Pairing Up Shelter Dogs Can Raise Their Odds for Adoption

Mighty (in front) and Bo cuddle during the study. They were  loving companions and chose to sleep together – even though a separate bed was provided.
Mighty (in front) and Bo cuddle during the study. They were loving companions and chose to sleep together – even though a separate bed was provided. Photo courtesy of Erica Feuerbacher

Key Takeaways

  • Shelter dogs do better when housed with another dog

  • They show fewer signs of stress

  • They also are adopted an average of four days sooner

THURSDAY, June 13, 2024 (HealthDay News) -- Shelter dogs do better with a buddy, a new study finds.

Dogs show fewer signs of stress and are adopted more quickly if paired up with another canine rather than housed by themselves, researchers found.

“Despite being a social species, dogs are often housed alone in shelters to reduce disease transmission and possible injury from inter-dog conflict,” said lead researcher Erica Feuerbacher, an associate professor with the Virginia Tech School of Animal Sciences. “But this social isolation can work against dogs’ behavioral health and adoptability.”

For the study, researchers followed 61 dogs over a week at the Humane Society of Western Montana.

Half the dogs were housed with another canine, after they were matched through a brief introduction and a compatibility test. The other half were kenneled alone.

The research team kept an eye out for common stress behaviors like lip-licking, whining and pulling back their ears. They also took daily urine samples to test for cortisol and creatinine, hormones associated with stress.

“Dogs housed in shelters can face chronic levels of stress due to noise, confined kennel spaces and limited access to social interaction,” Feuerbacher said in a university news release. “This can reduce their overall well-being, which might impact their adoptability.”

Dogs paired up with a friend were adopted, on average, four days sooner than dogs housed alone, results show. They also showed fewer stress behaviors.

The new study published June 12 in the journal PLOS One.

Feuerbacher hopes these results will lead animal shelters to match dogs with suitable roommates, as a means of showing them at their best to potential new families.

“Many potential adopters might already have a dog or would like to engage in social activities with their dog,” Feuerbacher said. “Clearly exhibiting that a dog can successfully interact with other dogs might highlight those dogs as good matches -- leading to more successful adoptions.”

More information

Tufts University has more about housing shelter dogs.

SOURCE: Virginia Tech, news release, June 12, 2024

What This Means For You

Animal shelters should consider keeping compatible dogs in pairs, to reduce their stress and increase their chances of adoption.

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