Rehabilitation program for urban free–ranging dogs in a shelter environment can improve behavior and welfare

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Abstract

The aim of the present study was to assess the efficacy of a rehabilitation program on improving behavior and welfare of a group of urban free–ranging dogs kept in a dog shelter. In this study, a rehabilitation protocol including training and adaptability to home environment was applied to 8 urban free–ranging dogs kept in a dog shelter in Ankara, Turkey. At the beginning of the study, all dogs' reactions were assessed by short test situations to divide them into 2 groups, that is, dogs with behavioral changes such as fear and aggression (group 1) and dogs without behavioral changes (group 2). Behavior and emotional assessments were done in the beginning and at the end of the program that lasted 6 weeks. It was observed that most dogs were obeying basic signals or requests on and off leash. In the second assessment, most of the dogs were displaying relaxed body posture while interacting with humans. Nevertheless, only significant difference was found between the groups in adaptability to home environment (Mann-Whitney U test, P < 0.05). None of the dogs in group 1 were evaluated as relaxed, whereas all the dogs in group 2 were displaying relaxed body posture, thus a positive emotional state, in home environment on the first day. Findings of this study showed that a standardized rehabilitation program including training and adaptation to home environment might be beneficial for some urban free–ranging dogs to improve their behaviors and welfare in shelter environment. Moreover, it can be suggested that urban free–ranging dogs can easily be trained and adapted to humans in case where they did not have intense fear and/or aggression.

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