The behavioural effects of olfactory stimulation on dogs at a rescue shelter

 

 

The behavioural effects of olfactory stimulation on dogs at a rescue shelter

 

ABSTRACT Many domestic dogs are kept in rescue and rehoming shelters which are frequently stressful and under-stimulating environments. Dog welfare is often compromised within these environments and there is a need to determine new practical and effective methods of improving the welfare of these kennelled dogs. Olfactory stimulation has been demonstrated to have positive behavioural effects in a range of contexts, however this field remains relatively understudied in the domestic dog. This study aimed to investigate the effects of olfactory stimulation via vanilla, coconut, ginger and valerian upon the behaviour of 15 dogs at a rescue shelter. The dogs were simultaneously exposed to six olfactory conditions using scented cloths following a fixed order (cloth control, coconut, vanilla, valerian, ginger and odour control) for 2 h a day for 3 days with an intervening period of 2 days between conditions. The dogs’ behaviour was recorded every 10 min throughout the 2 h olfactory conditions using instantaneous scan-sampling. Exposure to ginger, coconut, vanilla and valerian resulted in significantly lower levels of vocalisations and movement compared to the control conditions, while coconut and ginger additionally increased levels of sleeping behaviour. These odours may have application in rescue shelters due to the reduction of behaviours such as barking and activity which may be indicative of stress as well as being traits perceived as undesirable by adopters. This research provides support for the use of olfactory stimulation within the kennel environment.

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