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Do you Believe in Dog? (2018). Powered by Blogger.

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It started when two canine scientists decide to become pen pals in an era of digital media...


9 May 2013

Stop to smell the flowers. Especially lavender.

Hi Julie,


Dogs in clothes

Corgis in bikinis at the beach

Greyhounds in onesies

We people do some weird things to our canine friends, no?! 

I'm pretty sure I wouldn't enjoy being dressed up in a padded outfit all day long, so I think I'll pass on sharing that experience with my dogs. 

As you said, cultural perceptions, ethics and expectations add a whole layer of extra consideration. It's not always easy to work out what dogs want or need. That's why I like science. It helps us work this stuff out.

I've been super busy this week - working hard (as always!) and still thinking a lot about dogs living in kennel facilities. So I wanted to pull your head away from dogs dressed as flowers, back to dogs getting the opportunity to smell the flowers

No, really. Lavender in fact.
Dogs should stop to smell the flowers. Especially lavender.
When I talk to people about the body of research that's been conducted in the area of environmental enrichment for dogs housed in kennels, they never fail to be amazed at what has been studied. Or what hasn't. One topic that usually results in a snort, a laugh or a quizzical raised eyebrow is olfactory (smelly) stimulation. 

Which is kind of weird. Because we know that dogs can smell on a level that's basically in another galaxy compared to our smelling experiences.

Research conducted in a rescue shelter kennel in 2005 exposed dogs to five different diffused aromas: 
- a blank control,

or essential oil of
- chamomile 
- lavender 
- peppermint
- rosemary

The study showed that olfactory stimulation had a significant effect on behaviour. 

Dogs were more likely to rest and less likely to bark when exposed to the smells of lavender and chamomile. Peppermint and rosemary exposure resulted in more active and noisy behaviour. The researchers suggested that the welfare of dogs in shelter kennel environments (and also their attractiveness to potential adopters) could be improved by using this kind of aromatherapy. 

What a dog's nose knows.
Further research has shown a similar effect of lavender in effecting the behaviour of dogs with travel-induced excitement in cars: they spent more time sitting, resting and less time vocalising when they were exposed to the smell of lavender.

Interestingly, human studies show a similar effect of lavender on us: reduced mental stress.

So if a dog is in a kennel environment and can't get out to romp in a field of flowers, or chomp them up (as dogs tend to do!), perhaps we can help them out by giving them something lavender to smell.

It's certainly one of the elements I included in the enrichment program for my PhD research.

In other news, if you ever want to immortalise the nose of a dog you know - here's how you can (you're welcome):
Have a great week,


Further reading:

Graham L., Wells D.L. & Hepper P.G. (2005). The influence of olfactory stimulation on the behaviour of dogs housed in a rescue shelter, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 91 (1-2) 143-153. DOI:

Wells D.L. (2006). Aromatherapy for travel-induced excitement in dogs, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 229 (6) 964-967. DOI:

Motomura N., Sakurai A. & Yoysuya Y. (2001). Reduction of mental stress with lavender odorant, Perceptual and Motor Skills, 93 (3) 713-718. DOI:

Wells D.L. (2009). Sensory stimulation as environmental enrichment for captive animals: A review, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 118 (1-2) 1-11. DOI: 

© 2013 Mia Cobb
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  1. Interesting post. The shelter where I volunteer also uses lavender. Do you think there are individual differences? One of my cats seems to hate the smell; if I have used lavender soap, she runs away from me! She doesn't seem to object to any other smells, at least none that I've tried.

    1. Interesting! I guess like most things, there will be room for individual differences. What you say reminds me of the catnip effect in cats... How it's like crack for SOME (but not all) cats. My cat is ambivalent about catnip - doesn't care two hoots about it, but I know others who are rendered completely nonsensical by the merest sniff of it!

      Research from Wells' lab group suggests cats are not so into lavender:


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