Sensory Garden Stories
We love to share stories about Sensory Gardens somewhere in the world
Below you will find from time to time an article about a Sensory Garden.
Do you want to share your Sensory Garden Story? Please send an email to [email protected].
Interview with Jolanda from Sensory Garden "Aan de Waal" in the Netherlands
Jolanda has a beautiful Sensory Garden in Herwijnen (province of Gelderland in the Netherlands) and has already been in the newspaper with her Sensory Garden. How wonderful is it that the garden is already fully booked until the end of the year! So, it is high time to contact Jolanda to find out more about her Sensory Garden 😊
Sensory Garden: The first thing we are very curious about is whether Jolanda also has a dog(s) herself and whether she can tell us more about them.
Jolanda: I have always really liked dogs. When my daughter turned 18 and started living on her own, I thought “I have time left and am just going to get a dog”. I visited some Great Dane breeders and that's how I ended up getting my first dog, a Great Dane. His name was Denzel. Unfortunately, he only lived to be 5.5 years old because he suffered from DCM (a heart muscle disorder).
We currently have male Toto and female Mokka. Our dogs really enjoy sniffing among all kind of things. They are both very down to earth.
Sensory Garden: How did you come up with the idea to start a Sensory Garden?
Jolanda: I visited a Sensory Garden in Zuilichem and immediately fell in love with the Sensory Garden concept. When I got home I thought: 'I have a big garden and I love dogs very much.' Then I continued searching on the internet and came across the workshop “How to create a Sensory Garden for your dog” by Birgitta Geerlings and I started doing it. After the workshop I was completely convinced to also make a Sensory Garden. I then joined the dutch “Snuffle Garden Project”. After this there was a rush with registrations of people who wanted to visit the garden. No less than 71 pieces...and I am only open on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. I then decided to open on Wednesday as well, but I won't be there on that day. I do receive visitors and they receive an explanation about the garden. In this way I can now receive 5 to 6 visitors per week.
Sensory Garden: How did you come up with the name Sensory Garden “Aan de Waal”?
Jolanda: I live next to the river “de Waal” and the Sensory Garden had to be called that.
Sensory Garden: What is the secret of your success?
Jolanda: When I first started, I was lucky that a journalist who works for the newspaper AD Rivierenland interviewed me and published an entire article in the newspaper. I have also become known through word-of-mouth advertising and if you google my garden, you will immediately come across the dutch website Snuffle Garden Project where I am also on one page with my garden.
Sensory Garden: What does your garden look like?
Jolanda: My garden is 2000 m2, it is a kind of square. The garden is completely fenced with a mesh fence down to the ground and is 1.10 meters high. The garden has also trees that provide shade in the summer. There is a small little shed on it. A small part was initially reserved as a sensory garden, but dogs have access to the entire garden. Most dogs start in the Sensory Garden and eventually move to the other areas and close to the fence.
Sensory Garden: How are a dog's senses stimulated in your garden?
By the Scent: There are many natural scents in the garden, such as smells from rabbits and other wildlife that have been in the garden. I work a lot with horse odours, such as horse stuff such as a saddle, but also hoof remains of a horse, sheep's wool, etc. All the odours that I have, including the hoof remains, are all in some kind of jar, so that the dog cannot get to them and can only smell them.
I received and still receive items from visitors, such as a tractor tire, sheep wool and recently a bag with give-away sweets for other visitors. Very special was once a visitor who had been to the Beekse Bergen Safari park and brought elephant dung in a pot for my garden.
Through Touch: there are various surfaces in the garden, such as shells, tree bark, soil, metal trellis, gravel tiles, tall grass (this is an area where I do not mow). And some pallets where dogs can climb on.
Through the Sight: 2nd hand clothes lying on a chair and a box with Dutch clogs.
By Hearing: 2 wooden wind chimes, cola cans strung together, metal hearts, and natural sounds. I hung these items on tree branches and on a boot rack. You can also hear animal sounds like from a woodpecker in our garden.
Sensory Garden: For which dogs is the sensory garden suitable for?
Jolanda: It is suitable for all dogs, but it is a little bit difficult for older dogs and older owners because the garden is accessible via a somewhat steep staircase. The dogs can enter the garden on three other sides if they want, without using the stairs.
I receive visits from all breeds and ages, but also often dogs that cannot be off leash or that are reactive towards other dogs.
Sensory garden: What does a visit/guidance in the Sensory Garden look like?
Jolanda; I receive people in front of my house and then guide them to the garden. I ask if they have visited a Sensory Garden before and then explain to them how everything works in our garden.
I also have an information folder in the garden that also contains everything. This is mainly done for visitors when I am not there myself.
Sensory garden: Have you made special rules for visitors?
Jolanda: After making a reservation, visitors will be sent the garden rules via an WhatsApp message. These rules are actually the same as those on the Dutch Snuffle Garden Project website.
Sensory Garden: What do dogs like most in your Sensory Garden?
Jolanda: The cat house is the most favourite part at the moment.
Sensory Garden: Do you regularly adjust parts in the Sensory Garden?
Jolanda: Every six months I make an adjustment somewhere in the garden. I am very creative and handy and often look at the marketplace where I get many ideas. After Christmas there will be a new part in the garden... an old children's playhouse, which I could pick up for free somewhere.
Sensory Garden: How do you see when a dog is ready to go home?
Jolanda: The dog often goes to stand with the owner or they become rowdy and run through the garden.
Sensory Garden: Do you see that a visit in your garden has a positive effect on dogs?
Jolanda: Yes but not only for dogs! Many people also find it a wonderful place to be. They often say “it's so beautiful here” and they see that their dogs are also completely satisfied. The feedback is often that dogs have slept well in the car after a Sensory Garden visit. I also regularly receive photos of sleeping dogs after a visit. Today a visitor comes who is visiting for the 3rd time. So nice!
Sensory Garden: If you think back to all the dogs that have been there so far, which dog was the most special visitor?
Jolanda: My finest memories are with Mats, a border collie who really sniffs the entire garden and every part during every visit.
A beautiful memory I have is about a dog that was afraid of people, I kept my distance and the dog eventually came to me on its own out of curiosity. The owner said “he normally never does that”. How beautiful is that by keeping distance and giving the dog space to choose, he chose to do this 😊
Sensory Garden: How can people register for a visit to your Sensory Garden?
Jolanda: Via my email [email protected]
Or via messenger via my FB page https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100091378961733
More information about this nice Sensory Garden can be found at the Dutch website https://snuffeltuinen.jimdofree.com/snuffeltuin-vinden/gelderland-herwijnen/
Thank you, Jolanda, for this nice interview!
We would like to inform readers that Jolanda recently created a Sensory Garden for the shelter in Gorinchem together with Sensory Garden Fleur. Super nice initiative that we would of course like to know more about. More about this soon 😊
Interview with Gwen from ‘Garden Jardin Sensoriel’ in France.
Gwen’s garden is located in Douvrend which is a beautiful small village near Dieppe in Normandy, France. Most customers are from France, but it is also possible to visit the garden if you are visiting from the UK. The ferry that sails form Dieppe to Newhaven in UK, is just twenty minutes from the coastal city of Brighton.
Gwen started her dog business eight years ago. Gwen said;
“I started the dog school after I got a dog ten years ago. My husband came back home with a dog in his arms and that was my first dog in my life. I took my dog to a ‘dog school’ but I learned quickly “this is not the way I like how dogs need to be trained”. So, after two lessons I stopped and I started to read books in French and English and I thought, “why not become a dog trainer myself?” Because I want to do this differently. So, I was busy for two and a half years with a dog trainer education course. But it was still not what I was looking for ‘til I discovered Turid Rugaas and Pet Dog Trainers of Europe (PDTE). I learned less is more and I stopped to train dogs but started with consultancy.’
Gwen has two dogs, Toby a two-year-old Continental Bulldog, and Upy, a Golden Retriever who is six months old.
