Music to Calm the High Drive Dog

I had the privilege of meeting Lisa Spector a couple of weekends ago at the Tervuren Fanciers Agility Trial in Palo Alto. I recognized her and her dogs, camped just up the field from us, and introduced myself as a big fan. For those who do not recognize her name, she is the musician and composer behind the Through A Dog’s Ear series of music designed to calm dogs in a variety of settings.

Music, you ask, to calm the beast?

Well, it’s not just a myth, but has been demonstrated to be effective in studies conducted by the team at Through A Dog’s Ear and by others with doctorates in psychoacoustics, psychology and animal behavior. More recent studies continue to support these findings.

Relaxing on a rainy afternoon

So, how does this music work, and how is it different from any basic classical music? In the preliminary studies that they conducted, they found that the “instrumentation and tempo of the classical music can produce marked differences in results. Solo instruments, slower tempos, and less complex arrangements had a greater calming effect than faster selections with more complex harmonic and orchestral content.”

Lisa Spector writes the arrangements for optimum calming effects, using slower cadences and lower tones, aligning with what they learned in the studies. The result is music that is not only beautiful, but has the effect of calming those who listen to it, in particular, the dogs.

Real Life Experiences

Over the past several years, I have used Through A Dog’s Ear music in a variety of ways to calm my own pack, as well as recommended it to help calm my clients’ their nervous or high energy dogs.

  • My first experience with their original CD was as a test. I had a lovely client with a very nervous, recently rescued cattle dog mix, with whom we’d tried a wide variety of exercises and treatments to help her relax. I heard about this music through a colleague, and recommended it as an adjunct to our training. My client was a fan of classical music, and open to trying it out. Her report to me after the first trial went something like this: “I put the music on in the afternoon, when (the dog) is often most nervous. Then I went to the other room to read. Next thing you know, the dog, my two cats, and I were all asleep for a nice nap.” I learned then that the music calms people as well as dogs.

    Cats and dogs, sleeping together

  • In classes, I performed an informal test shortly after the above event. In Week 1 of beginning training classes, people and dogs are typically nervous and fidgety. I started class normally, then about 10 minutes in, I put the CD on as background music. Within minutes, I observed both dogs and people visibly relaxing. Unsure of whether it was my imagination, my observations were confirmed by my assistants, who were amazed to see the dogs taking deep breaths and lying down, while the humans’ shoulders were dropping as they relaxed as well.
  • With my own pack at home, I play this music during thunderstorms and fireworks shows. This is significant, as two of my dogs developed fairly severe thunder phobias after a large (100+ foot) tree landed on our house one night while they slept in their crates. I could work with them to recover from these phobias, but since thunderstorms and fireworks are both rare in our area I have found it most effective to use the music, along with the air conditioner or house heater to drown out additional outside noise.
  • I also use the Driving Edition on road trips to flyball, agility and other competitions. My dogs, being high drive types, get very excited when they realize that we are going to an event. They love to run, and while they initially settle down for long car rides, they used to get very excited and agitated as soon as we pulled off the highway, in anticipation of the games. I first used the Driving Edition music on the way to a local competition, about 2 hours away from home. My teammate and I were amazed when we arrived with a carload of quiet, mostly sleeping dogs that had not already expended much of their energy prior to running. And we enjoyed a peaceful conversation along the ride – double bonus!
  • Finally, on a human note, when my daughter was just over one month old, we had to move. In this stressful time, she was having a hard time going down for her nap in the afternoon. On a whim I put on one of the CD’s in a stereo near her. She was asleep before the end of the first song!  She is two now, and I still use this music around bedtime to help her settle down.

    Even babies are calmed down


There are many ways to help calm or even just “tone down” a high drive dog. And while all dogs still require plenty of physical and mental exercise to be well-adjusted and content, the Through A Dog’s Ear series of music could be a great addition to the high drive dog owner’s toolbox.

4 thoughts on “Music to Calm the High Drive Dog

  1. Thanks for the beautifully written article Cecilia. It was such a pleasure meeting you. It is always a joy connecting with other sound aware dog lovers and trainers. Glad to read that you have found so many wonderful uses for Through a Dog’s Ear.

    Although I’d love to take full credit for the classical arrangements on the Through a Dog’s Ear recordings, they were arranged in partnership with Joshua Leeds, a renowned sound researcher. I learned everything I now know about psychoacoustics from Joshua, an authority on the subject.

    Your description of the music is very well written and it warms my heart that you, your dogs, and your clients dogs are enjoying it so much.

    Thanks again and hope to see you soon at another agility trial.

    • Creo que reflejas el copetnco de amigo, fiel compaf1ero, inseparable compaf1eda que encontramos algunas veces en ese ser a nuestro lado atraves de los af1os, y sed, muchas veces tambie9n en un perro.En este cuadro nos vuelves a encantar con la maravilla natural de tus temas.Felicidades!!!

      • / Thanks! Glad to hear that you have a similar eepirxence as I have. Itb4s remarkable how loving and caring Podencos are. One night I felt like cuddling up with Mami and I just called her name and she came and within seconds she slept right next to me! Obviously I can not do that when I have a girlfriend.. But until then. And I keep hearing the same eepirxences from other Canario owners.

  2. I purchased the set of CD’s from Through a Dog’s ear. I, personally found it not to be relaxing, even though the dogs did. I have never liked “classical” music.

    I do play it for the dogs out in the kennels. But in my house and in my van, I play Native American music. Relaxing for me and the dogs! Volume is the key in either venue…….the lower, the better……..almost subliminal.

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