I have what’s been described as an intimidating dog. She’s part Rottweiler, part God knows what. Earlier this week, my husband and I watched her jump and bark at two coyotes we spotted during her evening walk. She’s the same size as they were, but hearing her growl, the coyotes quickly scurried away from her.
While she often appears to be fearless, she becomes a ball of nerves on holidays like New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July, when our neighbors shoot fireworks well into the wee hours of the morning — and often for days afterward. We live in Los Angeles, where firecrackers are illegal but firmly entrenched in the city’s culture. Drought-devastated Southern California doesn’t get many rainstorms, but when thunder does occur, it sets my dog on edge too.
The vet recommended anxiety meds, but I’ve been hesitant to give my aging dog drugs. That said, many pet owners leave no stone unturned when it comes to their pets’ mental health. They purchase prescription drugs for their nervous pets, not to mention services such as massages, reiki, or acupuncture to soothe them. This is not surprising considering the uptick in Americans relying on these services for their own well-being.
So when the news recently broke that Ford Motor Co. designed a prototype for a soundproof dog kennel, my ears perked up. Graeme Hall, a dog trainer Ford features in its promotional video about the noise-canceling kennel, estimates that half of all dogs have a fireworks phobia. “To dogs, fireworks are different to natural sounds, like, for example, thunder,” Hall explains in the video.
To create its soundproof haven for dogs, Ford took its active noise technology out of the car and put it into the kennel. “The kennel, like many high-end headphones, is outfitted with microphones that detect loud noises and cue the speakers to pipe in sound-canceling frequencies,” Curbed reported. It reduces noise to a level that won’t upset dogs, according to the carmaker. In addition to active noise control, the kennel includes noise cancellation panels, an automatic door, anti-vibration block risers, and soundproof ventilation.
For those who’ve watched their dogs suffer on fireworks-laden holidays, this high-tech dog house is surely welcome news. But whether it will be made available to consumers depends on the interest for such a kennel, a Ford spokesperson told the Detroit Free Press.
The main reason Ford designed its noise-canceling dog kennel is to publicize to consumers how its vehicle technology can benefit them in everyday situations.
“All we’ve done is try to see how the technology could be used in life,” Anthony Ireson, director of marketing and communications for Ford Europe, told the Free Press. “If there’s enough interest, we’ll explore the technology.”
While Ford’s soundproof kennel won’t be available during this New Year’s festivities, there are plenty of other products on the market that purport to soothe anxious dogs — and many come at a pretty steep price.
There’s the ThunderShirt ($39.95), available for both dogs and cats, which applies “gentle” pressure to pets to help calm them, sort of akin to swaddling for babies. Weighted blankets like the one from the Canine Coddler ($79.98) work similarly. There are melatonin-infused dog chews and battery-operated toys that mimic heartbeats and even doggie earmuffs.
For those with lots of cash to spare, there’s the ZenCrate, designed to reduce canine nervousness related to loud noises, storms, and separation anxiety. The crate includes sensors that detect when dogs enter and plays soothing music and creates a gentle air flow for them. When pets leave the crate, it will shut off automatically. It costs a cool $679.99.
But during an age when dog owners spend an average of $126.19 monthly on their pets and 8 percent of them have their pooches on some sort of anti-anxiety medication, perhaps it’s not such a stretch for those with the means. This is also likely why the Ford kennel prototype has received so much attention; the carmaker’s YouTube video about the kennel, uploaded on December 17, already has more than 308,000 views, and a company spokesperson told the Detroit Free Press that the design had “struck a chord.”
As the anxiety economy grows and consumers are willing to splurge on high-end supplies for pets they regard as family members, it’s perhaps only fitting that anxiety consumerism has seeped into the pet product market as well.
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