Why are policies changing for emotional support animals on planes?
Until recently, anyone who wanted to take their emotional support animal (ESA) on a plane didn’t have too much red tape to get through. The only requirement was that they present a letter from their mental healthcare provider, stating that the animal in question was necessary for emotional support.
Unfortunately, this policy became commonly used as a loophole for pet owners who didn’t want to pay the $75+ onboard pet fee that a typical airline would charge. A small industry actually grew up around providing pet owners with letters that would identify their pet as an ESA, which led to a high number of in-air incidents involving untrained animals. Not only were there dogs and cats brought onto planes as ESAs, but also birds, pigs, rabbits, reptiles, and rodents.
While fraudulent ESAs were a big part of the problem, the real ones (like those from the National Service Animal Registry) weren’t necessarily any better. An ESA is only required to have the same amount of training as an ordinary pet – in other words, it isn’t required to have any training at all. Airline staff and disgruntled passengers felt that it wasn’t enough to simply make it harder to fake having an ESA, since the purpose of the animal wasn’t the issue; by the time steps were being taken to fix the problem, most people felt like a clean sweep was the best way forward.
What are the new ESA flying guidelines?
Consequently, the Department of Transportation decided that it would take concrete steps to reduce the number of animal-related incidents on airplanes. On December 2nd of this year, the DOT announced that starting in early 2021, only registered service animals would be allowed to accompany their owners without extra fees or crates. Service animals, in this case, would be restricted to dogs, and the owners would need proof that the dog had been trained to mitigate the effects of a specific disability. The new definition mainly follows the guidelines laid out by the Americans with Disabilities Act, without considering miniature horses to be service animals.
Because of this new definition, ESAs will effectively be reduced to the same status as ordinary pets. Their owners will have to pay the applicable fees, and the pet will have to be restrained with a leash or crated. Also, if any animal is showing signs of aggression or other disruptive behaviors, an airline has the right to deny the animal entry to the passenger section of the plane. Simply having a letter from a mental healthcare provider won’t be enough; there has to be proof of training for a specific task related to the owner’s disability.
Yes, these new regulations don’t specify that an animal has to be trained to behave appropriately around people, but the regulations will still end up excluding untrained animals. Service animals are generally very well trained, and the updated regulations assume that any animal that can guide a blind person through crowded spaces will have enough self-control to avoid biting other passengers, or relieving itself without alerting its owner.
What do these changes mean for owners with service dogs?
Owners of ESAs will have the biggest changes to deal with, but people with service animals will have to make
adjustments as well. The 2021 regulations will require any service dog to be appropriately restrained with either a halter or a leash; an exception will be made only if this type of restraint would keep the animal from doing its job.
Another major change in requirements is that all service animals must fit on either their owner’s lap, or under the plane seat. While airlines can’t exclude specific breeds, this does effectively rule out some larger dog varieties. Each individual is allowed to bring a maximum of two dogs with them, which is also a new rule.
The DOT has issued new required documents to go along with the updated regulations. Owners of service dogs will now have to present two forms, along with any additional forms required by the airline. The first is the US Department of Transportation Service Animal Air Transportation Form, which is an assurance that the dog has been trained for a specific task. The second is the US Department of Transportation Service Animal Relief Attestation, which promises that the dog has been properly trained on how and when to relieve itself in public.
When the new regulations were announced, ESA advocates weren’t happy. As many as ten months before the announcement, the DOT had indicated that changes to the current rules on ESAs and service dogs were underway. More than 15,000 comments were posted, and over a third of them strongly urged lawmakers not to alter the status of ESAs. Even though this feedback was considered when the time came to draft the new regulations, the decision was ultimately made to stop allowing unrestrained ESAs onto planes.
For anyone with an emotional support animal, this could be hard to accept. The overall response from people with ESAs has been that this rule would make plane travel even more difficult than it already is. If someone has a condition like PTSD, anxiety, or depression, it could be so severe that plane travel is impossible for them without the presence of their ESA. If their support animal doesn’t fit the guidelines that apply to regular pets for onboard plane travel, this could effectively bar them from using airlines altogether.
