Animal Behaviour and Welfare
The results of Paul’s research findings have been published in 4 books, 7 book chapters and over 50 peer-reviewed journal articles. He has been awarded over $500K in research grant income including the ARC Linkage Project LP0669908.
Among various topics, Paul's group has been investigating motor laterality in quadrupeds; in dogs, this can be studied through paw use.
His most significant contributions to research are in the fields of behaviour and welfare in domestic animals, especially dogs and horses. He is one of only two veterinarians recognised worldwide by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons as Specialists in Veterinary Behavioural Medicine. His contribution to the field of animal welfare was acknowledged in 2000 when he was the co-winner of the Prince Laurent Prize - the most prestigious international prize for animal welfare scientists.
Behaviour & Welfare - Horses
Paul has led seminal studies into the prevalence of abnormal behaviours in horses in relation to stabling including geophagia, and the effects of observational learning on food selection horses as well as the first reports of crib-biting in foals. He developed new methods of assessing equine gut function and post-inhibitory rebound of motivation when he examined the behavioural and physiological consequences associated with the short-term prevention of crib-biting in horses. He has also shown how the digestive efficiency, behaviour and gut transit times of horses change as a result of crib-biting.
These findings are critical in helping to explain the functional significance of equine stereotypies and are widely employed by practitioners in the field.
Paul's interest in Equidae is not confined to abnormal behaviours. His work on laterality in free-ranging horses has demonstrated that motor laterality differs in breeds of horse. It has also shown that the absence in horses of a correlation between laterality of nostril use and motor bias indicates that lateralization in equine brains occurs on at least two levels - sensory and motor.
Behaviour & Welfare - Dogs
Paul's work with dogs established an intriguing relationship between the distribution of retinal ganglion cells and nose length in the dog. This demonstrates that many different breeds of dog have different visual fields. It has profound implications for dog trainers, handlers and keepers since all dogs cannot be expected to perceive the same visual stimuli or respond to the world in the same way. This work may help to explain some of the behavioural differences between breeds, with short-nosed dogs being less likely to act like a running predator and hunt in packs and more likely to be able to focus on human faces, using their area centralis.
Pugs and Afghans are likely to see the world very differently.
Breed differences are of growing importance to veterinary science and indeed the genomic revolution, so Paul's online Listing of Inherited Disorders in Animals (LIDA) initiative www.vetsci.usyd.edu.au/lida promises to provide critical data for vets and dog breeders alike. LIDA receives more than 25,000 hits per month.