HSVMA Student Scholars Program for Animal Welfare Research at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine

December 16, 2013

A grant from the Kislak Family Foundation made it possible for HSVMA to sponsor three student research projects, including an analysis on social enrichment methods for shelter dogs with hyperactivity by second-year University of Florida veterinary student, Hagar Hauser. The other two focused on service learning opportunities for veterinary students through spay/neuter clinics for feral (community) cats, and dog vaccination issues in Ecuador (evaluating titers).

Below is the abstract for Hagar's project. We hope to publish her full project in the near future.


HO Hauser1, A Protopopova2, CDL Wynne2. 1College of Veterinary Medicine and 2Department of Psychology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA.

To maximize adoptions and reduce euthanasia it is highly important to modify shelter dogs’ behavior to appear attractive to potential adopters. This study tested two strategies currently implemented by shelters to reduce such hyperactive behaviors. Six dogs experienced a calm treatment, which aimed to create an association between people and relaxed activities to reduce in-kennel excitement. Calm treatment consisted of reading to the dog for 15 min with no interaction. Another set of six dogs received supplemental exercise, which aimed at releasing energy that may be causing the hyperactivity. Exercise treatment consisted of 15 min of toy play or light running with interaction encouraged.

Each dog received 2 wk of daily baseline assessment and 2 wk of a daily treatment in a counter-balanced within-subject design to determine if there was a change in hyperactive in-kennel behaviors. Hyperactivity was measured by videotaping each dog daily over 30 s before a treatment and 30 s after a treatment or 30 s each day during baseline. Rates of behaviors and barking frequency were analyzed in each video. Overall, there were no negative effects associated with either treatment. The barking frequency decreased significantly, as compared to baseline, before and after the calm treatment (F(1) = 6.3, p = .03 and F(1) = 6.3, p = 0.03 respectively). Jumping on the kennel door also decreased and locomotion increased after both treatments. However, these changes did not reach statistical significance. Therefore, social enrichment methods reduce hyperactivity in shelter dogs and can potentially increase adoptability.

Hauser poster presentation
Click to view a larger version of Hagar's poster presentation

Hagar Hauser


Hagar Hauser is a second year veterinary student at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine (class of 2016). Originally from Maryland, Hagar chose to study at UF because of its shelter medicine courses. As the foster coordinator for the UFCVM Shelter Medicine Club she is involved with local rescues and helps them pull animals from the shelter. Hagar hopes to continue performing behavioral shelter medicine research in the future because of the growing realization that more needs to be done for the mental health of shelter animals.