Can we use a simple respondent pairing procedure to reduce barking in animal shelters?

By Steven Wade Payne, Kian S Assemi. California State University, Fresno. USA

A common complaint of animal shelter visitors and staff is that the dog kennel areas are too loud. This excessive noise, usually caused by barking from resident dogs, can have an adverse effect on adoption rates, animal wellbeing, and animal problem behavior.

In a recent study published in Pet Behaviour Science (DOI: 10.21071/pbs.v0i3.5758) by Payne and Assemi, the experimenters sought to reduce the noise levels in an animal shelter using a simple food-pairing procedure. The initial noise levels in the kennel averaged above the noise level that could be potentially damaging to human hearing. The experimenters paired food and the sound of an automatic door chime for each dog in the shelter every day over a period of three weeks. After this pairing, the door chimes were left on the doors, but the pairing was stopped.

The results showed that the average noise level decreased below levels that could damage hearing without additional pairing and maintained at low levels across several observations. These results were repeated in a subsequent phase. The results showed that overall, the simple pairing procedure which required very little effort on the part of the experimenters successfully decrease the noise levels to socially significant levels.

It is possible that these methods could be incorporated into an animal shelter’s day-to-day routine in order to maintain lower noise levels in dog kennel areas.

 

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