Author Archives: Edie Jarolim

Calming Your Dog with Classical Music — & Classical Conditioning

‘Tis the season to be excited. Whether you’re bustling around, preparing for house guests,  rushing out for some last-minute shopping, or bundling everyone into the car to visit with friends and family, things are likely to be a bit hectic.

And your dog is likely to be a bit stressed.

In today’s interview with Lisa Spector, a Juilliard-trained pianist and the co-creator of the Through A Dog’s Ear CD series, we discuss the help that’s at hand for all the holiday situations you and your dog are likely to encounter.

A bit of background

I’ve known about the Through A Dog’s Ear Music to Calm Your Canine Companion CDs — now available in 3 volumes — since about 2008 and got to know Lisa herself a couple of years ago but I never learned how she came to create her soothing dog music. So I asked her during this interview. I’m not going to give away the answer except to say that it has to do with a 2003 fund raiser for Guide Dogs for the Blind, Lisa’s piano students, and the science of psycho-acoustics.

And that it took almost two years to figure out which music, played at what tempo, worked best with dogs.

How the Driving Edition is different — and how it isn’t

I also wanted to know about a later addition to the group: the Driving Edition CD. The principle is the same, calming dogs who are stressed, in this case by being in an automobile. But here Lisa was faced with the problem of making sure that the driver was not so relaxed as to fall asleep along with the dog.  The solution to the dilemma lies partly in the use of a training protocol, 20 minutes of music designed to be played before you get your dog into the car.

The Driving Edition turned out to be hugely successful — even, to Lisa’s surprise, helping to eliminate anxiety-caused car sickness.

How to use the Calm Your Canine series when you’re expecting holiday guests

Really, you’ll have to listen to the interview, which also talks about the exciting new collaboration between Lisa and Animal Planet trainer/star Victoria Stilwill.  I’ll say only that classical conditioning is involved in both cases.

And speaking of listening: Here are some great samples from all the different Through a Dog’s Ear series.

Be prepared to relax! (I’m assuming you’re not trying to read this and listen to the sound clips while you’re driving, right?)


One of the many ways this season is exciting: Discounts! Get 25% off a combination of Driving Edition and Music to Calm your Canine Companion Vol. 3 until Dec 31, 2011 by using coupon code TravelWithCalmDog; the 25% will be deducted from your total at checkout. Note: This must be a combination of both exact CDs, and it’s good for product purchase only, not on downloads. One discounted purchase per customer.

Okay, now here’s the interview.

Pet Auto Safety: Perspectives and Products

Dawn Ross and her team of expert product safety testers, Maya and Sephi*

Pet safety. That phrase tends to bring to mind first-aid kits, training a good recall so your dog doesn’t run out into traffic, even collars and leashes that can’t be breached. But for some reason, many owners who are otherwise sophisticated about canine health and welfare issues ignore the importance of securing their dogs in a car.

The information gap

The safety benefits of car restraints for humans are no longer in dispute: 49 of 50 U.S. states have seat belt laws, and the same number of states require additional restraints for children — for example, rear-facing infant seats or child booster seats.

Yet people who wouldn’t dream of driving their kids around without buckling them in have a blind spot when it comes to their dogs. Harnesses? Crates? Booster seats? No way.

Luckily, there are businesses like and the affiliated product test blog to help people make smart choices. The creator of the sites, Dawn Ross, talked with Animal Cafe. Continue reading

Travels with Ace: Steinbeck on a Shoestring

When an unemployed writer sets out to re-create the itinerary of John Steinbeck’s Travel’s with Charley, literary travel meets budget travel and pet travel — and fun ensues. Pulitzer prize-winning reporter John Woestendiek has detailed many of his adventures on his blog, Travels with Ace. Today he talks with Animal Cafe about how the year-long trip came about and touches on some of its highlights.

The Anatomy of a Road Trip

Unable to find a job after having quit one at a newspaper to write Dog, Inc.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend, John realizes he has no reason to hang around doing nothing when, for the money he would save on rent, he could travel the country with Ace, his friendly 130-pound pup (a Rottweiler, Akita, Chow and Pitbull mix — and a poster dog for why breed bans are ridiculous).  The notion explored in Dog, Inc., that people have regrets about their dogs’ deaths to the point of wanting to bring them back, was another impetus for the trip. John wanted to spend quality time with Ace instead of just mourning his passing when it was too late.

Cost-Cutting Methods

Some of the cost-cutting methods John tried worked out well; others didn’t. Putting his belongings into storage in Baltimore turned out not to be the best idea, for example, there being a vermin issue. On the other hand, their stays at Motel 6 — 80 in all — were very successful once the clerks got over their  fears that the well-behaved Ace would jump over the reception desk to get treats. As John explained, Ace was rewarded for bellying up to a bar they used to frequent, but the dog never was pushy about it.

Couch surfing is another economizing method John tried — just once — finding it a little odd. In case you haven’t heard of the phenomenon, check out the website.

A Few Trip Highlights

Through some wonderful examples of serendipity, John and Ace:

  • Ended up living in the house where John was born and that he and his family left when he was one year old.
  •  Met mystery writer, politician, musician and — it turns out — dog rescuer Kinky Friedman
  • Met one of Michael Vick’s dogs through a contact at a strip club

Can the Book Be Far Behind?

There’s far more, of course, than could be touched on in this interview, and the Travels with Ace blog doesn’t provide an organizing arc for the experiences that a book would be able to. No promises were made, but 2012 is the 50th Anniversary of the publication of Travels with Charley. Travels with Ace — should it be written — will provide more dog, less politics than Steinbeck’s memoir.

