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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Management and rehabilitation of inter-dog aggression in animal shelters Orihel, Jane S.

Abstract

Identification and treatment of inter-dog aggression is important so that animal shelters can re-home animals safely and reduce long-term confinement and euthanasia rates. This thesis describes 1) a survey study which identified current management of aggressive dogs in shelters and explored the feasibility of implementing rehabilitation for inter-dog aggression, and 2) an experimental study of the effectiveness of a rehabilitation program for reducing inter-dog aggression in shelter dogs. Of the 43 shelters that responded to the questionnaire, most admitted aggressive dogs, reported inter-dog aggression as a common problem, and estimated that less than 10% of adopted dogs are returned for inter-dog aggression. Management of aggressive dogs included humane destruction and rehabilitation. Rehabilitation methods were diverse, and respondents expressed varied levels of confidence over the success of their programs. Factors preventing rehabilitation included lack of time and financial constraints, but shelters indicated an interest in rehabilitation if a practical, scientifically validated program were available. In the experimental study, sixteen shelter dogs that showed inter-dog aggression in a behaviour test received a 10-day treatment of daily rehabilitation (rehabilitation group, n = 9) or daily release into an outdoor enclosure (control group, n = 7). Most rehabilitation dogs showed a decline in aggression scores when tested on the day after the last treatment, compared with their pre-treatment scores. Control dogs showed either an increase or no change in aggression scores. The change in aggression scores differed significantly between the groups (U= 8.5, p < 0.01), but the difference was no longer significant when a reduced sample of dogs was tested one week after rehabilitation ended (Day 18). This study provides evidence of short-term reduction of aggression through a rehabilitation program, but further work is needed on effective and practical ways of maintaining the behavioural change.

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