A loud clap of thunder during a storm can not only frighten you in the middle of the night, but your beloved dog could also be shaken up. That’s not all that can scare your pet or cause them stress, though: Even noises made in your household on a day-to-day basis can cause your pet anxiety. A new study by researchers out of the University of California-Davis, published in the journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science, found that everything from the vacuum cleaner to the microwave sounds can make them nervous.
The team noted that high-frequency, intermittent sounds that come from the tools and appliances you use on a regular basis are likely to make your dog more anxious than low-frequency, continuous ones. “We know that there are a lot of dogs that have noise sensitivities, but we underestimate their fearfulness to noise we consider normal because many dog owners can’t read body language,” said Emma Grigg, lead author and a research associate and lecturer at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, in a university release.
Curious about how you can tell if your dog is feeling nervous? The study authors note that cringing, trembling, or running away are common. More understated signs are when your pet pants, licks their lips, turns their head away from the sharp sounds, stiffens their body, turns their ears back, or lowers their head below their shoulders. Out of the 386 dog owners they surveyed and 62 video recordings they studied, researchers noted that most pet parents confused their dog’s anxiety with playfulness.
“There is a mismatch between owners’ perceptions of the fearfulness and the amount of fearful behaviour actually present. Some react with amusement rather than concern,” Grigg shared. “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 minimise their dog’s exposure to it.”
The noise frequencies dogs experience are different from humans, so the researchers say to be mindful of what they could hear. They also recommend paying attention to the little things, like making sure batteries are changed in smoke detectors, so they won’t beep, and removing them from areas that have loud, harsh sounds. “Dogs use body language much more than vocalising and we need to be aware of that,” Grigg added. “We feed them, house them, love them and we have a caretaker obligation to respond better to their anxiety.”
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