Sensory Garden 4 Dogs : When did you open your garden:
Gwen: Almost three years ago (in January 2021)
Sensory Garden 4 Dogs: What does it look like:
Gwen: It is a big space of 5500 m2. You can walk all over the place. It is completely fenced. The fence is different heights, minimum is 1.5m with hedges. There is a big walnut tree and several apple trees, there is a little house with some seats and it is also all open for the dog. There are some wooden crates and platforms and I use those dog ramps (which you can use also for. e.g., old dogs going into cars). Broomsticks on the ground, so dogs can walk over them.
For touch, there are a lot of places where the dogs can dig, and different surfaces like scallop shells, fake grass, pebbles from the beach, bubble wrapper, door mats, and vet beds. I use different elements to enrich the environment such as umbrellas, buckets, and a wheel cart.
For smell, I use little tea eggs (a metal egg-shaped tea infuser) where I put cotton wool in it with a drop of essential oil and hang these ‘tea eggs’ on a line, so dogs can smell these too. I use also different kind of animal hairs which I have collected in a kind of ball. After each dog visit, I ask the dog owner If I can brush the dog to collect some hairs and put this in the ball. (see below picture).
I also have animal visitors in the garden at night. I can observe this very well, because sometimes dogs, especially hunting dogs, are following their tracks.
On the other side of the road of the Sensory Garden there is a house with some horses, dogs and sheep. Dogs can smell the animals which is also an extra element for the dogs’ sense of smell. The visitors can also see these animals but the dogs, even reactive dogs towards other dogs, are not interested because the garden is so interesting.
For the visual sense, I put enriched environment in the garden.
When people come to my Sensory Garden they can drive with their car right into the Sensory Garden and after that I can close the gate. This allows the dog to go back to his car if he wants to finish the session.
For the sound, natural sounds like birds singing and I put a windchime in a tree.
Sensory Garden 4 Dogs : What do you observe?
Gwen: It is interesting how dogs move. I did a basic course of Galen Myotherapy and I can observe when dogs e.g., are climbing on ramps, stepping over things, if they walk correctly. But also, the way dogs are sniffing, or walking or avoiding specific objects gives me a lot of information.
I usually do not use treats in my Sensory Garden, but it depends on dogs.
Before people visit my garden, they have to fill in a questionnaire and I ask them if they have some behavioural problems or other important remarks which I should know. It is for me important to know what kind of dogs are coming to my Sensory Garden. Also, I can consider what kind and how much enriched environment I can put on the ground. Enriched Environment is nice to use but I’m always careful, some dogs can be overwhelmed. Just by observing dogs you can see a bit more of who they are.
Each dog is so different. Some dogs are only interested in natural things and others are more interested in the enriched environment materials.
Dogs are most of the time walking like a snail. They start in the middle and then make the area bigger and bigger, so they can explore and sniff the whole area.
Sensory Garden 4 Dogs : What can visitors do during the session?
Gwen: People sit down. I have several areas, some logs where people can sit down. They can listen to the singing birds, or to the wind chime in my garden. It is really also relaxing time.
Being with your dog instead of doing things with your dogs. Enjoy the presence of your dog.
Sensory Garden: If a dog is not exploring, what do you do?
Gwen: Sometimes dogs are not exploring so they need some help and then I sometimes offer a treat search, or I get their guardian to explore with them, to accompany them.
But first of all, dogs need time, I wait for a while before they get some human help. So not interacting, just being neutral, so also not ignoring. The dog will understand most of the time what he has to do. Sniffing. It is important because I want dogs to become confident. I am helping dog owners stop wanting to control their dog all of the time.
Sensory Garden: How do you see when a dog is ready to go home?
Gwen: Dogs walk to the car and look at their owner.
I tell than the owners the dog is telling you that they are ready to go home.
Important: let them relax.
My experience is that every single dog, even hyperactive dogs, are always sleeping in the car when they drive home.
Sensory Garden: What do I offer?
Gwen: I have several formula’s
I use this garden at the moment for 3 different things.
1. I use the Sensory Garden for my behaviour consultancy because I see more than when I got people’s home unless the problem is because of their house. By observing the dogs, I see a lot, like the way they deal with the Enriched Environment, the way they sniff outside, or sometimes even maybe the things they destroy or dig. The dogs can do what they want, nothing is forbidden in my Sensory Garden.
2. People can visit the Sensory Garden with their dog for 30 minutes. During this visit I don’t give any advice.
3. People can visit the Sensory Garden with their dog for 60 minutes and during that time I’m present and explain people what I see, I tell them more about equipment like using a Y-harness, I give advice.
Sensory Garden 4 Dogs : Do you have some rules, and do you inform people on forehand?
Gwen: I brief people when they arrive. I tell the people that it is their dogs’ moment, and nothing is forbidden. You can look at your dog and if your dog wants to be touched it is OK. You can pet your dog. But please do not use eye contact and don’t talk to your dog, only if they find it difficult than you should help your dog. Be natural as much as possible.
Sensory Garden 4 Dogs : Have you seen positive effect on dogs in your Sensory Garden?
Gwen: People should let a dog be a dog.
Many people think still it is a good idea to tire out your do outside with e.g., throwing balls. And the great thing is if they come to my garden, they are so surprised that the dog is by doing “nothing” they are also tired. And this “nothing “means sniffing and exploring the garden. I explain people that the dog is using all the time his nose and brain, which means that your dog is doing mentally a lot.
People experience also that the dog is calmer the next day.
Sensory Garden 4 Dogs :What do dogs like the most in your Sensory Garden?
Gwen:Every dog is so different. Some are digging, others more sniffing or lying in the sun and rolling in the earth and sniffing again.
The genetics behind their preferences is also telling a lot about what they prefer to do.
But most of the dogs like in general rolling and digging.
People see their dog during a visit in a different way. They like their dog more than before. They learn what their dog really like.
But in general, every breed has his preference.
Sensory Garden 4 Dogs : What kind of dogs are coming to your Sensory Garden?
Gwen; Mostly I receive reactive dogs. Dog owners like to come because it is a safe place.
Sensory Garden 4 Dogs : Do you get a special memory of a visitor?
Gwen: Every dog is special. It is just so much fun to watch and observe them. You can notice that every dog is different and an individual.
Sensory Garden 4 Dogs :Why is your business called DogZenbyGwen ?
Gwen: Because for me it is important that dogs right from beginning are able to relax and feel zen. Zen side is important because Zen means quiet, relaxed, and peaceful for me.
I want to see at the end of the day happy, relaxed, and Zen dogs and humans.
Sensory Garden 4 Dogs: How can people find you and make a reservation for the garden?
Thank you, Gwen, for this nice interview!
New in Belgium
New in Belgium: the “Experience Forest for Dogs” in Peer!
The city of Peer in Belgium is the very first city to create a freely accessible, public sniffing and adventure garden. This place was appropriately named: “Experience Forest for Dogs” and opened its gates on November 8th. The City of Peer worked with dog behaviour and Sensory Garden expert Kel Bervoets, from Beringen (Belgium).
The editors of the Sensory Garden 4 Dogs project have read reports in several newspapers about this “Experience Forest for Dogs” in Belgium and really wanted to know more about it, because... ‘How cool is that!?!’ So it's high time to talk to Kel Bervoets about this latest dog welfare project.
Who is Kel Bervoets? Kel is a dog behaviourist, dog nutritionist, grief and children's coach as well as a creative-visual therapist. She has her own coaching company called “Instinctive” in Beringen, where she mainly guides people with a fear of dogs. She will also soon be releasing her first dog children's book, about the love and fear of dogs.
Kel created the very first sensory garden in Belgium and named it “Experience Garden” (in Beringen). In addition, Kel also created a sensory garden in the animal shelter in Genk, which was later named the “Barefoot Path”, and then another one for an animal shelter in Limassol in Cyprus, all for free!
We are very curious what a visit is like if there are several and often unknown dogs in the Experience Forest. We from the Sensory Garden 4 Dogs Project, believe that a dog often feels safer and more comfortable during sniffing tours in fascinating gardens, without having unknown people and/or dogs around…
The interview with Kel Bervoets took place via ZOOM on November 21, 2022.
Sensory Garden 4 Dogs: "Why did you choose the name 'Experience Forest for Dogs'?"
