Persistence of food guarding across conditions of free and scheduled feeding in shelter dogs

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Applied Animal Behaviour Science



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Aggression, Food guarding, Food-related aggression, SAFER assessment ®, Shelter dogs


© 2017 Elsevier B.V. The hypothesis that free access to food might reduce food-related aggression in shelter dogs was tested. Dogs that exhibited food-related aggression in a standardized assessment (ASPCA SAFER®) were provided either unlimited access to food or two scheduled daily feedings for 3 days (Groups A and B) or 9 days (Groups D and E). Both within- and between-group comparisons revealed no systematic reductions in food-related aggression produced by unlimited access to food under these conditions. For subjects in all experimental groups (i.e., those that exhibited food-related aggression on an initial assessment), aggression scores sometimes decreased but were not related consistently to whether food access was unlimited or scheduled. For subjects that did not exhibit food-related aggression on an initial assessment (Group C), aggression scores increased slightly across assessments. Statistical tests to determine if SAFER® food scores changed across assessments due to 3-day feeding manipulations yielded p values above 0.05 on 5 of 6 tests. SAFER® food scores increased after (one of the) 3 days of scheduled feeding for dogs in a control group (p = 0.048). Food-related aggression decreased following 9 days of scheduled feeding (p = 0.002) and 9 days of free feeding (p = 0.026). Overall, then, food access did not systematically affect food-related aggression in shelter dogs as measured by the SAFER® assessment using the temporal parameters arranged.

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