Next Article in Journal
Composition and Nutritional Value of Acid Oils and Fatty Acid Distillates Used in Animal Feeding
Previous Article in Journal
Ruminal Lipopolysaccharides Analysis: Uncharted Waters with Promising Signs

Characteristics and Welfare of Long-Term Shelter Dogs

Institute of Animal Welfare Science, Department for Farm Animals and Veterinary Public Health, University of Veterinary Medicine, Vetmeduni Vienna, Veterinärplatz 1, 1210 Vienna, Austria
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2021, 11(1), 194;
Received: 27 December 2020 / Revised: 11 January 2021 / Accepted: 13 January 2021 / Published: 15 January 2021
(This article belongs to the Section Companion Animals)
In no-kill shelters, overpopulation is an often-faced problem. Some individuals have better adoption chances than others, and over time, long-term dog populations develop. Our aim was to identify certain characteristics that long-term shelter dogs share and to investigate if long-term shelter dogs experience an impairment of welfare due to the restricted environment. In our study, long-term shelter dogs were more often of older age, male, of large size, neutered, and of a “dangerous breed”. They were also described more often as having behavioural problems regarding aggression and high arousal. The physical wellbeing of long-term shelter dogs was not impaired. However, they did show some stress-related behaviours, suggesting that they might be more affected by acute stressors and have more difficulties relaxing in the shelter environment. In sum, certain morphological and behavioural characteristics of dogs can be used to identify individuals at higher risk for a long-term stay. Thus, these dogs require special attention and effort to enhance their adoption chances. The results of this study serve as a scientific basis for developing such dog-specific strategies.
To identify characteristics that distinguish long-term (LT: stay > 1 year) from short-term shelter dogs (ST: ≤5 months) and to investigate if a long-term stay impairs welfare, we compared ST and LT dogs in Austrian no-kill shelters. Analyses including characteristics such as breed, sex, or age (shelter records), problem behaviour, and personality (questionnaires completed by staff) showed that LT dogs were significantly more often a “dangerous breed”, male, and older when admitted to the shelter. They were rated higher on “aggression” and “high arousal” and lower on the personality dimension “amicability”. A welfare assessment protocol including reaction toward humans (Shelter Quality Protocol), and in-kennel observations were used to assess the effect of the long-term stay. LT dogs tended to show more signs of aggression toward an unfamiliar human, but welfare assessment revealed no difference. During resting periods, LT dogs spent more time resting head up and had more bouts resting head down. Prior to feeding, they stood, vocalised, and yawned more. LT dogs are characterised by specific features such as being aroused easily and having difficulties to relax. Whether this is a result of the long-term stay or personality-associated, consequently causing lower adoption rates, remains to be determined. View Full-Text
Keywords: dog behaviour; animal shelter; animal welfare; stress; adoption; relinquishment dog behaviour; animal shelter; animal welfare; stress; adoption; relinquishment
Show Figures

Figure 1

MDPI and ACS Style

Raudies, C.; Waiblinger, S.; Arhant, C. Characteristics and Welfare of Long-Term Shelter Dogs. Animals 2021, 11, 194.

AMA Style

Raudies C, Waiblinger S, Arhant C. Characteristics and Welfare of Long-Term Shelter Dogs. Animals. 2021; 11(1):194.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Raudies, Christina, Susanne Waiblinger, and Christine Arhant. 2021. "Characteristics and Welfare of Long-Term Shelter Dogs" Animals 11, no. 1: 194.

Find Other Styles
Note that from the first issue of 2016, MDPI journals use article numbers instead of page numbers. See further details here.

Article Access Map by Country/Region

Back to TopTop