To wee or not to wee: hospitalised female canines (Canis familiaris) preferred Astroturf to concrete in a two way simultaneous presentation choice test.

This study investigated preferences of hospitalised female dogs for urinating on either fake grass or concrete.

Year of Publication2011

Dogs develop urination substrate preferences and are often reluctant to toilet when confined to a small space. However, many veterinary facilities provide only a concrete-floored toileting area. Many hospitalised dogs appear averse to urinating on concrete and will delay urination or soil their cage. Good patient care involves stressor identification and subsequent removal or management. Therefore, facilities that encourage hospitalised dogs to urinate more readily should be identified. This study investigated female dog preferences for urinating on either fake grass (Astroturf) or concrete. It was predicted that Astroturf would be preferred. 57 bitches were recruited on an ad hoc basis (all hospitalised female dogs during a 3 week period). Dogs were given on-leash toileting opportunities throughout the day in a concrete-floored outside exercise run. Half the run was covered with Astroturf and half was left uncovered. The run side the Astroturf was situated on was switched daily and the run disinfected between urination episodes. Whether the dog urinated, the latency to urinate and the substrate urinated on was recorded. 30 out of 57 dogs urinated at least once during hospitalisation. The mean (±std. dev) latency to urinate on the first occasion was 46.5 seconds (±30.9), (Astroturf was the preferred substrate: 29/30 dogs selected Astroturf for their first urination bout. (One sample binomial test, P<0.001, 95% C.I. 0.8278-0.9992). It is concluded that Astroturf shows promise as an alternative substrate for urination. However, this preference needs additional investigation before fake grass is recommended as an environmental modification. Further research will identify the potential implications of this preference for the welfare and management of hospitalised canines.

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