Category Archives: research

Building a dog wheelchair

During the fall semester, three College of Engineering students working as on-campus co-ops at New Mexico State University designed and built a wheelchair device to assist a dog who had his right hind leg amputated due to cancer.

“When I started to research mobility options to help Kita after his amputation to remove bone cancer, there were a lot of ideas online about using 3-D printers to create custom dog wheelchairs or walkers,” owner Michelle Lebsock said. “Even in his old age, Kita is the type of dog who absolutely loves walks, and although he healed well and adjusted to getting around on three legs, he would get tired very quickly and I could tell he really missed his long walks.”

After realizing regular pet wheelchairs wouldn’t work for Kita, Lebsock contacted the Aggie Innovation Space for advice on do-it-yourself dog wheelchair instructions she had found online.

“I first spoke to Natalia, and instead of just offering advice she took on the project as her own,” Lebsock said. “The talented engineering students at the AIS including Natalia, Abdiel and Arturo worked all semester to create a functional and ergonomic device that was custom-built for Kita. Even though the idea of 3-D printing brought me to the lab, the final product used traditional materials, and the students worked tirelessly to make sure each piece was exactly right. Their work has made one little three-legged dog and his owner very happy.”

Kita dog with wheelchair and students who designed it

New Mexico State University College of Engineering students and Aggie Innovation Space mentors (from left to right) Natalia Perez, Abdiel Jimenez and Arturo Dominguez designed and developed a wheelchair for Kita and his owner Michelle Lebsock. Kita’s right hind leg was amputated due to cancer in spring 2016.

“The AIS team became very passionate about this project sharing ideas, collaborating to assess specific constraints and requirements, and evaluating ideas for build-out materials. Collectively, we were able to design a device that was cost effective, functional, comfortable, strong enough to support the weight of the dog, and ultimately, easy to use,” Jimenez said. “We selected specific materials and specific design features to meet the unique needs of Kita. Michelle was kind enough to give us feedback, which allowed us to further refine the design.”

Throughout the fall, Perez, Jimenez and Dominguez met with Kita and Lebsock many times to determine the correct height, comfort, and restraint requirements of the device. Ease of assembly and disassembly were also important factors the Aggie Innovators had to consider to ensure the device was portable and easy to use.

“We were excited to have met a functional level of comfort for Kita with our first design, as he realized he could move around freely,” Dominguez said. “From there, we studied and evaluated Kita’s movement in the device, which allowed us to adjust the design to make it more comfortable and functional. With each iteration, Kita became more and more comfortable. During our final test, Kita was able to run for the first time since surgery and was able to move much more naturally. We then spent a week enhancing a few aesthetic features and branded it NMSU, including a specialized 3-D printed name plate.”

Kita dog in special wheelchair

Arturo Dominguez, a New Mexico State University College of Engineering student, fits nearly 17-year-old Kita with a wheelchair that was designed and built in the Aggie Innovation Space.

Dominguez said the group faced many design challenges throughout the duration of this project.

“Some of our initial design considerations required us to adjust the height of the device while ensuring that we provided adequate support of the shoulders and hips so as to minimize weight on pressure points,” Dominguez said. “As we adjusted the saddle mechanism in the device, we had to be sure not to pinch or irritate the underbelly and other sensitive areas of the dog.”

Perez said the challenges and hours spent working on this project was worth it when she and her fellow Aggie Innovators saw Kita run freely in the device and saw the happiness expressed in Lebsock’s reaction.

“This project reminded us how engineers can enhance quality of life, and made us realize that our duty as engineers is not just for people and the environment but for our furry friends that make our lives happier,” Perez said.

Source:  New Mexico State University media release

Dog-directed speech is more effective with puppies

 A small team of researchers from the U.S., the U.K. and France has found that puppies are more receptive to dog-directed speech than are adult dogs.
In their paper published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the researchers describe experiments they conducted recording human voices and playing them back to dogs, what they found, and what it might mean for human communications.
dog

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Most everyone has heard dog-directed speech, which is similar to speech patterns some use when talking to infants—the voice gets higher, the words come out slower and there is a sort of sing-song phrasing.  (i.e. baby talk) Some of the phrases are familiar as well, such as “Who’s a good boy?” In this new effort, the researchers looked into the use of dog-directed speech seeking to learn if there might be any modulating factors in its use.

