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Article

Socialization in Commercial Breeding Kennels: The Use of Novel Stimuli to Measure Social and Non-Social Fear in Dogs

Department of Comparative Pathobiology, Purdue University, 725 Harrison Street, West Lafayette, IN 47906, USA
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Academic Editor: Paul Mills
Animals 2021, 11(3), 890; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11030890
Received: 8 February 2021 / Revised: 17 March 2021 / Accepted: 18 March 2021 / Published: 20 March 2021
(This article belongs to the Section Animal Welfare)
Owner-based reports of dogs presumed to come from commercial breeding kennels (CBKs) suggest high levels of fear in this population. Fear in kenneled dogs is a serious behavioral welfare concern as it may lead to both acute and chronic stress. Novel social and non-social stimuli have been shown to elicit behaviors associated with fear in animals. New knowledge on the levels of fear in dogs from CBKs could be used to further refine protocols intended for assessment of welfare in CBKs and to improve breeders’ management practices. The aim of this study, therefore, was to evaluate how dogs from CBKs reacted to social (i.e., a person approaching) and non-social (i.e., a traffic cone and a dog statue) stimuli, and to perform a preliminary evaluation of how these responses might be used as indicators of dogs’ overall socialization levels in kennels. Results revealed that dogs had primarily mildly fearful responses to the stimuli presented. These findings are encouraging as extreme fearful reactions were rarely recorded. Nevertheless, there is a clear margin for commercial breeders to improve the socialization protocols in their kennels to better incorporate both social and non-social stimuli.
Understanding the behavioral welfare of dogs in commercial breeding kennels (CBKs) is important for improving breeders’ management practices as well as dog welfare. In the current study, breeding dogs from CBKs were exposed to novel stimuli to evaluate their behavioral responses, with emphasis on indicators of fear. Subjects were presented with a standard stranger-approach test, a traffic cone, and a realistic dog statue. Sixty dogs were exposed to the three stimuli and behavioral responses were scored using an ethogram developed for this study. Dogs spent significantly more time investigating the environment, staying further away from the stimulus, and they took longer to approach and investigate when presented with the cone than with the dog statue or stranger (p < 0.01). These findings suggest that the cone elicited more fear-related behaviors than the dog statue and stranger. Given these results, in addition to socializing their dogs to unfamiliar people and other dogs within their kennels, commercial breeders should be encouraged to increase the exposure of their dogs to more diverse novel stimuli to reduce non-social fear and support the welfare of dogs while they reside in the kennel and when they transition to new homes. View Full-Text
Keywords: behavioral assessment; Canis familiaris; commercial dog breeding; fear; welfare behavioral assessment; Canis familiaris; commercial dog breeding; fear; welfare
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MDPI and ACS Style

Pritchett, M.; Barnard, S.; Croney, C. Socialization in Commercial Breeding Kennels: The Use of Novel Stimuli to Measure Social and Non-Social Fear in Dogs. Animals 2021, 11, 890. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11030890

AMA Style

Pritchett M, Barnard S, Croney C. Socialization in Commercial Breeding Kennels: The Use of Novel Stimuli to Measure Social and Non-Social Fear in Dogs. Animals. 2021; 11(3):890. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11030890

Chicago/Turabian Style

Pritchett, Margaret, Shanis Barnard, and Candace Croney. 2021. "Socialization in Commercial Breeding Kennels: The Use of Novel Stimuli to Measure Social and Non-Social Fear in Dogs" Animals 11, no. 3: 890. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11030890

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