#80 - Eileen Anderson: Understanding Sound Sensitivities & Phobias

[00:00:00] Eileen: And, it probably started with my dog, Zani, who was a little hound mix, who became sound sensitive, and later was diagnosed clinically sound phobic. Before that, before she was diagnosed, I noticed that she was afraid of beeps, digital beeps particularly. And I started working with her, and that’s when I had a profound realization.

And that was that beeps are not a typical kind of sound that scares mammals. What we know usually will startle mammals is a noise that is both loud and sudden, and there’s actually parameters for that. They’ve studied it for different species. They know exactly how hard, how loud it has to be and how fast it has to start to trigger the startle reflex.

And so these little beeps, these were different. I couldn’t figure why they were scary. So, I was thinking very hard about sound and about why noises could be scary. And I started seeing everybody talking about it and saying, “When I do desensitization and counterconditioning, I start with a really quiet version of the sound.” And that was my first epiphany, and it was like, these beeps are quiet already, and they still scare her. And I think they scare her more when they’re quieter. And that was what prompted me to perform desensitization and counterconditioning using pitch rather than volume.

[00:01:29] Allie: Welcome to Enrichment for the Real World, the podcast devoted to improving the quality of life of pets and their people through enrichment. We are your hosts, Allie Bender…

[00:01:46] Emily: …and I’m Emily Strong…

[00:01:48] Allie: …and we are here to challenge and expand your view of what enrichment is, what enrichment can be and what enrichment can do for you and the animals in your lives. Let’s get started.

Thank you for joining us for today’s episode of Enrichment for the Real World, and I want to thank you for rating, reviewing, and subscribing wherever you listen to podcasts.

The voice you heard at the beginning of today’s episode was Eileen Anderson. Eileen Anderson (she/her) writes about her life with dogs with a focus on training with positive reinforcement and has authored two books. Her book on canine cognitive dysfunction, Remember Me, won a Maxwell Award from the Dog Writers Association of America in 2017. She has written for Clean Run, Whole Dog Journal, the IAABC Journal, and Barks from the Guild. Her articles, training videos, and photos of dog body language have been incorporated into curricula worldwide.

Eileen has worked professionally as an academic editor, an orchestral and ensemble musician, a network and database administrator, a college math instructor, a bookkeeper, a grant writer, a social work caseworker, and a trainer of computer skills. She has a longstanding interest in making technology accessible to women, people with limited literacy skills, and other underserved populations.

She holds master’s degrees in both Music Performance and Engineering Science–Acoustics. She has recently brought her expertise in music, sound, and acoustics to the dog training and behavior world.

Y’all, I’m so glad that we were able to get Eileen on the podcast. I absolutely love her and we actually have so much to thank her for. She was one of the beta readers for our book, Canine Enrichment for the Real World, and she gave us really fantastic feedback from it. So, thank you once again, Eileen, for that.

But in addition to that, I’ve learned so much from Eileen, and so much that I didn’t expect. I didn’t know all of this stuff about sound and acoustics and, and all the things that she talks about, and how it relates to my job as a behavior consultant. So, I also have to thank her for that. She’s just a really interesting person to learn from and has fantastic resources.

In this episode, you’re going to hear Emily and Eileen talk about: 

  • when it comes to sound sensitivity

  • volume isn’t everything

  • ad hoc counter conditioning can be effective

  • why Morgan Freeman is good for dogs

  • and stay ahead of the pain, stay ahead of the panic.

All right, here it is, today’s episode, Eileen Anderson, understanding sound sensitivities and phobias.

[00:04:19] Emily: All right. Tell us your name, your pronouns, and your pets.

[00:04:23] Eileen: I’m Eileen Anderson. My pronouns are she and her, and my pets are Clara, my female dog, who’s almost 13 years old, and Lewis, my male dog, who is almost three.

[00:04:34] Emily: Lewis. I can’t believe he’s already almost three. How time flies.

They grow so quickly.

[00:04:42] Eileen: Yeah.

[00:04:43] Emily: All right. Tell us your story and how you got to where you are.

[00:04:46] Eileen: All right. I’ve been trying to decide where to start here. And I think it makes sense to start in 2006 when I, like many people who ended up in the training world, got a reactive dog. I got a dog from a shelter. That was my dog named Summer. And her behavior problems were over my skill level, way over my skill level. I didn’t have good resources. I was hitting the internet, which was kind of Yahoo Groups at that time, and I ended up finding a very good local trainer, and I got the training bug, in other words.

And unlike a lot of people who get it, I didn’t end up being a professional trainer, but I am firmly in the dog world, and I am a dog writer. And I started having feelings about what was important in training, of course, like we all do. And wanting to argue with people and having a voice. And I didn’t have any credentials, and that didn’t bother me very much. I still had something to say because I was madly self-educating.

And so in 2012, I decided to start a blog. Actually, I should say that my dear friend Marge Rogers, who later became my co-author of a book, told me to get a blog. She said, “You need a blog.” And I said, “But I’m just reacting to things.” And she said, :That’s okay, that’s all right. Write a blog.” Okay. And so, I started blogging, and one of my early posts was on, does my dog really want to be petted?

And I had footage of one of my dogs who didn’t want me to pet her and another dog who very much wanted me to pet her. I didn’t think much about it, and it was another body language post. And it went viral. And Dr. Susan Friedman reached out to me and said, “Could I use your video in my lectures?”

And I said, while bowing down, “Yes, ma’am, that would be wonderful.”

And I ended up taking her professional course, Living and Learning with Animals. And by then I was, I completely had the training and behavior analysis bug firmly ensconced. And I was still in graduate school in engineering. I had gotten a master’s degree in engineering science, and I was ABD in a doctoral program. I had finished everything but my dissertation.

And oddly enough, my interest in that started waning, because behavior was just so much more cool. And I ended up dropping out, I didn’t have any particular plans. I was working for a non-profit. But I did drop my graduate work that I’ve been working on for 12 years, 15 years, a long time, just because I loved behavior so much.

And it was much later that I realized I could circle back to my engineering, and also my music experience, and talk about dogs and sound. We can get to that a little bit later. Where I am now is I am a blogger. I have two books published, I’m working on another one. I have presentations going on out there about dogs and sound, I’m just really excited about everything I get to do.

[00:07:50] Emily: I’m very excited about your work all the time. So yeah, first of all, I just have to thank you for being you. And one of the things that I deeply appreciate about your work is your epistemological integrity. By which I mean, you write really thoughtful articles and you create really thoughtful content – not just your articles, but your books, your webinars, everything – in which you ask yourself and your audience, how do we know that what we believe is true? And then you delve into an examination of a lot of topics, not just sound sensitivity, that get bounced around the echo chamber of our industry. And you just peel back the layers so that we can get a closer look at what’s actually going on. Not just what we’ve all told each other is going on.

I just deeply appreciate that because that’s one of the things that I’m really passionate about–in life in general, but especially in our profession. Is this something that we do because it’s true, and it’s necessary, and it’s effective, and ethical, and beneficial, or is it something that we do because everybody knows, quote unquote, that this is what you do? And so, I just really appreciate, I think in many ways, you are one of the leaders in, in helping to model what it looks like to do that examination process.

And so, I just appreciate everything that you put out. And I’m just going to – sidebar – I will say that we, at Pet Harmony, use that, that petting blog that you made with our clients all the time, because it is such a helpful resource for people to really understand what a petting consent test can look like. So yes, we use that one frequently.

So thank you. Thank you for everything that you do. And I will share links to several of my favorite examples of what I’m talking about in our show notes so that our listeners can see what it looks like. But I just have to mention here that there have been a few that have really stuck with me over the years.

The Petting Consent Test being one of them, but also your article about socially mediated negative reinforcement compared to automatic negative reinforcement was so powerful for me because it was something that I had been trying to articulate to people for a long time. It’s not an apples to apples comparison when we’re inserting ourselves into the learning process versus not.

