feel bad about boarding your pet? you may not have to!

Posted by Dr. Ernie Ward on Jul 07 2014
Missing file.

The other day the gate to my yard was left open for maybe five seconds. Apparently five seconds is enough for both of my dogs to:

1) detect the gate is ajar, and

2) dash through aforementioned gaping gate.

Fortunately, my children spotted our conniving canines well within whistling distance and after a couple of minutes the hounds reluctantly slinked home. Were they being deliberately disobedient? According to the latest research out of England, my dogs simply may have been seeking an exciting change of scenery.

Maybe that’s not exactly what the study was seeking to examine, but bear with me a moment to explain my conclusion. Researchers at the University of Lincoln recently published a study titled, “Physiological, Physical and Behavioral Changes in Dogs When Kennelled: Testing the Validity of Stress Parameters.” The investigators were trying to determine which common tests could reliably detect stress in dogs.

To do this, they put 29 dogs in a kennel and observed if the dogs became stressed, evaluating a wide variety of stress indicators in the dogs such as: skin dryness, nose temperature, core body temperature and amount of food eaten. They measured behaviors such as lip licking, paw lifting, yawning, shaking and restlessness. I would’ve added barking, howling, whining, and jumping up and down (and up and down) but that’s just me. They also pulled out the fancy-pants stress hormones (corticosteroids) and epinephrine (adrenaline) tests. The fact that serious scholars were measuring if a dog’s nose was cold or not was more than enough reason to keep reading for me.

After the dogs had been kenneled, they found the majority of dogs had higher levels of arousal, colder noses and were generally more active than when evaluated at home. The interesting news was these researchers concluded most dogs didn’t exhibit negative stress while away from home. So all that excitement is not necessarily a bad thing.

Lead author Dr. Lisa Collins, was quoted as saying, “Many owners find leaving their dog at a boarding kennels a stressful experience. However, this study suggests that although dogs appeared to have a higher level of overall arousal or excitement in kennels compared with their state at home, this arousal is not necessarily due to dogs experiencing kennels as stressful. No definitive evidence was found to suggest that dogs were negatively stressed by kenneling.”

Although these measurements can be ambiguous and need additional investigation to substantiate, an important take-home message for me is that many dogs may not be as nervous about boarding as I think; they could actually just be excited at the change in scenery, the way they are when they make a break for it out of my front door. Remember that when you go on vacation this summer and leave your four-legged friend behind – there may be no need to feel guilty about boarding!