What is a sensory garden?
A Sensory garden is a safe place in an enclosed area, where the dog can snuffle and explore in freedom by using all his senses, without intervention of other people (or dogs).
Stimulates the senses
-Helps the dog to become curious
-The brain capacity grows as a result
-Learning to deal with difficult situations
-Dog calms down
-Your dog produces happiness hormones such as dopamine
- Gives dogs the opportunity to experience the sights, sounds and smells of a normal dog's life. A safe place where they can come to learn skills.
- Helping dog's confidence and help them to socialise (e.g. Rescue puppy mill dogs)
Advantages of a Sensory garden
- Sniff and explore in a safe environment
- Mental stimulation
- Slow down
- Own pace and without pressure from others
- Smelling reduces the stress level
- Dog is getting (more) relaxed
- The dog can overcome fears (eg noise / foreign objects)
because curiosity overcomes.
- Stimulates the senses
- The brain capacity grows as a result
- Learning to deal with difficult situations
- Dog calms down
- Your dog produces happiness hormones such as dopamine
- Gives dogs the opportunity to experience the sights, sounds and smells of a normal dog's life.
- Helping dogs to get confidence and help them to socialize (e.g.
- Owner learns to look at the dog differently
- Relationship with your dog improves
- Owner learns what the dog really like
- Dog can follow his natural instinct
- Making own choises!!!
- A safe place for dog and owner (if area is fenced)
- Stimulates natural movement
- Stimulates learning ability
Where can you create a Sensory garden?
You can build this every where!
-In your garden, on your balcony, terrace, park etc.
-In other people’s gardens who love dogs
-On a piece of land where animals have been (e.g. sheep)
-On a piece of land where dogs have trained (e.g. dogschool)
-In a building (your house/garage etc.)
Take into account that you have to take/ move your stuff. Perhaps you can put this in a shed or take it home. (mobile Snuffle Garden)
You can also visit a sensory garden. Click on the button to see all world-wide Sensory Gardens
Where to start
-Is it for your own dog? For your dog school?
-Do you have a garden/building/room in your house?
-Can you use some space somewhere else? Somebody’s garden/building?
-Can you do this in a park/wood/ offices/parking garage etc.?
-Do you want to start a Sensory garden/room or sensory walk or maybe a pop-up sensory garden?
- Think about what your dog likes the most?
Does he like to dig?
Does he like to dig?
Does he like tall grass? Or does he like water? Sometimes, it's a personal project that lets me explore new concepts and ideas.
Does he like to climb?
Does he like to crawl? or does he like tunnels?
Our work is our purpose, our driving force. It's the reason we get up every day and do what we do. Most importantly, it keeps pushing us to achieve bigger and better things with each new challenge.
Or think about your dog's 5 senses
- Different edible herbs
- Make sniff bushes
- Carpets/ floor mats, possibly with
- scents from other animals
- Visits from other dogs (peeing).
- Things that smell interesting
- Toys or rugs from other dogs
- Things that smell like other animals: sheepskin, horse brushes, cat bed
- Sticks from the park
- Dried seaweed
Place several drinking bowls with water and in every bowl you put a different drop e.g. Olive oil, sugar, Tabasco. Fresh strawberry & raspberry is also very niceJ be careful with thorns. I'm always working on something.
Hang empty plastic bottles/cans on a fence possibly filled with interesting scents and colours. A large shopping bag, an umbrella, a wheelbarrow, etc. r a watering can is also very interesting.
You lay out different surfaces in the garden/living room/shed. For example, a plastic sheet (please reinforce so that it cannot blow away), used doormats, old unwashed carpets, unwashed old towels, artificial grass, wood chips, stones, etc.
This is so your dog can get used to different surfaces in a positive way.
Solid materials such as a bamboo bush or hang items or bottles on a rack or tree branch. Or put a little radio somewhere.
What about a wind chime? Just be creative!
