Foster owners take in dogs for "sleep-overs" to measure canine s - ABC FOX Montana Local News, Weather, Sports KTMF | KWYB

Foster owners take in dogs for "sleep-overs" to measure canine stress

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MISSOULA -

A new “citizen science” project in Montana aims to reduce the stress levels of shelter dogs, and give animal shelters a better prediction of future pet behavior in their new adoptive homes.

On Sunday, 10 dogs were paired with foster owners at the Humane Society of Western Montana, to begin a two-day sleepover as part of a multi-state study on canine stress.

Lisa Gunter and Erica Feuerbacher, who are collaborating together as representatives from Carroll College and the Canine Science Collaboratory, said on Sunday that the study has two big goals.

The first: reducing the stress animals feel in shelters as they wait for permanent homes.

“We know that human contact can help reduce stress, and a lot of shelters like Humane Society of Western Montana have great foster programs in place, and we can kind of capitalize on those and see ‘Can going home, getting a break from the shelter, reduce stress,’” said Feuerbacher.

The second goal:  getting a better understanding of a dog’s personality before they’re sent into their new homes.

“Who are these individuals? How can we better match them for their forever lives in these new homes?” asked Gunter. “We are looking at their behavior here in the shelter, what are they like, what are they like when they’re spending time with their foster family, and then we’re going to be asking their adopters a couple of days after adoption, and then the big point is six months out.”

Through their previous research, Dr. Feuerbacher and Gunter found that the one-night sleepover program at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, significantly reduced stress levels in shelter dogs. The outcome was not expected given that the shelter dogs were in a new place with a new person–yet their stress levels dropped. Dr. Feuerbacher and ASU researchers are expanding their study to four new locations. In addition to HSWM, research programs will take place at the Arizona Humane Society in Phoenix, the SPCA of Texas in Dallas and the Pet Lifeline shelter in Atlanta, Georgia.

New groups will be paired every Sunday in Missoula throughout the month of May, until 40 dogs have been fostered.

The study is made possible in part through Maddie’s Fund, a foundation with the goal of a no-kill nation where all healthy and treatable shelter dogs and cats are guaranteed a loving home.

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