The effect of conspecific removal on the behaviour and physiology of pair-housed shelter dogs

Jessica K. Walker*, Natalie K. Waran, Clive J. C. Phillips

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Dogs (Canis familiaris) are a highly social species and within a shelter environment pair-housing is recommended to prevent the stress associated with social isolation. Separation of individuals which may have formed bonds in this environment is a usual occurrence, as a result of rehoming or euthanasia. To investigate the impact of separation, the behaviour, cognitive bias, faecal S-IgA and cortisol levels were examined in 12 adult pair-housed dogs, maintained in a private animal shelter. Prior to separation, dogs engaged in more affiliative than agonistic behaviour with conspecifics (means of 3 and 0.1% of time respectively). Following separation, increased activity was observed in the form of more running and grooming (P=0.02), circling (P=0.006), figure of 8 movement (P=0.01), posture changes (P=0.003) and stretching (P=0.005), and less play behaviour was observed (P=0.01). Secretory IgA increased (P=0.02) after separation (mean = 443.7 +/- 182.5 ng/mL; before separation mean = 370.1 +/- 108.2 ng/mL). Cortisol concentrations were not affected by separation (P=0.26, mean before separation = 792 ng/g; mean after separation = 874 ng/g). There was no indication from cognitive bias testing that the dogs' emotional valency was affected, as latencies to reach ambiguous cues before and after separation did not differ significantly (P=0.33). These results demonstrate that separation of a dog from a conspecific negatively affected behaviour and stimulated the immune system, changes which could be indicative of stress. (C) 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-56
Number of pages11
JournalApplied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume158
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2014

Keywords

  • Immunoglobulin A
  • Cognitive bias
  • Conspecific separation
  • Cortisol
  • Dog
  • Behaviour
  • PUBLIC ANIMAL SHELTER
  • COGNITIVE BIAS
  • SALIVARY IGA
  • DOMESTIC DOG
  • SPATIAL RESTRICTION
  • IMMUNOGLOBULIN-A
  • CANIS-FAMILIARIS
  • PEER SEPARATION
  • CORTISOL-LEVELS
  • CHRONIC STRESS

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