Vacations are for the dogs. Credit: Thinkstock A short stay in the dog house could actually be a positive for your pet pooch. A new study carried about by a team of British researchers measured a range of stress parameters, such as nose and core body temperature, lip-licking and yawning, in 29 privately owned dogs both at home and in boarding kennels.
Existing research suggested that dogs found the change of scene stressful but the new evidence points to the contrary. Study co-author Lisa Collins, an animal behavior expert from University of Lincoln, UK, tells Metro why a mini-break for your mutt is no bad thing.
Is leaving your beloved dog in a boarding kennel actually more stressful for the owner than the pet?
I expect so. I have a dog and everyone I know who has a dog all feel super guilty about leaving their dog at the kennel, but the study shows there’s no reason to stress about it.
So, you don’t feel guilty?
Do stress levels vary between different breeds?
There were no breed differences. The only exceptions were male neutered dogs, which seemed to show a greater response. Their stress hormones — cortisol levels — were higher in kennels than at home. But of course cortisol can be a positive or negative thing: you get higher cortisol levels during sex and excitement and not just stressful situations.
Obviously boarding kennels, like hotels, can vary drastically in terms of standards. Do dogs in premium lodgings feel happier?
Actually, it didn’t affect their stress levels at all. We had a real range of kennels: one where there were TV screens and sofas and was absolutely beautiful like a dog heaven, but it didn’t seem to make any difference.
How do you distinguish between stress and excitement?
Core body temperature increases when individuals are put in negative stressful situations and this is seen in all mammals. We’re not seeing an increase in core body temperature or stress behaviors or a decrease in serotonin or dopamine. So the lack of effects suggest that it’s not a negative stress.