And so you, like, gave me the language and the resources to better understand the phenomenon that I was observing and trying to articulate. So that was just huge for me. I still refer people to it all the time. So, that’s one that has really stuck with me.

And another one is your article on opposition reflex. And I will tell you, I will admit I’m a little bit nervous about confessing this on our podcast, but because, even though I grew up with dogs and grew up working with dogs and animal welfare, my behavioral journey didn’t start with dogs. My behavioral journey started with parrots and horses primarily, and then also exotic species of other types.

And I didn’t really predominantly start working with dogs until 2013. Before 2013, dogs made up maybe 25 percent of my clientele. And because of that, I wasn’t really immersed in the echo chamber of dog training. So my entry into the behavior field was not an entry into that particular echo chamber. And the reason that the opposition reflex made such a profound impact on me is because I had heard dog trainers use that term and I didn’t really, I felt weird about it, but it was hard for me to articulate, do I feel weird about this because I’m not coming from the dog training world, and so I don’t know enough about dog training to know what I’m talking about, or do I feel weird about it because it’s not an epistemologically sound approach to this phenomenon that we’re observing.

And so, that your article just, you really helped me to see and articulate for myself what it was that I was experiencing. So, you have given me so many gifts. Personally, I’m just gonna say, I mean, you’ve done so much for the profession, but for me personally, you have given me so many gifts in my professional development. And it is precisely that level of critical analysis that makes the work that you’ve been doing on sound sensitivities in dogs so valuable. I think the first webinar you put out – I think it was your first, I’m not sure – but the first one that you put out on this topic, a few years ago, gave me so much helpful refinement of my understanding and approach.

And that was just the beginning. We’ve had so many conversations since then, and it’s really grown and evolved. So, I suppose the best place to start this conversation is to ask you how you ended up in the sound sensitivity niche to begin with, and what prompted you to start diving deeper into this topic?

[00:12:38] Eileen: I ended up in this topic kind of sideways. As I mentioned, it just didn’t occur to me. I left engineering behind. You always think like an engineer, but, it’s like I was not studying that anymore, and I had left music behind even earlier, and again, you never stop being a musician, but I didn’t lead a musician’s life.

And, it probably started with my dog, Zani, who was a little hound mix, who became sound sensitive, and later was diagnosed clinically sound phobic. Before that, before she was diagnosed, I noticed that she was afraid of beeps, digital beeps particularly. And I started working with her, and that’s when I had a profound realization.

And that was that beeps are not a typical kind of sound that scares mammals. What we know usually will startle mammals is a noise that is both loud and sudden, and there’s actually parameters for that. They’ve studied it for different species. They know exactly how hard, how loud it has to be and how fast it has to start to trigger the startle reflex.

And so these little beeps, these were different. I couldn’t figure why they were scary. And, there’s theories about with Border Collies that they’re, they’ve been bred for I don’t know how long to be sensitive, particularly to whistles. And I know that kind of sound sensitivity is rampant in that breed, but Zani was a hound terrier mix.

So, I was thinking very hard about sound and about why noises could be scary. And I started seeing everybody talking about it and saying when I do desensitization and counterconditioning, I start with a really quiet version of the sound. And that was my first epiphany, and it was like, these beeps are quiet already, and they still scare her. And I think they scare her more when they’re quieter. And that was what prompted me to perform desensitization and counterconditioning using pitch rather than volume. And I’ll back up and explain that a little bit.

Pitch is frequency, and it corresponds to low notes and high notes, basically. Sound is measured in cycles per second, or hertz. And rather than taking a really quiet noise and making it louder and louder, which is perfectly rational practice if the noise is loud and scary to begin with, it didn’t make sense to do it on volume. So, I realized that she had a range of pitches that was scary to her, and a range lower than that was not.

So, rather than a series of sounds that got louder, I had a series of sounds that got higher. And I spaced out my exposures, and I tried to practice very clean training, more than my usual lazy self would do. And I also noticed that the shortness of the beep was part of the problem, because there was a similar beep in my household that was longer, around the same pitch, and that didn’t bother her.

And that didn’t make sense at all to me. I have a little thought about it – this is not from any kind of research – but we do know that dogs don’t locate pitches, locate noises as well as we do. And a lot of these beeps are disembodied. You can’t tell where they’re coming from, and I’ve always wondered, and when they’re shorter, they’re harder to find.

If it plays for a while, you have a chance of finding where it is. Anyway, these are just Eileen’s thoughts, again, there’s no research behind it, except there’s a little bit of science behind it. So, in my series of sounds, I started with the beep longer and lower pitched. And I varied on those two criteria and ended up with the original beep, very fast and in the same frequency range. And it worked.

And Zani was comfortable with that sound ever since. I always kept that account topped up with beeps. She, you know, it’s like there was not some other reinforcer that was going to magically kick in because she could tolerate beeps now. So, I never stopped giving her treats for beeps in the household and it became a recall cue.

If she heard me pressing buttons in the kitchen, she would come happily running for her treat. And I did that without really thinking of, gosh, I should tell the world about this. It just seemed like the natural thing to do. But that was when I first started thinking, the stuff I know about sound might be something I could talk about here.

And that went on to, having very critical thoughts about most desensitization apps, which I think most of them are a disaster unless they are in the hands of someone very careful. But even then, the sounds are usually not appropriate. I can go into more detail on that if you want me to. Shall we do that right now?

[00:17:23] Emily: Yes. Yeah, that, my eyebrows went up and I started nodding furiously. Yes, go into that. Please elaborate. Yes.

[00:17:29] Eileen: Okay, and I do have a blog post about this, but I’m always happy to talk about it. The apps that you can get on a smartphone usually have sounds that are too long. Or, I’m talking behavior science right now, rather than acoustics. They’ll have 15 seconds of thunder, for example. Or 20 seconds of cars going by, or whatever it is.

And if you’re going to do clean counterconditioning, that’s too long. You need one thunderclap. And the problem with thunder, of course, is that every one sounds different. And that’s one of the terrible challenges about trying to even do anything about thunder, but, so for the first thing, the sounds are almost always too long.

The second thing is that if you play them through a smartphone, you are not going to get the full frequency range. You’re not going to get the low frequency because smartphones are too small, that’s not what their speakers are for. They don’t put out those low frequencies. And it’s funny because we humans fill in the blanks with our ears.

And if we hear thunder coming out of a smartphone, the recording of thunder, we recognize it as such. Even we are not hearing, down to whatever it is, 40 Hertz. That’s the lower range of thunder, actually it goes down lower than that, but that’s about how low we can hear it. The phone’s not putting that out at all.

It’s starting at about 300 or 400 Hertz, which is well into the high range of thunder. So, when you are doing low frequency sounds like this, you’re not getting the whole thing. And there is a study that showed that some dogs did not hear a relationship between thunder played through a speaker and real life thunder, and that was a better speaker than a smartphone.

Now lots of the apps have gotten smarter. They do tell you play the sounds through a speaker system. Yay, that’s better. Their recordings are still too long. And some of them are just disastrous in another way. And that is that they’re not making a determination between a dog who is intrinsically afraid of a sound, and a dog for whom the sound is a predictor of something scary.

Like a doorbell. Most dogs who are scared of doorbells, I think I’m safe making this generalization here, are scared of what’s going to happen next. Doorbell means something chaotic is going to come in from the front door. We may or may not know, there’s a lot of unknown involved, and it may be somebody scary. It may be the UPS truck driving away afterwards, which we don’t like, and they are not intrinsic, they were not born or genetically predisposed, probably, to be scared of the doorbells. They’re scared of what the doorbells predict.

And some of the sound apps will– They’re getting more sophisticated. They will play the sounds while you’re gone for your dog, so far with no counterconditioning, just as a desensitization protocol, starting with them quieter and getting louder. And that ignores the reason the dog might be afraid. There’s no functional assessment involved. And it doesn’t, if you succeed in teaching the dog that doorbells do not predict a scary thing, first of all, they’re going to find out that was only the case when they’re home alone. And second of all, it’s not addressing their root fear, which is probably strangers, or other things that happen when the door opens. So those are, there’s one more, those are some of my complaints about the apps.

