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Can Music Really Heal Your Dog?

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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?

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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.

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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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8 Steps to Enriching Your Senior Dog’s Life

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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.

 

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6 Loving Ways To Comfort Your Senior Dog

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I have to admit, now that Sanchez is 12-years-old and showing signs of slowing down, I think often about ways to comfort him. While I’m very blessed that he is in good health, it’s not unusual for senior dogs to lose memory, eyesight and experience hearing loss. Dogs also can experience some changes in behavior as they mature.

Some of Sanchez’s new behaviors remind me of his puppy years, such as chewing tissues from the bathroom waste basket. But, more serious behavior changes like resource guarding and separation anxiety developed later in life. I have heard from many people with senior dogs that get restless and agitated at night-time, yet they calmly sleep all day. It’s easy to feel helpless watching their discomfort, yet there are many simple things we can do to help.

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1. Time

Spend time with them doing what they enjoy, whether that’s cuddling on the sofa or long, slow walks in nature. They may not need the amount of exercise they had as a youngster, but they still need quality time shared together. Sadly, they may not have an abundance of time left. Make every moment count.

Sanchez Smiling at Blufftops

2. Nature

Sanchez can’t manage the long hikes of his youth. But, he still really enjoys walks in nature, taking in all the sights and smells. We live near the Pacific Ocean and walks by the beach are the highlight of his days.

Sanchez flowers

3. Patience

Dogs, like people, move slower with age. Don’t rush them. They like to take more time to stop and smell the roses, and everything else in their path. Allow them this time. It’s a good reminder for you too that every moment is precious.

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4. Train

Dogs love to learn, and you actually can teach an old dog new tricks. I still spend time clicker training every night with Sanchez. If it gets late, he starts whining and begging for this time with me. The bonding time is precious, and it stimulates him to keep learning and being challenged. He has no complaints about his rewards either.

Sanchez Tade jacket

5. Work

Sanchez has been our loyal Through a Dog’s Ear mascot since 2008. Truth be told, he’s retired all of his previous careers ~ guide dog puppy, agility competitor, canine musical freestyler, and actor (playing Helen Keller’s dog in The Miracle Worker). But, he still really enjoys being in the limelight and posing for the camera. So, his work still continues as long as he is enjoying it.

Sanchez Car Ramp

5. Physical Assistance

Sanchez still goes almost everywhere with me. But, now I carry a ramp to help him get in and out of the car. I’ve been doing this since he had a slipped disc in his neck at age nine. I’d recommend a ramp for most senior dogs that are too large to be lifted out of the car. Their joints will thank you for it.

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6. 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. Sound therapy can often  help facilitate the nutrients of sound needed for maximum sound intake while conserving energy output. Music to Comfort Your Elderly Canine has also been helpful for pain management with senior dogs and night-time restlessness.

What has brought comfort to your senior dogs in their later years? Thanks for adding your stories in a comment below.

 

Related:
5 Surprising Ways to Protect Your Dog’s Hearing
How Could My Puppy Be 12-Years-Old Already?

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Are Senior Dogs More Sound Sensitive?

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As I approach the big 50, I notice that I don’t have the same tolerance for loud environments that I did 20 or even 10 years ago. You rarely find me in Costo, clubs, or even loud restaurants anymore. Partly due to the crowds, but mostly due to the loud sound environment. I go into sensory overload and shut down quickly, meaning I can’t focus, feel stressed, my body tenses, and I’m quickly looking for the exit sign to a quieter environment where I can breathe peacefully. Similarly, if I’ve had a very stressful day, I want to come home and either have complete silence (except for the sounds of the wildlife in my remote home setting), or turn on music with simple sounds, such as the music from Through a Dog’s Ear.

Currently, I have two dogs, both Labrador Retrievers. Sanchez is nearly eight years old and Gina is approaching 2 years. When I observe them, I notice that Sanchez doesn’t have the same tolerance for noise that he used to when he was younger. Growing up as a puppy in training for Guide Dogs for the Blind, he was socialized a great deal in public places and exposed to a wider variety of sound environments than most pet dogs. During my year as his volunteer puppy raiser, I brought him to six San Francisco Opera performances, and seven San Francisco Symphony concerts. He snoozed through most of it, except for a few startling sounds coming from the opera stage. When he was five years old, he acted the part of Helen Keller’s dog in the play “The Miracle Worker.” Although most people were impressed with his well-mannered talents on stage, what I found more remarkable was his calm, focused, confident demeanor back stage during the food fights and throwing of dishes on stage. Due to his breeding and early training, this just didn’t phase him. A few years later, I’m not sure I would say the same.

At 22 months, Gina is a bundle of happy energy and I’ve never seen her go into sensory overload, although there are many dogs her age that could and certainly do. I still reward her when she stays calm and focused on me during loud man made sounds, i.e. ambulance sirens, motorcycles, etc.; I can expose her to more stimulating sound environments without worrying about stressing her nervous system.

In writing this blog, I reflected on first conceiving the idea for creating music to help improve the quality of dogs lives (and their humans). It was during the final weeks of Byron’s life. A Golden Retriever who took his last breath a few months before his 14th birthday in 2003, he was my soul dog. Byron brought me into the dog world and I would have done anything for more time with him. Although Through a Dog’s Ear wasn’t yet created, it really was his passing that opened up the space for its birth.

Two years of clinical testing took place before we released our first CD, Music to Calm your Canine Companion Vol. 1. We’ve added an additional four CD’s to our music series since then, and dog lovers world-wide have played Through a Dog’s Ear music for their senior dogs. It has helped calmed dogs pre- and post-surgery, as well as aided in their healing process during recovery from an illness. Even dogs that have lost some of their hearing later in life, lie down and breathe easier when the music is playing.

Through a Dog’s Ear music is psychoacoustically designed to support you and your dog’s compromised immune or nervous system function. When the immune or nervous system is heavily taxed, as it so often is in senior dogs, 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 over stimulating sound environments. The “nutrients” of sound are needed the most when life energy is at a low ebb or when neuro-developmental (including sensory) issues are present. To facilitate maximum sound intake while conserving energy output, we have created the method of “simple sound”.

Have you noticed a change in how your dogs react to sound as they mature? Thanks for clicking comment below and sharing your story.

I am offering my blog readers a free download from our latest release, Music to Calm your Canine Companion, Vol. 3. Simply click here and 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. Click here to listen to sound samples.

Lisa Spector is a concert pianist, Juilliard graduate, canine music expert, and Facebook coach. By combining her passion for music with her love of dogs, she co-created Through a Dog’s Ear, the first music clinically demonstrated to relieve anxiety issues in dogs. She shares her home and her heart with her two adorable “career change” Labrador Retrievers from Guide Dogs for the Blind, Sanchez and Gina. Follow Lisa’s blog here.