Animals | Free Full-Text | Abilities of Canine Shelter Behavioral Evaluations and Owner Surrender Profiles to Predict Resource Guarding in Adoptive Homes

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Open AccessArticle

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA

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Department of Animal Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA

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Cornell Statistical Consulting Unit, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA

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Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.

Animals 2020, 10(9), 1702; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10091702 (registering DOI)

Received: 18 August 2020 / Revised: 13 September 2020 / Accepted: 17 September 2020 / Published: 20 September 2020

Simple Summary

Some domestic dogs guard resources and display behaviors such as growling, snarling, or biting when approached. Most animal shelters test for food-related aggression and some consider dogs assessed as food aggressive to be unadoptable and candidates for euthanasia. We surveyed adopters of 139 dogs assessed as either resource guarding (n = 20) or non-resource guarding (n = 119) at a New York (NY) shelter to determine whether shelter identification as food aggressive was associated with guarding in adoptive homes. We also examined whether description of resource guarding in owner reports completed when surrendering a dog to the shelter predicted guarding in adoptive homes. Statistically, shelter assessment as resource guarding and owner-supplied information indicating resource guarding were each associated with guarding in adoptive homes. However, more than half of dogs either assessed by shelter staff or described by surrendering owners as resource guarding did not guard in adoptive homes. Our data indicate that information from surrendering owners, while potentially helpful, is not always predictive of a dog’s behavior in an adoptive home, and most importantly, that shelters should not consider all dogs assessed as resource guarding to be unadoptable because many of these dogs do not display guarding behavior post adoption.

Some shelters in the United States consider dogs identified as food aggressive during behavioral evaluations to be unadoptable. We surveyed adopters of dogs from a New York shelter to examine predictive abilities of shelter behavioral evaluations and owner surrender profiles. Twenty of 139 dogs (14.4%) were assessed as resource guarding in the shelter. We found statistically significant associations between shelter assessment as resource guarding and guarding reported in the adoptive home for three situations: taking away toys, bones or other valued objects; taking away food; and retrieving items or food taken by the dog. Similarly, owner descriptions of resource guarding on surrender profiles significantly predicted guarding in adoptive homes. However, positive predictive values for all analyses were low, and more than half of dogs assessed as resource guarding either in the shelter or by surrendering owners did not show guarding post adoption. All three sources of information regarding resource guarding status (surrender profile, shelter behavioral evaluation, and adopter report) were available for 44 dogs; measures of agreement were in the fair range. Thus, reports of resource guarding by surrendering owners and detection of guarding during shelter behavioral evaluations should be interpreted with caution because neither source of information consistently signaled guarding would occur in adoptive homes.



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