Faculty of Science

Bach’s a basic to calm shelter dogs

Dogs stressed by animal shelter life may benefit from soothing classical music and whiffs of lavender. 

Researchers from The University of Queensland have investigated simple sensory and behavioural interventions that could help manage canine stress, and increase the adoptability of dogs in shelters.

UQ School of Veterinary Science researcher Veronica Amaya said the study tested smell and sound stimuli in shelter dogs housed at the RSPCA Queensland Animal Care campus at Wacol.

“The study used lavender and classical music as two study treatments, and a third treatment group experienced a commonly used synthetic calming mixture that simulated a natural dog-appeasing hormone,” Ms Amaya said.

“We filmed and monitored 60 dogs to identify which treatment worked best, and to determine if further research was needed to obtain the best outcomes for shelter dogs.”

Ms Amaya said animal shelters around the world were receiving an increasing number of dogs who found it difficult to adapt to the shelter setting.

“This stressful environment exposes animals to multiple stimuli over which they have no control, including unfamiliar feeding and walking routines, and confining them to a small space for long periods of time,” she said.

“Continuous stress can lead to behavioural changes which affects rehoming success and increases euthanasia statistics. 

“Behaviour therapy and sensory environment enrichment programs can help animals have the most positive experience and increase their chance of being adopted.”

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