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Hearing Loss in Dogs 2020 [Causes + Solutions]

Your Complete Guide to Managing Their Hearing Loss:byron-edited

In this article, we’ll explore all the causes of hearing loss in dogs, from most common to least, ending with solutions for the best care.


Solutions to Restoration


What Dog Breeds are Most Prone to Deafness?

Both scientific studies and anecdotal evidence point to breeds with white pigmentation being the most likely to succumb to hearing loss. Here’s a chart from a study that the University of Louisiana did in 2018 to identify the dog breeds most prone to deafness:

Dog Breeds With Reported Congenital Deafness*
Akita Dalmatian Norwegian Dunkerhound
Alapaha Blue Blood Bulldog/Otto Bulldog Dappled Dachshund Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
American Bulldog Doberman Pinscher Old English Sheepdog
American-Canadian Shepherd Dogo Argentino Papillon
American Eskimo English Bulldog Pekingese
American Hairless Terrier English Cocker Spaniel Perro de Carea Leones
American Staffordshire Terrier English Setter Pit Bull Terrier
Anatolian Shepherd Foxhound Pointer/English Pointer
Australian Cattle Dog Fox Terrier Presa Canario
Australian Kelpie French Bulldog Puli
Australian Shepherd German Shepherd Rhodesian Ridgeback
Australian Stumpy-tail Cattle Dog German Shorthaired Pointer Rat Terrier
Beagle Goldendoodle Rottweiler
Belgian Sheepdog/Groenendael Great Dane Saint Bernard
Belgian Tervuren Great Pyrenees Saluki
Bichon Frise Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Samoyed
Border Collie Greyhound Schnauzer
Borzoi Havanese Scottish Terrier
Boston Terrier Ibizan Hound Sealyham Terrier
Boxer Icelandic Sheepdog Shetland Sheepdog
Brittney Spaniel Italian Greyhound Shih Tzu
Bulldog Jack/Parson Russell Terrier Shropshire Terrier
Bullmastiff Japanese Chin Siberian Husky
Bull Terrier Kangal Shepherd Dog Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier
Canaan Dog Keeshond Springer Spaniel
Cardigan Welsh Corgi Kuvasz Sussex Spaniel
Catahoula Leopard Dog Labrador Retriever Tibetan Spaniel
Catalan Shepherd Lhasa Apso Tibetan Terrier
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Lowchen Toy Fox Terrier
Chihuahua Maltese Toy Poodle
Chinese Crested Manchester Terrier Walker American Foxhound
Chow Chow Miniature Pinscher West Highland White Terrier
Cocker Spaniel Miniature Poodle Whippet
Collie mongrel Yorkshire Terrier
Coton de Tulear Newfoundland Landseer

Congenital deafness means they are born with the defect, while acquired means it develops as they age, for whatever reason. In this article, we will focus on the causes and solutions for acquired deafness, since it is conditional and can often be treated/cured.

Why is My Dog Not Responding?

If you’ve noticed a change in their normal behavior––such as a lack of responsiveness to your calls or other household sounds––it could be hearing loss. Signs of hearing loss in dogs include:

  • Lack of response when calleddog music
      • (Dogs with hearing loss in only one ear might have trouble locating sound sources but will still respond).
  • Sleeping through noises that normally would wake them
  • Jumping at loud sounds (that were previously fine)
  • Excessive barking or unusual whining sounds

To test, try making a range of different sounds from different proximities. Call your dog from far away and note the response, try from the same room and see if they notice. Try high pitched sounds like clinking coins, and then lower sounds like deep bass vibrations. Snapping on either side of their ears can potentially pinpoint if it’s just one ear or both. If it’s just one ear, there’s a higher chance of acutely acquired hearing loss. This will all be really useful information for both you and your vet in identifying the problem.

However, there are a number of factors that can trigger hearing loss, so it’s important to pinpoint the right cause.  Here are all the possible causes of hearing loss in dogs:



It’s extremely common for senior dogs to gradually lose their hearing, often until it’s completely diminished. Geriatric nerve degeneration in the cochlea is a natural process for dogs as young as 7-8 years of age. They often first begin to lose the middle to high pitch frequencies––think a whistle or a child’s squeal––with the rest of the frequencies following suit. Hearing loss in dogs can be accelerated if they live in louder environments. But don’t worry, some hearing loss is natural, it inevitably happens to all mammals (Read more on how to comfort your dog into old age). Unsurprisingly then, aging is the number one most common cause of acquired hearing loss in dogs.

Jump to: Solutions For Restoration

Jump to: Training Deaf Dogs

Exposure to a source of loud noise:

Sounds are measured in decibels (dB), and each 10 dB increase represents a tenfold increase in sound energy. 90 dB is ten times noisier than 80 dB, 100 dB is ten times noisier than 90, and so on. Sound researcher Joshua Leeds, co-author of Through a Dog’s Ear, the first book to examine the powerful effect of the human soundscape on dogs, states, “Above 85 dB, you start playing with auditory fire. Inside the inner ear, irreparable cilia cell damage worsens with length of exposure and higher decibel levels. Your dog’s inner ear works in exactly the same way yours does and has an even wider range of frequency.” If your dog’s inner ears have been exposed to sounds above 85 dB, there’s a chance those noises might have caused this lack of responsiveness and perhaps even ruptured the eardrum.

Decibels of Common Household and Street Sounds:

  1. Whisper: 30158844555
  2. Normal conversation: 40
  3. Dishwasher, microwave, furnace: 60
  4. Blow dryer: 70
  5. City traffic: 70
  6. Garbage disposal, vacuum cleaner: 80


Danger Zone Decibels:

  1. Lawn mower: 90
  2. Screaming child: 90
  3. Power drill: 110
  4. Ambulance: 130
  5. Gunshot: 130
  6. Fire engine siren: 140
  7. Boom cars: 145

Exposure to your rumbling garbage disposal is probably not responsible for their abrupt hearing loss, so vets often look to changes like recent home construction, a new baby, or perhaps just close living in a really busy neighborhood.

Jump to: Solutions for Restoration

Jump to: Training Deaf Dogs

Stuck Foreign Object:

This can be a problem for dogs of all shapes and ear sizes. Do what you can at home by gently lifting the ear and examining for anything suspicious in the inner canal. A flashlight and another set of hands for gentling the pup are definitely your friends.

