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The influence of toys on the behaviour and welfare of kennelled dogs

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This study explored the influence of five toys (squeaky ball, non-squeaky ball, Nylabone chew, tug rope and Boomer ball) on the behaviour of 32 adult dogs housed in a rescue shelter. The dogs were exposed to each toy separately for six days, with an intervening period of one day between toys. The dogs' location in their kennels (front or back), activity (moving, standing, sitting or resting) and vocalisation (barking, quiet or other) were recorded over 4 h at 10 min intervals on Days 1, 3 and 5 during a control condition (no toy present) and during five experimental (toy) conditions. Whether or not the dogs were observed playing with the toys during the experimental conditions was also recorded. The dogs spent relatively little (<8%) of the overall observation time playing with the toys. The toys elicited varying degrees of interest, with dogs showing a preference for the Nylabone chew over the other toys. The dogs' interest in the toys waned over time, but the speed of habituation to the Nylabone chew was slower than to any of the other toys. The dogs' activity was significantly related to toy condition: dogs spent more time moving and less time standing during the Nylabone chew, squeaky ball and non-squeaky ball conditions than during any of the other conditions. It is suggested that the welfare of kennelled dogs may be slightly enhanced by the addition of suitable toys to their kennels. It is advised, however, that toys are rotated to encourage exploration and reduce habituation. The provision of other forms of environmental enrichment is also recommended.
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Keywords: ANIMAL WELFARE; BEHAVIOUR; DOGS; ENRICHMENT; HOUSING CONDITIONS; RESCUE SHELTERS; TOYS

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2004-08-01

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