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I’ll Choose Door Number …???

A year ago my life changed. Because of my deep desire to improve the lives of dogs using sound therapy, I made the decision to sell my music school that I owned for 14 years and devote my full working time to the growth and expansion of Through a Dog’s Ear. Although it appeared as a decision I made, it felt as if life just made it for me. I just followed the signs that were showing up.

It is often said that when one door closes, another opens. When I said good-bye to my music school, I wasn’t sure what doors would open, I just trusted there were magnificent gifts behind all the doors.

Door #1: In January 2011, I attended Clicker Expo and met Victoria Stilwell, star dog trainer on Animal Planet’s “It’s Me or the Dog”. She had played Music to Calm your Canine Companion for stressed out dogs on several of her shows, with great results, so she was very familiar with Through a Dog’s Ear. Through the course of several months, Joshua Leeds and I enjoyed phone conferences with her, brainstorming ideas for a collaborative project. When discussing the needs of dogs, we wanted to create an auditory tool for the prevention and treatment of canine anxiety disorders, hence the creation of our joint project, the Canine Noise Phobia series.

CNP is an innovative desensitization training tool that combines three distinctive elements:

  • progressive sound effects (distant/close)
  • specially-designed psychoacoustic music (Through a Dog’s Ear)
  • reward-based reinforcement protocols (Victoria Stilwell)

We launched CNP at the Association of Pet Dog Trainer’s Conference in San Diego in October 2011, where Joshua and I were co-presenting. We were thrilled with the enthusiastic response from all the trainers and have enjoyed all the wonderful testimonials coming in since the October launch, including this from N. Weller in St. Louis, MO.

“I am preparing for the New Years Eve firworks. We are relaxing to the Canine Noise Phobia Fireworks CD. My skittish Greyhound fights hard to stay awake. The subtle fireworks make him stare at the speaker. Then he drifts off. 75+ lb brindle boy, sleeping like a baby. Mom might have to curl up too.”                

Door #2: When we launched our first CD in 2008, we knew that it would help calm dogs in shelters (as phase one of clinical research was tested in shelters), and we were hopeful that it would help increase adoption rates. So we started providing CD’s at cost to shelters and rescue organizations. The shelters played the two CD’s we sent them, Music to Calm your Canine Companion Vol. 1 and 2, and foster homes of the rescue organizations played them for their transitioning dogs. Our publisher, Sounds True, donated 2,500 CD’s to be sent home with the new adopters to play in their homes for their newly adopted dogs. By 2011, we had sent CD’s to about 400 shelters and many had reported an increase in adoption rates. The music was creating a quieter shelter environment, encouraging visitors to stay longer, and adoption rates were increasing.

In early 2011, Adopt-A-Pet.com had become familiar with Through a Dog’s Ear and our shelter program. We both share the mission of helping shelter and rescue dogs find their forever homes. They were able to match us with a corporate sponsor that donated 1,000 copies of Calm your Canine Companion Vol. 2 to 1,000 shelters throughout the United States at the end of 2011. We are thrilled that Through a Dog’s Ear music is helping even more dogs find their forever homes.

Door #3: On January 25, 2012, Through a Dog’s Ear was featured on Good Morning America on a segment called “Stress Busters for Anxious Pets”. We were honored to be one of four sensory integration products that was recommended by “America’s Vet”, Dr. Marty Becker.

Door #4: Two weeks after the Good Morning America feature, Music to Calm your Canine Companion Vol. 1 reached Billboard’s Classical Top 20 chart! When I was a student at Juilliard, I never could have guessed that I’d be going through the doggie door to make Billboard. Well, all I can say is, “My tail’s waggin!”

What’s behind Door #5? We create therapeutic sound tracks cross species. Stay tuned for some pretty exciting news about music we are releasing this year for an additional two species. What species are you interested in introducing to psychoacoustics?

Have you tried Sound Therapy for your dogs? Through a Dog’s Ear is the first music clinically demonstrated to calm the canine nervous system.

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Calm your Canine Companion Music Series

Simply click here, enter your email address and a link to the free download will be delivered to your inbox for you and your canine household to enjoy!

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I Have a Dream….

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Puppy dreaming to Music to Calm your Canine Companion

It is Martin Luther King Day, and I woke up this morning thinking about his “I have a dream” speech. It inspired me to think about my real life dreams…

I have a dream that Through a Dog’s Ear music is heard by over a million dogs in 2011, and improves their lives and those of their people. Additionally, over a million dogs in shelters find their forever homes because TaDE music calmed and quieted them.

