Environmental enrichments and data-driven welfare indicators for sheltered dogs using telemetric physiological measures and signal processing

Tiziano Travain, Teddy Lazebnik, Anna Zamansky, Simona Cafazzo, Paola Valsecchi, Eugenia Natoli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Shelters are stressful environments for domestic dogs which are known to negatively impact their welfare. The introduction of outside stimuli for dogs in this environment can improve their welfare and life conditions. However, our current understanding of the influence of different stimuli on shelter dogs’ welfare is limited and the data is still insufficient to draw conclusions. In this study, we collected 28 days (four weeks) of telemetry data from eight male dogs housed in an Italian shelter for a long period of time. During this period, three types of enrichment were introduced into the dogs’ pens for one week each: entertaining objects, intraspecific, and interspecific social enrichment, by means of the presence of female conspecifics and the presence of a human. To quantify their impact, we introduce novel metrics as indicators of sheltered dogs’ welfare based on telemetry data: the variation of heart rate, muscle activity, and body temperature from an average baseline day, quality of sleep, and the regularity for cyclicity of the aforementioned parameters, based on the day-night cycle. Using these metrics, we show that while all three stimuli statistically improve the dogs’ welfare, the variance between individual dogs is large. Moreover, our findings indicate that the presence of female conspecific is the best stimulus among the three explored options which improves both the quality of sleep and the parameters’ cyclicity. Our results are consistent with previous research findings while providing novel data-driven welfare indicators that promote objectivity. Thus, this research provides some useful guidelines for managing shelters and improving dogs’ welfare.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3346
JournalScientific Reports
Volume14
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 9 Feb 2024
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2024.

Funding

This research was partially funded by ASL Rome 3 (formerly ASL Rome D) (Local Health Unit Rome D) with an individual grant to Eugenia Natoli, and MIUR (Italian Ministry of Education, University, and Research) with PRIN 2006 n° 2006071374 to Paola Valsecchi.

FundersFunder number
Ministero dell’Istruzione, dell’Università e della Ricerca2006071374

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