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Natural Awakenings Fairfield & Southern Litchfield Counties

Sound Effects:: What Your Pet Hears

Jul 03, 2014 01:41AM ● By Donna Gleason

Have you ever noticed that your behavior or emotional state changes based on the type of music you are listening to? How do you feel when you hear the sound of a babbling brook or fingernails scraping on a blackboard? Sound has the ability to affect not only human behavior and emotional states, but that of our pets as well.

To understand more about the power of sound and its impact upon your pets, try a simple experiment. Speak to your pet using high pitched staccato sounds, such as “ta ta ta ta ta,” followed by a lower pitched legato sound like “g-g-e-e-n-n-t-t-l-l-e-e.” Your pet will most likely became more energetic and excited when hearing the staccato sounds and calmer when presented with the legato sounds.


The science behind sound 

Jeffrey D. Thompson, DC, director of the Center for Neuroacoustic Research, conducted extensive research on brain waves entraining or syncing with the rhythm of sound they receive. He identified that music with a cadence of 60 beats or less slowed brain waves and other bodily functions, including blood pressure, breathing and heart rates. Conversely, he found that faster rhythms sped up brain activity. Overall, slower rhythms produced calming effects and faster beats increased energy and concentration skills.   


Impact in Common High-Stress Environments

There have been numerous studies supporting the use of sound in veterinary offices and shelter environments. A study published in Animal Welfare revealed that shelter animals exposed to classical music spent more time in a relaxed state. Specifically, their barking was reduced and they were less reactive when people came to visit. The study also found that the number of adoptions increased after the facility started to play classical music. Researchers attributed this to potential adopters being more relaxed, spending more time at the shelter and showing an increased desire to adopt a dog from such a calm facility (Wells, D.L., Graham, L., Hepper, P.G., November 2002).

Katharine Pileggi, owner of Downtown Dog in New Milford, Connecticut, has been grooming pets for over ten years and sees the powerful effect of sound in her business. She finds “The Sounds of Reiki” CD and Healing Sounds Radio show tend to have the most positive impact, causing the pets to be more emotionally and behaviorally balanced. Pileggi says that many of her clients have indicated that, for the first time, their pet’s grooming experience seems to be stress-free. 


Sound to the Rescue

Barking: Turning on the television or radio to a calm, soothing station during the day can act as a camouflage for the sounds which trigger your dog to bark. If your dog randomly barks at sounds during the night, consider purchasing a white noise relaxation machine.

Grief and Depression: Faster rhythms can help to rejuvenate a pet’s depressed or lethargic emotional state. Experts suggest exposing your pet in 10- to 15-minute intervals will help achieve better results.

Reactivity to Specific Sounds: Reactivity to a specific sound like fireworks or the sounds produced during a thunderstorm can be referred to as situational reactivity. Master’s Voice’s Noiseshy Cure System: Thunder/Fireworks and Victoria Stilwell’s Canine Noise Phobia Series are two CD compilations specifically designed to help you reduce your pet’s reactivity to such sounds through desensitization and behavior modification.

Separation Anxiety: Playing slow music in the background can help calm a pet that experiences anxiety when left alone. In their Through A Dog’s Ear disc, Joshua Leeds and Lisa Spector use the science of psychoacoustics to support and enhance a pet’s compromised nervous system.

Sound can be a powerful tool when looking to alter a behavior or emotional response from your pet. First, determine if you are trying to speed up or slow down the response. How you apply sound to your pet’s environment is only limited by your personal creativity.


Donna Gleason, owner of TLC Dog Trainer, resides in Sherman. She is a certified professional dog trainer (CPDT-KA) and IAABC certified dog behavior consultant (CDBC) with a master’s degree in behavior modification. She offers professional in-home dog training and group puppy/basic obedience classes. For more information, call 203-241-4449 or visit