Abilities of Canine Shelter Behavioral Evaluations and Owner Surrender Profiles to Predict Resource Guarding in Adoptive Homes
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA
Department of Animal Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA
Cornell Statistical Consulting Unit, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 18 August 2020 / Revised: 13 September 2020 / Accepted: 17 September 2020 / Published: 20 September 2020
Some domestic dogs guard resources and display behaviors such as growling, snarling, or biting when approached. Most animal shelters test for food-related aggression and some consider dogs assessed as food aggressive to be unadoptable and candidates for euthanasia. We surveyed adopters of 139 dogs assessed as either resource guarding (n = 20) or non-resource guarding (n = 119) at a New York (NY) shelter to determine whether shelter identification as food aggressive was associated with guarding in adoptive homes. We also examined whether description of resource guarding in owner reports completed when surrendering a dog to the shelter predicted guarding in adoptive homes. Statistically, shelter assessment as resource guarding and owner-supplied information indicating resource guarding were each associated with guarding in adoptive homes. However, more than half of dogs either assessed by shelter staff or described by surrendering owners as resource guarding did not guard in adoptive homes. Our data indicate that information from surrendering owners, while potentially helpful, is not always predictive of a dog’s behavior in an adoptive home, and most importantly, that shelters should not consider all dogs assessed as resource guarding to be unadoptable because many of these dogs do not display guarding behavior post adoption.