In a study published in 2005, Graham, Wells, and Hepper reported the results of their research exploring the influence of five types of olfactory stimulation (lavender, chamomile, rosemary, peppermint, and a control (no odor) on the behavior of 55 shelter dogs. Their analysis revealed that dogs spent more time resting and less time moving upon exposure to lavender and chamomile than any of the other olfactory stimuli. These smells also encouraged less vocalization than other types of aroma. The diffusion of rosemary and peppermint into the dogs’ environment encouraged significantly more standing, moving and vocalizing than other types of odor. The authors conclude that lavender and chamomile appear particularly beneficial, resulting in activities suggestive of relaxation and behaviors 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. This is an easy environmental enrichment to implement, set out essential oil diffusers at regular times for a few hours during adoption hours. Don’t let the odor get too intense and be sure the aroma can diffuse throughout the dog area of the shelter.
Reference: Graham, Wells, & Hepper, (2005). The influence of olfactory stimulation on the behavior of dogs housed in a rescue shelter, Applied Animal Behavior Science, 91(1-2), 143-153.