Utilizing Sound Apps for Desensitization & Counterconditioning for Canines

Utilizing Sound Apps for Desensitization & Counterconditioning for Canines

“What’s that noise and the place’s it coming from?” Canines’ listening to skills are totally different from ours—a truth that’s incessantly and surprisingly unconsidered within the improvement of many audio merchandise for canine.

Canine trainers usually advocate smartphone apps and YouTube movies for desensitizing and counterconditioning canine who’re afraid of particular noises. There are various apps designed for this, they usually sometimes have recordings of quite a lot of sounds. Nonetheless, the physics of sound manufacturing and the restrictions of shopper audio current giant issues for such use, issues substantial sufficient to forestall the success of many (most?) conditioning makes an attempt.

This publish describes the pitfalls of utilizing sound apps and different recordings for this objective. It maps out a method for sound desensitization that avoids a lot of the issues.

Why Many Audio Conditioning Merchandise Fail

If quizzed, most individuals would doubtless guess that canine have listening to skills which are vastly superior to ours. In reality, it’s a blended bag.

People can hear barely decrease frequencies than canine can (Gelfand, 2010, p. 166). We will additionally find sounds fairly a bit higher than they will (Mills, 1958), (Fay and Wilber, 1989, p. 519). However canine are the large winners within the excessive frequency vary—they will hear tones over about twice the frequency vary that people can (Gelfand, 2010, p. 166), (Heffner, 1983). Additionally, canine also can hear sounds at a a lot decrease quantity degree than people can over most of our frequent audible vary (Lipman & Grassi, 1942).

But the superior facets of canine’ listening to are hardly ever thought of after we determine to make use of sound recordings in conditioning.

There are 4 main acoustical issues with utilizing human sound units to situation canine.

  • The shortcoming of smartphones to generate low frequencies, akin 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 different issues when utilizing apps that may make or break makes an attempt to positively situation a canine to sound.

  • Lack of purposeful evaluation earlier than trying conditioning
  • The size of the sound samples used for conditioning
  • The idea that decrease quantity at all times creates a decrease depth (much less scary) stimulus

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

What Is the Frequency?

Frequency is the facet 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 correct. The low notes have decrease frequencies and the excessive notes have larger frequencies. Understand that sound frequency goes a lot larger than the best notes on a piano!

Widespread sounds with low frequencies embody thunder, giant fireworks demonstrations, industrial tools, the crashing of ocean waves, the rumble of trains and plane, and enormous explosions. Widespread 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 may be excessive just like the dentist’s drill or low like plane. Motors also can range in velocity. For example, if you hear a motorbike accelerating, the frequency of the sound rises because the engine quickens.

People can hear in a variety of 20–20,000 Hz (Gelfand, 2010, p. 166), and canine can hear in a variety of 67–45,000 Hz (Heffner, 1983).

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

Lacking Low Frequencies

…the higher to listen to you with!

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

Many individuals buy sound apps with the intention to attempt to situation their canine to thunder. The frequency vary for rumbles of thunder is 5–220 Hz (Holmes, 1971). Handheld units can’t correctly generate these low frequencies. They typically have a purposeful decrease output restrict of about 400–500 Hertz. Should you play a recording of thunder (or a jet engine, or ocean waves) on a handheld, essentially the most vital a part of the sound might be performed at a vanishingly low quantity or be completely lacking.

When performing desensitization, we goal to begin with a model of the sound that doesn’t scare the canine, so utilizing a handheld may presumably be a place to begin. However you would need to fill within the lacking low frequency sounds steadily as a part of the desensitization course of, which might imply utilizing a distinct system after the primary couple exposures anyway.

Residence sound programs, together with some Bluetooth audio system, can do a greater job. They normally generate frequencies right down to 60 Hz. That is roughly the decrease restrict of canine’ listening to, so it’s a great match. However even the most effective house system can’t strategy the ability and quantity of precise thunder, and the sound is situated inside your house as a substitute of outdoor. Some canine 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 (Dreschel & Granger, 2005).

In a single research of thunder phobic canine, the researchers introduced their very own skilled high quality sound system to every canine proprietor’s house; nice point out is made that the sound system was giant (Dreschel & Granger, 2005). This bulk signifies that they had been critical about having the ability to generate low frequencies. Basically, 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, nonetheless. Sound programs have improved so much lately.

A number of the sound apps for canine coaching now instruct you to ship the sound to a house sound system moderately than utilizing the speaker within the handheld. That is glorious recommendation for any sound. However the backside line is that you’ll not at all times have the ability to emulate low frequencies properly sufficient to operate as desensitization for some canine.

This picture compares the magnitude of a recording of a roll of thunder performed on an iPhone 7 vs. 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.

This plot reveals that the smartphone audio system don’t generate low frequency sounds successfully

The a part of the plot 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 pink line was from the Altec Lansing house audio system. The audio system generate sound right down to 60 Hz successfully (as per their specs).