Incidentally, I’ve started a pet travel book club over at Will My Dog Hate Me, and the first book we’re going to discuss, on November 10, is Travels With Charley. I hope you’ll come by.  And maybe if I ask him nicely, John will join the discussion too.

An American Dog Abroad: Cosmo Havanese, Canine Ambassador to Italy

Cosmo Havanese, preparing for his ambassadorial duties

Americans who travel around Europe often marvel at how well treated dogs are in some countries, how the four-legged are incorporated into the routines of public life with a minimum of fuss. Just one more member of the family, the attitude seems to be, a bit furrier.

If only getting your dog there wasn’t so tough.

As Diane Silver, this week’s interviewee, makes clear, if you have a small enough dog to travel in an airline cabin and you prepare in advance, traveling to one such country, Italy, is very doable.

A writer, public relations consultant, and blogger at To Dog With Love, Diane is best known in pet circles as the caretaker of the charming Cosmo Havanese; if you’ve attended a BlogPaws conference, you’ve doubtless met the little love sponge.  It’s clear from his presence at all these conferences that Cosmo is a seasoned traveler — but traveling overseas is a different animal, as it were, because of the longer flight times and the additional paperwork.

Prepped for pet travel from an early age

Cosmo had the advantage of being trained to love his carrier almost as soon as he was brought home by Diane as an 8-week-old puppy. He took his first trip at 12 weeks. He also had the advantage — though it didn’t become clear until later — of being trained to use pee pads because he and Diane lived in a condo.

When you’re not sure when the next patch of grass is going to come your way, it’s important to be a versatile urinator.

Travel abroad

Filling out the proper paperwork, finding the right size carrier, getting your vet to sign off on your dog’s health certificate — these are additional issues that are key to success in traveling abroad. Diane offers more detail on both topics in these two posts: How to Prepare Your Dog for a Long Plane Flight and International Paperwork Preparation.

What makes it all worthwhile

Compensations for all this advance preparation? Hiking in the snow, riding a funicular, being able to hang out inside restaurants in the big cities of Italy…  And of course Cosmo acquitted himself admirably as a canine representative of the U.S., being both well behaved and cute as all get out.

Travel with a physical limitation AND a dog

Although Cosmo is very weight-height appropriate — much of his “bulk” is pure fluff — at 16 pounds, he is pushing the weight limit of a dog who can be accepted by the airlines. And he is also pushing the weight limit of a dog who is easily hefted over a shoulder.

Imagine when that shoulder has undergone surgery and can’t take any weight.

In addition to her experiences taking Cosmo overseas, Diane adds information about traveling with a pet when with a physical limitation to the conversation.

It’s all fascinating — and fun. Everything, including Italy, goes better with a dog. Listen up.

Travelin’ Jack: Pet Travel Ambassador, Politico, Dog Vivant

Relaxing, or shmoozing a constituent?

Let’s face it.  Most of us secretly believe that our dogs are the handsomest, smartest, sweetest, friendliest — or some superlative quality — pups in the world. But not many of us have the ability to make the rest of the world recognize that fact.

Jill Lane has that ability, excelling in the role of manager, agent, and stage mom. And of course she had a bit of help from her client.

Travelin’ Jack, the early days

Jill first encountered Jack, an Olde English Bulldogge — which is not he same as a regular English bulldog, as Jill explains in the interview — in a shelter in Colorado. He was only supposed to be a traveling companion to Jill, a writer and New Mexico travel industry expert. But things didn’t quite turn out that way. Continue reading

Nosework: Letting Your Dog Do What Comes Naturally

The nose knows

Nosework should really be called “noseplay.”

It’s said that every dog needs a job. And many talented canines are trained to use their senses of smell to perform such essential tasks as search and rescue and drug detection. But sometimes, like girls, dogs just wanna have fun.

And now there’s a way to oblige them, one that is sweeping the nation.

Nosework, the Sport

 Among her many pet-related endeavors  — including co-founder and executive editor of, President of Open Paw, and newest member of the Animal Cafe team — Kelly Dunbar is also A Certified Nosework Instructor through the National Association of K-9 Scent Work (the url is, incidentally.) In this week’s interview, Kelly explains the activity that has become a passion with her.

One reason that it’s so appealing is its inclusiveness. Unlike group competitions such as agility, nosework doesn’t involve other dogs or other humans besides the the handler, which means that shy dogs, reactive dogs… really, any pups that don’t feel happy with social interactions… can succeed in it. And there’s no second place or runner up in this sport; it’s just the dog improving upon earlier successes, getting better and better.

The Basic Framework of Nosework: Three Scents, Four Environments

Another beauty of nosework is that it can be done anywhere, from small urban apartments to open rural areas. It doesn’t involve much equipment, just Q-tips dipped in essential oils — birch, anise and clove, scents that the dog won’t encounter anywhere else — and a container of some sort, even a box. The other environments where searches are conducted are buildings, vehicles, and exterior areas.

Letting Go

Perhaps the most unusual thing about nosework is its contrast to standard canine sports that require the dog to live in our world and follow our rules. Here the dog is encouraged to follow his instincts, and do the driving.

“We’re always telling dogs not to explore,” Kelly explains. “Saying things like, ‘Get your nose out of that other dog’s butt, out of that person’s crotch…'” With nosework, dogs learn to feel comfortable doing what comes naturally.

Although treats are initially used to encourage the dogs, this is the antithesis of standard training in some ways. That is, the better behaved the dogs, the more used to following our lead, the more difficult it is for them at first.

In the beginning, it can also be difficult for some handlers, those who are, well, controlling.

As dogs gain confidence, however, the rewards for both partners are tough to match.

Listen to the interview. I dare you not to become an enthusiast, determined to try it with your canine playmate.