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Evaluation of dog welfare before and after a professional grooming session

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Some types of dog fur require special care, such as regular washing and cutting. Owners often prefer to turn to professional groomers working in equipped facilities. The aim of this study was to investigate if a professional grooming session can cause stress to the dog. Nine dogs were subjected to a standardized 30 minutes-grooming session. Each animal was videoed for 5 minutes before and after the grooming and all videos were analyzed to measure the duration of potential signs of acute stress in dogs. Moreover, a veterinarian behaviorist provided a holistic assessment of the dog's stress level with a 0 to 5 scale. Concerning the level of stress of dogs and the duration of each analyzed behavior before and after the grooming session, no statistical difference was found. Only nose licking was found to be statistically higher after the grooming (W=-2.52; p=0.012). Most dogs appeared already stressed before being groomed and, for this reason, more research is needed to better investigate if the grooming itself is stressful for dogs. The findings of this study suggest that the grooming shop can be stressful for dogs for all the time dogs stay in it, from the arrival until the departure. Owners and groomers should be aware of how to reduce such stress which may become a welfare issue.
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Evaluation of dog welfare before and after
a professional grooming session
Chiara Mariti1,*, Scighei Bein2
1Department of Veterinary Science, University of Pisa - Italy
2 External collaborator
Abstract: Some types of dog fur require special care, such as regular washing and cutting. Owners often prefer to turn
to professional groomers working in equipped facilities. The aim of this study was to investigate if a professional groom-
ing session can cause stress to the dog.
Nine dogs were subjected to a standardized 30 minutes-grooming session. Each animal was videoed for 5 minutes be-
fore and after the grooming and all videos were analyzed to measure the duration of potential signs of acute stress in
dogs. Moreover, a veterinarian behaviorist provided a holistic assessment of the dog’s stress level with a 0 to 5 scale.
Concerning the level of stress of dogs and the duration of each analyzed behavior before and after the grooming
session, no statistical difference was found. Only nose licking was found to be statistically higher after the grooming
(W=-2.52; p=0.012).
Most dogs appeared already stressed before being groomed and, for this reason, more research is needed to better in-
vestigate if the grooming itself is stressful for dogs.
The findings of this study suggest that the grooming shop can be stressful for dogs for all the time dogs stay in it, from
the arrival until the departure. Owners and groomers should be aware of how to reduce such stress which may become a
welfare issue.
Key Words: behaviour, dog, grooming, stress, welfare.
* Corresponding Author: cmariti@vet.unipi.it
Introduction
In western society, the role of the dog has dramatically changed in the last decades, becoming
part of the human family. This implies a greater care of the dog hygiene, both to improve dog wel-
fare and to reduce the risk of anthropozoonoses.
Breed selection has created a number of canine morphologies (Coppinger et al., 1987), adapted
to the activity for which they were used in the past, but now requiring special attention from the
owner. The coat is certainly one part of the dog body which has been most modified by selection.
From the typical lupine coat, quite similar in texture among the several subspecies of wolves (Ser-
pell, 1995) adapted to any climates, many others coats, differing for type and length, have devel-
oped. Some of these coats had, in the past, an utility for the animal, defending it from the atmos-
pheric elements and from injury while at work. Nowadays, the work of the dog is limited to a small
number of subjects and the coat is usually selected for aesthetic reasons.
Some types of dog fur require special care, such as regular washing and cutting. Owners often
prefer to turn to professional groomers working in equipped facilities. Due to the stimuli the dog
has to face in such situations (people, dogs, environment, grooming itself etc.), it can be hypothe-
sized that a professional grooming session is a source of stress for the dog.
The aim of this study was to investigate if a professional grooming session can cause stress to the
dog.
Dog Behavior, 1-2015, pp. 8-15
doi 10.4454/DOGB.V1I1.002
Received, 12/10/2014
Accepted, 02/15/2015
02Mariti 8_Layout 1 17/04/15 09:55 Pagina 8
Subjects, materials and methods
In the current study 9 dogs, 8 males and 1 female, 8 cross-breeds and 1 Springer Spaniel, aged 1-
13 years (63.3±56.0 month old), all short-haired and medium-size, were involved. All dogs were
subjected to grooming in June-July 2014, in order to have an environmental temperature as similar
as possible. Seven dogs were regularly subjected to grooming, either at the facility where the study
was carried out (6) or at other facilities (1). For the remaining two animals, it was the first time they
experienced a professional grooming.
Each animal was individually introduced by the experimenter into the room where the grooming
was performed, whilst the owner remained outside of the room. The groomer placed the dog on a
platform (1.30 x 0.60 m; height 0.70 m) and tied the dog with a leash and a fixed collar to a pole.