In distinction, the output of the telephone is nearly inaudible beneath 300 Hz. Sounds beneath about 44 Hz in that frequency vary are usually indistinguishable from indoor ambient sound.

Lacking Excessive Frequencies

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 twenty-two,000 Hz. People can’t hear larger frequencies than that. However canine can hear as much as about 40,000 Hz. So once more, the recordings should not excessive constancy for canine.

That is totally different from the thunder scenario. The low frequencies of thunder are current in top 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 “canine frequencies” should not recorded within the first place.

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

How a lot do the lacking excessive frequencies have an effect on the constancy of recorded sound for canine? We will’t know for certain. However nearly all sounds embody what are referred to as harmonics or overtones. These are multiples of the unique frequency into a better vary. Canines 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 top quality tools.

Due to these lacking frequencies, canine with regular listening to will doubtless have the ability to discriminate between a pure sound and even the most effective recording of it. 

Different Sounds Lacking Due To Compression

Digital audio information are giant. Most information which are created to play on digital units are saved in MP3 format. This format was created within the Nineteen Nineties when digital storage was way more restricted than it’s as we speak. Therefore, MP3 information are compressed, that means that a number of the sound data is eliminated so that they gained’t be so giant.

MP3 is termed a “lossy” compression as a result of sound information is completely misplaced via 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.

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

Nonetheless, there are different limitations of the human ear that canine don’t share. For example, 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 by the compression algorithm. Canines’ most delicate vary is larger than ours, so sounds they might hear are in all probability omitted from compressed recordings.

Understand that canine not solely hear sounds which are larger than we will 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 canine’ listening to vary that will be current in a pure sound can be lacking in a recording of it.

Should you make your personal recordings, there’s a simple factor to do to forestall this drawback. It can save you 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.

Habits Science Concerns

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

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

Lack of Purposeful Evaluation

Trainers and conduct consultants who assist canine with conduct issues carry out purposeful assessments. They observe and take information to assist them perceive what’s driving the issue conduct. Within the case of worry, they analyze the scenario with the intention to decide the foundation reason behind the worry.

Within the case of sound sensitivity, a canine could react as a result of the sound has change into a predictor of a worry thrilling 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, as within the case of sound phobia. These are totally different fears that require totally different approaches. Sound phobia is a scientific situation that necessitates intervention. Many such canine want medicine with the intention to enhance.

Trainers, working with veterinarians or veterinary behaviorists, could make these determinations. Customers usually can’t. And because the sound apps being marketed to shoppers change into extra elaborate, pet house owners who comply with the instructions have a great probability of worsening some canine’ fears.

Jo isn’t impressed

For instance, a more recent sound app means that you can arrange the app to play the sound randomly when you find yourself not house for functions of desensitization (with out counterconditioning, though a mechanism for it’s deliberate for the longer term). The directions present an instance of a canine’s doorbell reactivity going away via use of the app (though I’m skeptical that it may work long run). 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, isn’t addressed in any respect. All issues thought of, that’s not a humane or strong strategy. The canine’s worry is left intact whereas the inconvenience of their barking at predictors is eliminated. Second, for a canine with a real sound phobia, taking part in a feared sound repeatedly when the proprietor isn’t house, even at a low quantity (extra on this beneath), may have ruinous outcomes.

Apps that may play randomized, graduated sound exposures could be a good device for trainers, so long as the trainers are conscious of the bodily limitations outlined on this publish. They need to not be marketed or advisable to shoppers. Following the instructions that include the app may truly make a canine worse.

Size of the Sound Stimulus

Many noises within the apps are too lengthy for efficient desensitization and counterconditioning. Actual-life thunder and fireworks each have an infinite array of sound variations. Should you play a 20-second clip of both of those, there might be a number of sounds current and a sound phobic canine could 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 regularly offered throughout that point, is claimed to be the best type of classical conditioning.

Delay conditioning can be acceptable to make use of for a steady, homogeneous sound, akin to a gentle state (non-accelerating) motor. However fireworks and thunder should not steady. They’re sudden and chaotic. They encompass a number of stimuli that may be extraordinarily different.

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

However for the primary outing you wouldn’t take your canine to a canine present or a pet parade or an agility trial to observe 60 totally different canine of all configurations and dimensions coming and going and performing all types of various behaviors, even in the event you may get the space proper and the publicity was 10–20 seconds. That’s the visible equal of the lengthy sound clip of fireworks. There are far too many separate stimuli.

Additionally, in the event you play an extended clip, one lasting many minutes, as has been carried out in some sound research, you might be basically performing simultaneous conditioning, a way recognized for its failure to create an affiliation (Schwartz, 1989, p. 59). The truth that you began feeding one second after the sound began isn’t going to be vital if the thunder crashes and meals preserve coming for minutes on finish. You haven’t created a predictor.

