A Pilot Study on Behavioural Responses of Shelter Dogs to Olfactory Enrichment


  • Anouck Haverbeke Vet Ethology, Leemveldstraat 44, 3090 Overijse, Belgium; Odisee University College, Agro- & Biotechnology, Ethology & Animal Welfare, Hospitaalstraat 23, 9100 Sint-Niklaas, Belgium
  • Stefania Uccheddu Vet Ethology, Leemveldstraat 44, 3090 Overijse, Belgium
  • Heidi Arnouts Odisee University College, Agro- & Biotechnology, Ethology & Animal Welfare, Hospitaalstraat 23, 9100 Sint-Niklaas, Belgium; University of Antwerp, Department of Engineering Management, Prinsstraat 13, 2000 Antwerp, Belgium
  • Adinda Sannen Odisee University College, Agro- & Biotechnology, Ethology & Animal Welfare, Hospitaalstraat 23, 9100 Sint-Niklaas, Belgium




The influence of essential oils (EOs) on emotions has been widely described among humans and animals. Several studies have investigated the effects and the actions of EOs on behaviour, mood and perception. In this study, shelter dogs (n=23) were exposed to olfactory stimulation through diffusion of 9 anxiolytic essential oils in one blend (olfactory enrichment) for 8 weeks in order to check long-term effects on behaviour. First, dog’s postures have been evaluated in both groups before and after exposure. Secondly, in order to collect the preliminary results on the distance necessary to obtain an effect of EOs, dogs were divided in 2 groups according to the distance from the diffuser.

Our results indicate that olfactory enrichment with this blend of EOs is related to less time spent by dogs in high posture. More research is needed to investigate a potential gradual effect of distance and concentration of EOs on dog’s welfare. 


Shelter dogs, Welfare, Essential oils, Olfactory enrichment, Behavior


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