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Shelter Dogs Appear Less Stressed And Get Adopted Quickly When Paired With A Buddy, Study Finds

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A new study finds that shelter dogs, paired with a well-matched roommate, are less stressed and are adopted more quickly than those that are alone.

The new study, published in PLos ONE, talks about shelter dogs and how social isolation is a stressor for them, knowing how social they can be.

In a shelter setting, dogs are often housed alone to reduce issues like injury and the spread of diseases. However, the study finds that co-housing shelter dogs actually has actual behavioral and physiological benefits.

For this study, the researchers collected behavioral data on 61 dogs, 30 of them being “single-housed”, and the rest being “pair-housed”, for seven days.

The research found that pair-housed shelter dogs engaged in stress-related behaviors, such as lip licking, whining, and ears back, less frequently than those that are housed alone.

Furthermore, the researchers also collected the dogs’ urine for cortisol:creatinine level analysis. And they found that pair-housed dogs showed a greater decrease in cortisol:creatinine levels.

Erica Feuerbacher, an associate professor of applied animal welfare and behavior at Virginia Polytechnic and State University, and senior author of the paper, tells Cosmos Magazine, “Dogs housed in shelters can face chronic levels of stress due to noise, confined kennel spaces, and limited access to social interaction.”

Dogs At The Homeless Dog Shelter
Refluence /

According to the research, the effect of pair-housed dogs was apparent because of the length of their stay in the shelter. They said pair-housed dogs had a shorted stay by four days on average as compared to those without a companion.

“Pair-housed dogs also had significantly shorter lengths of stay, but we did not detect any effect on dog-dog skills,” the researchers wrote.

“Many potential adopters might already have a dog or would like to engage in social activities with their dog,” Feuerbacher said, talking about the impact on adoptability.

“Clearly exhibiting that a dog can successfully interact with other dogs might highlight those dogs as good matches – leading to more successful adoptions.”

The results of the study’s findings add to the evidence that shelter dogs’ overall welfare benefit from pair-housing.

The researchers also note that pair-housed dogs showed more affiliative behaviors and interacted with each other positively.

However, the researchers also talked about concerns over aggression, and while it can happen, closely monitoring pairs during the first few days is key to finding compatible pairs.

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