Peter Chianca: You can’t teach an old dog new songs

Peter Chianca

I should start off by saying that I live in a house with three dogs. I’m not sure how this happened, in sort of the same way a lot of people are not sure how they wound up with all these kids and mortgages — we’re like Jason Bourne out here in the suburbs, except instead of a finely honed killer instinct we wake up with rider mowers.

So anyway, we of course put a lot of effort into making sure our dogs have their Science Diet, their unfettered access to every square inch of couch space and the opportunity, should they so choose, to sleep on our heads. One thing we haven’t worried a lot about, though, is whether our dogs are being enriched musically. It’s neglect like that which leads PETA to release statements that nobody pays attention to, because they’re too busy watching the commercials where Alicia Silverstone has no clothes on.

Fortunately, a solution is at hand. Recently I was sent the CD “Songs to Make Dogs Happy” by the Laurel Canyon Animal Co. These are songs that the Laurel Canyon Animal Co. knows canines find pleasing, because they asked the dogs, whose answers were translated by “intuitive animal communicator” Dr. Kim Ogden. It’s worth noting that the dogs also, to a one, all said Dr. Ogden was doing a fabulous job.

Not that I don’t trust Dr. Ogden, but I thought it only appropriate that I test the CD myself. For comparison’s sake, I started off by playing a song not on the CD, “Goodnight and Goodbye” by Disney heartthrobs The Jonas Brothers, courtesy of my daughter Jackie, 8.

Upon hearing it, Annie, our golden retriever, literally did not move — if anything she got even more still, like one of those ceramic dogs you trip over in gift stores. Our yellow Lab puppy Penny just stared at us guiltily, like she might be planning to, at any minute, start peeing. And our black Lab Lilly left the room the second she realized The Jonas Brothers were not edible.

The reaction to Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” was similar, although Annie did roll her eyes slightly; this was likely because she realized she was involved in another one of my crazy social experiments, like the time I tried to gauge whether she preferred single-slice SPAM to the canned version. It’s probably the same look that college students get when they realize they’re going to have to spend another afternoon proving they’re dumber than chimps.

As for the “Songs to Makes Dogs Happy” — which are accompanied by what sounds primarily like a Casio keyboard and dog toys squeaked at regular intervals — I presumed they would be of the “Who’s mommy’s little angel? Yes you are! Yes you are!” variety. But interestingly, most of the songs on the CD are actually from the point of view of the dog. For instance:


I love my squeaky toy


It makes me jump for joy,” etc.

I find it hard to believe the dogs actually think it’s a dog singing, but if they figured it out they were apparently too polite to tell Dr. Ogden.

At first I thought that my dogs’ reaction was going to be the same, but after a minute or so, Annie put her head up on the edge of the couch and sort of leaned in, like she was trying to hear better. Then, unless I was imagining it, she started moving her eyebrows up and down to the music. It was almost imperceptible, but I’ve studied the video (see above) and I’m reasonably certain it wasn’t a coincidence. As for Penny, she started looking around wildly, like she thought Xavier Cugat might have just walked in with his entire orchestra. And Lilly left the room again, although more jauntily this time.

What was especially telling, though, was the fact that uncontrollable giggles had broken out behind me, and I turned to find my kids — Jackie and her brother Timmy, 6 — rocking out to “Squeaky-Deakey.” That’s right: The dogs may have not exactly been ecstatic over “Songs the Make Dogs Happy,” and I might have found it the most maddening collection of music I’ve been subjected to since The Wiggles released an entire album about fruit salad, but my kids gave it two thumbs way up.

As for the cats, I didn’t even bother to ask them. They’re strictly into jazz.

Peter Chianca is a CNC managing editor and the brains behind “The At Large Blog” ( and “The Shorelines Blog” ( To receive At Large by e-mail, write to, with the subject line “SUBSCRIBE.”

For samples of "Songs to Make Dogs Happy," visit the Laurel Canyon Animal Company Web site.