Friday, June 27, 2008

Music as a Calming Agent for Dogs

This is a wonderful concept. I always leave NPR on for my furkids when I'm away and they've never complained ... I'll pick up the CD and let you know what they think! Dee

After nine CDs, Lisa Spector has found a new audience for her classical piano recordings. The 10th is "Through a Dog's Ear, Vol. 1: Music to Calm Your Canine Companion." The 11th, "Driving Edition - Music to Calm Your Dog in the Car," came out in May. Spector, 46, runs a music school on Main Street in Half Moon Bay.

"I had attended a seminar on psychoacoustics - the study of sound and the human nervous system. I started applying that with the students at my music school, and there was this extreme effect in helping them.

I wanted to see how effective this is with dogs, so sound researcher Joshua Leeds and I ran a research study throughout the country, directed by veterinary neurologist Susan Wagner. We recorded four hours of music and we applied the same principles that would be effective for calming people. We went from one hour of very slow, simplified classical piano music at 40-70 beats per minute ranging to trio music that was cello, oboe and piano that was 80-110 beats per minute. In people we found that number of beats is very important because slower music discharges the nervous system.

We learned that the same music that relaxes people relaxes dogs. A dog would recognize a very slight difference. We were so amazed by the results that we then tested only dogs that had anxiety issues - separation anxiety. We purposely tested on the Fourth of July so we'd get fireworks, which is a big problem with sound anxiety. The results that came out with slow, simplified piano were twice as effective as regular classical music in relieving anxiety.

'Through a Dog's Ear' is a 60-minute album of solo arrangements that are psychoacoustically prepared. They are lower frequency. We simplify it and create this scenario that helps relax dogs. There are arrangements from Bach, Beethoven, Chopin. It's not in any other form you will find. It is music that has been rearranged. To record it, I brought a 9-foot Steinway to Menlo Park.

People will find it at Borders, Barnes & Noble, Whole Foods, pet supply stores and online at 'Through a Dog's Ear' is also a book. It's an exploration into how our human soundscape affects the dogs in our lives, and our awareness of how that can create behavior issues.

One of out every seven dogs has a behavior issue.

The wonderful thing about this CD is that it is something that people will actually love. No matter what dog you have, even if you have a border collie, you're going to be the one putting the CD into the player. Border collies are so smart they can almost put the CD on themselves.

I have started recently a Canine Classical Concert presentation in which we are playing this music for dogs. Dogs love the vibrations that the piano creates. Last week I had 11 dogs in my living room in a small space and they all mellowed out, lay down, flopped over and were just as happy as can be, while I was playing the piano.

I am not a behaviorist. I do not treat individual dogs. I suggest that people use this music in adjunction with whatever therapy they are using. People can call me up if they want their dog to have a private concert."

The Lightbulb: I was puppy-sitting for a 9-month-old, 90-pound dog named Tank. He would tear around the house in sheer delight, and I noticed when I started playing the piano, playing certain kinds of classical music, he would slow down, lie down and within a minute he was snoring. I started thinking, 'If this music was so effective on this dog, how effective would it be on other dogs, particularly in relieving anxiety issues?'

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