Canine "laughter" helps calm dogs' souls
By The Associated Press
SPOKANE - An animal behaviorist says she's figured out what dogs are
doing when they make that excited panting noise while playing or
anticipating a much-desired walk.
Patricia Simonet, development and program coordinator for Spokane
County Regional Animal Protection Service (SCRAPS), also found that
the sound of dog laughter comforts other dogs. When she played a
recording of "play panting" through the speaker system at a shelter in
Spokane Valley, all the barking dogs quieted within a minute.
"I wanted to see if I could reduce [the dogs] stress by playing the
sound in the shelter," Simonet said. "I was surprised when they were
calm and quiet."
Simonet, who is completing a doctorate in animal behavior from
Northcentral University in Prescott, Ariz., started researching dog
sounds in 2001 at Sierra Nevada College in Lake Tahoe, where she was a
professor of animal behavior. After coming to Spokane, she began
studying how to make shelter dogs feel more at ease.
Simonet and her students started by recording dogs at play. They
eventually isolated the sound she now calls laughter.
About a year ago, she asked Nancy Hill, director of SCRAPS, if she
could use the shelter dogs to determine the impact of dog sounds. When
SCRAPS was closed on Sundays, she would play the tapes for the
typically stressed animals.
Hill was pleasantly surprised with the results. "I've been here for 20
years, and this is the most significant thing I've seen," she said.
The study has brought SCRAPS and Simonet national attention. "We've
gotten e-mails from all over the world," Hill said.