The final, and that is, and this is true of any recording played through any speaker at the consumer level, and that is that when we record sounds, unless we have special equipment, we have a high end cutoff of about 20,000 to 22,000 hertz. That cuts out half of a dog’s hearing range, and what that means is that a dog is always going to be able to tell the difference between a real sound in the real world and a recorded one, because half the information is missing.

And there’s very little we can do about that, because, ha, speakers and mics are made for humans and we don’t need those extra sounds. And there are ultrasound microphones, which we can talk about later, but there aren’t any ultrasound speakers that are feasible for someone to purchase. They use them definitely in scientific experiments and things, but that is another very severe problem for sounds of all sorts.

That’s why I had an advantage when I was working with Zani, because the sound she was afraid of to begin with was a digital sound. It didn’t have those higher frequencies. And so, when I played it back, if you’re scared of a smartphone sound, playing it on a smartphone is the perfect thing. And in a way, that’s what made her conditioning easier.

But those are why I just haven’t found apps yet that I can recommend. Most of them in the hands of non-trainers are going to end up scaring the dogs more. And, at best, you might get a little bit of habituation, if you’re lucky. But the idea of playing sounds to a dog when you’re not home, and that– and there’s sounds that the dog is already scared of, that’s just horrifying to me. That is a recipe for disaster.

[00:22:28] Emily: Yeah, Yes. So, there are so many threads I want to pull and what you just talked about. I want to go back to the beginning. And so, the first thread I want to pull is some clarification about the comment you made about the, the sounds on those apps being too long for counterconditioning. Um, hey, listeners just as a warning, we’re about to get real nerdy here. I, I really want to make sure that I’m clearly understanding what you’re saying, Eileen. So there are two different types of counterconditioning that I have been taught that we can use. So one is trace conditioning, which is what you’re describing. A short stressor happens, and then the really awesome thing follows that, right? So, that’s trace conditioning. Thunderclap. Treat.

Another type of counterconditioning that I have been taught to use and use to good effect is called delayed conditioning, where a longer stressor starts first, and then the good thing happens, and they happen at the same time, and they stop at the same time. So, in delayed conditioning, there are longer duration stressors that happen. They just, it starts first and then the good happens and then they both co-occur for a while.

So my question to you is, are you saying that specifically for the thunderclap fear, it needs to be trace conditioning because the things that dogs are usually– the stressor that dogs are usually affected by is that sudden environmental contrast of no sound and then sudden loud thunderclap? Is that why you said that the trace conditioning is the appropriate procedure for that situation?

[00:24:09] Eileen: Actually no, although that’s a really good argument. The reason I said it is that a 15 second recording of thunder is going to have multiple thunder claps.

So your food can, if you’re feeding constantly, as you do in delayed conditioning, and we said 15 seconds, some of these are a minute, so what’s predicting what is one problem, and there are multiple stimuli. It’s not an engine running, that would be perfect for delayed conditioning, right?

It doesn’t change, it’s just a motor. It’s going on the same way. We feed, and feed. It stops, we stop feeding. Perfect. But Thunder is chaotic. It’s all the claps sound different. And I have an analogy that I use for this. And it is as if you decided you were going to do visual exposures of your dog to people.

And this is a dog who’s scared of other people. And you get your distance, right? You’re 200 yards away and you get it so that there’s a gap that, the dog can just see a little bit, and then you have a parade go by. So you have so many things set up right, but you have multiple stimuli in that window of time. And that’s what I see as the problem.

[00:25:21] Emily: That is so helpful. Thank you for that clarification, because what I’m hearing and you can tell me if I’m hearing correctly, is that even though our intention might be a delayed conditioning procedure, what ends up happening is, at best, a simultaneous conditioning procedure where they’re just both happening at the same time, and they may never make that predictive association.

Or at worst, what’s happening is a reverse conditioning procedure where the food is predicting the next, the subsequent thunderclap. And then, so then the food becomes the predictor for something scary and we’ve just ruined food as the awesome thing, right?

[00:25:58] Eileen: That is exactly right.

[00:25:59] Emily: Thank you for that mindsplosion. That was really helpful. I appreciate that clarification. Okay, so that was one thread I wanted to pull. The next thread I wanted to pull was the discussion about how speakers really cut off low and high end frequencies. And a lot of times, my understanding – and please correct me – is that a lot of times when dogs are afraid of sounds, it is the lower or higher end frequencies that are scary to them, is that a correct understanding?

[00:26:30] Eileen: Part of it, I think, there’s one study, it was actually a music study, that showed when they lowered the pitch of a piece of music that they had already exposed the dogs to, and here’s our, the same problem, okay, if it was three minutes long, what were they hearing at the end compared to the beginning?

But when they played the same music at lower pitch, the dogs, contrary to prediction, got anxious. And so, that’s a little tiny piece of, pre-evidence that lower frequencies might be scary. And lower frequencies carry so much better. You can hear thunder from miles away. You can’t hear neighbors talking, unless it’s across a lake or something like that. But you can’t hear other sounds that far. And so, they’re always going to be, if you’re close to them, they’re going to be very loud, which is also another trigger.

The higher end, I have not seen evidence that really high noises up in the dog’s range where we can’t hear are intrinsically scary. It seems to me that the dogs who have the scary– the fearful response to higher pitches, it’s really not all that high. Zani’s scary frequency was 3900 hertz. That’s not even halfway as high as humans can hear, but it sounds high to us. It was a high beat.

But there has been one study of ultrasound where this was actually a study of ultrasonic aversive devices, they were trying to find something that mail carriers could use to ward off dogs. And when, and they made these devices play a very ugly kind of sound. And I could actually operationalize ugly if you want. There are some combinations of sounds that are intrinsically uncomfortable to the human ear, because what happens inside, we get this kind of fluttering feeling, which is unpleasant.

It’s quite possible that dogs feel that. I’m really wandering along with this. Anyway, so this study was seeing whether these devices could play this kind of ugly sound. And when it was, like, about 70 or 80 decibels, The dogs didn’t particularly react. Some of them flinched a little bit, some of them didn’t like it, some of them were fine.

It did not act as a deterrent. And this was all ultrasound, we wouldn’t be able to hear this. Then when they made it louder, they cranked it up to I think 105 decibels, plenty loud, then the dogs tried to leave. It was not the high pitch, it was the decibels, it was the loud and suddenness of it.

[00:28:59] Emily: Okay. That’s really helpful. Thank you for that clarification. I think the reason that I was curious about that is because my father is from the country in East Texas. And so, a lot of family on his side are, they have 40 beagles just out, cause they take them hunting. They’re hunting dogs, and they use those dog whistles to communicate with them. And so, I see– like, the dogs have these big reactions to the whistles. Not fear, I want to clarify, the dogs love the sound because for them it means they get to go hunting. Good things are going to happen.

But so I guess my impression was that higher frequency sounds elicit a stronger emotional response, but I think that’s just a selection bias of the specific type of high frequency sounds that I was seeing in a good way with relatives’ hunting dogs, and then in a bad way with client dogs who are afraid of high pitch noises. So, I wanted to make sure that I was removing my selection bias from the equation and seeing what’s actually there.

[00:30:04] Eileen: I have a couple thoughts about that myself. One of them is that one could make an argument that some, that very high frequency noises up into the ultrasound range could be appetitive to dogs because that’s where some of the prey noises are. Rats and mice are up in the 30,000 hertz range, right? Square where dogs can hear it. And again, I don’t think it’s probably a case of, “I love those high noises.” It’s, “I love those particular high noises that sound like rodents.”

