School of Veterinary Medicine and Science

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Naomi Harvey

Research Fellow, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences



Having graduated with a BsC (Hons) in Zoology from Cardiff University, Naomi followed her interest in animal behaviour by volunteering at the Centre for Research in Evolutionary Anthropology at Roehampton University. Here she gained experience in applied animal behaviour by working on anxiety coding in Barbary macaques. Having always aspired to a career in research Naomi began a PhD at the University of Nottingham working as part of a research team whose aim is to examine, develop and improve the existing behavioural profiling of potential guide dogs. Her PhD project focused on developing an method of assessing personality traits in guide dog puppies and how these relate to qualification as a guide dog. Naomi has made a number of interesting discoveries during her PhD and subsequent Post-Doctoral position, many of which have been published and others are in the process of publication. Alongside her research in animal personality Naomi's research interests include animal health and welfare, applied animal behaviour, clinical animal behaviour and cognition.

Research Summary

I am interested in taking a multi-disciplinary approach to the study of animal behaviour and welfare that draws on knowledge from comparative psychology and the application of multivariate… read more

Recent Publications

Current Research

I am interested in taking a multi-disciplinary approach to the study of animal behaviour and welfare that draws on knowledge from comparative psychology and the application of multivariate statistical analysis.

Canine Atopic Dermatitis

My current work is as post-doctoral lead for a Dogs Trust funded project investigating the genetic and environmental risk factors for canine atopic dermatitis. The research group includes myself, Dr Sarah Blott, Dr Stephen Shaw and Professor Gary England.

The most common cause of skin allergy with associated itching in the dog is canine atopic dermatitis (cAD). It affects more than 10% of all dogs in the UK and is a lifelong condition that causes recurring flare-ups of itchy (pruritic), often inflamed and damaged skin. This condition has detrimental affects on the dog's quality of life causing pain and discomfort resulting in interrupted normal behaviour when dogs stop to chew, lick or scratch themselves, and can be a frustrating condition for the owner to manage. In severe cases, the health of the dog can be further compromised through hair loss and recurring skin infections. Currently the condition is difficult to diagnose, as dogs can present with differing signs (i.e. different areas of the body may be affected and varying severity). Many other skin conditions can cause the same signs. Obtaining an accurate diagnosis involves excluding all other possible causes. The exact etiology of cAD is still unknown although it is considered to be a complex inherited disease reliant upon multiple genetic and environmental interactions, with around half of pups born to parents with the condition developing it themselves.

The aim of this project is to investigate the genetic and environmental factors that influence cAD susceptibility, as well as possible effects cAD may have on the behaviour of dogs. Understanding such factors, and the genetic variation linked to cAD will enable the development of effective strategies to reduce the number of dogs affected by cAD through breeding selection, as well as guidelines for the management of individuals likely to develop the condition. To do this we will compare environmental, behavioural and DNA data from Labrador and Golden Retrievers with or without cAD to identify the factors with the most influence on this condition.

Clinical behaviour in dogs

Through a collaboration with Dr Carole Fureix (Bristol University) and with funding from the WALTHAM Collaborative Behaviour & Welfare Award we are conducting a proof of concept study to evaluate whether dogs could develop depression-like conditions. This work is ongoing until the end of 2017.

Behaviour and welfare of zoo elephants in the UK

I consult with Dr Lisa Yon and the Behaviour Subgroup of the government advisory committee, the Elephant Welfare Group (see to support the goals of the Elephant Welfare Group through research and project supervision.

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Past Research

Epidemiology of guide dog behaviour

As part of a 5-year research initiative headed by Dr Lucy Asher and Professor Gary England and funded by Guide Dogs we developed and evaluated methods for assessing the behaviour and personality of juvenile (5-12 month) and young adult (1-2 years) guide dogs in training.

Other projects or collaborations:

  • Inter-observer reliability in ratings of dog behaviour
  • Methods of assessing health related QoL in companion dogs and cats
  • Play behaviour in guide dog puppies
  • Analysis of data concerning affiliative and aggressive behaviour in Barbary Macaques (Macaca sylvanus) with Dr Stuart Semple at the University of Roehampton
  • The evolution of aposematism in the wolf spider (Alopecosa accentuata) with Dr Rob Thomas at Cardiff University

School of Veterinary Medicine and Science

University of Nottingham
Sutton Bonington Campus
Leicestershire, LE12 5RD

telephone: +44 (0)115 951 6116
fax: +44 (0)115 951 6415