Effect of multidog play groups on cortisol levels and behavior of dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) housed in a humane society

To read the full-text of this research, you can request a copy directly from the authors.

No full-text available

Request Full-text Paper PDF

To read the full-text of this research,
you can request a copy directly from the authors.

... While not as well-studied as interactions with people, researchers have examined the effects of social contact with other dogs, either through housing manipulations (Mertens and Unshelm 1996;Wells and Hepper 1998;Dalla Villa et al. 2013;Walker et al. 2014) or interactions out of the kennel (Belpedio et al. 2010;Flower 2016;L. Gunter et al., work in preparation). ...
... It is possible that social interactions outside of the kennel may be more enriching than simple visual contact. Belpedio et al. (2010) examined the effects of 30 minutes of offleash, canine social interaction as compared to dogs remaining in their kennels. Saliva for cortisol analysis was collected each morning as a baseline as well as 30 minutes and 3 hours post-interaction, and dogs' in-kennel behavior was recorded 1 minute prior to saliva collection. ...
Dogs experience a variety of stressors within the shelter that could negatively impact their welfare. The use of enrichment interventions that provide social interaction, either with a human or canine; object enrichment; and sensory stimulation (auditory, olfactory, or visual) is necessary for dogs living in animal shelters, along with the assessment of engagement and determination of benefits. There are a wide range of sampling and measurement techniques for monitoring enrichment usage and its behavioral effects, and such efforts are only worthwhile if the data being collected are used. Data‐informed decisions about which enrichment types are provided, on both the shelter‐wide and individual dog levels, must be consistently re‐evaluated based on the current population of dogs and can allow shelters to most usefully employ their resources and best serve the dogs in their care.
... Spontaneous behaviours are more relevant than elicited ones. Hubrecht, 1993;Rooney et al., 2000;Coppola et al., 2006;Horváth et al., 2008;Belpedio et al., 2010;Bergamasco et al., 2010;Held and Špinka, 2011;Titulaer et al., 2013;Johnson et al., 2013;Shiverdecker et al., 2013;Conley et al., 2014;Bradshaw et al., 2015;Flower, 2016 Differences in trainability and motivation may influence results Harding et al., 2004;Mendl et al., 2009Mendl et al., , 2010Bateson et al., 2011;Burman et al., 2011;Owczarczak-Garstecka et al., 2016 Learning ability ...
... Applied Animal Behaviour Science 213 (2019) 1-13 less likely to solicit play than dogs that had daily social contact either with humans or larger groups of dogs (Hubrecht, 1993). A number of studies have found that shelter dogs who are given access to play sessions, whether with other dogs (Coppola et al., 2006;Belpedio et al., 2010;Johnson et al., 2013;Shiverdecker et al., 2013;Flower, 2016) or with humans (Bergamasco et al., 2010;Conley et al., 2014;) display fewer stress-related measures than dogs that do not have such access. This suggests that not only are responses to play opportunities a potential measure of welfare, but also that access to these opportunities may affect their welfare states as well. ...
Hundreds of thousands of dogs are housed in kennels worldwide, yet there are no standard protocols for assessing the welfare of dogs in these environments. Animal science is focusing increasingly on the importance of animal-based measures for determining welfare states, and those measures that have been used with kennelled dogs are reviewed in this paper with particular focus on their validity and practicality. From a physiological standpoint, studies using cortisol, heart rate and heart rate variability, temperature changes, and immune function are discussed. Behavioural measures are also of great relevance when addressing canine welfare, thus studies on fear and anxiety behaviours, abnormal behaviours like stereotypies, as well as responses to strangers and novel objects are reviewed. Finally, a limited number of studies attempting to use cognitive bias and learning ability are also mentioned as cognitive measures. The literature to date provides a strong background for which measures may be useful in determining the welfare of kennelled canines, however more research is needed to further assess the value of using these methods, particularly in regard to the large degree of individual differences that exist between dogs.
... There are reported benefits for dogs when provided with social contact, either conspecifics or humans [27,28]. Social contact EE activities are associated with decreased stereotypy, greater sociability, reduced periods of inactivity, decreased cortisol concentrations and increased relaxation [29][30][31][32]. Wells and Hepper [27] found social stimulation had a greater positive impact on dog behaviour compared to the provision of toys, suggesting that providing a range of EE activities is likely to produce the greatest benefit. ...
Full-text available
