The Influence of Environmental Change On The Behaviour of Sheltered Dogs

Scientific Journal Articles

The majority of sheltered dogs are overlooked for purchase because they are considered undesirable by potential buyers. Many factors may determine a dog’s appeal, although of interest here are the dog’s behaviour and cage environment which can influence its desirability. People prefer dogs which are at the front rather than the back of the cage, quiet as opposed to barking, and alert rather than non-alert. Potential buyers also prefer dogs which are held in complex as opposed to barren environments. This study examined the behaviour of sheltered dogs in response to environmental change, to determine whether it influenced dog behaviour in ways that could be perceived as desirable to potential dog buyers, and/or had any effect upon the incidence of dogs purchased from the shelter. One hundred and twenty dogs sheltered by the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals were studied over a 4-h period. The dogs’ position in the cage, vocalisation, and activity were investigated in response to increased human social stimulation, moving the dog’s bed to the front of the cage, or suspending a toy from the front of the dog’s cage. Social stimulation resulted in dogs spending more time at the front of the enclosure, more time standing, and slightly more time barking. Moving the bed to the front of the cage encouraged dogs to this position, but did not influence activity or vocalisation. Suspending a toy at the front of the pen exerted no effect on dog behaviour, although its presence in the pen may help to promote more positive perceptions of dog desirability. The incidence of dogs purchased from the rescue shelter increased whenever the dogs’ cages were fitted with a bed at the front of the pen, whenever the dogs were subjected to increased regular human contact, and whenever a toy was placed at the front of the enclosure. Findings highlight the important role that cage environment can play in shaping the behaviour of sheltered dogs and influencing whether or not an animal will become purchased.

Wells, D.L. & Hepper, P.G. (2000) The influence of environmental change on the behaviour of sheltered dogs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 68, 151-152.


View Resource
Topic(s): Behavior, Dog to People - Positive Caretaker Interactions, Enrichment, Shelter and Rescue, Social Interactions, Types of Enrichment