Pritchett, M., Barnard, S., Croney, C. 2021. Socialization in commercial breeding kennels: The use of novel stimuli to measure social and non-social fear in dogs. Animals 11(3), 890.
Understanding the behavioral welfare of dogs in commercial breeding kennels (CBKs) is important for improving breeders’ management practices as well as dog welfare. In the current study, breeding dogs from CBKs were exposed to novel stimuli to evaluate their behavioral responses, with emphasis on indicators of fear. Subjects were presented with a standard stranger-approach test, a traffic cone, and a realistic dog statue. Sixty dogs were exposed to the three stimuli and behavioral responses were scored using an ethogram developed for this study. Dogs spent significantly more time investigating the environment, staying further away from the stimulus, and they took longer to approach and investigate when presented with the cone than with the dog statue or stranger (p < 0.01). These findings suggest that the cone elicited more fear-related behaviors than the dog statue and stranger. Given these results, in addition to socializing their dogs to unfamiliar people and other dogs within their kennels, commercial breeders should be encouraged to increase the exposure of their dogs to more diverse novel stimuli to reduce non-social fear and support the welfare of dogs while they reside in the kennel and when they transition to new homes.