Kel: The city of Peer had the idea to create two additional, public and therefore freely accessible dog off-leash zones within their city planning department. After thorough research and frequent consultation with various authorities, such as the Agency for Nature and Forests, a spacious 2.5-hectare forest in the Waarheidestraat in Peer was fenced off and put into use as a dog off-leash area. A smaller forest of approximately 70 acres was also purchased at the Kwikstraat in Peer.
This smaller forest was decorated with various natural elements, making the forest more than just a dog off-leash zone and more like a fascinating sniffing location. All senses of the dog are stimulated and a visit to the forest is above all an experience, a true journey of discovery for dogs (and their companions). Hence the appropriate name “Experience Forest for Dogs
Sensory Garden 4 Dogs: “Why was the Experience Forest set up for dogs, created?”
Kel: Many dogs often sit at home all day, alone, sometimes even locked in a crate. If they do go for a walk, then that is unfortunately all too often a quickie around the block; a quick go for pee and a poo.. So often there is no time left to really stop and think about that one interesting bush or super fascinating pole. In short, the time for sniffing fun is usually lacking. In the spacious Experience Forest, dogs can fully use their noses and be real dogs again. They can run, dig, scramble, sniff, explore...
In addition, the Experience Forest was set up to allow dog handlers to gain inspiration to create experience elements and all kinds of sniffing possibilities in their private garden and thus realize their own sensory garden for their dog(s).
If the dog handlers/owners adhere to the "rules of the game" that are listed at the entrance to the Experience Forest, hopefully every dog can feel safe and comfortable there and fully enjoy a visit to the Experience Forest.
And for dogs that do not like to be in the company of other dogs, an early morning visit or a late evening visit to the Experience Forest can also be an option. The creation of this forest at least offers that possibility, and that is more than nothing.
Sensory Garden 4 Dogs : “Is the Experience Forest completely fenced off?”
Kel: Yes, the Experience Forest was dog-proofed with special sheep netting and wooden posts. At the bottom, the mesh has a smaller size so that small dogs cannot escape.
Sensory Garden 4 Dogs: “How does a visit to the Experience Forest work?”
Kel: You enter (and exit) the dog forest through a lock, a system of double gates so dogs can't easily slip between your legs and run into the street. A sign indicates to wait for each other and not to cross. After this, the guardians can take their dog off the leash. Every dog is still obliged to wear a collar or harness so that you can leash your dog at any time if necessary.
There are additional rules on the information board, such as:
• Which dogs are/are not welcome: from bitches in heat to dogs with an infectious disease…
• Always let your dog run loose in the Experience Forest. Dogs on a leash are often limited in their communication, in "talking" with other dogs (and people) and can therefore be misunderstood by peers, which can lead to conflicts...
• Pay attention to your dog's behaviour and (body) language. If your dog does not behave properly or does not feel safe and comfortable, it is best to leave the Experience Forest immediately.
Sensory Garden 4 Dogs: “How can you best discover the Experience Forest with your dog?”
Kel: The cleared and thus milled walking path has the shape of a lemniscate (also known as an infinity symbol, and also a mini tattoo on my left finger 😉). You can also recognize the path as an 8-shape (see also the map above).
If you follow this path, you will pass all experience elements. Naturally, your dog will be moving criss-cross through the woods, and that's fine!
There is only one bench in the middle of the Experience Forest, because it is not the intention that people will group there to have a chat or to quietly scroll, read emails and messages on their smartphone, etc. without having an eye for their dog and the other dogs present in the Experience Forest. The Experience Forest was also just realized to strengthen the bond between humans and dogs, to experience some quality time together, to exercise and to explore…
Sensory Garden 4 Dogs: “Which elements can be found in the Experience Forest?”
Kel: After purchase by the City of Peer and obtaining the necessary permit, the forest first had to be thinned out. All trees that were felled have been reused in the Experience Forest. Walkways, tunnels, two tepees, obstacles and raised platforms were made. All materials used had to be natural; for example, no car tires or artificial grass or plastic objects were allowed to be placed in the forest, something you often find in regular sniffing gardens.
A nice fact is that the wooden experience elements and fence were made/placed by people from sheltered workshops. In the meantime, the result is known… and they can be proud of the work done!
Sensory Garden 4 Dogs: “Wat zijn tot nu toe de reacties op de creatie van het Belevingsbos?”
Kel: We received an overwhelming number of nice reactions! The newspaper 'Het Belang van Limburg' posted an article online that had more than 5000 likes and even more than 7500 reactions in a few days...
Sensory Garden 4 Dogs: See below a few reactions that you can find on the Facebook page of the group “Je bent van Peer als…”: https://www.facebook.com/groups/207160569483838
Sensory Garden 4 Dogs : “Not an unimportant question: how can you get to the Experience Forest?”
Kel: The Experience Forest is located in the Kwikstraat in Peer. You can park at the free, public car park in Keitelweg. There are signposts from this parking space to the Experience Forest (approximately 600 metres). That way you can take your dog for a walk (and sniff the roadsides) before you enter the Experience Forest; so too when going home.
At the entrance you will find a dog poop tube, where dog handlers can deposit the full bags.
Sensory Garden 4 Dogs: “Do you expect there to be more public Experience Forests or (private) sniffing gardens in Belgium?”
Kel: I hope that the City of Peer and its Experience Forest may be a source of inspiration for other municipalities, cities and dog lovers and that fun alternatives may follow for the often too small standard off-leash pastures.
And it seems to be working because it was just announced that the municipality of Vroenhoven near Riemst (Belgium) will open a dog play garden in early 2023…
Sensory Garden 4 Dogs: “Thank you for the interview and we wish every dog a lot of sniffing fun!”
Below you will find the link to a nice video about the Experience Forest, made by the Mayor of the City of Peer:https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1587378318358566
Would you like to learn how to make your own Sensory Garden for your dog? You can!
More information about this online workshop can be found here:
The Dog Nose
Launched by Kirsty Grant, The Dog Nose is the first indoor dog enrichment centre in the U.K. and is considered by many dog professionals in the U.K. and the world as 'HQ' for dog enrichment. We are thrilled to offer this special interview with Kirsty at long last!
Sensory Gardens 4 Dogs: Please tell us a bit about yourself: Your training, work with dogs, family of dogs. Also, introduce your 'enrichment facility' - where it is. Include links if applicable. Tell us how it all started, your inspirations etc.
Dogs have been one of the only constants throughout my entire life. Even during the short times I couldn’t have a dog living as a permanent family member I would beg to look after dogs for friends and family members while they went on holiday. I’ve worked in boarding, training and breed kennels, ran my own grooming business for over a decade and trained my own dogs in a wide range of sports.
I currently live with three dogs, Teaser Doodle (11) who is a rather eclectic mix of breeds and has been an incredible teacher, Princess Poppet Rocket (9) mini poodle who is the sweetest friend anyone could wish for and a true social butterfly, Pickle Poodle AKA The Feral (16 months) mini poodle who is an enthusiasm grenade, every day he goes out and goes off! I’ve always loved learning so would try to do as many courses, workshops and seminars as I could with a particular focus on psychology, learning theory and neuroscience.
In 2016 this led me to the IDTE with Turid Rugaas who had pioneered using enriched environments as part of her therapeutic and investigative work of dogs. The more I did them over the following year I became intrigued with how much information these sessions provided about the emotional state of the dog but also just how much dog seemed to enjoy them. Over the following couple of years there was what I describe as a perfect storm of teachers, first Turid herself, then several courses with Dr Amber Batson who uses sensory enrichment through her work as a veterinary behaviourist, Anne Lill Kvam who combines Turids teaching with operational Scentwork and a few sessions with SDF founder Leslie McAllister. I ran mobile enriched environments for anyone who would let me and had amassed quite a large collection of items as I was really gathering information about what items and experiences dogs were most interested in, so I decided to find a permanent home for it where I could bring dogs to explore.
So in 2018 I rented a unit in an industrial business park close to where I live in Wiltshire UK and The Dog Nose was born. I knew other people who had done elements of this, either working as behaviourists or doing Scentwork but when I started I just wanted to provide this as a space where dogs could make the decisions, have autonomy and we could learn from them by observing. To give them and their guardians a safe space to explore with no particular outcome demanded. Over the last year I have begun to focus more on scentwork and detection but pure enrichment sessions will always be available
Sensory Gardens 4 Dogs: What are the benefits of a 'enrichment facility'?
