Audio Products for Sound Conditioning Your Dog

Dog trainers typically advocate smartphone apps and YouTube movies for desensitizing and counter-conditioning canines who’re afraid of particular noises. There are many apps designed and marketed for this objective, and so they usually embody recordings of many alternative sounds. However, the physics of sound manufacturing and the constraints of shopper audio current giant issues for such use – issues substantial sufficient to stop the success of many (most?) conditioning makes an attempt.


If quizzed, most individuals would possible guess that canines have listening to talents which can be vastly superior to ours. In truth, it’s a combined bag. 

Humans can hear barely decrease frequencies than canines can, and we are able to additionally find sounds fairly a bit higher. But canines are the massive winners within the excessive frequency vary; they’ll hear tones over about twice the frequency vary that people can. Also, canines can hear sounds at a a lot decrease quantity stage than people can over most of our frequent audible vary. Yet the superior elements of canines’ listening to are not often thought-about after we resolve to make use of sound recordings in conditioning! 

There are 4 main acoustical issues with utilizing human sound gadgets to situation canines:

The incapability of smartphones to generate low frequencies, corresponding to these current in thunder.

The restricted means of even the most effective house audio programs to generate these low frequencies in excessive constancy.

The higher restrict of the frequencies generated on all shopper audio.

The results of audio file compression on the constancy of digital sound.

There are additionally frequent issues with the usage of sound apps that may be deduced by what we all know by habits science. These may also make or break makes an attempt to positively situation a canine to sound:

Lack of useful evaluation earlier than making an attempt conditioning.

The size of the sound samples used for conditioning.

The assumption that decrease quantity at all times creates a decrease depth (much less scary) stimulus.

Some, however not all the above issues might be addressed with do-it-yourself work and a superb plan. But sound conditioning of canines utilizing recordings will at all times have some substantial limitations that may have an effect on success.


Frequency is the side of sound that pertains to the cycles of the sound waves per second. Cycles per second is expressed in models of hertz (Hz). I’ll refer loads to high and low frequencies as a result of they pose totally different challenges. 

To assist with the idea of frequency, consider a piano keyboard with the low notes on the left and the excessive notes on the correct. The low notes have decrease frequencies and the excessive notes have increased frequencies. Keep in thoughts that sound frequency goes a lot increased than the very best notes on a piano! 

Common sounds with low frequencies embody thunder, fireworks, industrial tools, the crashing of ocean waves, the rumble of trains and plane, and huge explosions. Common sounds with excessive frequencies embody most birdsong, the squeaking of hinges, Dremels and different high-speed drills, referees’ whistles, and most digital beeps. 

Motorized equipment generates sound frequencies that correspond to the rotation of the motor. These frequencies might be excessive just like the dentist’s drill or low like plane. Motors may also range in velocity. For occasion, if you hear a bike accelerating, the frequency of the sound rises because the engine accelerates. 

Humans can hear in a variety of 20 to 20,000 Hz, and canines can hear in a variety of 67 to 45,000 Hz.

Some sounds don’t have a detectable pitch, which means they embody such numerous frequencies that you would be able to’t choose something out and hum it. These are known as broadband sounds. A clicker generates a broadband sound.


Our human brains are nice at filling in blanks in info and taking shortcuts. This makes it laborious for us to appreciate what a foul job our handheld gadgets do in producing low-frequency sounds. Our canines undoubtedly know, although.

Many individuals buy sound apps with a purpose to attempt to situation their canines to thunder. The frequency vary for rumbles of thunder is 5 to 220 Hz. Handheld gadgets usually have a useful decrease output restrict of about 400 to 500 Hertz. If you play a recording of thunder (or a jet engine or ocean waves) on a handheld gadget, essentially the most important a part of the sound shall be performed at a vanishingly low quantity or be completely lacking. 

When performing desensitization, we intention to begin with a model of the sound that doesn’t scare the canine, so this might probably be a place to begin. On the opposite hand, with out the distinctive low frequencies which can be current in actual thunder, some canines is not going to join the recording (performed at any quantity) with the actual factor. 

Home sound programs, together with some Bluetooth audio system, can do a greater job. They normally generate frequencies all the way down to 60 Hz. This is roughly the decrease restrict of canines’ listening to, so it’s a superb match. But even the most effective house system can’t method the facility and quantity of precise thunder, and the sound is positioned inside your property as an alternative of out of doors. Some canines don’t seem to attach recordings of thunder on even glorious sound tools to the actual factor, or they may reply to recordings with a lesser response. 