The experiments consisted of asking 30 female human volunteers to look at pictures of dogs while reading a script consisting of typical dog-directed speech phrases into a microphone to make recordings. The recordings were then played to 10 puppies and 10 adult dogs at an animal shelter as the researchers watched and recorded their reactions.

The researchers report that the volunteers tended to raise their voices in ways similar to people speaking to human infants regardless of the age of the dog they were looking at, though it was noted that the voices were raised slightly higher for puppies than for adult dogs. They also report that at the animal shelter, the puppies responded very clearly to the voices coming from the speakers, acting as if they wanted to play. The adult dogs, on the other hand, after a quick investigation, ignored the recordings altogether.

The researchers were not able to explain why the humans spoke in dog-directed speech or why the puppies responded to it while the adult dogs did not, but suggest that humans likely respond to puppies in much the same way they respond to babies—and babies have been shown to respond more to baby-directed speech. As for why the older dogs were not interested, it might have been the case that they were simply older and wiser—they could see very clearly there was no human present speaking to them, so they chose to ignore whatever was being said.

(DoggyMom’s comment:  Smart dogs!)

Source:  Phys.org

Full journal reference:

  1. Tobey Ben-Aderet, Mario Gallego-Abenza, David Reby, Nicolas Mathevon. Dog-directed speech: why do we use it and do dogs pay attention to it? Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2017; 284 (1846): 20162429 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2016.2429

Pets offer valuable support for owners with mental health problems

The body of research studying the value of pets in supporting mental health continues to grow.  A research team based at the University of Manchester published its results before Christmas, a study that involved 54 participants.

Said Helen Brooks, the lead researcher,

The people we spoke to through the course of this study felt their pet played a range of positive roles such as helping them to manage stigma associated with their mental health by providing acceptance without judgement

This YouTube video explains the research:

Pets save UK National Health Service

Pets account for millions of pounds worth of economic activity in the UK and may reduce National Health Service (NHS) costs by nearly two and a half billion pounds, according to a new report. companion-animal-economics

Drawing on multiple sources, and written by internationally respected animal welfare and business experts, Companion Animal Economics comprehensively documents the economic impact of pets in the UK – the first time such an assessment has been made for nearly 40 years. The study directly examines available evidence on the direct and indirect benefits and costs of companion animals to society, including their influence on human mental and physical health, illness prevention and well-being.

Published by CABI, Companion Animal Economics was developed by Daniel Mills, Professor of Veterinary Behavioural Medicine at the University of Lincoln UK, and Dr Sandra McCune, Human-Animal Interaction expert at Mars Petcare’s WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition. Mars Petcare UK provided sponsorship towards the cost of producing the report. Other authors include Dr Sophie Hall from the University of Lincoln’s School of Life Sciences, Professor Ted Fuller and Luke Dolling from the Lincoln International Business School, and Katie Bristow-Wade of Dogs for Good.

“Vets are well aware how important companion animals are to their owners, but it is important that they appreciate the impact that they can have on the physical, mental and social health of both individuals and society more widely,” says Professor Daniel Mills. “This book should help raise awareness of this and their economic importance in times of economic uncertainty.”

First major study since 1988
“Almost half of households in the UK share their homes with animals cared for as companions – a relationship we consider to be valuable and enriching,” says Dr McCune. ‘This important report provides a modern day update on the impact of companion animals on the UK economy and society, without reducing the discussion to a simplistic cost-benefits ratio. Critically, it aims to raise awareness of the need for research to evaluate the complex routes by which pets make an economic impact on UK society.”

Relatively little information on the economic impact of pets has been published since the 1988 seminal Council for Science and Society (CSS) report on Companion Animals in Society, which inspired Companion Animal Economics. Since then, trends in pet ownership, and associated industries, have changed a great deal. The report’s methodology sought to capture this new context, including issues like pet tourism, pet obesity, and expanding veterinary services, identifying clear gaps where further high-quality data and additional research are needed.

Costs as well as benefits
When evaluating the contribution of companion animals to the UK economy, both positive and negative aspects were considered. The cost of NHS treatment for bites and strikes from dogs is estimated at £3 million per year. At the same time, the report also estimates that pet ownership in the UK may reduce use of the UK health service by up to £2.45 billion per year. This conservative conclusion is drawn through examining healthcare savings through reduced number of doctor visits.

Given the scale of the potential impact, the report concludes that research into companion animals and their economic impact on society needs further investigation and should be supported by government. While UK data were used in the report, many of the points raised relate to other industrialised nations, demonstrating the global nature of this issue.