    • Signs of a foreign body: redness or swelling in the canal, whining or pawing at the ear, visibly lodged item.

If your pup is calm and you can see something obviously stuck, attempt to carefully remove it with small tweezers. If you’re at all dubious about your ability, or the item is deep in the canal, best to bring them to the vet.

PRO TIP: If you live on the West Coast, foxtails are extremely common at the end of summer, and areas with this plant should be avoided at all costs. Once picked up by a dog’s fur, these evil burrs tunnel into the body through jostles in your pet’s movement. They can even enter through a paw! Watch out for this plant once dry and yellowed:

a field of foxtails: can cause hearing loss in dogs


When doing research for this guide, I read many owner-submitted stories about their dog falling down the stairs and seeming fine, except for a sudden loss of hearing! Vets confirm it: head trauma of any kind can damage the temporal bone surrounding the ear canal, leading to loss of acute hearing in the ear drum. Have you seen anything like this happen to your pup? This one can be tough to pinpoint because it can happen while we’re gone, and there will be no signs it ever transpired.



Acquired deafness may be a temporary result of inflammation swelling the ear canal closed, or excessive ear wax filling up the channel. If you can see a lot of yellowy-gray wax, gently swab away with a Q-tip and solution. Don’t venture in too deep to the canal though; if it seems deep/systemic, bring your pup in for a vet visit. This problem will resolve quickly with careful attention.

The middle or inner canal can become inflamed for various reasons as well, and since its more difficult to see, the cause is challenging to identify. If you see signs of redness or inflammation deep in the ear, monitor and share with your vet.  


Harmful Drugs:

Has your dog had medications recently? Internally digested, or externally applied to the canal?

aminoglycoside antibiotics chart: cause of hearing loss in dogs

Some medication can destroy or damage the myelin sheath of the nerve cells, resulting in hearing loss.

Have they taken aminoglycoside antibiotics? (Scan this image for any of the TANGS and then check your prescription bottles). And make sure to ALWAYS check with your vet before doing any of your own medicating.



If your dog is not displaying any symptoms, had no falls, and is still quite young, there’s a slight chance their hearing loss could be related to tumorous polyp activity on the brainstem or surrounding the ear system. Tell your vet everything that’s going on so they can thoroughly diagnose the problem (To all you worry-warts: This is really unlikely, don’t worry. Thoroughly check for all the above common reasons before jumping to scarier conclusions 🙂

  • PRO TIP: Ask your vet to perform a BAER test (brainstem auditory evoked response) if you haven’t found the solution. This neurological test is very accurate in pinpointing location/cause.



Sanchez Smiling at Blufftops 

How Can I Protect My Dog’s Hearing?

It’s never too late to start protecting your dog’s hearing! For any age of dog, you can slow down the degenerative process of hearing loss by carefully tending to their sonic environment.

Take a sonic inventory:

Sound is like air. We rarely notice these two common elements unless the air suddenly becomes polluted or the sound becomes chaotic. The sonic inventory is one way of becoming aware of the noise in your pet’s environment and take measures to improve it. Spend a day in the shoes of a creature who can hear twice as well as you. While that may sound difficult, just remember that your average garbage disposal is about their max before the cochlea starts to get damaged. Are there factors you can limit their exposure to, like vacuuming or nearby construction?

SHAMELESS PLUG/PRO TIP: Sound masking may be a really effective strategy here. Create an isolated space away from the harmful, stressful sounds and play iCalmDog Reggae. We discovered the vibrations of the bass are really effective for masking damaging decibels from other sources.

dog with ear protection listening to iCalmDog Reggae

Don’t expose them to loud bands or loud street fairs.

Humans hear sounds between 20-20,000 Hz. Dogs hear at least twice as high, sometimes all the way up to 55,000 Hz. While it’s great that more events and public places are dog-friendly, so often those environments are created for humans. A fundraising party for dogs and their people that benefits your local shelter doesn’t benefit your dog when a loud band is playing.

Don’t play two sound sources simultaneously.

Remember that your dog’s hearing is much finer than yours. One family member may be in the living room blasting the TV, while another is in the kitchen listening to the radio. Your dog is caught in the middle, absorbing both sounds and getting stressed. Try and only have one sound source at a time, playing at a gentle hearing range

Be aware of your dog’s unresolved sensory input.

When it comes to sound, dogs don’t always understand cause and effect. You know when people are in your home yelling at the TV during a sports game that it’s all in good fun. But, it may not be much fun for your dog, who is still trying to orient whether all of those crazy sounds are safe. Put your pup in a back quiet room, perhaps listening to music specially designed for dogs. This can not only safeguard his hearing, but also his behavior.

How to Train Deaf Dogs: 

  • Prepare Yourself: Aging is rarely graceful, and providing an upgraded level of care for your older dog can be both a frustrating and emotional process. Just be aware of this commitment going in (and remember the whole life of love and happiness that you’ve shared!!!).
      • Easy first step: An “I am deaf” tag attached to your dog’s collar helps remind others (and yourself!) that extra care and caution is necessary. Share the news with all your dog’s “contacts”, like vet, boarder, groomer, etc.


  • You Can Teach an Old Dog New Hand Signals: Most dogs already know a few hand signals from their trained life of being a pet. Consider what you’ll need your elderly dog to perform and create some signals together that correspond (Check out Lisa’s 10 tips). Fortunately, dogs are really good at understanding body language and most will take to this new language quite well.
      • Depending on your dog’s level of hearing loss, they might still be able to hear low-frequency vibrations like stomping on the floor. Try getting their attention with lights too, either a flashlight or turning on the room lights. You can train these methods to get their attention too. Work with whatever level your dog is at and your own preferences to develop communication.
        • Many owners recommend the use of a vibrating collar (NOT shock) to get the attention of a deaf dog. We like this one.


  • Avoid Surprises: Your old friend is losing much of the way he registers the world. Avoid surprises––that used to not be surprises––like petting from behind or waking from sleep. Always approach in his field of vision and make sure he sees you first. Others in your household or visiting family should know about this protocol too: the less shocks the better!
  • Deaf-Proof Your House: This isn’t as intensive as it sounds, but older dogs are often prone to the same dementia humans are, and can wander off without hearing your calls. If you haven’t already, you should definitely fence in your yard. And make sure your pup is on a leash when you leave the house, dogs that can’t hear often fail to respond to sounds in the environment that signal a collision or other hazards. Pay special attention when out in the world together.


