The influence of visual stimulation on the behaviour of dogs housed in a rescue shelter
This study explored the influence of five types of visual stimulation on the behaviour of 50 dogs housed in a rescue shelter. These conditions were: one control condition (no visual stimulation) and four experimental conditions (blank television screen, and moving televised images of conspecifics, interspecifics [ie unfamiliar animal species] and humans). The dogs were exposed to each condition for 4 h per day for five days, with an intervening period of two days between conditions. The dogs' behaviour was recorded on days 1, 3 and 5 during each condition. Dogs spent relatively little of the total observation time looking at the television monitors (10.8%). They spent significantly more of their time looking at the moving images of conspecifics, interspecifics and humans than at the blank screen, although their interest in all experimental conditions declined over time. Dogs spent more time at the front of their enclosures during all of the experimental conditions than during the control condition. Images of conspecifics were more likely to attract the dogs to the front of their kennels than the blank screen. The conspecific and human conditions of visual stimulation attracted slightly more attention from the dogs than the interspecific condition, although not significantly. All of the experimental conditions encouraged significantly less vocalisation and movement than the control condition. Overall, the findings suggest that the behaviour of kennelled dogs is influenced by visual stimulation in the form of television programmes. Such animals, however, may not benefit from this type of enrichment to the same degree as species with more well-developed visual systems. The addition of other types of enrichment strategy for dogs housed in rescue shelters is advocated.
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