Meat and Meat Meal: Sorting Through Animal Protein Sources

A few years ago, we added a new column to the chart full of information that we publish in our annual “approved dry dog foods” list in the February issue. The column tabulates how many dog foods made by each company on the list were made with meat only, meat meal only, and/or a combination of meat and meat meal.

These tabulations do not constitute a judgment about the products listed; they are simply information for dog owners who understand the differences between the terms and the inferences that one can make from that information. But it has come to our attention that many of you aren’t aware of what, exactly, you can infer about a pet food company – or an individual product – from its inclusion of meat, meal, or both on its ingredients panel. So let’s clear this up!

NAMING AND SHAMING

First, though, you need to understand that, for the purposes of this article, when we use the generic phrases “meat” and “meat meal,” we are discussing named meats: chicken and chicken meal, pork and pork meal, beef and beef meal, etc. We don’t include any products on our “approved foods” lists that utilize unspecified protein sources on the ingredients label. When an unnamed animal protein source appears on the ingredients panel, the consumer has no idea of what mammal or type of poultry is in the can or bag.

To repeat: If you see one of the following phrases on the ingredients list of a dog food, you won’t see that dog food on our “approved foods” lists: meat, meat by-products, meat meal, meat and bone meal, poultry, poultry by-products, poultry meal, poultry by-products meal. 

 Each of these words or phrases have legal definitions when they appear on an ingredient panel. Lacking a word that indicates the species of animal has contributed the “meat” in question, the buyer has no way of knowing what they might be feeding their dog. Is it beef? Lamb? Pork? Chicken? Whatever leftover animal protein source the manufacturer can buy on sale? There is no way to know. 

MEATY ISSUES

What we are discussing here and now, though, is the difference between named meats and their named meat meal corollaries. What’s the difference between chicken and chicken meal, beef and beef meal, etc.? 

There is a critical clock ticking when it comes to fresh and frozen meats and meat by-products. Refrigeration is costly – and doesn’t hold off degradation of the ingredients for long. Freezing preserves meats longer, but is several factors more costly than refrigeration. Companies that use fresh meats in their pet foods need to get those ingredients into their mixers and extruders quickly; the more time it takes to get from the meat-processing plant to the food-manufacturing plant, the costlier the ingredients become.

If the meat products are not refrigerated or frozen, their quality is heavily impacted by the time and distance it takes them to travel to either a rendering company or a pet food manufacturer. The longer it takes them to be cooked in one form or another, the more bacterial decay and enzymatic breakdown will occur, affecting the quality of the protein and fat. 

Pet food makers need to test and control a slew of quality-indicated parameters to make sure the meat-based ingredients are of sufficient quality to be safe, nutritious, and palatable. The quality of the product can be determined by the color and smell of the material, as well as analytical values for protein, available lysine, total lysine, methionine, pepsin digestibility (higher values are equated with higher protein content), peroxide value (higher values mean greater rancidity of the fats), OSI value (indicates the oxidative stability of the fats), ash (more on that in a minute), level and type of amino acids they contain.

MAKE A MEAL OF IT

The ash content in a pet food corresponds almost entirely to the amount of bone that is included in the product’s animal protein sources; it consists of the minerals that would be left if you burned everything in a food that would burn. Foods with an adequate amount of calcium, phosphorus, and other minerals they need – but no more – may contain as little as 2% ash. Super inexpensive, low-quality foods may contain as much as 10% ash, indicating that they were made with animal protein sources that included a lot of bone. Most dog foods contain between 5% and 8% ash. 

Meat meals are made through a process called rendering. The process is named “rendering” as it renders volatile, degradable meats into a more stable form. The animal products are subjected to high temperatures, both in order to kill any pathogens and to drive a certain amount of moisture and fat away from the bone and tissue. 

Once the product is in a lower-moisture form (around 10%), it will remain relatively stable at room temperatures for months. Meat meals can be shipped and stored for some time, until the pet food producer is ready to make some food. 

For these reasons, the smaller the annual sales of a pet food brand, the less frequently it will be made, the more likely it is that the product will be made with meat meals, rather than fresh meats. Meat from exotic species that are in limited supply (perhaps only seasonally) is almost always supplied in the form of a rendered meal. 

Competent rendering companies can produce meat meals with a range of fat and “ash” content, and pet food companies will stipulate how much fat and ash they want in the ingredients they buy from the renderer. In general, higher-fat ingredients will cost more than lower-fat ingredients. Lower-ash ingredients cost more than high-ash ingredients. 

MEAT-ONLY FOODS

There are companies that have staked their entire reputations on the fact that they use only meats, never meat meals, in their dry dog foods. Is this truly a sign of higher quality? 

Actually, there’s something to look out for in those “meat only” (meal-free) dry dog foods: the inclusion (and frequently, the over-representation) of plant-sourced proteins, which have a less desirable amino acid profile than meat (for dogs). 

Remember, ingredients are listed on the label in order of pre-processing weight in the food’s formula. Meat contains about 70% moisture and is very heavy, so if it is included in a large enough quantity so as to appear first or second on the ingredient list, it can’t actually be supplying the majority of the product’s protein. This is because the meats that are used in pet food – which actually contain quite a bit of skin, fat, connective tissue, and bone – may contain as little as 8% protein.

