Every year, millions of dogs are admitted to animal shelters worldwide. Some are abandoned, while previous owners, the police, or other governmental agencies bring others in.
Living in shelters can be a stressful situation for dogs, who may experience a wide range of stressors such as unpredictable events and loud noises. These types of stressors can lead to behavioral changes:
- Increased hyperactivity (moving, jumping, bouncing, pacing),
- excessive barking
- destructive tendencies
Sadly, these types of behavior may decrease a dog’s chance of getting adopted.
Staff at the shelter socialize with the dogs when they take them for daily walks and may use other forms of enrichment in order to decrease a dog’s stress levels.
Dogs that receive social contact display positive behavioral changes including a decrease in vocalization, panting, and increased tail-wagging. However, since shelters often house many dogs and are busy environments, staff cannot socialize with each dog as much as is necessary in order to ensure that the dogs’ stress levels are kept down throughout their stay.
Therefore, other types of enrichment have to be considered. One type of potential enrichment is auditory stimulation, such as classical music, or audiobooks.
Since dogs that receive social contact and listen to auditory enrichment display positive behavioral changes, could audiobooks be used as a form of enrichment to decrease stress among shelter dogs?
A study by Brayley & Montrose found promising results when investigating the effect of audiobooks on the behavior of dogs at a rehoming center1.
In this study, they exposed dogs to an audiobook for 2 hours and found that dogs spent more time sleeping and less time vocalizing when listening to an audiobook compared to when listening to other musical genres (including that classical music).
Since auditory enrichment shows promising behavioral changes in dogs, I decided to further investigate the effect that audiobooks have on the behavior of shelter dogs.
Aim: To investigate the effect of long-term audiobook exposure on the behavior of shelter dogs, and to note any potential lasting effects following treatment.
Long-term: over the course of several days (rather than just a few hours)
- Brayley, C., Montrose, V.T., (2016). The effects of audiobooks on the behaviour of dogs at a rehoming kennel., Applied Animal Behaviour Science, (174), pp. 111-115. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2015.11.008.