Problem solving games as a tool to increase the well-being in boarding kennel dogs
The kennel environment, even for short periods, is a potential psychogenic stressor for most dogs owing to its novel surroundings and separation from social attachment figures. To improve their well-being, they could be submitted to problem-solving games, because individual play, like problem solving, could improve an individual’s physical and cognitive capabilities, and therefore their welfare.
The aim of this study was to evaluate how the problem solving tasks improve welfare in boarding dogs.
The study was conducted in a boarding kennel dogs, in Lucca, Italy. The dogs were divided into two groups: the Problem Solving group (PS), formed by 15 dogs (3 females 3 neutered females 6 males and 3 males neutered, 32.0 ± 20.3 months old), which participated to problem solving sessions during the boarding period and the control group (CO), formed by 4 dogs (2 females and 2 males, 61.0 ± 48.0 months old), which did not attend such sessions. The survey was carried out using a purposely prepared questionnaire. The owners of the two groups were given a questionnaire when they leaved their dogs to a boarding kennel and another questionnaire two days after returning home, to evaluate the variation of the dogs’ stress behaviors.
Statistical analysis shows that the PS shows decreased stress behaviors such as: follow the owner (W = -2.831; P = 0.019), scarf in coat (W = -2.440; P = 0.041) and excessive vocalizations (W = -1.998; P = 0.061), and in general a decrease in the high stress level. In CG the behaviors were observed: attachment (46.67%) and vocalizations (53.33%) and a general increase in the high stress level (W=-2.236; p <0.025).
In conclusion, this pilot study suggests that dogs, engaged in problem solving activities, appear to be less stressed after the housing in a boarding kennel dogs.