Perky Tails

Be Canine Kind

Three Animal Welfare Concepts to Evaluate Your Dog’s Mental Health

Three Animal Welfare Concepts to Evaluate Your Dog’s Mental Health

By Perky Tails Ltd

There is an increase in public concern when it comes to improving animal welfare. This has generated the demand for animal welfare to become a science that seeks to understand the nature of animal emotions and from this to improve the quality of their lives. Animal welfare scientists have a responsibility to carry out research and publish papers. They are then read by other scientists and also used to communicate new understanding to the general public.

Perky Tails Toys has been following these discussions and also keeping abreast of the published academic papers written by two experts in this field. They are John Webster from the Animal Welfare Science department of the University of Bristol in the UK, and David J. Mellor from the Animal Welfare Science and Bioethics Centre at the Massey University in New Zealand. We’ve recently been reading two journals that David J. Mellor and John Webster wrote in 2015-2016. In which contain discussions on the subject of animal welfare and suggest improving the following animal welfare models that are currently used all over the world.

This blog highlights the critical points the journals bring up, that focus on how to improve your dog’s mental health and not just their welfare.

PART ONE

The Five Freedoms and The Five Provisions

‘The Five Freedoms’ is a set of standards for humane animal care that have been internationally respected and embraced by animal protection organisations all over the world.

Within the journals, Mellor suggests that the model FF could be enhanced and suggests that drawing in another concept ‘The Five Provisions’ would complement it. His conversation wants to bring in the subject of animal’s mental health as it is as crucial to their quality of life.

Webster correctly pointed out that ‘The Five Freedoms’ formulated the Five Freedoms paradigm in 1993/1994. He stated, ‘The Five Freedoms’, were not intended to represent an overall picture of the mental state of animals, but instead are designed to be more of a reference and a set of signposts to guide appropriate action for non-specialists.

Here is the list of The Five Freedoms, followed by questions we developed to help you assess whether you are caring for your dog’s correctly, and highlighting any areas you could improve:

The Five Freedoms

  1. Freedom from thirst, hunger, and malnutrition. Self-assessment: Do you provide your dog access to water 90% of the time?
  1. Freedom from discomfort and exposure. Self-assessment: Do you provide your dog with its own area where he can sleep and rest?
  1. Freedom from pain, injury, and disease. Self-assessment: Do you take your dog to the vet when it is unwell or needs care.
  1. Freedom from fear and distress. Self-assessment: Do you provide your dog with a safe area that they have easy access too when it shows signs of stress or unhappiness?
  1. Freedom to express normal behaviour. Self-assessment: Do you provide your dog access to nature and places where it can explore and run?

Here is the list of The Five Provisions, followed by questions we developed to help you assess whether you are caring for your dogs correctly, and highlight any areas you could improve:

The Five Provisions

  1. Provide easy access to fresh water and a good diet to maintain full health and strength. Self-assessment: Do you provide nutritional food that keeps hunger away?
 
  1. Provide an appropriate environment with shelter and a comfortable resting area. Self-assessment: Do you provide your dog with somewhere comfortable to rest and sleep?
 
  1. Prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment. Self-assessment: Do stimulate your dog’s mind with toys and new places visit and experiences?
 
  1. They are ensuring treatment which avoids mental suffering. Self-assessment: Do you take care of your dog’s mental health and keep away stress and things that make it unhappy.
 
  1. Provide sufficient space, proper facilities, and the appropriate company of other animals. Self-assessment: Does your dog like to interact with other dogs and socialise. If they do, maybe you could provide more of this and involve them socially with friends.
dog, viszla, close up

PART TWO

What are The Five Domains?

The aims of FF/FP and FD are different but complementary. FD is more focused on assessing the impact of the physical and social environment on the mental state of animals.

David J. Mellor’s model emphasises maximising our animals’ positive experiences and minimising their negative ones. The approach moves beyond animal welfare, which means caring for its basic needs, to the modern and more humane concept of animal well-being and mental health necessary for quality of life.

Here is the list of the Five Domains, followed by questions we developed to help you assess whether you are caring for your dog’s correctly, and highlight any areas you could improve:

These are the Five Domains as currently accepted worldwide:

  1. Good Nutrition – Provide ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour. Minimise your animal from being thirsty or hungry and enable eating to be a pleasure. Self-assessment: Do you provide excellent and tasty quality food?

 

  1. Right Environment– Provide shade and shelter, good quality of air and comfortable resting space. Minimise discomfort and physical problems. Self-assessment: Does your dog always has access to areas of shade and is out of the way of pollution. Do you provide a blanket or bed?

 

  1. Good Health – Prevent or rapidly diagnose and treat disease and injury. Keep the right muscle tone, posture and breathing function. Prevent nausea, pain, and other aversive experiences. Help to keep vigour, strength, and expertise. Self-assessment: Is your dog a member of a veterinary clinic and has regular checks? Do you provide ongoing opportunities to exercise regularly? Are they given space to run?

 

  1. Appropriate behaviour – Provide sufficient space, proper facilities, friendly company, and appropriately varied conditions. Minimise threats and unpleasant restrictions on conduct. Self-assessment: Do you encourage your dog to behave like a dog? Does your dog like to socialise and do you provide access to this?

 

  1. Positive Mental Experiences– Provide safe, pleasant, and pleasurable experiences. Promote various forms of comfort, pleasure, interest, and confidence. Self-assessment: Do you take your dog places and encourage activities that engage with their mind?

What is Quality of Life?

This concept report stated the QOLS was originally a 15-item instrument that measured five conceptual domains of quality of life: material and physical well-being, relationships with other people, social, community and civic activities, personal development and fulfilment, and recreation.

This model had to motivate those responsible for animal care to focus both on minimising the negative experiences and promoting positive experiences more. In other words, – the overall objective is to provide opportunities for animals to thrive, not merely survive.

Here is the list of the QOLS, along with questions we developed to help you assess whether you are caring for your dog correctly and highlight any areas you could improve:

  1. A good life – A balanced life with more positive experiences than negative. Self-assessment: Do you provide your dog to access to at least 70 per cent of its life positively? Are you not sitting around doing nothing most of the time, as this is negative?

 

  1. A life worth living – Full compliance with the minimum requirements of code of practice that include elements which promote some positive experiences. Self-assessment: Do you provide your dog with a life that is focused on love, health, and happiness?

 

  1. Point of balance – The neutral point where salient positive and negative experiences are equally balanced. Self-assessment: If you work full time and leave your dog alone, maybe you need to balance the negatives with more positives?

 

  1. A life worth avoiding – The balance of salient positive and negative experiences is unfavourable but can be remedied rapidly by veterinary treatment. Self-assessment: If your dog is struggling with an illness, have you sourced a professional opinion on how to take care of your dog’s mental health?

 

  1. A life not worth living – The balance of salient positive and negative experiences is strongly negative and cannot be remedied. Could euthanasia be a serious alternative? Self-assessment: Sometimes an animal is suffering. It may be too hard for an owner to accept this but should be for the animal’s well-being.

Summary

Now you have read through all the concepts that are current. Take another look at the three models explained above and make critical self-examination when it comes to the care you give to your dogs. Then you need to check how well you have done, honestly. Take steps to improve your score and maybe revisit this page in six months and do the test again.