With fireworks season upon us, an explosion of dog-friendly music is on hand to help soothe stressed dogs. Music is many things to many people. Soothing, inspiring, calming, energizing. Music has long been used in working with children with challenges, disabilities and emotional issues. It has power and influence on the brain and the emotional state. What about music and your dog? Can music be helpful in helping a dog who is afraid of thunderstorms?
Fear of thunderstorms is a serious problem for a surprising number of dogs. Not only does the dog become agitated, but in extreme cases, they can do themselves and the house around them serious damage. Music can be calming and distracting during a thunderstorm. As an interesting side note, people with fearful dogs have had success using CDs of thunderstorms to desensitize their dog to the noise during non-storm periods.
Many dogs respond to the drop in barometric pressure and become agitated long before the storm actually hits, so getting them used to the clapping of thunder gives them a better chance and one less trigger to deal with during an actual storm. Extra love and attention during a thunderstorm help as do playing with a special toy and enjoying a special treat with you. These things will help distract your dog during the storm. Some animal behaviorists caution against coddling your dog to avoid the risk of reinforcing the unwanted behavior however. It can be a fine line between giving needed extra love, reassurance and attention, and reinforcing insecurity and the unwanted phobia. The right music can help.
What about using music in animal shelters? In our shelter at the Buddy Dog Humane Society, we use classical music on a regular basis to soothe the animals. The noise level of 30 or 40 dogs in a kennel can be daunting to say nothing of deafening. To the newly surrendered or timid dog, who is often times sad, confused and depressed by the trauma of being left, music offers soothing sounds and can help with their confusion. There is recent video footage of a simple lullaby being played in a shelter calming and quieting an entire kennel of barking, upset and anxious dogs in a matter of minutes; it is very impressive. Buddy Dog plays classical music or heart beat music all night at the shelter.
Separation anxiety is an all too common problem for many dogs. There are varying degrees of this condition from mild to wildly destructive. If you're living with a dog who suffers from separation anxiety, try music. Something with a slow, steady beat. An adagio movement, for example, is a good type of music to play when you leave your anxious pooch alone. You can buy CDs like this or you can make your own CD and play it so it loops and gives your dog hours of calming music while you're away from him and from the house. My neighbors adopted their dog, Max, and found he suffered from separation anxiety. He had been bounced around too much for a dog only a year old. I put together a tape of the slower movements of some Bach and other classical composers, called it "Max's's Tunes" and gave it to my neighbor to play for him when they left the house.
Heavy metal, blue grass or just good old rock and roll may be your musical thing, but if you're working through issues with an anxious dog, be prepared to trade in your favorite tunes, at least for a while, for something slow, steady and classical that will help him heal!