The well-being of dogs in shelters can be affected by different factors, including a poor physical and social environment and the absence of social contact and interactions with humans. Dogs are animals which need a complex unanimated and animated environment. Many studies have now proved that social contacts with other dogs and human beings is absolutely essential for the dog’s well-being and must be considered the most important form of environmental enrichment for confined dogs. As minimum measure, a dog must be in visual, olfactory and auditory contact with other dogs, as these elements greatly increase the complexity of an environment which otherwise is poorly stimulating. A positive significant interaction (stroking, playing, training), with humans also allows dogs in shelters to gain greater control over the environment, improving their behavioural and physiological profile, especially in new stressful situations. Unfortunately, dogs in kennels have few chances of interaction with humans. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the effects of a human social enrichment program on behaviour and welfare of long-term kennelled dogs. The enrichment programme included sessions of basic training, playing activity, and affective interaction at alternate days for 60 days. These sessions took place in the agility field within the shelter in Cella (Reggio Emilia) and involved 3 trainers who worked in turn with each dog in order to avoid the development of a preferential bond and excessive attachment to a single human partner. The social enrichment programme was carried out with 14 dogs (half males and half females). Behaviour was evaluated by means of a temperament test carried out before and after the enrichment programme. The sample of enriched dogs was compared with a control group (n=13) which never received the enrichment programme. The behavioural assessment was completed by the collection of biological samples for the physiological analyses. In particular, the faeces were collected daily (before, during and after enrichment) for an accurate determination of cortisol. The dogs were also be shaved on a small intra-scapular area, before and after the two months’ enrichment, in order to assess the cortisol excreted along this period. Results showed that the enriched dogs got an higher score in the temperament test compared to the control dogs although their scores were similar at the beginning of the study (after enrichment: U=20.05, p=0.003; before enrichment: U=69, p=n.s.). Enriched dogs, but not control dogs, significantly improved their score in the temperament test (Wilcoxon test before and after for enriched dogs: p=0.0023; Wilcoxon test for control dogs: n.s.), particularly as far as obedience test. The Anova for repeated measures revealed that both hair and faecal cortisol decreased in enriched and control dog (hair cortisol: F1,22=19,52; p=0,0002; faecal cortisol: F1,46=4.49; p<0,01). In conclusion, the social enrichment program positively affected behaviour and welfare of enriched dogs. A partial effect on welfare was detected also in control dogs, not directly subjected to the program, suggesting that the simple increase in the frequency of human presence in the shelter has some positive influence on dogs.

Effects of human social enrichment program on behaviour and welfare of sheltered dogs.

VIGGIANI, ROBERTA;ACCORSI, PIER ATTILIO
2007

Abstract

The well-being of dogs in shelters can be affected by different factors, including a poor physical and social environment and the absence of social contact and interactions with humans. Dogs are animals which need a complex unanimated and animated environment. Many studies have now proved that social contacts with other dogs and human beings is absolutely essential for the dog’s well-being and must be considered the most important form of environmental enrichment for confined dogs. As minimum measure, a dog must be in visual, olfactory and auditory contact with other dogs, as these elements greatly increase the complexity of an environment which otherwise is poorly stimulating. A positive significant interaction (stroking, playing, training), with humans also allows dogs in shelters to gain greater control over the environment, improving their behavioural and physiological profile, especially in new stressful situations. Unfortunately, dogs in kennels have few chances of interaction with humans. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the effects of a human social enrichment program on behaviour and welfare of long-term kennelled dogs. The enrichment programme included sessions of basic training, playing activity, and affective interaction at alternate days for 60 days. These sessions took place in the agility field within the shelter in Cella (Reggio Emilia) and involved 3 trainers who worked in turn with each dog in order to avoid the development of a preferential bond and excessive attachment to a single human partner. The social enrichment programme was carried out with 14 dogs (half males and half females). Behaviour was evaluated by means of a temperament test carried out before and after the enrichment programme. The sample of enriched dogs was compared with a control group (n=13) which never received the enrichment programme. The behavioural assessment was completed by the collection of biological samples for the physiological analyses. In particular, the faeces were collected daily (before, during and after enrichment) for an accurate determination of cortisol. The dogs were also be shaved on a small intra-scapular area, before and after the two months’ enrichment, in order to assess the cortisol excreted along this period. Results showed that the enriched dogs got an higher score in the temperament test compared to the control dogs although their scores were similar at the beginning of the study (after enrichment: U=20.05, p=0.003; before enrichment: U=69, p=n.s.). Enriched dogs, but not control dogs, significantly improved their score in the temperament test (Wilcoxon test before and after for enriched dogs: p=0.0023; Wilcoxon test for control dogs: n.s.), particularly as far as obedience test. The Anova for repeated measures revealed that both hair and faecal cortisol decreased in enriched and control dog (hair cortisol: F1,22=19,52; p=0,0002; faecal cortisol: F1,46=4.49; p<0,01). In conclusion, the social enrichment program positively affected behaviour and welfare of enriched dogs. A partial effect on welfare was detected also in control dogs, not directly subjected to the program, suggesting that the simple increase in the frequency of human presence in the shelter has some positive influence on dogs.
Proc. 6th International Veterinary Behaviour Meeting
123
124
Valsecchi P.; Pattacini O.; Beretta V.; Bertozzi J.; Zannoni S.; Viggiani R.; Accorsi P.A.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11585/50458
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