A dog rescue charity has changed its visitor policy to improve animal welfare following a joint study with animal behaviour experts from the University of Lincoln, UK.

The academics, from the School of Life Sciences, partnered with Jerry Green Dog Rescue to understand the impact regular visitors to dog kennels had on the dogs’ welfare and behaviour in a six-week research project.

The charity has since introduced the Meet & Match process across its five centres and the research evidence has been presented at the International Veterinary Behaviour Meeting and the Association of Dog and Cat Homes Conference; and was recently published in the international scientific journal Physiology & Behavior.

During the study, behaviour and physiology characteristics of 15 dogs were analysed alongside kennel noise levels and response to human interaction during restricted visitor access and open visitor access.

Restricted visitor access meant dogs were introduced to potential owners on a one-to-one basis away from the kennels, while open visitor access meant that members of the public were able to view dogs unsupervised during a two-and-a-half hour period six days a week.

The results revealed that dogs were significantly quieter and expressed characteristics suggestive of increased relaxation when visitor access was restricted.

David Foulds, Chief Executive of Jerry Green Dog Rescue, said: “The findings of the study completed by the University of Lincoln have had a huge impact on the way we care for our dogs. Dogs that are being rehomed can suffer from stress as they get used to a new environment and new people. We wanted to find ways to improve how we care for our dogs, and this study gave us the opportunity to do so.

“We have introduced restricted visitor access at all five of our centres as a result of the findings. Our Meet & Match scheme makes sure that anyone looking for a dog is interviewed by a member of the team to find out which dog will best suit them. Dogs are then introduced to potential owners in an environment away from the kennels. It’s had a positive impact on the welfare of our dogs and has been recognised by other dog charities as best practice.”

Dr Sarah Ellis, Research Fellow from the School of Life Sciences, University of Lincoln, said: “We would like to thank the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare who funded such an important study. Collaborating with Jerry Green Dog Rescue has been a fantastic opportunity to carry out a piece of applied research, of which the results have provided a strong evidence base on how to directly improve on kennelled dog welfare.”

Lynn F. Hewison, Hannah F. Wright, Helen E. Zulch, Sarah L.H. Ellis ‘Short term consequences of preventing visitor access to kennels on noise and the behaviour and physiology of dogs housed in a rescue shelter’ Physiology & Behavior