Behavior of Shelter Animals

A special issue of Animals (ISSN 2076-2615). This special issue belongs to the section "Companion Animals".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 November 2020) | Viewed by 1103221

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14850, USA
Interests: mammalian social behavior; parental care, and ecology; applied animal behavior; human–animal interactions; animal shelters; animal welfare
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Dear Colleagues, 

Each year animal shelters receive, care for, and rehome dogs, cats, and other animals. Even under the best of circumstances, however, shelters can be challenging environments for the animals that enter them. Often, many animals are housed in close proximity in unfamiliar locations, sometimes with limited space and, typically, high noise levels. Additionally, shelter animals interact with many unfamiliar people and experience a lack of predictability and control in their daily lives. Some animals enter shelters with behavioral problems while others may develop or display problematic behaviors as a result of shelter experiences.

In recent years, efforts have been made to reduce the stress experienced by shelter animals and to enrich their environments and daily lives. Efforts also have focused on evaluating behaviors and ideally modifying any behaviors that might make rehoming difficult. New research is now available on the effects of shelter environments on the behavior of resident animals and the effectiveness of shelter programs aimed at reducing stress and providing enrichment. Critical reviews also are available on the usefulness of behavioral evaluations.

This Special Issue, Behavior of Shelter Animals, will focus on behavior of animals while they are either in shelter environments or adoptive homes. The goal is to provide information that will inform shelter programs and policies. I invite original research articles, critical reviews, and commentaries on topics such as efforts to reduce stress during sheltering, behavioral responses to enrichment, behavioral evaluations, individual differences in behavior, and behavioral issues such as resource guarding. Articles on dogs, cats, and other animals housed in shelters are welcome.


Dr. Betty McGuire
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • behavior
  • behavioral evaluation
  • cat
  • dog
  • enrichment
  • individual differences
  • resource guarding
  • stress

Published Papers (11 papers)

