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Support Animals and Air Travel – What’s Changing in 2021

Guest post from our friend Amy Adams at National Service Animal Registry

flying with dogs in 2021 changes

Why are policies changing for emotional support animals on planes?

service dog on airplane calming music for dogs

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.

airport service animal calming download dog music

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

relaxing music for dogs being calm at airport

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.

More paperwork…

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.service dogs only airport calm dog

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.


anxious dog tries to travel airplane anxiety

Sorry Scottie, not this time!

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Together All the Time: At Home with Pets During Covid-19

dogs all calm, all together

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.


Calm dog annie

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.

dog soothing music x calming dog music

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.


calm dog Baxter with ball

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.


dog soothing music x calming dog music

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.


soothing dog music box for anxious dogs

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.


dog soothing music x calming dog music

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.


3 calm pets


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.


no longer anxious dog calming under soothing pet music

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.




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Keeping Your Dog Occupied at Home During Quarantine

(Guest post written by Mike Cahill, originally published at

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 – 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

Just Relax

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




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iCalmDog Reggae: 29 Surveyed Customers Transformed Our Belief

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.

♥️ iCalmPet



And fill your house with some groovy fun!

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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.

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Case Study: iCalmDog Music Stopped Barking Dog in Under 20 Seconds!

stop barking dog

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…

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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.