To create a research study similar to those used in healthcare settings to evaluate the impact of the new canine housing habitat model. To understand the impact of the designed environment on staff, volunteers and the dogs who are housed there.
The purpose of this study is to evaluate an innovative canine housing habitat at the Animal Humane Society (AHS) in Golden Valley, MN. This new habitat holds no more than six dogs at once. The hypothesis for this study is that if the dogs are housed in a small pack versus alone, their stress level will decrease and they will become more relaxed and social. As a result, potential adopters will be able to observe the dogs behaving as they would once adopted with the goal of increasing the number of successful adoptions.
There is a significant lack of research in this area. However, due to a mock-up built on site, a comparison research study is planned. A ‘test’ habitat is currently built at the AHS and houses up to six dogs. All other dogs are currently housed in individual kennels which are concrete on two sides with metal fencing on the face and back with a staff access-only corridor. This multiple method study will include perceptional surveys of the staff (paid and volunteers) and visitors, decibel level measurements of the two different housing areas, and video tape analysis of the dogs and their interactions with the staff and visitors, along with testing cortisol levels of the dogs in each setting.
Solution and Results
This study will provide baseline data to compare and evaluate co-housing of shelter dogs with traditional methods of single housing shelter dogs and its impact on the dogs, as well as the staff and visitors. The overall goals of this study are:
• To evaluate the impact of housing features on dogs in shelter, and to determine if living in small packs in a habitat decreases the dog’s stress level.
• To evaluate the impact of housing features of dog shelters on the staff and visitors.
Survey work has been completed for this study and the observation study is currently underway. Findings will inform future design and construction of the Animal Humane Society’s new buildings, be disseminated in a peer-reviewed journal, and inform the public of the AHS’s desire to create healthy environments for their dogs.
Few studies have been conducted in this area. The challenge of finding research methods to understand the impact of the environment on dogs was addressed by using the same research tools used in healthcare settings to understand how design elements impact the most vulnerable of our population, the neonate. Understanding how to conduct research in that area allowed the researchers to simply expand the same methodology to this non-verbal population of canines.