August 31, 2019

Audience: Executive Leadership, Foster Caregivers, Public, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers, Veterinary Team

Organization: Michigan State University
Investigator(s): Dr. Marie Hopfensperger
Grant Amount: $7,618.69
Project Type: Basic Research
Project Status: Research Complete

Project Summary

This study was designed to determine average activity levels of dogs in a shelter environment and identify any associations between activity levels in shelter and behaviors in the home environment. Seventy-five singly-housed, adult dogs were enrolled in the study during the 8-month period. Sixty-seven adoptive owners consented to follow-up post adoption. Due to technical difficulties with the activity monitors and poor response rate from adopters, there was inadequate data for analysis. Thus, no results are reported at this time.


The objective of the project was to assess for factors that may be associated with in-shelter activity level including impulsivity, attachment, separation-related problems, excitability, fear and aggression, and any influence on post-adoption energy level or other behavioral concerns.


: All adult dogs entering Michigan Humane Society for 8 months (between mid-October 2018 and mid-June 2019) were evaluated for inclusion in the study. Seventy-five dogs were enrolled in part one of this project. A collar-attached accelerometer was placed on each singly-housed, adult dog meeting all inclusion criteria. All dogs wore a standardized collar. All dogs had standardized enrichment and exercise, including one 15-minute walk per day utilizing a standardized no-pull harness. Accelerometer data was to be collected for up to 7 days or until the time of adoption to account for the full range of variation in shelter hours. Length of stay and adoption rates were maintained for all enrolled dogs. In part two of the project, sixty-seven dogs were enrolled. Validated survey measurements of canine behavior, the Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire (CBARQ) and the Dog Impulsivity Assessment Scale (DIAS), were sent to adopters 4-8 weeks post adoption.


  • In part one of the study, fourteen dogs were excluded from further evaluation of activity levels because they were adopted on their first day on the adoption floor and thus wore the accelerometer for less than 24 hours.
  • Of the 61 remaining dogs in part one of the study, only eight accelerometers appear to have collected activity data for the entire time the collars were worn. Several accelerometers collected data for an arbitrary portion of the 24-hour day, which was not consistent over the period of time that the accelerometers were worn.
  • In part two of the study, only 6 adopters completed both the CBARQ and DIAS surveys. Two additional adopters completed the DIAS only.


Between the inconsistencies of the accelerometers for part one of the study, and poor response rate for part two of the study, associations are not able to be made at this time. However, it would be incredibly meaningful to be able to report to potential adopters whether in-shelter activity level is associated with post-adoption energy level or other behavioral concerns. This could also inform in-shelter interventions and placement decisions.