Exploring Human Interaction and Diet Effects on the Behavior of Dogs in a Public Animal Shelter

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This study examined the effects of 2 manipulations—a brief, regular period of human contact and diet—on the behavior of dogs confined in a public animal shelter. A behavioral battery designed to assess reactions to novel situations, and a test of responsiveness to an unfamiliar human were administered both prior to (pretest) and immediately following (posttest) the 8-week intervention period. Overall, the regular periods of increased human contact together with a diet that contained augmented levels of digestible protein, fat, calories, and animal-derived ingredients reduced signs of behavioral reactivity from pretest to posttest. In some cases, the comparison diet appeared more effective, but only for dogs receiving minimal human interaction. The results indicate that a combination of human interaction and high quality diet may positively affect the behavior of dogs in animal shelters.