And whistles, you’ve covered it, whistles become a predictor. I have not known of a dog that heard a whistle and went WOW the first time they ever heard it. Probably they would startle a little bit, because they’re not used to hearing that kind of focused sound in that range. But yeah, I think there would be a small argument for ultrasound being, likely to be attractive, because lots of interesting noises happen up there, and that gives me one more thread here, and it is that there is a myth, promulgated on the internet. Wow. Can you believe it? That, that never happens, right?

That high frequencies are aversive to dogs. And it’s like somebody wrote a blog post and five other people copied it and 1200 other people now have it on their pages, but you’ll read things like dogs hate 25,000 Hertz. Or never let your dog hear in the ultrasound range, it scares them. And that, there’s no basis for that. Zero. I’ve not found any evidence for that. Somebody just made it up. I think it’s because we humans obsess a little bit about ultrasound because we can’t hear it. Anything could be happening up there, right? It could be just totally scary. It’s probably not, it’s probably not totally scary. And definitely those articles that say definite frequency ranges are aversive to dogs, there is zero evidence for that. Zero.

[00:31:55] Emily: Yeah. I think another factor that kind of creates those sort of myths that get repeated and they just become, cemented in as fact is that as a species, humans, we tend to over-index things, right? And one of the, one of the little sayings that I have to remind myself and my team and my students to be cautious is, undereducation overstates. So, when we’re, when we have an we, when we have an insufficient amount of education on a topic, we are more at risk of overstating something. And so, I absolutely believe that wherever that myth started, somebody was seeing, like with me, a selection bias. Where they saw some dogs or some clients’ dogs who had a fear of a higher pitch sound, and then they just over-indexed that to say dogs have a fear of higher pitch sound.

[00:32:50] Eileen: That’s a really good point.

[00:32:51] Emily: And I’ll just admit that was what I was just asking you about, because I was not sure if my observations were a selection bias that I was then over-indexing, or if that was actually a phenomenon that has been– is well established, right? No, no shade being thrown to people who do that, because I literally just asked you for clarification because I was concerned that I was doing that.

[00:33:14] Eileen: You asked before you wrote an article about it.

[00:33:18] Emily: Fair enough. Yes. Um, if only epistemology were taught to everybody in schools, and everybody had access to an education on it. I think that would make the world a better place. But regardless, okay, so along that same vein, the next thread I wanted to pull was the topic of– So, you beautifully articulated so many reasons that these apps can be not an awesome approach and miss the mark in their intentions. I’ve never used a phone app. to be clear. I have no, no experience with phone apps for sound sensitivities, but I have used other software program services, websites that have, like, similar things, similar tools to help adjust sound sensitivity. And I have never seen them to be effective on their own, but I have had success with using them as a first approximation. And then other times I’ve seen that not be helpful. I suspect that the reason that has sometimes been a useful tool for me as a 1st approximation and not in other times is because I’m observing that, for the dogs that we were working with, different elements of the sound were aversive to them or were stressors. And so, for some dogs that was an effective first approximation and for others it wasn’t, because it wasn’t addressing the issue for them.

So you and I have had conversations in the past about how it’s actually really challenging to create a device, or an app, or a program, or a system that is scalable and that could help lots and lots of dogs because the specific things that are aversive to the dogs are highly individualized. In the cases where those programs have been great first approximations, it’s, it seemed that we could use that to establish a habit of when you hear this sound, we go to this place, good things happen, we de0escalate, we complete our stress response cycle, we’re going to practice it with the sound that kind of sounds like fireworks, or sounds like squealie breaks, or thunder, or whatever it is, right?

And then we can incorporate other aspects. And so, a lot of times what I would have my clients do is try to simulate other stressors that happened to co-occur. So, for example, with fireworks, we would first just practice with the firework sounds over the speakers and establishing this is the place that you go to chill. And then we would light and blow out matches while we were doing that. So, we’re pairing the smell of fireworks, that sulfur smell, with the sound that’s kind of firework-ish. And then we would increase the volume on surround sound speakers, and then we would practice in the presence of real fireworks.

And same thing with thunderstorms, we can get ozone smell from those little the spray cans, and there were, wait, we can’t do anything about barometric pressure, but we can–

[00:36:30] Eileen: Right.

[00:36:31] Emily: –prepare for that with wrapping the dog’s body with a, a thunder shirt or something, so we get into the, again, the Thunder Shirt is predicting this session where we’re completing our stress response cycle. Those have been the approaches that I found really effective, along with working with a VB and medication, and all the anti-anxiety stuff.

[00:36:51] Eileen: Right. Well, I’m glad you mentioned that. We needed to mention that many times today. Good.

[00:36:56] Emily: All the neurochemistry that’s also happening, but where I haven’t seen it be effective is when there aren’t as many other things that we can help to countercondition to, where it’s just the sound itself, and there’s not other things that we can layer in before we get from practicing on the speakers to the real event. I think that, that hopefully gives you more context for the question is, how do we tell what exactly the dog’s stressor is? And then how do we know what to do based on that identification?

[00:37:29] Eileen: There’s not an easy answer to that, as you might have suspected. Educated guesses. I can fill in some blanks about sound, I’m not educated in the other kinds of stimuli that you’re talking about. But with sound, I mentioned, I’ve touched this, on this already when I talked about Zani that I observed the shortness of the sound and the particular pitch combined to make a sound that probably was hard to locate and that I think, that’s me speculating, that was what was scary to her.

So, I started with a longer sound that she could locate. There are sounds, I’m going to back up and talk about what can make a sound intrinsically unpleasant. I mentioned the acoustic startle response. It’s really fascinating. I’m going to talk about it again. I think all mammals with ears have this and perhaps those that don’t may have it to vibration.

But if you hear a sound that is both sudden and quickly, quick onset, a bunch of your muscles contract. We are programmed to use sound as a warning system. And that’s one of the reasons I just hate the idea of scaring dogs with sound because it’s so easy and it sticks so terribly. But the acoustic startle response will literally make you jump out of your chair. I’ve had that happen to myself. The thunderstorm was already going on, you would think I’d be habituated to it and then it strikes like right next to my house and I am out of my chair. That is, that starts off as a respondent behavior, it’s not in my control.

Now operant behaviors kick right in or else I’d fall down, right? The acoustic startle response can lead to fear conditioning, and particularly – and this is not under my, something I’m educated about, in a biological or veterinary sense – but dogs can generalize from something that startles them biologically to developing a fear response.

So, that’s one kind of scary sound. And that’s the, the easiest one. It’s– We know that we’re going to jump when we hear these scary sounds. And dogs, of course, don’t understand the things we understand about thunder, but thunder still scares us, scares a lot of people badly.

I mentioned loud sounds. Now a loud sound that’s not sudden onset is not as startling, but it can be very unpleasant. It can literally hurt our ears. Same with dogs. They think it’s, they might react just a little bit lower decibel than we do.

There are acoustically created noises called rough sound and sharp sound. And let me see if I get them straight. Rough sound has amplitude modulation, which means it goes loud and soft really fast. And it makes this kind of fluttering feeling inside your ear, it’s very unpleasant.

And sharp sound is when there’s a whole bunch of high frequencies bunched up together in a sound. And that also creates beats inside of your head, probably inside a dog’s head too. I’m just going over the things we know that are intrinsic, possible, intrinsic triggers.

And then we get into other things that we have no idea what is the scary part. I always wonder when people come to me, and the dog is reacting to footsteps. Gosh, is it just the sound? Or is it the fact that there’s somebody out there making those footsteps? I don’t know that I can answer your question any better than that. We have to be very observant and study what we know about dogs’ hearing. I did give you a link in the show notes for a really good article that compares dogs’ and humans’ hearing, it’s a review article. It’s very long. It’s very readable. And I would recommend anybody who’s working with sound sensitive dogs to, to take a good look at that. I don’t feel like that’s a really sufficient answer for what you’re actually asking, but that’s the answer I have.

