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.
- 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.
- 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.
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New York, NY 10128-6804