I never thought I would see the day that I bought my dog his own music. Really.
That was then, this is now, as they say.
The “Through a Dog’s Ear” CDs are acoustically engineered to be soothing for dogs. They’re not just pretty piano pieces; they’re selected and modified in various ways to maximize your dog’s relaxation. I, personally, don’t notice anything obviously different about them. The effect is, I think, mostly in pacing and selection.
There is some debate about how generally effective these are. Lisa Spector, a pianist, and Joshua Leeds, a “psychoacoustic expert,” post some fairly compelling data on their own website. Patricia McConnell, on the other hand, recently blogged about a new study that found the engineered pieces less soothing to shelter dogs than “regular” classical music. (She notes that the study played one track on a loop, which is not how the Dog’s Ear pieces are meant to be used.)
Here’s the thing: I don’t care what the research says. This CD is not magic. It doesn’t tone down Silas’s overall behavior at all. While I don’t find these tracks to be generally soothing, though, they do one thing incredibly well. That thing is stopping what I call the anxiety spiral. Sometimes when Silas gets tired, he can’t sleep because he’s worried. The more tired he gets, the more anxious he gets. He’s been in this loop for an hour or two now. I turned on this CD, sat down to write this review, and he was asleep by the end of the first track. If he isn’t in “the loop,” like I said, I don’t find them to make a huge difference. But they’re just enough to calm him down enough to help him sleep. If that sounds like a weak endorsement, you’ve never had a nervous dog.
I do play other classical music, as well as other “regular” music in a pretty wide range of genres. This CD is more effective than the others, although any background noise is preferable to none. I will say that the classical music my husband and I like is on the clash-y modern side. Less Brahms, more Stravinsky, if you will. I would be interested to see if more traditional recordings of the same or similar pieces, with their full orchestral backing, produce a similar effect. If you don’t already have a library of gentle classical music, or know what to buy, the Through a Dog’s Ear CDs are definitely handy.