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Is Social Media Helping Our Dogs?

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Casey Lomonaco teaching Meet and Greet with Dogs 

Casey and I met first on Twitter (where I new her as @RBDT), then at the APDT conference, and then in person at her training center in Binghamton, NY

I was having a conversation with a dear friend. He (and many other friends) have noticed my enthusiasm about social media. He was asking me how much time I spent on it, was it worth it, and what is the ROI (return on investment). The question reminded me of when Sanchez was a puppy in training for Guide Dogs for the Blind. I was his volunteer puppy raiser and I was often asked how much time it took to train him. My answer couldn’t be quantified. It wasn’t a set amount of time every day. Instead, training was integrated throughout every day. He went with me almost everywhere and training and socializing took place all the time. The reason puppy raisers are volunteers is because you can’t put a price on the work they do. It is truly priceless. I feel the same about raising any dog, whether a pet, a working dog, or a service dog in training. And, I feel the same about social media.

I am connecting and communicating with a group of dog lovers who believe what I believe. We are all doing our best to improve the lives of dogs, whether we are dog trainers, own a dog business, volunteer for a rescue organization, work full time in another profession and care for our own dogs at home, or create music for dogs. The support we provide each other and the engaging conversations we have on Facebook is something I look forward to daily. And, when I am out living my life, my eyes and heart are always searching for ways that I can contribute to the conversation and engage with dog lovers. While we don’t all agree on every dog subject – whether it be laws on breeding, ways of training, ways of reducing the amount of homeless dogs euthanized every year – we are all connecting through our love of dogs. And it goes beyond social media.

In my travels, I have had the pleasure of meeting in person many of the same people who I first met on Twitter or Facebook. Breaking bread with them and meeting their dogs makes it that much more real. We share our dreams, help each other with business ideas, and want to know much more about our doglife than 140 characters can communicate on Twitter. We tell our stories, reflecting how life brought us into the Dog world in such a magnificent way. Sharing those stories connects us deeper and makes those moments priceless.

Cost of Tweeting = Time

Cost of Facebook posting = Time

Cost of Blogging = Time

Cost of Connecting with Dog Lovers who want to Improve the Lives of Dogs = PRICELESS!

 

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Does music therapy really work to calm dogs during fireworks?

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photo: Kitty Perlsweig and Sanchez

I am very deeply touched to read how Through a Dog’s Ear music helped calm so many dogs on their worst day of the year in the United States, July 4th. Phase two of clinical testing was purposely started just before July 4th, 2005. We were very curious to learn if psychoacoustic changes made to classical music would be calming enough to allow dogs to relax and even sleep during fireworks. Here’s what I’ve read on our Facebook page. Thank you Jenny-Lyn, Sonya, Lauri, and Marcia for sharing your stories on Facebook and for all that you do to improve the lives of dogs.

Your music has been a God-send for our 2 Saint Bernards! I used a phermone plug-in to help for awhile, but the music has been the BEST thing we’ve ever had. One of my dogs has seizure disorder and it helps aleviate stress (for all of us) during seizures. Thank You!

Jenny-Lyn Brown, Bangor, Maine

We programed your music to play two times in our facility to help the pup guests through the period of time that the fireworks were going off – There was hardly a peep- Everyone slept well – Thank you so much – Oh- our family pups slept well too.
Sonya Mandel, Pleasant Hill, Oregon

 

My Through a Dog’s Ear CD really helped my dogs this weekend too. While we work on counter-conditioning & desensitization before hand, it always helps to have a backup plan! My girl cuddled up in her safe spot in the back of our closet, while her baby brother stood watch for her in the hallway.
Lauri Bowen-Vaccare, Bowling Green, Kentucky

 

Last night was Tori’s second 4th with us (she’s a rescue) and the big booms really worried her. (Shane kept looking for ducks falling from the sky and Amelia slept through it 🙂 I turned on our big fan and put on one of Lisa’s CDs and Tori fell asleep! Thank you Lisa!!!
Marcia Lucas, Wheaton, IL

If you played Through a Dog’s Ear music or any other music that helped keep your dogs calm during fireworks or thunderstorms, please comment below and let us know what happened. Thanks for sharing.

