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  • Writer's pictureVickie Foster

Are Your Household Sounds Distressing to Your Dog?

Fireworks and thunderstorms are commonly known stressors for dogs but some common household noises like vacuum cleaners and microwaves may also lead to canine stress. According to research from the University of California, Davis pet owners don’t recognize the stress on their pets from household noises and sometimes underestimate the effects.

The study was initiated when one of the authors had a dog that seemed stressed. Upon further investigation, they found the cause to be a low-level battery chirp of a smoke alarm. When the chirping was stopped, the dog went back to its normal behavior. So what type of noise caused this?

High-frequency noises

Researchers found that high-frequency, on and off noises such as low-battery alerts more often triggered canine anxiety as opposed to continual, low-frequency noises such as a vacuum cleaner. Noises produced by a vacuum cleaner triggered reactions like excitement rather than fear.

Pet parents tend to take for granted that although the household noise is normal to them, a dog can react to the noise with fear. They may even think the dog’s reaction is unjustified or that a dog is being playful while running away from the noise. The study indicated that as many as half of pet dogs can suffer from some kind of noise sensitivity.

Signs of distress

Running away and shaking are two overt signs of stress while more subtle signs include lip licking, body tensing, firmly closed mouth, ears turned back, looking or leaning away from the source of stress, lowered body, and lowered head posture. In severe cases, extreme distress can lead to aggressive behavior.

Reducing stress

Alleviating your dog’s stress can be as easy as putting your dog in another room or removing the source of stress. If the stressor is minimal, consider playing with your dog or offering a Kong with peanut butter in the presence of the stressor to recondition your dog’s response.


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