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Given the large number of dogs housed in animal shelters each year, it is important to consider how the shelter environment impacts dog welfare. The shelter environment is stressful due to factors such as excessive noise, lack of predictability and control, and social isolation. Social isolation in shelter dogs has been found to increase abnormal behavior and aggression and lead to poorer adoption outcomes. While social housing is ideal, it requires resources not available to all shelters. Providing visual access to other dogs is a relatively easy environmental modification that increases social opportunities and allows for more predictability and control over the environment, potentially improving welfare. To investigate the impact of visual access on the behavior of dogs, we used a within-subject design, conducting 5-min focal observations four times weekly before, during, and after visual access was provided by partially removing a barrier between crates at a suburban dog shelter. Our preliminary analysis of 17 subjects using non-parametric Friedman’s Tests (alpha = .05) found no significant difference between phases in regard to anxiety behaviors (χ2 (2) = .50, p = .78), frustration behaviors (χ2 (2) = .51, p = .77), time spent in the front of the crate (χ2 (2) = 4.50, p = .11), self-directed behaviors (χ2 (2) = 1.86, p = .40), resting behaviors (χ2 (2) = 4.59, p = .10), or vocalizations (χ2 (2) = 4.59, p= .10). The absence of an increase in vocalizations during visual access may encourage shelters to implement this change. However, the lack of a decrease in anxiety or frustration behaviors may indicate that visual access alone is insufficient for providing welfare benefits and that shelters should prioritize increasing social contact in dogs through playgroups or group housing.

Keywords: shelter dog, animal welfare, barking, social housing, visual access, social contact, anxiety, environmental predictability, choice


File nameDate UploadedVisibilityFile size
19 Jul 2022
91.5 kB



  • Event location
    • Cleveland Ballroom

  • Event date
    • 2 November 2019

  • Date submitted

    19 July 2022