I have borrowed a device called Calmz from Lyra’s veterinary behaviourist — to see if it benefits Lyra during stressful events.
The Calmz Anxiety Relief System consists of a wearable vest and a palm-sized device that fits into the vest and delivers music, tones, and vibration at the top of the dog’s spine (acupressure points). I am skeptical of any device — but this one is endorsed by Fear Free, so I’d like to try it.
Step one: ensure that Lyra feels comfortable 1) wearing the vest, 2) hearing the tones/music, and 3) feeling the vibration.
April 30, 2017: we are at the point where Lyra tolerates the vest with no sign of discomfort (thanks to chunks of salmon).
May 6, 2017: Lyra began a new drug (buspirone) on May 4, so I wondered about pausing any other work with her. She has no obvious side effects, though, so today I introduced her to the Calmz device: first off (no problem), then on at the lowest level. I held it in front of her, in full view. She touched it with her nose, then looked to me for a treat. I’ll repeat this process until I get some “happy expectation” when she sees it.
May 7, 2017: Today I held the device against my hand on her back. She was completely unfazed. She was also happy to wear the vest again — first without, then with, the device (off) inserted. I decided to move to the next step of turning it on while Lyra was wearing the vest. See video below. Apart from one moment (at 45 sec) of turning her head back — as if to say, “What is that thing?” — she barely seemed to notice it; her ears are back a little more than usual at times. I also think she was distracted by the rustle of a tarp on the neighbour’s roof (I’d forgotten about that!) but mostly she wanted me to throw her ball. NB the device was on for the duration of the video.
May 12, 2017: Lyra is happy to wear the device. She has an initial moment of “What?” when I turn it on, but I don’t see discomfort. I tried it for the first time on a Friday (evening, so fewer trucks). She was happy in the yard, wearing the device at “on” (level 1), but as soon as she heard a truck she hid under a hedge (device still on). I have several questions, now, for the company: 1) Is the value in the conditioning (“every time I wear this I get great food”) or in the vibration/tone/music? Presumably the latter (otherwise, why not condition your dog to a towel?), but how do they know which element is working?; 2) What is the reasoning behind the timing (e.g., 6 min. on, then a longer break). Is this interval designed for a specific kind of event? Is there any harm in continuous use? 3) the website says that “when used over a period of time” it will “help dogs relax in many anxiety-provoking scenarios”. How long do they mean? The studies cited suggest the device was used for only one session in one study, 10-15 min in another, and three days in a third. I’m not sure what a valid trial would look like for Lyra, but my plan is to come up with something cleaner than today’s, and to try to compare levels of intensity.