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fBehaviour and stress management in the shelter environment

image of Behaviour and stress management in the shelter environment

Abstract

This chapter starts with a discussion of the main principles underlying the quality of life and behaviour of animals in the shelter environment. The second part of the chapter focuses on specific behavioural signs, issues and problems related to housing animals within shelters. Current thinking on dog behaviour; Current thinking on cat behaviour; Socialization of puppies; Socialization of kittens; Dealing with the aggressive dog; Dealing with the hard-to-handle cat; Environmental enrichment for dogs in shelters; Environmental enrichment for cats in shelters.

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Figures

19.1 Some behaviours can be the result of different emotional states. For example, paw lifting by dogs can occur for appeasement, because of anxiety or to achieve attention. It is important for staff to pick up early signs of anxiety, particularly during handling, and change their approach accordingly. (Courtesy of Daniel Thompson)
19.4 Flattened ears indicate that this cat is fearful and/or stressed. (© Cats Protection)
19.5 A relaxed cat sleeping on its back. (© Cats Protection)
19.6 Lip licking where the tongue touches the nose, where it is not related to eating, may be a sign of stress or anxiety. (© Cats Protection)
19.7 This cat is tense as indicated by the dilated pupils and the ears slightly turned out to the side. Context is important, e.g. the pupils were dilated due to the stress of the novel shelter environment rather than play. (© Cats Protection)
19.8 Constricted pupils combined with a raised tail that is curled at the tip usually indicate that the cat is relaxed and in greeting mode. (© Cats Protection)
19.9 Even in the limited area of a shelter pen, providing a cat with appropriate resources and enrichment can make a difference to its welfare. This photograph shows half of a two-compartment pen; an outside run is accessible through the cat flap. (© Cats Protection)
19.10 Using a mesh barrier when integrating cats can be useful as one later stage of the process. (© Cats Protection)
19.11 Turning away with eyes closed and a tense closed mouth are indicators of anxiety in this dog. (Courtesy of Daniel Thompson)
19.12 Dogs may show signs of anxiety in specific contexts or situations: here a dog is worried by close interaction with another dog. (Courtesy of Daniel Thompson)
19.13 Dogs will learn behaviours which help them to cope with situations that cause them anxiety. In this case the dog is seeking attention from a handler. (Courtesy of Bethany Loftus)
Labrador Retrievers may have a strong preference for holding things in their mouths, and this can be seen even early in life. Labrador Retrievers may have a strong preference for holding things in their mouths, and this can be seen even early in life.
The ‘ladder of aggression’. (© K Shepherd and reproduced from the BSAVA Manual of Canine and Feline Behavioural Medicine, 2nd edn.) The ‘ladder of aggression’. (© K Shepherd and reproduced from the )
Some signs of stress/threat in the domestic dog. (a) Lip-licking/smacking is a sign of mild stress in a young dog interacting with a familiar, but not well known, person. The whites of the eyes can also be seen. (b) Rolling on the back to expose the chest as a sign of stress/appeasing signal in a Collie cross. Note also the flattened ear posture and raised front paw. (c) Extension of the signal to widen the back legs and expose the belly. Note also that the gaze is now averted away from the perceived threat. (d) The same dog in a relaxed rolling posture, used in a different context to instigate affection and play from the owner. (b–d, © Helen Taylor) Some signs of stress/threat in the domestic dog. (a) Lip-licking/smacking is a sign of mild stress in a young dog interacting with a familiar, but not well known, person. The whites of the eyes can also be seen. (b) Rolling on the back to expose the chest as a sign of stress/appeasing signal in a Collie cross. Note also the flattened ear posture and raised front paw. (c) Extension of the signal to widen the back legs and expose the belly. Note also that the gaze is now averted away from the perceived threat. (d) The same dog in a relaxed rolling posture, used in a different context to instigate affection and play from the owner. (b–d, © Helen Taylor)