The most optimistic view of the new regulations is to look at them as an overreaction to a relatively new phenomenon. The number of pets being transported on airlines has increased dramatically in the past few years; according to Delta Airlines, a quarter-million animals flew on their planes in 2017, but by 2019 the number had risen to well over half a million animals. Whatever the failings of ESA training requirements, it seems that they were the beginning of an issue that grew way beyond them.
ESA owners may be dealing with the consequences of something they’re only partly responsible for, but for now that’s just the hand they’ve been dealt. Airline travel won’t be as easy anymore, but for most people it won’t be impossible; it’ll just take a bit more planning beforehand.
On July 21st of this Covid year, we sent these questions to our iCalmPet email list. We asked for feedback on our iCalm Gift Downloads Program, which we started as a response to Covid, and their experiences of it in quarantine. We were curious what it was like for people to be with their pets (and vice versa) all the time!
How’s it felt to be in isolation with your animals?
Has it brought you closer? Farther?
What is most stressful?
How do you and your pet relieve stress?
Do you get on each other’s nerves?
How do you deal with it?
What is most comforting?
Would you like to share anything else related to Covid and pets?
We loved the responses we received – they were honest, emotional, and completely unguarded. It was not our original intention, but we were so moved by the replies––these beautiful and honest accounts of life in quarantine––we decided to piece together a story. A snapshot of human life in these unprecedented times.
iCalm Community Shares
My two dogs and I have been in lock down since March 12th. In some ways the dogs have been happy that I am home all the time. In other ways they wish I’d go out! I have learned that there are days when we need to just have the house quiet for several hours. We are fortunate to have a back yard so each day we spend several hours just enjoying the weather. I also do yoga in the den and go for walks by myself.
– Lisa with Bess & Cooper. Portland, OR.
Our coton du Tulear, age 2.5, has become our therapy dog! She brings so much joy into our lives, and walking her several times a day gets us outside (even in the heat) and enhances our physical health. Also, I bought an excellent book, “The Big Book of Tricks for the Best Dog Ever.” It has very clear instructions and photos. We are working our way through the book, and it is fun to see her enjoy the training and gain new skills. We train almost every day as part of the routine we have developed. We are retired and have a LOT of free time, as we are isolating here in Florida, where the infection rate is very high.
– Susan with Annie. Florida.
What is most stressful? Not stressful so much as disappointing for him has been somewhat reduced physical contact with other people, which my dog very much enjoys, during our daily walks. Most stressful for me has been the inability to be with him when he has to go to the vet — handing him over in the parking lot and then talking to the vet on the phone rather than being in the room. I understand the need for the new protocols, but I don’t like them. Fortunately for me, however, my dog does not mind going to the vet, and he’s perfectly comfortable with everybody there and probably doesn’t miss having me in the exam/treatment room.
What is most comforting? Just being able to spend time with my dog (he will be 11 years old next month) and to give him the loving, safe, comfortable, stable, social, and happy life he deserves (and didn’t have for his first two years of life). – Pat with Bo. Connecticut.
We only have each other, with no other family members in the house. So we really rely on each other for comfort, companionship and physical contact. We are so glad to have each other to hug. We go for a couple of walks each day and are able to visit a few neighbors (from a distance), but no one else is allowed to touch Baxter, and he can’t even sniff his canine friends that we meet on our walks. We all have to just wave at each other from across the street and say how we are all looking forward to the time when we can actually get together again.
– Rudi & Baxter. San Jose, CA.
What is most stressful? All the changes. We are getting used to some of them, but I believe people are created as social beings and having masks, (needed I know!) and staying away from each other even though we can talk, we can’t hug or pat each other on the back or any other normal physical signals we give one another. Masks are more stressful for dogs and cats as they are unable to read our facial expressions. We have taken away a great many cues from them with masks.
– Susan, Tobie, and Cooper. Livermore, CA.
Lockdown has actually been a blessing in disguise in a way. Yes, there have been struggles, but it has allowed me to focus more time on training and playing with my dog.
– Ollie’s Human.
