Sensory garden 4 shelters

Did you know that in Europe there are also Sensory gardens in shelters? 
Please find below on this page the list per country where you can find Sensory Gardens in shelters. 

Get inspired an read below interviews!

The very first Sensory Garden in an animal shelter in the Netherlands! (as far as is known to the editors of the Dutch Snuffle garden project).

Alexis is assistant manager at the Bommelerwaard Animal Shelter. Earlier this year Alexis attended our workshop “Creating a snuffle garden for your dog”. Alexis said that they already do a lot for the dogs at the animal shelter in terms of enrichment such as offering snuffle mats, doing brain work games and they created a sensory garden for dogs.

The editors of the Sensory garden 4 dogs project were immediately pleasantly surprised, because we think a sensory garden in a shelter is important and want to promote it as much as possible. A sensory garden has a positive effect on the well-being of shelter dogs. In the UK there have been sensory gardens in shelters for many years, in the shelter in Genk in Belgium there is also a sensory garden. And in 2020 a sensory garden has been realised in the animal shelter in Kaiserslautern in Germany. The chairman Anne Knaube said during an interview that they are very enthusiastic about the positive effect of a sensory garden for dogs*

So it's about time for us for an interview with Alexis from this great shelter. The interview took place by telephone on July 15, 2022.

Sensory Garden 4 Dogs:  Where is the Sensory Garden located in the shelter?

Alexis:  Behind the shelter there are 5 fields, of which 1 field is set up as a sensory garden for the shelter dogs. This is a temporary sensory garden because a new building is coming up. We hope that this will be completed by the end of the year and that the sensory garden can be put into use next year. This will be at the front of the building, which can also be visited by outsiders. The new sensory garden will therefore be furnished with different surfaces, sniffing plants, etc. At the moment, the temporary sensory garden is not open to outsiders, because owners with dogs then would have to walk past the shelter dogs, which in turn causes a lot of unrest among our dogs. Our idea is that then people will have a nice outing with the dog and at the same time they can help shelter dogs through their visit/donation.

Sensory Garden 4 Dogs: What does the Sensory garden look like?

Alexis: The sensory garden is about 8 x 8 metres big.  There are paving stones all around, some soil and grass in the middle. There is a wooden playhouse with a hard plastic slide at the back. An extra floor has been made, so that the dogs can easily go one floor higher. We left the slide on. Some daring little dogs even go down the slide. The big dogs examine the house from top to bottom. There is a large tree that provides shade. There are car tires, a pile of wood and stones scattered throughout the garden. There are sniffing mats scattered around that are sometimes filled with food. There are really all kinds of things used to let dogs sniff.

When the weather is nice, there are shells that we fill with water and sometimes we hide balls in them. Dogs really like this too. There are also digging options, so we excavated a piece with sand in it, but the dogs can actually dig anywhere.

Hills have been made containing sewer pipes. Dogs find this fun and exciting. However, this was made on a different field, because we try to make something interesting for the dogs on every field.

Sensory Garden 4 Dogs: Is the sensory garden fenced?

Alexis: The garden is fenced with wire mesh and there are sheet piles separating the fields. This is done so that the dogs can't see each other. The height is 2 metres 10. This is also done for more safety to prevent dogs from jumping over it. Dogs that are known to escape easily will only go into the fields where the mesh is slanted to avoid climbing.

Sensory Garden 4 Dogs: Do you see a positive effect of the sensory garden on the dogs?

Alexis: For many dogs it is desirable that they are busy with their heads. We have seen this, for example, in an ADHD dog, a real bouncing ball. This dog became completely relaxed after a sniffing session and was much calmer for the rest of the afternoon. You can see with many dogs that they are very interested in the sensory garden, where they can stimulate their senses.

Sensory Garden 4 Dogs: How Often Do Dogs Enter a sensory Garden?

Alexis: We mainly look at what a dog likes to do. One dog likes to play and the other dog likes to sniff. There are a number of other fields with activities for dogs. We try to find a daily change for every dog through a schedule. We also look at what a dog can or cannot handle. There is also a dog that demolishes and it therefore cannot not come into the sensory garden unless someone stays with it..

Sensory Garden 4 Dogs: When was the sensory garden established?

Alexis: I dare not say that because I have been working here for about 5 or 6 years and since then there has always been something of a sniffing garden. This sensory garden has been improved and expanded over the years.

Sensory Garden 4 Dogs: Is the sniffing garden also used for, for example, meetings with people who are interested in a dog?

Alexis: We don't meet interested parties in shelter dogs in our sensory garden, we usually do this outside the shelter, because dogs tend to be much more relaxed there. If people come with their own dog, the meeting is always outside. The shelter dog gets put on a safety harness and we first go for a walk to see how they react to each other.

Sensory Garden 4 Dogs: How Many Dogs are there at the moment?

Alexis: That varies a lot from week to week. Sometimes we have 10 dogs and then only 3. When kennels are empty, these kennels are used for people who want to house their dog somewhere during their vacation. This gives us extra income, which benefits the shelter.

