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desensitising dogs in the home pen


It is important that all staff are able to observe and understand the behaviour of dogs in the home pen. As well as formal welfare assessment, all staff should be able to recognise appropriate and desirable behaviours in the home pen. It is equally as important that any staff who pass through the animal room do not reinforce inappropriate behaviours.

It is common for behaviours such as jumping or barking to be reinforced through a variable schedule of reinforcement. Dogs which come to the front of the pen on seeing a person pass by, and jump, bark or display other excited behaviours are intermittently reinforced for the behaviour by being given attention. Because a variable schedule of reinforcement makes a behaviour resistant to extinction, the behaviour is maintained even when only rarely reinforced. It is much better for dogs' welfare that calm behaviour is encouraged when staff enter the animal room, and much better for the staff not to have a room full of barking, excited dogs!

Scientific staff, who may not have regular contact with dogs in the animal room, must be able to understand their welfare and how this may influence study outcomes. While a formal welfare assessment will make welfare easy to monitor, scientific staff should be able to observe behaviour when visiting the animal room.

The following videos demonstrate behaviours which are either desirable or undesirable in the home pen. Where undesirable behaviours are seen, Refinements should be made to the environment and husbandry.



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