I live alone so my dogs have been a lifeline. We do walk most mornings and I attend an outside dog training class which also gives us things to work on during the week. Who knows when all of this will be behind us so I’m endeavoring to do the best everyday. Is it easy, well no, but this is the only day I have.
– Kathy and the Poodles. New Mexico.
After months of isolation, I value my animals even more. I live with another person, but find myself talking to my dog and three cats more than her. I observe their habits, their charming quirks as well as their skill at manipulating me! But I also am fearful about the future, as this pandemic has upset life as we know it. The virus is spreading fast in my location, with more hospitalizations and more deaths. My greatest fear is, if I should become incapacitated and/or die, who will care for my babies? Who would give them a home? Who would give them the affection and attention they know now?
– Harriet. Chattanooga, TN.
It has been wonderful. I’d be a wreck without my 2 dogs. I’m 3 kinds of high risk, so I’m home full time. It has definitely brought us closer together.
They get on my nerves when they need attention and I’m focusing on my computer. The best way to deal with it is to remember they know best, and it’s time for a break.
Most comforting? Sleeping with them curled up next to me.
Anything else? The best way to start the day is with a snuggle and stretch fest.
– Gayle with Merry & William.
Anonymous Feedback That Touched Us
Since Covid, both I and my husband take Kiko out for long walks (our exercise, too). So much togetherness may have become too much for Kiko. I’ve noticed she spends more time in the yard enjoying the sun, grass and occasional animals. She plays “keep away” if I try to entice her to come into the house.
How’s it felt to be in isolation with your animals? Having my pets required I keep some semblance of a routine, which I think was mentally and emotionally healthy for me. They also were a source of love and comfort.
Do you get on each other’s nerves? Maybe some times. It was probably more me just being stressed about all the change I was dealing with. I tried to keep it all in perspective and be in the moment rather than worry about things I can’t control. I didn’t always do it well.
What is most comforting? Having people and pets around me who love me. By around me, I also mean being able to call and FaceTime family and friends.
I was not able to work from home when this started in March, so my Ruby girl dog and I just sat around and listened to the micro SDs we already have. We loved being with each other 24/7. Then, in June I was ordered to go into the office so I could work, but my Ruby girl was not too happy about that. She was now used to me being home with her. So, since telecommuting will be around for a while with my company, I’ve just purchased my own computer, etc. so I can set up an office at home. I’m so looking forward to being with my Ruby girl every day again.
Having my pets with me during this crisis has been such a great source of comfort to me and no, we have not gotten on each others’ nerves at all. For me, the most stressful part of this is watching the world change before my eyes, and knowing that this crisis will have a lasting impact on the world as we know it. So many businesses will be closing, so many empty buildings will remain. Restaurants/businesses I’ve known and loved have been unable to survive, and the way of life we’ve all had is forever changed. I think it’s time for a dog hug now…
Being together 24/7 has been fun, frustrating, tiring at times. Eli (rescue YorkiePoo, just turned 9 years old last week) and I have had to figure it out as we went along. He was accustomed to having “alone” time every day, and suddenly that changed as it did for everyone.The most stressful thing is that now Eli thinks this is the norm, and when I leave he gets very upset. He is more clingy and “demanding”. The internal doggy clock is so accurate, and if I deviate a minute from feeding time he barks and whines and will not take a “just a minute” answer. He is aggravating about that, where he never used to be.
He gets on my nerves by relentlessly telling me it’s time for his dinner, or it’s time for me to go in the kitchen and cook a meal, or it’s time to go to bed. Everything has to be done when he wants it done, and it gets easier to just let him have his own way. I get on his nerves by telling him “no” so often, or “just wait a minute”.
What is most comforting is cuddling in the big bed, settling down to sleep. His sweetness shows up then, and all the aggravation and stress falls away.This has been a very unusual, stressful, frightening time. Your music downloads have been a big help. When he’s been irritating me, and I have been irritating him, we sit down and listen to some of it and we calm right down.
24/7 lockdown with my animals has been a blessing! Because I leave the house less often, when I do leave, my pup gets a little anxious. Ever since he came to live with me, I’ve used iCalm recordings as a ritual when I leave the house. He knows as soon as turn on the little Bluetooth player that I’m getting ready to leave. He looks for the special treat he gets when I go out the door, takes it to his bed, and settles down. It’s helped so much to have this ritual!
