THE IMPORTANCE OF WELFARE AND TEMPERAMENT ON THE PERFORMANCE OF POLICE DOG
Keywords:police dogs, welfare, performance
Stressful conditions influence a lot police dogs’ life and they can compromise the welfare and the labour efficiency of them. In order to ameliorate the work and life style of these subjects, it is necessary to use an interdisciplinary approach considering individual temperament, dyadic relationship, behaviour and hormonal parameters. The aim of this study was to evaluate all these aspects in a K-9 unit of 8 Labrador and their handler. Handlers answered an informative questionnaire and a standard questionnaire (C-Barq) about their companions. For each dog, two training sessions were videotaped and reviewed, to evaluate their performance and the presence of stress signals with and without the handlers. Faeces and hair were collected to analyse cortisol levels using RIA. It was performed a statistical analysis to underline the difference between the two performance and the possible correlation between performance and C-Barq scores. The results showed that, during their performance, dogs did not show stress signals. C-Barq indicated that all the dogs have in common a high level of trainability and the statistical analysis evidenced that the traits “Dog-directed fear” and “Attachment/attention-seeking” influence negatively the performance of the dog with their handlers. Hormonal analysis evidenced physiologic values of hair cortisol, whereas its faecal concentration varied between the dogs, influenced by the activity of the subjects in the previous days and by the presence of intestinal pathologies. According to our results, the dogs of the K-9 unit considered present a good level of welfare, and this condition influence positively their performance. The quality of the relationship with their handler and conspecifics, the experience and the temperament of each subjects can affect a lot their work. Therefore, it is important to consider all these aspects and to know the life style and the history of each subjects, in order to ameliorate their welfare and, consequently, their performance.