Strap line

It started when two canine scientists decide to become pen pals in an era of digital media...

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

A room with a view: what do dogs want?


Putting the woof in tweet! (source)
Hi Julie,

Wow! Thanks for sharing the amazing fun tweet-week we had posting for @realscientists on Twitter. It was great to engage with so many people about so many areas of dog (and other animal!) behaviour and research. And poo. So many questions about dog poo!  Some things can be relied upon in life; it’s good to know people are always curious about dog poo.

If you want to revisit any of those posts or links we exchanged as part of the Real Scientists project, check out the amazing collection of our tweets, compiled via Storify by the fabulous Sarah, genius behind Science for Life . 365

This week, they have an astrophysicist/cosmologist who studies exploding stars and dark energy tweeting – so interesting! He has a beagle named Bagel who has learned to open doors on everything – the house, the fridge, the microwave – he’s keeping himself and everyone following on Twitter entertained!

Over recent weeks I have been talking to working dog industry groups and visiting a variety of kennel facilities as part of my ongoing work with the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy. It’s been great being back around the wagging tails and eager faces of working dogs again. Seeing a wide range of kennel facilities has been fantastic and has given me some good motivation to complete my PhD research in the area of kennelled working dogs.
(source)
Kennel facilities (including shelter, boarding/breeding and working dog kennel contexts) are often built to house as many individuals as they can in the space available and to be easily cleaned (usually via chemical wash down and hosing) in order to maintain a hygienic environment. This has historically resulted in spaces formed in concrete and metal that we (as people) readily perceive as barren and sterile.
(source)
Modern facilities are often built with different materials, and can seem more pleasing to our eye, but I wonder if they’re actually any different in meeting dogs’ behavioural needs? It’s been interesting while visiting the recent facilities to consider the dogs’ experience of living in them. 

One point of difference that I noted was that some facilities offer the dog/s a view. 
Others didn’t. 

(source)
This view might be limited to the dog opposite their kennel run, or fairly open to many other dogs, people, surrounding scenery, traffic, animals, etc. especially in areas where dogs have a choice to be in- or outside. The limited research in this area suggests that in situations where dogs are housed singly and have the opportunity to view other dogs, they take it. 

I find it interesting that human studies have illustrated positive effects of proximity to windows with a view in hospital and workplace environments: improved recovery times and reduced job stress. A review paper by Taylor and Mills (see below) suggests that sensory overstimulation may occur in kennel environments, so what does that mean when we consider what provision should be made for dogs to see outside of their kennel?

Someone thinks it's important, with a fence porthole having been launched for pet dogs a few years ago. So is this marketing to the dogs' needs or the people's perceptions? Dogs certainly seem to actively seek out visual information about the world around them. 



I understand that offering a 'room with a view' is just one part of the whole sensory experience of dogs housed in kennel facilities - but maybe it's a really important one. Especially for dogs housed in kennel facilities for extended periods of training or during their entire work life. 

Perhaps we can discuss some of the other elements of the kennel environment in coming weeks. 
What do you think dogs want? 

I look forward to hearing your thoughts, as ever.
Have a great weekend,

Mia

Further reading:

Wells D.L. & Hepper P.G. (1998). A note on the influence of visual conspecific contact on the behaviour of sheltered dogs, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 60 (1) 83-88. DOI:

Wells D.L. (2004). A review of environmental enrichment for kennelled dogs, Canis familiaris, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 85 (3-4) 307-317. DOI: 

Taylor K. & Mills D. (2007). The effect of the kennel environment on canine welfare: a critical review of experimental studies, Animal Welfare, 16 (4) 435-447. Other: Link

Sop Shin W. (2007). The influence of forest view through a window on job satisfaction and job stress, Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research, 22 (3) 248-253. DOI:

Verderber S. & Reuman D. (1987). Windows, views, and health status in hospital therapeutic environments, Journal of Architectural and Planning Research, 4 (2) 120-133. Other: Link

© 2013 Mia Cobb