  • Enrich Other Senses: Even as they lose one avenue of perception, you can strengthen another! The National Association of Canine Scent Work (NACSW™) is the official sanctioning and organizing body for the sport of K9 Nose Work. It is a growing popular sport, and it’s great for dogs of all ages. Dogs use their nose to search for their prize, engaging both the mind and olfactory senses. At home, you can make a game of hiding smell-rich treats (here’s a homemade recipe) in cardboard boxes throughout the house and let your dog search for them.
  • Hearing Aids for Dogs? After a lot of research, I found that only one laboratory was really making hearing aids fitted for dogs. The aids do not restore full hearing, cost $3-5k, involve an intensive re-training process, and have no guarantee. From my vantage point, they don’t seem worth it, but if you’re interested in more information, here is FETCHLAB.

And, finally, just be aware:

These suggestions are all to get you thinking about how your dog perceives the world and adjusting to their new level. Put yourself in their ears for a week and just notice. Follow your own intuition in developing your style of communication. And remember: give ’em lots and lots of lovins. Aging is never easy but dogs handle it all in stride.

Cheers to improving the lives of all!


Thanks for sharing any comments, stories, or feedback on this article below! We always love to hear from you 😉





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Separation Anxiety And Your Dog: The Complete Guide




Dog with separation anxiety reading a book on training methods

What is Separation Anxiety?

In Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Small Animals, Dr. Karen Overall defines dog separation anxiety as, “A condition in which animals exhibit symptoms of anxiety or excessive distress when they are left alone.” You might recognize the symptoms as any of these:

  • Drooling, panting, or salivating way more than usual
  • Barking, whining, or howling
  • Pacing, often in an obsessive pattern
  • Attempting to escape from the crate or room
  • Destroying items in the home
  • Scratching at walls, doors, windows or floors
  • Chewing up household items
  • Urinating and Defecating
  • Coprophagia

Sounds like your pup huh? Don’t worry, we’ve got you, keep reading 🙂

20 years ago, no one had ever heard of separation anxiety in dogs. Today, it is widely known as one of the most common problems we experience with our beloved canines. And sadly, one of the main reasons that end-of-the-rope owners feel forced to give a dog up for adoption. But as the intelligent beings who’ve brought dogs in our homes, it is our responsibility to fix it (and we can!).

Our mission? Put you in touch with the solution: understand how your dog is trying to communicate with you and how to permanently rewire unwanted behavior patterns.

What’s the Difference Between Separation Anxiety and Bad Behavior?

Bad behavior is your dog acting out before you leave, just so he can have your attention. Separation anxiety is a phobia: there’s actual fear behind the behavior.

How to know what’s what:

dog outside with no separation anxietyDogs are really smart. They live in our entirely human worlds, and by necessity have become so finely attuned to our schedules and patterns. So it’s really easy for our dogs to tell when we’re about to shut their world down, separate them from their pack, remove all sources of love. Humans call this leaving for work.

Knowing they’re about to be alone and dreading it, many dogs will do ANYTHING to get your attention. And that includes bad behavior. Even being reprimanded becomes a reward because they’ve got your attention.

In these cases, the canine behavior has a quality that we in the professional world call “naughtiness”. Just kidding. But you do know it when you see it; they won’t come when you call, they grab your shoe and run into the kitchen, maybe start digging in the yard.

There is not fear behind this behavior, that is the distinction. The remedy here is more training and careful discipline, and it is fairly easy to overcome.

But what if there is fear behind the misbehavior? Your dog might just have a full-blown case of separation anxiety. But that’s ok too, because we’re about to pinpoint the problem.

Other Potential Problems to Rule Out:

Puppy Destruction
Puppies chew things up. Their teeth are coming in and it’s so exciting and delicious to test them on your shoes! This behavior is almost always just age-related and not separation anxiety. Nothing to worry about.

Canines need stimulations like all mammals. If you’ve left them with nothing to do, they’ll find something to do and you probably won’t like their choice nearly as much. If

dog with high anxiety in a yard

your dog doesn’t seem anxious, it’s probably just boredom/lack of exercise.

Excitement/Submission Urination
Dogs get really excited to greet us, some get too excited and lose control of their bladders. Or maybe pee when you discipline them. To identify if this just excitement/submissive urination, watch for submissive behavior: tucked tail between the legs, flattened ears and lowered head, hunching down low or displaying the belly. In all cases, this behavior is NOT anxiety-related.

Poor House Training
If your dog repeated urinates or defecates in the house, but shows no other signs of anxiety, his symptoms probably indicate an unfinished house training education.

Scent Marking
This almost falls under the category of unfinished house training, but I thought I’d give its own to distinguish a dog that’s deliberately urinating because of the need to mark its territory. It’s a slightly different behavior problem, but once again, unlikely related to a fear of being left alone.

Why Do Dogs Develop Separation Anxiety?

Dogs are pack animals. In their wild settings––evolutionarily where they’ve spent most of their lives––they are never alone and always stimulated and engaged.

meme about domesticated dogs anxious

Now imagine that creature, living your high-rise apartment and surrounded by none of those natural stimuli. (And in fact, immersed in only the confusing ones of honks and beeps and rings they can’t understand). Their perfect, immediately-adapted behavior to this strange world is a lot for us to ask of them. So it’s up to us, their intelligent, loving guardians, to make that situation as calm and happy as possible.

  • Notice: there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest that dogs adopted from a shelter are far more prone to separation anxiety than a puppy reared with the same family. It’s believed instability and/or the loss of a significant family member can cause this fear.
  • Aging dogs can also develop separation anxiety as their senses weaken and perceived stimuli decrease.

So how can we remedy this? Pay a ton of attention to any changes you make in your life––because your dog certainly is. Transitions, schedule changes, any shifts in your normal routine are some of the most common triggers for separation anxiety.