There are so many benefits, some more obvious than others. Choices has to come first, domestic dogs living as part of a family in most developed countries actually have very little control over anything in their lives. Generally humans don’t even realise how little choice they give their dogs and that this lack of choice can be incredibly stressful. When they come to a session they get to see how their dogs blossom and develop in confidence when they have autonomy and appreciate when their dog begins to trust that we will listen and respond to their decisions.
Some of my visitors have a very restricted life because they have trouble processing various experiences such as interactions with other dog, people, vehicles, noise, movement etc. these type of facilities can be a way to gradually reintroduce elements of the outside world in a safe and controlled way.
They have the potential for fantastic low impact physical exercise. Slow 4 point gait movement, proprioceptive activity like climbing, balancing and manoeuvring over obstacles. All of this is incredibly useful for very young or old dogs, for dogs who are in rehab following illness or injury. Also just as continuing good movement for every dog. A lot of our activities with dogs involve us asking for particular things, it’s an absolute pleasure to just let them be themselves in a safe place.
Sensory Gardens 4 Dogs: What does your 'enrichment facility' look like?
I describe it as a cross between an art gallery, a theatre, a soft play centre and a library for dogs. Because I try to offer sensory experience based of how dogs perceive the world maybe you would need to ask the dogs ‘what does it smell like’.
Sensory Gardens 4 Dogs: What do dogs like the most in your facility?
It differs with each dog. Mostly they investigate the whole room but some like to spend a lot of time getting to open things and rummage around. Some like to solve puzzles, some like to smell the animal smells, some like to climb.
Sensory Gardens 4 Dogs: Which dogs do you have a special memory of?
There are many, I don’t think I can narrow to individuals without filling 20 pages! I do love seeing the dogs who come in the first time and are overwhelmed so have a very short visit, come in for their second visit and then just blossom before our eyes. I particularly love my older dog visitors, they are incredibly special as they seem to take so much out of their visits.
Sensory Gardens 4 Dogs: What kind of dogs visit your garden/facility?
Any. One of the things that surprised me when I opened was how many guardians booked a session and came just to do something nice for their dog. That’s pretty special in my eyes.
Sensory Gardens 4 Dogs: How does the dog guardian learn more about their dog?
It’s rare that we get the chance to watch our dogs do something active and not have to either interfere or at least be ready to. For the enrichment session, guardians get to just sit back and relax, let go of that need to stay in charge. This makes observation an easier process and I also talk them through points of interest.
Sensory Gardens 4 Dogs: How long does a visit take?
Average time is between 40-50 mins but we listen to the dog and when it’s time to go, they let us know.
Sensory Gardens 4 Dogs: Why did you give your business the name you did?
What else could it be, The Dog Nose 😁
THANK YOU KIRSTY!
Introducing a magical place for dogs - Crabtree Enrichment
and Training Centre
Sensory gardens 4 dogs: How did Crabtree start?
In 2018 when I found out that Kirsty Grant had opened up The Dog Nose I visited with my greyhounds. I had been teaching a module of Canine Bowen in Stroud so we dropped in on the way back to Kent. My dogs had a super time exploring and following all the scents and secret areas that Kirsty had so cleverly put together.
When I got home, I wondered if I could set up something similar but I knew it wouldn’t be easy to find the perfect place.
A few weeks later I was discussing it with friends of mine. They suggested that I might want to have a look at an area on their land that they weren’t intending to use. The area turned out to be just perfect. It comprises of an outdoor area and two stables which has proved to be perfect! The area is big enough for dogs to feel safe in and has the bonus of being in a sheltered area so however cold or hot the weather gets it is always welcoming.
It is very close to Crowborough town centre and also adjoins the Ashdown Forest so the setting is really beautiful- as is the drive down the private road to the enrichment centre.
Sensory gardens 4 dogs: Can you describe Crabtree to us – what it looks like and how it functions?
We started to work on the area by fencing it so that it feels safe to the dogs that visit. People can park within the area so that their cars are secure and if the dogs are especially nervous they can return to the car should they feel they need to.
Ashdown Forest has herds of deer. and there are also horses on the farm so it is important that we keep all the animals safe. Dogs are kept on harnesses and long leashes when they visit. This helps keep all the animals safe and also encourages dog guardians to follow and observe their dogs as they explore.
The dogs can choose which areas to explore and they often stay outside exploring in the warmer months and spend a bit more time inside the stables as the weather gets colder.
Each stable has different textures and I change things around on a regular basis so that the dogs get a different experience each time they visit. The stables have lots of puzzles and interactive items in them, and the outside area includes lots of places that encourage the dogs to stretch and use their bodies and senses, but this does not mean the dogs are forced into moving in unnaturally or maintaining specific postures for too long.
They can select whether they step over, under or onto things as they choose.
This is really important for anxious dogs as it helps boost their confidence and balance, the more they visit the more changes are visible, in particular to their self- esteem.
The entire area has a beach hut theme, not that it matters one bit to the dogs, but it does make it look really cheerful all year round and from time to time it is repainted and updated, but truthfully that is because I find it fun to do!
Sensory gardens 4 dogs: What other items are in the outside area?
The outside area has a bit of history, and is covered with scalpings. They are quite uneven but do provide a stable surface and it does mean that it doesn’t get muddy in the winter, but over the last few years the grass has begun to grow which provides a different texture.
There is also straw added to specific areas which provides a lovely soft surface for the dogs and people alike as they move around.
The outside area is forever changing as things are added and removed according to dogs needs and I continually assess whether the things that are laid out are proving beneficial to the dogs that visit.
There are areas of long grass in the summer too, as many dogs like to grass bathe! Some dogs also like to roll and rub their heads in the long marsh grass. The wind also has a role here and as the breezes blow in they create wonderful soothing sounds as they brush against the grasses.
The point about the outside area is that it is it creates sensory enrichment. Anything that the dogs choose to step onto provides proprioceptive feedback and other senses such as tactile, auditory and vestibular combine to work together as the dogs explore.
Other natural sounds are present too including the sound of the nearby stream that originates from the forest, there are buzzards in the area and natural birdsong and the sounds of the sheep and other animals as they move around.
Sensory gardens 4 dogs: Do you screen visitors in any way?
I send forms to everyone before they book an appointment these help me to understand if the dogs have particular needs.
Sensory gardens 4 dogs: Which dogs do you have a special memory of?
I think the most special one was a little French Bulldog called Brie. She had been diagnosed with a very unusual cancer and her guardian had no idea how long she had to live. She loved her visits to Crabtree and often refused to get back into her car to go home. Sadly, she did die but she had the best life any dog could have had.
Other special dogs include the rescue dogs who are very anxious. It is lovely to see them building their confidence and beginning to enjoy their lives.
Sensory gardens 4 dogs: What kind of dogs visit your garden?
To be honest all shapes and sizes of dog’s visit from Great Danes to terriers all are welcome and all ages are welcome.
Sensory gardens 4 dogs: What do dogs like the most?
Its hard to say because every dog is different. Many dogs love just dipping in and out of the stables and then coming out to explore the outside area -there is plenty of choice, but most dogs probably do spend the majority of time outside.
Sensory gardens 4 dogs: How does a dog guardian learn more about their dog when visiting Crabtree?
Firstly, we are all continually learning about our dogs but spending the time just watching what their dogs select and interact with items they find around them at Crabtree can be interesting for dog guardians.
Often, they are unaware that their dogs enjoy sniffing or exploring as much as they do when given the opportunity. This is especially important for stressed dogs as often people are worried about being criticised by other dog owners. I find it especially worrying that people also lack confidence as well as their dogs. Sometimes both dogs and people need to have these worries removed, this is what Crabtree is about.
Sensory gardens 4 dogs: How long does the visit take?
Visits normally last about 45 minutes although the dogs can stay longer and chill out if they would like to!
THANK YOU PENNIE!
Pennie Clayton works with horses and dogs. She works on a freelance basis, coaches horses and riders to develop confidence and helps people understand their dogs better by providing support and training. She is a is a Director at the Slow Dog Movement® C.I.C.
