Thursday, January 1, 2009

Through A Dog's Ear

We are all, it seems, victims of a relentless barrage of noise from the rhythms of everyday life: appliances, TV, radio, traffic, lawnmowers, and screaming kids. We may not realize it, but over time, this soundscape is doing a number on our nervous and immune systems, and those of our animals.

Through a Dog's Ear: Using Sound to Improve the Health & Behavior of Your Canine Companion, is not just about how sound affects animals. It's about how it affects us, too. This ground-breaking book made me turn off the TV, and really bring some awareness to the constant background noise in my home environment and what it might be doing to the health and wellbeing of all of us who live here: humans, dogs, cats, and canaries.

Authors Joshua Leeds and Dr. Susan Wagner have been able to demonstrate that certain kinds of soothing classical music can provide a calming antidote when animals are stressed and losing their cool. Not just from the effects of unwanted noise, but when they are fearful, aggressive, suffering from separation anxiety, or terrified by the prospect of a ride in the car. Until now, behavioral modification techniques and drugs seemed to offer the only relief from these problems.

What's interesting is that not all classical music has this pacifying effect. The authors tell a fascinating story about "Petey," a dog who howled with delight when a visitor in his home played Grieg's Piano Concerto, but who walked out of the room when she practiced Mozart or Bach!

In a pilot study, they found that "solo instruments, slower tempos, and less complex arrangements had a greater calming effect than faster selections with more complex harmonic and orchestral content."

As a result of their pioneering work, Leeds and Wagner have developed three CDs: Music to Calm Your Canine Companion, Vol. 1, Music for the Canine Household, Vol. 1, and Through a Dog's Ear Driving Edition: Music to Calm Your Dog in the Car, all of which contain "psychoacoustically designed" classical music selections to assuage canine fear, stress, and separation anxiety.

The book, Through a Dog's Ear, comes with a sampler CD, with excerpts from Music to Calm Your Canine Companion and Music for the Canine Household. It also offers suggestions on how and when to use the CD for optimal behavioral response.

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