Human attitudes and kennel facility management practices are intimately linked to working dog welfare and performance. This research is working toward better understanding of the links between what people believe, how this relates to how dogs are cared for in kennel facilities, and how this in turn relates to the welfare and performance of young dogs being considered for Guide Dog (GD) work.
A survey collated information from over 2,000 people to understand how the welfare of different type of dogs (e.g. Guide dogs, pet dogs, Police dogs, racing greyhounds, etc.) are perceived. It also asked about the perceived importance of kennel facility management practices (including those shown in the scientific literature to be effective in stress reduction) and collected information about whether respondents had any prior experience with dog ownership, working dogs and/or kennel facilities.
A preliminary study collected physiological data from young potential GDs in their foster family (domestic home) environment and assessed the impact of entering the kennel facility for assessment to determine suitability for GD training. A meta-analysis pooling the data from over 30 local and international studies also using canine salivary cortisol as a stress indicator is being conducted to give broader context to the results.
A further experiment compared physiological and behavioural data of dogs housed either traditionally, or placed into a structured
enrichment program comprising physical and sensory enrichment based on the current scientific research basis. These results will be compared to the young dogs’ performance in assessment tasks and the relationship between stress and performance explored.
Analysis is ongoing.
Researcher: Mia Cobb | Pauleen Bennett | Alan Lill
Institution: Monash Unversity