If you’ve visited our Golden Valley location lately, you may have noticed construction underway in our adoption area. We’re using the space to test out an exciting new group-housing habitat for shelter dogs.
Dogs are social animals, and housing them in solitary kennels in environments that are flooded with sensory information — like the sounds and smells of other dogs — can contribute to stress and anxiety. Our vision is to build group housing where dogs can exhibit a full range of natural behaviors, including socialization and play. We're also excited to offer dogs and potential adopters the chance to interact in a more comfortable environment.
While cats have long been housed in groups, dog group housing has posed a variety of challenges. Research has been done highlighting the benefits of canine group housing. However, that research has focused on housing that’s designed for long-term use — longer than the typical length of stay for dogs at AHS.
Last spring, a small group of AHS staff visited 16 different shelters across the country, most of them less than 2 years old. “We learned a great deal and met so many talented people with a shared passion,” says Anne Johnson, director of shelter services.
All of the canine housing in these shelters followed a similar model: single unit spaces in rows. While some housed two dogs in one area, the pair was still confined to an individual space, which left questions about barriers to group play unanswered.
“With this prototype habitat, we’ll be able to conduct more extensive research by answering those questions and testing new theories,” says Anne. “Our hope is to remove roadblocks to housing dogs in the way that truly is best for their mental and physical well-being.”
Construction on the new habitat will wrap up in March, at which point we’ll begin testing the space to find out what works and what doesn’t. At the end of this journey, we hope to have an ideal habitat for dogs that can be replicated, and usher in a new reality for all AHS dogs in the future.