In one research of thunder phobic canines, the researchers introduced their very own skilled high quality sound system to every canine proprietor’s house; nice point out is made from the truth that the sound system was giant. This bulk signifies that they had been critical about having the ability to generate low frequencies! In normal, the bigger the audio system, the higher they’re at producing low frequencies. The distinction in the present day is smaller than it was 15 years in the past, nonetheless. Sound programs have improved loads in recent times.

Some of the sound apps for canine coaching now instruct you to ship the sound to a house sound system fairly than utilizing the speaker within the handheld. This is great recommendation for any sound. But the underside line is that you’ll not at all times have the ability to emulate low frequencies effectively sufficient to perform as desensitization for some canines.

Table I (at left) reveals the distinction between the sound of a roll of thunder performed on an iPhone 7 versus a house sound system (Altec Lansing audio system). The Blue Yeti microphone I used to seize the sound for evaluation was the identical distance from the speaker in every case.

The graph within the oval is the approximate vary of the rumbles of thunder. The navy blue line represents the sound generated by the smartphone in these frequencies. The purple line was from the Altec Lansing house audio system. The audio system generate sound all the way down to 60 Hz (as per their specs). 

In distinction, the output of the cellphone is just about inaudible beneath 300 Hz. 


All shopper audio tools is designed for human ears. Our handhelds, computer systems, TVs, and sound programs put out sound solely as much as the frequency of 22,000 Hz. Humans can’t hear increased frequencies than that. But canines can hear as much as about 40,000 Hz. So once more, the recordings will not be excessive constancy for canines.

This is totally different from the thunder state of affairs. The low frequencies of thunder are current in prime quality recordings, however our tools can’t completely generate them. With excessive frequencies, it’s not solely a limitation of our audio system. The sounds in “dog frequencies” will not be recorded within the first place. 

It’s not that it may possibly’t be carried out. Biologists and different scientists use specialty tools that may file and/or play again sound within the ultrasound vary. The recording gadget requires a better pattern charge (how typically the sound is digitally measured) than shopper tools and the speaker for playback requires a wider bandwidth for frequency response. 

How a lot does this have an effect on the constancy of recorded sound for canines? We can’t know for positive. But just about all sounds embody what are known as harmonics or overtones. These are multiples of the unique frequency into a better vary. Dogs can hear these within the vary from 22,000 to 40,000 Hz, however they’re by no means current in sound recordings made even by very prime quality tools. 

Because of this, it’s possible that canines with regular listening to will have the ability to simply discriminate between a pure sound and even the most effective recording of it. 


Digital audio information are giant. Most information which can be created to play on digital gadgets are saved in MP3 format. This format was created within the 1990s when digital storage was far more restricted than it’s in the present day. Hence, MP3 information are compressed, which means that a number of the sound info is eliminated in order that they gained’t be so giant. 

MP3 is termed a “lossy” compression as a result of sound knowledge is completely misplaced by the compression. The compression algorithms are based mostly on the capabilities of the human ear. Sounds we people are unlikely to have the ability to hear are eliminated. 

Some of those limitations could also be shared by canines. For occasion, quieter sounds which can be very shut in time to a loud sudden sound are eliminated. We can’t hear these due to masking results, and it’s possible that canines can’t both, though there could also be a distinction in diploma. 

However, there are different limitations of the human ear that canines don’t share. For occasion, our listening to is most delicate within the vary of about 2,000 to five,000 Hz, so very quiet sounds which can be fairly far outdoors that vary will possible be eradicated. Dogs’ most delicate vary is increased than ours, so sounds they might hear are in all probability omitted from compressed recordings.

Keep in thoughts that canines not solely hear sounds which can be increased than we are able to understand, however they hear all high-pitched sounds at decrease volumes than we do.

So the MP3 compression course of is another excuse that some sounds in canines’ listening to vary that may be current in a pure sound could be lacking in a recording of it.

If you make your individual recordings, there may be a straightforward factor you are able to do to stop this subject: Simply save your sound information in WAV or AIFF codecs as mentioned beneath. I haven’t seen a desensitization app that makes use of these codecs, nonetheless.


The issues I’ve mentioned thus far are attributable to the physics of sound and the way it’s recorded, compressed, and performed. 

The following cautions should do with making use of what we learn about performing classical conditioning to sound with out errors.

  • Lack of Functional Assessment

Trainers who cope with canines with habits issues carry out useful assessments. They observe and take knowledge to assist them perceive what’s driving the issue habits. In the case of worry, they analyze the state of affairs with a purpose to decide the basis reason behind the worry.

In the case of sound sensitivity, a canine might react as a result of the sound has turn out to be a predictor of a fear-exciting stimulus, as is the case with a lot doorbell reactivity. Or the canine could also be responding to an intrinsic high quality of the sound, within the case of sound phobia. Sound phobia is a scientific situation that requires intervention. Many such canines want medicine with a purpose to enhance.

