A stress-busting ‘sensory garden’ is being built in Great Shefford – and it’s just for dogs.
The project is being undertaken by the National Animal Welfare Trust’s (NAWT) centre at Trindledown Farm, which cares for and rehomes elderly pets. And animal lovers across West Berkshire are being asked to help.
Sensory gardens, like the NAWT’s example in Cornwall, are becoming increasingly popular in rescue centres as an alternative way to tackle stress in dogs.
As well as stimulating all their senses, the gardens encourage dogs to interact with their surroundings and provide physical and mental challenges.
The Great Shefford centre rescues and rehomes many homeless and abandoned elderly dogs each year.
Dogs often find the kennel environment unsettling and stressful, so staff are always on the lookout for ways to reduce stress, stimulate the dog’s minds and enrich their time at the centre.
The garden will be designed to engage and stimulate the dog’s senses. It will include a variety of sights, sounds, smells and textures and will provide the dogs with novel experiences to help them relax and boost their confidence.
A sensory path will offer the dogs different textures and surfaces, and areas of different heights will be built for the dogs to explore.
Among all of this will be fun, interactive opportunities such as a digging section, water play area, ball pits, tyre tunnels and treat-seeking zones. There will also be specially-selected plants with which the dogs can self medicate, such as willow, valerian and marigold.
Staff at Trindledown Farm are seeking volunteers to join the team and help create the sensory garden.
The charity is also appealing for items including plant pots, different textured materials such as wood chippings, astro turf and gravel, as well as spare fencing.
A spokeswoman for the NAWT, Rachel Mattioni, said: “Generally, sensory gardens just give the animals more chance to use their senses, and will offer them a different source of mental stimulation.
“This helps to break up the kennel day other than going out for walks and training. It can even help reduce stress.”
She added: “All kinds of items can be used for our sensory garden.
“So, if you have any ideas at all, please get in touch to see if we can use it.”
To donate items to the NAWT, telephone the Great Shefford centre on (01488) 638584 before doing so, or donate to its Just Giving page: https://www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/nawt/berkshiresensorygarden
To find out more about the NAWT, or to support its work, visit www.nawt.org.uk