Ep. 124 Transcript

Disclaimer: This is transcribed using AI. Expect (funny) errors.

Mindy Peterson: [00:00:00] I’m Mindy Peterson, and this is Enhance Life with Music, a holistic look at the power of music in our everyday lives. My guest today is joining me from Half Moon Bay, California, just south of San Francisco. Lisa Spector is a Juilliard trained concert pianist who will tell you that her Juilliard degree has gone to the dogs, and she couldn’t be more thrilled. Lisa has applied her musical talent to improving the lives of dogs. Her piano playing is soothing pets in over fifteen hundred shelters worldwide, along with clinics and pet households. She’s been called the pet calming maestro and has been featured in media outlets including NPR, The CBS Early Show, USA Today and ABC Australia. Welcome to enhance life with music, Lisa.

Lisa Spector: [00:00:52] Thank you so much, Mindy. It’s an honor to be here.

Mindy Peterson: [00:00:55] Well, Lisa, I can’t wait to hear how our canine friends lives are enhanced with music. Tell us about how you first developed a passion for enhancing dogs lives with music. When did you first notice the effect that music had on dogs?

Lisa Spector: [00:01:11] Well, like the best things in life, it seemingly happened by accident at the time. It was two thousand and three, and I owned a music school in my community and Half Moon Bay, California. And I also have always loved dogs, had a passion for helping them and helping improve their lives. And I was a volunteer puppy raiser for Guide Dogs for the Blind. So I had a four month old Yellow Lab adorable puppy that I brought to my music school with me. And first of all, I will tell you that I think I got half of my business because of that puppy who then became a dog because, you know, the kids just loved him. So at the time, I also had a class of four year olds and it was teaching programs for young kids. And I had teenagers come after high school and also adults. But the four year olds I need in a way to figure out how to just get them centered and focused fast because they’d come in just wild and crazy. And so I started experimenting and learning about different kinds, and I will actually call it different prescriptions of classical music. And I took seminars on learning what work to focus children. I did not tell them I was doing anything. I just had this prescriptive music playing when they came in the room and I noticed with eight kids come screaming in 30 seconds later, they were common focused. And then I looked next to me and saw that puppy and he was snoozing, and I’m talking about a four month old, rambunctious puppy.

Lisa Spector: [00:02:53] When you meet a service dog, a guide dog who’s been trained. They learn to be calm dogs, but at four months old, most of them usually aren’t. So I thought, this is great for the classroom, for the kids, but I’m thinking, I’m really onto something with this puppy here. So I started just snooping around and doing some research and seeing what has been done in this area. Keep in mind, this is a long time ago it was two thousand three and very little research had been done, but there was just enough to know that there was an interest for it, and that’s when it all began. I ended up working with a veterinary neurologist who ran a research study and a sound researcher. And we did studies to find out what kind of classical. So when I say classical is because there had already been a study in two thousand one by an Irish behaviorist, Deborah Wells, showing that classical compared to other kinds of music and a control group of no music calmed dogs in the shelter environment. Well, you and I know that classical music is an enormously broad term. It’s music written over four hundred and six hundred years could be one instrument. It could be one hundred and forty piece orchestra. It could be Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique. It could be a guitar, you know, Vivaldi Sonata. So there’s such variety. But most people aren’t educated in this. I’m sorry to say, but in the United States, most people really aren’t educated about what classical music is. And so what we did is we ran a study on different tempi of classical music, different composers, different orchestrations.

Lisa Spector: [00:04:39] Different. Some would solo piano. Some was chamber music. Some were slower. Some was faster in the shelter environment to find out what was conducive to calming the dogs in the shelters. And what we found out is that the mute at that time, the music that was psycho acoustically prepared, which means it was somewhat. All through slow down, simplified was more conducive to calming dogs in the shelter environment, and that’s what we went with when we launched the company in 2008, called through a dog’s ear and ended up on the CBS Early Show at launch. It was quite magnificent, however. However, I will tell you this was way back in the early days when there had been little research. Now there’s been a lot more research and other research studies show that classical music that hasn’t been altered is actually more conducive to calming dogs in the shelter environment. Yeah. So we’ll talk. We’ll get to later in our conversation what I’m doing now, but it’s been all across the board. There’s even a research study that says that reggae is helpful for calming dogs. This was an area I was really the at the start of. This really helped open this window to for people understanding and getting people educated that your sound environment is really important to your dog’s health, to their longevity, to their behavior. And it was something that was overlooked even by really good trainers at the time. Whereas now it’s I wouldn’t say it’s quite mainstream, but it’s getting there.

