Behavioural advice could reduce dog rehoming rates, research suggests


A Hartpury University graduate has found that almost 25% of people calling Wood Green The Animal Charity to give up their dog accepted behavioural advice to support them keeping their pet and finding a sustainable solution.

This intervention could potentially reduce the number of companion dogs needing to be rehomed annually - currently a devastating issue with over 100,000 dogs entering UK rescue centres annually. Consequently, the stress associated with maintaining a dog in sheltered conditions and rehoming them, and the trauma for the owner was eliminated in a quarter of cases.

The research was carried out by Hartpury University graduate Natalie Powdrill-Wells, now Welcome Centre Manager at Wood Green The Animal Charity. The project analysed the call records of 1131 rehoming requests to establish if the offer of free behaviour advice was accepted.

Results showed that the advice was accepted in 24.4% of cases and behavioural problems were a significant predictor of whether advice was accepted. The advice was accepted almost six times more often by owners with dogs with general management behaviour problems, compared to owners who had problems with aggression between dogs in their home.

The data suggests that owners are prepared to accept behaviour advice at the very first point of contact with a rehoming centre or charity, so advice interventions could potentially impact the number of dogs handed over to rescue centres.

The impact of an intervention offering behaviour advice may be limited by overall levels of advice acceptance by owners and therefore complimentary proactive solutions should also be considered.

Talking about the research, Natalie, a 2020 graduate from Hartpury’s MRes Animal Behaviour and Welfare programme said: “This paper presents a really exciting insight into alternatives to having to give up a companion dog. With owners willing to accept behaviour advice instead of proceeding directly to rehome their dog, there is real potential to keep more dogs with families and reduce the stress and heartache involved for both parties. We hope that by sharing the findings it will present other animal welfare organisations with the opportunity to consider alternative ways to help more pets and people live better lives together. We’re really looking forward to taking this area of research further and attempting to understand more about the impact of interventions such as this one.”

View the research paper.