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The Dogs of Sounds True, publisher for Through a Dog’s Ear

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It’s Take your Dog to Work Day and I am in Boulder, Colorado celebrating the 25th anniversary of our Through a Dog’s Ear  publisher,  Sounds True. Before the party begins tonight, I stopped by the Sounds True office in Louisville and met all the dogs that come to work with their people. Check out the pics above of some of the adorable Sounds True dogs.

Sounds True exists to inspire, support, and serve continuous spiritual awakening and its expression in the world. So it should be of no surprise that they also are an exemplary, dog-friendly office. I’m not sure I’ve ever walked into a more loving, nurturing, heart-felt office environment. Do the dogs love it here because of the heart space, or do the dogs help inspire that? I was touched to hear what Tami Simon, president of Sounds True, had to say about Sounds True dogs contributing to the nurturing community feel of Sounds True. Click here to see my interview with her.

Pics above in order:

Agnes and Lisa

Boscoe and Karen

Malachi and Agnes

Jasmine and Tami

Oliver and Jamie

Asia and Kristen

Jasmine

Agnes

Fioana and Kristy

 

 

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Why Do Dogs Howl? Interview with Joshua Leeds

Dogs everywhere have been howling to the theme song from Law and Order. It was so viral, that Dogster blogger, Maria Goodavage provided a link to 28 of them with just one click. While people think it is very entertaining, it appears that these dogs are very stressed by the sounds they are hearing. I asked sound researcher Joshua Leeds, co-author of the book Through a Dog’s Ear, for his input on this not so laughing matter.

LS: Why do you think so many dogs are reacting so strongly to the theme song from Law and Order?

JL: It is not the actual tune that is causing the canine reaction, but the sound of the music. The sounds we hear on this recording fall comfortably within a dog’s range of hearing (15-50k Hz). When watching the YouTube videos, I observe that these animals are not howling in comfort. It appears to be an auditory response to something that is either hurting or stimulating their listening system somewhere between the ear and auditory centers in the brain.

LS: What could be the possible causes for this?

JL:  All instrumentation of this soundtrack is electronically-based. There are frequencies in the electronic instruments that we can or can’t hear. Also, somewhere in the recording or mixing process, frequencies were tweaked in a way that is not natural to a dog’s hearing. As a music producer, when I listen to the soundtrack mix (albeit on YouTube and computer speakers), I perceive mid-range frequencies that have been rolled-off while mid-high frequencies have been boosted.

LS: What could be the reasons that dogs howl in general?

JL:  Maybe the reason that dog’s howl is to match the offending frequency. It’s possible that they have an inherent noise cancellation knowledge. People were watching the dogs howl to Law and Order on YouTube and thought it was entertaining. But, if you watch the videos carefully, the dogs either are in stress or trying to deal with the source with a solution of masking the sound with their own. This is a wonderful opportunity for sound aware dog lovers to help other people become aware of how our human soundscape is affecting our animals.

LS: Why is it that more dogs don’t just leave the room when they hear the theme song from Law and Order?

JL: It appears that many dogs are trying to figure out what to do with irritating sensory stimulus or they are trying to match the tone.

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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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Is Temperament all about Breeding?

I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. Last night we experienced heavy rain and the loudest thunderstorms of my life. Since I grew up in Syracuse, NY, where summertime thunderstorms were plentiful, that’s saying a lot. The loud booming sounds woke me up around 3 in the morning. My dog, Sanchez, however barely noticed the sounds of thunder. I think he only slightly noticed that I was awake and moving about.

I have received hundreds of emails telling me stories of how much the music of Through a Dog’s Ear has helped dogs during thunderstorms. In honesty, I was momentarily jealous that I couldn’t test it on my dog, but that feeling didn’t last long. I soon became very thankful that he doesn’t have sound phobias and has a very solid temperament that has served him well on so many occasions.  

I remember when he was a puppy in training for Guide Dogs for the Blind and it was our first July 4th together. I was prepared with so many calming techniques (including my music) and he literally sat with me on my mother’s porch and just watched the fireworks, completely unaffected by the sounds.

I wouldn’t have been so surprised by his calm demeanor last night, except that the thunder was so loud that it even rattled me a little. Then I reflected on his breeding. Sanchez was bred by Guide Dogs for the Blind. A successful guide dog is confident, calm, smart, and very reliable. And although he didn’t make the final cut to be a working guide dog, many of his character traits would have served him well in that work.

