Desensitizing a Canine to Excessive-Pitched Beeps: Half 2 of two

Closeup of the head of a black and rust colored hound mix. She has drop ears, which are held a little forward. She is looking forward at something.
It is a nonetheless from a sound publicity

Please learn Half 1 of this two-part sequence earlier than this one, Half 2!

Half 2 recounts a casual case examine I did after I utilized the ideas I mentioned in Half 1. To desensitize and countercondition my canine Zani to digital beeps, I began with a low frequency that didn’t scare her and labored as much as the unique frequency. I did this reasonably than beginning with a quieter beep for the reason that beeps have been already quiet and nonetheless scared her. I additionally adjusted the length as a part of the method.

Case Examine: Profitable DS/CC Utilizing Frequency and Length to Modify the Set off Sound

Zani was a small hound and terrier combine, about 20 kilos. She was enjoyable, intelligent, and feisty sufficient to face as much as the larger canines in the home. I obtained her in 2009 at a couple of 12 months outdated; she handed away from lymphoma within the fall of 2020.

Zani was delicate to sounds. As she obtained older, this worsened, and she or he was recognized with medical sound phobia by a veterinary behaviorist. Zani was afraid of digital beeps, whistles, the squeak of sports activities sneakers on a slick flooring, and, at her worst, some hen calls.

One sound she feared was the beep of a brand new rest room scale. That is the sound whose waveform I confirmed in Half 1. The beep was 0.15 seconds lengthy and 3900 Hz. It was virtually the identical frequency as my dishwasher beep, which, curiously, didn’t hassle her. Additionally, the earlier rest room scale, which beeped at a special frequency, didn’t hassle her. However the brand new one positive did. I famous the dishwasher beep was 1.4 seconds, so the sound of the size was a lot shorter. Each these sounds have been quiet, so I guessed that quantity wasn’t the issue. And when quantity isn’t the issue, making a quieter model received’t essentially assist. A quiet sound may even be scarier, as I instructed within the earlier submit.

I created a sequence of digital sounds to situation Zani to the toilet scale beep. I began with a decrease frequency beep that didn’t scare her and progressively raised it, doing the cleanest counterconditioning I knew find out how to do. Once I first reached the unique frequency, I made the sounds longer, then shortened them once more as a final step. So within the desensitization sound sequence, I diverse each these qualities—frequency and length—to work again to the unique, formerly-scary sound.

Once more, the set off sound was 3900 Hz and 0.15 seconds. Here’s a record of the sounds I created for desensitization to work as much as the unique sound. I used the software program Audacity to create and modify the sounds.

Sound # Pitch Length
1 1950 Hz 0.2 sec
2 2112 Hz 0.2 sec
3 2275 Hz 0.2 sec
4 2437 Hz 0.2 sec
5 3150 Hz 0.2 sec
6 3900 Hz 1.0 sec
7 3900 Hz 0.8 sec
8 3900 Hz 0.6 sec
9 3900 Hz 0.4 sec
10 3900 Hz 0.2 sec
11 3900 Hz 0.1 sec

Making a Clear Pairing

The chart above reveals the desensitization sequence. The counterconditioning half was that each sound was instantly adopted by meals that Zani liked.

To create a clear pairing between the sound and the meals, I wanted to make sure there weren’t another predictors of her attending to eat it. I made positive not one of the following predicted her getting the meals:

  • Opening the fridge and getting out the meals
  • The meals sitting on a counter
  • My location in the home
  • Establishing or turning on the audio speaker
  • The presence of my laptop computer
  • The time of day
  • Establishing a video digital camera and filming

This dominated out the frequent follow of getting out some meals, turning on a digital camera, sitting down with the canine near a speaker with a plate of the meals or a deal with bag, and doing a number of exposures. I labored to make each single publicity a shock.

The merchandise that took essentially the most work was the meals. Canine normally know we’re going to do one thing with them as a result of we go to the fridge and put together meals or get out our deal with bag. To make the particular meals a non-predictor, I obtained it out day by day for a number of days and set it in a dish on the counter (out of attain of the canines). I did this earlier than I ever did a sound publicity. I continued to get it out day by day, whether or not or not I used to be doing an publicity. The objective was for the odor of the meals (and the act of me getting it out) to not predict Zani attending to eat the meals.

The opposite factor that took essentially the most planning was to make sure that I wasn’t at all times sitting at my laptop the second the sound occurred. Generally I used to be, however normally I used to be shifting across the room. I hit the play button on my laptop and despatched the sound wirelessly to a speaker. (These days I take advantage of a handheld machine—canines see us carry these round and take a look at them and poke at them on a regular basis.) I included a number of seconds of lead time in the beginning of every sound recording so I may press the “play” button however then do a random exercise.

Digital camera recording on a tripod is also an enormous inform. I needed to have the tripod with a telephone on it sitting round so much and switch the video on and off randomly throughout the day. I used to be at all times cautious to begin the video for the precise publicity method early. That might give me minutes of unimportant footage to trim off (not included within the video).

I did a most of two single exposures per day, normally only one, and never day by day.