[00:41:14] Emily: I think it’s an honest answer, right? The answer is, it’s really complex and we don’t really know enough to be able to answer it other than just trial and eval, and get to know the learner that you’re working with. And so, I think that’s a great answer because it’s an honest one. And I think that, I think the, I love answers like that because our profession tends to – we’re getting better – but historically we’ve had a tendency to treat behavior change in a very formulaic way.

Like for this problem, you use this protocol and for this problem, you use this protocol. And so I like the answers that are like, there is no formula. You have– you really have to learn how to work with the animal in front of you, in the context that they’re in, and get really comfy with trial and eval, because we don’t have all the answers. So, I think it’s great, it’s a great, it’s a great reminder. That’s true for all behavior issues, but it’s just a little more potent with some issues than others, right?

[00:42:12] Eileen: I have a couple things to add just to back up. One is, of course, I said these sounds are aversive. Aversive sounds don’t need to be scary. I can’t equate those things. Just want to amend my statement. Something can be very unpleasant without scaring you. It can hurt your ears and it doesn’t scare you. People go to concerts that hurt their ears. Dogs not so much voluntarily, but again, those are two separate things.

Another thing is I wanted to back up and say that when you were talking about sounds, recorded sounds that are, let’s call it a poor imitation of the real world sound. That can be a good starting point. Our goal is a non-scary version, right? And for some dogs who do bridge the gap, that’s like a very good starting point. So, I also want to amend my rant about, not including all the frequencies and, it’s not high fidelity. Sometimes low fidelity is good in that situation.

[00:43:06] Emily: I think it’s important to be aware that it is not, that it doesn’t achieve the effect that we think it does. Because when you’re aware of that, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to throw the baby out with the bath water. It just means that you’re going to be more realistic in the way that you’re using that tool and you’re not over relying on something that can’t meet your expectations for what you think it’s going to do.

[00:43:29] Eileen: I want to mention two more things while we’re on this topic. One is that there, the study I mentioned where some dogs did not make the connection between a recorded sound and actual thunder, some did. There were ones that did.

And finally, just as an aside, I did my rant about apps and sounds that were too long and all that. They used to be CDs, now they’re probably playlists, but we used to buy CDs of agility sounds or, things. Sounds out in the world, city sounds, whatever. If I had a litter of puppies that was two to three weeks old, I’d be playing those, those kinds of things that are constant, long recordings, I don’t see any reason why those would be a bad thing, and they, in the best of all worlds, they will help young puppies habituate to sounds as soon as their ears are open, and maybe even before fear sets in. So, there is a function of those long recordings. It’s just not for adult, fearful dogs.

[00:44:28] Emily: Yes. Yeah. Okay. So, that brings me to a question I wanted to ask you anyway, and you’re just doing a great job of segwaying into all my questions, which is sound masking. One of the things I loved about that first webinar that you created was how amazing it was at helping me with sound masking preference tests for my clients’ dogs. I was able to like–

[00:44:51] Eileen: You’re doing that! My goodness.

[00:44:53] Emily: Absolutely. Absolutely. The whole Pet Harmony team, we will do sound masking preference tests with our clients so that we can make sure that they’re using something that’s actually effective and how we do that and the things that we include radically changed after I saw that webinar.

So again, you’ve had a huge impact on us and our entire team. Now I’m wondering what do you think about using those playlists where it’s like city sounds or storm, thunder, whatever, as a sound mask? Could they be effective sound masking if they don’t include sounds that are stressors for the dogs? Would that be another use for those resources?

[00:45:32] Eileen: It really totally depends on the content. Ocean noises? Yeah. But what if there’s seagulls? Having a dog who was scared of high pitched noises really did educate me about this. I tried Dog TV for a while. I got a free subscription because I was curious what they were showing and what they were playing.

And my thought was, there’s something in here for every fearful dog to be scared of. But usually these sounds will have a mixture. I think waterfalls, ocean, maybe city sounds, but as soon as we get into the human environment, you’ve got a big variety. You’ve got horns honking, and you’ve got cars racing by.

It’s again, more chaotic, and more like the parade than just something homogeneous. I don’t think there’s anything better than fans or brown noise to really mask effectively. The question is, what can the dog tolerate and what is the dog okay with?

[00:46:26] Emily: Okay, that’s helpful because we’ve definitely been trying to find some other things to include as our, in our buffet of things to try in our sound preference test. And so just now when you were talking about using that with puppies, I was like, oh, what if we were to try that with other things? So what I’m hearing is, for you, sound masking, effective sound masking should meet– Actually, no, I’m– I don’t even put words in your mouth. For people who haven’t watched the webinar, what is a summary of what should you look for when you’re collecting a buffet of things to try in a sound masking preference test?

[00:47:04] Eileen: The first thing to know is that more low frequencies are better for masking, for the acoustic side. So, that means brown noise. Or, ocean noise played on good speakers, as long as there’s not, foghorns and seagulls. Pure ocean would be good. The recordings of waterfalls are good. Fans can be really good. And all of those are homogeneous. Brown noise is created by an algorithm. It’s random, but it’s of a constant decibel level, more or less. The frequencies are always changing. So, that’s the first consideration. Sound masking, actually a lot of it happens inside of our heads. It’s not just happening out there in the environment where we’re covering up one noise with another, although that is partly happening.

It’s happening in our heads, and in dogs heads it’s been experimentally shown that sound masking works because there’s just too much stuff to hear. And it reduces the salience of those nasty noises you don’t want the dogs to hear.

So I’m about to get to the downside of brown noise. And that is, of course, it’s so low frequency that it might scare a dog itself. My dog, who was, I believe, not clinically phobic, I don’t have the credentials to diagnose her, but, and I didn’t know about getting her diagnosed at that time. She didn’t like thunder and we made some good inroads just with counterconditioning, but she could not tolerate brown noise because it was too much like thunder.

So, I’m going to say that the state of the art is going to be as low a frequency as you can get, that’s homogeneous, and constant and doesn’t have a lot of homogeneous– doesn’t have a lot of change in it (that’s the same thing). And then you’re going to compromise from there because some of the dogs aren’t going to be able to tolerate those lower frequencies.

Masking spreads up in frequency. So, a low frequency noise can mask high frequency noises but not the other way around. You could play a birdsong duet as loud as you could and it would not mask thunder.

[00:49:10] Emily: It’s interesting because I, now that you’ve said that, I remember you saying that before. It’s, I don’t remember if it was in the webinar or any of our previous conversations, but I remember you saying that now, but I had forgotten that. And both times, the first time you told me and just now I was like, oh yeah, when I think about that’s so obvious, but it wouldn’t have occurred to me to plan accordingly working backwards.

So yes. Okay. Okay. That I’m going to. Hopefully the second time I’ll, it’ll cement in my brain. That is really helpful. I appreciate that. So we know that this can be a long road for pets and their people trying to effectively navigate any kind of sound sensitivity issue, but particularly things that a veterinary behaviorist has diagnosed as being a true phobia.

And one of the things that we care about a lot and we teach our students about is that one of the reasons that more aversive techniques that suppress behavior, or shut it down, is so alluring to people is because it quickly alleviates a pain point.

And one of the biggest arguments that people have for using aversive methods is, their clients are, have an urgency and they don’t have time to go through this long journey that those of us who have a different philosophy utilize.

And so one of the things that we teach is you– It doesn’t have to be either/or. That’s a false dichotomy. It doesn’t have to be fast or humane. You can give your client a quick win and quickly alleviate a pain point so that they can stick with it in the long haul, and do the work to really improve their pet’s lives and their skill sets and all of the things. And that quick win does not have to be aversive or punitive or shut the animal down.

So, what are some simple but effective quick win types of things that people can do to improve their dog’s quality of life in the short term when they’re suffering from a sound sensitivity? So, that they can survive the long haul journey of addressing sound sensitivities. Is there anything beyond just finding effective sound masking that you could recommend?

[00:51:24] Eileen: Mostly it’s things that become obvious after you do them. It’s change the environment as much as you can to protect your dog from those sounds. And you’ve seen my webinar, and you’ve seen my sad graphs about how we really can’t use passive insulation techniques against low frequency sound.