Trainers, working with veterinarians or veterinary behaviorists, could make these determinations. Consumers typically can’t. And because the sound apps being marketed to shoppers turn out to be extra elaborate, pet house owners who observe the instructions have a superb likelihood of worsening some canines’ fears.

For instance, a more recent sound app lets you arrange the app to play the sound randomly when you’re not house for functions of desensitization (with out counter-conditioning). The directions present an instance of a canine’s doorbell reactivity going away by use of the app (though maybe not completely). The app was programmed to play doorbell sounds randomly when the proprietor wasn’t house. This decoupled the doorbell as a predictor of strangers on the door. 

This protocol would give any skilled coach pause. First, the reason for the reactivity – the canine’s worry of strangers – wasn’t addressed in any respect. All issues thought-about, that isn’t a humane or strong method. The canine’s worry is left intact whereas the inconvenience of their barking at predictors is eliminated. Second, the directions of taking part in a feared sound randomly when the proprietor isn’t house, even at a low quantity (extra on this beneath) may end in a ruinous state of affairs for a canine with a real sound phobia fairly than “just” doorbell reactivity.

Following the instructions which can be packaged with a number of the industrial sound apps meant for use to coach noise-sensitive canines may really trigger extra hurt than good.

Apps that may play randomized, graduated sound exposures could be a good instrument for trainers, so long as the trainers are conscious of the constraints right here. They ought to not be marketed or advisable to shoppers.

  •  Length of the Sound Stimulus

Many noises within the apps are too lengthy for efficient desensitization and counter-conditioning. Real-life thunder and fireworks each have an infinite array of sound variations. If you play a 20-second clip of both of those, there shall be a number of sounds current and a sound phobic canine might react a number of occasions, not simply as soon as.

Classical delay conditioning, the place the stimulus to be conditioned is current for a number of seconds, and the appetitive stimulus (normally meals) is frequently introduced throughout that point, is alleged to be the best type of classical conditioning. This is the tactic that coach Jean Donaldson, founding father of the well-regarded Academy for Dog Trainers, refers to as “Open bar, closed bar.” 

Delay conditioning could be acceptable to make use of for a steady, homogeneous sound, corresponding to a gradual state (non-accelerating) motor. But fireworks and thunder will not be steady; they’re sudden and chaotic. They encompass a number of stimuli that may be extraordinarily assorted.

To supply a visible analogy: If your canine reacts to different canines and also you search to classically situation him, you may create a cautious setup whereby one other canine walks by at a non-scary distance and is in view for a interval of, maybe, 10 to 20 seconds. You could be feeding your canine continuously by that interval. That is a length publicity to 1 stimulus. (And you’ll attempt to use a relaxed decoy canine who doesn’t carry out an entire lot of jumpy or loud behaviors!)

But for the primary trip you’ll not take your canine to a canine present or an agility trial to observe 60 totally different canines of all shapes and sizes coming and going and performing all kinds of various behaviors, even in the event you may get the gap proper and the publicity was 10 to 20 seconds. That is the visible equal of the lengthy sound clip of fireworks. There are far too many separate stimuli!

Also, in the event you play an extended clip, one lasting many minutes (as has been carried out in some sound research), you’re basically performing simultaneous conditioning, a way identified for its failure to create an affiliation. The truth that you simply began feeding one second after the sound began isn’t going to be important if the crashes of thunder and meals hold coming for minutes on finish. You haven’t created a predictor.

And if you’re feeding the entire time however the scary sounds are intermittent, you’re in all probability additionally performing reverse conditioning, the place the meals can come to predict the scary noise.

If you’re working to habituate a non-fearful canine or a litter of puppies to sure noises, the longer sound clips are in all probability high-quality for that. They might even work for a canine with solely delicate fears of these noises. But the extra fearful the canine is, and the nearer he’s to exhibiting scientific noise phobia, the cleaner your coaching must be. To get the most effective conditioned response, you want a brief, recognizable, temporary stimulus. 

After you get a optimistic conditioned response to 1 firework noise, for example, you possibly can then begin with a special firework noise. After you might have carried out a number of, you may even see generalization and you should utilize longer clips. But don’t begin with the parade!

Most mammals have what known as an acoustic startle response. We expertise worry and constrict sure muscular tissues after we hear a loud, sudden noise. It’s pure for any canine to be startled by a sudden noise. It could also be that canines who’ve over-the-top responses to thunder and fireworks have startle responses so excessive as to turn out to be dysfunctional. For canines who crumble after they hear a sudden, loud sound corresponding to thunder, it makes all of the sense on the planet to begin conditioning at low quantity, as a result of this apply can take away the startle issue.