Mindy Peterson: [00:06:21] Interesting. Anything else that you want to say about the science behind dogs and music?

Lisa Spector: [00:06:28] Well, people ask me all the time. So what composer do dogs like Bach or Mozart or Beethoven are the best. They’re all different. So there is no one composer. It’s not about the composer. But what I invite dog lovers to do is to notice their own dog’s behavior. First of all, there’s just having it as a healthy sound source for you and your dog because the energy does get transferred to both ends of the leash. But also what can be used to help your dog’s behavioral issues? And that’s where the music I’ve created has really come into play in larger ways than I ever could have dreamed of. I just didn’t even know that it would help dogs with severe aggression issues and which is basically fear issues and, you know, would be used in veterinary clinics and by veterinary behaviorist and so forth to because there are some dogs, every dog is different and certain breeds are a little more sound sensitive. Border collies are known to be more sound sensitive than others. Their hearing is much more four times the range as ours, both in frequency and in distance. So sometimes the dog might be hearing something that’s two blocks away. That’s construction noise. That’s high pitch that you may not hear. But I will tell you to really observe your own dog and to really keep something in mind, which is really important, which is, dogs are hard to test because they will do anything to be near us. That’s why we love them so much.

Lisa Spector: [00:08:09] They will compromise their own health and their well-being to be near us. So if you’re in a household that you have teenagers playing rap music in one room, you’ve got a football game going in another. You’ve got heavy metal in another and you got class on another and your dog doesn’t go to the classical. It may be because they want to be in the middle of the people. You know, dogs rarely hang out alone in a house. They want to be by your side. That’s they see that as their job. All of this research, you know, there’s huge variety of it. But the one thing that it all has in common now is that lower frequencies calm the canine nervous system. So as dog people, we just do this naturally. We’re, you know, my dog’s name is Gina, so I’ll say good girl in a lower, longer legato sounds you long, smooth line sounds, which is very representative of the music that I record for dogs. Now I run a sport called agility, and I want to get her attention fast on the field when she’s about to take the tunnel. And I want her to take come near me and take the jump and I’ll say, Gee, here. In short, high staccato pitches and so shorter sounds like charge their nervous system shorter, higher sounds charge their nervous system longer, legato, smooth, long lines calm their nervous system with your voice as well as with music.

Mindy Peterson: [00:09:38] Wow, that’s so interesting to hear you say that because I have these friends that I walk with neighbor friends and I don’t own a dog. My husband came to the marriage with a wonderful golden retriever, but that was almost 25 years ago. She’s long since left us. We don’t have a dog right now, but I have really good neighbor friends who have. The gorgeous German shepherds. They also have a new baby, and they both work, so they don’t have a lot of time, and so sometimes I’ll take their dogs on walks with me when I walk with my other neighbor friend who does have a dog. So this other friend that I walk with, sometimes I’ll ask her for advice as I’m walking these sort of adopted dogs, right? Ok, if they’re barking this person on the other side of the street, what should I do to get them to calm down? And I remember her saying, Well, one thing that’s really key is keeping your voice low.

Lisa Spector: [00:10:32] Exactly.

Mindy Peterson: [00:10:35] I’m like, Oh wow, interesting. So it’s fun to be fun to hear you say that, too.

Lisa Spector: [00:10:39] Exactly. And think about how easy that is. You didn’t have to buy anything. It’s all part of those with you everywhere. It’s it’s effective.

Mindy Peterson: [00:10:47] Yeah, yeah. And she was like, If you think about what you say to get your dog excited about going out for a walk, it’s more like, Come on, Bailey, let’s go for a walk. Come on, let’s go, you know, and it’s more that higher

Lisa Spector: [00:10:59] Pitched, exactly shorter sounds. Exactly, exactly.

Mindy Peterson: [00:11:04] The other thing that you said that I thought was really interesting is aggression often is fear. It’s kind of an expression. Exactly. And a couple of thoughts that I had with that one. It’s really not any different than humans. I mean, humans, when they’re acting aggressively, oftentimes it is because of fear.

Lisa Spector: [00:11:23] Exactly.

Mindy Peterson: [00:11:25] But then also, I had seen in some of your information that one effect of your music being played in shelters around the world is it’s help to increase adoption rates, which I found so fascinating. And it makes sense if dogs are acting aggressively. They probably do have some fear that brought them to the point of being in a shelter. And so I could see how music and calming music could really soothe them and make them more attractive to someone who is looking to adopt.