We can against some high frequency sound, and this may be a little dated, I’ve been watching that webinar again because I’m– it’s going to be translated. I’ll tell you about that later, but there’s a slide of me sitting there wearing big bulky Bluetooth headphones, but it’s everybody does that now if you live with another person, when you’re streaming or watching YouTube, you’re going to have your earbuds in. That is a blessing for dogs.

Anytime you can listen to your favorite whatever you listen to through earphones, earbuds, that’s a big blessing. Do not leave the radio or the television on. If it’s, if there’s going to, particularly if there’s going to be commercials. And I’ll just, I’ll say, don’t leave it on if you cannot absolutely predict what sounds it’s going to be making. If you want the sounds of human voices, use audio books. They fit the criteria of homogeneous, and they don’t cut out and cut in, they don’t get louder and softer. They’re constant. That can be a help, and again, dogs absolutely know the difference between a recorded voice and the stranger in the next room.

Audio books are also really good for if you have, say, some, an electrician in your house, and you have a dog who very much objects to having someone else in the house. Audio books are good for that.

In the webinar, I do a thing where I say you can do it on the fly, you can make noise yourself. And I used to do that when the mail carrier came up my steps and rattled the mailbox, because dear Summer was scared of the mail carrier. And there were all these predictors too. Even the, of course, that’s how she got afraid of truck noises. But when I saw the mail carrier coming, and she didn’t, because I had curtains where she couldn’t, I’d start clapping and just making noise. And you can kick up enough noise to mask a brief, scary noise if you know it’s coming. And I still do that. Those are the quick wins I can think of: protect your dog, the best you can even, you know, on the fly.

[00:53:43] Emily: Yeah. Yeah. That’s, that is awesome. Thank you for those little tips. I think that in that discussion, it actually brought up another question for me, which is: with some dogs, I’ve noticed that the, what we think is sound masking seems to be more comforting. And the reason that what you said brought that up for me is the discussion of audio books. I’ve worked with some dogs who had sound sensitivities as a comorbidity for separation related problem behaviors, and we would have them do audio books or something, but it specifically had to be like deep male voices.

[00:54:24] Eileen: Yes, I was going to say that part.

[00:54:26] Emily: The Morgan Freeman voices, but we would see the dogs even, without the sound present, even when we were just doing the initial sound preference tests, we would see the dogs hear those voices and then just immediately like exhale and go get nesty and lay down. So do you, do you think that, is it advisable to not only perhaps look for sound masking, but perhaps background sounds that are comforting and help dogs to de-escalate. Do you feel like that can be an alternative or in addition to sound masking? Is there a reason that wouldn’t be advisable? I guess is what I’m trying to ask.

[00:55:07] Eileen: I would have given you a different answer six months ago, but I’ve learned something since then. People talk about trying to condition relaxation, and it usually, operant methods, they are, their reasoning is circular. What’s your unconditioned stimulus? The mat. What are you conditioning? The mat.

That kind of thing. And I’m not saying it can’t be done, but there’s all this circular thinking. I saw a webinar by Dr. Stephanie Reamer a few, just a couple months ago. And she said, it’s very interesting that in the States we take an operant approach to relaxation, teaching relaxation. In Europe they do follow a more classical approach, and she barely described this woman’s approach. Her first name is Uta. I can’t remember her last name, but we’ll get it for the show notes if you want it. She has a, quite an ingenious method for conditioning a sound to be relaxation, relaxing. And it is: play it before you go to bed.

If playing this certain piece of music predicts, okay, we’re all going to get in the bed, and we’re going to turn off the lights, and we’re going to go to sleep. If you do that religiously, you might get a conditioning effect from that sound. And so, if the dogs already have an association for that could be one explanation of that happening.

And we just don’t know about music being intrinsically relaxing. We don’t have strong evidence for it, despite the huge industry that does that. But I’m not saying it’s not possible. And especially, we don’t always know what’s conditioning what. But I think it’s absolutely possible for a piece of music to get some kind of relaxing qualities. I would guess that they are acquired and not intrinsic, but I don’t know.

[00:56:52] Emily: Yeah. That– I might have you back sometime so that we can have a whole episode talking about conditioned relaxation and conditioning in general. And because I have so many thoughts on that, and I’m sure you do too, and it would be a fascinating conversation. Sadly, we don’t have time for that today, but yes I also have thoughts, opinions, and feelings about the idea of conditioning relaxation. But we’ll just, we’ll leave that for another day.

[00:57:17] Eileen: Oh boy, it’ll be fun though.

[00:57:19] Emily: It will be fun though. Yes, so that kind of brings up another thing, which is this idea that one of the reasons that it’s so important to, to look at the animal in front of you, instead of taking a more formulaic approach, is because we really don’t know, not just what traumas that animal has had in their past, but also we don’t necessarily know the things that give that animal comfy, cozy feelings.

We don’t necessarily know the things– I learned a term the other day: in contrast to stressors, the, like, appetitive stimuli are called glimmers. Isn’t that delightful and adorable?

One of our, one of our, the Pet Harmony team shared this article. Oh no, somebody in PETPro, shared an article in the Pet Pro Forum about glimmer stacking and what an important part of emotional and behavioral health that is because you collect the things that give you the warm fuzzies, right? And so I love thinking about it in those terms. Like we also have to consider how we can glimmer stack for this pet so that they have the warm fuzzy feelings, right?

[00:58:26] Eileen: I love it. I love it.

[00:58:27] Emily: I do too. I do too. Okay. That just reminded me of that glimmer stacking thing. We really do need to work with the animal in front of us because there’s so many different factors. It’s not just about rote conditioning, whether it’s operant or respondent.

[00:58:43] Eileen: Right.

[00:58:44] Emily: Okay. So I’m going to, I’m going to slightly change subjects, but not entirely because one of the things that I mentioned in passing was that one of the dogs that I worked with had sound sensitivities as a comorbidity to separation related problem behaviors, and that seems to be really common. And and then I’ve also read research from, for example, Daniel Mills and his team at Lincoln on the correlation between sound sensitivities and pain. And I think I also read an article somewhere correlating sound sensitivities with GI disease. So my general impression is that sound sensitivities rarely happen alone. Like we rarely encounter a dog who’s otherwise physically, behaviorally, and emotionally healthy, except they have this intense, specific sound sensitivity. Now, obviously that does happen. I believe your first dog was like that, right?

[00:59:38] Eileen: You beat me to my punchline. Yes, I had the unicorn dog.

[00:59:42] Emily: I’m not saying it never happens. Obviously, it does happen sometimes, but it seems like more often than not, sound sensitivities are a comorbidity of some other anxiety disorder, some other behavioral, or emotional problem, right? I don’t know, I don’t know. I’m just curious to, to hear your thoughts about that phenomenon, since this is your area of expertise. Do you have any thoughts about why that is? And what we can do to be proactive about oh, we see that there’s this one issue and this issue tends to, like– Sound sensitivity likes to be the Ride or Die for this issue. How can we proactively prevent it? What are your thoughts? I would like to just hear them.

[01:00:24] Eileen: Golly, that’s not quite what I was expecting, and my big reaction is, I don’t know. Why these things go together, I don’t know. I can talk a little bit about the research about it, which is fascinating and if you want me to, I will, but my answer to your first question is I have no idea. And partly because that’s outside my area of expertise, but I haven’t seen anybody really explain it either. It’s mostly observed, these correlations, but I can talk about the correlations if you want me to a little bit.

[01:00:54] Emily: I would love to hear you talk about the correlations and if you do think there’s a way that we can proactively, if we’ve got one of them, is there a way that people can be like, “Oh let’s make sure that we don’t have sound sensitivities hitchhike along with us. Cause we’ve already got enough to work on.”