Common Triggers of Separation Anxiety:

  1. Change of Owner: Have you just brought a new pup home? From the shelter or breeder? A change in environment or family is a HUGE shift for a dog. Leaving everything they’ve known? It’s no wonder such a radical change can trigger separation anxiety.
  2. Change of Household: Moving houses is another common reason. Or perhaps they’ve started going to a boarding facility? Pay attention to any potential change in environment.
  3. Change in Family Membership: Did someone new just join the family? A baby or perhaps an elderly relative? Suddenly there’s someone new and they’re taking all the attention away from your dog!
  4. Change in Routine: The above are some common examples, but you know your household best. Has there been another change in schedule or structure, such as the loss of a family member or other pet that might cause this new anxiety?
  5. Boredom and a lack of exercise: Sometimes it can simply be boredom. Dogs need stimulation and excitement just like we do. Imagine how you’d feel left in a house with nothing to do for 8 hours. You might be tempted to start some trouble too!
  6. Being left alone for the first time: If you’ve got a new dog and leave for the first time, they’re probably going to be confused and unhappy, display all the symptoms we’ve talked about. In this case, it’s important to nip this behavior in the bud before it develops into full-blown paranoia.
  7. Suffering a Traumatic Event: A singular traumatic event where your dog is shocked or really afraid can also be a cause. Can you think of anything? Perhaps an unmonitored new time at a shelter or boarding kennel? This can be the trigger if you notice a radical change in behavior.

dog behavior and training through music

An important note: Dog separation anxiety is often unknowingly supported by owners. When we make a big show of leaving or arriving, we surround the event with a ton of charged emotion. This encourages our dog to be concerned too (since we’re clearly so excited for some reason!!!!) and thus creates stress around the whole structure of departure/arrival.

Solutions: How Can I Treat Separation Anxiety in My Dog?

dog yawning no separation anxiety

There are a lot of ways to begin working with your dog’s anxiety, ranging from easy solutions to more difficult work.

We’ll begin with the easy solutions––because who doesn’t love an easy solution––before moving into the more intensive ones.

5 Immediate Solutions:

Here’s an easy tip straight from our friend Cesar Milan: Stay Calm and Assertive

When it’s time to leave the house, don’t surround the event with a ton of emotion. Weeping, kissing, saying goodbye, excessive cuddles are all great things in their time and place, but not when you depart. Don’t exude guilt or sadness, instead, project the calm-assertive energy of an owner who is completely in control of the situation and has a plan of action. This reassures your dog that everything is happening as it should be and there is no reason to fear. You set the vibe, they listen.

Get ’em some exercise before work!

dog on beach with no separation anxietyThis is a great one for all parties actually. I won’t cite any studies for the importance of exercise (because at this point we don’t need science to confirm such an integral part of mammalian happiness), but a tired dog is much likelier to avoid trouble than an energetic one. End sessions 15-20 minutes before you leave so they have time to wind down. This training creates a pattern of reward/happiness around your departure because they can recognize they get to go play before! And perhaps even, that we are paying enough attention to consider them as part of our day.

Create a space of fun and safety:

  1. Dedicate a room, enclosed yard spot, or perhaps a crate, to be HIS space when you’re gone. There is safety in rituals and routines for dogs; they LOVE consistency.
      • Pro Tip: A laundry room is usually almost already dog-proofed and easy to convert.
  2. Make sure they have ample access to food and water (and ideally, a place to relieve themselves).
  3. Leave some of your clothing in the space to remind him of your presence. Our friends at Adaptil also make great calming pheromones for dogs left alone.
  4. Stimulate his mind! There are tons of great puzzling toys out there intended for dogs at home. We love a well-stuffed Kong.
  5. Shameless plug because how could I not: leave Through a Dog’s Ear music playing. It’s clinically demonstrated to relieve separation anxiety and is a beautifully calming part of your exit routine. I suggest starting the music when you’re home together––it works on humans too––then peacefully make your departure after your dog has laid down for a snooze.

Want more on crate training? Here’s our favorite YouTube on it:

Explore Creative Solutions:

dog together with no separation anxiety

Do you have a friendly elderly neighbor who’s home all day and could come let your pup out for a pee break? Perhaps a neighbor dog that gets along with yours could be kept in the same space. A friend who’s having the same problem could perhaps fix yours! Two dogs, one stone 😉 You’ll have to get creative here because it’s so situationally dependent, but your pup will thank you. They’re pack creatures and always have more fun with another packmate around. And of course, you can always pay to board them/find a doggie daycare.

Herbal and Homeopathic Medicine:

Drugs only ever mask the problem and not treat the solution. Plus who wants to be paying for gallons of CBD dog treats the rest of their life? Not me. That being said, many do find temporary relief with a lot of these options, and in combination with a calm training protocol, they can have a positive effect in temporarily assisting tranquility. If you think this would be a helpful part of your regimen, we recommend our friends over at Honest Paws.

Conditioning: How to Re-Wire Old Patterns

dog training separation anxiety

I’m sure you’ve noticed already, but all of these options are about creating new patterns. Conditioning is the technical term for this work, and there are varying degrees of difficulty and strategy that may be needed, depending on the degree of canine separation anxiety. For your ease, I’ll start with the simplest before moving into our two-day intensive program.

Establish a word or action

Create a pattern that becomes their new routine and tells your dog you’ll be back. When you authoritatively create routines, your pup takes on the same confidence. He’s ok being left alone, because he knows you’ll come back and trusts your leadership.

      • Choosing a word: Create a keyword or phrase that your pup associates with your calm, unemotional departure. Remember: dogs don’t understand language, but they do understand your energy communicated through words. Make sure your phrase conveys the tone you want. I would probably say “Goodbye Yara. I’ll be home after work.”

Mix Up Your Patterns

dog with separation anxiety holding a clock

Dogs are smart. They are constantly studying all of our behaviors, actions, and routines. If you always put on your shoes right before you leave the house for the day, the shoes tell your pup that you are leaving. If picking up your car keys is always a precursor to leaving, your dog may start to panic just at the sight of your keys.

