Impact of Visual Barrier Removal on the Behavior of Shelter-Housed Dogs

Allison L. Martin, Kennesaw State University
Christina M. Walthers, Kennesaw State University
Madison J. Pattillo, Kennesaw State University
Jessica A. Catchpole, Kennesaw State University
Lauren N. Mitchell, Kennesaw State University
Emily W. Dowling, Kennesaw State University


With millions of dogs housed in shelters each year, it is important to consider how the shelter environment impacts welfare. Social isolation and a lack of control over the environment can negatively impact wellbeing. However, providing social opportunities requires costly resources and can raise concerns about increased barking. In this study, 17 dogs were observed before, during, and after a visual barrier was partially removed to increase the ability to see to other dogs and the surrounding room. Stress behaviors, crate position, and resting behaviors did not differ significantly across phases; however, vocalizations were lower in the visual access and post phases (Friedman’s test, p = .02). In addition, in-room barking data (N = 66) revealed no change in barking duration when barriers were removed. This absence of an increase in vocalizations should alleviate some concerns with allowing visual social contact. However, the lack of impact on stress and resting behaviors may indicate that visual social contact alone is insufficient for providing significant welfare benefits and that shelters should prioritize increasing social contact through playgroups or group housing.