Constant din of barking causes stress, behavior changes in dogs in shelters

Champaign, Ill. -- If your neighbor's barking dog drives you crazy, pity the employees of the nation's animal shelters, where the noise produced by howling, barking and yapping dogs often exceeds that produced by a jackhammer.

And pity the poor dogs.

"While employees may wear hearing protectors, dogs don't have that option," said Crista Coppola, an adjunct instructor in the department of veterinary medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Excessive noise in shelters can physically stress dogs and lead to behavioral, physiological and anatomical responses."

In a paper published in the spring issue of the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, Coppola and co-authors R. Mark Enns and Temple Grandin, both at Colorado State University, describe noise measurements made at an animal shelter built in 1999.

"Noise levels regularly exceeded the measuring capacity of our noise dosimeter, which was 118.9 decibels," said Coppola, who is also a behavior fellow at the Midwest office of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Urbana. "These levels were higher than that produced by a jackhammer (110 decibels). The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends hearing protection be worn at noise levels above 90 decibels."

A common noise problem in shelters occurs when dogs are placed in gated kennels along the perimeter of a large room. The dogs receive negative stimulation when they see other dogs, especially when they see other dogs receiving attention.

"Dogs are a very social species," Coppola said. "They want to be around other dogs. When they see other dogs, but can't get to them, you hear a lot of frustration barking back and forth."

A better design places dogs in individual rooms surrounding a common play area, Coppola said. Each room has two doors: One leads into the play area and the other in the opposite wall is used by shelter staff to acce

Contact: James E. Kloeppel
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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