Quiet Time: How We Are Caring for the Wellbeing of Shelter Dogs

Shelter life can be a struggle for many of the canines in our care.  The sudden change to the environment with the sounds and smells associated with lots of other dogs in close proximity, together with the separation from the previous home, can be highly distressing. Dogs unaccustomed to kennels or even domestic life in a home must adjust to the busy environment with animals, staff and visitors nearby throughout the day.

At RSPCA NSW, we understand that it is important to recognise that allowing time to decompress is vital in maintaining the emotional well-being of our dogs during their stay in care.  We do this by optimising their environment with allocated quiet times during the day and the provision of enrichment to meet needs like chewing, social interactions and rest.  These simultaneously help to support our dogs in the shelter environment.

Quiet Time

Earlier this year our Hunter Shelter implemented 1 hour of mandatory ‘quiet time’ in the middle of the day in the kennels, after working closely with veterinary behaviour specialists Sarah Heath and Gab Carter (RSPCA VIC). Following its success, we have gone on to implement quiet time at our Coffs Harbour, Sydney and Central West Shelters.

The primary aim of quiet time is to recognise the importance of rest to avoid behaviours we see due to the cumulative effects of stress in a loud and busy environment.  Dogs spending time in kennels are exposed to the movements of other dogs, as well as the cleaning efforts of staff and the sight of passers-by. As a result, dogs are more alert, leading them to experience a reduced emotional capacity and a constant state of emotional arousal. Just like humans when we are sleep deprived, this can lead to being easily overwhelmed, and we see behaviours such as barking or lunging at passing dogs that are mistakenly perceived as an approaching threat or frustration due to a constant expectation of the possibility of a human passer-by who can release them from the confines of the kennel. There can even be emotional conflict or confusion, for example, in a dog who wishes to be taken out of their kennel while also avoiding being touched or handled.

Although yard time – time allocated for them to use the toilet and stretch their legs – can be recreational and is essential for health, it is not truly relaxing for most dogs. It allows them to relieve themselves, which is important, and socialise with their fellow dogs on site, but it can also be exciting, frustrating, or even sometimes frightening when they are left in the yards during the first weeks of their stay in care. The ‘quiet time’ hour is a dedicated hour minimising the coming and going of staff, animals, and visitors, ensuring the dogs experience at least one hour of decompression during the day.

When quiet time is in progress, we still provide every potential pet guardian with the opportunity to see the dogs available for adoption, either electronically (via iPad) or using our shelters’ notice boards. Members of the public can also consult our Animal Attendants to discuss the dog they are interested in and go through the requirements, their current home set up, and more. Once quiet time is over, talk to our friendly animal care staff to discuss a meet and greet.  Since quiet time is only mandatory for our dogs, all other animals will have their normal viewing procedures unchanged.


Quiet Times

Hunter Shelter 12:30-1:30 pm

Coffs Harbour Shelter 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm

Sydney Shelter 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm

Central West Shelter 12:30pm – 1:30pm

Please note, due to shelter configurations, our Illawarra shelter will continue with their normal adoption viewing times.


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