In foods that contain both meat and meat meal high on the ingredients list, it’s the meat meal that supplies most of the protein in the product. If there is no meat meal in a dry dog food, it has to have some plant protein sources to boost the protein content to adequate levels. We couldn’t say, then, that we feel these meat-only dry dog food formulations are better. 

IMPOSSIBLE TO CONFIRM

We’re sorry to say it, but the factors that most affect the quality of the meat ingredients in dog foods are absolutely impossible to confirm. The source of the ingredients, whether they are kept chilled, the distance to the rendering plant or food-production facility, the amount of time it takes for those ingredients to be processed . . . none of these things are verifiable by consumers (or journalists, in case you were wondering). 

Giant conglomerate food companies actually have an advantage here, in that many have rendering and/or pet food manufacturing facilities adjacent to their human food processing facilities, sparing the meat and meat by-products a long journey at the local air temperature. 

That said, there must be smaller companies that have located their manufacturing facilities conveniently close to their animal-protein suppliers. And we know that some pet food makers do keep their meat ingredients chilled all the way between the slaughterhouse to their pet food mixing and extrusion or canning equipment. But these facts are difficult to verify and subject to change at a moment’s notice. Consumers (us included) are stuck with having to trust the reputation of the company and performance of the products themselves. 

The post Meat and Meat Meal: Sorting Through Animal Protein Sources appeared first on Whole Dog Journal.

PPG Summit 2020 Sessions: Building Positive Boundaries for the Refined Suburban Canine – Teaching Dogs to Enjoy Their Yards without the Need for Electronic Devices

BARKS presents session details from PPG’s 2020 Summit and Workshops in Phoenix, Arizona
*Early bird discount available if you register before January 31, 2020!

© Niki Tudge
© Judy Luther

Session Details:
Presenters: Judy Luther and Niki Tudge
Session Title: Building Positive Boundaries for the Refined Suburban Canine – Teaching Dogs to Enjoy Their Yards without the Need for Electronic Devices
Session Type:  Lecture (1.5 Hours)

Electric fences as containment tools are very common in our residential communities. Many locations restrict or ban the use of physical fences leaving pet owners with little choice but to install underground electronic containment tools. However, discerning pet owners are misguided in the level of protection these tools offer and the potential for them to cause untold physical and mental discomfort and damage to their pets.

This session will provide a step-by-step standard operating procedure (SOP) you can offer through your business as a much-needed service. The presenters will break the SOP down into individual skills and required knowledge, giving you the perfect program to help you support your clients with their containment needs in a positive and empowering manner. The session will cover the prerequisite skills for both dog and owner, the supplies you will need, and how the training program can be delivered over several lessons.

The session will also include a troubleshooting guide and suggest systems you can implement to help you convert electronically contained yards into a positive environment for pets who were previously conditioned to an electric fence.

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand the SOP in its format and style so you can implement the service in your business.
  • Grasp the step-by-step process to teach dogs to stay in their yards without the use of electric fences or, in fact, any designated location.
  • Learn how to overcome any hesitations about using this method from a safety aspect.
  • Understand how the procedure can be implemented over several lessons with the support of the presenters’ training curriculum and lesson plan.
  • Be comfortable with the supporting tools, videos and client handouts to assist you in your delivery.

PPG Summit 2020 will take place in Phoenix, Arizona and offer two unique programs:

Program 1: The Four-Day Summit
Program 2: The Four-Day Summit + Daily Off-Site Workshops at the Arizona Humane Society

Dates: Friday, September 18 – Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Event theme: Collaborative Care and Enrichment – Creating Partnerships for Positive Results

Quick Links
Event Schedule
Workshop Groups
Presenters and Workshop Instructors
Sponsorship Opportunities
Register

Hungry Mama Dog And Litter Found Freezing In Minnesota Snowdrift

In January, a pregnant dog needed a place to have her litter of puppies. All she had was a snowdrift to lie in, and that’s where she had 6 pups. Soon, the poor malnourished mama stopped producing sufficient milk to feed her little babies. Fortunately, a concerned family discovered the hungry, huddled family and drove all of the dogs to Red Lake Rosie’s Rescue.

Located on the Red Lake Indian Reservation in northwestern Minnesota, Red Lake Rosie’s Rescue (RLRR) sees a lot of freezing cold strays. For those not from the area, February temperatures up there see an average high of 21 degrees Fahrenheit. Often it can be even colder.

“The majority of our animals are strays, but some are surrendered by residents. Most of the dogs and cats are young, since life expectancy for animals living outdoors on the reservation is usually around two years.” – Red Lake Rosie’s Rescue via Facebook

The shelter’s goal for all their dogs and cats is just a temporary stay followed by transport to the (much larger) Twin Cities for foster care and adoption. A photo RLRR shared of the shivering pups the day of their discovery now has hundreds of shares.

Red Lake Rosie’s Rescue/Facebook

“This photo shows the great need for shelter and food in our very harsh winters. We have no idea how Snowbelle and her puppies survived. They were about 3 weeks old when rescued.”

Just look at how tiny these puppies are. They must all be real fighters!

Red Lake Rosie’s Rescue/Facebook

This little family’s survival inspired. Many reached out with interest in adopting. In the meantime, Snowbelle became healthy enough to produce more milk for her growing puppies.

