Music is such a big part of our lives. Happy, sad or angry – whatever the mood you’re in, it can help and make a big difference. Therefore, it is not uncommon that we want to project this on our dog and we ask ourselves if it can have any real effect.
Is music calming or agitating to dogs? Read further and find out!
Do Dogs Understand Music The Same Way We Do?
You might think that playing your favorite rock song to your dog will be equally rewarding to both of you. After all, you spend so much time together that it would be natural to love the same music?
Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Even though your dog will adapt to many of your habits and preferences, they tend to understand music differently than us. To assume that they will enjoy the same music as you will probably be a misassumption.
So… how do dogs hear music?
Dogs hear music at a higher frequency and process audio in a different way. They may think of your music as grating and just ”too much”. This is where music specially designed for dogs come in! Music designed with right pitches and tones can do wonders for dogs.
Scroll down and find out more about the way dogs process audio!
What Kind Of Music Should I Play For My Dog?
Dogs need peaceful music, with simple melodies and fewer instruments. Nowadays, there are a lot of CD’s specially designed for dogs, with canine lullabies for example.
You can also find numerous playlists on Spotify and YouTube. Check out this YouTube channel with relaxing dog music and see (or rather hear) for yourself!
If you have a more sophisticated playlist, including classical music, it is more than okay to share it with your dog. Classical music is said to reduce anxiety in dogs and comfort them. Dogs that listen to classical music also tend to bark less and stay longer in a resting state.
Logically, music such as heavy metal tends to agitate dogs and make them more ”on the edge”, as well as increase body shaking.
Some technical matters to think about when it comes to playing music for your dog; put the speaker out of reach for your dog and do not to use one with loose cords your dog could find interesting and start chewing on. Last but not least, make sure to play music on a quality speaker that isn’t too loud and that doesn’t pop with static.
What Benefits Can Come From Playing Music To Your Dog?
Benefits that can come from playing music to your dog include stopping unwanted barking, reducing hyperactivity and calming your dog in the car. On top of that, calming music for dogs help those dogs with trouble sleeping and resting.
Music can also help in various situations when your dog is stressed, for example when left home alone.
Music And Separation Anxiety
A direct implementation of all the studies proving that music decreases stress can be if your dog suffers from separation anxiety. This is very common with dogs if you’re leaving them alone for a while. This is not pleasant for your dog, but not for you as a dog owner either.
Luckily, right music can help you with this! Leaving music on will reduce your dog’s stress and relax him or her, sometimes to the point where it falls asleep and the time home alone flies away.
Seeing that your dog isn’t as agitated when you leave home will reduce your guilt for leaving and make this situation much easier to cope with. Music calms down your dog, which calms you down. A win-win situation!
Behavioral Effects That Can Come From Music
Based on all the studies on music and humans, the field of interest has expanded to music and the effect it can have on other species. In general, music enhances the well-being of many animals, dogs included. However, it is not completely understood why music affects behavior and stress in animals.
Even though we don’t know for sure yet what’s leading to these changes in behavior and why the stress-level is decreasing, as soon as the positive affect was proven numerous musical selections were created, in order to produce good relaxing music for dogs.
A study by Wells et al. (2002) explored the effect audio had on activity, vocalization and body shaking. The dogs were exposed to 3 types of music: classical, heavy metal and music specially designed for dog relaxation, as well as no music at all. According to this study, exposing your dog to classical music leads to better sleep and less barking. When exposed to heavy metal, dogs tend to shake more, a clear sign of nervousness.
To read more about this study and this topic in general read this study on behavioral effects of auditory stimulation.
The results of this study can be used to enhance the well-being of dogs, and especially shelter dogs. Using appropriate music can lead to a more positive atmosphere many dogs will most likely benefit from.
As we can see from the study mentioned above, and numerous other studies, it is shown that listening to classical music can be very beneficial in many areas. Some of them are a decrease of anxiety, increase in prosocial behavior, decrease in blood pressure and heart rate – just to name a few.
Apart from specifically designed music for dogs, this genre seems to have the most beneficial implications on dogs. Why is that?
Why is classical music good music for dogs?
The reason why classical music has all these affects isn’t thanks to the music per se, but the features that make difference. It’s not important what genre the music is, but the set of acoustic feature that are connected with soothing and stimulating different states. These features are:
1. Longer notes; calming and stimulating
2. Pure tones and regular rhythms; opposed to noisy and irregular rhythms which are associated with negative states, pure tones and regular rhythms lead to positive states
3. A tempo that matches the dog’s heart rate (when resting) has a calming effect
Let’s take a closer look at the third point.
Humans like music within their acoustic and vocal range, with tones that are understandable and that progress at a tempo similar to the tempo of their heartbeats. A too high or too low sound can be difficult to listen to. The same goes for music that is too slow or too fast.
Having that in mind, it’s understandable why animals don’t seem to enjoy the same kind of music we do. Most of our music is unrecognizable for them, but what’s interesting is that this can depend on their size!
As dogs vary in size, vocal range and heart rate, big dogs have more similar ”music taste” with humans than small dogs. In other words, bigger dogs might be responsive to music in our frequency range, according to Snowdon.
This is the reason why species-specific music is becoming more and more popular, and will probably only progress in the future. But…
Can dogs appreciate music as much as humans?
It seems that, no matter how well composed and adjusted for dogs, they will never appreciate music as much as we do. According to Snowden, this is because they lack an important musical ability we possess: relative pitch.
Animals have good absolute pitch, but they don’t have relative pitch. This means that they can’t recognize a sequence of notes in different keys; they are not able to see the relationships between the notes.
This is why we understand music in a different way than dogs, according to Snowdon.
Specifically Designed Dog Music
Dr. Alfred Tomatis, based on his psycho-acoustic research, proved sound could work as a nutrient for the nervous system and explored in what way it could affect the human nervous system.
It is based on this theory that dog music is designed. These researches studied how dogs process auditory information and, based on the results, audio that triggers relaxation responses was designed.
As you can assume, this type of response is perfect when it comes to noisy and crowded places, such as dog shelters. It can also be very beneficial for hyperactive dogs that have trouble sleeping and relaxing or are dealing with separation anxiety, as mentioned above.
This is how calming music for dogs sound like! Equally relaxing for humans?
A prove of how popular dog music is becoming is the fact that the world-known streaming service Deezer created two playlists specifically designed for dogs! Even though these playlists are made of “human music”, they are still believed to help in keeping your dog happy and chill.
Namely, one playlist consists of songs that make your dog happy, while the other playlist focuses on songs that help with calming down your canine.
One of the songs that found its place on the ”happy” playlist is Hey Ya by Outcast, while the ”chill’ playlist suggested the famous Could you be loved by Bob Marley in order to keep your pet calm. Sometimes we can enjoy the same music, it seems!
Click here in order to see the complete playlist, curated by Dogington Post.
After this thorough research it is safe to say that playing music to dogs have many advantages, one of the biggest being relaxing your dog. As long as we choose the right music, either music designed for dogs or classical music, it can make your canine calmer, bark less and help with separation anxiety.
However, it’s important to understand that dogs appreciate music in a different way than we do and that you can’t expect them to like all the same songs as you. In order to see the effects music can have on dogs choose the appropriate one and see how magical music can be, not only for humans!