Start mixing up your routine. Pick up your keys and start cooking dinner. Put on your shoes and walk to your computer. Do the opposite and put on your shoes, open the door, but don’t leave. The idea is to keep your pup guessing so that he starts to unscramble the patterns you’ve already set in place. This stops his anxiety from building to a fever pitch when he sees the first cue in the departure sequence. Humans are creatures of habit too, so it can be difficult, but think of it as a fun chance to try some variance in your life. Certified Professional Dog Trainer and behavior specialist Nicole Wilde calls it “The Faux Go”. In her book, Don’t Leave Me! she says, “You’ll be teaching your dog that the door opening and you walking out is nothing to worry about.”

If you are training a new puppy or dog that hasn’t been left before, start practicing this method with very short departures initially. Think stepping out to get groceries. If all goes well, start increasing your time, little by little. A human minute may equal a dog hour, so take puppy steps when increasing your time away incrementally.

  • Training Tip: Want a protocol that walks you through it? Separation Anxiety training protocol by famed dog trainer Victoria Stilwell can be found here.

Try House Training Your Dog

Spend time training around the house. Show your dog how to behave in simple daily routines. Little increments and minutes, anything can be an opportunity for training. Instead of just going for a walk, ask him to sit at stop-walks, lay down when you’re having a coffee outside at Starbucks, wait for your OK to greet new people and dogs. Train your dog to sit and wait to be greeted by guests, move aside when you go to the refrigerator, and go to the bathroom on cue. Establishing these routines––and of course rewarding good behavior––helps create new patterns for house behavior that gives them strong guidelines, discipline, and confidence. Dogs want to be good and please us, we just have to show them how.


Ok, have you tried it all?? Then it’s time to dive into our reconditioning program:

9 Steps, 1 weekend: Reconditioning Protocol

1. Dedicate two, or even three days in severe cases, to having some time you can spend uninterrupted with your dog. (I know, I know, you’re busy and who has two days for a dog?? You do. Because the reward is a lovely balanced dog that fills your house with so much love. Best investment ever).

2. Prepare their den: this looks like a crate, or outdoor pen, or a dog-proofed room like the laundry room example.  dog cured of separation anxiety with music

3. Give your pup a chance to take care of any bodily functions outside, and then reenter the house together for 30 minutes of calm and close supervision. Introduce him to his beautiful new den with a happy vocal tone, treats, soft Through a Dog’s Ear playing, a stuffed KONG toy, good scents, and your clothing in it. Guide him inside and stay in the room together.

4. Initially, stay close and attentive, but not lasered on all his moves. Read a book, check email. Ignore any whining or fussiness. When he finally falls quiet, go over and calmly say hello, give affection. Then go back to your activity. Repeat many times: reward his behavior when he’s silent and not begging for attention. You’re teaching him that whining is not a rewarded behavior, and that you leave and return according to your own timeframe. He begins to understand: if you leave, you will return. During this time, it should only be you two in the house. He needs to learn that it’s ok to be alone.

5. Now, begin to step away, gradually increasing the distance between you. Leave the room and come back when he’s quiet. Go outside and return again under the same conditions (if you can fit this around your actual lived schedule and doing things, extra credit to you!). Eventually, you can wander around the house without upsetting your dog. He’s not finely tuned to your moves because he’s learning its random and not based on any behavior pattern of his. Therefore, he can’t make you react/come when he’s lonely. Every reentrance, greet him calmly and with love. Reward and tell ’em how good he is.

happy sleeping dog with no separation anxiety curled around an iCalmDog speaker

6. After an hour or so, take a break. Go outside for a pee and play time. Chase each other around and have some relaxed, untrained fun. Then go back inside and resume den training, following steps 4 and 5. This step is important because it clarifies the difference between training and play. He needs to know the difference between unstructured free time and disciplined work.

7. Day two: Continue to repeat steps 4 and 5 from the first day, but a little faster and with more distance this time. Follow your own intuition in determining length. Start to live your life, do chores around the house, but be sure to pop in frequently when he’s quiet and reward the good behavior. Dogs are smart and will very quickly learn they only get rewarded when they’re quiet and calm.

8. Keep increasing your distance. On day three or four, if he’s taking to the training well, try and step outside of the house. For short amounts of time initially. Return after 5 minutes and greet your dog, if he is quiet. You may lose a little momentum here as they are going to be more excited about your reentrance. But wait for quiet, then reward. It’s usually the first 20 minutes of separation that are most difficult. If it’s going well, continue varying times and distances. Remember to mix up the times so he doesn’t start anticipating your return. And of course plenty of outside breaks: young puppies will need every hour, older dogs can go for 3-4 hours, but try for more breaks during this training.

9. How’s it going? Are you stuck on some of these steps? If it’s not taking, you may have to spend longer amounts of time in each stage. Every dog is different and your own intuition will be the best guide for determining length in each stage. If you’re making absolutely no progress and your dog is freaking out, you just might need the personal help of a trained professional. But if it is going well, begin to live your life more normally, checking in and continuing to reward as often as possible with a modern schedule. Your dog, your family, and your clean rugs will thank you for this hard work in the long run. Cheers to you two! You just graduated separation anxiety academy!



Has your dog experienced separation anxiety? What have you found to help? Share your experiences in a comment below so I can improve this guide. Thanks for reading and sharing!


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Audio Books for Dogs… Calming or Confusing?

I’d share almost anything with my soul dog, Gina… my bed (by invitation), my food (when it’s good for her), my music, and so much more.

But, my Audible subscription?


I REALLY LOVE Audible…  for me. My reading habits have changed over the years, and now I listen to more books than I read. But, my listening titles are for me only. When Gina and I are in the car, I listen to my book on headset when driving while she enjoys her iCalmDog playing in her crate. When she’s home alone, I prefer to leave her with music playing that is specially designed for dogs, rather than audio books that were intended to be enjoyed by 2-leggeds.

Audio Books for Dogs claims to be helpful for anxious pets that don’t like being left at home alone. NPR recently asked me whether I thought audio books are calming for dogs. They included a very short clip of my answer on WAIT, WAIT… DON’T TELL ME! While I was honored to be interviewed on NPR, my reply was much more extensive and inclusive than what aired.

            (Click to hear and/or read all three stories.)

I think it’s fabulous that dog lovers are becoming aware how their sound environment affects their dogs. But, I believe that anxious dogs listening to audio books when home alone could easily backfire and actually cause anxiety. Dogs could experience sensory confusion when they can’t smell or see the person reading the book. Also, lower frequencies with slowed down tempi calm the canine nervous system. Higher frequencies charge the canine nervous system. A woman with a high voice range who gets animated at a peak in the story and starts speaking in louder, shorter tones, could actually stimulate the canine nervous system… not usually a desired behavior for an anxious dog left home alone.