How’s it felt to be in isolation with your animals? I love it. I can spend more quality time with Shelby, we exercise more, I feel less guilt as now I am not leaving her home alone for extended hours every day.
What is most stressful? She is used to having me near all the time as I am able to work remote. Now when I leave for an hour or two, she is anxious (she is a nervous dog anyway, very sensitive to noise). I’m a bit concerned when I will have to go back to the office.
I have 7 cats who may or may not be “listening” when I play the download, but I play it every week for me and then my calmness enables me to be calm with them- less afraid, less anxious, moving slower. The coronavirus was so scary at first that I felt ungrounded and I read too much news and the music is like a step “back to earth.” I have been working at home (on Zoom and Skype) for many years, so this was not a big change, but it’s easy to feel like a robot after a morning on Zoom.
My dog (lab mix named Carbon) has actually been calmer in the last few months. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence, and maybe he just aged out of some of his anxiety (he’s 5), or because we’re home all the time (he wasn’t totally alone much before because we mostly work from home), but either way it’s nice!
There is no question in my mind that, without my dear Sadie (a small poodle mix of about 10 years), I don’t know how I would have survived this COVID situation thus far! I will be 82 years old next month, and live alone in a small but lovely little bungalow in Berkeley, CA. My daughter and her family had originally adopted Sadie from a poodle rescue about 8 years ago. Unfortunately (for them), they discovered after a week or so that one of my granddaughters was allergic to Sadie–in spite of their hopes that, as a poodle, that would not be an issue. Sadie moved in with me–and I have been the beneficiary.
Sadie and I have always been good companions, but this pandemic has taken our relationship–and our interdependence–to a new level! We have become “co-dependent”! Though the outbreak has required that we “shelter-in-place”, the rules do permit “walking the dog”, and that we do on a twice daily basis (though it is more often that Sadie walks me than the reverse!). Having Sadie by my side (literally as well as figuratively) has been the main thing that has enabled me to remain healthy as well as SANE during this state of isolation. The slight “downside” of this co-dependence is that, on the rare occasion that I go somewhere and must leave Sadie behind, e.g., grocery shopping, Sadie becomes very stressed. She is not destructive, but she is clearly miserable.
(Guest post written by Mike Cahill, originally published at https://www.redfin.com/blog/keeping-your-dog-occupied-during-quarantine/)
At this point, the majority of us have begun to feel the side effects of being stuck inside our homes during the quarantine. Whether it be boredom, fatigue, or just an overall lack of energy, at least we can understand what’s going on around us. Our furry four-legged friends, on the other hand, do not. This is just one reason why we need to keep our dogs engaged both physically and mentally during this global downtime. To provide our readers with engaging and inventive ways to make sure our best friends get the brain and body exercise they need, we reached out to experts in dog training and behavior from Miami to Sacramento. Continue reading to discover new ways to keep your dog occupied while stuck at home during quarantine. Who knows, you just might be entertained yourself!
