Virginia Tech
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posted on 2021-02-25, 10:03 authored by Erica N Feuerbacher, Lisa Gunter, Clive D. L. Wynne
One of the greatest stressors for dogs living in animal shelters is social isolation. Many studies have demonstrated that human interaction reduces cortisol in shelter dogs with the possibility that longer periods of interaction may yield greater effects. These types of interventions are contingent upon removing the dog from the kennel and any such reductions in cortisol are often lost when the dog returns to the kennel. More recently, animal shelters are utilizing short-term fostering programs to provide relief from the perceived stresses of kennel life; however the effects of these programs are not well understood. This study assessed the impacts of one- and two-night fostering programs on the urinary cortisol levels and health measures of dogs awaiting adoption. Five animal shelters, open and limited-admission facilities, from across the United States participated in the study. During the study, dogs’ urine was collected in the morning before, during, and after fostering stays for cortisol: creatinine analysis. Non-invasive health monitors were worn by the dogs, which collected heart rates and activity levels, in the shelter and in foster homes. In total, 207 dogs participated in the study, and 1076 cortisol values were used in our analysis. This data set includes the cortisol:creatinine levels of dogs from five shelters before, during, and after either one- or two-day sleepovers. We also include the dog's length of stay, weight, and sex. For four of the shelters, most dogs were outfitted with activity monitors. For those dogs, we also include average, resting pulse, proportion of time spent resting, and longest bout of uninterrupted rest. In a separate file, we also include extra data about the dogs that resided at Best Friends Animal Society. These variables were included in our analysis: number of prior sleepovers the dog had been on, what area in Best Friends the dog was housed, days since the dog last went on a sleepover, and where the dog went on a sleepover (on the Best Friends campus, or off-campus in a hotel or AirBnb).



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