Lisa Spector: [00:11:56] That’s exactly true because it can work either way with a dog, so it could be a dog who colors in the back of his kennel because he’s too afraid to come out. Or it could be dog barking at the gate because he’s fearful and he’s not comfortable being touched. It’s a wide variety, but it always comes down to fear and the music can work like their security blanket. It’s like just something. Sometimes some of these dogs, I swear you look at them and you know, their sound environment, and it’s not only their sound environment, it’s our human sound environment. Aside from natural sounds like thunderstorms that could be really fearful for dogs. There is. I’m sitting here now and you probably can’t hear it because I have a close mic, but there’s beeping going out and I live in a quiet neighborhood. There’s beeping because there’s work being done outside and I’m sure Gene hears it. And so what she does, dogs are always alerting us. Is it safe? They’re always on guard. Is this a safe sign? Do I need to protect this? So when it first came on outside, her ears are up and she’s looking and she’s like, No, it’s all good. So she went back to sleep, but she’s pretty calm dog anyhow at 12 years old. But with the music being played in shelters, it’s just such an easy way to bring them comfort. And who wants to adopt a dog who like barking ferociously at their gate? And I have heard story after story that is just melted my heart and made me cry so much of stories of dogs getting adopted after being at the shelter for a year. And then they got introduced to recordings and they got adopted because their behavior changed.

Mindy Peterson: [00:13:37] Oh wow. You had mentioned that the music is can be almost like a security blanket for dogs. How do you compare and contrast that with a practice of, say, leaving your TV on for your dog while you’re gone or leaving just music? Any music, random music, playing for your dog while you’re gone?

Lisa Spector: [00:13:56] The thing about leaving a TV on or leaving any music on is you don’t have control over what advertisements are coming on. Are there gunshots in the movie that comes on? So there actually may be noises that have your dog on edge and charges their nervous system? The thing about having music that specifically recorded for dogs is you have complete control over what they’re going to hear, and so you’re much more likely to have a calm dog that way. Now you can do this in stages and when people come to me and said, Oh, I’ve been paying attention to my sound and I play the classical music station now, this is back in the day when a station had like a two o’clock, everyone heard the same thing. Now it’s an app and you know, so it’s very different now. But still, it’s like, well, that classical music station, I can tell you at 3:00 in the afternoon, they’re not putting on music to calm you. They’re putting on music to charge you and keep you awake. While you’re falling asleep at your desk, so. So I think the benefit of having music that is based on research and that has been already shown to calm the canine nervous system is a much more helpful tool than something where you don’t have control over what comes on.

Mindy Peterson: [00:15:19] Interesting. So you started through a dog’s ear and tell me about your new company.

Lisa Spector: [00:15:25] My new company is my zen pet, and I called it that because I really want to bring zen to pet households, to not only the four legs in the house, but the two legs. Because I am so aware that you can’t help one without helping the other and vice versa. Because no matter what I do to help a dog with my music, if their person is really stressed out and high-strung their dog, dog’s going to pick up on that energy. So the music I create now is a little different in that it’s not as slow, it’s not as sleepy as I call it. It could be used for its very calming and it’s very soothing for people and dogs, but you could play it while you’re working in the afternoon and coming out with it during the pandemic. It was, you know, people and they still are, you know, working remote from their homes. And I like I have someone in my club, my dog club, where she said, Lisa, I need help. I’m still working from home and I’ve got four dogs. I can’t. They have to be chilled when I’m on the phone.

Mindy Peterson: [00:16:37] So what are you observing about the effect on humans of the music that you develop for dogs?

Lisa Spector: [00:16:43] It’s so great because I love seeing the human response and it’s it’s hard to separate the two because I see the humans. You know, you just see it. And there would be in there, not only the dog behavior, but the human behavior. They start to lower their voice and they start to talk a little slower. And so someone else in my club has eight dogs. Now she’s a very skilled dog trainer, so she’s skilled with them and she lives in one hundred and fifty acres so she knows how to handle them. But she just loves these doggone calm concerts that I do for people and their dogs because it gives her kind of an excuse kind of as an opportunity and excuse, like a time to just chill out and have her dogs do the same. It’s it’s a really sacred time, and I will tell you, as Gina is 12 years old and I I’m hesitant to say I think I can finally say she’s a senior, but I don’t know. She’s still running agility and we still hike a lot and she’s still very active. But you know, she’s up there. So I want more than anything else because no matter how long dogs live, they don’t live long enough. And so I want more than anything else to expand my time with her, and the way I expand my time with her is to be more present. And the music I create is a way. It kind of gives people an opportunity and again, an excuse to be present with their dogs. You know, dog people will know we will sacrifice so much for our dogs that we want for ourselves. But then when you put it together into one package and both benefit, it’s really something really beautiful to see.

