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Repeated separations between a future guide dog and its foster family modify stress-related indicators and affect dog's focus

By F. Menuge, M. Marcet-Rius, C. Chabaud, E. Teruel, C. Berthelot, G. Kalonji, C. Bienboire-Frosini, T. Mendonca, E. Lascar, P. Pageat

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Abstract

In some guide dog organisations, future guide dogs for blind individuals are required to undergo separation from their foster family from Monday to Friday as part of their training. These separations and the constantly changing environment may induce stress, thus impacting the welfare of these dogs and their performance. The aim of this study was therefore to evaluate this stress through physiological and behavioural measures. The results showed a significant increase in salivary cortisol levels at the time of separation (GLMM; DF = 2; F = 10.31; p < 0.0001). Additionally, the dogs were more passive on Friday than on other days (GLMM; DF = 2; F = 7.53; p = 0.0090), and “head movements” were expressed less frequently on Fridays (GLMM; DF = 2; F = 5.12; p = 0.0141). Performance increased across weeks, despite a lower “focused” score on Mondays (GLMM; DF = 2; F = 4.39; p = 0.0243). These results showed both adaptation to life in the kennel and that the dogs need to readapt to the situation each week. The increase in serotonin levels during the 3 weeks of testing (GLMM; DF = 2; F = 4.87; p = 0.0224) may also indicate that the dogs can adapt to the kennel environment. Therefore, this study questions the relevance of noncontinuous training programmes. In future research, it would be interesting to compare these results with those of a group of dogs staying at school on weekends.

Date 2021
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 244
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
Publisher Elsevier
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2021.105486
Author Address Animal Behaviour and Welfare Department, Research Institute in Semiochemistry and Applied Ethology (IRSEA), Quartier Salignan, 84400 Apt, France.f.menuge@group-irsea.com
Additional Language English
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Tags
  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal physiology
  3. Animals
  4. Animal welfare
  5. Anthrozoology
  6. Behavioral research
  7. Biochemistry
  8. Canidae
  9. Canine
  10. Carnivores
  11. Diseases and injuries of animals
  12. Dogs
  13. Guide dogs
  14. Hydrocortisone
  15. Mammals
  16. Molecular biology
  17. Pets and companion animals
  18. physiology
  19. responses
  20. saliva
  21. serotonin
  22. Stress
  23. training of animals
  24. vertebrates
  25. Veterinary sciences
  26. welfare
  27. Zoology