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pigs faceDogs and their people: Identifying drivers of dog welfare in the home environment

 

Year: 2021

Dr Carmen Glanville
Animal Welfare Science Centre, University of Melbourne, Australia

Grant: £3,500


 

Companion dogs face a range of challenges in today's society with a significant number experiencing some degree of welfare compromise. The primary cause of most dog welfare problems is owner behaviour. Consequently, owner behaviour change is likely the most promising avenue for improving the lives of companion dogs. To develop effective behaviour change programs, it is crucial to identify key dog-owner factors which affect dog welfare and can be improved through intervention. This UFAW funded study examined one such factor: dog-owner ‘problem awareness’, i.e., the extent to which owners understand or accurately interpret their dog’s welfare state. This was assessed by examining relationships between owner perceptions of dog welfare and animal-based indicators of dog welfare over a two week period. Additionally, the amount of time owners spent with their dogs during that time was investigated as a potential factor that could influence problem awareness. A combination of the PetPace smart collar and Actigraph GT9X Link monitors was used to track dog activity, physiology (pulse, respiration, heart rate), and proximity to their owners. Additional welfare measures included the concentration of cortisol (a stress hormone) in the dogs’ hair and problem behaviours. A total of 50 dogs and 85 owners participated. Overall, very few statistically significant relationships between owner perceptions and the animal-based welfare indicators were found. Consequently, this work suggests that owners’ day-to-day understanding of their dog’s welfare state may be limited and problem awareness is a promising target for behaviour change interventions to improve dog welfare.