Curbing Kennel Stress

THIS PAGE: Creating a bearable environment by providing for dogs' basic needs. BELOW

SEE ALSO: Training Tips for Shelter Dogs - LINK

Shelters were never meant to house animals longterm so it’s natural to see dogs display undesirable behaviors including anti-social behaviors days or weeks after intake.The most effective way to combat kennel stress is to make adoption and rescue transfer a top priority in your shelter, but these suggestions will provide a better quality of life during the wait.                                                                           


Add natural light wherever possible to kennels and/or dogs' daily routines.

Have you ever met someone suffering from 'SAD' (seasonal affective disorder)? Daily internal cycles called 'Circadian Rhythms' affect our moods and sleep cycles in substantial ways, and those cycles are disrupted when we miss out on natural light. Regular exposure to natural light promotes health, rest and well-being (LINK).

Outdoor activities including dog walks are beneficial. For dogs that just don't get enough, rotating to outdoor kennels or crating indoors for part of the day in a patch of sunshine can be beneficial where older kennel buildings lack good light. Shelters with upgrade budgets can consider adding skylights to kennel areas where window space is scarce. 



Identify and reduce offensive noise as much as possible

The word noise is said to come from the Latin word 'nauseas' - meaning disgust or discomfort. Noise pollution can cause annoyance, high stress levels, sleep disturbances and other harmful effects. Research indicates that animals as well as plants are negatively impacted by offensive noise(LINK)

  • Muffle barking with sound panels, quilted blankets, etc. (LINK)
  • Mindful movement. Encourage staff and volunteers to mind their movement during the daily routine to avoid creating unnecessary noise (clanging equipment, slamming kennel doors, etc).
  • Water fountain. Even a small inexpensive fountain will create a peaceful compliment to chaotic shelter noise.         
  • Teach and reinforce quiet. Dogs can be easily trained to reduce their barking. One favorite method utilizes clickers. See trainer Karen Pryor's site: "Make Your Shelter a Bark-Free Zone"
  • Radio and recorded music designed for calming. This site - Through A Dog's Ear - swears by classical music tapes for bringing calm to shelter kennels.

Photo Right. These sound panels specially designed for use in the League for Animal Welfare Animal Shelter reduced the reverberation in by 52% and the overall noise level from 100 dBA to 12 dBA. That's some improvement! Read more.

The panels are now commerically available at this LINK. Contact Dr. Schelfpr at FETCH~LAB for more information. 



Provide variety and interest through planned scents

A dog's sense of smell is his primary sense, said to be 1000 times more sensitive than a human's. It's no surprise that dogs crave opportunities to investigate scents and are happier when that interest is supported. Consider adding:

  • Scented gardens around the facilities for both dogs and humans to enjoy. Dog-safe cut flowers and bunch grasses tied to kennel walls or sprinkled inside the kennels bring interest and enjoyment.
  • Sprays and scented products. Invite volunteers to create subtle sprays for use in the air and/or on the dogs' bedding. Lavendar is well regarded as a calming scent. Try lavendar scented cleaners, dryer sheets and laundry soap such as Mrs. Meyers products. Link
  • Nose Work is a fun and simple exercise that utilizes a dog's sense of smell, builds confidence and focus in a shelter dogs and engages both dogs and volunteers in a pleasant and rewarding activity (Link)

Right: Star was born in a Southern CA desert and spent most of her life on a chain in the dust. She arrived just as we were planting flowers for our garden. Rather than use her exercise time to stretch her legs in the large yard, she chose to investigate every plant, lying next to and enjoying the scent of each one before moving on to the next. Her stunning example was a reminder how important and enjoyable scent investigation is to dogs.



Offer variety and comfort inside the kennel

  • Furniture and bedding: Kuranda beds via kuranda bed donation program.
  • Plastic dog crates with doors removed can be utilized for stressed dogs who need to den. Half shell plastic dog crates work well for simple beds.
  • Chews: Knuckle bones, bully sticks, antlers.
  • Food puzzlesKong®Wobbler, Stuffed Kongs®, treat balls, handmade puzzles
  • Frozen treat buckets, courtesy of Animal Farm Foundation. 
  • Create a wish list on to help supporters make fast and easy gift donations.                                                            
  • Exercise inside kennel. Shaping behaviors with clicker - See training link.


Social Needs

Encourage relationship to promote well being

Dogs are social creatures who crave relationship. Finding ways to enourage and support this need will increase dogs' ability to endure the stress of kenneling.

  • Roommates. Kennel dogs who've demonstrated appropriate play manners together, or where this is not possible, house them next door or across from each other within plain sight.
  • Organize group walks with dogs who share the same section of the shelter to reduce stress by encouraging relationship between the dogs in a structured way. 
  • Volunteers are key. Encourage in-kennel quiet time with volunteers and trusted dogs to help dogs experience their kennels in a pleasurable way.
  • Reduce hormonal stressors. Avoid housing intact dogs near each other and alter as soon as possible to reduce tensions.


  • Tire'em out! Whether it's larger play groups or one-on-one play dates, daily contact with appropriate canine play partners can make all the difference in helping dogs de-stress and practice important social skills. A peek into a morning play session at BADRAP's kennels: PLAY
  • Flirt Poles are popular for exericise and training. LINK
  • Treadmills can be fantastic tools for tiring a dog out. LINK
  • Regularly scheduled obedience training sessions. See training LINK.

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Securing the future of America's 'blocky dogs' as a cherished family companions.