Maddie’s Fund supports groundbreaking dog housing research

Five dogs playing in AHS dog habitat

A $50,000 grant from Maddie’s Fund is supporting research to evaluate the impact of Animal Humane Society’s groundbreaking new dog housing prototype — research that will help animal shelters across the country provide improved housing for animals in their care.

In 2018, AHS began exploring ways to build housing that would better meet the needs of the dogs in our care. Dogs, like people, are social animals, and housing them in individual kennels in environments that are flooded with sensory information — like the smells and sounds of other dogs — can cause stress and anxiety. So AHS embraced the challenge of building something better.

Completed after months of planning and construction, AHS’s habitat prototype in Golden Valley includes private areas where dogs can rest and shared spaces that encourage dogs to interact with potential adopters and each other in a more natural, inviting setting.

The Maddie’s Fund grant will allow shelter staff to study the behavior of the animals who reside in these living spaces while waiting for permanent homes.

AHS’s veterinarians and behavior staff plan to use the grant specifically to examine the shelter experience for shy, fearful, jumpy, and exuberant dogs. Liv Hagen, Manager of Shelter Behavior Services at AHS, says the funding is critical to placing more dogs in adoptive homes.

Two dogs playing in Animal Humane Society's dog habitat

The study will measure how this new housing model impacts the stress levels and behavior of dogs. It will also evaluate the experience of shelter visitors. “We hope to gain more insight into best practices for housing dogs in an environment that allows them to express natural behaviors,” says Hagen. “We know this approach will assist a lot of special needs dogs.”

AHS often cares for dogs so fearful that they cower in their runs and hesitate to engage in any type of interaction. Living alongside other canines can help these dogs build confidence.

“Socialization with other dogs has proven to be an indispensable tool in working with extremely fearful dogs. We want to support these dogs through the adoption process, using what we know provides the most benefit for them,” says Dr. Graham Brayshaw, Chief Veterinarian at AHS.

The Maddie’s Fund grant will expand this scientific study to include measuring cortisol levels in the urine and feces of the dog habitat residents, an accurate and timely indicator of the stress levels of each dog.

AHS will share the results of its research to aid other organizations in transforming their shelter housing. “The ultimate goal is to help shelter dogs everywhere,” says Brayshaw. “We’re grateful to Maddie’s Fund for helping us achieve that goal.”

Maddie's Fund

About Maddie's Fund

Maddie's Fund® is a family foundation created in 1994 by Workday® co-founder Dave Duffield and his wife, Cheryl, who have endowed the Foundation with more than $300 million. Since then, the Foundation has awarded more than $247 million in grants toward increased community lifesaving, shelter management leadership, shelter medicine education, and foster care across the U.S. The Duffields named Maddie's Fund after their Miniature Schnauzer Maddie, who always made them laugh and gave them much joy. Maddie was with Dave and Cheryl for ten years and continues to inspire them today.

Maddie's Fund is the fulfillment of a promise to an inspirational dog, investing its resources to create a no-kill nation where every dog and cat is guaranteed a healthy home or habitat.

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