WASHINGTON -- You can spring a shelter pup for a few hours each day with the Humane Rescue Alliance's "Happy Hour" foster program. 

The program started in February, and lets volunteers take a dog home to "give them a break from shelter life to lower their stress levels and improve their overall well-being," the HRA website said.

The idea of letting dogs leave the shelter for a few hours at a time isn’t new, but it’s that concept that led researchers from Arizona State University and Virginia Tech to launch a national study.

Lisa Gunter is one of the researchers. She said this experiment is the result of previous years of research on shelter pups and their stress levels.

"We found even one night out of the shelter significantly reduced dogs’ cortisol levels with the results of [an earlier] study," she said. "So we went back and said ‘can we learn more about this?'"

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Gunter said that while some thought it was great to take dogs out of the shelter, others worried the dogs would think they’re being adopted, causing stress when they return to the shelter.

But researchers found from an earlier study their stress levels would be significantly reduced with their time away, and that when the pups returned to the shelter, typically stress levels would be back to the same levels.

"So we knew at least it wasn’t harmful," she said. "We’re thinking of it as sort of relax and recharge, like we do with the weekend."

HRA isn't the only shelter doing this, and its "Happy Hour" program is only one of the many foster programs it offers. 

To get started, all you have to do is sign up to be a volunteer and plan a doggy-date.

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