I believe in that dream so strongly that I am letting go of an identity I have been holding onto for 14 years to create the space for that dream to come to life.

On November 1, 1996 I opened the doors to Lisa Spector’s Music School. Over the past 14 years, I have been very blessed to receive the support of a wonderful community eager to add music to their lives and those of their children. The school grew out of my love of teaching. It began with one piano in one room where I was the sole piano teacher. Now 14 plus years later, the school offers lessons in piano, voice, flute, guitar, “Make Music” group classes for children, and concerts in the expanded concert room. What a dream it has been to see all of this develop and grow!

In 2003, my life would forever be changed when attending a weekend seminar taught by world renowned sound researcher, Joshua Leeds. In this seminar for teachers and healers, I learned about the psychoacoustic principles of resonance (tone) and entrainment (rhythm) and started applying them when teaching piano students at my music school. I became so adept at helping students with ADD relax and focus, as well as picking up the energy level of sluggish children, that I wondered how I ever taught without this knowledge.

This was so fascinating that I went back to another one of Joshua’s workshops to learn more. This time accompanied by a four month old yellow Labrador Retriever. He was wearing a jacket that said “Puppy in training for Guide Dogs for the Blind.” During that session, I started wondering if Joshua’s music, that was so successful in helping autistic children in neruo-developmental centers throughout the world, could also calm dogs and relieve their anxiety issues.

The rest of that story is now history, some of which can be read in the years of research that followed. Through a Dog’s Ear  not only grew out of my love of music and dogs, but also out of my desire to improve my piano teaching at my music school. For that I am eternally grateful. It is now time to pass that legacy on to another dedicated music teacher that will continue to serve the musical needs of the community, while I devote myself full time to helping improve the lives of dogs and their people worldwide.

Combining my love of music and dogs into the creation of a music series has been more than a dream come true. In the past three years, I have been on the CBS Early Show, Martha Stewart Living Radio, presented at the Association of Pet Dog Trainers National Conference, and have recently become a pet blogger for Care2.com – an online community of nearly 15 million people making a difference in the areas of animal welfare and pets, healthy and green living, and human rights. Every blog I write lands in over a million inboxes and has the ability to make a difference in the lives of animals. I play canine concerts as fundraisers for non-profit animal organizations and Through a Dog’s Ear music has been featured on Animal Planet’s It’s Me or the Dog. And I am very actively involved in dog agility and canine musical freestyle with my two dogs, Sanchez and Gina.

I am being called to focus on and expand my work with Through a Dog’s Ear. In the past month, I have been in communication with dog trainers, behaviorists, and animal shelters in Turkey, Spain, Australia, Greece and throughout the U.S. Working globally is a great joy, especially with the huge advantage of social media.

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The top of my 2011 Vision Board reads, “Lean forward into your life.” So, I am leaning further into Through a Dog’s Ear as well as my performing career while passing the conductor’s baton at Lisa Spector’s Music School to Kitty Rea, owner of Ms. Kitty’s Harmony Road — Moss Beach.  The new name will be Ms. Kitty’s Harmony Road Half Moon Bay, effective January 31. Kitty’s teaching experience and enthusiasm for music education makes her the perfect person to carry on the legacy that I started.

While this seems like a personal choice, it feels more like it chose me. When I read how much TaDE (Through a Dog’s Ear) music has helped dogs with separation anxiety, sound phobias, fears, aggression issues, senior dogs, puppies, post and pre-surgery dogs, and has calmed and quieted dogs in shelters and foster homes, my life can’t help but lean further into what is calling me. What is equally powerful to me is hearing from people who have renewed their interest in classical music because of my recordings. I also plan to spend more time at my piano and performing, whether it be for humans or humans with their canines.

It’s been a great pleasure serving my local community over the last 14 plus years. My heart is filled with enormous gratitude for all that has transpired and for all that will continue to grow here. And, I look forward to my expanded cross-species work in a global community.

What is your dream for dogs? Thanks for clicking “comment” below and sharing your dreams.

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Freedom Dogs: War Heroes

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When Joshua Leeds and I presented at the annual Association of Pet Dog Trainers conference in October, we met so many inspirational trainers, behaviorists, and dog lovers, amongst a huge variety of dog professionals. One woman in particular, Beth Russell, caught our attention because of a very unique service dog organization that she started called Freedom Dogs. This remarkable organization offers custom-trained specialty service dogs to wounded members of the military returning from armed conflict.

