Audio Products for Sound Conditioning Your Dog

Dog trainers usually 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 embrace recordings of many alternative sounds. However, the physics of sound manufacturing and the restrictions of client 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 doubtless guess that canines have listening to skills which are vastly superior to ours. In truth, it’s a combined bag. 

Humans can hear barely decrease frequencies than canines can, and we will additionally find sounds fairly a bit higher. But canines are the massive winners within the excessive frequency vary; they will 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 widespread audible vary. Yet the superior points of canines’ listening to are hardly ever thought of once 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 incapacity of smartphones to generate low frequencies, equivalent to these current in thunder.

The restricted means of even the very best residence audio methods to generate these low frequencies in excessive constancy.

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

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

There are additionally widespread issues with the usage of sound apps that may be deduced by means of what we all know by means of conduct science. These may 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 all the time creates a decrease depth (much less scary) stimulus.

Some, however not the entire above issues will be addressed with do-it-yourself work and a superb plan. But sound conditioning of canines utilizing recordings will all the time 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 items of hertz (Hz). I’ll refer so much 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 best. 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 best notes on a piano! 

Common sounds with low frequencies embrace thunder, fireworks, industrial tools, the crashing of ocean waves, the rumble of trains and plane, and huge explosions. Common sounds with excessive frequencies embrace 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 will be excessive just like the dentist’s drill or low like plane. Motors may differ in velocity. For occasion, once you hear a bike accelerating, the frequency of the sound rises because the engine hurries up. 

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

Some sounds don’t have a detectable pitch, that means they embrace such numerous frequencies which you could’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 data and taking shortcuts. This makes it arduous for us to understand what a nasty job our handheld gadgets do in producing low-frequency sounds. Our canines undoubtedly know, although.

Many individuals buy sound apps to be able to attempt to situation their canines to thunder. The frequency vary for rumbles of thunder is 5 to 220 Hz. Handheld gadgets typically 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 system, essentially the most important a part of the sound will likely be performed at a vanishingly low quantity or be fully lacking. 

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

Home sound methods, together with some Bluetooth audio system, can do a greater job. They often 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 very best residence system can’t method the facility and quantity of precise thunder, and the sound is situated inside your private home as a substitute of outdoor. Some canines don’t seem to attach recordings of thunder on even glorious sound tools to the actual factor, or they’ll reply to recordings with a lesser response. 

In one examine of thunder phobic canines, the researchers introduced their very own skilled high quality sound system to every canine proprietor’s residence; nice point out is made from the truth that the sound system was giant. This bulk signifies that they had been critical about with the ability to generate low frequencies! In normal, the bigger the audio system, the higher they’re at producing low frequencies. The distinction as we speak is smaller than it was 15 years in the past, nevertheless. Sound methods have improved so much lately.

Some of the sound apps for canine coaching now instruct you to ship the sound to a house sound system relatively than utilizing the speaker within the handheld. This is great recommendation for any sound. But the underside line is that you’ll not all the time be capable of 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 crimson line was from the Altec Lansing residence 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 nearly inaudible beneath 300 Hz. 


All client audio tools is designed for human ears. Our handhelds, computer systems, TVs, and sound methods 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 scenario. 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 could actually’t be achieved. Biologists and different scientists use specialty tools that may file and/or play again sound within the ultrasound vary. The recording system requires the next pattern price (how usually the sound is digitally measured) than client 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 certain. But nearly all sounds embrace what are known as harmonics or overtones. These are multiples of the unique frequency into the next 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 doubtless that canines with regular listening to will be capable of simply discriminate between a pure sound and even the very best recording of it. 


Digital audio recordsdata are giant. Most recordsdata which are 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 as we speak. Hence, MP3 recordsdata are compressed, that means that a number of the sound data is eliminated in order that they received’t be so giant. 

MP3 is termed a “lossy” compression as a result of sound knowledge is completely misplaced by means of the compression. The compression algorithms are primarily based 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 are 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 are fairly far exterior that vary will doubtless be eradicated. Dogs’ most delicate vary is increased than ours, so sounds they may hear are in all probability omitted from compressed recordings.

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

So the MP3 compression course of is one more reason that some sounds in canines’ listening to vary that will be current in a pure sound can be lacking in a recording of it.

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


The issues I’ve mentioned up to now are brought on by the physics of sound and the way it’s recorded, compressed, and performed. 