Book details & Link:
Companion Animal Economics. The Economic Impact of Companion Animals in the UK.  S Hall, Research Fellow. University of Lincoln, UK, L Dolling, PhD student. University of Lincoln, UK, K Bristow, Dogs for Good, UK, T Fuller, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Strategic Foresight. University of Lincoln, UK, D Mills, University of Lincoln, UK

Source:  Waltham.com

Premature greying in dogs

A research team including the legendary Temple Grandin have published a study into the premature greying of dogs and linked behavioral factors such as anxiety, fear and impulsivity as causes of a dog becoming prematurely grey.

Dog with greying muzzle

A sample of 400 dogs, ages 1–4 years was obtained at dog parks, shows, veterinary clinics, and other venues. Each dog was photographed and the degree of muzzle greyness was rated on an ordinal scale ranging from “no grey” to “full grey.” White, merle or pale colored dogs were dropped from the study because it was impossible to determine degree of greyness.

Each owner filled out a questionnaire assessing the constructs of anxiety and impulsivity, as well as other behaviours and characteristics. To prevent response bias, owners were told that the purpose of the study involved dog lifestyle. Distractor items were added to the survey to prevent the owner from guessing the purpose of the survey. Examples of survey items indicating anxiety included: destruction when left alone; hair loss on vet exam or being in a new place; and cringes/cowers in response to groups of people.

Examples of survey items indicating impulsivity included: jumping on people, inability to calm, loss of focus, hyperactivity after exercise.

In this sample of young dogs, latent variable regression showed that the extent of muzzle greyness was significantly and positively predicted by anxiety (p = 0.005) and impulsivity (p < 0.001). Dog size, spay/neuter status, or medical problems did not predict extent of muzzle greyness. Fear responses to loud noise, unfamiliar animals and people were associated with increased greyness. Ordinal regression analysis showed that muzzle greyness was significantly predicted by fear of loud noises (p = 0.001), unfamiliar animals (p = 0.031), and unfamiliar people (p < 0.001).

The team concluded that premature greying in young dogs may be a possible indicator of anxiety, fear or impulsivity issues in dogs under four years of age.

Source: Anxiety and impulsivity: Factors associated with premature graying in young dogs, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, December 2016

Can Therapy Dogs Assist in Motivating Children on the Autism Spectrum?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is one of the most widely and deeply researched topics in child development as researchers constantly look for answers into not only its cause but the best way to treat the problematic symptoms of the disorder once diagnosed.

Effects of the various types of ASD include deficits in social communication and interaction, repetitive or restricted behavior, sensory issues and cognitive delays. These traits prevent children on the spectrum from performing or completing tasks in the same timeliness or fashion as other children.

Often, in order to get children with ASD to complete tasks, a reward-based system is implemented, where the child is given a toy or some other form of reward. But the offer of a reward doesn’t always guarantee completion of the task.

One Texas Tech University researcher is part of a team taking a unique look at this system by providing access to therapy dogs as the reward, allowing students who complete certain academic tasks to spend time with the pooch, with the hope that potential interaction further motivates them to complete those tasks.

“It is a reward-based program,” said Alexandra Protopopova, a behavioral analyst and assistant professor in companion animal science in the Department of Animal & Food Sciences. “There is a second component to it, however, in that dogs, just by being dogs, may alleviate stress. Potentially, the dogs create a more pleasant environment and offer emotional support during academic sessions.”

“So, by mediating that stress level, the dogs may improve learning and potentially improve other outcomes as well as being a reward for the child ruing work.”

Dogs as rewards for autistic children

The dogs create a more pleasant environment and offer emotional support during academic sessions. Photo by Texas Tech University

Protopopova is an expert in behavior issues with dogs across a wide array of subjects, from interaction with children with ASD to analyzing what behaviors are more attractive for potential adopters and ways to bring those behaviors out to improve adoption rates.

But she said the methods and philosophies of how behavior works in animals is, at the core, the same as it is in children, and it is that connection that made this current research both attractive and interesting.

“With an iPad or toy as a reward, a child might become bored over time,” Protopopova said. “With a dog you might see the exact opposite situation over time where the child grows attached to the dog and the quality of the reward grows as well.”