Try something new
Have fun and play puppy ping pong! Everyone in the household takes their turn calling Fido and giving them a treat when they come. It is a great way to exercise your pup while working on their recall. – Newman’s Dog Training
Play hide ‘n seek with your pup, it’s a great way to keep the kids occupied as well. The kids or even an adult first go down a hallway, ‘hiding in plain sight,’ but eventually, the game becomes more challenging, all while an adult enforces a sit/stay. Also, dump the food bowl, feed your dog from food dispensing toys and food puzzles – unless your dog is geriatric or has medical issues, we know dogs actually benefit feeding in this manner. You might even hide food dispensing toys and food puzzles randomly during the day for your dog to sniff out. – Steve Dale certified animal consultant
Teach your dog to play ‘Find It’ by tossing a treat 6-10 feet away from your dog then telling your dog to ‘Find it’. Let your dog sniff out the treat but be sure to give your dog a hint if they lose interest before they find the treat. Once your dog catches on, you can hide treats in a room, tell your dog to ‘Find it!’, and let your pup get their energy out trying to sniff out some tasty treats. – Paws at Home
Ok, we’re obviously biased, but have a dance party! Movement releases stress for both you and your pup, bringing you closer together as you wiggle around. We’d shamelessly recommend iCalmDog Reggae, we produced it just for this. – iCalmPet
Now that many of us (and our pets) are more homebound than we would probably like, I can tell you that we typically do better with this than our dogs do. We understand what’s going on—they don’t, so we need to think about how we can make sure they’re getting enough exercise. The backyard, a long hallway, or even a large family room can become a makeshift dog park. Remember, they need their activity, and will go “stir-crazy,” and possibly develop some bad habits if they don’t get it! – Fi
The Pet Divas is trying to find the best ways to keep our current client pups happy while also keeping our owners happy! With no way to socialize with other dogs and play fetch in community parks, we have set up 6 feet jogging trail dates. We meet. Stand 6 feet apart, make the dogs sit at each intersection, jog, and walk on our area trails. We add new dogs to the mix each day so that they not only have a new friend to meet, it gives them some more to focus on during walks/runs. We reward them with frozen Kongs and peanut butter. We are also passing out painted rocks with paws on them (if we walk 10 dogs that day, we bring 10 rocks) along the trail for anyone to pick and keep. – The Pet Divas
Keep your dog entertained during quarantine by setting up a treat hunt and/or playing hide and seek! Simply place treats in easy to sniff out places around your house and cheer them on throughout your home! Or, get your kids involved and play a good old fashioned game of hide and seek! Have your dog sit and stay, then walk to a different area in the house and use your “come” command! Reward with a yummy prize for a job well done! – Prized Pet
Turn up the music and pull out a pair of old long socks. You’re probably antsy from being stuck inside and so is your pup. I never met a dog that doesn’t love socks, so make a rope out of a pair and turn the music on. Your favorite dance music. Play tug of war while you dance around your entire home. Make sure you have the windows open, that fresh air coming in can help both of you feel less isolated and your neighbors can enjoy that music too. Of course, it helps if you sing along, I’m sure your dog would join in as well…I know mine do! Twice a day is ideal to keep both of your spirits up. – Jen Loves Pets
These are unprecedented times during which we are spending an unprecedented amount of time with our pets, and they love it! It’s important to remember that just as this time is a transition for you, it is also a transition for your pets, and any new situation can be stressful, which is why we recommend introducing new enrichment activities into your pet’s daily routine that can help build resilience and strengthen their ability to cope during stressful situations. These activities can include turning mealtime into a game; allowing them to express natural behaviors like chewing, pouncing, scratching, and sniffing in an appropriate way; and ensuring that our pets get enough rest now that we are spending the majority of our time at home with them. – Atlanta Humane Society
Take this time to train
With everyone social distancing and staying home, it’s a perfect time for the whole family to take part in reward-based dog training exercises and teach that old or new dog a few more tricks (or basic obedience). With adult supervision, kids can learn responsible pet ownership, animal advocacy, and empathy while entertaining the family dog with a lot of positive attention and training exercises. Dog training can become part of your daily homeschooling. For ideas, exercises, and homeschool curriculums, check out GoodDoginaBox.com. – Good Dog in a box
Take this time to practice the heel command during walks with your dog. Most dogs like to pull ahead on the leash like a Sled Dog. In order to get a dog that walks at your side under control, try this tip: as the dog nears the end of the 6 ft. leash you change direction 180° and tug firmly and command heel while proceeding the opposite direction. This will teach your dog to walk at your side rather than pull ahead – Pete Fischer, Senior Dogtra Consultant
