Dogs housed with a buddy are happier and adopted faster than dogs housed alone

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dogs housed together in animal shelters
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Shelter dogs awaiting adoption fare better with a canine companion than when they’re housed alone, according to new research from the US.

The study by a team at Virginia Tech—and published in PLOS ONE—revealed that companiable dogs housed together showed fewer signs of stress and were adopted more quickly than dogs that were housed by themselves.

“Despite being a social species, dogs are often housed alone in shelters to reduce disease transmission and possible injury from inter-dog conflict,” study leader Dr Erica Feuerbacher said.  

“But this social isolation can work against dogs’ behavioural health and adoptability. We wanted to examine whether pair housing could be a useful intervention for improving shelter dogs’ welfare.”

The study followed 61 dogs over seven days at the Humane Society of Western Montana. Researchers placed half the dogs in co-housing with partners who were matched through a brief introduction and compatibility test. The other half were kennelled alone.

Researchers observed the dogs throughout the week, recording common stress behaviours, including lip-licking, whining, and pulling back their ears, and took daily samples of the dogs’ urinary cortisol and creatinine to measure biological indicators of stress.

“Dogs housed in shelters can face chronic levels of stress due to noise, confined kennel spaces, and limited access to social interaction,” Dr Feuerbacher said. 

“This can reduce their overall wellbeing, which might impact their adoptability.”

Dogs housed together not only showed fewer stress behaviours, but they also were adopted, on average, four days sooner than single-housed dogs.

It is hoped the study’s results will encourage animal shelters to match dogs with suitable ‘roommates’ as a way to alleviate dogs’ stress and show them at their best to potential adopters.

“Many potential adopters might already have a dog or would like to engage in social activities with their dog,” Dr Feuerbacher said. 

“Clearly exhibiting that a dog can successfully interact with other dogs might highlight those dogs as good matches—leading to more successful adoptions.”

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