Döring, D., Nick, O., Bauer, A. et al. 2017. How do rehomed laboratory Beagles behave in everyday situations? Results from an observational test and a survey of new owners. PLoS ONE 12(7), e0181303.
When laboratory dogs are rehomed into private households, they experience an extreme change in their life situation. They leave their familiar, limited environment in the research facility and encounter a multitude of animate and inanimate stimuli in their new home. Although literature reports have described the experiences with rehoming as being mostly positive, scientific observations of the dogs in everyday situations have not been done. Hence, we conducted an observational test with 74 laboratory beagles 6 weeks after adoption in their new homes. This test included standardized tasks and elements; the dogs were observed during specific interactions with their new owners and during a walk. Furthermore, the owners of these 74 and of 71 additional dogs participated in standardized phone interviews 1 and 12 weeks after adoption, during which they answered questions about the dogs’ behavior in everyday situations. In the observational test, the dogs behaved mostly friendly towards humans and dogs, were tolerant during manipulations by the owner and were relaxed during the walk, even in traffic. Eighty percent (of n = 71) of the dogs walked well behaved on the leash without pulling. According to the interviews, the majority of the dogs showed desired, friendly and relaxed behavior, and the survey results reflected the bonding between dog and owner. The analysis of a possible influence of various factors (age, sex, origin, etc.) using mixed regression models confirmed the results from two previous behavior tests and interviews. Specifically, dogs that had been bred in the research facility scored significantly better than dogs that the research facility had purchased from commercial laboratory dog breeders (p = 0.0113). The results of this study demonstrate a successful adaptation of the rehomed beagles to their new life situation.