The influence of olfactory stimulation on the behaviour of dogs housed in a rescue shelter

Graham L, Wells, DL, Hepper PG
Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 2005


This study explored the influence of five types of olfactory stimulation (control, lavender, chamomile, rosemary and peppermint) on the behaviour of 55 dogs housed in a rescue shelter. The dogs were exposed to each type of olfactory stimulation, through the diffusion of essential oils, for 4 h a day for 5 days, with an intervening period of 2 days between conditions. The dogs’ behaviour was recorded on days 1, 3 and 5, during each condition of olfactory stimulation. Certain aspects of the dogs’ behaviour were influenced by the odours. Dogs spent more time resting and less time moving upon exposure to lavender and chamomile than any of the other olfactory stimuli. These odourants also encouraged less vocalisation than other types of aroma. The diffusion of rosemary and peppermint into the dogs’ environment encouraged significantly more standing, moving and vocalising than other types of odour. It is suggested that the welfare of sheltered dogs may be enhanced through exposure to appropriate forms of olfactory stimulation. Lavender and chamomile appear particularly beneficial, resulting in activities suggestive of relaxation and behaviours that are considered desirable by potential adopters. These types of olfactory stimulation may also appeal to visitors, resulting in enhanced perceptions of the rescue shelter and an increased desire to adopt a dog from such an environment.


Graham L, Wells, DL, Hepper PG. The influence of olfactory stimulation on the behaviour of dogs housed in a rescue shelter. Appl Anim Behav Sci. 2005;91(1-2):143-153.

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