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Article

Investigating the Impact of Brief Outings on the Welfare of Dogs Living in US Shelters

1
Department of Psychology, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85281, USA
2
Division of Education Leadership and Innovation, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85281, USA
3
Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Betty McGuire
Animals 2021, 11(2), 548; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11020548
Received: 8 February 2021 / Revised: 12 February 2021 / Accepted: 15 February 2021 / Published: 19 February 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Behavior of Shelter Animals)
Animal shelters can be stressful places for dogs to live. Social isolation is likely one component of the environment that contributes to poor welfare but spending time out of the kennel with a person has been shown to temporarily ameliorate that stress. In this study, 164 shelter-living dogs at four animal shelters across the United States were taken on two-and-half-hour outings with a person and physiological measures of stress and physical activity captured by accelerometer devices were compared before, during, and after this short-term outing. We found that dogs’ stress was higher when they were away on these field trips and their activity changed, including less time spent in low activity and more time in higher activity. While measures of physiology and activity were found to return to pre-field trip levels the following day, these results suggest that outings of this duration do not provide the same reduction in stress as previously shown with temporary fostering. Nevertheless, short-term outings may provide shelter dogs with greater adoption visibility and assist in foster recruitment and, thus, should be further explored.
Social isolation likely contributes to reduced welfare for shelter-living dogs. Several studies have established that time out of the kennel with a person can improve dogs’ behavior and reduce physiological measures of stress. This study assessed the effects of two-and-a-half-hour outings on the urinary cortisol levels and activity of dogs as they awaited adoption at four animal shelters. Dogs’ urine was collected before and after outings for cortisol:creatinine analysis, and accelerometer devices were used to measure dogs’ physical activity. In total, 164 dogs participated in this study, with 793 cortisol values and 3750 activity measures used in the statistical analyses. We found that dogs’ cortisol:creatinine ratios were significantly higher during the afternoon of the intervention but returned to pre-field trip levels the following day. Dogs’ minutes of low activity were significantly reduced, and high activity significantly increased during the outing. Although dogs’ cortisol and activity returned to baseline after the intervention, our findings suggest that short-term outings do not confer the same stress reduction benefits as previously shown with temporary fostering. Nevertheless, it is possible that these types of outing programs are beneficial to adoptions by increasing the visibility of dogs and should be further investigated to elucidate these effects. View Full-Text
Keywords: dogs; animal shelter; cortisol; stress; welfare; human-animal interaction; activity dogs; animal shelter; cortisol; stress; welfare; human-animal interaction; activity
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MDPI and ACS Style

Gunter, L.M.; Gilchrist, R.J.; Blade, E.M.; Barber, R.T.; Feuerbacher, E.N.; Platzer, J.M.; Wynne, C.D.L. Investigating the Impact of Brief Outings on the Welfare of Dogs Living in US Shelters. Animals 2021, 11, 548. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11020548

AMA Style

Gunter LM, Gilchrist RJ, Blade EM, Barber RT, Feuerbacher EN, Platzer JM, Wynne CDL. Investigating the Impact of Brief Outings on the Welfare of Dogs Living in US Shelters. Animals. 2021; 11(2):548. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11020548

Chicago/Turabian Style

Gunter, Lisa M., Rachel J. Gilchrist, Emily M. Blade, Rebecca T. Barber, Erica N. Feuerbacher, JoAnna M. Platzer, and Clive D.L. Wynne. 2021. "Investigating the Impact of Brief Outings on the Welfare of Dogs Living in US Shelters" Animals 11, no. 2: 548. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11020548

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