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Social Contact in Shelter Dogs: Literature Review and Recommendations

By Christina Walthers, Lauren Faulkner, Allison Martin

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Given the large number of dogs housed in animal shelters each year, it is important to consider how the shelter environment impacts a dog’s welfare. Providing shelter-housed dogs social contact with conspecifics can increase the welfare of the dogs and benefit the shelter by increasing adoption rates. Mostly Mutts Pet Rescue and Adoption Center in Kennesaw, Georgia was investigating ways to increase social contact for the dogs in their facility. To assist with this goal, we conducted a literature review that examined the impact of social housing, playgroups, and visual social contact on dog behavior. Social housing and playgroups can provide welfare benefits, including reducing abnormal behavior and decreasing aggression, and can also increase adoption rates. There has been limited research on the effect of visual social contact on behavior, but dogs provided with visual access have been found to spend more time in the front of their crate (which has been shown to increase adoption rates). We also propose that visual access may supply the dogs with a sense of predictability and control over their environment, an important aspect of welfare. This literature review discusses the benefits, cautions of, and requirements for these three modes of increasing welfare via social contact. We conclude with recommendations for Mostly Mutts Pet Rescue and Adoption Center based on observations we conducted on site and the supporting literature. However, the benefits of these recommendations are not restricted to Mostly Mutts, as they may be of benefit to other shelters as well.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2019
Pages 34
Department Psychology
URL https://digitalcommons.kennesaw.edu/usw_psych/1/
Language English
University Kennesaw State University
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. Dogs
  3. Mammals
  4. open access
  5. Pets and companion animals
  6. Shelter pets
  1. open access