Reducing the Noise from Barking Dogs in Kennels and Shelters
It has long been documented that audible sound has profound physiological and psychological effects on all animals and can disturb the healthy equilibrium of the body.
This also means that noise affects pets – especially those who are boarded in animal shelters and kennels that are too noisy from barking dogs. The noise can be a physical stressor, especially on dogs, and can lead to behavioral, physiological, and anatomical responses.
In the article published in American Journal of Veterinary research, “Effects of Kennel Noise on Hearing in Dogs,” the authors found that acoustic analysis of the kennel environments revealed equivalent sound level values ranging between 100 and 108 dB sound pressure level .
So . . . Can Noise Be Damaging to Dogs and Other Pets?
The answer is yes.
Results of the noise assessments indicated that levels that are damaging to the human auditory system could also be considered dangerous for kenneled dogs as well. There have been demonstrated cases of hearing loss in dogs housed in the veterinary kennel for a prolonged period. Noise abatement strategies should be a standard part of kennel design and operation when such kennels are intended for long-term housing of dogs.
Peak noise levels regularly exceeded the measuring capability of the dosimeter (118.9 dBA). Often, in new facility designs, there is little or no attention paid to noise abatement, despite the evidence that noise causes physical and psychological stress on dogs. This is mostly because of the high expense.
To put this into context, 95 dB(A) is comparable to a subway train, 110 dB(A) is a jackhammer, and 120 dB(A) is a propeller aircraft; any sound in the 90 to 120 dB(A) range is considered to be in the critical zone and can be felt as well as heard.
For humans, OSHA sets legal limits on noise exposure in the workplace. OSHA allows 8 hours of exposure to 90 dBA but only 2 hours of exposure to 100 dBA sound levels. NIOSH would recommend limiting the 8 hour exposure to less than 85 dBA. At 100 dBA, NIOSH recommends less than 15 minutes of exposure per day.
How Hearing Is Different in Animals Compared to Humans
The hearing of animals differs from that of humans. For instance, dogs have much better hearing and can hear sounds up to four times quieter than human. However, the hearing ability of a dog is dependent on its breed and age. Generally, the range of hearing is approximately 40 Hz to 60 kHz, which is much greater than that of humans.
Audio frequency higher than 36,000 hertz can become unpleasant for dogs, also causing pain, says dog behaviorist Steven Lindsay, M.A., in the “Handbook of Applied Dog Behavior and Training.”
Recent research shows that noise in dog kennels may be a welfare concern for the animals (Sales et al., 1997), but currently no policies regulate noise levels in dog kennels.
Noise from Shelters May Effect Pet Adoption
Noise from animal shelters can actually deter potential owners from adopting. Visitors sometimes are so bothered by the noise that visiting time is reduced during their search for a pet to adopt. Other scenarios that may occur is that the dog’s mental and physical states are compromised from the noise. Simply put, the dogs are not at their best, and therefore, may shun away possible owners. A barking dog to many people conjur up ideas that the dog may be a bad choice. The employees also may develop some hearing damage and possible poor states of mind in caring for the animals.
Noise definitely has negative impacts on dogs. In fact, some animals are so perturbed by noise they can lose control of their senses and even become destructive if they can’t find a spot that feels safe to them. The hard surfaces common to kennels or shelter interiors – tile, and concrete fixtures, stainless steel appliances – can combine with high ceilings to create an echo chamber of loud and scary sounds.
Noise produced by an individual dog barking can reach levels well over 100 dBA (Sales, Hubrecht, Peyvandi, Milligan, & Shield, 1996) and this exceeds OSHA regulation for workers (90 dBA). However, the animals live in this environment without the hearing protection that is available to people.
Kennels Do Not Focus on Noise
Unfortunately, even in new kennel construction and design, noise abatement designs are often ignored because of high cost restrictions — making noise a hazard to the animals, employees, and potential adopters.
Meanwhile considerable noise abatement can be achieved by reducing reverberations and reflections inside the kennel. Noise absorption materials, especially materials with high frequency range absorption, can subdue the high pitch sounds and reduce the noise to tolerable levels.
Solutions to Noise in Kennels
Acoustic blankets, used commonly in the music industry, can be an especially good choice for sound abatement due to its low cost compared to acoustic foam. Many shelters are run as nonprofits or on a shoe-string budget so cost is important. Unlike expensive foam, blankets can be machine washed regularly to rid dirt or smells from the kennels. The blankets are a perfect solution for those who want to minimize the noise level of the barking and create a calmer, healthier and happier environment for the dogs and other animals.
by Adil Aliev DVM, PhD
- Am J Vet Res. 2012 Apr;73(4):482-9.
Effect of kennel noise on hearing in dogs. Scheifele P, Martin D, Clark JG, Kemper D, Wells J.
- Noise in the Animal Shelter Environment: Building Design and the Effects of Daily Noise Exposure Crista L. Coppola Animal Behavior Center ASPCA Urbana, Illinois
R. Mark Enns and Temple Grandin Animal Sciences Department Colorado State University
JOURNAL OF APPLIED ANIMAL WELFARE SCIENCE, 9(l), 1-7