Many dogs can suffer from anxiety, whether due to separation, loud noises or previous trauma. A company called Music Mutz in Locust Valley is seeking to address this issue with custom collars that play soothing music that the owners claim can keep dogs calm and relaxed without having to resort to medication.
The company was founded by and later owned by two friends, Kris Baggelaar (Milton) and Lisa Caputo, after her dog, a soft-coated wheaten terrier named Belle, was dealing with severe anxiety attacks during a thunderstorm. Caputo approached Baggelaar, an author who had met Caputo while doing research for a book, with an early prototype of the collar and a suggestion that they go into business together.
Baggelaar added that she had always loved dogs since she was a child, when her family’s collie Heidi Ho was her best friend and constant companion. Since then, she has raised five dogs, and dedicated 25 years to helping raise and care for seeing-eye dogs for the Smithtown charity the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind.
“The concept really grabbed me. Having volunteered for many years at the Guide Dog Foundation, I was well aware of the therapeutic benefits that music can have for dogs,” Baggelaar said. “Not only is music therapy great for people, it works, and was already being implemented for dogs as well.”
Caputo has subsequently stepped away from running the company to address a personal illness. Baggelaar said that in Caputo’s honor the company also runs a charity organization, called Lisa’s Dream, which uses some of the funds raised by the collars to financially support rescue and animal-care organizations such as Mission K9 Rescue and the North Shore Animal League.
The Music Mutz dog collar is a simple, yet effective therapy device as described by Baggelaar, with a 14-hour battery while also being durable enough to handle the roughest of horseplay, or dog play in this case. The collar also uses a loud MP3 speaker, which Baggelaar and the company claims can be heard over the sound of fireworks, thunder, or anything else that may make a dog feel skittish.
Not just any music plays from the speakers either. Baggelaar said that they worked with professional keyboardist and composer Bradley Joseph to make sure that the music would have the proper soothing tones that appeal to a canine’s fine-tuned sense of hearing.
“We integrated nature sounds and found the ones that were the most calming and seemed to work the best with classical piano,” Baggelaar continued. “The two most soothing instruments for both humans and dogs are the harp and the piano, so we chose piano music.”
When they were developing their collar, Baggelaar and Caputo reached out to friends and family to test their product on a wide range of dogs of all sizes, shapes, and temperaments. Different breeds can experience vastly different types of mental stress, and as any dog owner can tell you, every dog has its own unique fears and triggers, so Baggelaar said it was important to them that the collar would be able to help all types.
Her sister-in-law Sandy Baggelaar helped test one of the collars with her eight-year-old mixed-breed Gracie, a rescue. While she said that Gracie is not a very anxious or easily stressed dog, her canine companion has one trigger — for whatever reason, Gracie does not like going in the car.
Baggelaar tried the Music Mutz collar on Gracie, first in the house so the dog could get used to hearing sounds coming from it. After Gracie seemed to be comfortable with the collar on, Baggelaar tried it out in the car, where she said the effects were immediately noticeable.
“She really has only one type of anxiety, and that’s car sickness. She will literally throw up if she’s in a car without the collar,” Baggelaar said. “I think dogs that get anxious for any reasons, especially loud noises or that type of thing, it would be really helpful.”