Sensory Overload – Dogs Also?

I recently visited a teenage girl with autism. She was wearing noise cancelling ear muffs.

She explained to me that without them she simply has sensory overload. They enable her to function.

Her two highly-stressed little terriers, like so many dogs I go to, showed signs of suffering from sensory overload themselves. In addition, their own hearing and sense of smell is far more acute than our own.

Added to this, dogs will usually have little freedom to escape from what is, to them, ‘too much’.

To quote the Puppy Playground website:

The Ears: By the time their sense of hearing has developed, (a dog) can already hear 4 times the distance of a human with normal hearing.  Dogs can hear higher pitched sounds and can detect a frequency range of 67-45,000 Hz, compared to a human range of 64-23,000 Hz.

The Nose: A human has about 5 million scent glands whereas dogs have 125 million to 300 million (depending on breed), meaning their sense of smell is 1,000 to 10,000,000 times better than humans!

I thought I would find out just little more about why these ear covers help someone with autism. Phoebe Caldwell says:

‘…. in general, people on the spectrum find it difficult to process too much incoming sensory information. Their sense organs (the eyes/ears etc…) may be working perfectly well but the brain has a limited processing capacity. ‘If you feed my brain with too much data it will crash’.

Mutt Muffs

Could this not be the similar with certain dogs?

This led me off ona bit of a tangent to Google ‘Can dogs have autism’ and I found this article from Nicholas Dodman. I found there was a lot more on the subject online. Dodman concludes his interesting article on Bull Terriers, ‘At least we seem have found the first canine model of autism and top psychiatrists and neurologists agree that our findings are real.’

Take a look at this – ‘Can Dogs Have Autism‘.

Obviously sensory overload doesn’t necessarily mean autism. Sensory problems alone could be diagnosed as a sensory processing disorder.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could find a non-drug equivalent to noise cancelling ear muffs for little dogs like those I have just visited – to give them and their family a break if nothing else?

There are, of course, ‘Mutt Muffs‘ which I had always considered a bit of a joke.

Maybe not?


About Theo Stewart

I am a dog Behaviourist C.C.B (Certified Canine Behaviourist) INTODogs). I have helped over 3000 dog owners over eighteen years. In addition to online consultations all over the world, I cover Beds, Herts, Cambs and Bucks for home visits. A 'Victoria Stilwell' Positively Dog Trainer (VSPDT) and a full member of the IMDT. Graduate ISCP, International School for Canine Practitioners. My main site:
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