Most dog parents have day jobs. Inevitably, this leads to extended periods when their dogs are left at home to wonder if their person will ever return. Those same owners know, all too well, what it is like to deal with the behavioral Kraken known as separation anxiety and all the headaches that come along with it.
There is plenty of information on how to overcome separation anxiety, but a recent study out of the Department of Animal and Land Sciences, Hartpury college has shed a new light on a way to provide stress relief and enrichment for dogs that could really use a crutch during the “owner is away” times.
The researchers wanted to know if playing sounds, specifically an audiobook, pop music, classical music, or “dog” music, would have an effect on the behavior of shelter dogs being housed at Burford Blue Cross Rehoming Center in Oxfordshire, UK
31 total dogs with an average age of 5 1/3 yrs were used and were not subject to the public as to avoid any impact on the experiment. The dogs received each auditory treatment for 2 hrs during the middle of the day with a 2-day buffer between treatments. During this time the dogs “behavior was recorded every 5 minutes using an instantaneous scan-sampling technique resulting in twenty-four behavior points being recorded for every condition.” The researchers also used video cameras to record the entire session so that any observer bias could be avoided.
The results are quite startling and unexpected. When exposed to the audiobook “The Lion, The witch, and the Wardrobe” the dogs exhibited fewer behaviors that were indicative of stress(pacing, sitting/standing, barking) and more rest-related behaviors(laying, sleeping, etc) than with any of the other audio sources.
These results are surprising because there is a large body of research showing that classical music provides enrichment, stress reduction, and overall better quality of life for various different species. The researchers expected to continue in this vein but found audiobook enrichment to be much more effective in reducing stressed behaviors and increasing resting ones.
While these results don’t speak specifically to the efficacy of using audiobooks to soothe dogs that have to be crated during work hours, it is a logical step to conclude that it would, indeed, be the case.