Dog lovers know all too well the pouty eyes of a dog who has to be left at home alone. Whether dog owners are going to work, running errands or heading somewhere where their canine pals can’t come, there are times when Fido just has to hang at home alone.
When musician Taylor Brown got his first dog, Nala, she started showing symptoms of separation anxiety. The sweet young French bulldog would tremble and cry when Brown would leave, and she was surprisingly destructive for her tiny size when left alone.
“When I would leave, the look on her face was that of extreme horror,” Brown said.
Brown, 32 and a graduate of Senior High, grew up in Billings in an animal-lovers household. His father, Kenneth Brown, has been practicing veterinary medicine for 40 years, specializing in orthopedic surgery. Dr. Brown oversees operations at the Animal Clinic of Billings.
Brown was living in Nashville, where he relocated after finishing school at Seattle’s Cornish College of the Arts, and asked his dad if there was anything he could do to minimize Nala’s anxiety. His father suggested he turn on the TV for noise when she had to be left alone.
Brown thought, “What kind of TV? I just can’t put on the movie ‘Die Hard.’” They knew some sounds were better than others, but they didn’t know which were most beneficial.
This sparked an idea for Brown. He began to dig into the research on using music as a form of therapy for pets with anxiety.
He found that most dogs have shown positive responses to certain types of music. However, he said, “Most of the music we listen to isn’t made to appeal to a dog’s unique sense of hearing.”
Dogs perceive frequencies nearly two octaves higher than humans and also hear sounds up to four times farther away. This heightened sensitivity to sound causes many panicky fits of distress and anxiety around loud noises, such as lightning storms and fireworks shows.
Classical music was the only type of music that anyone suggested for soothing dogs, but Brown found that no one had made music specifically for dogs.
Given what he knew about how dogs’ hearing differs from the way we hear, Brown set out to compose music for the unique frequencies that dog ears can perceive. He based the lyrical focus of his songs around the love people have for their pets, while also incorporating relaxing tones and reaffirming statements that would resonate with dogs.
Combined with research about the way music effects humans and in conjunction with his father’s knowledge of dogs, Brown brought these ideas together to create “Songs for Dogs and the People Who Love Them.”
The three-year process is culminating in the release of “The Ruff Cuts,” an album of 12 original songs. Composed with Brown’s unique pop sensibilities, the music appeals to dog owners with playful, enjoyable tunes that also comfort dogs when their humans are away.
A Kickstarter campaign was launched to help fund the mastering and production of the album. Backers receive a digital copy of the album for $15 or a physical CD for $25. Additional funding is being sought to help Brown develop a portable media player designed to maximize a dog’s listening experience.
“It’s been a long, ongoing process,” Brown said. “I wanted to make something that didn’t just relax dogs, but actually worked to satisfy what humans would want to listen to. No one likes to be in a room where they hate the music.”
To back the project, learn more details and hear samples of some of the tunes, visit Brown’s page at Kickstarter.com.