Sounds and Your Dog

Singapore is pretty new. Not only is this city-state young (less than 50 years old) but it’s constantly rebuilding. Shophouses and national monuments provide spectacular architecture and a glimpse into Singapore’s colonial past. These are protected as heritage but commercial buildings and condos get a face lift from time to time, and sometimes a completely new body. Housing Board flats get upgrades as well so there is constantly construction somewhere in Singapore.

So what does this mean for your dogs?

Our world is filled with sounds.  Constant.  Nonstop.  Our soundscape, like our lifestyle, reflects a high tech 24/7 world. Living in an urban environment, there is no break from noise.  When was the last time you sat in absolute silence?

A low hum almost always exists from appliances, computers, street lights, etc. We live in a sound bubble and we are so used to it that we hardly question it or know that we are being assaulted, affecting our health in a very significant way.

We notice sound in its absence – camping, hearing just the crickets or when it’s alarmingly loud – at airports or walking by a construction site.  We really do live with sensory overload and we don’t even realize it. The sounds generally don’t bother us. We know what the clock alarm or the dryer beep means. We know about sirens and doorbells. We know people screaming loudly on TV are not real and not a threat.

What we probably haven’t thought about is how noise pollution affects our dogs whose hearing is many times more sensitive than our own. It’s not only the artificial noises but the screams of young children or the yelling matches during a heated argument. 

Every sound we hear is amplified for them. Then add on those sounds that are beyond our range. Sounds that are familiar and even comforting to us aren’t the same for them. Sounds that we have learned to relegate to the background are probably still bothersome.

Environmental stress is very real and sound is a significant component. No wonder some dogs are afraid of rainstorms, millions of pings echoing on every surface. We should hardly be surprised that many dogs are stressed, displaying subtle signs to actual physical or behavioural problems. 

But sound can be therapeutic as well. It’s been shown that classical music is calming and healing. Specific types, not all, of classical music, have an optimum effect on dogs (and people). Now available is music arranged to psychoacoustics principles geared towards healing through entrainment. It is very interesting and you can read more on the Through A Dog’s Ear website. Much of this music has been shown to have positive effects on people so it’s great for the whole family.

Aside from playing music, we can also shape our dog’s soundscape by eliminating or at least minimizing certain sounds. We can use double-glazed windows and drapes to help reduce outside noises. Appliances and electronics not in use can be powered off. The volume level from radios and televisions can be turned down. Fabrics can absorb sound, like carpet or wall paper versus a marble floor and bare walls. Consider avoiding construction sites and heavy traffic areas on walks, instead opt for parks. An early morning or late night walk is both cooler and less crowded.

I think once we are aware that sounds can be alarming, intrusive, threatening, and even scary for our canine friends, we will be more mindful of the sound levels in our environment. Using calming music and alternative therapies such as Tellington Touch can help our dogs to discharge their stress better. We may not be able to reshape our soundscape entirely but we can help eliminate the negative effects on our own and our dog’s body.

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