She has lived with lurchers and greyhounds for many years and loves spending time with her current two greyhound girls and a lurcher that constantly presents her with lots of problems!
In 2008 Pennie qualified as a human Bowen therapist and then studied further to become a canine and equine Bowen therapist. She recently set up and runs Crabtree Canine Enrichment in Sussex and writes regularly for Edition Dog magazine. In 2016 she founded a Facebook group called Enhancing the Life of Your Hound.
She is currently writing a book about how to live with an ex racing greyhound.
Some photos of Crabtree below!
First indoor Sensory centre in The Netherlands
First INDOOR Sensory Centre (garden) in the Netherlands
Interview with Stella van Tongeren from Sensory centre Dogs Own Choice
Stella recently opened the very first INDOOR Sensory Centre for dogs in the Netherlands.
Not only does she own the Dogs own Choice Sensory centre, but she also recently graduated as a dog trainer/behaviourist at the Nordic Education Centre for Dog Trainers. In addition, Stella has also entered into a partnership with the local shelter where she lives, so that shelter dogs can also use their nose and can sniff freely in the Sensory Centre.
Knowing this it was time for us to contact Stella to find out more about this! We had a very nice interview with Stella via Zoom on July 1.
Sensory gardens 4 dogs: We are of course very curious if Stella also has a dog(s) herself, and if she can tell you more about it?
Stella: Bibo is a Stafford x Border Collie male of almost 5 years old. Bibo came to me at 16 weeks old. I was already his 5th owner at that time. The mother was so thin that she could barely feed her puppies. Therefor he was seized from his mother and siblings at 5 weeks old. After that, he changed shelters a few times before he was ready for adoption. He went to his new family, but unfortunately there was no click with the other dog.
Stella remembers when she first got Bibo and she didn't know what she knows now. She said to us “I didn't see then that he was actually a very insecure dog. He is easily overstimulated and noise sensitive. And he especially has trouble with mopeds, which he is very afraid of, because he has had a bad experience with them. If he would be unleashed and encounter a moped, he would turn right and go home in no time. Once the mopeds are gone, it's OK. Because of this problem behaviour and also the sometimes lunging at other dogs, I started to study dogs.
She came across a book written by Turid Rugaas with the title calming signals. She wondered and thought “gosh, how crazy a dog communicates with us, I need to know more about that”. In the end she started the training of the Nordic Education Centre for Dog Trainers. First level 1 and then immediately went on to do all levels. Besides that she wanted to better understand and help Bibo and wanted to help other people with their dogs.
She explains “Bibo and I are a unit, if he doesn't feel well then I don't feel well either. Thanks to my training, I now know how to deal with his problem behaviour, so that it is pleasant for Bibo but also for myself. I have accepted that he is the way he is. He is shaped by and with stress, which his mother had when she was pregnant. He will carry that stress with him for the rest of his life. That has shaped him a lot. I still walk with him in other places to avoid running into mopeds and other dogs, to give us both a relaxed walk”.
Sensory gardens 4 dogs: How did you come up with the idea to start the Sensory Centre?
Stella: I think enrichment is a necessary need for dogs. This is also a great activity to start a consultation with. You can see a lot in a dog when he is researching in an enriched environment. Think of preferences and how curious/independent they are, but also notice physical discomforts.
Unfortunately, an enriched environment in my home and/or garden is not possible, because that would mean that I would have to lock up my own dog and my two cats somewhere. That is of course a "no go". I also want to make sure that the dogs do not experience unnecessary triggers during a sensory session. The opportunity presented itself to use a large space for my work with dogs. Because there is no indoor enriched environment in the Netherlands and the weather in our country sometimes leaves something to be desired, I saw this as a fantastic opportunity. There is also the possibility to conduct behavioural consultations there. The space covers approximately 180m2, of which approximately 100m2 is available for the dogs. Plenty of room to explore.
This is how Sensory Centre Dogs Own Choice was created. In the meantime, I have collected a lot of stuff, brought things from the street, visited second hand shops, and even took socks I found in the park. My partner calls me a collector now.
Of course, I first did a test run with my own dog Bibo and then with my sister's dogs. My sister's dogs were very calm and examined everything. That was the sign for me that it is a success and I was ready to start.
Sensory gardens 4 dogs: How did you come up with the name Dogs Own Choice?
Stella: During my training I became more and more aware of the fact that our dogs have very little or no freedom of choice. Everything is decided by the owner of the dog, 24/7. Think about when they can eat, what they eat, how much they eat, where they sleep and also where they can't sleep. But also, the fact that dogs are the only animal species that cannot and may not decide for themselves when they can go to the toilet! How bad is that really? Since my education was in English, I quickly came across Dog's Own Choice. I had that name before I started my sensory centre, but it fits in perfectly. Officially it's Dog's Own Choice, but it sounds like Dogs, so I wrote it without '. Sometimes names and words are more powerful in English.
Sensory Gardens 4 Dogs: For which dogs is the sensory centre suitable?
Stella: For all dogs, regardless of breed and age, but also for dogs with mental and physical problems. Think, for example, of dogs that only have 3 legs, that are deaf or blind and/or dogs with musculoskeletal complaints. I have specialized in this a bit and I have followed special online courses for this: “Enriched Environment for Professionals” by Kirsty Grant of the Dog Nose in the UK and the lecture by Inge van Harte: “Nosework for Dogs with Pain” that I through Michelle Vrolijk have contributed immensely to providing an enriched environment for the dogs with special needs. Also for dogs that can never walk anywhere without a leash, and are therefore always limited by the length of the dog leash.
The sensory centre is adapted to the individual dog, so that the dog e.g. with pain does not have to stretch its neck. Or I remove things so that they don't climb up somewhere out of curiosity. It is certainly not just putting down some stuff and sniffing. Nor is it a playground. You can see it as therapeutic enrichment with a large number of long-term benefits.
In advance, people receive a questionnaire, where I ask specific questions to have as much information as possible in advance, so that I can make it safe and suitable for everyone. Think of questions such as: age, gender, what behaviour does your dog show: anxious, reactive, etc. Does your dog have physical limitations? What training do you follow with your dog? What equipment do you use? Is your dog on medication? Are there known allergies?
I am also in the right place for anxious dogs in that regard. I am at the end of an industrial estate and our neighbour, a tire specialist, is not always present. I can ask him to reduce some noise from his side or meet on Sunday. That option is also there, but it is reserved for very special cases.
Sensory gardens 4 dogs: Have you made special rules for visitors?
Stella: When people sign up, they get information sent to them along with the questionnaire. The information states the purpose of the sensory centre and the rules they must follow. The questionnaire is to keep everyone safe and to determine what adjustments I need to make. I sometimes lay d ownon the floor (eye level of a dog) and then look at the space to determine whether it is safe for the dog.
Sensory gardens 4 dogs: What does a visit/guidance in the sensory centre look like?
Stella: I wait outside for the dog owner and the dog and depending on where they come from, I suggest that the dog takes a pee outside first. I ask the facilitator if there are any questions and I tell them where they can take a seat in the sensory centre. After this we walk in together and here the owner can remove everything from the dog such as collar, harness, etc. This is only possible if the dog does not experience any stress when taking off and putting on the equipment.
The owner may not interfere with the dog, say nothing and just let the dog run its course, of course the dog may be reassured. The owner's fixed seat has been deliberately chosen in the back right, so that the dog knows that the owner is sitting and staying there. This is deliberately not done at the front door, so that the dog does not get the idea that he / she can suddenly leave through the door. The dog need not worry about this. If the dog pees or poops inside, that's okay, it will just be cleaned up again.
Upon entering there are 2 large drinking troughs with fresh water. I also deliberately put it there, so that the dogs know that there is water. They can then make the choice themselves to go there to drink water if they are thirsty.
There is always soothing background music. This can be anything, such as meditation music but also classical music or nature sounds
Remarkable is that most dogs start out at a fast pace and after about 10 minutes the pace slows down and they go more into their sniffing/discovery journey.
