Meet Tuk — the dog who hates music

Tuk didn't always hate music, but over the years he has developed a severe, and intensely audible, reaction to any tune.

'It spiralled out of control,' says Yellowknifer who accidentally taught his dog to hate music

Tuk hates music and howls and cries every time he hears it. (Loren McGinnis/CBC)

A passerby might think something has gone horribly wrong in Mike Mansfield's house — a guitar string is plucked, and then comes a painful howl from a dog.

The dog cries, whimpers, and he tries to run away.

Tuk isn't your average Pavlov's dog.

His owners accidentally conditioned him to dislike music. In fact, he hates it so much that he has a severe and highly audible reaction anytime a chord is struck.

But he wasn't always that way.

Tuk, the dog that hates music, reacts to music being played. 2:15

It started out as a funny quirk. The Mansfield family brought Tuk home and when he heard music, he would howl along.

It was funny, cute even, said his owner.

"Our reaction was encouraging," said Mansfield, but that encouragement only increased the howling. He remembered the dog would sing along to The X Files theme song.

"From there it spiralled out of control," he said.

It wasn't just the theme song, Mansfield explained — Tuk became extra sensitive to all tunes.

Tuk the dog has become extra sensitive to all tunes. 0:57

To demonstrate Tuk's visceral reaction to CBC, Mansfield picked up his guitar to strum a few chords.

Tuk let out a shriek and started to howl. He then walked away from the guitar, still crying.

Meanwhile, Mansfield's toddler Rosemary started dancing next to the dog. But as the howling continued, she looked at Tuk and shrugged her shoulders, unimpressed.

​Was Tuk in physical pain?

It's not unusual for dogs to howl along to music, but Tuk's reaction was so severe, his owners thought he was in physical pain.

Mansfield said Tuk doesn't just howl now, but has what seems to be an anxiety-driven meltdown at the drop of a pick. 

Tuk has started to train the family to cringe at his incessant howling. 'Our shoulders go up two inches and our teeth clench,' said Mansfield. (Loren McGinnis/CBC)

It was so intense he brought the family's furry friend to a vet to see if there was something wrong with his ears.

The vet assured the family there wasn't anything physically wrong with Tuk, rather it was most likely a behavioural reaction associated with stress.

For a while the family avoided having music playing in the house.

"The sound of him howling and the screaming over the years has made our shoulders go up two inches and teeth clench," said Mansfield.

"And we don't like seeing him stressed out."

Anytime the family anticipates hearing music on TV or on the radio they would jump up to turn it off, which Mansfield said probably only adds to the cycle of anxiety.

"There is music in things we didn't even notice before."

But Tuk notices and he lets everyone know.

Mike Mansfield said the dog's howling started out as a funny quirk, but it has since 'spiralled out of control.' (Loren McGinnis/CBC)

Tuk undergoing immersion therapy

They've tried a number of techniques over the years, but nothing has worked.

They would like to have music playing in the house, and before the era of Tuk, there was always music playing in the background.

Often he's not part of family events.- Mike Mansfield, Tuk's owner

Now they're trying immersion therapy by playing soft music at a low volume. They start up the music in the morning, and at first Tuk makes a ruckus, but throughout the day he calms down.

The family refuses to look the dog in the eye or pet him until he calms down. It seems to work, and by the end of the day Tuk seems to be able to be near music.

Although if there is any kind of sudden change or high pitch in the music, Tuk gets upset.

It's also starting to affect Tuk's relationships. 

"Often he's not part of family events," said Mansfield. They have to put him outside or in another room because of his stress.

"There's a wedge there."

The family continues to work with Tuk to control his anxiety. They said they're willing to put in the time to help him, whether it takes months or years.

With files from Loren McGinnis


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