Behavioural problems in a population of shelter dogs in the Netherlands
Deterd Oude Weme, J.
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In the Netherlands, 28 percent of dog owners experience one or more behavioural problems with their dog. In 2012, 11.679 dogs were submitted to the Dutch shelters and 7.6 percent of the population of shelter dogs was euthanized. 36 percent of all euthanasia in the Dutch shelters happened in 2010 because of behavioural problems. It is to date unknown how many dogs in the Dutch shelters have behavioural problems, and which behavioural problems are most common. This knowledge can greatly aid in finding fitting new homes for these dogs and in this way prevent problem situations in the new home, which could result in re-relinquishment to the shelter and even euthanasia. In this research, the prevalence of 12 predetermined common behavioural problems was tested in 47 dogs from three shelters in the Netherlands by means of a questionnaire and a behavioural test. All those behavioural problems were seen to some extend, with the exception of coprophagy which was not seen at all. The most seen behavioural problem was attention-seeking behaviour, which was noted for 40 out of 46 dogs in the questionnaire. 39 out of 47 dogs showed aggression during the behavioural test. 38 out of 47 dogs showed, both by assessment of the behavioural test and questionnaire, evidence for separation anxiety. The knowledge and acknowledgement of behavioural problems in shelter dogs can greatly improve their welfare during their time at the shelter. When these problems can be accurately addressed in the shelter, dogs can have a greater chance of being successfully rehomed. A better coupling of the dog to the new owner by providing adequate information can prevent behavioural problems to arise in the new home, cause a reduction of the number of returned dogs to the shelter and possibly a reduction of euthanasia because of (unknown) behavioural problems.