Researchers have discovered that people may not recognize that their dog is stressed when exposed to common household noises. While it’s well-established that sudden loud noises, such as fireworks or thunderstorms, commonly trigger a dog’s anxiety, scientists now know that even common noises, such as a vacuum or microwave can be a trigger. Additionally, the research found that high-frequency, intermittent noises such as the battery warning of a smoke detector are more likely to cause a dog anxiety, rather than low-frequency, continuous noise.
Researchers conducted a survey of 386 dog owners about their dogs’ responses to household sounds and examined recorded dog behaviors and human reactions from 62 videos available online. The study found that owners not only underestimated their dogs’ fearfulness, but the majority of people in videos responded with amusement rather than concern over their dog’s welfare.
Some sounds painful for dogs
Because dogs have a wider range of hearing, some noises could also be potentially painful to a dog’s ears, such as very loud or high-frequency sounds. Minimizing exposure may be as simple as changing batteries more frequently in smoke detectors or removing a dog from a room where loud noises might occur.
Signs of anxiety
Some common signs of a dog’s anxiety include cringing, trembling, or retreating, but owners may be less able to identify signs of fear or anxiety when behaviors are more subtle. For example, stressed dogs could pant, lick their lips, turn their head away or even stiffen their body. Sometimes their ears will turn back, and their head will lower below their shoulders.
Families with dogs need to start paying attention to the subtle responses listed above to prevent their dogs from getting stressed out by household noises. Strategies include encouraging your dog to stay in a different part of the house while vacuuming and microwaving is going on; changing batteries in smoke alarms at the first signs of beeping; discouraging your dog from staying in small rooms where sounds from the television or music system may be loud; taking your dog to a quiet area when outdoor power tools are running or trash/recycling or other large trucks (especially with backup beeping noises) are nearby; keeping your dog in a quiet area during times you expect visitors who will be ringing the doorbell; make a mental note of all the household products–like coffeemakers–that set off high-pitched beeping noises and encourage your dog to go to other rooms or outside when they are in use.
Journal Reference: Emma K. Grigg, Juliann Chou, Emily Parker, Anwyn Gatesy-Davis, Sara T. Clarkson, Lynette A. Hart. Stress-Related Behaviors in Companion Dogs Exposed to Common Household Noises, and Owners’ Interpretations of Their Dogs’ Behaviors. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 2021; 8 DOI: 10.3389/fvets.2021.760845