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.

In writing this blog, I reflected on first conceiving the idea for creating music to help dogs (and their humans). It was during the final weeks of Byron’s life, a Golden Retriever who took his last breath a few months before his 14th birthday in 2003. Byron was my soul dog and brought me into the dog world in a big way.

Byron was very mellow and the only thing I can recall that caused him stress was the sound of the wind against the house windows. It made a squeaking noise that triggered his fear of windy nights. I first discovered this when I came home after some high winds and found him hiding in the bathtub. I started experimenting with leaving on recorded slower piano music of Mozart and putting him in the large walk-in-closet. (Dogs often prefer confined spaces when they are stressed, and in those days I didn’t yet know about using a dog crate to provide a place of safety.) It was my desire to help him that helped give birth to the creation of sound tracks that are helping calm dogs worldwide.

Through a Dog’s Ear music is psychoacoustically designed to support you and your dog’s compromised immune or nervous system function. When the immune or nervous system is heavily taxed, as it so often is in senior dogs, a natural reaction is to self-limit the amount of auditory or visual stimulation coming into the system. That is why senior dogs will often shut down in overstimulating sound environments. The nutrients of sound are needed the most when life energy is at a low ebb or when neuro-developmental (including sensory) issues are present. To facilitate maximum sound intake while conserving energy output, the method of “simple sounds” was created.

Our newest release, Music to Comfort your Elderly Canine, adds highly specific frequency modulation, defined as the alteration of sound. Most higher frequencies of the pre-arranged classical piano music are removed, while the middle and lower frequencies are boosted. Essentially, by reducing or boosting the dosage of specific nutrients of sound, weve made assimilation easier for a stressed or weakened elder canine.

WIN THE CD! Enter a comment on my previous post, National Senior Pet Health Month, before September 25, and you will automatically be entered to win a copy of Music to Comfort your Elderly Canine.

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103 comments

Elisa F.
Elisa F.2 years ago

Thanks for the Doggie Info :)

Mariniki Liani
Past Member 2 years ago

thank you for the interesting article-2/6

Nadine H.
Nadine H.3 years ago

Great post.

Beth Wilkerson
Beth Wilkerson3 years ago

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

Carol Micek
caroline m.3 years ago

Thanks

Angie B.
Angela B.3 years ago

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.

Frans Badenhorst
Frans Badenhorst3 years ago

very good post

Diane L.
Diane L.3 years ago

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.

Giana Peranio-paz

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.

Marie W.
Marie W.3 years ago

I thinks older cats are.