A review on the effects of sensory stimulation in shelter dogs
Keywords:dog, shelter, sensory stimulation
Millions of dogs enter public and private shelters every year. Shelters are often very stressful environments to dogs, which are kept in very limited space and are impeded to appease their social motivations. Furthermore, the environmental stimuli provided are generally quantitatively –hyper/hypo-stimulation- and qualitatively inadequate. In such conditions dogs are likely to develop abnormal behaviors as maladaptive coping strategies that are not only a symptom of low welfare but they also drastically decrease their chances of being permanently adopted. Environmental enrichment, such as training sessions, additional cage furniture and food-filled toys have been shown to decrease levels of stress in confined dogs. However, many of these programs require a noticeable financial and time commitment. Unfortunately, many shelter running institutions lack of necessary funds, personnel and time to provide their dogs with complex environmental enrichment programs. In this light, sensory stimulation may represent a scientifically valid, low-cost and no time-wasting instrument to enhance the average level of welfare of shelter dogs, limit the development of behavioral problems and increase dog adoptability.