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Guard dogs: sleep, work and the behavioural responses to people and other stimuli

Adams, G.J. and Johnson, K.G. (1995) Guard dogs: sleep, work and the behavioural responses to people and other stimuli. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 46 (1-2). pp. 103-115.

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Sleep-wake cycles and the responses to naturally occurring stimuli were studied in 17 guard dogs; detailed video recordings were made of ten of these dogs. The guard dogs came from two different backgrounds: either they lived permanently on-site, or they were commercially owned and regularly brought onto premises, removed before the workers started, and rested off-site at kennels. These two groups were studied to discover any difference in sleep-wake patterns, territoriality and responses to intruders. During 8 h recordings the guard dogs were inactive for 84 ± 17% (mean ± standard deviation, SD) of the time at night, and 70 ± 23% of the time during the day. The dogs had 2.7 ± 2.9 sessions of activity h-1 at night, which was significantly less than during the day when there were 4.2 ± 2.7 sessions h-1 (P < 0.001). The guard dogs barked five times more often during the day (1.06 ± 1.6 barks h-1) than at night (0.2 ± 0.4 barks h-1), (P < 0.001). Of these barking sessions 70% were apparently stimulated by human activity, 29% by activity of other dogs and 1% were of indefinite origin. During the day guard dogs permanently on-site had far more sessions of activity h-1 (5.8 ± 2.2) than commercial guard dogs which were resting off-site (2.1 ± 0.6) (P < 0.025). However, at night, there was no significant difference between the sleep-wake cycles and activity levels of the two groups. When the dogs were guarding premises after business hours, most ( 14 17) rested close (< 15 m) to their front fences yet they were usually out of the obvious view of the observer driving past the guard sites. All but one dog showed aggression towards passers-by, and especially towards other dogs. However, when 14 dogs were directly challenged at their fences, only three held their ground, six barked and then either backed or ran away, and the other five remained hidden. For most of the time spent resting 16 of the 17 dogs lay upon available soft materials such as car seats, cloth or sand. All the dogs that were off-site at kennels during the day ( 4 4) used resting-sites at night within 15 m of their pick-up and delivery points. Of the dogs remaining permanently on-site, four rested at sites provided by their owners and the other nine rested close to where their owners were active during business hours. In order to increase their deterrent value, guard dogs should be provided with suitable housing or materials for resting sites in strategic areas so that they may see and be seen by passers-by.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary Studies
Publisher: Elsevier
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