Emotional interaction

Upon arriving at Texas Tech, Protopopova had a colleague in the College of Education, professor Jeanne Donaldson, who is now at Louisiana State University, and wanted to immediately connect the college and the Burkhart Center for Autism Education and Research with the Department of Animal & Food Sciences. The most natural way to make that connection, she said was to incorporate therapy dogs with the research being done involving applied behavior analysis in children with disabilities.

“Social behavior and social interaction has been an often neglected component of these kinds of programs,” Protopopova said, “and that is something researchers have attempted to improve, that social behavior and communication. There is some evidence that dogs or animals in general occasionally could bring out that social connection. That part of the research is definitely attractive to us.”

Measuring the effectiveness of using therapy dogs as a reward for academic performance in children with ASD was performed in two areas. The first was done biologically; stress responses were detected through the collection of saliva. Breanna Harris, a research assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, used salivary cortisol, a stress hormone, to determine a student’s stress level in regard to anticipating interaction with the dog.

The second aspect of measuring effectiveness was done by observing the rate of work in the children and how motivated the children were to engage in academic tasks. Each child was given an individual task based on his or her education level, so those tasks involved the same things they were learning in school at the time or what parents had indicated the child needed extra help with.

A control condition was created where there were not rewards and children received praise only for engaging in academic tasks. A second control group saw children work toward receiving inanimate leisure items such as iPads or toys, which Protopopova said have been proven through prior research to be effective motivational tactics.

Two other control conditions involved the therapy dogs. One condition involved the dogs being used as a reward for work performed and would be present only after that work was completed. The second condition was what Protopopova termed more of the typical animal assisted intervention where the dog was continuously present in the room.

The conditions where there was no reward at all and where the dog was constantly around proved to be the most ineffective methods of motivation, researchers found. The two conditions where there were rewards provided upon completion of the work were the most effective; being rewarded with spending time with the therapy dog proved the most effective for some children.

“In fact, for most of the children, this was very useful as a reward because the dog motivated them quite a bit to do the work,” Protopopova said. “We did find, surprisingly to me, that one participant did in fact work where we hypothesized he wouldn’t during a session where the dog was present but not as a reward.”

Improvement over time

Single-use incidents of using the therapy dog show one thing, but the researchers wanted to determine whether prolonged exposure to the availability of a therapy dog as a reward for performing work continues those results.

For that reason, in this first study, children stayed in the program for anywhere from four to nine months to see if using the same dog repeatedly fosters the child’s attachment to the dog.

Prior to the child beginning the program, he or she is given a behavioral preference assessment where the child is asked to choose his or her favorite thing in the room, whether it’s a toy, an electronic device, a dog, etc. They also were given the choice of performing the academic test instead. At the end of the program, the child is tested again with the same assessment to see if their preferences had changed.

“We wanted to see how all these preferences for inanimate objects or activities changed,” Protopopova said. “Right now we are still collecting the final pieces of data because we’re still finishing up with a couple of participants. We don’t yet have the clear answers there, but it’s not as straightforward as we imagined, either. For some of the children, we did not see the attachment we hypothesized, or at least any evidence of it in our data so far. But it’s too early to tell.”

Protopopova said one of the advantages of this study is its single-subject design where each child’s program or sessions are designed specifically for that child’s needs. That will allow, if the program is used outside of an educational setting, for other children to enter the program with a focus on their unique behaviors and what is best to encourage them to learn difficult academic or self-care tasks in a non-stressful learning environment.

She said one family in the original group took the data gathered about their child and obtained a dog and will train it as a service dog because of the benefits the data showed for their child.

“This is definitely a strength,” Protopopova said. “Instead of a group design and us concluding that the average child would benefit from some procedure, which is not really that meaningful to individual families, we can give each family specific answers whether their child would or would not benefit from a dog.”

One major question to come out of the preliminary research, she said, is whether using a shelter dog to encourage behavior can be used to determine the severity of the disability. Does it work on children who are higher- or lower-functioning?

Protopopova and other researchers are beginning another one to answer new questions that rose from the original, smaller study.

The larger study will involve at least 30 children, and they are actively recruiting children to enter the study. Those children must be between the ages of 2 and 14 with autism spectrum disorder and/or other developmental disabilities.

The hope is the larger study will allow the research to be used in schools and centers on a regular basis.

“There we can answer more generalized questions,” Protopopova said. “How useful is this and who is it most useful for? Can we tell which children are going to benefit and which ones will not? So when we get those answers we are going to be a bit closer to really giving that program out to schools to say, ‘we have strong evidence that it will be useful for this person or not for this person.”

