Three Things to Consider About Your Shelter’s Soundscape
Your shelter’s soundscape is made up all kinds of noises, from equipment to ringing phones to animal and human voices. “With the physiological and psychological impact sound has on humans and non-humans alike, it’s important to pay attention to sound in your shelter,” says dog behavior expert Dr. Patricia McConnell.
Here are three questions that can help you figure out what to do about the soundscape in your shelter:
How Loud Is It?
Guessing what the decibel level is in your shelter isn’t enough – you should get an actual reading by using a sound level meter. Although the best devices are expensive, you may be able to borrow equipment from local businesses or agencies. Or consider using less expensive versions or even downloading decibel reading apps for your smartphone. Be sure to take readings at different times of the day, since noise levels can vary tremendously depending on what’s going on in the shelter. OSHA has guidelines for appropriate levels of sound for your staff; however, keep in mind that animal ears are much more sensitive than our own.
Is It Necessary Noise?
Remember that you may have become inured to the sounds of your shelter – another reason that having an objective decibel level reading is critical. Getting feedback from visitors on the noise level can be important information – after all, if they are leaving your facility because it is too noisy, something needs to change! And imagine what it must sound like to a new dog or cat coming into the shelter.
Can You Quiet Things Down?
The good news is that you can increase the sounds of silence in your shelter. Here are some ideas, listed from least expensive to most costly.
Use a quiet voice. Although you may feel as if you must yell to be heard in your noisy shelter, the quieter you get, the more others may hear you. Unexpected sounds, including whispering, can often more easily capture the attention of dogs. In general, acoustics research tells us that long, slow continuous sounds decrease activity levels, while short, rapidly repeated sounds tend to increase them.
Use music. According to a study by Kogan, Schoenfeld-Tacher & Simon, classical music increased the amount of time the dogs spent sleeping. But not all classical music fits the bill – think about “The William Tell Overture” with its loud drums and rousing ending! Choose music with long, continuous notes, pure tones with regular rhythms and tempos that match a dog’s heart rate.
Replace noisy equipment. If possible, replace squeaky kennel doors or extremely loud devices such as fans, cleaning tools, etc.
Reduce barking. Since barking accounts for much of the noise in shelters, reducing it can significantly decrease the decibel level. Although this may seem like a daunting task, there are things you can do to cut down on the barking.
Modify or renovate the physical environment. If your budget allows, soundproofing and remodeling can make a world of difference when it comes to the overall volume level in your shelter.