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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?

Nope!

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.