Sensory Garden 4 Dogs: Thank you Alexis for your time and this interview. We would like to be kept informed of your good work and new construction. We would like to promote your future sensory garden via our website and FB page, so that hopefully you will receive extra donations by then.

We hope that other shelters in the Netherlands and other countries have been extra inspired to start something too.

Another great way to help shelter dogs is that there are also sensory gardens that make their garden available to shelter dogs. Such as, for example, the Breda shelter. They have entered into a collaboration with sensory garden “Snuffeltuin Pawsitive” in Breda and the indoor sensory garden “Dogs own choice” with the local shelter in Hoogkarspel.

If you want to read more about Animal Shelter Bommelerwaard in Bruchem or if you are interested in the dog Noeska from the picture you can find info on

A Sensory /Snuffle garden for shelter dogs in the Carl Hildebrand Animal Shelter in Kaiserslautern!


Read the exclusive article about Snuffle garden in Tierheim Carl Hildebrand Kaiserslautern here.

Friends4ever has spoken with Anne Knauber and Jessica Bende in August 2020.

Anne Knauber is Chairman and veterinarian of the shelter.

Jessica Bende is a dog behaviourist at the shelter


Hopefully the animal shelter in Kaiserslautern is an inspiration for other shelters!


The animal shelter in Kaiserslautern:

The Carl Hildebrand animal shelter in Kaiserslautern was built in 1932 and was renovated in 2012 according to the latest requirements. The shelter is a way build that dogs cannot get stress from other dogs, but also not from visitors. The dogs can be observed from a higher observation point instead of walking right past the dog kennel.  In December 2020 they had 19 puppy’s, 11 dogs, 30 cats, some rabbits and birds, turtles and other exotic animals.

In total there work 15 employees plus volunteers.


Since 2020, a Snuffle garden has been added

About the Snuffle garden:

The Snuffle garden is 950m2 of size and is secured with a wooden fence, so that there is no view from the outside and the dogs are also not distracted by things that happen outside the garden. The Snuffle garden will be expanded in the near future, so that there will be an exciting 1500 m2 of sniffing fun.

The shelter received a lot of donations from grants like MUEEF (the German ministry for environment, food, Agriculture and forest), animal lovers, a crowdfunding campaign, the German Animal Protection “Tierschutzbund. The design and labour of the planting of the green sections of the garden was sponsored by Nathalie from her company


What does the Snuffle garden look like?

The Snuffle garden has a garden with different herbs, a path with different surfaces such as molars, wood chips, sand and large stones. There are straw bales, bushes and an exploration platform. Occasionally, an enriched environment such as cardboard will be realised. 

Created with Sketch.

What do the employees think of the Snuffle garden?

The garden has already exceeded their expectations. Not only when it comes to mental well-being but also the physical health. Dogs that have to rehabilitate just after an operation benefit greatly from, for example, the different surfaces to strengthen their muscles and bones.

 They have to think when they walk over certain stones and at the same time they benefits from building their physics.

Created with Sketch.

Advantages of a Snuffle garden for dogs in shelters:

  • Dogs can become calmer by sniffing
  • More self-confident
  • Walk around freely in a safe environment
  • Mental challenge
  •  Own pace, without pressure from others
  •  Sniffing reduces the stress level
  •  More variety in their life in the shelter
  •  Dog relaxes
  •  The dog can get over fears (eg noise / foreign objects) because curiosity overcomes
  •  follow natural instinct (Dogs are nose animals)
  •  It arouses their curiosity
  •  Stimulates natural movement
  •  Stimulates learning ability


How often do shelter dogs come to the Snuffle garden?

Most dogs that are in a training program come into the Snuffle garden every day.

However, this depends on the tailor-made program for the dog, which is different for each dog. The dogs do not stay in the garden for more than half an hour. Sometimes the visit to the Snuffle garden is part of a training, but the dogs are also allowed to browse all alone and freely, so that they can do their thing. 

gs in shelters:

Created with Sketch.

About the dogs in the shelter:

Many dogs are brought to the shelter for the following reasons

- Unfortunately, there are many biting incidents nowadays and people bring their dog to a shelter.

- Dogs or puppies that are confiscated are also taken to the Carl Hildebrand shelter in Kaiserslautern, among others.

- *Dogs with “problem behaviour” from other shelters are sometimes also placed in this shelter. These dogs follow a special program at the shelter that is also called HUKO. Before the dog can participate with the HUKO program are they first fully checked to see if they are healthy. Often there are also behavioural problems because a dog is in pain. Then they start working with the certified dog trainers in the specially equipped training centre at the shelter. People who adopt a HUKO dog are very well guided. A program is tailor-made for this dog with adopter. The people are then also guided at home. 

Last year the shelter won an award from the MUEEF (the German ministry for environment, food, Agriculture and forest). They received the animal protection award because of the “HUKO” project*

The Snuffle garden also helps the dogs with this.

You can read more on their website:

Please read more about the Snuffle Garden and their projects in their magazine


List of Sensory /Snuffle gardens in shelters per country

Shelter in Belgium

Genk - animal shelter

Shelters in Germany

Animal Shelter in Kaiserslautern


Shelters in the Netherlands

Dierenopvangtehuis Bommelerwaard in Bruchem