How much, and what kind of noises are your dogs subjected to? I say “subjected,” because so much of the soundscape surrounding our dogs is negative. Between high pitched whines from electronics (some of which we can’t hear ourselves), loud televisions or music, traffic noises (city), chain saws and tractors (country), groups of people laughing at parties, dish washers churning, there is a lot of noise out there.
Noisy soundscapes have a cost–to us for sure, but also to our dogs. Here’s a summary from an article by Basner et. al., 2014 about the effects of noise exposure on human health.
“Observational and experimental studies have shown that noise exposure leads to annoyance, disturbs sleep and causes daytime sleepiness, affects patient outcomes and staff performance in hospitals, increases the occurrence of hypertension and cardiovascular disease, and impairs cognitive performance in schoolchildren.”
I was reminded of this issue thanks to a reader, Vic N, a dedicated Leonberger owner and kick-ass amateur photographer who has graciously provided me with some great pictures and videos through the years. He just lost the noble Vikahn, who you can see in this link illustrating the importance of pauses in dog play between any two dogs, much less ones weighing over 150 pounds.Vic sent me a link to an article by a veterinarian about the value of letting patients and staff in hospitals have a pause, including giving them some quiet time. Mostly after reading it I wanted to stand up and cheer, having been in some hospital settings whose noise and energy exhausted me, and seemed to be the antithesis of a healing environment. The rest of me wanted to stand up and say “REALLY? How is this news?” But I digress.
What I want to emphasize today is the effect of the soundscape on the dogs in our own homes. In 2013 I wrote a post about the importance of managing noise in a shelter setting, but this issue is not just relevant to kennel situations. It’s relevant to all of us with dogs (and cats, and birds, and. . . ?)
How noisy/quiet is it in your house? How much quiet time do your dogs get? Do you know what (not if) electronics in your house emit high pitched whines? (Standard advice here is to unplug as many electronics as you can when not in use. I know, that’s hard, but… if I had a serious behavior problem with a dog I’d try it in an instant.) Our houses are noisier than we think, which is why long walks in quiet places may be extra good for our dogs.
As a person who has been known to walk into a restaurant and immediately turn to leave after being hit with a gwall of noise, I admit to being hyper sensitive to this issue. (I was about to correct the typo “gwall,” but decided the sound of it was exactly how I feel when encountering that kind of noise.) Noise depletes me, even beautiful music after a while can tire me out. And I am very lucky. We live in the country and it’s pretty darn quiet out here. It is NOT silent… there are traffic noises and tractor rumbles and chain saws growls, but compared to most places it is blissfully quiet. No children running around the house, no one practicing drums, and very little traffic down our country road. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good idea to think about what kind of noise my dogs are subjected to.
Of course, many noises are good, like “Wanna treat?”, “Wanna go on a walk?” or “Would you like another martini with your scallops?” It’s up to us to be thoughtful about which ones our dogs hear. (It’s probably best to skip the martini question.) After all, we all know how important sound is in so many ways. I wrote an entire chapter on sound and language in The Other End of the Leash. Alexandra Horowitz, in Inside of a Dog, talks about the senses of dogs, and does a fantastic job reminding us that dogs and people share a lot, but we still live in different worlds.
What about you and your dogs? Are your dogs sound sensitive? Do you think about the noises your dogs hear that you can’t?
MEANWHILE, back on the farm: Speaking of noise and the peace of the country, I just heard someone yell “S*&!”, followed by “F#&!”. I believe the S word was repeated. As I looked toward the sound, I saw the mailman drive away, still cursing. I fear he was stung by a wasp looking for a good wintering place in our mailbox. Ouch, poor guy.
That’s how you know it really is fall around here. Not the cursing, but the crazily-active wasps. They were all over the fallen pears that friends of mine and I harvested from a neighbor’s back yard. They will smell a drop of soda pop from forever away; don’t even think about putting your mouth down to an opened can without looking.
But it also means that the fall flowers are in their glory. Besides the yellows of sunflowers, black-eyed susans and goldenrod, it’s all about purple here at the farm.
September has brought a newcomer to the farm, and not a welcome one at that. I’ve looked and looked and can not find the identify of this caterpillar. Anyone?
They were consuming the tops of our our beautiful Pagoda Dogwoods like me at a movie with a bucket of popcorn. (Jim and I picked and picked and picked them off , using a rake to get to the higher branches, but we can’t get to all of them). They are voracious plant predators, and if I could just give them a name I just might replicate the noises of the mailman…
Ah well, that’s fall. Wasps, caterpillars, beautiful flowers, cool nights, clouds of mosquitos given new life after our floods, and a bucket full of apples turning into applesauce in the oven. I’m trying to be grateful for all of it. Just close your ears if I get stung getting the mail. . .