It was decided to place the objects on the outer edge of the centre, so that they are not overwhelmed by the amount. In the middle are various carpets, without obstacles. There are enough scents to it to start with the nose on the ground. But everything is the dogs’s own choice.
At the end of the session, they get a chew that they can choose for themselves. The smart ones sometimes "accidentally" grab two and then look for a safe place to quietly enjoy the reward.
Sensory gardens 4 dogs: How are a dog's senses stimulated in the centre?
Stella: For the sense of touch, we have several air cushions - grouped together - that are normally used as packaging material. Dogs like this very much, every now and then one pops too. There are flags that they can walk through, if they want, which then gently touch their skin. There are natural and artificial materials. Different stepping stones, each with a different profile, etc.
There is a sounds section but this is arranged so that dogs can walk everywhere without the sounds being activated. Sounds such as: crackling, clanging, material with louder and softer sound.
Dogs who like to dig are also welcome here. There are 2 shells, 1 filled with sand and the other filled with balls. In short, a sandbox and a ball pit. They can do whatever they want. Some dogs dig, other dogs lay down in it.
There are also climbing options such as: wooden blocks, mattresses, trampoline, a chair and various pillows. So a mental and physical challenge, in a safe way and on your own initiative.
For the smell we have different herbal plants, sheep wool, camel wool, reindeer hair, flamingo feathers, various other bird feathers that I have found myself, scent of my own cats, and even a basket in which a dog once gave birth. Also think of smells that visitors, both dog and handler, leave behind.
For the taste and also smell, we have 5 blue buckets with water here. Each bucket comes with a different flavour, such as a drop of sesame oil, apple cider vinegar, sweet soy sauce, tabasco and a regular with water. You can see that the dogs have a clear preference and all different, although Tabasco is not a favorite, haha!
For the sense of “seeing” there are many objects to look at, even the posters on the wall attract attention. A dog is depicted on it and sometimes it attracts attention.
Sensory gardens 4 dogs: What do dogs like best in the Sensory centre?
Stella: The dogs' favorite item is the moose cuddly rug
Sensory gardens 4 dogs: Do you see that a visit to the centre has a positive effect on dogs?
Stella: All I can hear is that when the dogs are at home and often even before getting there they are already in a deep sleep in the car. I especially enjoy seeing them move freely and make their own choices. That makes me very happy. I kind of fall in love with any dog, seeing them in their element like that.
Sensory gardens 4 dogs: What do you do when a dog doesn't want to sniff?
Stella: I'll hold off, it can just be overwhelming, but I sometimes do a treat search if a dog stops exploring/sniffing early, or doesn't explore anything at all. I then let them do a treat search, which has a calming effect and then we see if the dog wants to continue or investigates on its own. Any food allergies are taken into account, as this is a question on the questionnaire. Of course, breaks are also included. Dogs take regular breaks to process. You sometimes see this happen while walking. Then they just stop or sit. It could be that they are processing something.
Furthermore, I do not stimulate food objects because that tends to lure. With lure dogs can go beyond their limits and that is no longer their own choice. We want the dog to discover with all his senses. I want them to explore things, explore the environment.
Sensory gardens 4 dogs: How long does a sniffing session in the sensory centre take?
Stella: Up to an hour but most dogs are ready after 30-40 minutes. They show this by going to the owner, lying down, some throwing / breaking things. There was until now only one dog who was standing in front of the door. But it is not clear if he really wanted to go out because there were also some noises outside. So he might as well was gathering information. In the sensory centre, the dog decides when enough is enough, hence Dog's Own Choice 😉
Sensory gardens 4 dogs: What do people say about the visit to the sensory centre afterwards?
Stella: That they are surprised at their dog's curiosity, that they find it interesting to see where the dog's preference goes. That they expected different behaviour from the dog etc.
Sensory gardens 4 dogs: Do you remember a special visitor?
Stella: A reactive hunting dog who was visiting the centre. This young fellow surprised us with his curiosity and the peace of mind he had to explore. But to be honest, I find each and every one of them special. They are all individuals, with their own personality and preferences. No two dogs are the same.
Sensory gardens 4 dogs: What kind of dogs are visiting the centre?
Stella: There are dogs of different ages up to the age of 1 to 7 years and there are all kinds of different breeds and crosses, such as hunting dogs, Bassets, Toller, Labradoodle, Old German Shepherd, Labrador, etc. But also, dogs with osteoarthritis, anxious, reactive dogs etc.
Sensory gardens 4 dogs: You offer your sensory centre also to shelter dogs?
Stella: Yes, that's right. I offer the shelter a free sense session for dogs that stay there. I recently spoke to the shelter in my hometown and they were very enthusiastic. The first shelter dog, a Malinois named Shelly, will come and sniff on July 20. I can't wait to see how they experience it! Dogs from a shelter need this so much and I would like to do my part to make their lives more pleasant. They all deserve a happy life. I hope to offer them a bright spot again.
My wish is that many dogs can gain this experience, because there are so many benefits for dogs from a sniffing / sense garden.
Sensory gardens 4 dogs: What do you think is important for owners to give something extra?
Stella: Especially freedom of choice! But I think it's especially important that people know why good leashes and harnesses are so important. In the sensory centre I put up posters about why a Y-shaped harness is so important for a dog. And don't forget, a dog leash of at least 3 meters! I downloaded the posters from the website of Els Vidts, who explains here in many languages why a harness is better than a collar. If you also want to see why, you can find this information via https://freedogz.be/harnas-info/
While the dogs are sniffing, people can read the info about a Y-harness. There are also folders, which are the same as the posters, but these ones are meant to be to read again at home. One drawback, the leaflets are in English. But soon I will also have them in Dutch.
Sensory gardens 4 dogs: How can people sign up for a visit to the Sensory Centre?
Stella: They can preferably send an email to [email protected]. But they can also write a message in Messenger. I send them information via e-mail, including the rules of my sensory centre. And mobile number they can find on my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/search/top?q=dogs%20own%20choice
Sensory gardens 4 dogs: Thank you Stella for your time and we wish you a lot of success with this great initiative and that many dogs come to sniff in your sensory centre.
Published on 4th of August 2022
Photo dog model - do you recognize the picture?
Photo dog model Fidel – do you recognize the picture?
Fidel is a famous dog model 😊 So it's time to know more about him.
Fidel is photo model for the Dutch Snuffle Garden Project and the international website Sensory Garden 4 dogs, where he features on the cover of the website's home page. He is also a model for announcements of the “Snuffle Garden workshops”, his picture is also on the cover of the e-book “How to build a Snuffle Garden for your dog” and is always on the first page of the “Snuffle Gardens workshop” presentation. His photo was taken in Sensory Garden BK9 in Binkom by Liesbet Jacobs and was picked up by Birgitta Geerlings.
For this article, we interviewed Eva. She is Fidel's dog Mom. Liesbet, owner of the Sensory garden BK9 in Binkom, Belgium, was also present at this interview.
Time to learn more about Fidel.
But who is Fidel actually, what is his story and what does he do in everyday life besides visiting snuffle gardens? We spoke to Eva, his dog Mom, via Zoom and asked her everything about Fidel. Please read below about Fidel's past life, his happy life now and about all his escapades. during his puberty.
Eva: Fidel (6 years old) is originally from Portugal, and he was 8 months old when he was adopted by us. Fidel is my 3rd dog, but Fidel was very different from my previous dogs.
The first years with Fidel were like hell and he did everything you can imagine. For example, I came home one time, and everything was destroyed. If he got loose, I would always lose him. He liked to run after horses with ‘sulkies’ (carts) to bite into the wheels.
At the dog school he was always throwing pinecones at your feet. Or, for example, at the end of a lesson, where all puppies were allowed to play with each other for a while, Fidel opened the gate with the result that all puppies from the dog school ran into the wood. He also barked a lot because he was always overstimulated.
Then I thought to myself “we are not going to do this for another 13 years”. I then started following Laura Bangels' training, so that I could better understand and guide Fidel. Since then, things have been better, and he is now a fantastic dog.
Snuffle Garden Project: Why did you visit Sensory Garden BK9 in Binkom?:
Eva: During my training I started looking for new things not only for Fidel but also for my other dog Castro, a Podenco that we often lost.
