By: Amber Polo
Our dogs want to be close to us, but often our lives over-stimulate them. Traffic, electronics, TV, radio, and music provide a cacophony of noise. In addition, separation anxiety is high on the list of behavior problems that trouble dogs and their caregivers.
Some people turn on a TV or radio when they leave dogs alone. Yet programs change and can be interrupted by commercials.
Hertz (Hz) is a measure of frequency one cycle per second. Humans hear at 19-31,000 HZ; Dogs (depending on breed and age): 44-64,000 Hz; Cats: 55-77,000 Hz.
It’s been proven music affects our heart rate, blood pressure, brain waves, and breathing. Studies show some of the same music that relaxes humans can help relieve anxiety issues in our pets.
A study done in Ireland by Dr. Deborah Wells, psychologist and animal behaviorist, tested types of music on shelter dogs. “Classical music resulted in dogs spending more of their time resting and also resulted in a significantly lower level of barking,” while heavy metal music agitated the dogs.
Joshua Leeds and Susan Wagner DVM, authors of “Through a Dog’s Ear,” took the research further and created a series of clinically tested recordings designed to calm both you and your dog. Tested on more than 150 dogs in various environments, some tracks are designed to calm your pet and reduce anxiety while other tracks, a little more stimulating, please both human and canine ears.
In Part 1 of the study researchers learned not all classical music offered the same results. Crashing cymbals aren’t the same as a piano sonata. They claim 50-70 beats per minute is ideal and slow simple music, solo instruments at a low volume, produced the most calming results.
Part 2 focused on specific anxiety issues. 70% of anxiety issues (in 10 dogs) were reduced with the psycho-acoustically designed music compared to 36% using a control CD of standard classical music.
Audiobooks for Dogs
Audiobooks may not make dogs smarter, but might make them calmer. Dogs love to be talked to, so it’s not surprising some dogs love audiobooks. One study in shelters in the UK showed voice recordings were more calming than music.
One audiobook can provide hours of talk with no commercials. Many have only one narrator. If the owner is female choose a woman’s voice and if male a man’s. Or if the dog is used to living with a group, try multiple narrators. You can even match the accent of the owner. In general, select a book that imitates human company, has nice energy, but is not too exciting.
Audible, the largest audio book producer and retailer in the U.S., and Cesar Millan’s Cesar’s Way Inc. conducted an in-home study with 100 volunteers. Participants left home while dogs listened to a book and returned after at least a one-hour period. They recorded their dog’s behavior daily. Results showed that on 27 out of the 28 days tested, dogs exhibited positive behavior after audiobook play periods.
What books would your dog like? Audible.com offers some recommendations: The Art of Racing in the Rain (of course), A Dog’s Purpose, Soldier Dogs, and To Kill a Mockingbird (perhaps more a cat book?).
Reduce Stress with Recordings
Your dog feels your anxiety, so reducing your own stress is good for your pets. Also consider:
• Reducing the volume of electronic devices and TVs
• Using only one devices at a time
• Reducing controllable noise
• Choosing music with a solo instrument at a low volume
• Providing a place for pets to get away from noise
Turn on music or voice recording long before you leave or when the dog is NOT exhibiting anxiety, so the music will not be associated with your exit or with the anxiety provoking situation or sounds.
Neither dogs nor cats can wear earphones or choose their music, so you need to select and play their favorite music or stories. You can even record your own voice reading a favorite book.
How to play music or audiobooks
• Use a CD player and put a CD on repeat or play multiple CDs
• Plug an iPod/MP3 into a speaker
• Use a Smart Speaker: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or Apple’s Siri
Also see the August-September issue of Flagstaff-Sedona Dog for “Cats and Music” on p. 7.
“Through a Dog’s Ear: Using Sound to Improve the Health & Behavior of Your Canine Companion” by Joshua Leeds and Susan Wagner, DVM (Sounds True)
www.iCalmPet.com formerly www.ThroughaDogsEar.com for music
Spotify blog playlists
“Cesar Millan’s Guide to Audiobooks for Dogs” available from Audible as an audiobook