Snowbelle has since been spayed, so these beautiful pups will be her last litter. They’re all already off making their new families very happy. The proud adopters took to Facebook to boast about their new puppies.

I adopted one of the puppies. She’s doing great. Thank you!!!!” -Paige Nichols via Facebook

Paige Nichols/Facebook

I am so happy with our puppy we got from this litter!” – Samantha Giddly via Facebook

Samantha Giddly/Facebook

Most importantly, the whole family is warm and well-fed.

Click here to donate to Red Lake Rosie’s Rescue so they can keep bringing more pups in from the cold! And if you see any freezing pups without tags this winter, contact your local humane society.

H/T: CBS Local
Featured Image: @Red Lake Rosie’s Rescue/Facebook

The post Hungry Mama Dog And Litter Found Freezing In Minnesota Snowdrift appeared first on iHeartDogs.com.

Canine Massage Case Reports

Aimee Johnson of Little Bear Animal Massage (littlebearanimalmassage.com) in St. Paul, MN, reports: One of my clients is a 13-year-old German Shepherd Dog, Izzy, who was referred to me by her traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) veterinarian, Dr. Deb Brown of Pequot Lakes (MN) Animal Hospital. Izzy is a former agility dog and has arthritis in her back, knees, shoulder, and neck. She also has spondylosis, hip dysplasia, and had hip denervation done in 2015. Izzy’s owner, Julie, has incorporated multiple modalities to keep Izzy moving (chiropractic, laser therapy, TCM, etc.). After adding massage to her routine (once a week with me, and nightly sessions by her owner), Izzy is doing the things she loves again.

Chantilly

Karen Lachapelle, a massage practitioner and owner of Rub My Belly (facebook.com/rbmyblly) in Lowell, MA, reports: Wendy and Marc had four dogs. The first dog of theirs that I massaged was the oldest guy, Taz. When I first met him, he was about 12 years old with just patches of fur. At first, he was unsure, but by the third or fourth session he liked his massages so much so that he would sleep through the night – and, remarkably, his fur started to grow back. I massaged Taz on a monthly basis for two years until he passed away. Then Wendy and Marc called on me to massage their next-oldest dog, Chantilly. When I massaged Chantilly, Wendy and Marc would comment on the “spring in her step” and report that she would have a good night’s sleep. I massaged Chantilly until she passed away in 2019 at the age of 19.

Bella

Ellen Kanner of Framingham, MA, shared this report: Bella is my 12-year-old Shih-Tzu/Poodle-mix. About five months ago, she stopped using her left front leg.  Her veterinarian diagnosed advanced arthritis and prescribed an injectable pain killer once a week for 10 weeks. She also advised me that massage or acupuncture may reduce Bella’s pain. I contacted Lisa Ruthig (Lively Animal Massage in Grosvenordale, CT), and she started massaging Bella once a week. Within five days of getting her first massage, Bella started walking on all four paws again! After 10 weeks, Bella no longer needed her injectable pain medication. Bella now gets massages every other week. Recently, she was able to hike at a normal pace for over an hour. Massage turned my older, pain-filled Bella into a much more comfortable “younger” Bella. 

Maggie

Karen Brothers of Bellingham, MA, shared this report: My 13-year-old German Shepherd, Maggie, has severe arthritis in the lower spine and severe hip dysplasia. Medication helped for a time, then her veterinarian recommended physical therapy or massage. After her first massage from practitioner Lisa Ruthig, Maggie slept through the night – for the first time in a while. I was so relieved! I realized that Maggie didn’t groan as much as she lay down or struggle as much when she got up. She was willing to walk farther than she had been, she didn’t seem as stiff, and her gait was better. Most amazingly, the sparkle came back to her eyes. Over the next two years, her challenges worsened, but each hour-long massage helped Maggie feel more comfortable for the remainder of the week. 

The post Canine Massage Case Reports appeared first on Whole Dog Journal.

Warning Signs Before Starting Canine Massage Therapy

When you contact a massage practitioner about your dog, one of the first questions she should ask you is whether and when your dog has been seen by your veterinarian. Be wary of any practitioner who would work on your animal with an illness or injury if you haven’t at least tried to get a medical diagnosis. Because of massage’s powerful pain-relieving effects, doing massage first could delay important medical treatment.

Another thing to watch closely is how the practitioner interacts with your animal. Any attempt to forcibly restrain the dog is a red flag. Massage works closely with the parasympathetic nervous system – the opposite of fight or flight – and anything that counters that relaxation effect will undermine results. Be proactive, and end any session if you feel the practitioner isn’t respecting your dog.

One of my instructors, Lisa Ruthig, told me about a dog she worked on who was prone to behaving aggressively when her neck was touched. The dog had been diagnosed with intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) and was in serious pain. Lisa learned that the dog had been muzzled and forced to endure deep-tissue neck massage from another practitioner.  

Lisa used behavioral desensitization coupled with massage to the rest of the body to overcome the dog’s fear. In the end, the dog didn’t need deep tissue massage to relax her tight neck – and deep masssage is contraindicated with IVDD! Instead, Lisa used light massage and myofascial release, which the dog happily accepted. Giving dogs some choice and control over a session is the most humane, fastest way to build a bond of trust and allow the necessary work. 

The post Warning Signs Before Starting Canine Massage Therapy appeared first on Whole Dog Journal.