Once I first examined my base sound to ensure it didn’t scare Zani, I handled it as a deliberate publicity. I did all of the above, together with doing meals odor exposures for a few days beforehand. And naturally she obtained her particular deal with after I performed the check sound.

All of the exposures I present on the video are in my kitchen. That’s as a result of filming was best there. I did exposures in different elements of the home as nicely. Additionally, the canines usually act like they’re ready for one thing to occur. That was typical “kitchen” conduct. Once I was working within the kitchen or sitting on the desk, they frolicked on their mats. Their consideration to me was not essentially tied to anticipating a sound publicity. I feel I did a good job of lowering predictors. You’ll be able to see their bodily response, usually a average startle, when the sound performs.

What I’d Do Otherwise Now

Zani’s conditioning was profitable. However I’ve discovered sufficient since then that I may make it even much less dangerous. The technical half appears fairly crude to me, now.

The primary sound I created for her sequence was one octave under the set off: 1950 Hz in comparison with 3900 Hz. Precisely half the frequency. I now select sounds to start with which might be much less mathematically associated. Sounds an octave aside sound related, and the objective is to begin with one thing not very related.

For many canines, I’d now fade the sound in for the early reps, reasonably than having these harsh assaults. That could possibly be more practical than tinkering with the length.

I used to be shocked when wanting over the movies to see that I used no less than two totally different meals. I don’t do this now. I do know that every one the meals I used was very excessive worth for her, even the couple of crunchy ones, which have been in all probability Lakse Kronch fish treats.

A troublesome query was what number of reps to carry out for every particular person sound. The science round classical conditioning tells us we get our greatest conditioning within the first repetitions. Will we consider every single sound as one factor being conditioned or consider the sequence as a unit? I used to be conservative with my repetitions and did solely a pair at every stage. I didn’t attempt to get straight to “I really like this” on the primary sound; I went forward when Zani stated one thing extra like, “That is attention-grabbing; the place’s my deal with?” That technique labored, however there might have been some luck concerned.

Within the Poppen examine (1970), it normally took the rats 5–10 repetitions at every frequency to recuperate from the worry conditioning. Additionally, it took extra repetitions because the frequency approached the unique. I didn’t do extra repetitions intentionally (I hadn’t learn the examine then), however my sound sequence had the same impact with the final frequency being introduced at totally different durations. Therefore, there have been extra repetitions.


Folks with good pitch reminiscence will discover that the beep of the oven management within the DS/CC video shouldn’t be the identical pitch because the beep of the toilet scale. That’s excellent news in regards to the pitch distinction. The preliminary counterconditioning unfold to all beeps. I advert hoc counterconditioned any high-pitched noise that occurred after I was along with her. With this follow added to the formal desensitization and counterconditioning, Zani recovered from her worry.

I continued to deal with for these sounds for the remainder of her life to maintain the pairing sturdy. The stakes have been too excessive to fiddle with it, particularly since life offered some sounds I couldn’t do something about.


  • Zani was below the care of a veterinary behaviorist. She instructed me to attend till Zani was secure on her meds and I did so.
  • I had glorious recommendation from some skilled trainers.
  • I had lived lengthy sufficient with a sound phobic canine that I knew to be very, very cautious. Each publicity was a danger.

Yet another success: Zani was completely happy to get on the identical scale, beeps and all, to get weighed for the remainder of her life. The footage is on the finish of the video embedded above.

A black and rust hound mix performs a tucked sit on a bathroom scale. The scale is on a purple yoga mat. The dog is looking up at her trainer. Only the trainer's pants and legs are visible on the side of the photo.

My Quandary

For a number of years now, I’ve quietly labored with shoppers with sound phobic canines by creating customized sound sequence. I required the collaboration of a credentialed conduct specialist since my work was solely from the acoustics facet. Regardless of some modest successes, I’ve stopped offering this service. Just about each canine who got here to me had already generalized their fears such that we at all times needed to take care of a brand new scary sound. A tragic recreation of whack-a-mole. (The sounds the canines obtained sensitized to have been much less alike than beeps. An instance can be a canine who’s bothered by the sound of the engines of sure supply vans then getting sensitized to the backing-up sound or the puff of the brakes.) For these canines, conditioning one sound didn’t “erase” the issues with the others. A lot of the canines have been on medicines, by the way in which.

I imagine this data ought to be freely accessible, therefore this pair of posts. However I fear that it’ll result in extra folks scaring their canines by tinkering with sounds with out skilled assist from a conduct skilled. (In fact, folks already do this with varied “desensitization” sound apps.) I thought-about the concept of making an app or a membership program, however the administrative work mandatory for that may not be attainable for me.

My compromise is that I could publish a number of “off-the-shelf” sound sequence (e.g., an digital beep, an explosive pop, and the smoke alarm low battery noise). I’ll softly gatekeep them by requiring customers to signal a disclaimer and persuade me they may observe good practices earlier than accessing. If I cost in any respect, they are going to be fairly priced.

For now I’m placing this idea into the general public area. Please watch out. And I hope to see some lovely successes.

Associated Posts


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

Copyright 2023 Eileen Anderson

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