Dogs Might Behave Badly Due to their Sensitivity to Sounds!
18 November, 2016
dog behaving badly

Some of our dogs behave like perfect little fur-children while other dogs seem to behave badly all the time.  When they do behave badly, we always think they were trained incorrectly or are naturally excitable.  As it turns out, the stress of exposure to specific sounds may be one of the main reasons for dogs misbehaving.

Dogs have ultra-sensitive hearing

Dogs can hear higher pitched sounds than humans (up to 45000 Hz compared to just 23000 Hz in a young adult human) and they can hear sounds at lower volumes too (they can hear sounds four times the distance away that a young human can). This difference in their hearing means that we often are unaware of the barrage of sounds experienced by their dogs and the stress that this can induce.

According to a new study, dogs behave badly in stressful environments

An ongoing study by John Bowen at the Royal Veterinary College has analyzed two different aspects of dogs’ behavior: the first environments where were scared and the second, the specific sounds that cause dogs to be afraid. The study showed that dogs were more likely to be afraid in environments where there are sounds that they don’t like.  Although not entirely surprising, this helps dogs get over fear of some unavoidable situations (such as travelling in cars or sitting in veterinary waiting rooms).

Dogs’ fear of sounds can help us figure out why they are acting out

If their fear of the sounds associated with such environments is addressed, the stress of these experiences can be lessened, and dogs may then behave in a more relaxed, “better” way. The study looked at 58 types of noise, reviewing how much fear dogs showed when exposed to sounds from two broad sources, a sound from a human or animal and the sound of something exterior- like the vacuum or fireworks.

Dogs are very fearful of loud human voices which can make them act out

The results showed that dogs were sensitive to the emotional tone of social sounds: over 35% of dogs showed fear of angry voices, 25.4% reacted to shouting, while only 12.7% reacted to loud voices. This means that emotional human sounds are a common cause of stress for dogs, and social gatherings could be a significant source of stress for dogs, particular when people are distressed or arguing. Dogs are likely to find these events stressful, and this is likely to result in bad behavior.

Barking and yelping can also cause dogs to act out.

Animal social sounds also affect dogs: barking and yelping are noises with a social significance to dogs, suggesting distress and alarm. 17.8% of dogs reacted fearfully to barking, and 16.9% to yelping. It’s likely, then, that dogs will find it stressful to be in a place where there is barking or yelping, such as at the vet’s waiting room, kennels or training class with noisy dogs.

Dogs also react strongly to sudden loud noises

When inanimate sounds were studied, the most fear was caused by fireworks (37%), thunder (29%) and gunshots (24%), as well as common noises such as vacuum cleaners (25%), road construction noises (16%) and loud traffic such as buses or trucks (15%).

The real takeaway from the study is to think about the noise levels when your dog behave poorly

More attention should be paid to being aware of the emotional state of dogs in noisy environments, particularly in social gatherings, or the waiting rooms of vet clinics, or when children are around. These are commonly encountered situations in which the dog’s behavior could be strongly influenced by noise fear. If we dog owners are more aware of the fear of noise, we can think of how to get away from th noise or understand why they are behaving badly.

Dogs are very sensitive, especially to noise, and it gives another way to try to combat their bad behavior and/or how to address it.


The study was first reported on the Telegraph


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