Rescue Staff Helps Service Dog Diagnosed With Cancer Complete “Bucket List”

Wonka the service dog has only spent a few years on this planet, but he’s managed to accomplish so much in that time. In the last two months since his diagnosis with terminal cancer, the 6-year-old Golden Retriever has been even busier than usual. Hearts Alive Village, the rescue organization where Wonka works, put together a “bucket list” of adventures for his last days.

Kelly McMahon, Wonka’s handler, also serves as Hearts Alive’s Director Of Operations. There Wonka both works full time as McMahon’s service dog and a greeter at the adoption center. Wonka originally came to McMahon through an organization called Canine Assistance.

@HAVLV/Facebook

Wonka has many talents, including (but not limited to) picking up dropped items and turning on and off light switches. One of his most impressive talents, in my opinion, is his ability to provide comfort to other animals at Hearts Alive. McMahon told Fox5 he just has a talent for calming.

“He has a way of– some sort of doggy language. [Wonka] can talk to them and let them know, it’s going to be okay.” 

@HAVLV/Facebook

Wonka’s Disease

The trouble for Wonka began in December 2019, Hearts Alive shared on Facebook.

“Over a month ago, it started with some sneezing.. snotty and then a bloody nose… After trying all we could to treat his worsening symptoms, Dr. Muratore did a head xray and discovered Wonka’s entire right nasal passage was blocked with unexplained tissue.”

Eventually, the vet diagnosed Wonka with Chondrosarcoma, a condition that attacks cartilage. The disease has no cure.

@HAVLV/Facebook

Instead of subjecting the pup to painful treatments, McMahon wanted to give her service dog and best friend the happiest last days.

“Mom says we don’t have to do all that radiation stuff. She doesn’t want me to get hurt or burnt. We decided to just have fun cuz I’m feeling pretty good. We started a list of my favorite things.” – @wonkasway via Instagram

What’s On Wonka’s Bucket List

Wonka’s bucket list is pretty lengthy, so here are some highlights he’s yet to hit:

  • Go on ‘Ellen’
  • Take a picture with the Vegas Golden Knights
  • Get a doggie massage
  • Go on a boat ride
  • Visit a dog beach
  • Go to a comedy club
  • Be an extra in a movie
  • Swim in the ocean
  • Eat at the table at a fancy restaurant
  • Make it into the newspaper
  • Make a child’s wish come true
  • Visit the Natural History Museum
  • March in a parade

But since Wonka’s been busy, here are some things on the list he already accomplished:

  • Appear in a local magazine article
  • Play on the K9 unit’s training course
  • Meet a NASCAR driver
  • Ride in a police car
  • Get married
@wonkasway/Instagram
  • Have a slumber party
  • Get a portrait painted
  • Interrupt a yoga class 
  • Be a treat tester
  • Visit a fire station
@wonkasway/Instagram

Follow Wonka’s bucket list journey on Instagram. That’s also one way to help him cross off something on his list: become a social media superstar.

H/T: Fox5
Featured Image: @wonkasway/Instagram

The post Rescue Staff Helps Service Dog Diagnosed With Cancer Complete “Bucket List” appeared first on iHeartDogs.com.

Confused Dog Refuses To Leave Porch After Family Moves Away

One day, a family in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania packed up their things and moved away. But they left something very important behind: a sweet brown dog. The dog continued to sleep on the porch, just outside the home he knew. His family never returned for him. Still, he waited.

Janine Guido, founder of nearby Speranza Animal Rescue (“Speranza” means “hope” in Italian,) received several calls from neighbors about a dog left behind. No one knew much more outside of that, she told The Dodo.

“All I was told was that his owners moved out and left him behind. I asked multiple other people if they knew anything about the dog and they just said, ‘They moved out.’”

@SperanzaAnimalRescue/Facebook

Guido arrived at the house and attempted to approach the dog, Cupid. The pup had been eating out of the dumpster. When he saw her, Cupid ran back to scratch at the door, hoping to be let inside.

@SperanzaAnimalRescue/Facebook

After about half an hour of chasing the pup through alleyways, attempting to feed him, Guido had an idea. She began offering the dog words of comfort. Somehow, she felt he understood that she came to help.

“It sounds dumb but I swear he knew what I was saying to him. He literally came over and sat down and allowed me to leash him.”

Guido retold the story of how she came to help Cupid via a caption on the heartbreaking photos shared on Speranza’s Facebook. The words served as a letter to Cupid’s former family.

“I cried as I put your dog into my car. And even though I probably sounded crazy I explained to your dog what was going on the whole ride home. Im so sorry you were let down. But I hope you realize we are here to help. And you will never be left alone again.”

According to an update, the rescue has received over 50 applications for Cupid. He still needs to be neutered and settled a bit more before he’s ready for adoption, but there’s a lot of interest. Clearly he’s a loyal, sweet boy!

@SperanzaAnimalRescue/Facebook

Resources For Rehoming Your Dog

If you or someone you know needs to rehome a dog for any reason, consider your many options alternative to abandonment.

  • The AdoptAPet website helps connect adoptable animals with interested adopters.
  • Discover your resources for living with an animal in rental housing.
  • Learn more about your local rescues and shelters that can help by entering your zip code here.

