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K9 Corner: Music can sooth agitated dogs

BY HELEN PALMER

Local columnist

Music soothes the troubled human mind, but it also can calm the agitated dog. In New York City, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals play tapes of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms in their rescue trucks to soothe the frightened animals. I was told that often, (I was fortunate enough to have had a guided tour of the ASPCA a few years ago), these strays arrive at the shelter relaxed and willing to accept handling.

However, not all music relaxes dogs. In the kindergarten puppy training class I used to offer, we covered the five senses and when it came to sound I would tell the class that some dogs tolerate Bluegrass and country music, but no dog seems to enjoy heavy metal type music. Over the years, there were three or four individuals who wanted to see just what would happen if they played heavy metal music in their pup’s presence. At the next class I would hear of the experiment, the pups became agitated, one or more would race around the house or apartment and all of them barked frantically.

In every case the owners ceased the experiment and attempted to calm the pup. If I had been asked at that time, I would have suggested playing classical music, but perhaps the owners didn’t have classical tapes.

Using music to change your pet’s mood can be fun. Back in the 1970s the 4-H dog club had a drill team. Most of the drills were performed with marching music. As a spectator, it was fun to watch the dogs, large and small, stepping out in the rhythm of the march, the dachshund doing double time with her short legs.

Now, many years later, it is nearly impossible for 12 handlers and their dogs to get together for needed practice before each performance. However, it is possible to train your dog individually to be your partner in what is called canine freestyle dancing.

Using the commands in basic obedience and adding a few one word signals, plus selecting music that suits the dog’s natural stride, will result in a performance that any handler would be proud of. Some handlers wear costumes that compliment their dogs natural coat color. A black and white dog may have a handler dressed in a tuxedo or even white tie and tails, depending on the dance.

Thus, if your dog is agitated because of a thunderstorm nearby, or a stranger walking through your yard, play some soothing classical music before you try to feed, groom or train him. If he is already trained and you want to try some fun things, watch your dog move freely around his yard and try to pick up on his natural stride. Then select a score and put together a dance or even a drill with spectaculars like jumping a bar or through a hoop. I used to try different moves with my dog, marching around the dining room table, before I asked the 4-H drill team to teach their dogs how to do it. I figured that if my dog understood the move, the other dogs would have no trouble. Now go out and have some fun!