But it’s totally different for canines who’re afraid of high-frequency beeps and whistles. These odd, particular fears will not be essentially associated to a loud quantity. I’ve noticed that, with these canines, beginning at a quiet stage can really scare the canine extra. Remember, canines don’t find sounds in addition to people do. It could possibly be that the disembodied nature of a few of these sounds is a part of what causes worry. (Have you ever tried to find which smoke alarm in a house is emitting the dreaded low battery chirp? Even for people, it may be surprisingly tough – and we’re higher at finding sounds.)

When decreasing quantity is dominated out as a way of offering a decrease depth model of a sound stimulus, just about all apps for sound desensitization are rendered ineffective.



Donaldson, J. (1998, 2009). Dogs are from Neptune. Dogwise Publishing. 

Dreschel, N. A., & Granger, D. A. (2005). “Physiological and behavioral reactivity to stress in thunderstorm-phobic dogs and their caregivers.” Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 95(3-4), 153-168.

Fay, R. R., & Wilber, L. A. (1989). Hearing in vertebrates: a psychophysics databook. Hill-Fay Associates.

Gelfand, S. (2010). Hearing: An introduction to psychological and physiological acoustics. Informa Healthcare.

Heffner, H. E. (1983). “Hearing in large and small dogs: Absolute thresholds and size of the tympanic membrane.” Behavioral Neuroscience, 97(2), 310.

Holmes, C. R., Brook, M., Krehbiel, P., & McCrory, R. (1971). “On the power spectrum and mechanism of thunder.” Journal of Geophysical Research, 76(9), 2106-2115.

Lipman, E. A., & Grassi, J. R. (1942). “Comparative auditory sensitivity of man and dog.” The American Journal of Psychology, 55(1), 84-89.

Mills, A. W. (1958). “On the minimum audible angle.” The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 30(4), 237-246.

Schwartz, B. (1989). Psychology of studying and habits. WW Norton & Co.

With apps that may do increasingly for people, it appears odd to recommend that with a purpose to assist your canine, you might need to invent your individual useful instruments. But doing so may also help you make recordings of higher constancy and extra acceptable size, and in the event you (or an acquaintance) are in any respect tech-savvy, you can too alter sounds in different methods moreover quantity.

  • Record sounds your self utilizing an utility that may save the recordings in WAV or AIFF (uncompressed) codecs. This eliminates one of many ways in which recordings can sound very totally different to canines from actual life sounds. Newer smartphones are high-quality for this. Even although they’ll’t play low frequency sounds, they’ll file them.
  •  Create brief recordings of single sounds, particularly for canines with sturdy sound sensitivities. Or, buy sounds and edit them down. For occasion, you may buy a 20-second recording of a thunderstorm, and edit out one roll of thunder to make use of. But make sure that the file you buy is uncompressed. 
  • Play sounds for desensitization on the most effective sound system potential, particularly if you’re working with thunder, fireworks, or different sounds that embody low frequencies.
  • For canines who’re afraid of high-pitched beeps, create a much less scary model by altering the sound’s frequency or timbre fairly than by decreasing the quantity. Generally, decreasing the frequency works effectively. You will then have to create a set of sounds for graduated exposures. They ought to begin at a non-scary frequency, then step by step work again as much as the unique sound.

There are a number of methods to alter the frequency of a recorded sound. You can use video software program that has good audio modifying capabilities, the free laptop utility Audacity, or skilled sound modifying software program. You may also generate beeps at totally different frequencies utilizing a free perform generator on the web. 

The one benefit of working with canines who’re afraid of such sounds is that the unique sounds themselves are normally digitally generated, so if you create related sounds the constancy shall be excessive. (In different phrases, when a canine is afraid of a smartphone noise, a smartphone is the proper playback instrument.)


This isn’t a venture to be undertaken calmly, however it may be carried out if in case you have tech abilities and a superb ear. Be positive to make use of headphones and be no less than one room away out of your sound-sensitive canine if you begin working with recordings of beeps. My canine can hear high-frequency beeps escaping from my earbuds from throughout the room!

Be conscious that with some canines and a few sounds, it is not going to be potential to play recordings which can be related sufficient to the pure sounds to have the ability to carry over a conditioned response. Thunder and fireworks will at all times current important issues. 

We wish to consider that there’s at all times a coaching answer. But typically physics foils our plans and the hole between an artificially generated sound and the generated sound shall be too excessive. In that case, masking, administration, and medicines would be the greatest assist. 

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