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Research

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15 pages, 832 KiB  
Article
Investigating the Impact of Brief Outings on the Welfare of Dogs Living in US Shelters
by Lisa M. Gunter, Rachel J. Gilchrist, Emily M. Blade, Rebecca T. Barber, Erica N. Feuerbacher, JoAnna M. Platzer and Clive D. L. Wynne
Animals 2021, 11(2), 548; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11020548 - 19 Feb 2021
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 7748
Abstract
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 [...] Read more.
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. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Behavior of Shelter Animals)
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19 pages, 336 KiB  
Article
Do Canine Behavioural Assessments and Characteristics Predict the Human-Dog Interaction When Walking on a Leash in a Shelter Setting?
by Hao-Yu Shih, Mandy B. A. Paterson, Fillipe Georgiou and Clive J. C. Phillips
Animals 2021, 11(1), 26; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11010026 - 25 Dec 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 4848
Abstract
Inappropriate leash reactivity is one of the most common problems in shelter dogs, which negatively affects the health of dogs and reduces their adoptability. We explored 370 human-dog interactions, involving 74 volunteers and 111 dogs, in an animal shelter when volunteers walked shelter [...] Read more.
Inappropriate leash reactivity is one of the most common problems in shelter dogs, which negatively affects the health of dogs and reduces their adoptability. We explored 370 human-dog interactions, involving 74 volunteers and 111 dogs, in an animal shelter when volunteers walked shelter dogs on a leash, considering the effects of canine demographics and the results of the shelter’s canine behavioural assessments. The interaction was video recorded and coded using ethograms, and a leash tension meter was used to measure the pull strength of dogs and handlers. Results showed that dogs that were more relaxed during the shelter assessment (i.e., when socialising with humans or being left alone in a new environment) were less reactive on the leash, with lower tension and pulling frequency. Moreover, socialised and relaxed dogs displayed more positive body language, such as tail in a high position, gazing at the handler, and exploring the environment. When walking with these dogs, volunteers utilised fewer verbal cues and body language during the walk. In addition to the canine behaviour assessment, there were correlations between canine demographics and the behavioural interaction and humans’ perception. Finally, volunteers perceived the walk as less satisfactory when they needed to pull the leash harder during the walk. This research suggests that the RSPCA behavioural assessment may be useful in predicting the behaviour of shelter dogs when walked by volunteers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Behavior of Shelter Animals)
24 pages, 296 KiB  
Article
Comparison of Canine Behaviour Scored Using a Shelter Behaviour Assessment and an Owner Completed Questionnaire, C-BARQ
by Liam Clay, Mandy B A Paterson, Pauleen Bennett, Gaille Perry and Clive C J Phillips
Animals 2020, 10(10), 1797; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10101797 - 3 Oct 2020
Cited by 13 | Viewed by 5573
Abstract
In shelters, it is usual to conduct a standardised behaviour assessment to identify adoption suitability. The information gathered from the assessment is used to identify the behaviour of the dogs, its suitability for adoption and to match the dog with an ideal home [...] Read more.
In shelters, it is usual to conduct a standardised behaviour assessment to identify adoption suitability. The information gathered from the assessment is used to identify the behaviour of the dogs, its suitability for adoption and to match the dog with an ideal home environment. However, numerous studies have demonstrated a lack of predictability in terms of the post-adoption behaviour in these assessments. We investigated if the owners’ perception of dogs’ behaviour in the home was reflected in the RSPCA Queensland behaviour assessment, conducted on the same dogs during a visit to the shelter. A total of 107 owners and their dogs aged 1–10 years were assessed in-home and in the shelter. The owners of the dogs completed a questionnaire (the Canine Behavioural Assessment and Research Questionnaire (C-BARQ) survey) 1–2 weeks before bringing their dog to the shelter for the standardised behavioural assessment conducted at the RSPCA Queensland. An ordinal logistic regression analysis identified positive correlations for fear, arousal, friendliness and anxiousness, identified in in-home behaviour and the behaviour assessment. Furthermore, the behaviours of friendliness, fearfulness, arousal, anxiousness, and aggression were positively predictive between home behaviour and tests in the behaviour assessment. This research therefore led to a greater understanding of current canine behaviour assessment protocols used at the RSPCA Queensland in regard to the predictability of behaviour, behavioural problems and the efficiency, effectiveness and predictability of current behaviour testing procedures. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Behavior of Shelter Animals)
17 pages, 257 KiB  
Article
Abilities of Canine Shelter Behavioral Evaluations and Owner Surrender Profiles to Predict Resource Guarding in Adoptive Homes
by Betty McGuire, Destiny Orantes, Stephanie Xue and Stephen Parry
Animals 2020, 10(9), 1702; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10091702 - 20 Sep 2020
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 5150
Abstract
Some shelters in the United States consider dogs identified as food aggressive during behavioral evaluations to be unadoptable. We surveyed adopters of dogs from a New York shelter to examine predictive abilities of shelter behavioral evaluations and owner surrender profiles. Twenty of 139 [...] Read more.
Some shelters in the United States consider dogs identified as food aggressive during behavioral evaluations to be unadoptable. We surveyed adopters of dogs from a New York shelter to examine predictive abilities of shelter behavioral evaluations and owner surrender profiles. Twenty of 139 dogs (14.4%) were assessed as resource guarding in the shelter. We found statistically significant associations between shelter assessment as resource guarding and guarding reported in the adoptive home for three situations: taking away toys, bones or other valued objects; taking away food; and retrieving items or food taken by the dog. Similarly, owner descriptions of resource guarding on surrender profiles significantly predicted guarding in adoptive homes. However, positive predictive values for all analyses were low, and more than half of dogs assessed as resource guarding either in the shelter or by surrendering owners did not show guarding post adoption. All three sources of information regarding resource guarding status (surrender profile, shelter behavioral evaluation, and adopter report) were available for 44 dogs; measures of agreement were in the fair range. Thus, reports of resource guarding by surrendering owners and detection of guarding during shelter behavioral evaluations should be interpreted with caution because neither source of information consistently signaled guarding would occur in adoptive homes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Behavior of Shelter Animals)
22 pages, 350 KiB  
Article
Effects of Olfactory and Auditory Enrichment on Heart Rate Variability in Shelter Dogs
by Veronica Amaya, Mandy B.A. Paterson, Kris Descovich and Clive J.C. Phillips
Animals 2020, 10(8), 1385; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10081385 - 10 Aug 2020
Cited by 13 | Viewed by 11208
Abstract
Animal shelters can be stressful environments and time in care may affect individual dogs in negative ways, so it is important to try to reduce stress and arousal levels to improve welfare and chance of adoption. A key element of the stress response [...] Read more.
Animal shelters can be stressful environments and time in care may affect individual dogs in negative ways, so it is important to try to reduce stress and arousal levels to improve welfare and chance of adoption. A key element of the stress response is the activation of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), and a non-invasive tool to measure this activity is heart rate variability (HRV). Physiologically, stress and arousal result in the production of corticosteroids, increased heart rate and decreased HRV. Environmental enrichment can help to reduce arousal related behaviours in dogs and this study focused on sensory environmental enrichment using olfactory and auditory stimuli with shelter dogs. The aim was to determine if these stimuli have a physiological effect on dogs and if this could be detected through HRV. Sixty dogs were allocated to one of three stimuli groups: lavender, dog appeasing pheromone and music or a control group, and usable heart rate variability data were obtained from 34 dogs. Stimuli were applied for 3 h a day on five consecutive days, with HRV recorded for 4 h (treatment period + 1 h post-treatment) on the 5th and last day of exposure to the stimuli by a Polar® heart rate monitor attached to the dog’s chest. HRV results suggest that music activates both branches of the ANS, which may be useful to relieve both the stress and boredom in shelter environments. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Behavior of Shelter Animals)