Environmental enrichment (EE) can be used to enhance the environment of various animals. The aim of this pilot study was to determine the effects of seven EE activities (Bonding, Bubble machine, Conspecific play, Interactive toy, Playhouse, Stuffed food toy and Tug play) on dog behaviour, pre- and post-EE for dogs housed in an office environment during training as part of an assistance dog training programme. EE activities resulted in a significant increase in the frequency of relaxation behaviours (p < 0.01) and a significant reduction in alert (p < 0.01) and stress behaviours (p = 0.02). Results suggest various benefits of the different activities with Conspecific Play and Playhouse activities having the greatest overall positive behaviour change when compared to the other activities. The food-based EE activities (Interactive toy and Stuffed food toy) had the least behaviour change of all the activities provided. Findings will be of interest to pet owners, animal rescue centres, dog trainers and working dog organisations.
... Play allows a dog to release their pent-up energy (Bradshaw, Pullen, & Rooney, 2014) and teaches important social skills (Bekoff, 2001). In the shelter environment, dogs in an experimental play group also showed less stress-related behaviors than those in the isolated control group (Belpido et al., 2010). ...
Given the large number of dogs housed in animal shelters each year, it is important to consider how the shelter environment impacts a dog’s welfare. Providing shelter-housed dogs social contact with conspecifics can increase the welfare of the dogs and benefit the shelter by increasing adoption rates. Mostly Mutts Pet Rescue and Adoption Center in Kennesaw, Georgia was investigating ways to increase social contact for the dogs in their facility. To assist with this goal, we conducted a literature review that examined the impact of social housing, playgroups, and visual social contact on dog behavior. Social housing and playgroups can provide welfare benefits, including reducing abnormal behavior and decreasing aggression, and can also increase adoption rates. There has been limited research on the effect of visual social contact on behavior, but dogs provided with visual access have been found to spend more time in the front of their crate (which has been shown to increase adoption rates). We also propose that visual access may supply the dogs with a sense of predictability and control over their environment, an important aspect of welfare. This literature review discusses the benefits, cautions of, and requirements for these three modes of increasing welfare via social contact. We conclude with recommendations for Mostly Mutts Pet Rescue and Adoption Center based on observations we conducted on site and the supporting literature. However, the benefits of these recommendations are not restricted to Mostly Mutts, as they may be of benefit to other shelters as well.
To create a behavioral picture of each dog who comes into the shelter, every shelter should have a structured system for continually assessing the behavior of the dog throughout their stay. The information gathered may determine if the dog is appropriate for placement, guide matching with adopters, identify dogs who need behavior modification or help coping with the stressors of the shelter, or determine if the dog should be humanely euthanized for safety or quality of life. Continual behavioral monitoring can help identify a shift in quality of life, the emergence of an underlying medical condition, or the impact of behavior modification. Behavior observed in any one specific context may not be predictive of behavior in other situations or even in the same situation in the future. By striking the right balance of amount and type of information, shelters can make the best and most expedient outcome decision for each dog in the shelter.
Dog‐dog playgroups have become increasingly popular interventions in shelter settings as a means of providing enrichment and enhancing well‐being for dogs in shelters, especially for those experiencing long‐term stays. This is occurring across the United States despite debate—and limited empirical evaluation—on playgroup effectiveness. However, playgroups vary greatly in their form and function—that is, how shelters implement them and their intended purpose. This chapter reviews common programs for conducting playgroups in shelters and explores methods for selecting appropriate candidates, monitoring interactions, and balancing both physical and behavioral health. The scientific literature on the benefits of play for dogs’ well‐being and considerations for evaluating playgroups as an enrichment strategy are discussed.
