Can environmental temperature influence shelter dogs’ behaviour? A pilot study
- exploratory behaviour,
- permanence in shelter,
Many dogs world-wide spend a large part of their lives in rescue shelters, and many studies have investigated their behaviour, with the primary aim of improving their quality of life. There are many factors which can affect or influence, the results of these studies. Some of these may be controlled by human intervention such as: environmental enrichment, feeding procedures, and shelter management. Others are independent from human influence such as environmental temperature, humidity, or meteorological phenomena. Therefore, in the present pilot study, we investigated whether ambient temperature and relative humidity could affect the behaviour of shelter dogs. Twenty-one dogs housed in a North Italian rescue shelter were observed using an instantaneous focal animal rule every 15 seconds for 15 minutes, repeated on four days at intervals of at least 5 days. Official data regarding temperature and humidity were obtained from the Veneto Regional Agency for Environmental Prevention and Protection. Generalised Estimated Equations were run for inactivity, locomotion, vocalisation, exploration, maintenance behaviours, and resting. The dogs’ gender, (estimated) age, duration at the shelter, temperature, and relative humidity were included in the model as possible predictive factors. Male dogs were recorded as vocalising more often than female dogs (p=0.011). Dogs who had been longer than 5 years in the shelter were recorded exploring more often than dogs who had been in the shelter less than 5 years (p=0.004), and dogs were recorded exploring less often in higher environmental temperatures (p=0.004). No other significant effects were found. Given the importance of exploratory behaviour in monitoring the effects of environmental enrichment programs, the results of the present study suggest the importance of controlling for environmental temperature when studying environmental exploration in shelter dogs.