Problem solving games are often advised in the behavioural therapy of fearful dogs. The aim of the current study was to assess their effectiveness in reducing fear in dogs. Dogs’ fear was evaluated through four subtests of the Dog Mentality Assessment (Fält, 1997; Svartberg & Forkman, 2002), focused on dog behaviour towards people. The first subtest consisted of a social contact with a stranger (test leader, TL) who approached the handler and then tried to walk the dog. In the second, another TL was hooded and encouraged the dog to play, moving and shaking a rope. In the third a manikin suddenly appeared in the dog’s path. In the last subtest a third TL spent 3 minutes talking to the dog handler without interacting with the animal. In each subtest a score varying from 1 (extreme fear) to 5 (no fear) was assigned by two trained observers. Dogs resulted fearful were divided into an experimental group (5 dogs, 2 males and 3 females, 45.2±23.3 month old) and a control group (4 dogs, 2 males and 2 females, 61.0±48.0 month old). The experimental group underwent problem solving sessions carried out by experimenters (different from TL) in a room, with games of increasing complexity, in which they had to gain the tasty food hidden by: upside down glass, bin, rolled towel, cage, twister, doggy brain train cube, roulette, inclined tube, and pull-the-plate. The number of sessions needed to solve all the games was 6.6±2.6. Sixty day after the first test, all dogs were blindly assessed by repeating the Dog Mentality Assessment. Data was statistically analyzed by using a Wilcoxon test (p<0.05). Dogs of the experimental group statistically increased their scores after the problem solving sessions (16.29 vs 21.58; W=91.0; p<0.022), meaning that they appeared less fearful. Scores of the control groups did not show any change compared to the first trial. These preliminary data suggest that problem solving sessions where dogs are successful may be effective in reducing fear.

Problem solving games as a tool to reduce fear in dogs: preliminary results

ZILOCCHI, MARCELLA;GUARDINI, GIOVANNA;MARITI, CHIARA;GAZZANO, ANGELO
2012

Abstract

Problem solving games are often advised in the behavioural therapy of fearful dogs. The aim of the current study was to assess their effectiveness in reducing fear in dogs. Dogs’ fear was evaluated through four subtests of the Dog Mentality Assessment (Fält, 1997; Svartberg & Forkman, 2002), focused on dog behaviour towards people. The first subtest consisted of a social contact with a stranger (test leader, TL) who approached the handler and then tried to walk the dog. In the second, another TL was hooded and encouraged the dog to play, moving and shaking a rope. In the third a manikin suddenly appeared in the dog’s path. In the last subtest a third TL spent 3 minutes talking to the dog handler without interacting with the animal. In each subtest a score varying from 1 (extreme fear) to 5 (no fear) was assigned by two trained observers. Dogs resulted fearful were divided into an experimental group (5 dogs, 2 males and 3 females, 45.2±23.3 month old) and a control group (4 dogs, 2 males and 2 females, 61.0±48.0 month old). The experimental group underwent problem solving sessions carried out by experimenters (different from TL) in a room, with games of increasing complexity, in which they had to gain the tasty food hidden by: upside down glass, bin, rolled towel, cage, twister, doggy brain train cube, roulette, inclined tube, and pull-the-plate. The number of sessions needed to solve all the games was 6.6±2.6. Sixty day after the first test, all dogs were blindly assessed by repeating the Dog Mentality Assessment. Data was statistically analyzed by using a Wilcoxon test (p<0.05). Dogs of the experimental group statistically increased their scores after the problem solving sessions (16.29 vs 21.58; W=91.0; p<0.022), meaning that they appeared less fearful. Scores of the control groups did not show any change compared to the first trial. These preliminary data suggest that problem solving sessions where dogs are successful may be effective in reducing fear.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11568/226351
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