Freedom Dogs’ mission is to create a way to speed the recovery and enhance the lives of wounded military heroes through the use of specialty-trained service dogs. Joshua and I asked Beth how we could help. She told us that Freedom Dogs’ trainers are always interested in methods that enhance their training of these very special dogs as well as assist them in helping the young persons reintegrate back into society so they can lead fulfilling lives. We donated music for their training classes and we were so pleased to hear recently that Through a Dog’s Ear music is one of the tools that is helping Freedom Dogs accomplish their mission.

As training sessions begin, Music to Calm your Canine Companion is played. Beth said “This music has had a significant impact on the dogs, the marines, and the trainers. Dogs settle more quickly and seem to be more focused on the tasks at hand. The Marines calm and body tensions ease. And the trainers comment on how they feel relaxed and better prepared to handle the stress of the work with the dogs and Marines. This is especially helpful when we hold our training clinics where there are many dogs (of varying ages and levels of training) and trainers and Marines in one room working together.”

I was very moved when I learned how much Through a Dog’s Ear was helping these dogs and Marines. In asking her more about Freedom Dogs, I learned that their programs consist of two distinct entities:

The Partner Program pairs a Specialty Service Dog with a wounded warrior on a part time basis, as an adjunct to his/her rehabilitation and reintegration into society. Dogs often work with a wounded warrior for a specific time frame and then have that warrior pass the leash to another wounded warrior who has VERY different needs. The dogs need to adjust on the spot, and they do!

The Partner for Life Program places a Specialty Service Dog with a wounded warrior on a permanent basis. These dogs do not fit neatly into any service dog category as they are trained to work with more than one disability in one person, or with varying disabilities in multiple people. There are very few training facilities willing to train these special dogs, as it is quite time consuming and tedious. The cost is nearly double that of training other service dogs.

The Freedom Dogs’ trainers volunteer approximately 10-12 hours a week and travel an average of 70 miles one way. In addition to Music to Calm your Canine Companion being played during classes, Driving Edition: Music to Calm your Dog in the Caris played as the dogs go to and from the sessions. Beth says, “The dogs become totally relaxed while riding in the car. This seems to help them work through the many different needs some of the young men and women have.”

There are over 40,000 injured service members returning from combat. The signature injuries of this war are TBI (traumatic brain injury) and PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). Of all returning service persons, over 40% suffer from PTSD. Currently, suicide deaths have taken a greater toll on the troops than combat injuries. These very special dogs are working to curb these alarming statistics one hero at a time. Through a Dog’s Ear is honored and humbled to be helping the dogs, trainers, and Marines. 

 

 

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Through a Trainer’s Ear

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by guest blogger Casey Matthews-Lomonaco, Owner of Rewarding Behaviors Dog Training

Last October, I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to the city of Oakland to attend the Association of Pet Dog Trainers contest after winning the Dogwise John Fisher Essay contest.  (If you’d like to learn more about one of the world’s greatest dogs, you can read my essay Dances with Dogs about Monte, my reactive Saint Bernard.)

With Turid Rugaas, Terry Ryan, Ian Dunbar, Jean Donaldson, Kathy Sdao, Nicole Wilde, and Bob Bailey speaking at the conference, it would have been impossible for me to tell you which speaker I was most excited about seeing.  While I learned a great deal from all the speakers at the conference, I must admit that the one that impressed me the most, that really made me reevaluate my understanding of how dogs interact with and experience their world, was Lisa Spector and Joshua Leeds’ “Through a Dog’s Ear” presentation.

I’ll admit, when I attended the conference, I was relatively unfamiliar with Through a Dog’s Ear. I knew Lisa as a fellow DogStarDaily.com blogger and as a twitter friend, but I had not read the book or heard any of the music other than short samples.  Nonetheless, I was intrigued and elected to attend Lisa and Joshua’s presentation.

I am so, so thankful I did.  What a wonderful, exciting presentation it was, and waking up to beautiful music at your first conference session of the day certainly starts the day off right.  Lisa and Joshua opened my mind, but more importantly, my ears and made me really think about how much sound actually effects not only our own, but our dogs’ experiences of the world.

Immediately upon returning home, I placed an order for my own copy of the Through a Dog’s Ear book and CD.  I loved it every bit as much as I loved Lisa and Joshua’s presentation at the conference and quickly began to recommend it to my clients. 

