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The Effects of Environmental Enrichment on the Behavior of Shelter Dogs Meghan E. Herron, DVM, DACVB, Taylor Kirby-Madden, BA, Linda K. Lord, DVM, PhD.

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Presentation on theme: "The Effects of Environmental Enrichment on the Behavior of Shelter Dogs Meghan E. Herron, DVM, DACVB, Taylor Kirby-Madden, BA, Linda K. Lord, DVM, PhD."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Effects of Environmental Enrichment on the Behavior of Shelter Dogs Meghan E. Herron, DVM, DACVB, Taylor Kirby-Madden, BA, Linda K. Lord, DVM, PhD The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine

2 What is enrichment? An improvement in the biological functioning of captive animals, which results from modifications to their environment Allowing an animal to engage in normal, natural behaviors for which they are highly motivated to perform

3 Forms of enrichment Inanimate – Environmental stimuli that do not involve a social interaction Animate – Involving a social interaction with another being

4 Previous Studies -Enrichment with human social contact increases affiliative behavior in shelter dogs, both towards dogs and people (Normando et al. 2008) -Shelter dogs benefit behaviorally from access to food- filled toys, with less vocalizing reported (Schipper et al. 2008) -Dogs that receive basic obedience training while at the shelter get adopted faster than those who do not (Luescher & Medlock 2009) - The presence of a toy in a kennel increases perceived adoptability by visitors (Luescher & Medlock 2009)

5 What about a combined program? Could a complex enrichment program that combined both animate and inanimate forms of enrichment improve the behavior of shelter dogs, as well as increase adoptability?

6 Hypothesis Food-toy (inanimate) enrichment combined with cage-behavior training (animate) enrichment will increase desirable behavior and adoption rates in shelter dogs.

7 -Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine and the Franklin County Dog Shelter (FCDS) began a cooperative enrichment program in Elective course for veterinary students who implement a hands on enrichment program. -Shelter enrichment protocol used both frozen food stuffed toys and cage-behavior training Background

8 Materials and Methods Location : -Franklin County Dog Shelter (FCDS), Columbus, Ohio -Municipal, open admission shelter -Impounds over 11,000 dogs annually -Adopts out over 4,000

9 Materials and Methods Participants: -Dogs placed in the adoption wards over a 4 week span of time (July-August, 2012) -Shelter pre-screened all dogs for medical and behavioral issues prior to being approved to go up for adoption -All dogs spayed/neutered prior to placement in adoption ward

10 Group assignment: Dogs > 6mos age were placed into “ Enrichment ” (Ward A) or “ Control ” (Ward B) at time of move-up to the adoption floor by the shelter veterinary team Housed in separate, but identical, adoption wards Randomly selected for group (block size of 6) Materials and Methods

11 Enrichment group Inanimate enrichment (food toy): - Dogs were given 1 Kong that had been stuffed with dry kibble and canned dog food and frozen, once daily - All enrichment delivered when the shelter was open

12 Animate enrichment (cage behavior training): Four-times daily a trained research assistant (RA) performed cage behavior training with each dog for approximately 30 seconds per dog. Marked desirable behaviors and gave a liver treat -sitting/lying down -being quiet -making eye contact -front of the cage RAs ignored dogs that were jumping or vocalizing Enrichment group

13 Materials and Methods Behavior observations: - 6 discrete observations on Day 0 and Day 3, 15 min apart - Observed using scan-sampling technique - Observer was blinded to group designation Behaviors recorded (5): -Vocalization -Eye contact -Fearfulness - Position in cage (front, middle, or back) -Body Posture (sit, down, stand, walk, or jump)

14 Statistical Analysis: Adoption rate: survival analysis with right censoring (effect of treatment on time to adoption). Behavioral changes: - Chi squared test for each behavior -Fisher exact test used for categorical variables when the expected value was less than 5. P<0.05 was considered significant. Materials and Methods

15 Desirable behaviors were defined for each of the five behavioral parameters as follows: -Body posture: sit or lie down -Position in cage: front -Eye contact: yes -Fearfulness: no -Vocalization: quiet Undesirable behaviors were defined as: -Body posture: jumping -Position in cage: back -Eye contact: no -Fearfulness: yes -Vocalization: whining, barking, or growling Materials and Methods

16 Results Signalment Enrichment GroupControl Group AgeMedian 1.4 yrs, range yrs Median 2 yrs, range yrs Sex23 Male (48%), 25 Female (52%) 35 Male (59%), 24 Female (41%) WeightMedian 15 kg, range kg Median 12.3 kg, range kg Breed23 purebred, 25 mixed24 purebred, 35 mixed Source20 impound, 10 stray, 18 owner surrender 21 impound, 14 stray, 24 owner surrender Number and signalment of dogs in the enrichment (48) and control (59) groups.

17 Results Length of stay (adoption rate) -No difference between groups days for control vs 4 days for enrichment group

18 Behavioral observation group -58/107 dogs still available on day enrichment/32 control - No difference in age, sex, breed, weight, or source Behavioral Results

19 Percentage of dogs in the enrichment vs. control group who showed an increase in the number of times they displayed a specific desirable behavior on day 3, compared to day 0. Increases in desirable behaviors *

20 Percentage of dogs in the enrichment vs. control group who showed a decrease in the number of times they displayed a specific undesirable behavior on day 3, compared to day 0. Decreases in undesirable behaviors

21 No difference between groups for: - Eye contact - Position in cage - Fearfulness Front of cageEye contactNot fearful Control, Day 0 (out of 192 trials) 183 (95%)177 (92%)143 (74%) Control, Day 3 (out of 190 trials) 190 (100%)177 (93%)164 (85%) Treatment, Day 0 (out of 154 trials) 147 (95%)140 (91%)122 (79%) Treatment, Day 3 (out of 150 trials) 147 (98%)144 (96%)139 (93%) Behavioral Results

22 Increases in undesirable behaviors Percentage of dogs in the enrichment vs. control group who showed an increase in the number of times they displayed a specific undesirable behavior on day 3, compared to day 0. * *

23 Discussion -Multi-modal enrichment program -Increases desirable behaviors -Decreases undesirable behaviors -Prevents increases in undesirable behaviors -No effect on adoption rates- why not?

24 Closing remarks Shelter and veterinary school partnerships offer new approach to providing consistent, well-trained enrichment programs


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