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Reducing Animal Stress in Kenneling Situations

ASPCA, National Shelter Outreach


Reducing Animal Stress in Kenneling Situations

Stress plays a major role in the spread of disease in shelters. Stress can be physical, emotional or environmental.

  • Animals which are malnourished, pregnant, lactating or injured are physically stressed.
  • New environments, unfamiliar faces and noises, new animal companions and overcrowding contribute to emotional stress.
  • Environmental stresses are found in shelters that lack the proper ventilation, are too warm or too cold.
  • An animal that is stressed has a lowered resistance to illness, and this can lead to epidemics of infectious disease.

The healthiest shelter environments are ones which have a good health program, sound management practices, and make effort to minimize stress to each individual animal as well as the entire group.

  • Kenneling restricts the dog’s use of its senses
  • Vision is limited. Kennel walls block vision. Can lead to jumping up.
  • Noise levels are accentuated. Try to keep noise from radios, banging gates, and other animals to a minimum.
  • Smells of food preparation causes excitement. Try to prepare food in a separate area.
  • Bitches in heat. Keeps intact males in constant anticipation.
  • Separate or neuter males, if possible.

Signs of Stress

  • A dog may pace the kennel, spin or jump against the walls.
  • They may shiver, pant or have a very taut face.
  • They may chew bedding or kennel fixtures.
  • Hiding in corners behind beds or under bedding.
  • They may bark incessantly, start self-mutilation or become aggressive.
  • Signs can also be physical: loss of weight, diarrhea, loss of appetite, vomiting of bile, mental depression with little or no response to stimuli.

Canine Environment

  • Dogs look for a calm leadership position to be taken by kennel staff. A nervous handler confuses dogs by being inconsistent.
  • Kenneling dogs alone deprives them of the comfort of a pack.
  • An incorrect mix of dogs in one pack can be even more stressful.

Limiting Stress

  • Know past history of dog to help assess dog’s temperament.
  • Provide the dog with appropriate play group.
  • Exercise dogs — leash walks, play groups.
  • Providing bed and bedding gives comfort.
  • Toys to prevent boredom (Kong(c), Buster Cube(c))
  • Noise control — radio volume, banging bowls, slamming doors…
  • Establishing a daily routine — cleaning and feeding.
  • Same caretakers should take care of the same animals, as much as possible.
  • Speak softly and reassuringly.
  • Don’t stare.
  • Never hover or loom over animals.
  • Don’t force or drag animals in and out of cages.
  • Go in the cages with animals — show them their space.
  • Talk with the animals.
  • Remember their keen sense of smell — clean up immediately.


Courtesy of

424 East 92nd Street
New York, NY 10128-6804


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