When I leave the house and my anxious dog has to tough it out alone, I usually arm him with a peanut butter-filled Kong and some soothing music. Turns out, maybe I should be calming him with audiobooks instead.
The people at Audible, the Amazon-owned company that offers narrated books, have partnered with celebrity dog trainer Cesar Millan for a new service called Audible for Dogs. The idea is that the properly chosen spoken-word tome can be a soothing companion for your pet while you're away.
To see what kind of impact audiobooks might have, Audible worked with Milan's Dog Psychology Center, asking 100 participants to observe their dogs over four weeks as they listened to different books on an Amazon Echo. The dog owners rated the responses on narration style (male versus female and various accents), volume, time of day and genre, and were asked to observe their dog's behavior when they left and when they returned home after being gone for at least one hour. Three out of four dog owners reported a positive change in their dogs after listening to the recordings.
Milan, of "Dog Whisperer" fame, suggests that the narrated books might be a good way to deal with separation anxiety.
"I'm always looking for ways where people don’t feel guilty, worried, (or) stressed when they leave their dogs alone," Millan told USA Today.
"Dogs are social animals, so they need to engage with someone," he says. With the audiobooks, "people can feel that the dog has company."
Millan has several videos on the site with tips, including this one that explains the concept:
Millan suggests keeping a few things in mind when choosing a book for your dog: voice, energy and consistency.
Dogs respond best to narrators that sound most like their owners, Millan says. The narrator's energy is "super important" because your dog can feel the energy from their voice and will react. And books with a consistent voice and tone will have a more calming effect on your pet.
Before the reading session, Millan suggests exercising your dog to help get him in a more relaxed state when you turn on the book. It might also be a good idea to listen to the books with your pooch first to see how he reacts.
You can buy Audible content per book or by subscription. Some suggested titles include Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" performed by Rosamund Pike, W. Bruce Cameron's "A Dog's Purpose" performed by William Dufris," and Garth Stein's "The Art of Racing in the Rain" performed by Christopher Evan Welch.
Millan even recorded an original audiobook, "Cesar Millan's Guide to Bringing Home a Shelter Dog," which is free to download. Audible will donate a dime for every download of that book to Long Island's North Shore Animal League America, the world's largest no-kill rescue and adoption organization, up to a total $250,000 donation.