Here’s hoping Cupid’s next nap on a porch is by choice!

H/T: The Dodo
Featured Image: @SperanzaAnimalRescue/Facebook

The post Confused Dog Refuses To Leave Porch After Family Moves Away appeared first on iHeartDogs.com.

PPG Summit 2020 Sessions: Building Positive Boundaries for the Refined Suburban Canine – Teaching Dogs to Enjoy Their Yards without the Need for Electronic Devices

BARKS presents session details from PPG’s 2020 Summit and Workshops in Phoenix, Arizona
*Early bird discount available if you register before January 31, 2020!

© Niki Tudge
© Judy Luther

Session Details:
Presenters: Judy Luther and Niki Tudge
Session Title: Building Positive Boundaries for the Refined Suburban Canine – Teaching Dogs to Enjoy Their Yards without the Need for Electronic Devices
Session Type:  Lecture (1.5 Hours)

Electric fences as containment tools are very common in our residential communities. Many locations restrict or ban the use of physical fences leaving pet owners with little choice but to install underground electronic containment tools. However, discerning pet owners are misguided in the level of protection these tools offer and the potential for them to cause untold physical and mental discomfort and damage to their pets.

This session will provide a step-by-step standard operating procedure (SOP) you can offer through your business as a much-needed service. The presenters will break the SOP down into individual skills and required knowledge, giving you the perfect program to help you support your clients with their containment needs in a positive and empowering manner. The session will cover the prerequisite skills for both dog and owner, the supplies you will need, and how the training program can be delivered over several lessons.

The session will also include a troubleshooting guide and suggest systems you can implement to help you convert electronically contained yards into a positive environment for pets who were previously conditioned to an electric fence.

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand the SOP in its format and style so you can implement the service in your business.
  • Grasp the step-by-step process to teach dogs to stay in their yards without the use of electric fences or, in fact, any designated location.
  • Learn how to overcome any hesitations about using this method from a safety aspect.
  • Understand how the procedure can be implemented over several lessons with the support of the presenters’ training curriculum and lesson plan.
  • Be comfortable with the supporting tools, videos and client handouts to assist you in your delivery.

PPG Summit 2020 will take place in Phoenix, Arizona and offer two unique programs:

Program 1: The Four-Day Summit
Program 2: The Four-Day Summit + Daily Off-Site Workshops at the Arizona Humane Society

Dates: Friday, September 18 – Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Event theme: Collaborative Care and Enrichment – Creating Partnerships for Positive Results

Quick Links
Event Schedule
Workshop Groups
Presenters and Workshop Instructors
Sponsorship Opportunities
Register

Audio Products for Sound Conditioning Your Dog

Dog trainers often recommend smartphone apps and YouTube videos for desensitizing and counter-conditioning dogs who are afraid of specific noises. There are many apps designed and marketed for this purpose, and they typically include recordings of many different sounds. However, the physics of sound production and the limitations of consumer audio present large problems for such use – problems substantial enough to prevent the success of many (most?) conditioning attempts.

WHY MANY AUDIO CONDITIONING PRODUCTS FAIL

If quizzed, most people would likely guess that dogs have hearing abilities that are vastly superior to ours. In fact, it’s a mixed bag. 

Humans can hear slightly lower frequencies than dogs can, and we can also locate sounds quite a bit better. But dogs are the big winners in the high frequency range; they can hear tones over about twice the frequency range that humans can. Also, dogs can hear sounds at a much lower volume level than humans can over most of our common audible range. Yet the superior aspects of dogs’ hearing are rarely considered when we decide to use sound recordings in conditioning! 

There are four major acoustical problems with using human sound devices to condition dogs:

The inability of smartphones to generate low frequencies, such as those present in thunder.

The limited ability of even the best home audio systems to generate these low frequencies in high fidelity.

The upper limit of the frequencies generated on all consumer audio.

The effects of audio file compression on the fidelity of digital sound.

There are also common problems with the use of sound apps that can be deduced through what we know through behavior science. These can also make or break attempts to positively condition a dog to sound:

Lack of functional assessment before attempting conditioning.

The length of the sound samples used for conditioning.

The assumption that lower volume always creates a lower intensity (less scary) stimulus.

Some, but not all of the above problems can be addressed with do-it-yourself work and a good plan. But sound conditioning of dogs using recordings will always have some substantial limitations that can affect success.

WHAT IS THE FREQUENCY?

Frequency is the aspect of sound that relates to the cycles of the sound waves per second. Cycles per second is expressed in units of hertz (Hz). I’ll refer a lot to low and high frequencies because they pose different challenges. 

To help with the concept of frequency, think of a piano keyboard with the low notes on the left and the high notes on the right. The low notes have lower frequencies and the high notes have higher frequencies. Keep in mind that sound frequency goes much higher than the highest notes on a piano! 

Common sounds with low frequencies include thunder, fireworks, industrial equipment, the crashing of ocean waves, the rumble of trains and aircraft, and large explosions. Common sounds with high frequencies include most birdsong, the squeaking of hinges, Dremels and other high-speed drills, referees’ whistles, and most digital beeps. 

Motorized machinery generates sound frequencies that correspond to the rotation of the motor. These frequencies can be high like the dentist’s drill or low like aircraft. Motors can also vary in speed. For instance, when you hear a motorcycle accelerating, the frequency of the sound rises as the engine speeds up. 