The feedback from clients has been overwhelmingly positive. And I was very impressed with the results from a client’s dog that had been anxious when her owner left the house. I had the owner schedule a time every day when she could listen to Music to Calm Your Canine Comapnion with her dog while giving her dog a massage and using T-Touch techniques.  I had her play it quietly when her dog was resting at home.  Then we began to have her play the same music when we started practicing controlled separation.  We’ve been able to see significant progress in increasing duration of separation since the addition of the music combined with massage techniques.  The owner has responded that she finds the music to be exceptionally calming to her as well.

Happily for me, I have found the same to be true.  I am naturally a relatively anxious person.  After hearing Lisa and Joshua at the APDT conference, I began paying particular attention to how the sounds I surround myself with affect me emotionally.  There are certain songs I pull up on my iPod when I need a little energy boost, other songs that prove cathartic when I am angry or frustrated.  Some songs make me feel silly, others make me feel sad.  Through a Dog’s Ear makes me feel relaxed and more focused.

I have traditionally avoided listening to music when I am training dogs since it generally breaks my focus and leads me to be distracted.  I have not found that to be true with Through a Dog’s Ear.  It is especially helpful, played at very quiet levels on my iPod, when I am doing work with Monte on desensitization and counter conditioning for his reactivity to other dogs, a time when I am prone to be exceptionally nervous and when clarity and calm is really needed to ensure our success.

The music has also been beneficial outside of my training.  My anxiety prevented me from getting a driver’s license for quite some time.  I was afraid to drive, and was often anxious even riding in the car.  However, it was important to me personally and to my business that I conquer this fear. 

I recently passed my driver’s test, just months before my 30th birthday!  When I first started driving on my own, I was, to put things mildly, a nervous wreck.  White-knuckled, I was overwhelmed and under-confident.  The punk music that I normally thrive on was not doing me any favors. Despite the fact that I absolutely love punk music, it was certainly not helping me to feel more focused, calm, and collected when driving.

I decided to try something entirely different, “Music to Calm your Canine Companion”.  What an unbelievable difference!  Almost automatically, my brain seemed to clear and my pulse slowed to something more manageable.  I felt focused and less anxious than I had previously.  It was a fantastic experience, and I immediately messaged Lisa to tell her about it on Facebook after that trip.  To be honest, there are still occasions that require I sing NoFX songs as loud as possible at the top of my lungs. But on days like today, for instance, when I am trying to drive on some icy, slick roads, I feel safer driving when I listen to Through a Dog’s Ear music.  It’s like a soothing balm for frazzled nerves, and gives me a feeling of instant safety and focus.

Now that I’ve seen changes both in my own dogs (who are happily sleeping, enjoying Through a Dog’s Ear with me as I write this), dogs belonging to my clients, and yes, in my own behavivor/emotions and those of my clients, I can’t recommend Through a Dog’s Ear often or heartily enough. 

 

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With Gratitude to Our New APDT Friends

I had high hopes for my first Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) annual conference. I knew I would be attending inspiring and informative presentations. And I certainly was eager to share our Through a Dog’s Ear presentation on how our human soundscape affects our dogs and people. But, I hadn’t really realized that I was going to leave the conference with new friends and a deepened appreciation for these wonderful dog trainers. 

The questions (for close to an hour) that were asked after our presentation were creative and inspiring. They really gave us an awareness of the depth of service APDT members provide their clients. There were 1,300 people attending this annual conference and APDT has a membership of 6,000. In a struggling economy, other conferences booked at the hotel couldn’t keep their commitment to fill rooms. The hotel sold out of rooms for the APDT conference. These dog trainers obviously love their careers and are always attaining to improve their training skills and connect with like minded people.

Out of curiosity, I inquired about the certification required to be a Certified Pet Dog Trainer. In addition to passing a rigorous exam testing knowledge of canine ethology, the science of learning theory, animal husbandry, classroom management and technique, and more, a minimum of 300 hours teaching dog training classes and working with dogs is required. That isn’t even to mention the strict Code of Ethics and the continuing education units needed for recertification every three years. Talk about commitment to one’s passion!

