Dog Behavior Studies: Preventing Broken Bonds

by Mary Haight on March 18, 2016

dog behavior studies

Which is most like yours?

Dog behavior studies at the Center for Canine Behavior Studies are focused on putting a serious dent in the reported 1.5 million dogs killed annually in shelters through their Animal Ownership Interaction Study of 2015.

And you can be part of it!

Dr Nicholas H. Dodman, BVMS, DVA, DACVAA, DACVB (TuftsU) and Dr James A. Serpell, PhD (UPenn), world renowned behaviorists, are looking at the bond-breaking behaviors responsible for these deaths as being related to the person’s “emotional or psychological state” (some might hear a mic drop).

A Quick Review

Why do people give up their pets? Most often it comes down to a problem that is beyond the owner’s ability or finances to fix and is the reason the bond between them never solidified or has broken:

  • Aggression
  • Separation anxiety
  • Non-stop barking
  • Soiling habits

While preventive measures like pre-adoption training or free group training after adoption are sometimes offered by shelters with good results, others can’t afford or otherwise make this kind of impact.

dog behavior studies

Dog Behavior Studies, New Questions

Findings from dog behavior studies have resulted in many shelters instituting handling, assessing, minimal training, working to reduce stress levels through various enrichment programs that keep anxious barking and other behaviors to a minimum. But this is only part of the equation.

Even where these measures and more are taken, the question that goes unanswered is how did these problems arise once they are re-homed, what is happening in the environment when the behavior presents, who is involved and how might that be a factor?

Adopters are often unable to relate the problem beyond a simple statement. They may not be familiar with dog body language, or realize that internal and external factors can contribute to the behavior. When they no longer care about the dog, the intake employee/volunteer at the desk doesn’t get much information. Dogs can be deemed unadoptable and destroyed as a result.

dog behavior studies

What did I do?

How Do You Affect Your Dog’s Behavior?

The question of the state of mind of individuals in the family and how they interact with the dog is important to answer and has been the subject of several studies. After 9/11, it was discovered that handler’s PTSD and depression scores predicted separation anxiety, attention-seeking, and aggression in their dogs up to a year later. Owner personality also affects working assistance dogs abilities, as does using rewards vs. corrections in handling, though this last is from unpublished data.

As the largest owner-dog personality behavior study ever to be conducted, Dodman & Serpell will establish how personality and psychological status affects dog behavior which will help owners understand how they influence dogs. How to interact with dogs for positive results will be shared.

You can be instrumental in saving dogs lives by being part of this research! Listen to Dr. Dodman’s video, read about the study in depth, join. You can also help by spreading the word on your social media channels, and/or by becoming a friend of the Center.

Dog behavior studies have done so much to improve the lives of dogs. If you have a favorite bit of understanding gleaned from research findings and feel like sharing, I’d love to hear about it!

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