Humans can hear in a range of 20 to 20,000 Hz, and dogs can hear in a range of 67 to 45,000 Hz.

Some sounds don’t have a detectable pitch, meaning they include such a large number of frequencies that you can’t pick anything out and hum it. These are called broadband sounds. A clicker generates a broadband sound.

FRIENDS IN LOW FREQUENCIES

Our human brains are great at filling in blanks in information and taking shortcuts. This makes it hard for us to realize what a bad job our handheld devices do in generating low-frequency sounds. Our dogs undoubtedly know, though.

Many people purchase sound apps in order to try to condition their dogs to thunder. The frequency range for rumbles of thunder is 5 to 220 Hz. Handheld devices generally have a functional lower output limit of about 400 to 500 Hertz. If you play a recording of thunder (or a jet engine or ocean waves) on a handheld device, the most significant part of the sound will be played at a vanishingly low volume or be entirely missing. 

When performing desensitization, we aim to start with a version of the sound that doesn’t scare the dog, so this could possibly be a starting point. On the other hand, without the distinctive low frequencies that are present in real thunder, some dogs will not connect the recording (played at any volume) with the real thing. 

Home sound systems, including some Bluetooth speakers, can do a better job. They usually generate frequencies down to 60 Hz. This is roughly the lower limit of dogs’ hearing, so it’s a good match. But even the best home system can’t approach the power and volume of actual thunder, and the sound is located inside your home instead of outside. Some dogs do not appear to connect recordings of thunder on even excellent sound equipment to the real thing, or they will respond to recordings with a lesser reaction. 

In one study of thunder phobic dogs, the researchers brought their own professional quality sound system to each dog owner’s home; great mention is made of the fact that the sound system was large. This bulk indicates that they were serious about being able to generate low frequencies! In general, the larger the speakers, the better they are at generating low frequencies. The difference today is smaller than it was 15 years ago, however. Sound systems have improved a lot in recent years.

Some of the sound apps for dog training now instruct you to send the sound to a home sound system rather than using the speaker in the handheld. This is excellent advice for any sound. But the bottom line is that you will not always be able to emulate low frequencies well enough to function as desensitization for some dogs.

Table I (at left) shows the difference between the sound of a roll of thunder played on an iPhone 7 versus a home sound system (Altec Lansing speakers). The Blue Yeti microphone I used to capture the sound for analysis was the same distance from the speaker in each case.

The graph in the oval is the approximate range of the rumbles of thunder. The navy blue line represents the sound generated by the smartphone in those frequencies. The red line was from the Altec Lansing home speakers. The speakers generate sound down to 60 Hz (as per their specifications). 

In contrast, the output of the phone is virtually inaudible below 300 Hz. 

LET’S GET HIGH FREQUENCIES

All consumer audio equipment is designed for human ears. Our handhelds, computers, TVs, and sound systems put out sound only up to the frequency of 22,000 Hz. Humans can’t hear higher frequencies than that. But dogs can hear up to about 40,000 Hz. So again, the recordings are not high fidelity for dogs.

This is different from the thunder situation. The low frequencies of thunder are present in high quality recordings, but our equipment can’t perfectly generate them. With high frequencies, it’s not only a limitation of our speakers. The sounds in “dog frequencies” are not recorded in the first place. 

It’s not that it can’t be done. Biologists and other scientists use specialty equipment that can record and/or play back sound in the ultrasound range. The recording device requires a higher sample rate (how often the sound is digitally measured) than consumer equipment and the speaker for playback requires a wider bandwidth for frequency response. 

How much does this affect the fidelity of recorded sound for dogs? We can’t know for sure. But virtually all sounds include what are called harmonics or overtones. These are multiples of the original frequency into a higher range. Dogs can hear these in the range from 22,000 to 40,000 Hz, but they are never present in sound recordings made even by very high quality equipment. 

Because of this, it’s likely that dogs with normal hearing will be able to easily discriminate between a natural sound and even the best recording of it. 

SOUND FILE COMPRESSION

Digital audio files are large. Most files that are created to play on digital devices are saved in MP3 format. This format was created in the 1990s when digital storage was much more limited than it is today. Hence, MP3 files are compressed, meaning that some of the sound information is removed so they won’t be so large. 

MP3 is termed a “lossy” compression because sound data is permanently lost through the compression. The compression algorithms are based on the capabilities of the human ear. Sounds we humans are unlikely to be able to hear are removed. 

Some of these limitations may be shared by dogs. For instance, quieter sounds that are very close in time to a loud sudden sound are removed. We can’t hear those because of masking effects, and it’s probable that dogs can’t either, although there may be a difference in degree. 

However, there are other limitations of the human ear that dogs do not share. For instance, our hearing is most sensitive in the range of about 2,000 to 5,000 Hz, so very quiet sounds that are pretty far outside that range will likely be eliminated. Dogs’ most sensitive range is higher than ours, so sounds they could hear are probably omitted from compressed recordings.

Keep in mind that dogs not only hear sounds that are higher than we can perceive, but they hear all high-pitched sounds at lower volumes than we do.

So the MP3 compression process is another reason that some sounds in dogs’ hearing range that would be present in a natural sound would be missing in a recording of it.