And in case you are feeding the entire time however the scary sounds are intermittent, you might be in all probability additionally performing reverse conditioning, the place the meals can come to foretell the scary noise.

In case you are working to habituate a non-fearful canine or a litter of puppies to sure noises, the longer sound clips are in all probability advantageous. They might even work for a canine with solely delicate fears of these noises. However the extra fearful the canine is, and the nearer the canine is to exhibiting a scientific noise phobia, the cleaner your coaching must be. To get the most effective conditioned response, you want a brief, recognizable, transient stimulus. 

After you get a constructive conditioned response to 1 firework noise, as an example, you’ll be able to then begin with a distinct firework noise. After you have got carried out a number of, you may even see generalization and you need to use longer clips. However don’t begin with the parade!

Assumptions about Quantity

Most mammals have what is known as an acoustic startle response. We expertise worry and constrict sure muscle groups reflexively after we hear a loud, sudden noise. It’s pure for any canine to be startled by a sudden noise. It could be that canine who’ve over-the-top responses to thunder and fireworks have startle responses so excessive as to change into dysfunctional. For canine who crumble after they hear a sudden, loud sound akin 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 surely’s totally different for canine who’re afraid of high-frequency beeps and whistles. These odd, particular fears should not essentially associated to a loud quantity. I’ve noticed that, with these canine, beginning at a quiet degree can truly scare the canine extra. Keep in mind, canine don’t find sounds in addition to people do. It may very well be that the disembodied nature of a few of these sounds is a part of what causes worry. (Have you ever ever tried to find which smoke alarm in a house is emitting the dreaded low battery chirp? Even for people, it may be surprisingly troublesome. 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, nearly all apps for sound desensitization are rendered ineffective.


With apps that may do an increasing number of for people, it appears odd to recommend that with the intention to assist your canine, you may need to invent your personal useful instruments. However 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.

  • Document 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 totally different to canine from real-life sounds. Newer smartphones are advantageous for this. Though they will’t play again low-frequency sounds, they will file them.
  • Create brief recordings of single sounds, particularly for canine with sturdy sound sensitivities. Or you can too buy high-quality sounds. For example, you might buy a 20-second recording of a thunderstorm, and edit out one roll of thunder to make use of. However make sure that the file you buy is uncompressed. I take advantage of the positioning Pond5, the place I should buy acceptable, high-fidelity sounds for $3–7 apiece.
  • Play sounds for desensitization on the most effective sound system attainable, particularly in case you are working with thunder, fireworks, or different sounds that embody low frequencies. Remember, although, you could’t at all times efficiently situation to these sounds.
  • For canine who’re afraid of high-pitched beeps, create a much less scary model by altering the sound’s frequency or timbre moderately than by decreasing the amount. Typically, decreasing the frequency works properly. You’ll then must create a set of sounds for graduated exposures. They need to begin at a non-scary frequency, then steadily work again as much as the unique sound. See the papers by Poppen and Desiderato listed within the references for validation of this strategy.
Foolish human says what?

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

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

This isn’t a undertaking to be undertaken calmly, however it may be carried out in case you have tech expertise and a great ear. You should definitely use headphones and be not less than one room away out of your sound delicate canine if you begin working with recordings of beeps. My canine can hear excessive frequency beeps escaping from my earbuds from throughout a big room.

I create sound collection for desensitization for canine who’re afraid of whistles, digital beeps, and another sounds (not thunder or booming fireworks). You possibly can take a look at the data on my Sound Delicate Canines website for extra data on this service.

Sound Conditioning Is Not All the time a Excellent Resolution

With some canine and a few sounds, it won’t be attainable 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 at all times current vital issues.

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


Desiderato, O. (1964). Generalization of conditioned suppression. Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 57(3), 434–437.

Dreschel, N. A., & Granger, D. A. (2005). Physiological and behavioral reactivity to emphasize in thunderstorm-phobic canine and their caregivers. Utilized Animal Behaviour Science, 95(3-4), 153-168.

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

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

Heffner, H. E. (1983). Listening to in giant and small canine: Absolute thresholds and dimension of the tympanic membrane. Behavioral Neuroscience97(2), 310.

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

Lipman, E. A., & Grassi, J. R. (1942). Comparative auditory sensitivity of man and canine. The American Journal of Psychology55(1), 84-89.

Mills, A. W. (1958). On the minimal audible angle. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America30(4), 237-246.

Poppen, R. (1970). Counterconditioning of Conditioned Suppression in Rats. Psychological Studies, 27(2), 659–671.

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

Picture Credit

  • Jo the black pug copyright Blanche Axton
  • All different photographs copyright Eileen Anderson

Thanks to Complete Canine Journal, who initially printed this text in 2020.

Copyright 2020 Eileen Anderson

Source link

Related Posts