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Volunteers' demographics that affect the human-dog interaction during walks in a shelter

By H. Y. Shih, M. B. A. Paterson, N. A. Pachana, C. J. C. Phillips

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Different people relate to dogs in different ways. We investigated differences between volunteers in their behavioural interactions with shelter dogs when they were walked on a leash. Cameras were used to record and quantify the behaviour of volunteers and a leash tension metre was used to measure pulling by both volunteers and shelter dogs. Effects of volunteers' age, body height, educational level, marital status, and experiences of living and working with dogs, and living with children, were examined. Older volunteers talked to the dogs more often during the walk than younger ones. Taller volunteers had reduced physical contact with dogs, and dogs pulled more frequently on the leash while walking with them. Volunteers with a postgraduate degree more frequently praised dogs and rewarded dogs with food and used more body language in the form of hand gestures and physical contact. Married and partnered volunteers more often praised dogs, while separated/divorced or widowed volunteers initiated more frequent physical contacts. Dogs pulled less when walking with volunteers who had experience of living with dogs, and these volunteers interacted with dogs using fewer verbal and body languages. Finally, those living with children more frequently communicated with dogs using body language (e.g., hand gestures and physical contact). We conclude that shelters should carefully consider volunteers' demographics when selecting them to walk dogs with various behavioural characteristics.

Publication Title Frontiers in Veterinary Science
Volume 7
Issue September
DOI 10.3389/fvets.2021.699332
Author Address School of Veterinary Science, University of Queensland, Gatton, QLD,
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Agriculture
  2. Animal behavior
  3. Animal health and hygiene
  4. Animals
  5. Animal welfare
  6. Anthrozoology
  7. Behavioral research
  8. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  9. Business
  10. Canidae
  11. Canine
  12. Carnivores
  13. Children
  14. Dogs
  15. Economics
  16. Humans
  17. Hygiene
  18. Mammals
  19. Men
  20. open access
  21. Pets and companion animals
  22. Primates
  23. Psychiatry and psychology
  24. shelters
  25. Social psychology and social anthropology
  26. socioeconomics
  27. vertebrates
  28. Veterinary sciences
  29. volunteers
  30. Walking
  31. Zoology
  1. open access