If you make your own recordings, there is an easy thing you can do to prevent this issue: Simply save your sound files in WAV or AIFF formats as discussed below. I haven’t seen a desensitization app that uses these formats, however.

BEHAVIOR SCIENCE CONSIDERATIONS

The problems I’ve discussed so far are caused by the physics of sound and how it is recorded, compressed, and played. 

The following cautions have to do with applying what we know about performing classical conditioning to sound without errors.

  • Lack of Functional Assessment

Trainers who deal with dogs with behavior problems perform functional assessments. They observe and take data to help them understand what is driving the problem behavior. In the case of fear, they analyze the situation in order to determine the root cause of the fear.

In the case of sound sensitivity, a dog may react because the sound has become a predictor of a fear-exciting stimulus, as is the case with much doorbell reactivity. Or the dog may be responding to an intrinsic quality of the sound, in the case of sound phobia. Sound phobia is a clinical condition that requires intervention. Many such dogs need medication in order to improve.

Trainers, working with veterinarians or veterinary behaviorists, can make these determinations. Consumers often can’t. And as the sound apps being marketed to consumers become more elaborate, pet owners who follow the directions have a good chance of worsening some dogs’ fears.

For example, a newer sound app allows you to set up the app to play the sound randomly when you are not home for purposes of desensitization (without counter-conditioning). The instructions show an example of a dog’s doorbell reactivity going away through use of the app (although perhaps not permanently). The app was programmed to play doorbell sounds randomly when the owner wasn’t home. This decoupled the doorbell as a predictor of strangers at the door. 

This protocol would give any professional trainer pause. First, the cause of the reactivity – the dog’s fear of strangers – wasn’t addressed at all. All things considered, that is not a humane or robust approach. The dog’s fear is left intact while the inconvenience of their barking at predictors is removed. Second, the instructions of playing a feared sound randomly when the owner isn’t home, even at a low volume (more on this below) could result in a ruinous situation for a dog with a true sound phobia rather than “just” doorbell reactivity.

Following the directions that are packaged with some of the commercial sound apps meant to be used to train noise-sensitive dogs could actually cause more harm than good.

Apps that can play randomized, graduated sound exposures can be a good tool for trainers, as long as the trainers are aware of the limitations here. They should not be marketed or recommended to consumers.

  •  Length of the Sound Stimulus

Many noises in the apps are too long for effective desensitization and counter-conditioning. Real-life thunder and fireworks both have an infinite array of sound variations. If you play a 20-second clip of either of these, there will be multiple sounds present and a sound phobic dog may react several times, not just once.

Classical delay conditioning, where the stimulus to be conditioned is present for several seconds, and the appetitive stimulus (usually food) is continually presented during that time, is said to be the most effective form of classical conditioning. This is the method that trainer Jean Donaldson, founder of the well-regarded Academy for Dog Trainers, refers to as “Open bar, closed bar.” 

Delay conditioning would be appropriate to use for a continuous, homogeneous sound, such as a steady state (non-accelerating) motor. But fireworks and thunder are not continuous; they are sudden and chaotic. They consist of multiple stimuli that can be extremely varied.

To offer a visual analogy: If your dog reacts to other dogs and you seek to classically condition him, you might create a careful setup wherein another dog walks by at a non-scary distance and is in view for a period of, perhaps, 10 to 20 seconds. You would be feeding your dog constantly through that period. That is a duration exposure to one stimulus. (And you would try to use a calm decoy dog who doesn’t perform a whole lot of jumpy or loud behaviors!)

But for the first time out you would not take your dog to a dog show or an agility trial to watch 60 different dogs of all sizes and shapes coming and going and performing all sorts of different behaviors, even if you could get the distance right and the exposure was 10 to 20 seconds. That is the visual equivalent of the long sound clip of fireworks. There are far too many separate stimuli!

Also, if you play a longer clip, one lasting many minutes (as has been done in some sound studies), you are essentially performing simultaneous conditioning, a method known for its failure to create an association. The fact that you started feeding one second after the sound started is not going to be significant if the crashes of thunder and food keep coming for minutes on end. You have not created a predictor.

And if you are feeding the whole time but the scary sounds are intermittent, you are probably also performing reverse conditioning, where the food can come to predict the scary noise.

If you are working to habituate a non-fearful dog or a litter of puppies to certain noises, the longer sound clips are probably fine for that. They may even work for a dog with only mild fears of those noises. But the more fearful the dog is, and the closer he is to exhibiting clinical noise phobia, the cleaner your training needs to be. To get the best conditioned response, you need a short, recognizable, brief stimulus. 

After you get a positive conditioned response to one firework noise, for instance, you can then start with a different firework noise. After you have done several, you may see generalization and you can use longer clips. But don’t start with the parade!

  •  Volume

Most mammals have what is called an acoustic startle response. We experience fear and constrict certain muscles when we hear a loud, sudden noise. It’s natural for any dog to be startled by a sudden noise. It may be that dogs who have over-the-top responses to thunder and fireworks have startle responses so extreme as to become dysfunctional. For dogs who fall apart when they hear a sudden, loud sound such as thunder, it makes all the sense in the world to start conditioning at low volume, because this practice can remove the startle factor.

