Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Lisa E. Baker

Second Advisor

Dr. Alan Poling

Third Advisor

Dr. Cynthia Pietras

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Jennifer Sobie


Enrichment, salivary cortisol, shelter dogs, in-cage behavior


Rehoming shelters provide their animals with environmental enrichment with the expectation that modifying the physical space will improve kennel-related stress and subsequently abate undesirable behaviors. Although enrichment has shown moderate success at improving in-kennel behavior, increased use of physiological measurements of stress, such as cortisol, has garnered doubt as to which canine behaviors are truly elicited by a biological state of distress. Consequently, it is unknown if past examples of successful kennel enrichment decreased biological stress in addition to affecting behavior. This study explored music’s effect on salivary cortisol and music’s potential as a long-term, kennel enrichment strategy. Shelter dogs were exposed to multiple days of silence and music in an ABAB reversal design over the course of two weeks. In-kennel behavior was videotaped at the end of each day for 15 minutes. Saliva was collected via oral swabs immediately after behavior recordings on the first and last day of each treatment phase. Six home-owned dogs served as controls for salivary cortisol values. Music did not significantly influence cortisol levels. Moreover, cortisol levels did not differ between home-owned and shelter dogs nor were there any correlations between behavior and cortisol. Once confounding variables were accounted for in the statistical model, there was a main effect of music on yawning, sitting, lip licks, and panting. However, a post-hoc analysis of the data concluded that group means were too similar to be certain where main effects occurred with the exception of yawning, which was observed significantly more during the second presentation of music than during the B1 phase. Further exploration found increased yawning was limited to just the first day music was re-presented. Dog behavior was sensitive to other stimuli in the environment, affecting the manner in which music influenced behavior. Statistical models identified significant interactions between music and the 1) presence of people on sitting, standing, lying down, chin resting, being asleep, barking, tail wagging, lateral pacing/pouncing, yawning, lip licking, and licking themselves as well as 2) the time since the dogs’ last training session on standing, lying down, chin resting, tail wagging, barking, and panting. Collectively, interpretations of these interactions conclude “relaxing” music may help dogs appear less excitable and calmer during times that the shelter is heavily visited or during long periods between training sessions. Music did not affect behavior equally for all dogs. Music was associated with a reduction in repetitive pacing for one dog, promoting the theory that specific enrichment effects are best understood and evaluated at an individual level.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access