I’m assuming the concept of audiobooks for dogs came from recent reading programs at shelters where children read to shelter dogs. That’s a very different scenario than a dog who is home alone hearing a voice but not being able to smell or see a person. When someone is sitting and reading to a shelter dog, it likely will be very calming to the pup. There’s nothing that would cause sensory confusion. And, many of these programs involve children reading. The dog’s presence often calms them, they are looking at their book instead of making direct eye contact with the shelter dog, and that in turn allows the dog to feel more comfortable. Once relaxed and calm, they’ll often feel confident enough to approach and sniff the child and may even ask for physical contact. They are engaging their senses rather than being put in a situation that could confuse them.

Audio books for my Lab Gina? Sure, if I’m reading to her, but not when it’s a voice foreign to her and belongs to a person she can’t see, smell or sniff. But, that’s ok. When I leave her home, her iCalmDog keeps her company and she does just fine.

Welcome to the iCalmPet Community!

When we launched Music to Calm your Canine Companion Vol. 1 in 2008, few people believed that sound therapy could help relieve separation anxiety, aggression issues, excessive barking, hyperactivity, and other stress related canine anxiety issues. Now, with thousands of testimonials added to the clinical research, more people are not only experiencing the benefits of sound therapy for their four-legged family members, but they are also enjoying the impact it’s having on the two-leggeds.

Currently, our music line includes 14 titles for dogs and cats, and it’s still growing. We have specialized music for puppies and seniors, music for the human-animal bond, and music for car trips, designed for driver alert/ dog relaxed. And don’t forget about iCalmCat as well!

For on-the-go dogs, there is iCalmDog 3.0 which functions as a pooch-focused iPod, without ear buds. iCalmDog is the portable solution to canine anxiety… anywhere! It comes in a choice of five packages and has optional training programs for separation anxiety and aggression.

I’m over the moon about my dog, Gina, (pictured right) and she’ll be appearing in my blog posts.

If you signed up for the iCalmPet Community emails and are also interested in reading posts from my award-winning blog, click here.

How about your dogs and cats? We have an active, engaging Facebook page with 12,000 dog lovin’ fans. Join us and tell us about your pups, ask behavior questions, and enjoy the fun community we’ve created.

Got cats? Join us at

Delivering Calm,
Lisa Spector
Pet Calming Maestro

About Lisa Spector

Lisa Spector, known as The Pet Calming Maestro, is a Juilliard graduate concert pianist. By combining her passion for music with her love of dogs, she co-created Through a Dog’s Ear, the only music clinically shown to relieve canine anxiety issues.

As co-founder of Through a Dog’s Ear and the pianist on the music series, she has appeared on the CBS Early Show, Martha Stewart Living Radio, and Victoria Stilwell’s Positively podcast. In 2012, Through a Dog’s Ear was featured on Good Morning America and their inaugural CD, Music to Calm your Canine Companion Vol. 1, reached Billboard’s Classical Top 20 Chart.

iCalmDog, the portable solution to canine anxiety, has been featured on The Today Show, The Hallmark Channel, USA Today and The Whole Dog Journal.

As a concert pianist, Lisa has won first prizes in Chopin competitions in New York and Los Angeles and has performed in China, Poland, Spain, France, Italy and throughout the U.S. (Click here for more on her concert career.)

Spector heads the Through a Dog’s Ear Music in Shelters” program, a project inspired by her volunteer work in shelters. Her piano playing is currently played in over 1,500 shelters and rescue organizations worldwide, where it is helping increase adoption rates. In addition to calming the dogs, it helps create a quieter atmosphere, encouraging visitors to stay longer and adoption rates to increase. The donated music is also sent home with adopters and their new forever dogs.

A former puppy raiser for Guide Dogs for the Blind, Lisa performs Classical Canine Concerts (for people and dogs) as fundraisers for non-profit animal organizations. Currently she shares her heart and her home in the San Francisco Bay Area with Gina, her  “career change” dog from Guide Dogs. She also raised Sanchez (R.I.P.), who became her inspiration behind Through a Dog’s Ear and the first official mascot.

Actively involved in dog agility, her dog Gina has earned numerous agility titles and competed at USDAA Cynosport 2014 & 2016. (United States Dog Agility Association Nationals).

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Deepening the Human-Animal Bond Through Music


The American Veterinary Medical Association describes the human-animal bond as
“A mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that is influenced by behaviors that are essential to the health and well-being of both. This includes, but is not limited to, emotional, psychological, and physical interactions of people, animals, and the environment.”

music for dogs

Sanchez and Gina lay by the piano every time I practice my concert repertoire. And, other times, I play music especially designed for dogs for them. There have been some very tender times involving music. But, a shared music experience with Gina in 2013 was one of the most connecting moments of my life. I experienced the human-animal bond at a profound and deep level. Time stood still as we listened to music together.

Saw Grass

I was with Gina in the compassion room of an ER veterinary clinic. Her lungs were quickly filling with fluid after eating a very thick saw blade grass. Yikes, the very sharp grass blade was over 9 inches!

There was a chance she wouldn’t survive the procedure. The vet suggested I prepare to say good-bye to her, just in case she didn’t make it.

I told the full story at my recent Canine Classical Concert. Click Gina’s picture to watch the short 90 second video. Find out what happened and hear the music that inspired us to deepen our connection.

It was such an emotional experience that it became the inspiration for Music for the Human-Animal Bond. The music creates well-being for all while supporting an emotional connection between people and their beloved dogs.


Has music ever deepened the human-animal bond for you and your dog? Thanks for sharing your experiences in a comment below.

Main Photo Credit: Viviana Guzman


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Can Music Really Heal Your Dog?


Four years ago, Sanchez was experiencing intense neck pain. My holistic veterinarian doesn’t have x-ray machines, so I took him to a neighboring clinic that does. I was told he would need to be sedated unless he could lay completely still on his back for the x-ray.  Not only was this a clinic that was new for him, but the veterinarian didn’t exactly have a calming presence. And, I wasn’t allowed to go into the x-ray room with Sanchez.