Sensory garden on your balcony
You have no garden? Don't worry you can also create a sensory garden on your balcony! Fill a child's pool with sand, balls, water or other objects. Bring the outside world inside your balcony, collect seasonal things like leaves or feather, wool etc and put them in the sniff zone. What about a little herb garden?
“A sensory walk is a walk, where the dog can snuffle and explore on a long leash by using all his
senses, without intervention* of the owner of the dog”
*The dog is given the opportunity to independently examine the materials and make decisions on its own.
Where can you organize a Sensory walk
- In a park, in a business park in the weekend when offices are closed
- Parking garage of a business park
- School area
General rules for a Sensory walk
The environment must be safe.
No sharp or dangerous objects lying around.
It is important that dogs can sniff and explore freely,
without outside influences.
No other people or dogs are present!
Where can I find Sensory walks?
In the Netherlands organises Ellen van der Hulle weekly sensory walks in the area of Amsterdam.
You can find here on FB "Sensory Walks"
In a more professional zoo you can see that "activities" are offered in certain animal enclosures. For example; Monkeys and gorillas have swings and tires, meerkats have boxes filled with shredded paper, and the big cats have varied things to use as toys. During feeding times, animals are offered their food in different objects to give them more challenge. Sometimes the food is buried or hidden under trees so that they have to search for the food.
Why do zookeepers do this?
They do this to give the animals a better quality of life by offering them an enriched environment. The idea is to give animals activities that require them to use their natural instincts and brains (and yes animals get depressed if they don't have mental stimulation they then go for example walking past the fence in a reciprocal pattern)
Even humans need an enriched environment. We live in freedom and can realize this ourselves and that is why this is self-evident to us. But what if it disappears? Say you wake up one day and you can never leave your house and worse all the things you love are gone, no sports, no books, no phone, no bike, no car, no hobbies, no toys, no music, no sweets etc. All you have left are four white walls and every day you get a plate of beans. It won't last long and you'll also get frustrated and angry. After a while you may start to feel sick and eventually you will fall into a depression.
The same also applies to animals, but it is only recently that it has been discovered that dogs also need enrichment. Living with people can be frustrating, especially when people have no interesting life for dogs to offer other than going around church. Discovering scents is one of the most important things for a dog. All senses need to be stimulated in dogs, such as sight, taste and hearing but they will always use their nose to receive impressions.
Benefits of an enriched environment for dogs:
• Promotes brain growth
• This way they can easily get used to new things
• Dogs can handle difficult situations better
• They can solve problems more easily
• They get curious
• They can use all their senses
• Because dogs are allowed to sniff, they produce calming substances
How do you create an enriched environment?
This could just be old stuff from the attic or that you or someone else might throw away.
In a second-hand store you can buy carpets, baskets, unwashed socks or pants, dog clothes or other things. The nice thing about this is that the smell of people, the domestic environment and perhaps also pets are additionally attached to it. You can do an enriched environment anywhere! Also at home.
In this way your dog can get used to different surfaces, smells, objects, sounds in a positive way. As a result, it may soon be less scary in daily life to deal with certain things. Your dog has now been able to explore things on his own that are new, which he may find exciting but in a calm way, at his own pace and in a safe environment. And very important it is his own choice. In this way, dogs gain confidence and become curious.
Think here also about of the dog's 5 senses like: smell, touch, sounds, visual, taste. Examples can you find in above text and on the pictures.
Information about Puppy's and older dogs
We have a lot of questions during our webinars about puppy's and older dogs. Like how long can a puppy stay in the Sensory Garden, what kind of material etc.
. Below you will find more information.
For puppy’s :
How old should a puppy be to visit a Snuffle garden / sensory walk / enriched environment?:
Age as from 4-5 months old. Not earlier because the outside world is already one big Disney world.
How long can a puppy stay in a Sensory Garden:
Maximum is 10 minutes.