13 pages, 245 KiB  
Article
Do Behaviour Assessments in a Shelter Predict the Behaviour of Dogs Post-Adoption?
by Liam Clay, Mandy B. A. Paterson, Pauleen Bennett, Gaille Perry and Clive C. J. Phillips
Animals 2020, 10(7), 1225; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10071225 - 18 Jul 2020
Cited by 19 | Viewed by 9921
Abstract
In shelters it is usual to conduct standardised behaviour assessments on admitted dogs. The information gathered from the assessment is used to identify dogs that are suitable for adoption and assist in matching the dog with suitable adopters. These assessments are also used [...] Read more.
In shelters it is usual to conduct standardised behaviour assessments on admitted dogs. The information gathered from the assessment is used to identify dogs that are suitable for adoption and assist in matching the dog with suitable adopters. These assessments are also used to guide behaviour modification programs for dogs that display some unwanted behaviours. For some dogs, the results may indicate that they are unsuitable either for re-training or for adoption. In these circumstances the dogs may be euthanised. We investigated the predictive value of a standardised behaviour assessment protocol currently used in an Australian shelter for dog behaviour post-adoption. A total of 123 dogs, aged 1–10 years and housed in an animal care shelter, were assessed before they were adopted. The new owners of the dogs took part in a post-adoption survey conducted 1 month after adoption, which explored the behaviour of their dog after adoption. Ordinal regression analyses identified that friendly/social, fear and anxiousness identified in the shelter assessment significantly predicted corresponding behaviours post-adoption. However, behaviour problems, such as aggression, food guarding and separation-related behaviours, were not reliably predicted by the standardised behaviour assessment. The results suggest that further research is required to improve the predictability of behaviour assessment protocols for more specific behaviour problems, including different categories of aggression and separation-related problems. We recommend that dog behaviour assessments in shelters are used only in conjunction with other monitoring tools to assess behaviour over the whole shelter stay, thus facilitating increased safety/welfare standards for dogs, shelters and the wider community. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Behavior of Shelter Animals)
15 pages, 646 KiB  
Article
Evidence for Individual Differences in Behaviour and for Behavioural Syndromes in Adult Shelter Cats
by Sandra Martínez-Byer, Andrea Urrutia, Péter Szenczi, Robyn Hudson and Oxána Bánszegi
Animals 2020, 10(6), 962; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10060962 - 1 Jun 2020
Cited by 13 | Viewed by 4751
Abstract
Consistent inter-individual differences in behaviour have been previously reported in adult shelter cats. In this study, we aimed to assess whether repeatable individual differences in behaviours exhibited by shelter cats in different situations were interrelated, forming behavioural syndromes. We tested 31 adult cats [...] Read more.
Consistent inter-individual differences in behaviour have been previously reported in adult shelter cats. In this study, we aimed to assess whether repeatable individual differences in behaviours exhibited by shelter cats in different situations were interrelated, forming behavioural syndromes. We tested 31 adult cats in five different behavioural tests, repeated three times each: a struggle test where an experimenter restrained the cat, a separation/confinement test where the cat spent 2 min in a pet carrier, a mouse test where the cat was presented with a live mouse in a jar, and two tests where the cat reacted to an unfamiliar human who remained either passive or actively approached the cat. Individual differences in behaviour were consistent (repeatable) across repeated trials for each of the tests. We also found associations between some of the behaviours shown in the different tests, several of which appeared to be due to differences in human-oriented behaviours. This study is the first to assess the presence of behavioural syndromes using repeated behavioural tests in different situations common in the daily life of a cat, and which may prove useful in improving the match between prospective owner and cat in shelter adoption programmes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Behavior of Shelter Animals)
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13 pages, 431 KiB  
Article
Sex of Walker Influences Scent-marking Behavior of Shelter Dogs
by Betty McGuire, Kentner Fry, Destiny Orantes, Logan Underkofler and Stephen Parry
Animals 2020, 10(4), 632; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10040632 - 7 Apr 2020
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 1027122
Abstract
Interactions with humans influence the behavior and physiology of other animals, and the response can vary with sex and familiarity. Dogs in animal shelters face challenging conditions and although contact with humans typically reduces stress and behaviors associated with stress, evidence indicates that [...] Read more.
Interactions with humans influence the behavior and physiology of other animals, and the response can vary with sex and familiarity. Dogs in animal shelters face challenging conditions and although contact with humans typically reduces stress and behaviors associated with stress, evidence indicates that shelter dogs react differently to unfamiliar men and women. Given that some aspects of canine scent-marking behavior change under fearful conditions, we examined whether sex of an unfamiliar walker would influence scent-marking behavior of 100 shelter dogs during leash walks. Male dogs urinated at higher rates when walked by unfamiliar women than when walked by unfamiliar men; female dogs urinated at similar rates when walked by unfamiliar women and unfamiliar men. Sex of walker influenced urinary posture in male dogs, but not in female dogs. Both male and female dogs were more likely to defecate when walked by unfamiliar women than by unfamiliar men. Based on our findings that shelter dogs behave differently in the presence of unfamiliar men and women, we suggest that researchers conducting behavioral studies of dogs record, consider in analyses, and report the sex of observers and handlers as standard practice. We also recommend recording the sex of shelter staff present at behavioral evaluations because the results of these evaluations can impact dog welfare. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Behavior of Shelter Animals)
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17 pages, 1699 KiB  
Article
Characterizing Human–Dog Attachment Relationships in Foster and Shelter Environments as a Potential Mechanism for Achieving Mutual Wellbeing and Success
by Lauren E. Thielke and Monique A.R. Udell
Animals 2020, 10(1), 67; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10010067 - 30 Dec 2019
Cited by 26 | Viewed by 8625
Abstract
This study aimed to characterize attachment relationships between humans and dogs living in animal shelters or foster homes, and to contextualize these relationships in the broader canine attachment literature. In this study, 21 pairs of foster dogs and foster volunteers and 31 pairs [...] Read more.
This study aimed to characterize attachment relationships between humans and dogs living in animal shelters or foster homes, and to contextualize these relationships in the broader canine attachment literature. In this study, 21 pairs of foster dogs and foster volunteers and 31 pairs of shelter dogs and shelter volunteers participated. Each volunteer–dog dyad participated in a secure base test and a paired attachment test. All volunteers completed the Lexington Attachment to Pets Scale (LAPS), a survey designed to measure strength of attachment bonds as reported by humans. Although no significant differences were present in terms of proportions of insecure and secure attachments between foster and shelter populations, proportions in the shelter population were significantly lower (p < 0.05) than the proportions of attachment styles that would be expected in a population of pet dogs based on the published literature on pet dog attachment styles. Additionally, findings are presented in relation to data from a paired attachment test that demonstrate foster and shelter dogs spend more time in proximity to humans when the human is actively attending to the dog and encouraging interaction, as would be expected based on previous studies. We also present findings related to the presence of disinhibited attachment (previously reported in children who spent a significant portion of time living in institutionalized settings) which is characterized by a lack of preferential proximity seeking with a familiar caregiver and excessive friendliness towards strangers in foster and shelter dogs. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Behavior of Shelter Animals)
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12 pages, 226 KiB  
Article
Characteristics and Adoption Success of Shelter Dogs Assessed as Resource Guarders
by Betty McGuire
Animals 2019, 9(11), 982; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9110982 - 17 Nov 2019
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 6384
Abstract
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 [...] Read more.
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. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Behavior of Shelter Animals)

