Can sleep and resting behaviours be used as indicators of welfare in shelter dogs (Canis lupusfamiliaris)?

Owczarczak-Garstecka, Sara and Burman, Oliver (2016) Can sleep and resting behaviours be used as indicators of welfare in shelter dogs (Canis lupusfamiliaris)? PLoS ONE, 11 (10). e0163620. ISSN 1932-6203

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Previous research on humans and animals suggests that the analysis of sleep patterns
may reliably inform us about welfare status, but little research of this kind has been carried
out for non-human animals in an applied context. This study explored the use of sleep and
resting behaviour as indicators of welfare by describing the activity patterns of dogs (Canis
lupus familiaris) housed in rescue shelters, and comparing their sleep patterns to other
behavioural and cognitive measures of welfare. Sleep and activity patterns were observed
over five non-consecutive days in a population of 15 dogs. Subsequently, the characteristics
of sleep and resting behaviour were described and the impact of activity on patterns of
sleep and resting behaviour analysed. Shelter dogs slept for 2.8% of the day, 14.3% less
than previously reported and experienced less sleep fragmentation at night (32 sleep
bouts). There were no statistically significant relationships between behaviours exhibited
during the day and sleep behaviour. A higher proportion of daytime resting behaviour was
significantly associated with a positive judgement bias, less repetitive behaviour and
increased time spent coded as ‘relaxed’ across days by shelter staff. These results suggest
that, in the context of a busy shelter environment, the ability to rest more during the day
could be a sign of improved welfare. Considering the non-linear relationship between sleep
and welfare in humans, the relationship between sleep and behavioural indicators of welfare,
including judgement bias, in shelter dogs may be more complex than this study could

Keywords:Animal Welfare, Sleeping behaviour, Dog behaviour, JCOpen
Subjects:D Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects > D328 Animal Welfare
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
ID Code:24707
Deposited On:14 Oct 2016 11:01

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