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Dogs laugh, and find the sound soothing

An animal behaviourist says she's figured out what dogs are doing when they make that excited panting noise.

tech reviews Updated: Dec 11, 2005 12:51 IST

An animal behaviourist says she's figured out what dogs are doing when they make that excited panting noise while playing or anticipating a much desired walk. They're laughing.

Patricia Simonet, development and programme coordinator for Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service, 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 has a doctorate in animal behaviour, presented her study on reducing shelter dogs' stress at the International Conference on Environmental Enrichment last summer at Columbia University in New York.

About a year ago, Simonet asked Nancy Hill, director of the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service (SCRAPS) if she could use the shelter dogs to determine the impact of dog sounds. When SCRAPS closed for the night, she would play the tapes for the typically stressed animals.

Hill said she 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.

Hill is getting estimates to install a sound system that would carry the laughter throughout the SCRAPS kennels.

First Published: Dec 11, 2005 11:23 IST