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The Smell of De-stress?

Scottish study investigates effects of “dog appeasing pheromone” on shelter dogs

“The dogs are really loud today!”
“WHAT?”
“I SAID, THE DOGS ARE REALLY LOUD TODAY!”

This top-volume conversation is likely similar to ones you’ve had in your shelter’s kennel area. But there is hope for turning down the volume: a Scottish study offers some promising hints of how “dog appeasing pheromone” (DAP) might help dogs feel and act less stressed—and maybe make them a bit quieter, too.

Researchers Elaine Todd, Donna Brander, and Natalie Waran, from the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies in Edinburgh, Scotland, studied dogs in an animal shelter to measure DAP’s effects on behavior (Applied Animal Behavior Science, Vol. 93, 2005). They concluded that DAP may be “a useful palliative tool for reducing the severity and occurrence of some behaviors commonly associated with canine stress and anxiety.”

In the blind study, the researchers exposed 37 dogs to DAP and 17 to a placebo for one week. Next, they observed dogs’ behavior and measured the amplitude of their barking in different scenarios. The researchers presented the dogs with a “distraction”—a person walking along the kennel aisle—and also administered a “neutral stranger test” and a “friendly stranger test.”

The many possible meanings of a bark complicated the analysis of the results, the authors wrote. But interpreting these barks as indicating fear, separation anxiety, or attention-seeking behavior, they found that “there is significant evidence to suggest that DAP reduces barking amplitude and therefore the dog’s heightened state of excitement in response to a stranger walking by the kennel.”

 

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