BSc and MSc diplomas and transcripts of
grades, and two reference letters in a single pdf document to Please name the document as
follows: LastName_FirstName.pdf.

The deadline for application is Friday 29th September 2016.

Envisaged starting date is 1st January 2018.

About us

Informal website for dog owners:

Further enquiries

For informal enquiries, please contact the PI Dr. Stefanie Riemer