Comfort dogs serve humans with anxiety issues, but, apparently they can also serve anxious cheetahs.
The San Diego Zoo has been assigning dogs to cheetahs since the 1980’s.
Cheetah cubs are paired with canine companions at about three to four months of age. They first meet on opposite sides of a fence with a keeper walking the dog on a leash. If all goes well, the two animals are able to meet for their first “play date,” although both are kept on leashes initially for safety.
When paired up, the cheetah looks to the dog for cues and models its behavior. Over time, the cheetah adopts the dog’s happy-go-lucky vibe. It’s then hoped that they will feel more relaxed and more likely to reproduce. However, so far, no cheetah has been reported barking.
The Columbus Zoo is another zoo that pairs cheetahs and dogs. Some zoos even use shelter or rescue dogs. At Columbus, it’s Labrador retrievers. And interestingly, it’s this hardly exotic species (dogs) that has become one of the animals most requested to be seen by visitors at the zoo.
The Columbus Zoo is also supporting a program to partner Anatolian Shepherd dogs with farmers in Africa. The large guard dogs scare away cheetahs from hunting farmer-owned livestock.