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Holiday stress? Some music to soothe the savage breast

First things first: I don’t think dogs are savages.  I often look to Frankie for  wisdom, as my last post attests.  But every time I’ve used the phrase “soothe the savage breast” in the past, an editor has changed “breast” to “beast”; one even accused me of having my mind in the gutter. Also, the quote — “Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast/To soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak” — is from William Congreve’s The Mourning Bride (1697), not from a play by Shakespeare. So I’m taking advantage of my chosen topic to set the record straight.

Now that I’ve got that off my chest (or breast)…

The holidays can be stressful for dogs as well as people. Everyone is bustling around, distracted, trying to get presents bought, holiday parties organized… Dogs get underfoot, voices get raise, tempers get frayed.

One easy thing to do to dial back the stress level is to skip the Chipmunk’s Christmas songs — especially if your dog has terrier tendencies — and other perky music and put on something that’ll soothe your pooch.

What might that be? My top pick is:

Through a dog's ear Through a Dog’s Ear, by Joshua Leeds and Lisa Spector

Based on studies done by veterinary neurologist Susan Wagner and psychoacoustic expert Joshua Leeds, dogs like slow tempos and not a lot of complexity in their compositions. Because they hear at such high frequencies, they also prefer quiet sounds. Thus this CD by  the Apollo Chamber Ensemble featuring pianist Lisa Spector (for more information about the CD and affiliated book, see the Through a Dog’s Ear website).

Other good options include:

Canine Lullabies,” created by former songwriter and record producer Terry Woodford, who discovered that what was effective for calming human babies also worked on the furry variety. The reverse holds true, too, according to assertions on Amazon.com that “Dog Gone Classical Music: Mozart” makes babies mellow out. Also favorably reviewed are the “Music Dogs Love: While You Are Gone” CD, and “Music My Pet,” a classical mix created by Tom Nazziola, the principal performer on Baby Einstein CDs and DVDs (luckily, no one has claimed that “Music My Pet” will make your dog smarter, merely soothe him).

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4 Comments

  1. Posted December 11, 2009 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    I love the way you opened this blog and smoothly segued into the topic of music for dogs!

    I’m going to soothe my savage breasties now with some good music ?!

    • admin
      Posted December 11, 2009 at 9:45 am | Permalink

      Thank you, Diane — very timely! I was just worrying that my readers were thinking, “Why doesn’t she just get to the point, for a change?”

  2. Posted December 11, 2009 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    OK. I’ve got got to get something off my chest (or breast). I love Alvin and the Chipmunks … ever since I was a little kid. Looking forward to the squeakquel movie coming out soon!

    That said, our dogs are sensitive to the background music we play. So in times of stress, we play some low-key music. The other thing – as I am sure you know – is just to try and stay calm (and not just around the holidays). We try and move slowly. We try to leave plenty of time to get ready to go places so we are not rushing. I also think it helps to remember that our dogs aren’t trying to frustrate us from getting things done. So if I start getting to that point, I take some deep breaths to relax … bend down to the dogs levels … and smile at them.

    Great post!

    • admin
      Posted December 11, 2009 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

      No offense to Alvin. I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for him and his chipmunks myself — though not enough of one to see the movie (or its squeakquel)!

      Your multi-faceted strategy for dog calming is excellent, one that I agree with heartily. When I realize I’m about to lose my cool because I’ve been rushing around with Frankie rushing after me, I just sit down and give him — and me — a bit of a chill-out break.

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