Kenneling Could Be Linked to Mental Illness in Dogs

The vast majority of kenneled dogs in a research study showed signs of obsessive repetitive behaviors.

By: Oleg Kozlov
Don’t routinely keep your dog locked in a kennel all day long. By: Oleg Kozlov

It’s no secret that a lot of dogs don’t like to be in kennels. From the barking and howling kennel mates to constantly waiting for you to return, the whole experience can be distressing.

In a recent study published in Physiology and Behavior, researchers are equating that distress to mental illness.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh (Scotland) and the Anthrozoology Institute at the University of Bristol (England) monitored 30 German Shepherd police dogs. These dogs are often kenneled after their work shifts, and the team wanted to know how being confined affected their behavior.

About 93% of the dogs demonstrated obsessive repetitive behaviors, including:

  • Pacing
  • Circling
  • Spinning
  • Jumping at a wall

The kenneled dogs also showed a decrease in cortisol. Possible causes include overactive adrenal glands, a stress-coping mechanism or stress created by handler separation. Further research is needed.

What should you do about this information? Not much, according to Dr. Karen Becker, DVM — unless you routinely keep your dog kenneled all day long.

“I don’t equate crate training with kenneling,” Dr. Becker wrote in a Huffington Post article. “Confining a puppy or dog that hasn’t been housetrained to her own cozy crate for a few hours is very different from routinely housing a dog in a boarding kennel like the one described in the U.K. study.”

She added: “A crate-trained dog, once housebroken, should be allowed to go in and out of her crate at will. If your dog has been properly crate-trained, she’ll view the crate as her own safe and private little den.”

Kristine Lacoste

View posts by Kristine Lacoste
Kristine Lacoste, editor in chief of Petful, is an author, poet and pet lover from Louisiana. She is the author of an award-nominated book, One Unforgettable Journey, and was host of a weekly pet news segment on the National K-9 Academy Radio Show. She was the New Orleans coordinator for Dogs on Deployment, a nonprofit that helps military members and their pets, for 3 years. She is also employed as chief operating officer for a large mental health practice in Louisiana. Kristine has a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a bachelor’s degree in English and a Master of Business Administration degree.

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