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Are Senior Dogs More Sound-Sensitive?

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Are Senior Dogs More Sound-Sensitive?

In my middle-aged years, I notice that I don’t have the same tolerance for loud environments that I did 20 or even 10 years ago. You rarely find me in clubs, large warehouse stores, or even loud restaurants anymore — partly due to the crowds, but mostly due to the loud sound environment. I go into sensory overload and shut down quickly, meaning I can’t focus, feel stressed, my body tenses, and I am quickly looking for the exit sign to a quieter environment where I can breathe peacefully. Similarly, if I’ve had a very stressful day, I want to come home and either have complete silence (except for the sounds of the wildlife in my remote home setting) or turn on music with simple sounds.

Currently, I have two dogs, both Labrador Retrievers. Sanchez is nine years old and Gina is three. When I observe them, I notice that Sanchez doesn’t have the same tolerance for noise that he used to when he was younger. Growing up as a puppy in training for Guide Dogs for the Blind, he was socialized a great deal in public places and exposed to a wider variety of sound environments than most pet dogs. During my year as his volunteer puppy raiser, I brought him to six San Francisco Opera performances, and seven San Francisco Symphony concerts. He snoozed through most of it, except for a few startling sounds coming from the opera stage. When he was five years old, he acted the part of Helen Keller’s dog in the play The Miracle Worker. Although most people were impressed with his well-mannered talents on stage, what I found more remarkable was his calm, focused, confident demeanor backstage during the food fights and throwing of dishes on stage. Due to his breeding and early training, this just didn’t phase him. A few years later, I’m not sure I would say the same.

Gina is a bundle of happy energy and I’ve never seen her go into sensory overload, although there are many dogs her age that could and certainly do. I still reward her when she stays calm and focused on me during human-made loud sounds such as sirens, construction, children playing, etc. I can expose her to more stimulating sound environments without worrying about stressing her nervous system.

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Lisa Spector

Lisa Spector is a concert pianist, Juilliard graduate, and canine music expert. She is co-founder of Through a Dog's Ear, the first music clinically demonstrated to calm the canine nervous system. Their new high-tech pet gadget, iCalmDog, is the portable solution to canine anxiety. Lisa shares her home and her heart with her two "career change" Labrador Retrievers from Guide Dogs for the Blind, Sanchez and Gina. Follow Lisa's blog here.


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5:39PM PST on Nov 11, 2013

Thanks for the Doggie Info :)

1:43AM PDT on Jun 2, 2013

thank you for the interesting article-2/6

9:03AM PDT on Oct 15, 2012

Great post.

7:37AM PDT on Oct 1, 2012

My dog seems to like the "white noise" that I use in the house.

5:00AM PDT on Sep 30, 2012


7:43AM PDT on Sep 27, 2012

Something to think about...thanks! I listen to loud music in my car but I like to listen to quiet music in my home. My husband thinks I'm weird but I just think you should be able to relax in your home.

5:07AM PDT on Sep 27, 2012

very good post

4:46AM PDT on Sep 27, 2012

Dresia, your observations somewhat prove my points regarding noice perception. I had a GSD previous to the one I have now who was terrified of loud noises. At the sound of thunder, he was quivering and trying to get under my bed. I lived 1 mile from the fire station and the Sheriff's station and anytime a siren went off,he was again in HIDING. He was PTS at the age of 6 due to severe hip problems. My 10-yr-old that I have now could care less about gun shots, thunder or any other loud noise. The only one that gets her attention are the big Chinook helicopters that sometimes fly over the house, but it's also the vibrations from them that upset her. Thunder is preceeded by lightning, so it could be that electrical charges in the air upset dogs. Cats feel such things and will run and hide as well, and it has nothing to do with their age.

12:41AM PDT on Sep 27, 2012

Interesting. I also have become very intolerant to noise, especially when my husband raises his voice, he has a very strong voice. I keep telling him to lower his voice. In my car I can listen to music full volume and enjoy the beat but at home, after work, I require complete silence or else I become very aggravated. I never owned a dog so I don't know about them but my cats never showed signs of intolerance to noise when they aged.

10:30PM PDT on Sep 26, 2012

I thinks older cats are.

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