[01:01:11] Eileen: Old article by Dr. Karen Overall from 2001, where she discusses the comorbidities of sound phobia, thunderstorm phobia, and separation related problems. And having one of them in every case, she did all the crisscross, for instance, if your dog has SA, how likely are they to also have sound sensitivity? If your dog is sound phobic, how likely are they to have SA? Those are two different numbers. The likelihoods are not, what would be the word for that? I can’t think of the word right now. They’re not the same. And she did it with all of those, but every one of them, having one of those conditions, there was more than a 50 percent chance that the dog would get another.

And this is not scientific, okay. I, when dogs– There’s speculation that some of this early onset sound phobia is genetic. Also Dr. Oberholz has some pretty good stats on that. So there may be no way to prevent it, but I certainly recommend treating for any weird sound ever.

I’m starting to see glimmers from my young dog Lewis. Not thunder, not beeps, but door slams. And they don’t have to be close, like the neighbor three houses down, door slams. So, he reacts a little bit to sudden noises and you can bet that he is getting really nice food whenever that happens.

That is referred to as ad hoc counterconditioning. It means there’s no desensitization plan happening because it’s just environmental stimuli coming at us. And there are at least two papers that show improvement when dogs get that. Whether it can be a prophylactic, I don’t think anybody has any data on that, but we can hope. We’re doing something and building up some kind, you’d think it would be some kind of buffer, a little bit. But we, again, I have to say, we don’t know for sure.

[01:03:04] Emily: Yeah. That’s really helpful. And I especially think it’s helpful to be aware that there is a genetic component. People who have a dog who are, who’s developing a sound sensitivity can maybe give themselves a break, cut themselves some slack and be like, it’s not you. This is just a genetic predisposition. I say just with an asterisk because there’s no such thing as just, right?

[01:03:26] Eileen: “Just”, yeah. Something we can not do anything about.

[01:03:29] Emily: It’s just genetics, this incredibly complex topic that we really don’t know very much about. No, but the reason I have a selfish reason for asking about the being proactive, because I, I love my house, I love my neighborhood, I love my city. I love everything about it. And also, our neighbors go hard on the 4th of July. And, it’s, it goes well into 3 a.m. It’s so loud it shakes the house. And, both of my dogs, I’ve noticed now that we’ve been here two and a half years, so we’ve had two 4th of July’s here. And I did a lot of preparation beforehand to make sure that the evening was relaxing and fun. And even still, I noticed that the second year they were more sensitized to the noises and I was like, oh man.

[01:04:14] Eileen: You did all that and–

[01:04:16] Emily: Yeah. What can I do to be proactive? So yes, I think it’s really helpful to know that I’m doing the things like the ad hoc counterconditioning, and trying to make it really relaxing. But maybe I need to talk to my vet about some situational medication to help the situation. That may be the way that I can be proactive. Cause it’s not a general sound phobia. It’s very specifically 4th of July that the sound is getting to be a little bit scary for them. Okay.

[01:04:43] Eileen: Can we do the pain? Okay, there’s an article that came out in 2018 about the relationship between sound phobia and pain. It’s very interesting. I was glad to look over it. Again, I don’t know that I really read it carefully the first time it came out. The impression we all got was that they tested a bunch of dogs who had sound phobia and saw how many of them had pain, because that’s the result that we hear.

That’s not really what the study was. The study had 20 dogs, all of whom had sound phobia, 10 of whom were known to have pain, and 10 of whom were cleared from pain. So what they were studying was not the frequency of the correlation. They were studying the nature of the phobia, what was going on.

And the biggest result they got was that we were talking about two different – those are my words – but it seems to be two different phenomena. The early onset, social maturity, three year old dog who gets sound phobic, those were the ones that didn’t have pain. The ones that had pain were all older. And all of the dogs responded well to– Let me back up: for the dogs who had pain – they were treated both for pain, but eight out of the 10 of them were also treated with the appropriate medical drug interventions – and most of those got better. Eight out of, I said eight out of ten of those, yeah.

And the ones who didn’t have pain, the younger ones, were treated with drugs alone. And the two groups were different in one other way, and it was that it seemed that for the older dogs, where it correlated, can’t even say correlated because they were chosen with those two criteria, but the ones who had both conditions tended to generalize their anxiety more, that it got attached to other stuff. I thought that was really interesting. It was not what I thought that study said, but it’s really good information to have.

[01:06:37] Emily: It is. And this is really salient to my dogs because Copper’s 15 and Brie is 11. And both of them have developed some musculoskeletal diseases. And so they, we have been trialing different therapies for that issue, but I’m realizing that one of the differences between year one and year two is that their pain, sorry, their pain was probably worse in year two. Now we found a pretty successful protocol and both of them have better range of motion, and they’re more active and playful than they’ve been in a while. So, I’m really interested to see how year three pans out now that we’ve got their pain controlled. So, that is really salient.

It’s also very relatable because I suffer from chronic pain, and I definitely see a sharp increase in my anxiety in general on my really bad pain days. So I think it’s just for me – I can’t obviously speak for non humans, but, or even for other humans – but for me, it’s I’m using up all of my emotional energy and bandwidth just coping with the day to day stuff while under the, experiencing pain and so anything else that’s added, it’s, “Oh my God, I can’t deal with this too!” Like that feeling of, like, panic of, like, “Now this on top of everything?!”

I obviously don’t want to jump to the conclusion that’s the experience that dogs are having as well, but I can see for me, there’s that relationship between pain and anxiety, so it makes sense. I can at least empathize with puppies, even if I’m not assuming that their experience is exactly the same as mine.

[01:08:12] Eileen: It’s a really, yet another good reason to stay on top of pain. An astonishing percentage of older dogs have pain and we don’t know it. And we’re not good at recognizing it. That’s one of the reasons I put in the show notes those two pain links about recognizing pain in dogs. We need, for so many reasons, we need to be able to do it.

[01:08:31] Emily: Stay ahead of the pain. Stay ahead of the panic. Yeah. Yeah. All right. At the end of every episode, I like to ask all of my guests the same questions. And the first one is what are our observable goals and actionable items that people can take away from this discussion?

[01:08:48] Eileen: First, it’s not all about the volume. When we’re counterconditioning, it’s not all about the volume. Stay on top of pain. Do ad hoc counterconditioning. And do preference tests for masking. I love that. That came from you, but I love that idea. I actually have a movie where I do that, but I had never thought of it as being a tool for, for the general public. I feel like I don’t have really good answers for that, but those are my main answers.

[01:09:14] Emily: I thought those were great answers. Thank you. The next question is, what is one thing you wish people knew about either this topic, your profession, or enrichment? Your choice.

[01:09:23] Eileen: You’d think I hadn’t prepared for these, but I did. We’ve talked about so much and I’ve covered so many of them already and I already covered one of them just a minute ago, which is about the volume. Ultrasound is not a demon. That’s one that I would like people to know. I would really like for people to know that recorded sound is optimized for human ears, not dog ears, and there is not an easy way to do anything about that. We just have to keep it in our mind always that half the frequencies that dogs can hear are not in any recorded noise.

I’m going to hit again: don’t play sounds or programs that you have not completely listened to yourself already. I’ve just had this bite me in the butt so many times. I tell this story in one of my webinars: television programs, like primetime medical programs. Oh my goodness, they’ve got beeps, they’ve got bangs, they’ve got all these terrible sounds.

And one time I was thinking this 19, this early 20th century period piece, it was Downton Abbey, that ought to be safe, right? It’s not one of the ones where they’re shooting anything. And the very first thing that happened was that the lord of the manor picked up a spoon and a crystal goblet and went ding ding. And Zani looked at me like, “You made the wrong decision, I can’t tolerate this,” and left.

