Placing your dogs in kennels has been a controversial practice, but recent study has found that canines might actually find these dog houses to be exciting rather than stressful.
A team of British researchers from a variety of different universities – University of Birmingham, University of Lincoln, The Royal Veterinary College and Queen’s University Belfast – have conducted a new experiment with 29 dogs that spent short amounts of time in boarding kennels.
Previously, a strong aversion towards dog kennels was enhanced through a few studies which concluded that dogs experience anxiety and acute stress after they are admitted to a boarding kennel. Interestingly, most articles you’ll find avoid linking to or even citing this study; and even though the actual results aren’t 100% foolproof, the conclusion still carries some strong points that need to be addressed.
However, not everybody agreed with the conclusion of the above experiment and an alternative idea was later proposed: the hypothesis was that not all dogs find these kennels to be stressful and, surprisingly, this new research proved it to be true.
The study was published in the journal of Physiology & Behavior on June 22nd, 2014, and the results demonstrate that some dogs actually find going to the kennel to be an exciting venture, at least for short periods of time.
How the study was conducted
A group of British academics observed 29 privately-owned domesticated dogs in their home environments and then again at one of three private boarding kennels, all located in Ireland. The goal was to test the legitimacy of a range of behavioral, physical and physiological indicators, and develop a baseline of dogs’ happiness once the pets were admitted to the kennel.
The team looked at many different variables:
- Skin dryness
- Core body temperate
- Nose temperature
- Food intake
- Amount of spontaneous behaviors
- Levels of hormones and epinephrine in the system
Results: Although kenneled dogs received minimal social contact and exercise, and they were also less exposed to an unpredictable environment, the study showed that kenneled canines had higher levels of arousal, were more active, and their temperatures were lower.
According to the study, urinary cortisol – a hormone secreted following a major response to stress – is the most commonly used physiological indicator of a dog’s welfare. The chemical was found to be on the higher side when participating dogs were in the kennel than when they were in their home environments. But the researchers suggest that stress is not due to negative experiences, as previously thought.
Conclusion: To put it simply, the “stress” which previously was thought of as bad is actually linked to “stress” which is good as it can possibly be just your dog’s excitement for any reason (maybe because you finally left her or him alone).
Lead researcher Dr. Lisa Collins from the University of Lincoln had this to say;
“Many owners find leaving their dog at a boarding kennel to be a stressful experience. However, this study suggests that although dogs appeared to have a higher level of overall arousal or excitement in kennels compared with their state at home, this arousal is not necessarily due to dogs experiencing kennels as negatively stressful. The emotional reasons for the behavioral and physiological responses of the dogs were ambiguous and no definitive evidence was found to suggest that dogs were negatively stressed by kenneling. Findings appear to suggest that the dogs in this study did not perceive admission to boarding kennels as an aversive stressor and perhaps, instead perceived kenneling as an exciting change of scene, at least in the short-term.”
Taken the above into account, researchers still advise that further studies must be conducted before a more accurate conclusion has been drawn out. However, the study demonstrated that previous results is not something necessarily to go by and that the impact of kennels on dogs isn’t so black and white as previously suggested. This should definitely give dog owners something to think about.
In addition to the above two studies, we believe that another research (from the same authors of the original study) done with 30 dogs in April 2014 should also be taken into account, which demonstrates how certain factors could have directly impacted the results of the new research published in June 22nd.
So is kenneling good for dogs or bad?
At this time – and taken the above study into account – there is no definite answer; however, the results from this recent study have demonstrated a stronger proof that not all dogs feel stressed out when left in a kennel. It’s like a vacation to them. Nevertheless, 29 dogs are not enough to draw a 100% foolproof conclusion, therefore, more research needs to be conducted in the future.
Regardless, if you choose to kennel your pet, you should unquestionably research the kennel and ask for references, but as long as it is a quality establishment, you may not have to worry about your dog’s happiness as much as you previously thought.
Just as you enjoy a brief stay at a hotel, your dog may enjoy a brief stay away from you as well. The new environment, new smells, and new people may actually be exciting instead of frightening. But in the end, most of this will depend on your pooch.
Featured photo provided via Flickr
- L.M. Collins et al. Physiological, physical and behavioural changes in dogs (Canis familiaris) when kennelled: Testing the validity of stress parameters. Physiol Behav. 2014 Jun 22;133:260-71. DOI: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2014.05.018
- Nicola J. Rooney et al. Behavioural and glucocorticoid responses of dogs (Canis familiaris) to kennelling: Investigating mitigation of stress by prior habituation. Physiol Behav. 2007 Dec 5;92(5):847-54. DOI: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2007.06.011
- Denham HD et al. Repetitive behaviour in kennelled domestic dog: stereotypical or not? Physiol Behav. 2014 Apr 10;128:288-94. DOI: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2014.01.007