The aim of this study was to determine if using a stimulating enrichment park environment during the socialization period of police working dogs improved social skills. Our intent was to learn whether such exposure could maximize working dog performance in future situations as adults. Six animals, with the same male progenitor, were divided in 2 groups. G1 dogs underwent the standard socialization protocol in use in the Grupo de Intervencao Cinotecnico. G2 dogs were exposed to an enriched park, in addition to the standard socialization protocol. As young adults, these animals were tested in 7 distinct situations. Their performance was graded according to their response in overcoming obstacles. Cortisol levels were measured before and after the test in both groups and used as an indicator of stress. The cortisol values measured in this study suggest that an exposure to an enrichment park could potentially lead to less stressed adult dogs, although no significant differences were found between the dogs that were exposed to the park and those that were not. The absence of such differences may be because of the focal nature of the sample. Nevertheless, exposed dogs showed lower levels of cortisol when facing the obstacles posed to them. Although no significant differences were found between the 2 groups of animals, the sample size was extremely small, and there may have been a tendency for those that were exposed to the park to achieve better scores and lower cortisol levels. This study may set the foundations for further research to better access the benefits of using an enriched environment in the training of dogs, in particular those submitted to work as police dogs.
|Publication Title||Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research|
|Author Address||Grupo de Intervencao Cinotecnico, Unidade de Intervencao, Guarda Nacional Republicana, Rua Jacinta Marto no 5, 1169-091 Lisbon, Portugal.firstname.lastname@example.org|
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