The dog was left to get used to the new environment for 5 minutes, then the groomer videoed the
dog behavior for an additional 5 minute period. After the recording, the dog was moved onto the
work table and the same groomer carried out, on each subject, a standardized 30 minutes-grooming
session, consisting of: wetting the fur with warm water, soaping the dog with a suitable shampoo,
rubbing the fur and rinsing it with warm water, re-soaping, rinsing and repeating the rubbing, and
then drying the dog with a hair dryer.
At the end of the procedure the dog was placed again on the platform and videoed for 5 minutes.
Two people observed the videos. One observer measured the duration of potential signs of acute
stress in dogs (reported in table 1).
9
Table 1. List of behaviours indicating stress observed in this study and relative scientific references.
02Mariti 8_Layout 1 17/04/15 09:55 Pagina 9
Other behaviors, possibly indicating a state of relaxation, were also analysed (see table 2).
For each of them, the total duration in seconds was evaluated in the 5 minute period before (b.g.)
and after the grooming (a.g.). The second observer was a veterinarian behaviorist, who provided a
holistic assessment of the dog’s stress level and of the dog’s arousal in a 0 to 5 scale (0=no stress/no
arousal; 5=very stressed/aroused) observing dogs’ behavior in the same videos.
The statistical analysis to compare the data before and after the grooming, was performed using
the Wilcoxon test (p<0.05).
Results
The time (in seconds) spent by dogs showing each analyzed behavior before and after the groom-
ing session and the relative results of the statistical analysis are reported in table 3.
Some behaviors (urination/defecation, trembling, hypersalivation, piloerection and other repeti-
tive activities) were not detected either before or after the grooming.
A statistically significant difference was found only for nose licking, which increased after
grooming.
Concerning the behaviorist evaluation, results are summarized in figure 1.
10
Table 2. List of behaviors indicating relaxation observed in this study and relative scientific references.
Fig. 1. Level of stress and arousal as assessed by a behaviorist in dogs before and after the grooming session.
02Mariti 8_Layout 1 17/04/15 09:55 Pagina 10
The level of stress (Z=-1.134; p=0.257) and arousal (Z=-1.414; p=0.157) of dogs before and after
the grooming session did not statistically differ. However, looking at individual levels of stress be-
fore and after the grooming, 5 dogs did not change the score (including the three subjects with the
highest scores, corresponding to 4 and 5), 3 dogs increased it and 1 decreased it after the grooming.
11
Table 3. Duration (s) of each analyzed behavior and results of the statistical analysis comparing before (b.g.)
and after (a.g.) the grooming session.
02Mariti 8_Layout 1 17/04/15 09:55 Pagina 11
Discussion
As opposed to farm and laboratory animals, fewer studies have specifically investigated compan-
ion animal welfare (Yeates & Main, 2011), so there is a need for better data on canine welfare issues
(CAWC, 2009). As a matter of fact, due to the strong relationship with man, dogs nowadays have to
face many situations, some of which may be very stressful (e.g. transport: Mariti et al., 2012b; veteri-
nary clinic: Mills et al., 2006; Mariti et al., submitted) but no research has been carried out on many
other possible sources of stress, e.g. professional grooming.
To establish stress and subsequent welfare problems in domestic dogs, behavioural parameters
are of special interest, as they may be easily and non-invasively measured (Beerda et al., 1997, 1998).
Recently, there has been growing recognition of the potential value of holistic assessments of ani-
mals’ emotional states (Wemelsfelder et al., 2001; Mills et al., 2006). However, stress in dogs is not
always easily detectable, especially for owners, who often underestimate or do not recognize the
signs of distress displayed by their pets (Mariti et al., 2012a).
According to both the detailed observation of dogs’ behavior and the behaviorist holistic evalua-
tion, dogs who participated in this study showed a similar level of stress and arousal before and after
the grooming session and most dogs appeared already stressed before being groomed. This finding
is very important, as it means that going to the grooming shop can be stressful for dogs. Similarly to
what happens in the veterinary clinic (Mariti et al., submitted), this may affect dog’s welfare, espe-
cially if the dog is often led to the grooming shop or if the dog anticipates such situation, with the
risk that the fear/phobia evolves into anxiety (Overall, 2013, p. 60).
In this study the grooming itself did not seem to increase dog’s stress level, but it must be consid-
ered that dogs were already stressed when the grooming was performed, so conclusions drawn can-
not be regarded as definitive. As a matter of fact, when a subject is stressed the application of a stim-
ulus can reduce (pleasant), increase (very unpleasant) or not modify his/her level of stress. The
higher number of dogs, who were scored higher by the behaviorist for the stress level after the
grooming, suggests that the grooming was mildly stressful for the dogs, but not enough to lead to a
statistically significant increase in the level of stress. In other words, the previous activation of the
sympathetic nervous system may have affected the statistical results and the stimulus applied, al-
though mildly stressful, may not be sufficient for a further activation; the same stimulus, applied in
a non-stressed animal, may lead to different findings. Therefore, more research is needed to better
investigate if the grooming itself is stressful for dogs, and which factors may be involved.