You never know what’s going to come over the airwaves, and again, also like the free YouTube music that you can get to distract dogs or to mask, you need to listen to it all the way through to make sure there aren’t any triggers in there because they make, they’re making that for people. They’re making it to be attractive to us, because we have to hear it if we’re there. And so, they’ll add the little bird song that might scare your dog, or the seagulls, or any number of other things. I can’t know what everybody’s dogs are scared of, but it’s often going to turn out to be on the thing you chose. And I would just caution people, if you’re going to play something when you’re not home, or even if you are, listen to it first, and make sure it doesn’t have your dog’s triggers hidden in there.

[01:11:22] Emily: I love it. Thank you so much. What is one thing you would love to see improved in your field?

[01:11:26] Eileen: Something that I would like to see improved in my field is our ability to test, and analyze, and learn what is scary about a sound. You hit on it very early on and my answer at that time was we don’t always know. We don’t often know. But we have to think hard about what is, what are the characteristics of this sound? What might make it scary? Because that’s the thing we have to manipulate. And that is, I’ve never heard anybody but you and me talk about this.

[01:12:00] Emily: Yeah. Same. That’s why we wanted you on the podcast. Cause we’ve been talking about this for years, and had grand plans, and those plans had always been thwarted. And finally I was like, let’s just get it on the podcast. At the very least we can get a podcast episode, cause who knows when we’re going to finish our project. What do you love about what you do?

[01:12:17] Eileen: I love it that I’ve been able to bring together my areas of expertise to help dogs. It’s very simplistic, but I went for many years, I do believe I was helping dogs, but I was in this existential weird space where I had no credentials in that. I just simply had my brain and my training. Simply, as you say, “just” that. But I didn’t have credentials and it feels so good to have some credentials to back up what I’m talking about and but also, more important than the letters, is that I have some knowledge that I’m able to bring to the dog world that brings up stuff nobody else has talked about. That’s really exciting to me. And it’s frustrating too, because I get frustrated every single day, just like anybody in the behavior and training world does by the amount of BS that’s out there. But now, it’s, I’m concentrating on the sound BS and able to do something about it.

[01:13:12] Emily: Yeah. I love that. And I want to say something about that because this comes up a lot. So, I’m going to do like a 30 second version of my life story and then I’m going to tie that in because when I started out– I’ve been working with animals forever for over 30 years.

I started when I was 11. But I thought, “I can’t be a vet tech forever.” And I ended up wandering around into other professions. I was a tutor for a while. So I had to take some courses on educational psychology. And I worked in music for 10 years. While I was also working full time as a vet tech, I was working full time as a music journalist. I’ve, I had other careers and I was really beating myself up about wasting so much time doing all these things that weren’t related to behavior by the time I finally found behavior. And I had a really hard time with, “Oh, it took me so long to get here.” The cute thing is I was 29. And at the time I felt like I took so long to get there.

[01:14:09] Eileen: I know that feeling.

[01:14:10] Emily: It’s adorable, but I had those feelings and it was real angst. It felt real to me as a 29 year old that I had wasted time on these other professions. Now, doing what I do, looking back, I realized that I brought a lot of my skills from being a tutor, and from working in music–like interviewing people, for example, like copy editing, for example, being a writer, for example. I brought those into this profession from those other professions. And so, now in my mid-forties, I’m really grateful that I came from those other backgrounds because I was able to bring something into the profession that didn’t exist.

And the reason I’m saying this is because I have, we have so many students in PETPro who are older and are entering this profession for the first time as a second or third or fourth career, and they have so much angst about, “How can I possibly be a good, competent, beneficial person in this profession when it took me so long to get here?” And my answer to them is, the fact that you come to this industry with 30 plus years of experience from another industry means that you are bringing a fresh perspective, and fresh ideas, and skill sets that are not common to this profession into the profession.

You are breathing new life into the industry because you didn’t grow up in the echo chamber. And I’m not, and I want to be very clear. I am not disparaging anybody who has grown up in the echo chamber. We all bring value because all of us have experiences and skill sets and perspectives that are unique to us, and there is never a bad history to bring into it. Even my history with aversive training has helped me to give a different perspective on a lot of different things that, that are, you know, how do we talk to people who don’t ideologically align with us? How do we balance the, the sort of affect heuristic that happens where we overstate the harm of some things, or people are understating the harm? Those happened because I came from that background. I know what it’s like to live in the shoes of somebody who believes in those ideologies, right?

I just have to, I had to say that. I know it’s a soapbox, but hearing Eileen Anderson say that she felt angst about not being good enough for the profession, I was like, “You know what, I’m going to talk about this because we need to talk about this as an industry.” So, thank you for being vulnerable and sharing your insecurities because you might, you may or may not be surprised at how many other people in this profession have confided those same insecurities to me and to the rest of the team at Pet Harmony. And I just want to say to everybody, you bring value and you may not immediately know what value you’re bringing, but you will figure it out. You will figure it out.

[01:17:11] Eileen: That’s a really good point.

[01:17:12] Emily: All right. Thanks for permitting me to have that soapbox.

[01:17:15] Eileen: You bet. I liked it.

[01:17:17] Emily: It’s important. All right. What are you currently working on? If people want to work more with or learn from you, where can they find you?

[01:17:24] Eileen: That’s two questions. Make sure I answer them both. One, one really fun sound related thing I’m doing right now is that a German business has engaged me to present Sound Decisions to them and it’s going to be translated during the presentation. It’s the IBH Hunde Schule. And you have to be a member already to be able to come to that, but that’s in June.

And I’ve got a link in the show notes about it. A really nice side effect from that is that I will be practicing that first webinar of mine again, Sound Decisions, and I’ll record it and I will make it available again. It has been on Linda Case’s website. She’s very kindly kept it open for the people who are still doing it, but trying not to get any new sales on it.

And it’s, I own it. I am going to put it up under my own aegis and it will be available again. But I’m really excited also to have the experience of presenting and being translated at the same time. Hope I don’t get too distracted because I do understand some German.

Another thing I’m working on is a second edition of my Dog Dementia book, and which is– it’s about time for that. The new one, the old one was 31,000 words, this one is approaching 60,000. There’s so much more to say, there’s more research, I’m really talking much more about grief, because that seems to be what helps people the most about my book. And we’ve come quite a way, we have names for these things. Now, the names have been around, but we can talk about disenfranchised grief, and anticipatory grief, and all those things. So I have, I do have a draft of that and it’s with the editor. So maybe this year, more early next year, I’ll have a second edition of that.

And I also have a little course that’s called Edit Yourself. And it’s a copy editing course for dog trainers that teaches them copy editor’s tricks. And that also is not on a platform right now, and I’m going to get it together, and get it out there for people to take. It won’t put me out of business as a freelance editor, but it would save people money if they learned to do some of these things themselves.

And where can people contact me? Best place is on my blog, eileenanddogs.com, on the contact page. We’ve got that in the show notes and I want to tell people: be persistent. I, despite having filters and honey pots and all that stuff, I get so much junk mail on coming through that. So be persistent. I’m not ignoring you. Probably I didn’t see it the first time. I hate saying that, but it’s reality.

[01:20:03] Emily: Yeah. Yeah. The internet is the wild west.

[01:20:06] Eileen: Yes, It still is. After all these years, in some ways it’s worse.

[01:20:10] Emily: Yes. So I get it. All right. Thank you so much for coming on and chatting with me about sound sensitivities. I, once again, am so grateful to you for all the work you do and for spending time with me today. So thank you so much.

[01:20:25] Eileen: This was a complete pleasure, Emily. Thank you so much for having me.

[01:20:29] Allie: Eileen is such a model for striving for accuracy while still making space for personal experience and anecdotal evidence. And that’s such a hard line to walk and she does it so well. Next week we’ll be talking about how to do a sound preference test.

Thank you for listening. You can find us at petharmonytraining.com and @petharmonytraining on Facebook and Instagram, and also @petharmonypro on Instagram for those of you who are behavioral professionals. As always links to everything we discussed in this episode are in the show notes and a reminder to please rate, review and subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts a special thank you to Ellen Yoakum for editing this episode, our intro music is from Penguin Music on Pixabay.

Thank you for listening and happy training.



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