Behavioral modification in sheltered dogs
Keywords:dog, shelter, behavior, animal welfare, stress
The aim of this study was to assess whether one month’s stay in a shelter causes any behavioral change in the guest dogs. Fifteen cross-breed dogs were video-recorded for twenty minutes in their boxes once a week for five times, starting from the third day after admittance to the shelter. A significant reduction was observed in the frequency of dozing (r=0.95; p=0.01), waving high tail (r=0.95; p=0.01), and waving tail (r=0.92; p=0.02); duration was reduced for lying down (r=0.93; p=0.021), dozing (r=0.98; p=0.003), and waving high tail (r=0.93; p=0.019). Moreover a significant increase was observed in the duration of activity behavioral patterns, such as scratching door (r=0.93; p=0.023) and digging (r=0.86; p=0.060). In addition, an increase was observed in the frequency of standing upright (r=0.92; p=0.026), scratching door (r=0.99; p=0.001), digging (r=0.91; p=0.034), whining (r=0.92; p=0.024), and scratching (r=0.93; p=0.024).
On the third and fourth week of their stay, some behaviors that are typical of a state of restlessness appeared, while others that are typical of a state of inactivity disappeared.
The dogs underwent a behavioral test involving the introduction of different stimuli (unexpected noise, food and toy) in an unknown place, which showed they had got used to such external stimuli as noise (p=0.004).
Data suggest that staying in a shelter can induce behavioral changes that should be carefully monitored to prevent behavioral problems which might develop after adoption.