Theoretically, the possible sources of stress for dogs in a grooming shop are numerous. For in-
stance, dogs can feel uncomfortable for the separation from attachment figures, especially in an un-
familiar environment (Hennessy, 1997; Mariti et al., 2013b), for the unpredictability of external
events (Muir & Pifster, 1987), for the handling and restraint made by strangers (Hennessy et al.,
1998), and/or for the grooming itself. Moreover, in an artificial environment such as the grooming
shop is, there are possible acoustic, visual and social stressful stimuli. Acoustic stress is primarily
due to the use of devices such as the hair dryer and fur clippers. The olfactory stressors, such as the
odor cues and pheromones released by other dogs during the grooming may play a role in alarming
the animal. Stressful visual stimuli can be attributed to the proximity to other dogs or people, when
proxemics is not respected or when the dog has not been adequately socialized.
All of these factors may explain the state of stress shown by dogs in the groomer’s shop before the
grooming session started: owners and groomers could work on all of them in order to reduce dogs’
level of stress in the grooming shop.
Concerning the detailed observation of dogs’ behavior before and after the grooming, the in-
crease of nose licking could be related to a state of stress or to other reasons: e.g. we cannot exclude
that the grooming caused the dryness of the nose and dogs licked this part to hydrate it. However, as
explained before, no conclusions can be drawn by this study about the possible stress induced by a
professional grooming session.
12
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The ability of owners to recognize the behavioral signs of stress is important, as it permits the an-
imal to avoid related welfare problems (Kerswell etal., 2009), and it favors a rapid recovery of psy-
chophysical homeostasis by interrupting the progression to overstress and distress. Veterinarians
and behaviorists should teach owners to look at the whole body language of the dog and to properly
assess (and possibly intervene in) dog welfare (Mariti et al., 2012b). Moreover, owners are responsi-
ble for getting dogs used to situations that might occur in their life (Gazzano et al., 2008), such as
those found in a grooming shop.
On their part, groomers should be aware that any dog, regardless of previous experiences or
stress felt in other circumstances, can be stressed in their facility: factors such as a lack of familiarity
with the place, the kind of handling, noises etc. (and, in real-life situations, conspecifics and
strangers) can be stressful for some dogs (Mariti et al., submitted). Groomers should also know how
their behavior, facility etc. can become dog friendly (see e.g. Herron & Shreyer, 2014).
Conclusions
The findings of this study suggest that the grooming shop can be stressful for dogs for all the
time dogs stay in it, since the arrival until the exit. Owners and groomers should be aware of this
and know how to reduce such stress, which may become a welfare issue.
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Valutazione del benessere del cane prima e dopo una sessione professionale di toelettatura
Chiara Mariti1, Scighei Bein2
1 Dipartimento di Scienze Veterinarie, Università di Pisa - Italia
2 Collaboratore esterno
Sintesi
Alcuni cani possiedono un mantello che richiede cure particolari quali lavaggi e tagli regolari. I proprietari preferisco-
no spesso rivolgersi a toelettatori professionisti in strutture specializzate.
Lo scopo di questo studio è stato quello di verificare se una sessione professionale di toelettatura può essere causa di
stress per il cane.
Nove cani sono stati sottoposti ad una seduta di toelettatura di 30 minuti. Ogni animale è stato videoripreso prima e
dopo la tolettatura per 5 minuti e tutti i video sono stati analizzati per misurare la durata di potenziali segni di stress acuto
nei cani, riportati in tabella 1.
Tab. 1. Elenco di comportamenti considerati segni di stress nel cane.