With an increasing recognition of the importance of behavioral health, a growing number of shelters provide some type of behavioral treatment for animals in their care. This chapter describes a variety of specialized interventions ranging from basic training of behaviors intended to make shelter dogs more attractive to potential adopters to behavior modification programs designed to rehabilitate complex behavior problems, including intraspecific aggression, fearfulness, and excessive arousal. Studies of how changing shelter dogs’ behavior influences adopters continue to produce conflicting results, and little research exists on the effectiveness of behavior modification with shelter animals. More research is needed to determine which behavior problems in shelter dogs need treatment and what are the most efficient, effective ways to provide that treatment so shelters can make the best use of available resources to improve quality of life, increase adoptability, reduce length of stay, and place more animals successfully in loving homes.
Salivary cortisol is widely used as an indicator of stress and welfare in canine research. However, much remains unclear about the basic features of this hormone marker in domestic dogs. This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to determine a reference range for cortisol concentration in the saliva of dogs, and examine population effects and experimental considerations relating to salivary cortisol concentrations. A systematic review of literature databases and conference proceedings from 1992-2012 identified 61 peer-reviewed studies utilizing domestic dog salivary cortisol. Researchers were contacted via email and 31 raw data sets representing a total of 5,153 samples from 1,205 dogs were shared. Meta-analysis provided a cortisol concentration range of 0 – 33.79 μg/dL (mean 0.45 μg/dL, SEM 0.13). Significant effects (P < 0.05) were found for: sex and neuter status, age, regular living environment, time in environment prior to testing, testing environment, owner presence during testing, and collection media. Significant effects were not found for: dog breed, body weight, dog type, coat color, assay type, exercise, eating, or use of salivary stimulant. Care should be taken when using cortisol studies for dogs at a group or population level as there is a large amount of intra- and inter-individual variability and external variables could influence salivary cortisol concentration. This analysis highlights the importance of carefully controlling experimental design in order to compare samples within and between individual dogs, as well as establishing and using best practices for saliva collection. Caution should be exercised in comparing different studies, as the results could be a reflection of a plethora of factors.
Identification of severe stress in hospitalized veterinary patients may improve treatment outcomes and welfare. To assess stress levels, in Study 1, we collected salivary cortisol samples and behavioral parameters in 28 healthy dogs hospitalized prior to elective procedures. Dogs were categorized into two groups; low cortisol (LC) and high cortisol (HC), based on the distribution of cortisol concentrations (< or ≥0.6 μg/dL). We constructed a stress research tool (SRT) based on three behaviors (head resting, panting and lip licking) that were most strongly related to salivary cortisol concentrations. In Study 2, we collected salivary cortisol samples from 39 additional dogs, evaluated behavior/cortisol relationships, assigned each dog to an LC or HC group, and tested the ability of the SRT to predict salivary cortisol. Median (interquartile range) salivary cortisol concentrations were not different between Study 1 (0.43 μg/dL, 0.33–1.00 μg/dL) and Study 2 dogs (0.41 μg/dL, 0.28–0.52 μg/dL). The median salivary cortisol concentration was significantly lower (P ≤ 0.001) in LC versus HC dogs in each study; (Study 1 LC: 0.38 μg/dL (0.19–0.44), n = 19, HC: 2.0 μg/dL (1.0–2.8), n = 9, and Study 2 LC: 0.35 μg/dL (0.25–0.48), n = 28, HC: 0.89 μg/dL (0.66–1.4), n = 7). In Study 1, three behaviors were found to be associated with salivary cortisol concentrations. Duration of head resting was negatively associated with salivary cortisol (ρ = −0.60, P = 0.001), panting and lip licking were positively associated with cortisol (ρ = 0.39, P = 0.04, and 0.30, P = 0.05, respectively), head resting (P = 0.001) and panting (P = 0.003) were also associated with LC/HC group assignment. In Study 2 dogs, the three behaviors correlated (but not significantly) with salivary cortisol concentration; of the three, only head resting was significantly associated with LC/HC group assignment (P = 0.03). The SRT derived from Study 1 was effective at prediction of salivary cortisol concentrations when applied to 20 min but not 2 min of behavioral data from Study 2. Additionally, we note that dexmedetomidine and butorphanol sedation more than 6 h prior to measurement was found to be significantly (P = 0.05) associated with lower salivary cortisol concentrations when compared to unsedated dogs. Our work offers support for eventual construction of a rating tool that utilizes the presence or absence of specific behaviors to identify higher salivary cortisol concentrations in dogs subjected to hospitalization, which may be tied to greater psychogenic stress levels. Future work to investigate the effects of stress on dogs and its mitigation in clinical situations may be approached by studying a combination of parameters, and should consider the possible beneficial effects of sedatives.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any references for this publication.