Source:  Texas Tech University media statement

The Most Desirable Traits in Dogs for Potential Adopters

Note from DoggyMom:

Shelters need all the help they can get to increase rates of adoption.  This latest research from Texas Tech University may help them do that and the results may surprise you – traditional ‘training’ may not be the answer.


Alexandra Protopopova has performed extensive research trying to increase the adoption rates and decrease euthanasia rates for animal shelters throughout the country.

Walking down the long rows of pens at any animal shelter reveals a veritable smorgasbord of canine variety.

Big dogs. Little dogs. Outgoing dogs. Shy dogs. Hyper dogs. Calm dogs. Happy dogs. Sad dogs.

But finding which one is right for a potential adopter is a big challenge for animal shelters throughout the country. The way to find that right fit between adopter and adoptee has almost always been about matching personalities and has never really had much scientific theory behind it.

Until now.

Alexandra Protopopova, a behavioral analyst and assistant professor in companion animal science in the Department of Animal & Food Sciences at Texas Tech University, has turned what started as her doctoral dissertation into a major research focus. She is attempting to determine what behavioral traits in dogs are most attractive to potential adopters and then working with shelters to train dogs to exhibit those traits when an adopter shows interest.

“Currently there are numerous pets living in animal shelters, not only in Texas but in the U.S. and around the world,” Protopopova said. “The problem is that a lot of these animals are living for quite some time at these shelters, even if the shelters are well-funded. Because of space restrictions, the animals are typically socially deprived, they are housed in single or very small groups without a lot of human interaction, and the euthanasia rates are still very high across the country.

“Can we figure out a way to train dogs in the shelter so that when people come in and see the trained dogs, it will improve their adoption rate and decreases euthanasia rates?”

The answer, through her research, appears to be a likely, yes.

But finding that answer not only meant discovering and displaying the most attractive traits in a dog, but also breaking down some of the myths that have, over time, seemed to determine the most attractive qualities in a canine companion.

Breaking assumptions
Determining what traits in dogs are most attractive to potential adopters involved not only observing canine behavior but also breaking away from some of the traditionally held assumptions from the past.

These are traits that Protopopova said she has been investigating since her time as a graduate student. Many shelters have training programs that are based on these assumptions, and it took going back to the basics and avoiding the widely held assumptions to determine what true traits in dogs were most and least attractive to potential adopters.

Kennel dog“A typical assumption was that training dogs to sit and not jump or bark would result in higher adoption rates, since that is what we had assumed adopters wanted in their dogs,” Protopopova said. “I also had my own assumption that people really like a dog that would gaze lovingly into their eyes, when in fact we saw no evidence of that in our research. So why don’t we take a step back and systematically figure out what it is people want to see in a dog? We approached it from a marketing perspective, and from there we could see, after knowing what behaviors are favorable to people, what programs we needed to work on to improve behavior and ultimately increase adoption rates.”

An extensive examination of canine behavior in kennels was then undertaken to determine which behaviors were the most and least favorable for potential adopters. Protopopova observed in-kennel behavior and examined everything the dogs did as people walked by.

Behaviors such as barking, sitting and jumping had no effect whatsoever on attracting potential adopters, but a dog that would pace in the kennel, turn their face away from those walking by or lean sadly to one side of the kennel would deter adopters and lengthen the dog’s stay in the shelter.

But the most telling behavior came when there was actual interaction between the dog and potential adopters outside the kennel. It is standard practice at shelters to allow potential adopters to select one or two dogs they might be interested in and allow them to interact in an outdoor area to see if they are compatible.

Two behaviors stood out among all others as the strongest determinants toward whether or not the dog was adopted. If the dog laid down in proximity to the adopter, that increased the likelihood of adoption. Conversely, if the dog ignored the initiation of the potential adopter to play, that decreased quite severely the likelihood of adoption.

Knowing those two key traits in dogs, Protopopova and her fellow researchers were able to develop a structured training program where the shelter volunteer or staff member could go with the potential adopter and guide the dog’s behavior based on its toy preference, knowing the dog would not ignore the toys it likes, or eliminate toys altogether if it was determined the dog did not like playing with toys.

Shelter volunteers and staff also would encourage the dog to lie down next to a potential adopter using treats. All these efforts, Protopopova said, resulted in a discernable increase in adoption rates.