But it’s different for dogs who are scared of high-frequency beeps and whistles. These odd, specific fears are not necessarily related to a loud volume. I have observed that, with these dogs, starting at a quiet level can actually scare the dog more. Remember, dogs don’t locate sounds as well as humans do. It could be that the disembodied nature of some of these sounds is part of what causes fear. (Have you ever tried to locate which smoke alarm in a home is emitting the dreaded low battery chirp? Even for humans, it can be surprisingly difficult – and we are better at locating sounds.)

When lowering volume is ruled out as a method of providing a lower intensity version of a sound stimulus, virtually all apps for sound desensitization are rendered useless.

SOLUTIONS

References

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 learning and behavior. WW Norton & Co.

With apps that can do more and more for humans, it seems odd to suggest that in order to help your dog, you might have to invent your own helpful tools. But doing so can help you make recordings of better fidelity and more appropriate length, and if you (or an acquaintance) are at all tech-savvy, you can also alter sounds in other ways besides volume.

  • Record sounds yourself using an application that can save the recordings in WAV or AIFF (uncompressed) formats. This eliminates one of the ways that recordings can sound very different to dogs from real life sounds. Newer smartphones are fine for this. Even though they can’t play low frequency sounds, they can record them.
  •  Create short recordings of single sounds, especially for dogs with strong sound sensitivities. Or, purchase sounds and edit them down. For instance, you could purchase a 20-second recording of a thunderstorm, and edit out one roll of thunder to use. But be sure that the file you purchase is uncompressed. 
  • Play sounds for desensitization on the best sound system possible, especially if you are working with thunder, fireworks, or other sounds that include low frequencies.
  • For dogs who are afraid of high-pitched beeps, create a less scary version by changing the sound’s frequency or timbre rather than by lowering the volume. Generally, lowering the frequency works well. You will then need to create a set of sounds for graduated exposures. They should start at a non-scary frequency, then gradually work back up to the original sound.

There are several ways to change the frequency of a recorded sound. You can use video software that has good audio editing capabilities, the free computer application Audacity, or professional sound editing software. You can also generate beeps at different frequencies using a free function generator on the internet. 

The one advantage of working with dogs who are afraid of such sounds is that the original sounds themselves are usually digitally generated, so when you create similar sounds the fidelity will be high. (In other words, when a dog is afraid of a smartphone noise, a smartphone is the perfect playback tool.)

HEAR ME OUT

This is not a project to be undertaken lightly, but it can be done if you have tech skills and a good ear. Be sure to use headphones and be at least one room away from your sound-sensitive dog when you start working with recordings of beeps. My dog can hear high-frequency beeps escaping from my earbuds from across the room!

Be aware that with some dogs and some sounds, it will not be possible to play recordings that are similar enough to the natural sounds to be able to carry over a conditioned response. Thunder and fireworks will always present significant problems. 

We want to believe that there is always a training solution. But sometimes physics foils our plans and the gap between an artificially generated sound and the generated sound will be too high. In that case, masking, management, and medications will be the best help. 

The post Audio Products for Sound Conditioning Your Dog appeared first on Whole Dog Journal.

PPG Summit 2020 Sessions: Building Positive Boundaries for the Refined Suburban Canine – Teaching Dogs to Enjoy Their Yards without the Need for Electronic Devices

BARKS presents session details from PPG’s 2020 Summit and Workshops in Phoenix, Arizona
*Early bird discount available if you register before January 31, 2020!

© Niki Tudge
© Judy Luther

Session Details:
Presenters: Judy Luther and Niki Tudge
Session Title: Building Positive Boundaries for the Refined Suburban Canine – Teaching Dogs to Enjoy Their Yards without the Need for Electronic Devices
Session Type:  Lecture (1.5 Hours)

Electric fences as containment tools are very common in our residential communities. Many locations restrict or ban the use of physical fences leaving pet owners with little choice but to install underground electronic containment tools. However, discerning pet owners are misguided in the level of protection these tools offer and the potential for them to cause untold physical and mental discomfort and damage to their pets.

This session will provide a step-by-step standard operating procedure (SOP) you can offer through your business as a much-needed service. The presenters will break the SOP down into individual skills and required knowledge, giving you the perfect program to help you support your clients with their containment needs in a positive and empowering manner. The session will cover the prerequisite skills for both dog and owner, the supplies you will need, and how the training program can be delivered over several lessons.

The session will also include a troubleshooting guide and suggest systems you can implement to help you convert electronically contained yards into a positive environment for pets who were previously conditioned to an electric fence.

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand the SOP in its format and style so you can implement the service in your business.
  • Grasp the step-by-step process to teach dogs to stay in their yards without the use of electric fences or, in fact, any designated location.
  • Learn how to overcome any hesitations about using this method from a safety aspect.
  • Understand how the procedure can be implemented over several lessons with the support of the presenters’ training curriculum and lesson plan.
  • Be comfortable with the supporting tools, videos and client handouts to assist you in your delivery.

PPG Summit 2020 will take place in Phoenix, Arizona and offer two unique programs:

Program 1: The Four-Day Summit
Program 2: The Four-Day Summit + Daily Off-Site Workshops at the Arizona Humane Society

Dates: Friday, September 18 – Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Event theme: Collaborative Care and Enrichment – Creating Partnerships for Positive Results

Quick Links
Event Schedule
Workshop Groups
Presenters and Workshop Instructors
Sponsorship Opportunities
Register