Waggit pet parents are doing an awesome job keeping their pups entertained in these shelter-in-place times as total miles walked is up 108% and total time active is up 187%. Top ideas that were shared at one of our recent Virtual Happy Hours included 1) Practice training on walks to ensure social distancing- when someone else is coming down the trail, stop and practice look at me and sit/stays or even pup pushups. 2) Treat toys, treat toys, treat toys- use them to feed entire meals! 3)Kids practice reading as pups make the best audience. 4)Enjoy the extra snuggle time! – Waggit
Encourage Mental Stimulation
The best way to tire a dog out is to engage their mind. Virtually all dog trainers recommend puzzle toys and with PupPod, the game gets harder as your dog gets smarter. As your dog learns the game, you can add distance between the smart toy and rewards to provide physical exercise too — like creating a doggie Stairmaster. – PupPod
Mental enrichment is essential for keeping dogs occupied during quarantine. When your dog is kept busy, there is less of a chance they will get bored and act out. Things, like playing games, using puzzle toys, and teaching your dog a new trick, will aid in keeping their mind active! You click here to purchase a Canine Coworker Kit designed to keep your dog busy while you’re working from home! – Presidential Pet Care
An often overlooked aspect of keeping your dog healthy is mental stimulation. A smart toy like PlayDate that moves around simulates play with a live animal. This keeps your furry friend mentally stimulated while getting a great workout, all without having to leave the house! – PlayDate
Make mealtime more interactive
The best advice we can give is to keep your pet healthy and engaged. Add mental stimulation and exercise to your dog’s day by making mealtime a challenge with an obstacle course set up leading to their food. Teach your dog a new trick- or better yet- involve your kids to keep both of them occupied at once. Pick up a healthy habit like daily grooming or teeth brushing routines. Start small by getting your pet used to the motions and work up to everyday routines for a healthier pet! – PetValu
One of the best ways to entertain both you and your pup is through snuffle mats! These mats of mayhem are fun for humans to make (you can learn how to do that here), and they tap into your dog’s instinctive need to sniff and forage for food. They’re a great way to keep both you and your dog busy, so snuffle on! – Humane Society of Pikes Peak Region
With all of these great tips for keeping your pet occupied while you WFH (work-from-home), don’t forget to keep them adequately hydrated! Kleanbowl is free of bacteria, viruses, and plaque germs –including those dishwashers do not get hot enough to kill — so they drink more water because their bowls look and smell clean, resulting in healthier hydration and enhanced energy and mood! – Kinn Inc.
Sometimes all you need is a good toy
If you’ve exhausted your usual dog walking routes during quarantine, try some creative exercise activities at home! Get a bubble machine and blow bubbles for your pup to chase + “bite”, fill some Kongs with treats + seal with peanut butter to keep them occupied during your Zoom meeting, or provide some mental exercise with toddler toys you may have laying around like a beads wire maze for them to paw or nose around with! – Purrs and Grrrs
If you’re stuck inside, Kong’s with fillers are always a great go-to, and freezing the peanut butter inside helps it last longer. Frozen raw beef marrow bones are another great way for your dog to occupy time, our top seller is No Hide by earth animal. If you’re able to go outside a few of our favorite toys are Chuck-It and Fly & Fetch by spunky pup. If nothing else, a nice long walk should always do the trick. – Canine Carousel
This may sound woo-woo, but it works! Try calming canine sessions or joint meditations to not only bond with your dog but also reduce anxiety and stress. Start by hitting play on a chill tune from the Relax My Dog YouTube channel. Next, sit on the floor with your pup and place your hand on their belly. For every few breaths they take, you’ll take one deep breath. Before you know it, your best friend will feel super loved (and relaxed), and you’ll feel energized to rock that next Zoom work call! – Hoby Dogy
Looking for activities to do with your dog in quarantine? Try doga (dog yoga)! Doing yoga with your dog can help reduce stress and anxiety, improve circulation, and mellow out a hyperactive dog. – Right Fluff
Dogs need both physical and mental stimulation to keep them occupied so games that involve a bit of a challenge, basic commands and get excess energy out are an excellent solution. High-energy activities are perfect for your hyper breeds, such as creating household hurdles and tunnels in the hallway, fetch in the backyard, or a game of hide and seek with the kids. Calmer dogs might enjoy lowkey, mentally-stimulating games, such as creating interactive puzzles (think pieces of food in a muffin tin covered by tennis balls) or a Kong toy stuffed with peanut butter and kibble. – RCO Petcare
The highlight of your pet’s day is when you spend time with them. They do not have friends to call or face time with. They do not have favorite television shows to watch. They have only you! Take the time while you are quarantined to spend time with you and your pet….quality time just sitting and talking to them. Trust me, they will appreciate it and it will be the highlight of their day, week, and month! – Pet Wellness Clinics
When all of this is over
We know what happens when we assume, but we’re willing to go out on a limb for this assumption: We will return back to work at some point. This will come with a variety of its own challenges, including a sad doggo.