“We also asked people why they chose the dog they adopted and why they did not choose the dog they didn’t adopt after those interactions in the experimental setting,” Protopopova said. “It’s fun to take those words the adopters use, those constructs and figure out what they mean. If an adopter told us they adopted the dogs because it was ‘social and liked me,’ they could simply mean ‘the dog lay down next to me.’”

This training program also is cost-efficient, knowing shelters do not have the resources to afford a professional training staff, which is why Protopopova considers it more behavior management than actual training.

But is it actual training? Or could this be considered more of a way of tricking the dog into behaving a certain way to increase its adoptability? That was certainly something Protopopova considered, though adopters indicated afterward the method was no more intrusive than the control group where the dog was allowed to do whatever it wanted.

“The interactions between adopters and dogs are only eight minutes long because that is how long previous research has shown it takes adopters to decide,” Protopopova said. “The dogs have only eight minutes to show their best side, so if we can do anything to show them off in the best light possible, that is a good thing for the adopter and the dog.”

The next step has been partnering with Maddie’s Fund foundation, which offers grants to shelters that works with community veterinarians, rescue groups and animal control agencies. Through Maddie’s Fund’s help, Protopopova is taking her research to a national scale, trying the same techniques at different types of shelters across the country.

“Will it work in smaller, rural community shelters? Will it work in the big city environment?” Protopopova asked. “Furthermore, will it work in different parts of the country? Our assessment was in Florida, but will it work in Texas, in Boston, in San Francisco? We will take it to six shelters nationally and try it out there.”

Other factors besides behavior
Obviously, factors beyond behavior go into why potential adopters choose the dogs they choose. Adopters can be looking for a certain breed or a certain size of a dog.

Certain breeds such as long-haired dogs, shepherd breeds and collie breeds tend to have high adoption rates, as do toy breeds such as Pomeranians or Chihuahuas. But a second question begged to be asked after the initial research by Protopopova – are some breeds more or less susceptible or accepting of behavioral training?

One problem with answering that question is the majority of dogs in a shelter are not purebreeds, but rather a mix of many breeds or dogs that have never had a purebred ancestor. So determining their trainability based on breed would be difficult.

Age also is an important factor in whether the dog’s behavior can be modified to make it more adoptable. Typically, puppies are more likely to be adopted because of their age and the fact adopters want to find a dog that can be with them for a long time. So training of puppies in an animal shelter setting might not be the best use of limited resources.

Conversely, older dogs that are well into their adulthood tend to stay in the shelter longer because adopters don’t seek them. So the ideal group for this experiment was dogs in their adolescence or just into adulthood. The good news is that, contrary to the old saying, old dogs can be taught new tricks.

“It just makes more sense if you’re a shelter volunteer to put your resources in training adolescent dogs,” Protopopova said. “But how does age affect training in general? It doesn’t affect it a whole lot. But, of course, socialization is very important for puppies. If you haven’t socialized your puppy to different people, different sounds, different environments and other dogs, you will have a much harder time young adult dog is much easier on families. Puppies engage in much worse behavior.”

Protopopova said in some cases it’s also difficult to determine how the dog was treated before arriving at the shelter. Dogs in shelters fall into one of three categories – owner-surrender, stray or confiscated due to abuse or cruelty.

The difficulty comes in owners who surrender dogs to a shelter. Shelters charge a fee to owners who give up their dogs, so in many cases, owners tell the shelter the dog was picked up as a stray to avoid paying that fee, or because they are wracked with guilt for giving up their beloved pet.

Those labels not only make a difference to potential adopters, but an owner-surrender dog, somewhat surprisingly, is more likely on a national scale to be euthanized than a stray, Protopopova said.

While the first study involved roughly 250 dogs, the bigger national study will involve many, many more and will involve dogs from a variety of shelter types, from municipal shelters to limited-admission shelters – a term Protopopova prefers over no-kill shelters. Protopopova is anxious to see how the study works on that national scale and how many adoptions encouraged by a dog’s modified behavior result in some dogs being returned.

Given what has been discovered so far, though, Protopopova is encouraged her efforts and those of her fellow researchers have forged a path to increasing adoptions across the board.

“We are very excited about this procedure because this is really the first time we have experimentally and systematically demonstrated an increase in adoption rates through behavioral training,” Protopopova said.

Source:  Texas Tech University media release