Dr. Stefanie Riemer

Group Leader Companion Animal Behaviour Group

Division of Animal Welfare

+41 31 631 24 28
Postal Address
Animal Welfare Division
Veterinary Public Health Institute
University of Bern
Länggassstrasse 120
3012 Bern

Current research

  • Dog Behaviour Decoded – Emotional Expressions in Canis familiaris 
  • Reward sensitivity in dogs – risk factor for addictive behaviour and key to trainability (SNF Ambizione Project PZ00P3_174221)
  • Reducing fear in dogs at the vets
  • Behavioural strategies in dogs during firework exposure
  • Preference for constant vs varied reinforcement in pet dogs

Research Project


We study behaviour, cognition and emotions in companion dogs. Our participants are normal pet dogs, who are volunteered by their owners to participate. Thanks to positive reinforcement in the form of treats and play, our subjects usually take part in our studies with great enthusiasm.

I graduated with a BSc in Animal Behaviour and Environmental Biology from Anglia Ruskin University, UK, with a thesis on captive spectacled bears. For my MSc project at University of Vienna, Austria, I studied the ecology of five woodpecker species at the Donauauen National Park in Lower Austria. I went on to do my PhD on behavioural development and physical cognition in domestic dogs at the Department of Cognitive Biology, University of Vienna, and at the Messerli Research Institute, University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna. During my PhD I spent four months as a visiting researcher at the University of Lincoln, UK, to carry out a study on impulsivity in dogs. After finishing my PhD project in Vienna, I returned to Lincoln to work on the project “thermographic assessment of animal emotions”. This was followed by a postdoctoral research fellowship, also in Lincoln, on the successive negative contrast effect (or sensitivity to reward change) in dogs. I am now pursuing my interest in animal emotions, cognition and behaviour further with research projects on pet dogs’ emotional expression and reward sensitivity at the University of Berne.

For the full publication list, please check here.

Jump to: 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016


Ellis, Sarah L. H.; Riemer, Stefanie; Thompson, Hannah; Burman, Oliver H. P. (2019). Assessing the External Validity of Successive Negative Contrast – Implications for Animal Welfare. Journal of applied animal welfare science, pp. 1-8. Taylor & Francis 10.1080/10888705.2019.1572509

Riemer, Stefanie (2019). Not a one-way road—Severity, progression and prevention of firework fears in dogs. PLoS ONE, 14(9) Public Library of Science 10.1371/journal.pone.0218150

Uccheddu, S; De Cataldo, L; Albertini, M; Coren, S; Da Graça Pereira, G; Haverbeke, A; Mills, D; Pierantoni, L; Riemer, Stefanie; Ronconi, L; Testoni, I; Pirrone, F (2019). Pet Humanisation and Related Grief: Development and Validation of a Structured Questionnaire Instrument to Evaluate Grief in People Who Have Lost a Companion Dog. Animals, 9(11) MDPI 10.3390/ani9110933


Riemer, Stefanie; Thompson, Hannah; Burman, Oliver H P (2018). Behavioural responses to unexpected changes in reward quality. Scientific Reports, 8(1), p. 16652. Nature Publishing Group 10.1038/s41598-018-35056-5

Bremhorst, Annika; Bütler, Sarah; Würbel, Hanno; Riemer, Stefanie (2018). Incentive motivation in pet dogs - preference for constant vs varied food rewards. Scientific Reports, 8(1), p. 9756. Nature Publishing Group 10.1038/s41598-018-28079-5

Riemer, Stefanie; Ellis, Sarah L.H.; Thompson, Hannah; Burman, Oliver H.P. (2018). Reinforcer effectiveness in dogs—The influence of quantity and quality. Applied animal behaviour science, 206, pp. 87-93. Elsevier 10.1016/j.applanim.2018.05.016

Turcsán, Borbála; Wallis, Lisa; Virányi, Zsófia; Range, Friederike; Müller, Corsin A; Huber, Ludwig; Riemer, Stefanie (2018). Personality traits in companion dogs - Results from the VIDOPET. PLoS ONE, 13(4), e0195448. Public Library of Science 10.1371/journal.pone.0195448


Riemer, Stefanie (2017). Social dog — emotional dog? Animal Sentience, 2(14) Humane Society Institute for Science and Policy, Washington DC


Riemer, Stefanie; Assis, Luciana; Pike, Thomas W; Mills, Daniel S (2016). Dynamic changes in ear temperature in relation to separation distress in dogs. Physiology & behavior, 167, pp. 86-91. Elsevier 10.1016/j.physbeh.2016.09.002

Riemer, Stefanie; Müller, Corsin; Virányia, Zsófia; Huber, Ludwig (2016). Individual and group level trajectories of behavioural development in Border collies. Applied animal behaviour science, 180, pp. 78-86. Elsevier 10.1016/j.applanim.2016.04.021