Castro is a Podenco. We have never unleashed him because we knew that his hunting instinct is too big. As a result, other senses such as listening to us simply turn off completely 😉. So, we went in safe place for him where he can discover the environment. And where we shouldn't watch him with suspicion.
Snuffle Garden Project: What does Fidel like most of the Sensory Garden?
Eva: Fidel explores everything, and he just likes everything, he thinks everything is worth exploring. The first thing Fidel does is to examine the tree trunks in Sensory Garden BK9, because of the mice.
Snuffle Garden Project: Did you see a clear effect of more tranquillity with Fidel after a visit to the Sensory Garden?
Eva: After the first visit to the Sensory Garden BK9, he was mentally and physically satisfied at home.
Snuffle Garden Project: Do you also have a Sensory Garden at home for your dogs?
Eva: I have made a kind of mini-sensory garden for the dogs: I have put down tree trunks, a sniffing box with leaves in it, turned over a fruit box for them to stand on and crawl into, I drilled holes in a pole to put paté on it which the dogs can search for and eat.
Snuffle Garden Project: Name some of Fidel's cute and funny pranks.
Eva: Fidel can look at you in a certain way and then gasps in the air with a look like: “Are we going to do something else?”. He plays the clown. He likes to play football with "special balls for horses", which he is very handy with.
Snuffle Garden Project: Can you tell us about your other dogs?
Eva: I have 4 rescue dogs: Fidel, Castro, Beau and Mani. They also all visited the sniffing garden.
Castro was the longest visitor to the Sensory Garden BK9 ever, he literally couldn't get enough. He was in the garden for no less than 3 hours (and then we kindly asked him to stop because the other dogs had already laid down, waiting for Castro to stop). Eva and Liesbet were both laughing telling this story during ZOOM.
Eva continues: Castro (3 years old) is also a different story. He never ever had removed wallpaper from the wall, but then Beau came into the house. And he also began to take over Castro's ideas. The two of them (two) grabbed the wallpaper and together they pulled the wallpaper off, after which Castro started eating it.
Beau (5 years old) ended up in the shelter where I worked at the time. Beau is a Labrador and was dumped there by a puppy mill breeder (She originally came from a puppy mill where she was until she was 10 months old. Then she was bought by a private individual, who breed a litter every year with her). At first Beau was terrified of everyone and literally crawled on the floor in fear. She also got a serious ear infection. The pus and the smell were unbearable and her ear canals were completely hardened. As a result, she could no longer move her ears and she was deaf due to the inflammation.
The shelter had immediately started treatment, but the problem was too complex and required better follow-up. She could no longer stand due to the side effects of the medication and being overweight and I decided to take her to my house.
It took about a year for Beau to dare to be a dog again, she could barely even walk in the beginning. She didn't dare lie down on a mat. Her reaction was to freeze and lie down as 'dead'. She could literally shut herself off from the world. An incredibly sad and difficult thing to turn around. I started to do scent work with her and this has given her a lot of self-confidence. In the Sensory Garden it was very nice to see how she even made contact with Liesbet which was her own choice.
Snuffle Garden Project: What a sad story about Beau. Hopefully things went a little better for Màni before she came to you?
Eva: Màni comes from Spain and has changed hands many times before and finally ended up with me during a seizure in Belgium. She wasn't even chipped when we got her. How they got her here is a mystery to me. We don't even know how old she is. Màni always needs some time. She wants to check before making contact and she doesn't want to know about some people. Màni also gave birth to the necessary litters as she did not come to Belgium sterilized. She's a dog with a background, but once she gets to know you, she's just amazing. She genuinely enjoys her luxurious status and the tranquillity.
Snuffle Garden Project: What a sad story that dogs must go through all this. So lovely that you take good care of them. They clearly have a very happy life with you. Anyway, thank you for your time and for sharing your story about your dogs.
Soon Fidel and friends will visit Snuffletuin Bk9 again. We wish them a lot of Sniffing fun and you can follow the visit of these nice dogs on the FB page of Sensory Garden BK9.
Thank you Liesbet for making this interview possible, your help with this interview and providing the first 3 photos.
Fidel and Mani
Beau, Fidel, Mani and Castro
A Sensory Garden in a veterinarian Hospital in Australia
Interview with Diederik Gelderman – April / May 2022
We proudly present an interview with the Australian vet of Dutch origin, Diederik Gelderman. As far as we know he is the first veteriany clinic that realised a sensory garden for dogs.
His vet clinic is called HIGHlands Veterinary Hospital and you find it in Braemer in New South Wales in Australia.
Diederik Gelderman is also an International Author, Speaker, Veterinary Business Coach and mentor Dr Diederik Gelderman (AVBA President 2015/2016). He wrote a book with the name Veterinary Success secrets revealed. You can find more on this on his website: https://www.veterinarysuccesssecretsrevealed.com/
In 2018 Diederik bought this clinic and he was asking himself “why should clients come to us? What can we do different? If you look on the website you can see that this vet clinic is offering all kinds of services and is really client friendly. The website gives a lot of interesting information to read.
What are the benefits of a sensory garden?:
The goal we achieved was making a vet visit more comfortable for a dog. Frightful dogs can visit our garden before their come in the clinic. They can walk like 20-30 minutes in the garden and what we see that after that little experience that dogs are less fearful. Customers told us that their dogs are really happy and even that the dogs are less stressed when they visit the clinic for the 2nd time. All together a huge benefit for anxious dogs.
Some dogs who were reactive towards other vets came to us and are much happier now because of the relaxing experience before they come in the clinic says Diederik. Dogs who were fearful at the beginning showed after a visit of 20-30 minutes in the garden that they were more comfortable. We have also an inhouse dog trainer who runs classes meanwhile using our sensory garden. This has been proven very useful for dogs and puppies in general and also for anxious dogs.
How does the sensory garden looks like?
We are lucky that we got so much space here! The Sensory Garden is half as big as a football field and it is all fenced. There are 9 different stations in it. Below you will see the map:
How does the Sensory Garden work?
New clients get a welcome pack including a brochure of the sensory garden. On the website you can find a video where we explain the sensory garden with the 9 sections. It was filmed partly with a camera on the back of a dog. Customers can come to the sensory garden whenever they want. The garden is 24/7 open for our customers.
Click here for the video on YouTube
What do dogs like the most?
Popular is the digging pit were we hide also treats in. There is also a water pipe of 2 meter long which we have stuffed with alpaca and sheep wool. Many dogs do not get the possibility to explore these senses.
What kind of dogs do visit your garden?
More anxious breeds, working dogs, pit bulls, the dogs with health problems and shepherds.
New plans for the Sensory Garden:
We got some wind chimes and on one of the stations there is a water feature, which create natural sounds. But we want to make the garden better. Our idea is to place some speakers in the garden with relaxing music. And we want to put lights in the garden because during autumn/winter time the sun goes down early and not many people will use it. We think that will stimulate more dog owners to come.
What about dangerous animals in your garden?
We see snakes and spiders once in a while and that comes with being situated in a rural area.
Spiders are too bad but most dogs leave them alone, and we got snakes in spring, and some times they can bite. This is not uncommon in Australia and people have learned to live with it. In the case something happened at least the vet is nearby 😉
Do you know if there are more vet clinics with a Sensory Garden?
Problem for most praxis’s that they don’t have a lot of land. Most vets got a praxis in a shopping mall.
How did you learn about the Sensory Garden?
I travelled and did consultancies as a business coach between 2004-2007 around the world. One of my clients got a sensory garden with the name bussleton Sensory Garden and I liked the idea and I made my own.
The Secret Garden in West Sussex in the UK
Interview with Lisa Edwards from 'Common Scents' with the 'The Secret Dog Garden '
Lisa is located in West Sussex and she has been running a sensory garden successfully since 2021. It's called “The Secret Dog Garden”. Lisa also offers enriched home visits. You can find more on her website.
Lisa and her husband have two rescue dogs and one rescue cat. The dogs have their own video, where they tell their own story. Please also see their video produced by the Orphan Pet.
In Lisa's own words:
'It all started with a Greek adopted rescue dog. His name is Ouzo. He is a life changing dog.