Having you home has made them expect constant companionship. Even if you’re not always playing with them, it’s likely been such a delight that you’ve been in the same vicinity as them all day, every day. But there are some things you can do to make the transition easier.
Start gradually making sure they have independent time while you’re still home. You can start small, maybe in 15-minute increments. You could do this by keeping them in a separate room (with a delicious treat, of course) or, if it’s safe for you to do so, actually leave the apartment/house and just walk to the corner and back.
Make sure they do not only depend on you for entertainment. You’re obviously the greatest thing since sliced bread, and nothing is as fun or cool as you in the eyes of your dog. But interactive toys (see above for ideas) are a great way for them to get stimulation on their own. You could start incorporating them now so that they’re already used to self-entertaining, and it’ll seem more normal to them when you’re off to work.
Take them for a day of play with their fellow furry friends at Skiptown! Doggy daycare is a great way to keep them active and entertained all day without you having to worry. Skiptown CLT is set to open this summer, and we’re so pumped to give your dog the BEST DAY EVER every day. – Skiptown CLT
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 called
(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.
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:
Normal conversation: 40
Dishwasher, microwave, furnace: 60
Blow dryer: 70
City traffic: 70
Garbage disposal, vacuum cleaner: 80
Danger Zone Decibels:
Lawn mower: 90
Screaming child: 90
Power drill: 110
Fire engine siren: 140
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.
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:
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.
Has your dog had medications recently? Internally digested, or externally applied to the canal?
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.
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.
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.
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 volume.
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 😉
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
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 into 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:
Dogs 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. Instead, they grab your shoe and run into the kitchen, maybe start digging in the yard.
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:
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
your dog doesn’t seem anxious, it’s probably just boredom/lack of exercise.
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 is 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-relate
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.
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.
Now imagine that creature, living in 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 perfectly 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? First, 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:
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.
Change of Household: Moving houses is another common reason. Or perhaps they’ve started going to a boarding facility? Again, pay attention to any potential change in the environment.
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!
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?
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
This 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:
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.
Make sure they have ample access to food and water (and ideally, a place to relieve themselves).
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. When you’re home together, I suggest starting the music–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:
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 do not treat the solution. Plus, who wants to be paying for gallons of CBD dog treats for 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
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. So make sure your phrase conveys the tone you want. For example, I would probably say, “Goodbye, Yara. I’ll be home after work.”
Mix Up Your Patterns
Dogs are smart. They are constantly studying all of our behaviors, actions, and routines. For example, 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. Likewise, 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. For example, 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.
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 it’s 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.
6. After an hour or so, take a break. Go outside for a pee and playtime. 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 from the 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!
We knew iCD Reggae would work––it’s based on the same scientific and bioacoustic principles as our time tested classical music––we just didn’t know exactly how it would bring calm. It’s mostly drums and bass guitar for heaven’s sake!
So we sent out a survey to 29 random customers to learn how it was working in their households, and we heard stories like these:
“I enjoy dancing with them to the Reggae music. We have fun”
“As the moods of the people change, the dogs are positively affected”
“My 4 month puppy stays active but in a calmer, less destructive way”
“This music is focusing and invigorating”
“Abby has a neurological disorder, but she crawls when I play Reggae for her, I love it”
“I really enjoy the reggae and my dogs are settling quicker in the car”
“I’ve noticed my mood remains steady and uplifted”
“Definitely more effective with the older dogs as I feel the bass is felt as much as it is heard”
These comments share a common thread. A story of dogs who are stressed, but when fun music comes on, suddenly their owners are groovin’ to the upbeat tunes and the whole household gets lighter and happier. The music is collectively relaxing everyone’s nervous systems.
