By Sherry Davis
Last week I received a news release about the effects of music on shelter dogs, courtesy of Colorado State University.
Lori Kogan at the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and a licensed psychologist played different kinds of music within a shelter over the course of four months while recording dogs' behaviors. Music selections were played for 45 minutes with behavioral observations recorded every five minutes. Each music selection was followed by a period of silence, resulting in thousands of behavioral recordings.
The results showed heavy metal music induces more nervous shaking in dogs, and classical music appeared to calm dogs more than other music or no music at all.
Kogan's study suggests shelters play classical music to decrease dogs' stress and anxiety, and that it is a cost-effective, practical way to enhance the environment and welfare of shelter dogs.
Now as can often happen with a column, I start off with one idea and my curiosity takes me elsewhere. While reading this paper, I happened upon a survey by Canadian company Pet Health Inc., which listed the top 10 reasons why pets end up in shelters.
I then sought similar surveys conducted by other animal welfare organizations and found their top 10 reasons for relinquishment varied.
For example, Pet Health surveyed 800 animal welfare organizations in North America, and another, conducted by the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy, had researchers go to 12 animal shelters in the United States. Here are their results:
Pet Health Inc.
1. Too many pets, 18 percent
2. Unwanted/incompatible, 10 percent
3. Moving/deployed, 10 percent
4. Stray/found/abandoned, 8 percent
5. Inability to care for, 8 percent
6. Financial/home insurance policy restrictions, 6 percent
7. Euthanasia request, 5 percent
8. Unwanted litter/pregnant female, 4 percent
9. Allergic to pet, 4 percent
10. Family health/death of owner, 3 percent
National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy
1. Moving, 7 percent
2. Landlord not allowing pet, 6 percent
3. Too many animals in household, 4 percent
4. Cost of pet maintenance, 5 percent
5. Owner having personal problems, 4 percent
6. Inadequate facilities, 4 percent
7. No homes available for litter mates, 3 percent
8. Having no time for pet, 4 percent
9. Pet illnesses, 4 percent
10. Biting, 3 percent
In addition to the reasons for relinquishment, NCPPSP added this data:
* 47.7 percent of the surrendered dogs were between 5 months and 3 years of age.
* 37 percent of dogs had been owned from 7 months to 1 year.
* Nearly half of the dogs (42.8 percent) surrendered were not neutered.
* 33 percent of the dogs had not been to a veterinarian.
* Dogs acquired from friends were relinquished in higher numbers (31.4 percent) than from any other source.
* Close to equal numbers of male and female dogs were surrendered.
* Most dogs (96 percent) had not received any obedience training.
In my first column, published Oct. 26, 2009, I wrote that my objective was to help owners with training and behavior problems, which can often be the baseline cause or tipping point in the decision to turn a dog into a shelter.
Three years and 150 columns later, shelters continue to be overcrowded with unwanted animals, and one factor the dogs in this survey share in common is alarmingly apparent: No matter what reason owners gave for surrendering dogs to shelters, almost 100 percent of the dogs turned in hadn't received any training.
And a lack of training not only makes a dog more likely to be surrendered, it can also make it less likely to be adopted.
Not music to anyone's ears.
-- Sherry Davis is a dog trainer/owner of CSI 4 K9s. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @csi4K9s. These are her opinions, not necessarily The Californian's.