Tackling a problem behaviour of barking at other dogs during an agility training session by teaching the dog to quietly focus attention on the owner. (a) At first glance, the dog displaying the problem behaviour appears to be quite confident and excited. However, note the lowered body posture, backing away from the fearful stimuli and flattened ears. The problem worsens when the other dogs are running fast over the course, i.e. behaving in a more frightening manner; this provides further clues as to the cause of the problem barking being fear-based. (b) Training the dog to instead focus attention on the owner, and rewarding the calm behaviour (here, sitting is appropriate) with intermittent food treats. The dog is looking less fearful, sitting up with its ears pricked in anticipation. However, it is not as relaxed as ideal, as the left paw is slightly raised off the ground and one eye and the body are angled to quickly respond in the direction of the threat if required. Tackling a problem behaviour of barking at other dogs during an agility training session by teaching the dog to quietly focus attention on the owner. (a) At first glance, the dog displaying the problem behaviour appears to be quite confident and excited. However, note the lowered body posture, backing away from the fearful stimuli and flattened ears. The problem worsens when the other dogs are running fast over the course, i.e. behaving in a more frightening manner; this provides further clues as to the cause of the problem barking being fear-based. (b) Training the dog to instead focus attention on the owner, and rewarding the calm behaviour (here, sitting is appropriate) with intermittent food treats. The dog is looking less fearful, sitting up with its ears pricked in anticipation. However, it is not as relaxed as ideal, as the left paw is slightly raised off the ground and one eye and the body are angled to quickly respond in the direction of the threat if required.
Demonstration of the desensitization and counter-conditioning process with a crossbreed dog. (a) The dog shows an anxious reaction even to a stuffed toy dog – note the tail under the body, back legs placed far back and ears back. (b) The stuffed dog (less frightening than a real moving dog) is used at a distance (less threatening than close up) to gently desensitize the dog to the presence of strange dogs. Note that the dog looks more relaxed, and is rewarded by the owner for focusing attention on her. Over time, the distance to the stuffed dog will be reduced, and real dogs will then be gradually introduced, again initially at a distance. (© Natalie Light) Demonstration of the desensitization and counter-conditioning process with a crossbreed dog. (a) The dog shows an anxious reaction even to a stuffed toy dog – note the tail under the body, back legs placed far back and ears back. (b) The stuffed dog (less frightening than a real moving dog) is used at a distance (less threatening than close up) to gently desensitize the dog to the presence of strange dogs. Note that the dog looks more relaxed, and is rewarded by the owner for focusing attention on her. Over time, the distance to the stuffed dog will be reduced, and real dogs will then be gradually introduced, again initially at a distance. (© Natalie Light)
Three-dimensional space helps cats retain a sense of control, which is an important aspect of optimizing their emotional stability. Three-dimensional space helps cats retain a sense of control, which is an important aspect of optimizing their emotional stability.
When social contact takes place between cats, it is characterized by low-intensity and high-frequency interactions. When social contact takes place between cats, it is characterized by low-intensity and high-frequency interactions.
Cats need to have somewhere to hide to avoid conflict and other stressful situations. Cats need to have somewhere to hide to avoid conflict and other stressful situations.
Cats are generally solitary creatures. Cats are generally solitary creatures.
Social relationships between cats do exist, but they are largely limited to relatives. Social relationships between cats do exist, but they are largely limited to relatives.
Cats are solitary feeders, and eating should occur when they are in a relaxed emotional state. Being fed together with other cats is challenging. The body posture and ear positions seen here indicate negative emotional arousal in both cats. Cats are solitary feeders, and eating should occur when they are in a relaxed emotional state. Being fed together with other cats is challenging. The body posture and ear positions seen here indicate negative emotional arousal in both cats.
Hunting and feeding are solitary activities for cats. Hunting and feeding are solitary activities for cats.
These puppies are not looking comfortable – note their tense posture, bodyweight distributed backwards and their tense and focused facial expressions. It is important to notice these signs and make sure that puppies are allowed to become comfortable in the environment in their own time (do not force them closer to objects) or, alternatively, to alter their environment in a way that helps them feel relaxed and able to explore. These puppies are not looking comfortable – note their tense posture, bodyweight distributed backwards and their tense and focused facial expressions. It is important to notice these signs and make sure that puppies are allowed to become comfortable in the environment in their own time (do not force them closer to objects) or, alternatively, to alter their environment in a way that helps them feel relaxed and able to explore.
