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Open AccessArticle

Characteristics and Adoption Success of Shelter Dogs Assessed as Resource Guarders

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA
Animals 2019, 9(11), 982; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9110982
Received: 16 October 2019 / Revised: 6 November 2019 / Accepted: 14 November 2019 / Published: 17 November 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Behavior of Shelter Animals)
Dogs that aggressively guard resources, such as food, toys, and sleeping sites, can pose risk to people unfamiliar with canine communication. Such dogs also present challenges to animal shelters, which typically screen for food-related guarding during behavioral evaluations. Some shelters euthanize dogs that aggressively guard food, whereas others restrict adoptions. However, few studies have examined the characteristics and adoption success of dogs that guard food in shelters. I analyzed demographic data and adoption success of dogs assessed as resource guarders at a shelter in New York (NY) over a nearly five-year period. Fifteen percent of the dog population was identified as resource guarders during shelter behavioral evaluations. Resource guarding was more common in adults and seniors than in juveniles, and it was more common in small and large dogs than medium-sized dogs. While spayed females were more likely than intact females to guard food, neutered males and intact males did not differ in their propensity to guard food. Dogs that showed severe guarding were more likely to be returned by adopters, but almost all were successfully re-adopted. These findings provide a detailed description of food guarders in a shelter dog population and show that most such dogs were successfully re-homed.
Some domestic dogs aggressively guard resources. Canine resource guarding impacts public health through dog bites and affects dog welfare through adoption and euthanasia policies at animal shelters. However, little is known about the demographic characteristics and adoption success of dogs assessed as resource guarders during shelter behavioral evaluations. I reviewed nearly five years of records from a New York (NY) SPCA and categorized 1016 dogs by sex; age; size; reproductive status; and resource guarding. I then examined how these characteristics influenced the returns of dogs by adopters. The prevalence of resource guarding in this shelter dog population was 15%. Resource guarding was more common in adult and senior dogs than in juvenile dogs; and it was more common in small and large dogs than medium-sized dogs. Spayed females were more likely than intact females to guard food; neutered males and intact males did not differ in their likelihood of food guarding. Most dogs identified as resource guarders showed mild to moderate guarding. Severe guarders were more likely to be returned by adopters; although almost all were eventually re-adopted and not returned to the shelter. Data presented here provide the most comprehensive description of resource guarders in a shelter dog population and show the successful re-homing of most. View Full-Text
Keywords: dog; food aggression; food guarding; resource guarding; shelter; behavior; adoption; return rate dog; food aggression; food guarding; resource guarding; shelter; behavior; adoption; return rate
MDPI and ACS Style

McGuire, B. Characteristics and Adoption Success of Shelter Dogs Assessed as Resource Guarders. Animals 2019, 9, 982.

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