Cuglovici, D. A. 2023. What can associations between emotional states and management-based measures teach us about shelter dogs’ welfare? Journal of Veterinary Behavior 69–70, 32–38.

It is crucial to understand the effect of living in a shelter on dog’s well-being. We hypothesized that mental states may indicate the presence of environmental stressors. The objective of this study was to determine the relationship between specific emotional states of dogs and the quality of their physical environment. This study included 19 shelters, with dogs housed for at least two months. Management data were collected with the Shelter Quality protocol, and emotional indicators were evaluated with the Qualitative Behavior Assessment (QBA) methodology. By grouping the 12 QBA descriptors and the SQP indicator “barking level,” five profiles were obtained that describe the valence of the dogs’ emotional states: positive, interactive, hesitant, aggressive, and negative. These profiles were used in MCA, generating two principal components that each had two associative patterns; inverse correspondences with the management variables “population size,” “mortality rate,” “food management,” “number of dogs per pen,” and “walking routine” were explored. Positive emotional states were observed in shelters providing weekly or daily walks, housing dogs in individual pens, and feeding them twice a day. Feeding twice a day and lower numbers of housed animals were associated with lower mortality rates. Negative emotional states were more strongly associated with large populations, housing in individual pens, absence of walks, and ad libitum/once-a-day feeding, with high mortality rates observed. We conclude that depressive, hesitant, and aggressive emotional states in dogs kept in shelters for long periods may reflect a lack of environmental (especially social) enrichment and incorrect feeding management.

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