Comportamento Bibliografia
Autogrooming Beerda et al., 1998, 1999; Rooney et al., 2007; Rooney et al., 2009
Abbaiare Beerda et al., 1997; Cannas et al., 2014
Orientamento verso la porta Mariti et al., 2013a; 2013b
Abbaiare eccessivamente Beerda et al., 1998; Schildler & van der Borg, 2004; Rooney et al., 2009
Ipersalivazione Beerda et al., 1997; Dreschel & Granger, 2005
Attività ridotta Beerda et al., 1997, 1999
Leccamento del tartufo Beerda et al., 1997, 1998; Schildler & van der Borg, 2004; Rooney et al., 2009
Altre attività ripetitive Beerda et al., 1997, 1999; Rooney et al., 2009
Ansimare Beerda et al., 1997; 1999; Hennessy et al., 1998; Schildler & van der Borg, 2004;
Dreschel & Granger, 2005; Rooney et al., 2009
Sollevare la zampa Beerda et al., 1997, 1998, 1999; Schildler & van der Borg, 2004; Rooney et al., 2007;
Rooney et al., 2009
Piloerezione Beerda et al., 1999
Grattarsi Kotrschal et al., 2009
14
02Mariti 8_Layout 1 17/04/15 09:55 Pagina 14
Comportamento Bibliografia
Scuotersi Beerda et al., 1999; Kotrschal et al., 2009
Coda tra le zampe Kotrschal et al., 2009
Girare in tondo Beerda et al., 1998, 1999; Schildler & van der Borg, 2004; Rooney et al., 2007
Tremare Beerda et al., 1999; Dreschel & Granger, 2005; Rooney et al., 2009
Girare la testa Schildler & van der Borg, 2004; Rooney et al., 2007
Urinazione e/o defecazione Beerda et al. 1998, 1999
Uggiolare Beerda et al., 1998; Hennessy et al., 1998; Dreschel & Granger, 2005
Guaire Mariti et al., 2013a; 2013b
Inoltre un veterinario esperto in comportamento ha realizzato una valutazione complessiva del livello di stress del ca-
ne, su una scala da 0 a 5.
I risultati della ricerca dimostrano che non vi sono differenze statisticamente significative per quanto riguarda il livel-
lo di stress e la durata dei segnali di stress valutati prima e dopo la toelettatura. Solo il comportamento di “leccare il tar-
tufo” è stato espresso più a luno, in modo statisticamente significativo (W=-2,52; p=0,012) dopo la toelettatura.
La maggior parte dei cani è risultata già stressata prima della seduta di toelettatura e, per questo motivo, saranno ne-
cessarie ulteriori ricerche per capirne le ragioni.
15
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Research conducted by the Anthrozoology Institute and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory has shown that many working dogs exhibit high levels of physiologic stress in response to kenneling (Hiby et al., 2006; Rooney et al., 2007a). Furthermore, these dogs tend to perform poorly during training, establishing links between welfare and working ability (Rooney et al., 2005, 2007b). Subsequently, we have been studying how kenneling affects welfare and working ability. Specifically, we have investigated which elements within housing and husbandry influence welfare, which of these seem to be the most important, and how environmental enrichment (e.g. feeding devices) can affect welfare and working ability. This paper draws together results from all of these studies, identifying signs that may be indicative of compromised welfare, and providing guidelines, based on scientific evidence, for how to improve kenneled working dog welfare. It reproduces an unpublished guide designed to primarily inform and advise practitioners who are responsible for caring for, and/or handling working dogs. This paper aims to ensure that practitioners are updated of the most recent advances in working dog welfare, and hence many of the studies summarized here are yet to be published in full, in peer-reviewed journals.
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The behaviour and emotional state of 15 dogs, known to be fearful of the veterinary clinic was evaluated during a standardised 5min waiting room procedure and standardised 2min consultation room procedure prior to a sham clinical examination, in the presence of Dog Appeasing Pheromone and placebo. Subjects acted as their own controls and were semi-randomly allocated into treatment groups to control for order effects. A triple blinding procedure was used in order to remove bias from the assessment of video recordings of the dogs, with two naïve independent raters used to analyse the video recordings of the behaviour of dogs during the test procedures. The raters showed good, and similar, agreement in their evaluation of both the specific behaviour of the dogs and their putative emotional state (relaxed, aroused and anxious). The results suggested that the use of DAP in the clinic was associated with greater relaxation of the dogs but there was no effect on aggressive behaviour during the clinical examination.
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This study addresses interactions between hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis activation in response to stress, relationship quality, and behavior in thunderstorm-anxious dogs and their owners. Using a controlled repeated-measures design, we experimentally manipulated exposure of individuals to a stressor they were highly fearful of, and assessed both their own and their caregivers’ physiological and behavioral responsiveness. Saliva samples were collected from 19 dog–owner dyads before, 20 and 40min after exposure to a simulated thunderstorm and were later assayed for cortisol. In response to the challenge, the dogs exhibited classic signs of fear (i.e., pacing, whining, hiding), their cortisol levels increased 207%, and these levels did not return to baseline within 40min. There were no effects of the owners’ behavior or the quality of the dog–owner relationship on the dogs’ HPA or behavioral reactivity. However, the presence of other dogs in the household was linked to less pronounced reactivity and more rapid recovery of the dog's HPA response. On average, the cortisol levels of the caregivers did not increase. Owners’ mood (e.g. depression, anger) affected their behavioral response towards their dogs. These findings are among the first to study the HPA responsiveness of anxious canines in response to stress in a home setting, and the physiological and behavioral effects of problem canine behavior on their caregivers.