Saturday, July 5, 2014

Through a Dog's Ear

We survived the Fourth of July with minimal hysteria. Brisbane actually doesn't care about fireworks, and Ru doesn't either. I recently read a study about fireworks fears that found that dogs born in the fall and winter were less likely to develop noise phobias. I found this interesting because Brisbane and Ru were born in the spring, and neither of them have noise issues. It probably helps that we had a freak thunderstorm when Briz was a tiny baby puppy, so he learned that loud noises make treats rain from the sky.

I wasn't sure how Ulysses was going to react to the fireworks this year, so I planned to stay home with the dogs. He was ok with the local poppers, not much is legal here in bone-dry brushfire country. When the big city-sponsored show started, he got a little worried, so I put on Through a Dog's Ear.  It's an album of classical piano music that helps soothe nervous dogs.

How does it work? The concept began with a study back in 2002 that compared the behavior of shelter dogs when they were serenaded with classical music, heavy metal, pop, human conversation, and silence. The dogs spent more time snoozing and less time mindlessly barking when listening to classical music. The next step was to examine precisely what aspects of classical music are most soothing. They altered the tempo and complexity of various pieces composed specifically for the study, and also used regular old classical music as a control.

What they found was that most dogs found slow and simple piano solos to be the most relaxing and sleep-inducing. The next study pitted the carefully analyzed slow and simple piano solos against standard classical music. While both recordings helped dogs relax in a variety of anxiety-inducing situations, far more behavior issues improved with the music that was designed specifically for dogs.

When I first discovered Through a Dog's Ear, there was a single album of incredibly boring piano music. Now there are actually a bunch of albums, along with portable players preloaded with music. I was delighted to find these albums on Google Music, since I have an all-access subscription ($7/month) I can stream them all without having to pay for them individually. I can keep them on my phone to play in the car, and I can use Chromecast to stream them to my television and fill my house with incredibly boring piano music.

How well does it work? The music quickly set Uly at ease while the big fireworks show was booming across town. The neighborhood kids kept setting stuff off for a few hours afterwards, and all three dogs slept peacefully through it.

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