Majecka, K., Pąsiek, M., Pietraszewski, D. 2020. Behavioural outcomes of housing for domestic dog puppies (Canis lupus familiaris). Applied Animal Behaviour Science 222, 104899.
Domestic dogs experience a sensitive period for learning during early life and conditions during this time can have important consequences in the adult. We investigated the effects of kennel environment during early life, comparing the temperaments of puppies reared in indoor kennels, located in the breeder’s house, with those reared in outdoor kennels, located outside the breeder’s house and with limited human contact. The study was conducted on 264 puppies from 44 litters belonging to 21 breeds. Of these, 160 puppies were reared in indoor kennels (70 female and 90 male puppies, 27 litters) and 104 in outdoor kennels (52 female and 52 male, 17 litters). We conducted PAT (Puppy Aptitude Testing) tests to measure puppy temperament at an age of seven or eight weeks. Using a gamma GLMM fitted using Bayesian inference, we showed a statistically important effect of kennelling on posterior mean PAT scores. Puppies kennelled outdoors scored higher on PAT testing, irrespective of sex or age, and after accommodating for dependency in the data due to litter identity. Puppies raised outdoors showed an elevated tendency for submissive behaviour, a greater risk of aggression through fear, and a lowered capacity for coping with novel conditions. These findings have direct implications for dog breeders and illustrates that enrichment of the environment of dam and puppies can mitigate the risk of behavioural problems in adult dogs.