Stress

Those of us with dogs are already very fed up with fireworks at this time of the year. But did you know that general household noises can also cause stress to our dogs? The University of California have this week published research on the household noises causing most stress.

With all of my dogs, when they arrive here I’ve slowly introduced them to everyday noises such as the vacuum, washing machine, hairdryer, smoke detector etc. Since studying animal behaviour, I know now this is called ‘desensitisation’.

Why is desensitisation to noise important?

As with humans, stress produces cortisol. This triggers excessive panting, drooling, a fast heart rate, and in serious cases tachycardia. Stress associated with fear and anxiety can have long term negative impacts on health, behaviour and length of life of our dogs.

I’ve blogged previously about Dogs Trust’s advice on their website, with great tips on desensitisation exercises you can do with your own dog. Top tip: You can also create your own noise recordings, and follow the same principles.

Signs and signals

Reading dog body language is key to understanding how they feel, and to help spot early signs of fear and anxiety. You can find Dogs Trust’s body language advice here.

The University of California research found the most commonly reported dog reactions to household sound were:

“Barking (n = 193 or 50.0% of owners reported, 29.0% of all reactions), followed by retreating (n = 87 or 22.5% of owners reported, 13.1% of all reactions) and pacing (n = 63 or 16.3% of owners reporting, 9.5% of all reactions).”

What to do

Clearly pre-empting noise is important too. When Leo was unsure, he would go upstairs and either hide in the bath or go into my wardrobe and hide among my long coats. Jake’s go-to place is in the cloakroom under the washbasin.

If my dogs show a fear response I definitely don’t touch or physically handle them, you are at risk of being bitten. Yes, even by your own dog. I may call them into a quieter place with “this way” and distract them with something nice. Turn the radio or tv on, or remove them from the environment if necessary.

Dogs won’t always eat when stressed, but Jake and Truly seem to find licking or chewing calming. Be it a Licki mat with dog safe peanut butter (no xylitol), or a food filled Kong. I’m sure you know your own dog’s preferences!

If your dog is struggling with fear and anxiety, your Vet can help you with access to a qualified behaviourist and a range of other support.

For those of you who want to read and understand more about behaviour, Victoria Stillwell has an article about body language here.

Until next time

Jen

 

 

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