KENNEL BLOCKS VS HOME KENNELLING
When compiling tender responses for our clients or attending initial site surveys – or even new client introductions – we are regularly asked about the location and specifics of our company kennels.
The reality is that we took a decision a number of years ago, to dispense with our kennel block in favour of a model that sees all dogs working for GSS, living at home with their handlers.
Many private operators here in the UK, not to mention the Police, have also adopted the home kennel model. The reasons for the adoption of this model are numerous but grounded in academic theory. Here are four examples (there are many more) of how the home kennel model enhances a working dog’s welfare and performance:
Dogs are sociable animals and need to feel secure if they are to thrive. Just because a kennel looks secure to a human, doesn’t mean that the dog feels secure once inside. The environment may cause the dog stress.
Kennels are best considered in this way: How does this kennel compare to the ethical zoo environment? Are those zoo animals treated more respectfully? Enrichment not only considers what is enriching for the dog, but it must also consider what is not enriching to the dog.
Higher levels of aggression and dominance may also be observed in dogs that reside in kennel blocks. Barking can also be a sign of excitement towards the presence of a human but if other stress signs are visible then it should be considered that the dogs’ welfare is impaired.
Working dogs who live with their handler or take part in additional training or activities with the handler away from the working environment are found to be more obedient than those who stay in kennels once the working day is over.
Dogs who live in the home are considered more sociable. Signs of chronic stress which includes ‘paw licking’, ‘destroying materials’, ‘diarrhoea’, ‘howling’, ‘pacing’, and ‘tail-chasing’ can be observed in dogs in kennels when they are restricted from sociability (interaction with a human and/or other dogs) and space.
Olfaction (sense of smell):
Dogs use their noses to communicate and to investigate. It therefore makes sense that a dog will be stimulated, or not, by its environment. A dog who is kept in a kennel on its own, with very little change in their environment, is unlikely to have its natural needs met and be under stimulated in the olfactory sense. Conversely, a dog kept in an environment full of other dogs and humans, and where strong chemicals are used on a regular basis may be overstimulated.
We would like to thank GSS EDD Handler – Gemma Forde for her valued contribution to this article.