This is the healing power of having fun together:
It rewires patterns of fear and stress.
It allows you to remember the joy and love from first bringing that furry little bundle into your home.
It returns your family to a space of calm and connection.
Healing pet families is why we do what we do.
We’re so thrilled and proud to bring you iCalmDog Reggae, music that brings joy back to your relationships.
I started reading the book, Through a Dog’s Ear, soon after starting to work at iCalmPet. Even though the book was published in 2008, I found there was just too much fascinating and relevant information to keep locked up on the shelves! So in collaboration with the author and our co-founder, Joshua Leeds, I’m going to use this space to discuss some of the most interesting and useful parts of the book. According to Joshua, the research and theory explored in this book form the theoretical foundations of iCalmPet, and the basis of all the auditory pet products we bring to the world.
Dogs are infinitely adaptable to our human lives––its why we have them for pets and not cheetahs––they’ve been hard-wired by eons of co-evolution to attune to the rhythms of our lives. But now, more than ever, they have to work so hard to find their place within our hectic modern human environment.
But what happens when they can’t adapt? When you’re flying around the house late for work, and the kids are fighting, and the kettle is screaming… your dog completely picks up on this energy and looks for the threat and is reaaaally anxious to help!?!
This example is what the sensory environment of your home can present to your pet’s psyche, and plays a huge role in their behavior. Imagine it from their point of view, and how confusing all these signals must be. Now imagine how it feels to your cat or dog, to be in your living space, on an average day. If you’re having trouble with your animal, pay attention and see if their sensory environment might be a stressor. Whether it is the scenario above, or a hundred others, sound and other sense elements have a huge influence on your pet.
“Through a Dog’s Ear is designed to initiate conversation and raise awareness about the impact of the sonic environment upon our canine companions”
Unfortunately for most of us modern humans, we can’t always control the sonic environment of our homes–surrounded by cityscapes, construction, and very close proximity to neighbors. All day, our dogs hear television noises, neighbors talking, phones ringing, alarms beeping; sonic debris from an unbelievable variety of sources––especially for a creature who hears at 20,000 Hz above humans, over twice our capacity––and just don’t make sense to a creature that evolved and developed all its auditory programming for a life in the wilderness.
So knowing that sound is only second to the sense of smell, and understanding that in most instances, we are bombarding our pets with sounds they have no control over and no context for… what do we do? Just like people, animals are tuned differently from one another. One can take anything that comes their way; others hide under the bed and won’t come out for three days.
Does any of this sound familiar? Do you have to deal with the effects of an unsettled animal?
We imagine you’re here because you probably do. And since they can’t communicate with us, we must learn to communicate with them: first by listening and tuning in to their environment.
Like this article? It’s the first in a series of Through a Dog’s Ear discussions. If you’d like to suggest a specific topic or have a thought or comment about this one, feel free below 🙂
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.
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.
I was recently in Arizona with Gina for Cynosport World Agility Games. And down in the main arena, I noticed that all of the stimulation was getting to be a bit overwhelming for Gina (and for me too!). To make matters worse, our crating area was near a non-stop barking dog. An anxious border collie that was way too overstimulated!
To help her reduce her anxiety and increase concentration and circulation, I signed Gina up for a canine massage with Dr. Cindy DiFranco while iCalmDog played in the background.
During the 5-day trial, I had been leaving Gina’s iCalmDog on her crate in-between runs. But, the barking dog in our crating area was driving us crazy! So, I asked the handler if I could bring over my iCalmDog to see if the clinically-tested music reduced his barking. I have to admit, Nim’s barking was so intense that I wasn’t even sure it would work, but watch the video below to see what happened in 20 seconds.
How to stop your dog from barking:
That’s the power of bioacoustically-designed iCalmDog music! Even in the most possible stressed environment!
Now how it get it next door to my neighbor’s dogs that are always awake at 3 am…
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.”
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.
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
Olivia Fromm is a writer who’s dearly in love with everything wild. When she’s not writing for the iCalmPet blog or fulfilling your orders, time in nature with her dog Yara is her bread and butter.