Last week, I promised to write this week about the puppy tests that I use to determine suitability and make the best match between puppy and new owners. But since picking up our puppy Tuesday, another topic has gained more prominence and immediate importance. That is, soothing music for dogs.
"Larry," our almost 9-week-old Chinook puppy, doesn't mind being crated as long as someone is nearby, but he doesn't like being left alone. In order to get some work done in another room, I've left him crated in the bedroom. I understand why he's unhappy being left alone. After all, less than 24 hours before, he was surrounded by siblings - five brothers and sisters since two of the puppies left a few days ago. He also spent time with the adult dogs in the home - mom and other relatives. No matter where he's been in his entire short life so far, he has had company. Now he's not only sleeping alone in a crate, but there isn't always someone around, and he needs to get used to occasional solitude.
Chinooks are not barkers, but Larry seems to be an exception to prove the rule. This morning as I was brushing my teeth, he was sitting behind me when all of a sudden he barked at me with a bratty (and adorable) look. He not only barks, he whines, and when he's left alone in the crate, he howls and screams as if he's being killed. Because it's a lovely day, and our windows and screen doors are open, I suspect my neighbors think that's just what I'm doing - killing a puppy.
So I turned on some music for him. Not just any music, but a CD titled "Through a Dog's Ear: Music to Calm Your Canine Companion." It's like magic. It doesn't always work instantaneously, and it doesn't work with every dog, but Larry responds to it after about two minutes.
At All Dogs Gym, we use these and other "dog music" CDs in our day care nap rooms during the dogs' naps, in our overnight boarding inn and in The Puppy Place, our day care for young puppies.
There are loads of different CDs created to calm dogs and lower anxiety. An Internet search for "dog calming music" yields a lot of choices. I just ordered one that's specifically designed for puppies. It'll be interesting to see if there's any difference between the one I'm using today and the puppy music CD. Maybe when he listens to it, Larry will relax after 15 seconds rather than taking a couple of minutes.
Lots of people are skeptical about this sort of thing. After all, it could be just a gimmick to sell CDs. But I can attest that calming music works with nearly all the dogs we care for. Neurological studies of more than 150 dogs in shelters and kennels have demonstrated that the music works with about 70 percent of dogs in shelters and 85 percent of dogs in households. Fortunately, Larry fits into the latter statistic.
A few weeks ago, we had a five-day training school for trainers, inviting clients to bring their dogs for our students to train during the day. In between our hands-on training sessions, the dogs were crated together in our arena, an area that they weren't used to staying in. Their crates were near The Puppy Place, and when the quiet music was playing for the rest time, all the training dogs relaxed - dogs that were definitely not relaxed by nature. It was quite impressive.
And right now, Larry is resting peacefully in his crate, listening to music, not screaming and giving me the peace to be able to write this column. Thank you, Larry, and thank you to the psychoacoustic geniuses who created this calming music.
Gail Fisher, author of "The Thinking Dog," runs All Dogs Gym & Inn in Manchester. To suggest a column topic, email firstname.lastname@example.org or write c/o All Dogs Gym & Inn, 505 Sheffield Road, Manchester, NH 03103. You'll find past columns on her website.