How do you see if your puppy got enough / is ready to go home: at is was enough:
You will see a lot of stress signals like yawning, scratching. They will bite more and take stuff in their mouth and will run.
What kind of materials:
Make sure that there are not too many distractions from the environment.
Do not use to many things in your garden. The world is already big enough for your puppy.
It depends also how much can your puppy handle.
Simple material like a tree trunk, plank, tunnel, snuffle mat, trays with some peanutbutter or filled with water. Pay attention that there are no slippery materials. If you would like to know what is a snuffle mat and how you can create one by yourself,please visit https://www.snuffelmat.nl/en_GB/
In general: Most puppies are very curious and will immediately investigate. If the puppy is a little bit scared or does not want to sniff it can help if the owner (and dogtrainer/snuffle garden owne etc) will walk slowly around the area (without saying anything) or make yourself small and look at the ground and run your hands through the grass as if something exciting was there.
Possibly lay down a few treats
Always be careful. If you see a puppy is going to eat things or he is scared or otherwise then take your puppy out of the situation. And always stay with your dog. Saftey first!
Text about puppy's and older dogs is written by Ellen from Sensory walk Holland, Mudita Sensory Garden Maroef’s puppy Sensory Garden, Marijke from dogs sense and Birgitta from the dutch Snuffle Garden Project and Friends4Ever.dog.
For older dogs:
How long can a older dog stay in a Snuffle Garden:
Normally a dog will show when he got enough. Some dogs will walk away, walk to the exit gate, go back to the owner, is doing other things. Most dogs are ready after 20-30 minutes
What kind of materials:
For dogs that have e.g. osteoarthritis: It help dogs if you put things higher, but also connect things together and put things closer together. Pay attention that there are no slippery materials.
Use different surfaces.
That can be very simple and cheap, for example a coconut mat, a yoga mat, a wooden board or a cushion. We do not use very soft materials for dogs with osteoarthritis.
Use materials that they can step over. It also improves body awareness. This can be created easily. You can use materials like: broom handles, garlands or vacuum cleaner hoses.
You can buy here e.g. different surfaces >
For smell: for example hair from other animals, like horse, cats, other dogs etc.
Of course, it is very important to look at the type of dog, if your dog likes to hunt a cat than it is better not to use cat hair.
Text: created by Ellen from Sensory walk Holland, Mudita Sensory Garden Maroef’s puppy Sensory Garden, Marijke from dogs sense and Birgitta from the dutch Snuffle Garden Project and Friends4Ever.dog.
Picture: from Snuffle Garden Mudita
Why is Sniffing important - slow down for your dog
Sniffing is important to a dog's well-being and it brings them great pleasure.
Smell opens up the world to a dog and is an intrinsic need.
Dogs are supposed to use their nose as much as possible - deny this and they become stressed; allow it and they feel fulfilled.
They can take in so much information through their nose and sometimes they need the time to explore all the nuances of what they smell and it's our duty to allow them this time.
Dogs are not always be allowed to be dogs in this modern world. Many people do not realize how important “sniffing” is for our dogs.
For example: A lot of the time, when we walk our dogs, we are in a hurry. we walk very fast because we think it's what our dog wants, or we have to go to work. If our dog wants to stop because they want to sniff on some places we get irritated. How many times do we see people pulling away their dogs away from a smell? How many times do we do it? How do you think the dog feels?
Sniffing is so important to a dog's well-being and it brings them great pleasure.
Watch a dog allowed to sniff as much as possible and you will see a contented dog. Smell opens the world to a dog and is an intrinsic need. Dogs are supposed to use their nose as much as possible - deny this and they become stressed; allow it and they feel fulfilled. They can take in so much information through their nose and sometimes they need the time to explore all the nuances of what they smell and it's our duty to allow them this time.
Let your dog sniff and explore! Let your dog be dog😊.
How do dogs see with their nose
Watch the YouTube film above from Alexandra Horwotiz. She explains clearly how the dog nose works and how important this is.
Or click here to watch it