Talking today to the talented Lisa Spector, co-creator of ThroughADogsEar.com... music for dogs … welcome! Lisa has generously agreed to donate some CD’s to Best Friends and BadRap, for the v-dogs as well as perform a concert to raise some funds for BadRap. Yay, Lisa !!!
can you give us a little background about how you began playing music for dogs, why, inspiration, etc.
I’ve always had dogs and noticed from childhood that every dog always came and would lie by the piano when I was playing, and would stay there for hours. In 2003, I was a volunteer puppy raiser for Guide Dogs for the Blind. I attended a weekend seminar taught by world renowned sound researcher, Joshua Leeds. In this seminar for teachers and healers, I learned about the psychoacoustic principles of resonance (tone) and entrainment (rhythm) and started applying them when teaching piano students at my music school.
I became so adept at helping students with ADD relax and focus, as well as picking up the energy level of sluggish children, that I wondered how I ever taught without this knowledge. I was so fascinated that I went back to another one of Joshua’s workshops to learn more. This time I was accompanied by a four month old yellow Labrador Retriever puppy in training for Guide Dogs. During that session, I started wondering if Joshua’s music that was so successful in helping autistic children in neuro-developmental centers throughout the world, could also calm dogs and relieve their anxiety issues.
I approached Joshua with this idea. He did some research and found out that a study had been done in 2002 by Deborah Wells, an Irish behaviorist, to determine the influence of five types of auditory stimulation: human conversation, classical music, heavy metal music, pop music, and a silent control (no music at all). That told us that classical music calmed dogs in shelters, compared to other sounds. And we wanted to take that research further and find out if classical music with psycho-acoustic changes would help calm them and relieve anxiety issues. Veterinary neurologist Susan Wagner led clinical research in shelters, service dog organizations, and homes to find out if classical music with psycho-acoustic changes would help calm dogs and relieve anxiety issues.
any tips for pet owners to use when playing music for their pets?
The main tip is that the music doesn’t need to be played very loud. It’s not about turning up the music loud to mask other sounds, it’s about calming the canine nervous system. If you are leaving your dog home alone while playing the music, play it at a gentle volume that you would be comfortable listening to all day.
what is the most rewarding/healing/or surprising experience you’ve ever had playing music for animals (is it just for dogs or cats and other animals?)
There have been quite a few surprises – areas that we didn’t test in research. We heard from a boarding facility in the mid-west that had a tornado and they played the Music to Calm your Canine series for their dogs. They all stayed calm and several slept through it. We certainly didn’t do any clinical testing on the music’s effects during tornadoes. Also, we’ve heard from people who live with dogs in areas where there are a lot of gun shots during hunting season and it’s helped them tremendously – both the people and the dogs!
The most rewarding has been hearing from shelters where we donate music. In general, it helps create a quieter environment, allowing visitors to stay longer, and helping increase adoption rates. Below is an email from a shelter in New Hampshire. This behavior issue is another area we did not test. This really brought tears to my eyes…..
“We recently took in an American Bulldog/Cattle Dog mix with severe separation anxiety. When alone, he would drool profusely, so much so we have to wipe him down with towels and clean his dog beds several times a day, inside as well as outside his crate. He is only crated at night but the drooling occurs any time of the day we are not present. I put the CD on last night, hit repeat, went to bed and woke up to NOT A DROP of saliva. He wasn’t panting, he wasn’t in a state of panic, just excited for the morning.”
how can playing music for dogs help them (ailments, conditions, behaviors)?
One of the other areas we didn’t test, where it’s shown to be very helpful, is in working with dogs with aggression issues. Even I was doubtful the music would have any effect. But, in speaking with trainers, I’ve learned that all aggression comes from stress. So, if you can help calm the canine nervous system first, it’s easier to work with the underlying issues.
how do people respond to the music?
Research shows that the same music that calms people, calms dogs. We all live in a world of sensory overload. We now call Through a Dog’s Ear music “Simple Sounds.” It helps create a peaceful, refreshing soundscape in an overly stimulated world.
do you have plans for other concerts for 2011?
The fundraiser Canine Concert at Cypress Inn for the Doris Day Animal Fund was so successful, that we are planning on repeating that regularly. I’d like to also do the same for other non-profits.
any tips for pet owners traveling with their dogs, best times, circumstances, to play the music? (ie, is it ok/beneficial to play music while driving)
When introducing your dog to the music, it’s best to play it first when everything is already calm in the house. I often recommend bedtime – especially because it will help the humans fall asleep also. Do this for a few nights. Then gradually introduce it before predictable anxiety issues are approaching – such as separation anxiety. But, also remember to play it at other times when your dog is already calm. Driving Edition: Music to Calm your Dog in the Car is designed for Driver Alert/ Dog Relaxed. Although the Music to Calm your Canine series is helpful for dogs with auto anxiety, it will make drivers sleepy and Driving Edition won’t. Also, there is protocol written by a behaviorist in the CD’s liner notes that will be very helpful in working with dogs with automobile anxiety. Some of it starts actually in the house and also then in the car before you even turn on the engine. It’s about changing your dog’s association to the car.
anything else you’d like to share?
We have a wonderful referral program called “Get Paid with TaDE” (Through a Dog’s Ear). It’s such a simple way to raise extra cash for yourself or for your favorite animal organization. Simply refer your favorite pet businesses to TaDE’s Introductory Pre-Paks, and receive $10 from the first order and 10% of subsequent orders for the following year. This $10/10% applies to 1-100 venues.