He is a tri-paw so has pain issues. He was worried about other dogs outside, so I wanted to give him as many good times as possible.
I started to do some scentwork with him. I joined the Slow Dog Movement. And I visited Pennie Clayton's Crabtree Canine Enrichment and Training Centre with Ouzo. I have attended many online courses covering enrichment, scentwork, ethology, communication, zoopharmacognosy, from Kirsty Grant, Anne Lill Kvam, Amber Batson, Lisbeth Borg de Waard, Karen Webb etc.
We built the sensory garden during lockdown. The garden is secured and is approximately 50m2 in size. In the garden are two sheds, one of 14 ft and one of 8 ft. To meet the needs of the dog's senses, the first shed is filled with animal scents like horse rugs, shoes, brushes, saddles, bridles, headcollars, animal hair such as donkey, cow, alpaca, sheep, and various feathers including pheasant, duck, chicken, and even swan. The larger shed is filled with recycled objects such as children’s toys, hats, gloves and shoes, bicycle tires, brooms, boxes, seashells, pebbles and dried leaves. There are also herbs in the garden like lavender and rosemary and we plan to plant more.
For sensory touch, we used different materials like gravel, stone and wooden paving slabs around the outside areas, and indoor areas have non-slip mats of various material such as nylon, foam and natural fur, plus hanging items to brush against like scarves and beads.
For the sound we have birds in our garden (natural soundtrack) and in the indoor areas we have bells, rattles and other items that make a sound when nudged with a nose. In the summer months we have tall Elephant grass that sways in the breeze.
There are different levels to reach via ramps or steps, plus objects to step over, step on, or avoid, dependent on your dog’s preference.
As your dog moves around and explores, they will discover natural treats hidden in boxes, puzzles, snuffle mats and even ball pits. We have a licky wall. There is a sofa in the larger shed.
Each visitor is asked to complete a questionnaire about their dog and the set up of the area is designed around this. I take into account the dog’s physical abilities, size and age etc.'
Which dogs do you have a special memory of?
'There was a dog named Albie, who had a bite history. I sat quietly far away and didn’t look at Albie. I let him sniff and explore. Finally he came to me and licked my face and put his paws on my knees. Albie's owners started to cry as they were so happy. It was Albie’s choice to do this.
A fostered rescue dog called Hovis visted the garden. He was reactive to people. Again I sat quietly out of his way, not looking at him. Suddenly there was a big spider on my arm and I didn’t’ want to make a noise and worry Hovis so I stayed still. Hovis was so relaxed and everything was fine so I was able to quickly brush the spider off. Hovis was just sniffing and exploring. When he arrived, he was very stiff and tense, but by the time he left his body was soft and he left with a happy smiling face.
Recently a very excitable young dog called Willow came. Her dog guardian was very worried about her behaviour. Willow was so calm and relaxed and explored every single thing slowly with great interest and went home and slept soundly. '
What do dogs like the most in your garden?
'Each dog is different. Some like rummaging in boxes, some like the shoes and gloves. Others like an old African drum I have. Some really enjoy spending a long time sniffing the ground to see who else has been there. '
What kind of dogs visit your garden?
'Great Danes to Chihuahuas and dogs with different temperaments visit the garden. There are confident to anxious and nervous dogs and people or dog reactive dogs. It is always really rewarding when a nervous dog arrives and they are unsure of the area as their posture is tense. As they begin to realise they are safe, and that they can choose what to explore without any interference, they start to relax. They return to investigate items they felt a little unsure of to start with. You can see their body soften and their movements become more fluid.'
How does the dog guardian learn more about their dog?
'There is a video camera in the Secret Dog Garden and I send each visitor a short video of their dog. I start with a clip at the beginning, a clip part way through, and a final clip towards the end of their visit. Then they can see how their dog’s posture changes as they become more relaxed in the environment and their confidence and curiosity grows.
Many visitors like to find out more and ask lots of questions. They want to try different things at home with their dog. One visitor is now setting up their own sensory garden for people to visit, so that is brilliant. '
How long does a visit take?
'Each dog will let you know when they have had enough. Most of the dogs are ready after 30-45 minutes and will show it by sitting at the gate or laying on the sofa. Two regular visitors let me know by licking me. I always tell any visitors that the dog will choose when they have finished. '
Do your dogs like it when other dogs visit their garden?
'At first, I was worried about my dogs, so we had lots of practice with friend’s dogs and dogs that I know. But my dogs like it. When a visitor has left they go down and sniff about to see who has been there. '
Why is your garden called the Secret Dog Garden?
'Because nobody could know /would know that this place exists in my garden.
Do you want to visit the garden from Lisa? You can find here more information https://commonscentsenrichment.com/contact/
Or visit her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/commonscentsenrichment '
Cabanga Sensory Garden for dogs in Johannesburg, South Africa
Adri started an amazing sensory garden for dogs in North Riding, Randburg (Johannesburg) in South Africa
at the end of August 2020.
Adri opened this garden after contacting Carolin Reger, the original founder of the Snuffle Garden Project in Germany. Adri wanted to know more about this project and opened Cabanga Sensory Garden for Dogs during lock down.
She started with inviting people for a short time and it became so popular that the garden was soon fully booked. People came even for the 2nd and 3rd time.
All kinds of dogs visit the garden like old dogs, aggressive dogs, anxious dogs, but also Velcro dogs. A lot of these dogs appeared less 'velcroed' to their dog guardian once they could explore the garden while the owners were sitting on a bench.
Adri tries to slow down the dog guardians. She contacted and got inspired by Laura Dobb from the Slow Dog Movement. Many people in Johannesburg think that you have to run with your dog and to do a lot of high energy activities.
She says that she promotes the Slow Dog Movement as much as possible and will also start with scentwork and wellness for dogs. Stating: "I want that people have a happy experience with their dog"
What does her garden look like? The garden is 4,5 acres and it is a safe place to go and explore because it is completely fenced off. The location is a conference centre with gardens called Cabanga Conference Centre. When the dog guardians visit the conference centre, the area towards the gardens is closed so that dogs can snuffle at their own pace.
The garden contains:
Rock Gardens / The Pond Stairs / Bridges / Dog friendly scent plants / Digging Pit / Different surfaces / Different pools And much more😊
Some people call it the 'Paradise', or other comments on the FB page from Adri are saying: “It is exceptionally therapeutic for both dog and human”.
Do you want to visit the garden, please contact Adri via her FB page.
In the future she wants to have her own website. Below are some pictures of the garden.
Sensory Garden Instincitief in Beringen in Belgium
Kel Bervoets of Instinctief in Beringen (Belgium) opened the very first Sensory Garden in 2017. She calls it a Sensory / Experience Garden and the garden is 5000 m2 big. There are sniffing bushes and there is an experience garden. In the experience garden there are tree trunks on the ground, logs, a shelter, etc. She has already received many dogs and puppies, who can enjoy and de-stress in the garden, but also develop them further. The Senosry Garden is currently closed, but will reopen in the summer of 2022.
Kel guides children and adults who have a fear of dogs, has bite prevention actions and is a grief coach for people in the event of the death of a pet or lloved person. You can find all the information at www.instinctief.be
Kel also worked for a while as a volunteer at the animal shelter in Genk and eventually managed to realize a Sensory garden in the shelter in Genk. Her love for dogs didn't stop here and she also created a Snuffle Garden entirely at her own expense in a shelter in Limassol, Cyprus. You can find both stories on the dutch website Snuffeltuinen. Click here for more information
Sensory Garden BK9 in Binkom, Belgium
At the end of 2019, Liesbet opened her Sensory garden BK9 in Binkom. Liesbet graduated as a dog trainer and behavioral expert. In order to graduate, she decided to create a Sensory garden, originally in her own backyard, only to move to its current location a year later.
This beautiful Sensory Garden is 2300m2 big. There are different surfaces, herb garden, tunnels and an enriched environment etc. She has already received more than 300 dogs with dog owners since opening.
Liesbet regularly brought dogs from the local shelter to her Sensory Garden. She has seen that this really helps dogs to de-stress and increases the chances of adoption.
She also gives workshops on body language of thedog. More info at www.bk9.be