You are here: Home / Posters / Shelter Dog Behavior Improvement: Dog Walking as Enrichment / About

Shelter Dog Behavior Improvement: Dog Walking as Enrichment

By Rebecca A Johnson, Charlotte McKenney, Sandra McCune

View Link (HTM)

Licensed under

Category Posters

Background: Several million dogs are euthanized in animal shelters annually after multiple relinquishment reasons (Scarlett, 2002; Salman, 1998; New, 2000 & Kass, 2001). Gains in pet adoptions are happening via shelter enrichment programs. We hypothesized that shelter dogs participating in a daily dog walking program involving elderly citizens, would have better behavior, higher adoption rates, and decreased euthanasia rates than dogs in a control group not in the walking program.

Methods: All participant dogs were pre-qualified for walking through the standard shelter behavioral assessment for adoption. The dogs, at least one year of age were matched with a control dog for size (small, medium and large). The experimental group walked with an older adult five days a week. The control group of dogs did not walk. Pre-test and daily behavior scores were assigned. The length of time each dog spent in the shelter was recorded as were adoption, move to foster care, release to a breed rescue group or euthanasia outcomes.

Results: There were 84 dog pairs.

Outcomes for the experimental (walking) group: adoption n=58, to foster/rescue n=13, euthanized n=7. For the control group: adoption n=26, to foster/rescue n=28, and euthanized n=20. A chi-square test showed that the experimental group had significantly more adoptions (p<0.0001) and fewer euthanasias (p=.0063) than the control group. The control group had significantly more dogs that went to breed rescue networks (p=.00071) than did the experimental group. The control group had a higher total behavior score (exhibited more negative behavior). The Wilcoxon rank sum test was used to compare the experimental and control groups in terms of total behavior scores. Dogs in the experimental group had significantly better behavior than dogs in the control group (p=<0.0001).

Conclusions: The dog walking program was associated with desired dog behavior outcomes, better adoption rates and lower euthanasia rates.


Mason N McLary

HABRI Central

Date March 2010
Publisher University of Missouri
Location of Publication Columbia, Missouri
Format PDF
Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal-assisted activities
  2. Animal health and hygiene
  3. Animal housing
  4. Animal roles
  5. Animal shelters
  6. Animals in culture
  7. Animal welfare
  8. Dogs
  9. Euthanasia
  10. Health
  11. Mammals
  12. Older adults
  13. pet adoption
  14. Physical environment
  15. Service animals
  16. Social Environments