Since he was bred to be a working dog, he loves to “work” – whether that means greeting students at my music school, or running agility courses, or acting in theater – he likes staying busy and he likes being the center of attention. If he had a tag line, it would be “It’s All About Me.”

Are there ways that your dog works in a traditional or untraditional sense? Please click “comment” below to share your story.

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Consciousness in a Dog Business

Life has a way of being synchronistic in ways that can’t be planned. Profound experiences last week showed up as appointments in my calendar, but proved to be monumental events in my life. On Tuesday night, I attended a talk at East West books by Jeff Klein, the author of Working for Good: Making a Difference While Making a Living . I had previously heard a podcast interview with him and Tami Simon on the Sounds True website and was very intrigued. Jeff is the Executive Director for Conscious Capitalism, Inc. (a.k.a. FLOW) through which he facilitates Conscious Business™, Peace Through Commerce®, and Accelerating Women Entrepreneurs™ Alliances. His words have inspired me to work more consciously.

In reflecting on Through a Dog’s Ear, I thought about ways that we are a very conscious company “Working for Good” and ways that we can improve in that arena. Our products were created out of combining my passion for music with my love of dogs. My dream is to improve the lives of dogs worldwide and witnessing that happen is rewarding beyond description. The business relationship between  Joshua Leeds and I is very conscious. It started out as a student / teacher relationship and has grown to an equal business partnership that is based on trust, support, connection, and friendship. We have different strengths and weaknesses and we know how to lean on each other in areas needed.  Our relationship with a hired consultant is equally rewarding, caring, inspiring and conscious. Sounds True, our publisher, is one of the first companies I’ve ever witnessed that operates from a place of deep higher consciousness. Visiting their offices outside of Boulder, CO, it was inspiring witnessing their friendly, supportive, nurturing environment where employees bring their dogs to work and take breaks in their beautiful meditation room. 

But, I am not writing these words to brag about what a wonderful company we are. I am however noticing areas that deeply please me and I may have taken for granted, while looking at other areas that can be improved. Jeff Klein spoke of ways to create a conscious company from a holistic prospective – looking at not only the products and services and relationships within the company, but also “how” people work in the company. That is an area I now set the intention to improve. My love of dogs combined with my passion for music propels my dedication. However, I also feel that other areas of my life are distracting me from my dream of improving the lives of millions of dogs worldwide. Before attending Jeff’s talk on conscious businesses, a computer crash and a dog attack on Sanchez also started to get my attention. It was like a loud voice that once started as a whisper saying “Slow down, breathe and get your priorities straight.” I think I better start listening before the voice sounds like someone screaming into my ears. I am making profound decisions about my life that support me in devoting not only my heart to the growth of Through a Dog’s Ear, but my time, focus and energy.

The other appointment in my book last week that turned into a profound experience was a masterclass with Beto Perez, the creator of Zumba . I never thought I would give up my previous workout program of 19 years, but after my first Zumba class in February, I was hooked. Zumba is a Latin-inspired, dance-fitness class that incorporates Latin and International music and dance movements. Even though you sweat like crazy, it feels more like a party than a workout. I knew I’d have a blast dancing with Beto and a room full of Zumba Fanatics. But the entrepreneur in me was equally mesmerized by hearing Beto’s story of the creation of Zumba. In brief, it was jaw dropping to hear about his dream at age 14 of dancing around the world and the synchronistic events that helped him launch and grow Zumba into the hottest fitness program worldwide. Beto’s passion for dance and desire to positively affect the lives of millions through his love of dance is contagious.

I reflected on this in relation to Through a Dog’s Ear. Creating music for dogs has not always been my dream. However, my dream of playing music for millions was born by age 11. I started playing the piano at age 7. By age 11, we had a Steinway grand piano and I made a commitment to practice three hours a day. Some years later, when I graduated from Juilliard, I knew I was on my way to being a concert pianist that would play for millions of people worldwide. My dream wasn’t to create music for dogs that improves the quality of their lives, but I can’t think of doing anything in life that would make me happier. Honestly, it’s even better than playing Carnegie Hall.