Providing puppies with objects to climb into, on to and through is important to help them develop confidence in their environment and with novelty. Providing puppies with objects to climb into, on to and through is important to help them develop confidence in their environment and with novelty.
Taking puppies for short rides in a car is helpful in acclimatizing them. Taking puppies for short rides in a car is helpful in acclimatizing them.
It is easy to teach puppies to sit for things that they want – in this case a toy – as long as everyone who interacts with them consistently expects this behaviour. It is easy to teach puppies to sit for things that they want – in this case a toy – as long as everyone who interacts with them consistently expects this behaviour.
This puppy is being allowed to choose to interact with a relaxed adult dog. Note the space in which the interaction is taking place; the puppy can choose its proximity to the adult dog and can move away any time it wishes to. This puppy is being allowed to choose to interact with a relaxed adult dog. Note the space in which the interaction is taking place; the puppy can choose its proximity to the adult dog and can move away any time it wishes to.
Ensuring that puppies are comfortable with having all parts of their body handled is very important. Feet, ears, mouths and tails are frequently more sensitive areas for puppies, so pay particular attention to ensuring they will accept handling of these areas in a relaxed manner. Ensuring that puppies are comfortable with having all parts of their body handled is very important. Feet, ears, mouths and tails are frequently more sensitive areas for puppies, so pay particular attention to ensuring they will accept handling of these areas in a relaxed manner.
Get kittens used to health checks and having vulnerable areas such as their (a) ears, (b) mouths and (c) feet touched. (© Cats Protection) Get kittens used to health checks and having vulnerable areas such as their (a) ears, (b) mouths and (c) feet touched. (© Cats Protection)
Regular, positive social interaction can improve the sociability of kittens towards men. (© Cats Protection) Regular, positive social interaction can improve the sociability of kittens towards men. (© Cats Protection)
Provide kittens with different textures and tunnels to explore. (© Cats Protection) Provide kittens with different textures and tunnels to explore. (© Cats Protection)
Give kittens different kinds of toys for self-directed play, such as (a) toy mice and (b) balls – these ones contain a bell to add interest. (© Cats Protection) Give kittens different kinds of toys for self-directed play, such as (a) toy mice and (b) balls – these ones contain a bell to add interest. (© Cats Protection)
Providing kittens with the scent of a healthy, friendly, vaccinated dog can help get them used to dogs even if they have never met one. (© Cats Protection) Providing kittens with the scent of a healthy, friendly, vaccinated dog can help get them used to dogs even if they have never met one. (© Cats Protection)
(a–b) Give kittens different types of litter to help them be more adaptable later in life. (© Cats Protection) (a–b) Give kittens different types of litter to help them be more adaptable later in life. (© Cats Protection)
Kitten socialization programme chart. (© Cats Protection) Kitten socialization programme chart. (© Cats Protection)
Lowered body posture, retracted ears and fixed staring ‘whale’ eyes are indicative of an extreme negative emotional state. The raised front paw is an additional sign of uncertainty. Lowered body posture, retracted ears and fixed staring ‘whale’ eyes are indicative of an extreme negative emotional state. The raised front paw is an additional sign of uncertainty.
When negative emotions lead to aggressive behavioural responses it can be common for an offensive motivation to be attributed to the behaviour. When negative emotions lead to aggressive behavioural responses it can be common for an offensive motivation to be attributed to the behaviour.
An overt display of teeth can lead to such concentration on watching the dog’s mouth that people overlook other body language signalling and information from the body posture and tail position may be missed altogether. It is very important to observe the whole animal in order to determine the emotional motivation for the behaviour. An overt display of teeth can lead to such concentration on watching the dog’s mouth that people overlook other body language signalling and information from the body posture and tail position may be missed altogether. It is very important to observe the whole animal in order to determine the emotional motivation for the behaviour.