Fortunately, I had Through a Dog’s Ear downloaded on my iPhone. So, I asked if I could send in Sanchez’s calming music with him on my phone. The vet gave me a strange look, and then said, “well…. ok.” About 10 minutes later, he walked Sanchez out of the x-ray room and said, “We’re done. No need to sedate, he laid still and listened to the music. By the way, what is that magical music anyhow?”

I then realized the need for portable calming canine music and that experience planted the seed for iCalmDog. The clinically tested music in CD format was already calming hundreds of thousands of dogs at home and in shelters. What if dogs had a device that played their own music and could be taken anywhere? After all, people listen to their music on their mobile devices. What if Buster had his own specialized music on a player designed for him… sort of like an iPawd for dogs?


It turned out Sanchez was diagnosed with a slipped disc in his neck. Fortunately, he responded very well to acupuncture treatment, and it literally saved his life. Little did I know then how much I would need him to lay still during treatment. Taking iCalmDog to the vet clinic became a routine for us. Well, until my vet supplied iCalmDogs in all of her treatment rooms, so I didn’t need to bring my own.


More recently, Sanchez was recovering from E. coli. It was really touch-and-go for awhile, and I feared I was going to lose him. During that time, I was giving him subcutaneous fluids daily, cooking all his meals, and trying to never leave home alone. I was worried sick. My 13 and 1/2 year old Labrador seemed suddenly very old and frail. listening to calming canine music For a 3-week period, I was playing his favorite calming music, Elderly Canine on his iCalmDog almost around the clock. The soothing sound tracks were such a comfort to us both, I’m not sure who it helped more. And while he wasn’t up for his nightly bonding time through training, we shared some very tender moments together listening to music.

Sanchez Calm Dog

I’ll never know the full impact of music in his healing process, I’m just so grateful that Sanchez is just about back to his normal old self. And while we’re again training every night with yummy treats, we’ve also been enjoying some cuddle time together in the evenings while listening to his favorite music.

Has music helped heal your dog (or you)? Thanks for sharing your experiences in a comment below.

(Aside note: I can’t tell you how rewarding it is to walk into a very quiet vet clinic, see calm pets, and hear nothing except music especially designed for dogs and cats. I gave up my concert career to create music for our beloved 4-leggeds, and this is one of the ways I’m reminded that it was worth it.)



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Dogs and 4th of July Fireworks: How to Calm + How to Solve


July 4th is quickly approaching. It can be a fun holiday for children and adults, but most dogs don’t share their enthusiasm. In fact, almost all people with dogs in the U.S. declare this day the worst day of the year for their dogs. Veterinarians say July 3rd is usually the most trafficked day in their clinics, with clients coming in to get drugs for their dogs.

July 5th tends to be the busiest day of the year for shelters. Dogs become Houdini when they hear fireworks and escape from their yards that appear perfectly secure other days of the year.

7 Calming Tips for Calming Your Dog During Fireworks


1. Exercise

A tired dog is a happy dog. Take your dog for a big hike early in the day. Play fetch with him. Enjoy some training time together. Tug with her. These are all things that will tire her out before the fireworks begin, so she has less ability to focus on the disturbing noise.

iCalmDog dog home alone

2. Stay home

Keep your dogs inside during fireworks, preferably with human companionship. Bringing your dogs to a fireworks display is never a good idea. Instead, provide a safe place inside for your dogs to retreat. When scared of sounds they can’t orient, dogs often prefer small enclosed areas. I once had a dog who climbed into the bathtub during windstorms.

Sanchez See no Evil cropped

3. Remove visual stimulation

Keep your windows and curtains closed. Covering their crate and lowering the blinds can also be helpful. Removing visual stimulation has been known to calm dogs.

Gina Peanut Butter Kong

4. Keep them busy

Give your dog something fun to do that is distracting. Dogs enjoy the challenges of food puzzles. Feed him his dinner in a food puzzle. Freeze a kong with his favorite treats in the morning. For dessert, hand him the kong just when the fireworks start. He may even start to associate fireworks with yummy treats.

Please note: a very sound sensitive dog may not even take food when afraid of the noises and may also need the below suggestions…

Sensory Enrichment

Rescued Italian Greyhound Cyrus listens to his iCalmDog, or is it his iPawd?

5. Sound Therapy

Canine sound therapy can be a huge help for dogs afraid of fireworks. The rearranged classical compositions of Through a Dog’s Ear have been clinically shown to reduce canine anxiety, including fireworks phobia. As the pianist on the music series, it warms my heart hearing all the ways the music comforts dogs during stressful times.


Halle  even stopped jumping out of 12 foot high windows on July 4th once she discovered canine sound therapy. Some dogs also benefit from desensitization training programs that help them build a positive association to fireworks. We offer a variety of Fireworks Prep calming tools.

Sanchez Thundershirt

6. Tactile

There are two canine wraps on the market that reportedly help sound phobic dogs. The original Anxiety Wrap was created by professional dog trainer Susan Sharpe, CPDT-KA. The patented design uses acupressure and maintained pressure to reduce stress. Thundershirt is also a wrap for dogs that provides gentle, constant pressure. Many dog lovers use one of these wraps in combination with canine sound therapy.


7. Scent

Calm Aroma Mist can help dogs relax and cope more effectively with loud noises and other stressful situations. Spray Calm Aroma Mist in the room and on your dog’s crate. It’s equally enjoyable and calming for people.

Lisa and Sanchez July 4

Do you have any additional tips for helping keep dogs calm and safe on this noisy holiday? Thanks for sharing your suggestions in a comment below. And feel free to share how your dogs have responded to fireworks on previous holidays.

Sanchez, Gina and I wish you and your canine household a calm and safe 4th of July!



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8 Steps to Enriching Your Senior Dog’s Life

8 steps senior dogs

I can hardly believe that my yellow Labrador, Sanchez, is now 13 years old. I count my blessings that he is in good health and still enjoys our twice daily walks. But, I’m also aware that he can’t keep up to his activity level from even a year ago, let alone in his prime. I’m always looking for ways to provide mental stimulation to his environment without physically taxing his body.

