Post Adoption Research Project

Project Lead: Dr Emma Buckland

Key People: Carys Williams, Joshua Woodward

 

Project Background and Summary  

The Post Adoption Research Project consists of two longitudinal prospective studies run by researchers at Dogs Trust. We’re analysing adopter-reported responses to digital and telephone surveys asking about specific behaviour, health and welfare outcomes of adopted dogs to help strengthen our rehoming and post adoption support practises and build on our understanding of how we can best help adopters and their dogs.

Post Adoption Support Calls

Dogs Trust has a commitment to provide life-long behaviour support for all dogs rehomed from us and we support our adopters with several follow up calls during the first 4 months of adoption. These calls are primarily to offer support for our adopters, but adopters also consent to us using the information provided to identify valuable insights on the health and behaviour of newly adopted dogs.

For every dog adopted, Dogs Trust support staff get in touch over the phone a couple of days after the dog goes home to find out if everything is going well and offer any immediate support if needed. We also offer new adopters the option of receiving two additional calls at 2-weeks and 4-months after they take their dog home.

Our team of researchers then extract these data, anonymise it and analyse it to answer questions about how and when commonly reported health or behaviour problems may occur, and how these might change over time. For example:

  • Do adopted dogs experience any health issues in the first few days of going home? Do these health problems resolve in the first 2-weeks?
  • When leaving their dog at home alone, do adopters notice any common separation related behaviours?
  • Can providing early behavioural support to adopters help to prevent dogs needing to be returned to us or to prevent specific problem behaviours from developing into more serious issues?

Post Adoption Welfare Study

The second study, known as PAWS, is a prospective longitudinal project launched in September 2020. PAWS uses a series of specially designed online research surveys to ask new adopters about the behaviour, training, health and lifestyle of their dog and also about their experiences and expectations of adopting a dog.

New adopters can opt to take part in the study at the time of adopting their dog. There are 3 short surveys available within the first few days after adoption and then four surveys during the first year of adoption followed by an annual survey.

With this valuable information, our research team can start to answer important questions about the welfare of adopted dogs. For example:

  • How well do dogs settle into their new home and what are the key factors in the successful integration of a dog to the home? What are the benefits and challenges of adopting a dog?
  • If behaviour problems start to occur, when are they most likely to happen and what are the factors that contribute to their development and their effective treatment?
  • What kinds of training do adopters choose to do with their dogs, and does this help to reduce/alleviate any behaviour problems?

 

The problem, and its context within Dogs Trust

Adopting a dog is an exciting and rewarding adventure. Adopters want to provide the best care, but at times, introducing a new dog into your home can be stressful for both the dog and the family as they adjust to living together in harmony.

Long-term studies about dog welfare are rare and incredibly powerful for studying how things like dog behaviour may change over time. At Dogs Trust, we have a unique opportunity to team up with our amazing adopters to better understand the ups and downs of adopted dog ownership, and to learn more about the behaviour, health, and welfare of adopted dogs beyond the rehoming centre gates.

We believe it is important to share our findings from the information provided by study participants with our adopters and supporters, those working in the rehoming sector, and the public so we can all learn from the valuable insights of our research. The findings from this research will help us in our endeavour to improve rehoming and post adoption support practises and help to understand how we can best help adopters and their dogs.


Publications

2021

The below abstract has been accepted as a poster presentation at UFAW 2021.

Back to school Exploring the reasons why adopters do not plan to take their recently adopted dog to training classes PDF 63 KB
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2020

Abstract investigating the change in five owner-reported behaviours of concern between 2 days and 14 days of adoption presented at the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW) 2020 conference.

Owner reported behaviour of rehomed dogs in the first 14 days of adoption PDF 138 KB
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Abstract exploring the factors associated with advice acceptance in our post adoption support calls presented at the International Society for Anthrozoology (ISAZ) 2020 conference.

Post adoption support – why do owners decline behavioural advice for canine problem behaviours? PDF 105 KB
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2019

Abstract to describe new strategies and an evaluation of canine post adoption support presented at the Pan Commonwealth Veterinary Conference (PCVC) in 2019.

Post Adoption Project: New strategies and evaluation of canine post-adoption support PDF 102 KB
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Abstract describing owner-reported behaviours of concern in the first 2-5 days of adoption presented at the British Veterinary Behaviour Association (BVBA) 2019 conference.

Owner-reported behaviours of concern regarding dogs recently adopted from UK rehoming centres PDF 110 KB
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