Effects of Group and Individual Housing on the Behavior of Kennelled Dogs in Animal Shelters

Scientific Journal Articles

To emphasize the effects of group- and single housing of kennelled dogs, the behavior of 211 dogs in two German animal shelters was tested and observed. After being placed, 197 of the dogs’ new owners were interviewed. Although 51% of the German animal shelters already keep dogs in groups, there is strong prejudice against group housing because of the fear of fights. This study demonstrates that this apprehension is unfounded. Ninety-one percent of the social confrontations between dogs housed together were settled by the use of behavioral rituals. Keeping dogs in groups, furthermore, leads to a significant reduction in noise emission (p<.001). Group housing fulfills the dog’s need for social interaction and the need to move. Dogs that were housed in groups displayed a closer human-animal relationship (80%) than those that had been kept individually (43%). A high percentage of individually housed dogs suffered from behavioral problems (31%) and 10% developed stereotypes. The percentage of behaviorally disturbed dogs observed in group housing was 11%, and stereotyped forms of behavior did not occur. Dogs who had been kept in groups were, on average, placed within 10 days, and were returned to the animal shelter less often (9%) compared to those housed individually (25%). Dogs that were housed separately needed an average of 17 days to be placed. Even after being placed, there is a correlation between the animal shelter’s type of housing and the dog’s behavior. Within four weeks after picking up their pet, 88% of the owners of dogs that had been housed individually complained of problems compared to the owners of the dogs that had been kept in groups, 53% of whom were completely satisfied with the adoption. Despite the fact that these results might be influenced by the small number of shelters examined, the study leads to the conclusion that keeping dogs in groups is a suitable alternative for dog housing in animal shelters and, for the animals’ welfare, is preferable to individual housing.

Mertens, P.A. and Unshelm, J. (1996). Effects of group and individual housing on the behavior of kennelled dogs in animal shelters. Anthrozoos, 9, 40–51.

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Topic(s): Behavior, Dog to Dog, Environment, Environmental Management and Monitoring, Noise Levels, Shelter and Rescue, Social Interactions