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Influence of the Competition Context on Arousal in Agility Dogs

By Alison M. Carpenter, Jonathan H. Guy, Matthew C. Leach

Category Journal Articles
Abstract

To determine whether participation in dog agility has an impact on canine arousal and welfare, this study aimed firstly to identify the effect of the competition context on arousal changes experienced by dogs, as distinct from purely physical participation in agility, and secondly to assess the handlers’ ability to recognize this. Behaviors indicative of changes in arousal were recorded for twenty dogs immediately before completion of both a competition and a training run, whilst the accuracy of handlers’ observations of their dogs’ behavior was examined via questionnaire. Whilst a moderate number of behaviors presented with greater frequency or duration in competition, the total number of different arousal behaviors performed was higher for dogs in competition (p < 0.01). Context had a relatively modest effect on the level of arousal of agility dogs, with a greater number of behaviors indicating increased arousal in competition. Such increased arousal may adversely influence the success of dog-handler partnerships in competition. In both contexts, handlers observed fewer behaviors than their dogs performed and this finding may have implications for dog welfare.

Publication Title Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science
Volume 23
Issue 4
Pages 410-423
ISBN/ISSN 1088-8705
DOI 10.1080/10888705.2019.1711093
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Tags
  1. agility
  2. Arousal
  3. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  4. Dogs
  5. welfare