About the Refining Dog Care project



What do we do?


The overall aim of Refining Dog Care is to improve the welfare of dogs used in scientific research and testing worldwide, and to improve the quality of data which is obtained from their use. We do this by collaborating with our partners in industry, drawing on expertise and empirical data, to provide guidance on best practice for housing and husbandry, and provide online resources and hands-on training to staff to implement positive reinforcement training protocols for regulated procedures. Read on to find out more about the project.




The Refining Dog Care project came about following a five-year collaboration between researchers at the University of Stirling and scientists working in industry to improve the welfare of laboratory-housed dogs.

Research into the welfare of laboratory-housed dogs has been limited, with little research being conducted beyond the 1990s (e.g. Hubrecht, 1993). In 2004, a Joint Working Group on Refinement report into dog care, housing and husbandry produced extensive good practice guidelines, based upon the available evidence and expert opinion. However, uptake of such guidelines has been limited due to a the lack of evidence that (1) such Refinements are effective and (2) that they won't interfere with study outcomes (e.g. see Good Science).

Research which resulted from a BBSRC-funded PhD studentship conducted by Dr Laura Hall developed the first integrative Welfare Assessment Framework to assess both welfare and data output in the laboratory-housed dog. This research won a number of awards, including an NC3Rs-funded poster prize at the Laboratory Animal Science Association (LASA) Winter Meeting, University of Stirling poster prize, C-SAW prize for laboratory animal management and NC3Rs 3Rs Prize. The UK's National Centre for the 3Rs (NC3Rs) has also used this research for its dog housing and husbandry information page.

The findings of our study on the Refinement of one of the most common regulated procedures and our development of a Welfare Assessment Framework resulted in a great deal of interest from the UK pharmaceutical and contract research organisation industry, and culminated in the development of this project. We have also conducted research into effective home pen design and environmental enrichment which can be used to support best-practice guidelines.


The aims of refining dog care


The overall aim of Refining Dog Care is to engage industry to develop and implement best practice for laboratory-housed dogs, and improve welfare. We do this by:


  1. Conducting research into the effects of housing, husbandry and regulated procedures on welfare. This allows us to develop evidence-based good practices guidelines which can be used to measure and improve welfare. This also allows us to develop evidence of the link between welfare and data output in the laboratory-housed dog.

  3. Delivering staff learning and resources within UK dog facilities on the use of welfare assessment tools and positive reinforcement training for husbandry activities and regulated procedures.

  5. Developing and providing resources which are available to staff in dog facilities worldwide. We also provide information to the general public on dog use and improving dog welfare.


The overarching aim of Refining Dog Care is to improve the welfare of laboratory-housed dogs. Improvements in dog welfare can be measured through changes such as uptake of Refined methods, changes to standard operating procedures, improvements in data output and ultimately, through measureable improvements in welfare itself.