Continuous snarling of multiple dogs in an animal shelter can create a disastrous symphonic recipe for the health of the animals, reports a new study.
In many animal shelters, dogs are often placed in gated kennels along the perimeter of a large room. When they see the other animals, they become restless.
"Dogs are a very social species," said Crista Coppola, an adjunct instructor in the department of veterinary medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "They want to be around other dogs. When they see other dogs, but can't get to them, you hear a lot of frustration barking back and forth."
The noise levels of many shelters often exceed those of a jackhammer—which is around 110 decibels—and can place unnecessary stress on the animals, leading to negative physiological responses, the researchers say.
"Noise levels regularly exceeded the measuring capacity of our noise dosimeter, which was 118.9 decibels," Coppola said. "The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends hearing protection be worn at noise levels above 90 decibels."
Unfortunately, the dogs don't have that option. But there may be improved ways to plan shelter layout.
A better design places dogs in individual rooms surrounding a common play area, Coppola said. Each room has two doors. One leads into the play area and the other—in the opposite wall—is used by shelter staff to access the room.
"Two or more dogs could be admitted to the play area at a time," Coppola said. "This is a wonderful way to exercise the dogs and let them receive the social interaction they want and need."
Another solution could be for the dogs to live together in the same area. Dogs housed in social groups vocalize less, sleep more and show fewer abnormal behaviors. Canine cohabitation has worked well in Germany and Japan, but has been slow to catch on in the United States, Coppola explained.