Mindy Peterson: [00:18:30] Sure. Win win situation. Yeah. And I always love what we can increase our efficiency

Lisa Spector: [00:18:37] And our

Mindy Peterson: [00:18:38] Policy junky. So I love that. Well, dogs are known for getting agitated with loud. Sounds like you mentioned fireworks thunderstorms. I remember our dog, Brandi, who came to the marriage, our golden retriever. Every time fireworks went off, she would head for the bathtub. I don’t know if all dogs do that or if that was just what she considered her safe space, but she would head for the bathtub. What are other situations, though? That might not be as obvious for you? Find this music to be really effective or helpful for dogs,

Lisa Spector: [00:19:08] So I have to tell you, I used to have a golden retriever who ran to the bathtub. Really, not we don’t have thunderstorms. Well, now, once in a while, we do. In those days, we didn’t have thunderstorms in California, but windstorms. I lived right next to an open field near the ocean, and that dog was the most mellow dog Byron was. People thought he was on Quaaludes. He was so mellow except for except for that one time when the wind came in and this was way back where I really didn’t know very much at all about dogs. But thinking back, the bathtub story reminded that’s what he did to be safe, and sometimes dogs would go under the bed. That’s a frequent habit during thunderstorms, so it could be thunderstorms, construction, loud sounds, fireworks. Definitely. So many dogs are fearful of fireworks and sometimes what I found the anxiety and dogs. It’s often to. Times more subtle. So it’s really important to know your dog, so I have a sister, when she had her dog, it was it was her first dog as an adult and their family dog. And when I visited, I thought the dog had pretty extreme noise sensitivity that she didn’t notice because it was just subtle. It was just like going to the window when a car drove by and barking once or just always in the ears were always up.

Lisa Spector: [00:20:24] And so what happens when a dog is always on alert, like twenty four seven? Their nervous system is really affected. And so that’s one of the ways the music can help. And veterinarians offer my music prescriptive for that reason, because it’s not only for treatment, it’s also for prevention because you could set a like. Oftentimes they’ll say half an hour every night. And, you know, they slide in that it wouldn’t hurt you either, you know, listen together because it’s good and then it can be like a ritual that you do together. That’s so special. So, so oh my goodness. Anxiety can be anything from barking at anyone walking by. It could be the noise sensitivity to any new sound. It could be a new title that you bring into the House or Instant Pot that beeps or whatever it is, and the dog is on alert. It just really is important to understand that behavior because it tends to. If you don’t, it tends to escalate middle age to senior years. Oh, OK. Or sometimes it’s the opposite. Sometimes it’s new behaviors can come up, particularly in senior years, so a dog might have cognitive challenges or might have anxiety that they didn’t exhibit when they were younger. And that’s another source the music can help with as well.

Mindy Peterson: [00:21:48] Well, tell us where people can find your dog calming music and also tell us about some of your other recommended resources for dogs and their owners. I know you have a podcast. I have a podcast, The Dog Gone Calm Club. So tell us where we can find your music and about your other resources so

Lisa Spector: [00:22:06] You can find my music. The label is the company, my Zen Pet, and the album name is doggone calm, although I will be coming up with an album with a different name soon so you can find that and all the streaming platform Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music and so forth. I have a podcast called My Zen Pet right now. It’s a micro podcast. It’s published twice a week, Monday and Friday, and between seasons right now, but I’ll be coming back soon at the end of February. And the Monday podcast is a meditation. So it’s meditation Monday, where I guide you through a meditation that you do with your dog or with your pet that is set to the music of dog gone calm. And then I also have a club which is so cool. This is like, it’s my dream. It’s just so fun because I’m just connecting with people who are. We speak the same language. We just it’s dog lover with a Capital D and we’re like pet parents 2.0. We take everything to the next level and it’s called the Dog Gone Calm Club. All of those you can find on my website at my Zen pet, or you can join the waitlist right now for the Dog Gone Club at Dog Club. And you can also find in the website and I have a guest expert every month, and then I do a doggone concert every month where people put their dogs on the Zoom and the Zoom camera. It’s really cute. And in February, our Valentine’s, we have a canine massage therapist coming in to show us how to give love to our dogs through canine massage. It was really sweet. Oh, love that.

