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The Effect of Feeding Enrichment upon Reported Working Ability and Behavior of Kenneled Working Dogs

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It is widely recommended that kenneled dogs are provided with environmental enrichment such as toys or feeding devices. However, the adoption of enrichment for military working dogs is impeded by a widespread belief that it reduces their motivation to work. Handlers of 22 working German Shepherd dogs were asked to rate their dogs on 11 attributes pertaining to working ability, related behavioral traits, and health. Eight of the dogs were then provided with daily feeding enrichment for 4 months, while the remainder were given equivalent human attention. The same 11 traits were scored again following the enrichment period: 10 changed little over the period while handlers’ reports of their dogs’Ability to learn from being rewarded increased significantly. Changes for all attributes were virtually identical in enriched and control dogs. We conclude that if correctly managed, feeding enrichment can be introduced to kenneled working dogs without any reported detrimental effects upon working ability, health, or behavior.
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Keywords: aggression; animal welfare; behavior; environmental enrichment; feeding enrichment; forensic science; health; military working dogs; working ability

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Clinical Veterinary Science, Anthrozoology Institute, University of Bristol, Langford, Bristol BS40 5DU, U.K.

Publication date: 2008-11-01

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