This image shows some of the characteristic features of a dog in a negative emotional state leading to defensive behaviour or repulsion. Note the lowered body posture with front end slightly lowered compared to the rear end leading to a perception of increased size. Also note the tucked tail, raised hackles, ears drawn back on the head, tense muzzle, corners of mouth drawn back and teeth exposed. Drawn by S.J. Elmhurst BA Hons (www.livingart.org.uk) and reproduced with her permission. This image shows some of the characteristic features of a dog in a negative emotional state leading to defensive behaviour or repulsion. Note the lowered body posture with front end slightly lowered compared to the rear end leading to a perception of increased size. Also note the tucked tail, raised hackles, ears drawn back on the head, tense muzzle, corners of mouth drawn back and teeth exposed. Drawn by S.J. Elmhurst BA Hons (www.livingart.org.uk) and reproduced with her permission.
(a) When a dog is physically moving away at speed or simply retreating, it is often easier for people to identify the fact that the animal is in a negative emotional state. Active responses are often more obvious to people and they are more likely to consider that the dog needs help. (b) This dog is visually focused and is showing body language consistent with negative emotion. There is no attempt to approach the person and the dog is showing a combination of avoidance (keeping distance from the person) and inhibition (passively gathering information about the person) at this stage. The responses are very passive in nature and illustrate the fact that avoidance does not necessarily involve physical movement. This illustrates the need to be aware of subtle signals of negative emotion. (a) When a dog is physically moving away at speed or simply retreating, it is often easier for people to identify the fact that the animal is in a negative emotional state. Active responses are often more obvious to people and they are more likely to consider that the dog needs help. (b) This dog is visually focused and is showing body language consistent with negative emotion. There is no attempt to approach the person and the dog is showing a combination of avoidance (keeping distance from the person) and inhibition (passively gathering information about the person) at this stage. The responses are very passive in nature and illustrate the fact that avoidance does not necessarily involve physical movement. This illustrates the need to be aware of subtle signals of negative emotion.
When dogs select inhibition as a behavioural response to negative emotion they may be overlooked in the shelter environment and assumed to be coping well. When dogs select inhibition as a behavioural response to negative emotion they may be overlooked in the shelter environment and assumed to be coping well.
Appeasement signalling may be misinterpreted as friendly behaviour and the way in which people respond to these behaviours can unintentionally lead to an increase in anxiety. Misinterpretation of appeasement as submission can lead to perpetuation of the outdated theory of dominance and result in misguided justification of inappropriate training and handling methods. Appeasement signalling may be misinterpreted as friendly behaviour and the way in which people respond to these behaviours can unintentionally lead to an increase in anxiety. Misinterpretation of appeasement as submission can lead to perpetuation of the outdated theory of dominance and result in misguided justification of inappropriate training and handling methods.
When a dog is thwarted from dealing with a perceived threat, for example due to being restrained on a lead, frustration can lead to acceleration and intensification of the response. When a dog is thwarted from dealing with a perceived threat, for example due to being restrained on a lead, frustration can lead to acceleration and intensification of the response.
Confinement in accommodation, which allows direct visual access to potential threat, can lead to frustration. Confinement in accommodation, which allows direct visual access to potential threat, can lead to frustration.
Flowchart indicating the factors influencing why a cat residing in a shelter may be hard to handle. Flowchart indicating the factors influencing why a cat residing in a shelter may be hard to handle.