Mindy Peterson: [00:23:56] Well, I want to say you’ve just a little bit of time for you to also quick tell us about your other ventures, because not only do you do all of this for dog lovers in combining your passions for dogs and music, but you also have your own website and you do a lot for musicians and piano skills and technique and things like that. So tell us about that website and the resources you have there for the music lovers in our midst, whether they have dogs or not.

Lisa Spector: [00:24:22] Thank you. Everything under that is under my name. So it’s Lisa Spector spelled t o r i have online courses and memberships. My main thing is my club called the Piano Ninja Tricksters Club, where I help intermediate to advanced level classical pianist. Learn more in less time and I help them establish really good practice habits so they can make music with joy and with ease. And then I teach other courses. I have a four non-musicians actually have a course coming up. In March called demystifying classical music, all of this, of course, is online. I have winning the musician’s mind game because it’s so important to really be in control of what goes in your mind because that shapes everything. And then I also have a Chopin piano ninja, of course, coming up as well in February.

Mindy Peterson: [00:25:21] I love it. I love the names of those, and I just love that concept of increasing the efficiency and the joy of our musical experiences.

Lisa Spector: [00:25:30] It’s so important. It’s it’s just so important.

Mindy Peterson: [00:25:33] Yes. Well, this has been delightful. I ask all my guests to close out our conversation with a musical ending. I call it a coda. And you have a really special song and story to share with us. In closing today. Tell us the story of Gina and and then also explain to all of us what we’re going to be hearing after that.

Lisa Spector: [00:25:55] Sure. I love the title coda for your ending. That’s so clever. So Gina is now 12, but when I adopted her when she was about one and when she was about three, she used to just be obsessed with eating grass. Just upset, like just absolutely obsessed. She’s still there a little bit, but not as much. She had eaten like swollen hole this like foot long blade of really thick grass. But at the time, I didn’t know what it was. I just knew, like a half an hour later, she just started coughing and she was wheezing. Of course, it was a weekend. These things always happen on weekends, so brought her to E.R. and I leave her there for the night, and it was really terrifying for me. They had to bring in someone from like a county an hour away for a veterinary specialist to do a scoping procedure to get this thing out. But her lungs were filling with fluid so fast that they were worried she wouldn’t make it. And so literally, they said they prepared a room for us, which I’m sure was their euthanasia room, and they said, You need to be prepared. We really hope she’ll come out of this, but she may not.

Lisa Spector: [00:27:13] So we’re going to set aside some time for you just to have some time with her to say goodbye. Just in case and you know, you know, there’s a good ending because she’s 12 and she’s still here. But so what we did in that time, you know, again, I wanted to expand the time, so I played my music for her and she has this special piece. It was so sacred because it was like time stopped, and again, I didn’t know whether I’d see her again. And I’m so grateful it all just turned out fine. But that’s how powerful music can be. As you know, it’s a topic of your podcast. I mean, it’s just so powerful. So the music I’m about to play for you is a little different, though, because it’s music for one hand. I won’t go into too much of the story because it’s a whole nother podcast episode, but four and a half years ago, I fell in severe my right hand so badly that I ended up with seven fractures needing four surgeries over three years and I was temporarily. I was told I would never play piano again. It’s four and a half years later and I’m playing full concerts with two hands.

Lisa Spector: [00:28:23] It’s all good, but it’s it’s with both hands. Both hands, yeah, with both hands. But I in those first two years, I only played with my left hand only. And then when I was doing that, I thought, Well, you know, like I said at the beginning of this interview, lower frequencies have been proven to come the canine nervous system. Well, what is my left hand play? It plays lower frequencies, so this is my own arrangement of a very famous song. You’ll your listeners will know it’s from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, which of course, is written for violin, which is a high frequency instrument as the soloist and string orchestra, so that might charge your dog’s nervous system. So this is now a range for left hand only is the slow movement from the Winter Concerto in four seasons, and it’s also my podcast theme music, too. I invite your listeners when you listen to this, whether you have a dog or not, take it in and take these two and a half minutes to really slow down and really enjoy and let this be soothing, whether it’s one end of the leash or both ends of the leash.

Transcribed by Sonix.ai