For the most part, the people I met at the conference had just started out loving dogs. But, their love grew in wanting to help other dogs through science based training. Casey Lomonaco’s award winning essay “Dances with Dogs” says it all. DogwisePublishing gave her a free trip to the conference by awarding her 1st place in the essay conteset. Casey owns Rewarding Behaviors Dog Training. I originally met her on Twitter as @rbdt and I was thrilled to meet her during our presentation break. Reading her comments on Twitter after the conference was very touching. In her words “Through a Dog’s Ear was the best presentation of the conference. Well done, Lisa. Fascinating information, beautiful music.”

After our presentation and hour extended question and answer session (and a lunch break and needed rest), we were interviewed for a podcast by Mychelle Blake, Editor-in-Chief of APDT’s Chronicle of the Dog. Not only were her questions for the podcast terrific, but she was so helpful with so many suggestions in how to spread the word about Through a Dog’s Ear music, to the Veterinary community, shelters, and to the public.

We were eager to meet with Charlene Woodward, owner of Dogwise Publishing. We had been previously been enjoying phone conversations and emails pre-conference with Dogwise. Were we ever glad that we stacked our cars with extra books and CD’s. The Dogwise booth at the trade show just couldn’t keep our products on their shelves. We enjoyed delightful conversations with her as the days progressed and brainstormed many ideas together.

Dogwise hosted a book signing event. What a wonderful time to meet and greet new friends. There were several friends that I had previously met in cyberspace at DogStarDaily.com. I loved reading such terrific blogs filled with insightful tips on science based dog training. It was even better meeting the bloggers live in person. I also had been following the work of Dr. Sophia Yin, veterinary animal behaviorist. It was a gift to sit with her spontaneously in person and hear the stories behind her inspiring pet training products and videos I had witnessed online.  

Joshua and I enjoyed a very delightful dinner with Nicole Wilde and Marni Fowler. Nicole and I had enjoyed so much interaction on Twitter, Dog Star Daily, and emails that by the time we met in person, I felt like I was reuniting a long lost friend.  In addition to meeting a friend, her presentations on fear and aggression at the conference were fabulous – engaging, funny, insightful and informative. I can’t wait to attend her seminar in my area titled “Alternative Approaches to Healing Canine Health & Behavior”.

There are so many others to mention that I could write forever. But, I can’t close without mentioning meeting with Beth Russell, the creator and director of Freedom Dogs: Heroes for our Heroes. Freedom Dogs offers custom-trainer specialty service dogs to wounded members of the military returning from armed conflict. With tears in her eyes, she told us of the inspiring story of why she created this non-profit organization. Similar to other APDT members, she has found a way to combine her love of dogs with her desire to help humanity. I’m not sure it gets any better than that!

 

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What an Honor it was Presenting at APDT Conference!

On Friday, Joshua Leeds and I had the pleasure of presenting a session at the annual Association of Pet Dog Trainers annual conference in Oakland. Our session was titled “Through a Dog’s Ear: The Effect of Human Soundscape on Animals … and their people!

As first time attendees and presenters, we were really amazed with this conference. We were impressed with everything from the impeccable organizational structure, to the very inspiring sessions, to the people who attended. Joshua and I were both so pleased to be speaking to an audience that really “gets it”  – the importance of developing sound awareness. The APDT attendees were so eager to learn about the effects of the human soundscape on canines and what we can do for ourselves and our dogs with an expanded sound awareness.

As exciting as it was to receive a standing ovation at the end, it got even better at the following Q/A session. The questions that were asked were so creative and aware. We didn’t have all the answers, but the questions gave us a deeper respect for certified dog trainers and animal behaviorists and their desire to provide leading edge solutions for their clients. Joshua and I are so grateful to have this APDT experience.

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Presenting at Association of Pet Dog Trainers Conference

I love combining my passion for music with my love of dogs. This week is the ultimate dream for me. Joshua Leeds and I are co-presenting at the annual national APDT Conference in Oakland this Friday morning, Oct. 23.

The 3 hour session is titled: Through a Dog’s Ear: The Effect of Human Soundscape on Animals…and their people! I will also be bringing a keyboard to demonstrate music examples of the psychoacoustic changes we made in classical music to calm the canine (and human) nervous system.

I have performed for thousands of people in concert settings. The preparation for this is entirely different as is the feeling behind it. Performing music used to be my greatest love. Now, playing music that helps dogs worldwide is my greatest love. When journalists ask me about the birth of Through a Dog’s Ear and if it has always been my dream, I answer, “honestly no. But, I couldn’t possibly imagine doing anything that could make me happier. Helping dogs with music? How could it get any better than that?”