My puppy Zach has been jumping up on the window ledge and barking at everything he sees. Because this is his job, to scare possible intruders away, it is my guilty pleasure to indulge him. He wasn’t getting hurt nor hoarse which are the primary tell tale signs he is excessively barking. However, based on poorly written and vague feedback left of a note at my doorstep, I went all out to ensure he could fulfill his job without loudly startling passers-by.
This is one of the most technical posts I have written since the inception of this blog. As an engineer, accomplishing the task of soundproofing my home and pleasing my pup was one of the most exciting and challenging projects I’ve had in a while. This is what I learned after 5 hours of research and what I recalled from engineering school:
1. Vacuum sealed plexiglass or acrylic windows attenuate outside noise by half.
Modern construction homes have double pained windows made of some glass-like plastic. The noise from both outside and inside the home must pass three barriers to be propagated (heard). The vacuum ensures that the noise doesn’t have a surface to reverberate, losing part of the potency of the signal or decibels. These types of windows keep about 50% of the ambient noise out of your home but they have a flaw. If there is a vent on them, you must close it to ensure the noise is blocked thoroughly and the adjacent mounting structure needs to be sealed and contain soundproofing material or the noise will penetrate through the surroundings. Sadly, bass noises or booming noises have a lower frequency and are harder to attenuate because the house’s structure absorbs it and transmits the vibration. Part of your dog’s barking will be heard and felt because of this effect. However, the high pitched noise will be reduced significantly.
2. Window treatments are the only inexpensive way to soundproof a window.
Ikea, the internet and Martha Stewart all agree that felt, cloth, and tons of layered fabric are the only way to effectively muffle sound and catch the remainder high pitched noises. The low frequency noises are also attenuated somewhat but to hear absolutely nothing of the outside world and contain all the noise you produce, structural soundproofing would be required. The aforementioned materials can be used to cover walls as well and can add a touch of personality and distinction to your decor. For those DIY inclined, all it takes is to sandwich a layer of felt or heavy cotton cloth to exiting curtains or cloth blinds and add a backer panel made of plastic or tightly woven fabric. This helps to block light as well.
The best off the shelf solution is to use light blocking panels which also muffle ambient sound by about 40%! If you follow the math 40% of the remaining 50% ambient noise leaves 10% of the noise. That percentage is the hardest to solve for, and in most cases, is at a decibel level people can tolerate. However, the caveat is that the curtains must be floor length or must cover the entire window area and a few extra inches. Double rod kits or multiple rods are a better bet to reduce noise even further. The more material, the better.
3. Toys, music or white noise
In some cases, entertaining your pet is the best soundproofing you can do. Avoid squeakers with really annoying sounds if you live in a condo that shares a wall unless you know the neighbors leave for work during the day. Also, leave music or a white noise machine running (i.g. a fan) in the background to mask some of the unavoidable sounds causes by people walking near your yard or home. Rotate the toys weekly as dogs start to ignore items that are out in plain view for long periods of time. Boredom can result in barking and destructive behavior.
4. Acoustic dampening material
This one comes in a variety of flavors. You have the popcorn ceiling types, the acoustic tile and wall texture treatments. These are all expensive and will vary in installation effort and time. I didn’t even get through this research because it was outside my budget. This is the type of treatment that is used in movie theaters and recording studios. If you have open areas, cover as much surface as you can or the noise will find a way to be noticed.
5. Thundershirts and anxiety wraps
This was one of the key elements of my stategy to calm Zach. He responded well to the thundershirt (sadly not all dogs do) and he enjoys wearing it 24/7). I give the shirt a break every 4 to 6 hrs if I am home but have left it all day on him and it has improved the noise frequency and level. Anxiety wraps work similarly and require less material to make. It seems the wrap is a bit harder to pull off but that depends on the wearer. So far, it has given us longer spans of quiet and less startling for our pet.
Some of the sites suggested that one add fake walls or divisions to the area to have more area if absorption. I use my ping pong table to partially block the window. Check local laws to verify what decibel level and noise frequency is acceptable so your pet (or activity) is not deemed a nuisance. Training is always an excellent option to ensure your pet associates noise to a positive event, such as treats or praise, removing the stressor from the equation. Dogs are really good tying experiences to feelings. If the are conditioned properly the noise will go down and the quality of life will improve for all involved.
If you know of any additional inexpensive and effective soundproofing share them in the comments section. 😀