Care for your pet like Vince the Vet

An elderly lady mugged twice... jangling keys... what does this have to do with anxious / reactive pets?

Many years ago, I was chatting to an elderly lady, who unfortunately had been mugged twice within a short space of time. I say chatting, but in reality she could hardly speak. The attacks had left her hoarse and barely audible, with the vocal cords frozen in a continual spasm of fear. Strangely however, the lady could still sing beautifully and without inhibition when performing with the local church choir.

Something she said back then stayed with me, and that was whenever she heard the sound of jangling keys, her body would go into panic, anticipating another assault. And it was just this sound, not footsteps, male voices or any of the other noises present at the time, that could just have easily become associated with these traumatic events. So what does this have to do with anxious and / or reactive pets?

We are all familiar with Pavlov's dogs, who were repeatedly exposed to particular sounds (one of which was a metronome) just prior to being fed. After a while, these animals would salivate in response to the sound alone. This process of 'conditioning' had created an association in the mind of the dogs, between being fed (event) the sound used (trigger) and a bodily reaction (in this case salivation in expectation of the appearance of food). In other words, a new, learned behaviour had been established.

For the lady who had been mugged (event) the sound of jangling keys had become associated with the threat of attack, and so would trigger panic and other fight / flight responses (bodily reactions) whenever it was heard.

The same is true for pets, with one important exception.

Dogs have far more more sensitive hearing than we do, and also pick up a much wider range of frequencies.

This means that in addition to the noises that we know commonly trigger anxiety and / or reactivity, such as the sound of traffic, fireworks being let off, thunder, loud bangs, voices, doorbells, dogs barking etc. there are many others - inaudible to humans - which can become associated with past events and act as triggers for stress.

And this is why the Sound Sensitive remedy is included in the Ultimate Anxiety and Behaviour Improvement combination pack. Given several times daily as directed, the botanical extracts these remedies contain, over time (typically 3-6 months or more) help to desensitise a dog to the noises - both audible and inaudible to us as pet parents - which trigger fight / flight arousal in a particular pet. And this is important for all anxious and / or reactive dogs, whether they appear to be sound sensitive or not because it's impossible for us to know what they may or may not be hearing.

And experience has taught us that giving Fears and Anxieties and Sound Sensitive alongside each other, helps pets become calmer, less stressed and much more receptive to learning new, healthier patterns of behaviour, than when either is used alone. 

We'll look at the role Fears and Anxieties plays in this process, in our upcoming blog - Anatomy of a Trigger