THE USE OF SENSORY ENRICHMENT TO ENHANCE WELFARE IN DOGS IN RESCUE SHELTERS

In the UK large number of dogs are taken into rescue shelters every year. These kennels are often stressful for dogs due to the high levels of noise, restricted space and limited social interactions. These conditions can also cause the development of behavioural problems which can affect the dogs’ likelihood of being successfully rehomed. Due to these concerns, there is an industry need to develop new practical and cost-effective methods to improve the welfare of kenneled dogs.

Work by Hartpury University’s researchers investigated novel methods of auditory and olfactory enrichment that could be used to alleviate stress for dogs in rescue shelters.

Findings from the work showed that exposure to audiobooks resulted in dogs spending more of their time resting. In addition, we found that exposure to ginger, coconut, vanilla and valerian resulted in the dogs barking less. Coconut and ginger also increased sleeping in the dogs. These changes in behaviour are suggestive of reduced stress in the dogs and may also help to enhance adoption.

This research has impact as it provides support for the use of these novel methods of enrichment in shelter dogs that can help to enhance their welfare in this stressful environment. Audiobooks and olfactory stimuli are simple to use and could be applied in many kennel environments, including boarding, rescue and laboratory kennels, to enhance dog welfare. This research was also conducted at rescue shelters (Blue Cross and GAWA Animal Shelter) and the findings have been used to influence practice at UK and US shelters.

 

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