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

By J. K. Walker, N. K. Waran, C. J. C. Phillips

Category Journal Articles

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=443.7182.5 ng/mL; before separation mean=370.1108.2 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.

Date 2014
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 158
Pages 46-56
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
Publisher Elsevier
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2014.06.010
Author Address Centre for Animal Welfare and Ethics, School of Veterinary Sciences, University of Queensland, Gatton 4343, Queensland,
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Agonistic behavior
  2. Animal behavior
  3. Animal immunology
  4. Animal physiology
  5. Animal roles
  6. Animals
  7. Canidae
  8. Canine
  9. Carnivores
  10. Dogs
  11. Effect
  12. Emotions
  13. Euthanasia
  14. Feces
  15. Globulins
  16. Grooming
  17. Hydrocortisone
  18. Immunity
  19. Immunoglobulins
  20. Mammals
  21. Pets and companion animals
  22. physiology
  23. Posture
  24. secretions
  25. vertebrates