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Pampered pets or poor bastards? The welfare of dogs kept as companion animals

By Iben Meyer, Björn Forkman, Merete Fredholm, Carmen Glanville, Bernt Guldbrandtsen, Eliza Ruiz Izaguirre, Clare Palmer, Peter Sandøe

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Abstract

Over the past two centuries, the typical life of dogs has changed dramatically, especially in the Global North. Dogs have moved into human homes, becoming human companions. In many respects, this change seems to have led to improvements in dog welfare. However, the shift into family homes from the free-roaming lifestyle characteristic of dogs as they lived and co-evolved with humans in the past, has created a typically more confined and isolated lifestyle for dogs. In addition, over the same period, selective breeding of dogs, largely driven by human aesthetic ideals and concepts of breed purity, has transformed dog populations. In this discussion paper, based on a narrative literature review, we compare the welfare of companion dogs with that of modern village dogs. We adopt this comparison because dogs have lived in ways resembling village dog life for most of their history. As such, the comparison may serve as a good basis for assessing the effects of the ‘petification’ of dogs. We argue that compared to the typical village dog, the typical modern suburban or urban companion dog experiences good welfare in a number of respects. This is especially the case when it comes to security, satisfaction of nutritional needs (though companion dogs have problems with a high prevalence of obesity), and proper veterinary care. However, in other ways the modern companion dog often suffers from a range of human-created challenges leading to poor welfare. We examine two key challenges for companion dogs: 1) unrealistic social demands that can lead to anxiety, depression, and aggression, and 2) ill devised breeding schemes that result in breeding-related diseases for many companion dogs.

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 251
Pages 105640
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2022.105640
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Tags
  1. Animal welfare
  2. Behavioral disorders
  3. Breeding
  4. Companion
  5. Feral animals
  6. Human-animal relationships