Staff Profile


Dr Britta Osthaus

Senior Lecturer

School: School of Psychology and Life Sciences

Campus: Canterbury Main Campus

Tel: 01227 923913

Profile summary

I am a senior lecturer in psychology here at Christ Church University. Before this I was a teaching fellow at Exeter University whilst I was doing my PhD on canine problem solving abilites.

My research focuses on animal cognition, in particular on problem-solving abilities in dogs, horses, mules and donkeys, but also goats, sheep and any other domestic animal.

I teach Research Methods in Year 1, and the optional seminars Evolutionary Psychology (Year 2), and Psychology of Design (Year 3). 

Research and knowledge exchange

My current research focus is on cognitive abilities of dogs, horses, mules and donkeys, with the overall aim of improving welfare by enhancing our understanding of their thinking.

Teaching and subject expertise

At Level 4 (First Year) I teach Research Methods in Psychology, and Evolutionary Psychology as part of the Brain and Mind module. At Level 5 (Second Year) I offer an optional seminar on Evolutionary Psychology. I also offer a final year option in the Psychology of Design. I supervise a variety of final year projects, ranging from the evolutionary causes of dental phobia to quantity perception in horses and dogs.

I am a member of the following societies and groups:

  • ASAB                       Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour
  • ISAE                        International Society for Applied Ethology
  • ISAZ                        International Society for Anthrozoology
  • HE Academy             formerly the Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education
  • Lundy Field Society

External activities

Shelter-seeking behaviour in domestic donkeys and horses in a temperate climate. International Society for Applied Ethology Conference, Charlottetown, Kanada, 30. Juli – 3. August 2018.

 Weathering the weather: effects of the environment on donkey, mule and horse welfare. UFAW Animal Welfare Conference - Recent Advances in Animal Welfare Science VI, Newcastle, 26. Juni 2018.

Evaluation of two observational methods to assess the numbers of nesting puffins (Fratercula arctica). International Conference in Protecting Biodiversity, Mannampandal, Tamil Nadu, India, 16.-18. Februar 2017.

Dogs are stupid - what science knows about dog intelligence. Middlesex University, 5. Mai 2016.

Face perception and detour behaviours in dogs. Queen Mary University London, 14. Januar 2016.

Dogs are stupid.Annual Research Conference, College of Arts and Science, Nottingham Trent University, 2. Oktober 2015.

Detour behaviour in equines.International Equine Science Meeting, Nürtingen, Juni 2015.

Dogs are stupid. Keynote - "Recent Advances in Canine Behaviour", Anthrozoology Institute, School of Clinical Veterinary Science, University of Bristol, 25. April 2012.

Dogs are stupid. Reading University, Oktober 2010.

Publications and research outputs

Raoult, C. M. C., Osthaus, B., Hildebrand, A. C. G., McElligott, A. G., & Nawroth, C. (2021). Goats show higher behavioural flexibility than sheep in a spatial detour task. Royal Society Open Science8(3), 201627. 

Proops, L., Osthaus, B., Bell, N., Long, S., Hayday, K. & Burden, F. (2019). Shelter seeking behaviour of donkeys and horses in a temperate climate. Journal of Veterinary Behavior

Lea, S.E.G. & Osthaus, B. (2018). In what sense are dogs special? Canine cognition in comparative context. Learning & Behavior, 46, 335-363.

Osthaus, B., Proops, L., Long, S., Bell, N., Hayday, K., & Burden, F. (2017). Hair coat properties of donkeys, mules and horses in a temperate climate. Equine Veterinary Journal, DOI - 10.1111/evj.12775.

Osthaus, B., Proops, L., Hocking, I., & Burden, F. (2013). Spatial cognition and perseveration by horses, donkeys and mules in a simple A-not-B detour task. Animal Cognition, 16(2), 301-305.

Proops, L., Burden, F., & Osthaus, B. (2012). Social relations in a mixed group of mules, ponies and donkeys reflect differences in equid type. Behavioural Processes, 90(3), 337-342.

Osthaus, B., Marlow, D., & Ducat, P. (2010). Minding the gap: spatial perseveration error in dogs. Animal Cognition, 13(6), 881-885.


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Last edited: 05/12/2017 03:39:00