Review

Jump to: Research

16 pages, 826 KiB  
Review
Psychological Stress, Its Reduction, and Long-Term Consequences: What Studies with Laboratory Animals Might Teach Us about Life in the Dog Shelter
by Michael B. Hennessy, Regina M. Willen and Patricia A. Schiml
Animals 2020, 10(11), 2061; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10112061 - 7 Nov 2020
Cited by 23 | Viewed by 8762
Abstract
There is a long history of laboratory studies of the physiological and behavioral effects of stress, its reduction, and the later psychological and behavioral consequences of unmitigated stress responses. Many of the stressors employed in these studies approximate the experience of dogs confined [...] Read more.
There is a long history of laboratory studies of the physiological and behavioral effects of stress, its reduction, and the later psychological and behavioral consequences of unmitigated stress responses. Many of the stressors employed in these studies approximate the experience of dogs confined in an animal shelter. We review how the laboratory literature has guided our own work in describing the reactions of dogs to shelter housing and in helping formulate means of reducing their stress responses. Consistent with the social buffering literature in other species, human interaction has emerged as a key ingredient in moderating glucocorticoid stress responses of shelter dogs. We discuss variables that appear critical for effective use of human interaction procedures in the shelter as well as potential neural mechanisms underlying the glucocorticoid-reducing effect. We also describe recent studies in which enrichment centered on human interaction has been found to reduce aggressive responses in a temperament test used to determine suitability for adoption. Finally, we suggest that a critical aspect of the laboratory stress literature that has been underappreciated in studying shelter dogs is evidence for long-term behavioral consequences—often mediated by glucocorticoids—that may not become apparent until well after initial stress exposure. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Behavior of Shelter Animals)
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