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Going away for the holidays but leaving Fido behind? According to new research, there’s no need to feel guilty if your dog is going into kennels, because he will be ‘excited’ with a change of scenery.

A recent study led by Dr Lisa Collins from the University of Lincoln has suggested that dogs may enjoy a short-time in a kennel, in a similar way to how we humans enjoy a break abroad.

The new findings are important for dog owners as it contradicts previous research which suggested our four-legged friends experience acute stress following admission to kennels, and chronic stress in response to long-term kennelling.

The study involving 29 pet dogs measured a range of stress symptoms when the dogs were both at home and in private boarding kennels. Physical measurements included; skin dryness, nose temperature, core body temperature and the amount of food eaten. And, the researchers also noted typical visual cues of unease such as lip licking, paw lifting, yawning, shaking and restlessness. Physiological measures were also included in the study – involving the measurement of stress hormones, corticosteroids, and adrenaline. The study revealed that the dogs had higher levels of arousal, colder noses and were generally more active in kennels than when they were at home.

Based on existing research it was assumed that dogs would show higher levels of stress in the kennel compared to the home environment due to the reduced social contact, exercise, lack of control over their environment, as well as varied high levels of noise and disruption to routines. A widely used physiological indicator of canine welfare is urinary cortisol, which is a hormone secreted following activation of one of the major stress response systems. The previous research relating to dogs in kennel environments also looked at creatinine – the chemical waste product created by the liver ratios. This study revealed that creatinine was significantly higher in the kennel compared to the home environment. However, cortisol levels were also found to increase after exercise and excitement, and appear to provide an indication of arousal without specifying the emotional reason of that arousal.

The study which involved researchers from the University of Lincoln, University of Birmingham, Queen’s University Belfast and the Royal Veterinary College, suggests that although dogs appeared to have a higher level of overall arousal or excitement in kennels compared with their state at home, this arousal is not necessarily due to dogs experiencing kennels as negatively stressful.

Dr Collins says: “The emotional reasons for the behavioural and physiological responses of the dogs were ambiguous and no definitive evidence was found to suggest that dogs were negatively stressed by kennelling. Findings appear to suggest that the dogs in this study did not perceive admission to boarding kennels as an aversive stressor and perhaps, instead, perceived kennelling as an exciting change of scene, at least in the short-term.”

If you are going away for the holidays and unsure what to do with your dog, there are many great options available to you. These include home-from-home boarding to live-in sitters, as well as kennels. Whatever you decide to choose, do make sure the company or establishment you are entrusting your dog with are fully insured and licensed. And, it’s always a good idea to have a ‘trial-run’ where your dog stays at their potential new ‘holiday home’ for a night or two prior to your holiday. For more advice and information, contact us: [email protected]

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