A cat displaying aggressive body language due to frustration (note pupil size). (© Daniela Ramos) A cat displaying aggressive body language due to frustration (note pupil size). (© Daniela Ramos)
Cat carrier with a top opening. (© MDC Exports) Cat carrier with a top opening. (© MDC Exports)
Covering a cat with a towel to place it in a carrier for transportation. (© Vicky Halls) Covering a cat with a towel to place it in a carrier for transportation. (© Vicky Halls)
A towel held either side of a cat’s head, with the arms supporting the cat’s body, prevents it escaping forwards. (© Vicky Halls) A towel held either side of a cat’s head, with the arms supporting the cat’s body, prevents it escaping forwards. (© Vicky Halls)
Elbow-length reinforced leather gauntlets. (© MDC Exports) Elbow-length reinforced leather gauntlets. (© MDC Exports)
Protective sleeves may provide nervous handlers with some additional security against scratches and enable them to handle frightened or frustrated cats more confidently. (© Vicky Halls) Protective sleeves may provide nervous handlers with some additional security against scratches and enable them to handle frightened or frustrated cats more confidently. (© Vicky Halls)
A cage restrainer showing the sliding internal panel. (© MDC Exports) A cage restrainer showing the sliding internal panel. (© MDC Exports)
A drop-over carrier with a removable sliding floor. (© MDC Exports) A drop-over carrier with a removable sliding floor. (© MDC Exports)
A cat being restrained with the use of a cat muzzle. A cat being restrained with the use of a cat muzzle.
A cat being restrained for a procedure using a ‘cat bag’. (© Vicky Halls) A cat being restrained for a procedure using a ‘cat bag’. (© Vicky Halls)
Learning agility gives dogs opportunities to grow in confidence and build a relationship with their handler. (© Dogs Trust) Learning agility gives dogs opportunities to grow in confidence and build a relationship with their handler. (© Dogs Trust)
Enlisting help from the local community – whether from colleges, businesses or individuals – can free up shelter staff to concentrate on the dogs’ daily activities. Here, a children’s volunteer helps a group of children to prepare an enrichment area. (© Dogs Trust) Enlisting help from the local community – whether from colleges, businesses or individuals – can free up shelter staff to concentrate on the dogs’ daily activities. Here, a children’s volunteer helps a group of children to prepare an enrichment area. (© Dogs Trust)
Providing items that enable dogs to engage their different senses can be a valuable form of enrichment, as in this sensory garden. (© Dogs Trust) Providing items that enable dogs to engage their different senses can be a valuable form of enrichment, as in this sensory garden. (© Dogs Trust)
(a) Plant pots or (b) other containers filled with herbs, horsehair or other interesting-smelling items can add interest to exercise. (© Jenny Stavisky) (a) Plant pots or (b) other containers filled with herbs, horsehair or other interesting-smelling items can add interest to exercise. (© Jenny Stavisky)
Opportunities to express investigative behaviours can have a positive effect on a dog’s welfare. In this example, treats can be placed in holes drilled into a wooden post mounted at a height that dogs can easily explore. (© Dogs Trust) Opportunities to express investigative behaviours can have a positive effect on a dog’s welfare. In this example, treats can be placed in holes drilled into a wooden post mounted at a height that dogs can easily explore. (© Dogs Trust)
A raised area can facilitate social interactions by providing places for dogs to escape. (© Dogs Trust) A raised area can facilitate social interactions by providing places for dogs to escape. (© Dogs Trust)
Feeding enrichment can be provided using either proprietary devices or cheaper homemade versions. (© Dogs Trust) Feeding enrichment can be provided using either proprietary devices or cheaper homemade versions. (© Dogs Trust)
Household furniture can provide comfortable enrichment within a kennel, and donations of old armchairs and sofas are frequently easy to obtain. (© Dogs Trust) Household furniture can provide comfortable enrichment within a kennel, and donations of old armchairs and sofas are frequently easy to obtain. (© Dogs Trust)
(a) Dogs enjoy playing with a variety of toys. (b) Encouraging play behaviour can help a dog to get noticed by adopters, as well as providing great photograph opportunities for advertising it. (c) Toys can also provide an important outlet for natural behaviours such as chewing. (a) Dogs enjoy playing with a variety of toys. (b) Encouraging play behaviour can help a dog to get noticed by adopters, as well as providing great photograph opportunities for advertising it. (c) Toys can also provide an important outlet for natural behaviours such as chewing.