1. Alone Time Together
It’s not always easy having a multi-dog household. But, it’s important to make a priority of having time alone with your pets daily. Since Sanchez was an only dog for the first seven years of his life, he particularly appreciates this. Walks do take longer (walking Gina separately), but it’s well worth the time when I see Sanchez’s smile of contentment.

2. Keep Training
Dogs love to learn, no matter their age. I still spend time training every night with Sanchez. If it gets late, he starts whining and begging for his training time with me. The bonding time is precious and it stimulates him to keep learning and being challenged. He has no complaints about his yummy rewards either. Dog training should always be fun for both 4- and 2-leggeds. Get creative with your senior pup. Because you can teach an old dog new tricks.

3. Give Him Attention in Creative Ways
Gina is a high-drive dog. We spend a lot of time in agility training, along with retrieving and tugging at home.  While it helps alleviate her pent up energy, Sanchez used to look neglected when she was getting the extra attention. So, I started sneaking him small treats while tugging with her. At night time, I often play ball with her inside, having her run down and up the stairs, chasing and retrieving the ball. I include Sanchez in the game by discreetly tossing him small treats while she’s running back up to me to deliver the ball. It not only makes him feel included, but it also engages his senses as his nose has to search for the tossed treat.

4. Reward. Reward. Reward.
In the video above, I am training both of my dogs together. Even though Gina is doing all the physical activity, Sanchez is getting equally paid for staying calm and still while she jumps over and goes under him. Good boy, Sanchez!

5. Pay Attention to New Behaviors
It’s not unusual for senior dogs to develop anxiety issues later in life that seemingly come out of nowhere. They can include sound phobias, separation anxiety or resource guarding. There are some that I just accept, such as tearing tissue out of the bathroom waste basket. I call it his puppy behavior returned. I just make sure that I don’t put anything in the trash that could be harmful when chewed. Other behaviors will only get worse if ignored, such as separation anxiety or food resource guarding. Ignored, they will only escalate.Tips for Separation Anxiety are here.

6. Keep The Safe Physical Activity
Sanchez and I used to enjoy musical freestyle classes. He would weave between my legs, spin and jump on my arm on cue. While that would be too taxing on his body now, we have kept in what is safe for him. He still loves to “go back,” lift his left and right paw on cue, and show off his “downward dog.”  Of course, he is well paid for his behavior.

7. Engage The Senses
National Association of Canine Scent Work (NACSW™) is the official sanctioning and organizing body for the sport of K9 Nose Work. It is a growing popular sport, and it’s great for dogs of all ages. K9 Nose Work is built on scent work where dogs use their nose to search for their prize. Sanchez loved his K9 Nose Work class. Now, at home, I put pieces of liver into a mixed variety of cardboard boxes. He is told to “find” the liver. Boy, does his tail ever wag when he is searching!

Sanchez upside down iCalmDog

8. Canine Sound Therapy
Most senior dogs don’t have the same tolerance for noise they used to in their youth. The immune system of a senior dog is often heavily taxed. A natural reaction is to self-limit the amount of auditory or visual stimulation coming into the system. That is why senior dogs will often shut down in overstimulating sound environments. Music to Comfort Your Elderly Canine has also been helpful for pain management with senior dogs and night-time restlessness. As you can see Sanchez loves his iCalmDog. The Elderly Canine pet tunes playing on it provided great comfort for Sanchez (and me) when he was recovering from a slipped disc in his neck.

What enrichment activities have benefited your senior dogs? Thanks for adding your stories in a comment below.


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5 Tips for Calming Dogs During The Holidays (with video)

December is my most stressful month of the year, and I’m not even much of a holiday shopper. Regardless, traffic intensifies, crowds expand, my workload increases, and my patience decreases.

The holiday season can be equally—if not more—stressful for our dogs. In addition to feeling the stress of their humans, holidays are also usually filled with changes to their daily routines and unfamiliar visitors, which can create anxious, stressed out dogs.

What Can You Do to De-Stress Your Dogs During The Holidays?

1. Routine
Dogs really thrive and build trust in us by keeping a familiar routine. If you normally walk them first thing in the morning, keep to that routine. If they eat dinner as soon as you come home from work, don’t delay their dinner by wrapping presents first. Remember, just one change in their routine can really throw them off. The holidays are usually filled with many changes.

2. Play Time
This is a good time of year to give them extra attention and playtime. Watch the very short video clip above. I created some extra fun playtime with Gina after some focused, high-distraction training. We were at a Guide Dogs for the Blind holiday party. ‘Career Change’ dogs were invited to play with the puppies in training for a fun game of Musical Chairs Down Dog – rules being that people couldn’t sit in a chair until their dogs were in a down stay. We celebrated our win at the end with a party. But, even if we hadn’t won, she still would have enjoyed some extra playtime with me.

Get Healthy, Get a Dog, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School reported on research with shelter animals.

“Human contact lowers their stress level, helping to calm them and make them more adoptable. The dogs that interacted with humans were found to have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their saliva. The effect was noted across all breeds and ages and both genders. Another study found a similar benefit on cortisol levels for dogs as well as better scores on behavior tests with just 25 minutes of exercise and human contact a day.”

Gina Peanut Butter Kong

3. A Room of Their Own
While some dogs might be able to be calm around guests, others will benefit from being in a room of their own in a quiet part of the house. Give them a nice chewy treat or a stuffed kong to keep them entertained, and play some soothing music specifically designed to calm the canine nervous system. If they are crate trained, they could find great comfort in spending some peaceful time in their crate.


4. Exercise
Like humans, dogs benefit from exercise, both for their health and behavior. Slacking off of their exercise routine will only make them more anxious and contribute to weight gain. Keeping them exercised will benefit you as much as them, especially if you exercise together.

Santa Sanchea Rabbi Gina with Gifts

5. Sound Therapy
While Sanchez and Gina, don’t know it’s December, I’m sure they feel my tension. As a canine music expert, I’ve learned how to relieve their stress (and mine) with music. The rearranged classical compositions of Through a Dog’s Ear have been clinically tested to reduce canine anxiety and have been successfully utilized by dog lovers world-wide. It’s equally soothing for 2-leggeds.

listen-samples-buster-headphonesHow do you help de-stress your canine household during the holidays? Thanks for sharing your stories in a comment below.