Comfortable Quarters for Dogs in Research Institutions

Robert Hubrecht | 01/01/2002
Tipología Laboratorios (p) Servicios Hospitalarios Servicios Centrales Diagnóstico y Tratamiento Laboratorios Varios Documentación Bibliografias Comfortable Quarters for Dogs in Research Institutions

The dog is one of the oldest domesticated animals and has probably been associated with man for at least 14,000 years. For many people their pet dog has a special status and is often considered as a member of the family. In consequence, the dog when used as an experimental animal receives special protection in some countries. For example, in the UK, special justification has to be provided before dogs can be assigned to a study involving pain, suffering or distress. Dogs used in studies in Europe have to originate from designated or registered supplying establishments, which in the UK are inspected by the Home Office.

A good day-to-day care person should have a sound understanding of the dogs` biology (e.g., Serpell, 1995), particularly of their social nature (Boitani et al., 1995; Macdonald and Carr, 1995). Moreover, experience and research show that both conspecific and human social contact are extremely important for the well-being of dogs. Dogs are inquisitive animals who actively seek information about their surroundings and so will react badly to barren or sensory restricted environments. They use a variety of modes of communication. Olfaction, one of the most important of these, is unfortunately one which we have the most difficulty in empathising with. Husbandry staff should be experienced enough to be able to identify the meaning of the various dog vocalisations, such as distress and threat vocalisations, the high pitched bark given by a dog who is separated from his or her social companions, and unspecific vocalisation in response to arousal. Staff should be able to identify visual signals, which include posture and facial expressions (Fox and Bekoff, 1975). For example, dogs who adopt a low posture are likely to be unsure of themselves and may require extra reassurance or training.

The attending care person is probably better at his/her job if he/she has experience with pet dogs outside the laboratory. This can provide valuable insights into the dogs` needs, variations in character, and a better understanding and rapport with the animals in her or his care.

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