Researchers at the University of California, Davis, have found that people may not recognize that their dog is stressed when exposed to common household noises, according to a study.
While many people are aware of the stress caused to pets by fireworks or thunderstorms, the study, published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science, finds even common noises, such as a vacuum or microwave can be a trigger.
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.
The research also 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. Dogs have a wider range of hearing, so some noises could also be potentially painful to a dog’s ears, such as very loud or high-frequency sounds.
Signs of anxiety
Cringing, trembling or retreating are recognizable signs of anxiety in dogs, 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.
“We hope this study gets people to think about the sources of sound that might be causing their dog stress, so they can take steps to minimize their dog’s exposure to it,” said lead author Emma Grigg, a research associate and lecturer at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.