Music for Dogs
It has become somewhat common for dog owners to leave music or TV's on when they leave the house in the hopes that the constant sound will help soothe their lonely pets. While the intention behind this technique is noble, behavioral science has now uncovered enough about the way our dogs process sounds to know that there is much more to the concept of 'music for dogs' than meets the eye.
The Origins of Music for Dogs
Psychoacoustics is the study of the perception of sound in humans whereas bioacoustics is the study of sound in non human animals. Decades of research has shown how music and sound techniques affect human brain waves, heart rate and breath, but until research was done by the animal behaviorist Dr. Deborah Wells, little was known how sound affected animals.
Wells conducted a study in dog shelters in Northern Ireland and San Francisco and discovered that like people, different types of music influenced dogs’ moods, with classical music seeming to ease tension and stress while rock music caused the dogs to become more agitated. Interestingly, she concluded that dogs may be just as discerning as humans when it comes to musical preference.
The Birth of Through A Dog's Ear
In 2003, Joshua Leeds, a leading psychoacoustician from Los Angeles, was approached by concert pianist and animal lover Lisa Spector. Together they began to research the idea of using simple sound to create soundtracks that were easy for the canine nervous system to absorb. They found that classical music was gentle on the system because the form and patterns were easy to perceive – be it baroque, classical or romantic.This allowed for 'passive hearing' to take place rather than 'active listening'.
Joshua and Lisa selected appropriate pieces of classical music and modified arrangements by changing the tempo and using different orchestrations to regulate the amount of high and low frequencies. High frequencies tend to arouse or 'charge' the nervous system while low frequencies tend to calm or 'discharge' the nervous system. Some pieces were performed with a solo piano while others included cello, oboe and English horn – all adding to the tone of the piece.
In addition to their talents, leading veterinarian Dr. Susan Wagner coordinated the testing of hundreds of dogs in animal shelters, veterinary clinics, grooming facilities and private homes. Dr. Wagner discovered that not all classical music produced the same effects but that psychoacoustically designed classical music was more effective at inducing canine relaxation and sleep and doubled the abatement of canine anxiety behaviors. She also found that Joshua and Lisa’s music not only calmed dogs but relaxed humans as well. Armed with a mountain of data Joshua and Lisa created Through a Dog’s Ear, a truly groundbreaking series to calm dogs in almost every situation.
Clinically-Tested Noise Sensitivity Treatments
Thanks to the years of research they have already done for Through a Dog’s Ear there is more than enough proof that their music does indeed have a calming effect on the dogs and cats that are exposed to it. From this solid foundation Victoria crafted a modification protocol for dogs that fear the noise of fireworks, thunderstorms and city sounds. The Canine Noise Phobia Series combines bioacoustic music with graduating sound effects of the offensive noise which gradually helps change dogs from actively listening to a sound, to passively hearing it.
The change in how dogs listen to sounds reduces their fear considerably and in some cases completely cures them of their phobias and sound sensitivities. As you read this you might not notice the sounds around you, but stop reading for a moment and you will begin to hear sounds that you were passively hearing all the time but were not actively listening to. Now go back to reading again and eventually you will go back to passively hearing the sounds around you rather than actively listening to them.
This is what happens after dogs go through the modification protocols with the music and sound effects.
Why Canine Psychoacoustic Music Works
With the Canine Noise Phobia Series, even though dogs can still hear the offensive noise they are able to passively hear it rather than actively listen to it, effectively tuning the sound out. Active listening contributes to fear of certain sounds. When a dog actively listens to a sound that scares him, his nervous system becomes overwhelmed and his ability to think, problem solve and learn is severely compromised because of stress. His body’s fear mechanisms, essential for survival, take over, and physical manifestations of that fear occur such as rapid heart rate, pupil dilation, shallow breathing, increased blood pressure, sweating and restlessness. Passively hearing a sound means that the body is no longer overwhelmed and can function at a normal level even when the sound that previously elicited a fear reaction is present.
Prevention as Well as Treatment
The Canine Noise Phobia CD’s also works in preventing noise phobias from ever forming in puppies or adult dogs that are gradually exposed to the music with sound effects immediately accompanied by positive associations such as food, toys, massage, chew time, a game or simply spending quiet time with a family member. Exposing and preventing sound phobias from ever occurring – in a way giving puppies a sonic inoculation. When used properly and in conjunction with other positive behavior modification therapies, these techniques also work to prevent the development of sound sensitivities and phobias in adult dogs too.
This teaching protocol is called Sensory Education. Using classical music and reconstructing the tempo and tone as well manipulating frequencies is essentially taking sound therapy techniques used for people, to benefit animals as well.
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