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

  • Lack of Functional Assessment

Trainers who take care of canines with conduct issues carry out useful assessments. They observe and take knowledge to assist them perceive what’s driving the issue conduct. In the case of worry, they analyze the scenario to be able to decide the foundation reason behind the worry.

In the case of sound sensitivity, a canine might react as a result of the sound has grow 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 medical situation that requires intervention. Many such canines want medicine to be able to enhance.

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

For instance, a more moderen sound app means that you can arrange the app to play the sound randomly if you end up not residence for functions of desensitization (with out counter-conditioning). The directions present an instance of a canine’s doorbell reactivity going away by means of use of the app (though maybe not completely). The app was programmed to play doorbell sounds randomly when the proprietor wasn’t residence. 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 of, that isn’t a humane or sturdy method. The canine’s worry is left intact whereas the inconvenience of their barking at predictors is eliminated. Second, the directions of enjoying a feared sound randomly when the proprietor isn’t residence, even at a low quantity (extra on this beneath) might end in a ruinous scenario for a canine with a real sound phobia relatively than “just” doorbell reactivity.

Following the instructions which are packaged with a number of the business sound apps meant for use to coach noise-sensitive canines might really trigger extra hurt than good.

Apps that may play randomized, graduated sound exposures is usually a good software for trainers, so long as the trainers are conscious of the restrictions right here. They ought to not be marketed or advisable to customers.

  •  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 will likely 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 (often meals) is regularly offered throughout that point, is claimed to be the simplest 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 can be acceptable to make use of for a steady, homogeneous sound, equivalent to a gradual state (non-accelerating) motor. But fireworks and thunder will not be steady; they’re sudden and chaotic. They include a number of stimuli that may be extraordinarily various.

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 can be feeding your canine consistently by means of 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 a complete 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 dimensions and shapes coming and going and performing all types of various behaviors, even for those who might 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, for those who play an extended clip, one lasting many minutes (as has been achieved in some sound research), you’re basically performing simultaneous conditioning, a technique 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 preserve 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 gentle fears of these noises. But the extra fearful the canine is, and the nearer he’s to exhibiting medical noise phobia, the cleaner your coaching must be. To get the very best conditioned response, you want a brief, recognizable, temporary stimulus. 

After you get a constructive conditioned response to 1 firework noise, as an illustration, you possibly can then begin with a special firework noise. After you’ve gotten achieved a number of, you may even see generalization and you should use longer clips. But don’t begin with the parade!

Most mammals have what is named an acoustic startle response. We expertise worry and constrict sure muscle groups once 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 grow to be dysfunctional. For canines who crumble once they hear a sudden, loud sound equivalent to thunder, it makes all of the sense on this planet to begin conditioning at low quantity, as a result of this observe 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 might 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 technique of offering a decrease depth model of a sound stimulus, nearly 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 conduct. WW Norton & Co.

With apps that may do an increasing number of for people, it appears odd to recommend that to be able to assist your canine, you may need to invent your personal useful instruments. But doing so may help you make recordings of higher constancy and extra acceptable size, and for those who (or an acquaintance) are in any respect tech-savvy, you may also alter sounds in different methods in addition to 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 will’t play low frequency sounds, they will 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 could possibly buy a 20-second recording of a thunderstorm, and edit out one roll of thunder to make use of. But make certain that the file you buy is uncompressed. 
  • Play sounds for desensitization on the very best sound system doable, particularly if you’re working with thunder, fireworks, or different sounds that embrace 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 relatively 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 enhancing capabilities, the free pc utility Audacity, or skilled sound enhancing software program. You may 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 often digitally generated, so once you create comparable sounds the constancy will likely be excessive. (In different phrases, when a canine is afraid of a smartphone noise, a smartphone is the right playback software.)


This isn’t a mission to be undertaken flippantly, however it may be achieved you probably have tech abilities and a superb ear. Be certain to make use of headphones and be at the least one room away out of your sound-sensitive canine once 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 doable to play recordings which are comparable sufficient to the pure sounds to have the ability to carry over a conditioned response. Thunder and fireworks will all the time current important issues. 

We wish to imagine that there’s all the time a coaching answer. But generally physics foils our plans and the hole between an artificially generated sound and the generated sound will likely be too excessive. In that case, masking, administration, and medicines would be the finest assist. 

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