This kennel contains a donated sofa, puzzle feeder, toys, fan and radio to provide several different kinds of enrichment. (© Jenny Stavisky) This kennel contains a donated sofa, puzzle feeder, toys, fan and radio to provide several different kinds of enrichment. (© Jenny Stavisky)
This bespoke cat bed unit with inbuilt heating in the raised sleep area provides opportunities for climbing and resting in a private elevated area. (© Battersea Dogs and Cats Home) This bespoke cat bed unit with inbuilt heating in the raised sleep area provides opportunities for climbing and resting in a private elevated area. (© Battersea Dogs and Cats Home)
(a) Interactive play sessions are an important part of the cat’s daily care routine. (b) Fishing rod toys can be homemade cheaply. Always store safely out of the cat’s reach after the play session. (© Cats Protection) (a) Interactive play sessions are an important part of the cat’s daily care routine. (b) Fishing rod toys can be homemade cheaply. Always store safely out of the cat’s reach after the play session. (© Cats Protection)
Children can get involved in making enrichment for shelter cats, which helps educate the next generation about animal care and welfare. (© Cats Protection) Children can get involved in making enrichment for shelter cats, which helps educate the next generation about animal care and welfare. (© Cats Protection)
(a) AïKiou Stimulo feeding bowl and intelligence toy. (b) Trixie Cat Activity Turn Around. (c) CatIt Design Senses Food Maze. (© Cats Protection) (a) AïKiou Stimulo feeding bowl and intelligence toy. (b) Trixie Cat Activity Turn Around. (c) CatIt Design Senses Food Maze. (© Cats Protection)
A collection of disposable items that canbe used to create enrichment. (© Cats Protection) A collection of disposable items that canbe used to create enrichment. (© Cats Protection)
(a) Show the cat how to use a toilet roll pyramid to avoid frustration. (b) Dry food hidden in paper and placed in a cardboard egg box. (© Cats Protection) (a) Show the cat how to use a toilet roll pyramid to avoid frustration. (b) Dry food hidden in paper and placed in a cardboard egg box. (© Cats Protection)
A homemade version of a puzzle feeder. (© Cats Protection) A homemade version of a puzzle feeder. (© Cats Protection)
(a–b) Hide, Perch & Go box™ devised by the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. (c) Feline Fort® Hide developed by Cats Protection. (© Cats Protection) (a–b) Hide, Perch & Go box™ devised by the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. (c) Feline Fort® Hide developed by Cats Protection. (© Cats Protection)
(a) It is easy to enrich an existing pen design by adding a shelving insert. (b) A Feline Fort® developed by Cats Protection, consisting of three modular pieces. (© Cats Protection) (a) It is easy to enrich an existing pen design by adding a shelving insert. (b) A Feline Fort® developed by Cats Protection, consisting of three modular pieces. (© Cats Protection)
Both kittens and adult cats will benefit from an interactive game. Store safely out of the cat’s reach when not in use. (© Cats Protection) Both kittens and adult cats will benefit from an interactive game. Store safely out of the cat’s reach when not in use. (© Cats Protection)
Consistent handling from a familiar caregiver. (© Cats Protection) Consistent handling from a familiar caregiver. (© Cats Protection)
Another homemade version of a puzzle feeder. (© Cats Protection) Another homemade version of a puzzle feeder. (© Cats Protection)
A carpet tile secured to the run door using cable ties provides a cheap scratching facility. (© Cats Protection) A carpet tile secured to the run door using cable ties provides a cheap scratching facility. (© Cats Protection)
(a) A corrugated cardboard scratch post attached to the run with cable ties. (b) Simply dispose and replace once it is too worn. (© Cats Protection) (a) A corrugated cardboard scratch post attached to the run with cable ties. (b) Simply dispose and replace once it is too worn. (© Cats Protection)
Catnip toys provide sensory enrichment. (© Cats Protection) Catnip toys provide sensory enrichment. (© Cats Protection)
Feline Fort® Hide developed by Cats Protection. (© Cats Protection) Feline Fort® Hide developed by Cats Protection. (© Cats Protection)
Cardboard box with dry food scattered among dry leaves. (© Cats Protection) Cardboard box with dry food scattered among dry leaves. (© Cats Protection)
All cats need to be given a hiding place. (© Cats Protection) All cats need to be given a hiding place. (© Cats Protection)

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