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Article

Effects of Olfactory and Auditory Enrichment on Heart Rate Variability in Shelter Dogs

1
Centre for Animal Welfare and Ethics, School of Veterinary Sciences, University of Queensland, White House Building (8134), Gatton Campus, Gatton, QLD 4343, Australia
2
Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Queensland, Wacol, QLD 4076, Australia
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(8), 1385; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10081385
Received: 20 July 2020 / Revised: 4 August 2020 / Accepted: 6 August 2020 / Published: 10 August 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Behavior of Shelter Animals)
Many pet dogs end up in shelters, and the unpredictable and overstimulating environment can lead to high arousal and stress levels. This may manifest in behavioural problems, and decreased welfare and adoption chances. Heart rate variability is a non-invasive method to measure autonomic nervous system activity, which plays an important role in the stress response. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for increasing the dog’s arousal in response to stress and the parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for counteracting the arousal and calming the dog. Environmental enrichment can help dogs to be more relaxed, which is likely to be reflected by increased parasympathetic activity. Dogs’ heart rate variability responses to three enrichment methods capable of reducing stress—music, lavender and a calming pheromone produced by dogs, dog appeasing pheromone and a control condition (no stimuli applied) were compared. Exposure to music appeared to activate both branches of the autonomic nervous system, as dogs in that group had higher heart rate variability parameters reflecting both parasympathetic and sympathetic activity compared to the lavender and control groups. We conclude that music may be a useful type of enrichment to relieve both the stress and boredom in shelter environments.
Animal shelters can be stressful environments and time in care may affect individual dogs in negative ways, so it is important to try to reduce stress and arousal levels to improve welfare and chance of adoption. A key element of the stress response is the activation of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), and a non-invasive tool to measure this activity is heart rate variability (HRV). Physiologically, stress and arousal result in the production of corticosteroids, increased heart rate and decreased HRV. Environmental enrichment can help to reduce arousal related behaviours in dogs and this study focused on sensory environmental enrichment using olfactory and auditory stimuli with shelter dogs. The aim was to determine if these stimuli have a physiological effect on dogs and if this could be detected through HRV. Sixty dogs were allocated to one of three stimuli groups: lavender, dog appeasing pheromone and music or a control group, and usable heart rate variability data were obtained from 34 dogs. Stimuli were applied for 3 h a day on five consecutive days, with HRV recorded for 4 h (treatment period + 1 h post-treatment) on the 5th and last day of exposure to the stimuli by a Polar® heart rate monitor attached to the dog’s chest. HRV results suggest that music activates both branches of the ANS, which may be useful to relieve both the stress and boredom in shelter environments. View Full-Text
Keywords: dog; heart rate variability; shelter; stress; arousal; lavender; dog appeasing pheromone (DAP); music dog; heart rate variability; shelter; stress; arousal; lavender; dog appeasing pheromone (DAP); music
MDPI and ACS Style

Amaya, V.; Paterson, M.B.A.; Descovich, K.; Phillips, C.J.C. Effects of Olfactory and Auditory Enrichment on Heart Rate Variability in Shelter Dogs. Animals 2020, 10, 1385. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10081385

AMA Style

Amaya V, Paterson MBA, Descovich K, Phillips CJC. Effects of Olfactory and Auditory Enrichment on Heart Rate Variability in Shelter Dogs. Animals. 2020; 10(8):1385. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10081385

Chicago/Turabian Style

Amaya, Veronica, Mandy B.A. Paterson, Kris Descovich, and Clive J.C. Phillips 2020. "Effects of Olfactory and Auditory Enrichment on Heart Rate Variability in Shelter Dogs" Animals 10, no. 8: 1385. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10081385

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