Reducing Kenneled Dogs’ Stress Levels with Audiobooks
Dogs are kept in kennels for a variety of reasons, including when rescued, for shelter, for boarding, for quarantine, and even for experimenting upon in laboratories. Kennels can be a stressful environment; the many sights, sounds, and smells may induce anxiety and stress. Also, limited social interaction, lengthy stays, and a lack of control over their environment add further to dogs’ stress. For shelter dogs especially, long stays in the kennel can be difficult. If the stress they experience in kennels leads to behavioral problems, their chances of being rehomed decrease. So, enriching kennels to reduce dogs’ stress levels is of utmost importance. At Faunalytics, we’ve looked at at kennel dogs’ quality of life, including how music might have a positive effect on their welfare. A new study looks at how human voices, specifically in the form of audiobooks, may “provide company” for and affect the behavior of kennel dogs.
Researchers in the U.K. investigated the effects of audiobooks on the behavior of kenneled dogs. They also compared the effects of classical, pop, and “psychoacoustically designed dog music.” They gave 31 dogs housed at the Burford Blue Cross rehoming shelter in Oxfordshire five different “auditory treatments”: audiobooks, classical music, pop music, dog music, and no audio as a control treatment. The audiobooks and music were played at 60 decibels (dB)—about the level of a normal conversation—for two hours at a time. The researchers recorded the dogs’ behavior every five minutes during each two-hour period.
The researchers found that exposure to audiobooks “significantly influences” kennel dog behavior. Dogs in the audiobook group spent more of their time resting or sleeping. And they also spent less time sitting or standing than dogs in the other groups. What’s more, the audiobook group showed lower levels of barking than all other groups. This same group of dogs also showed fewer vocalizations of other kinds than the dogs in the control and pop music groups. The only genre of music that noticeably reduced unwanted behaviors was classical music. But it didn’t create the same range of effects as audiobooks.
Though it is one of the first of its kind, this study provides some promising results. Audiobooks seem to have the potential to decrease anxious behavior. This then improves the welfare of dogs in kennels. Companion animal advocates will certainly find such research useful. And it may be potentially life-changing for the kennel dogs they work with.