While music is proven to have therapeutic effects on humans, its influence is not limited to people but is also effective to animals.
Take dogs, for example.
Studies show that dogs exhibit positive responses when listening to music such as less barking, lower levels of cortisol, and even normal respiratory rates. And that is despite the fact that they have sensitive hearing, which ranges between 47 and 44,000 Hz.
But do dogs truly like music? And if the answer is yes, what kind of music do they like?
Do Dogs Enjoy Listening to Music?
Surprisingly, dogs enjoy listening to music! A change in behavior, which is often positive, is a sign that dogs are entertained and pleased with what they hear. Reactions may vary from calmness, barking, and even agitation. In fact, when you hear them howling to music—which is the most common response—it means they are singing along with the songs.
According to Stanley Coren, a psychology professor and neuropsychological researcher specializing in dogs, scientific analyses reveal that canines have a sense of pitch. The manner in which they do it, however, is uniquely different from us—which is through howling, as mentioned.
He also added that dogs often howl and enjoy the music produced by a wind instrument. It is specifically true with clarinets, reeds, and even saxophones.
On the other hand, music produced by wind instruments is not the only type of music canines enjoy. Several studies show that they like other kinds/genres too.
What Genre of Music Do they Like?
Surprisingly, dogs do enjoy the music of other kinds too. And to tell which one these animals do like the most is kind of complicated. It is because several studies show that dogs feel more relaxed about certain kinds of music while there are other types of music that they seem to simply enjoy.
A psychologist from Queens University named Deborah Wells conducted a study on the said subject. And based on her findings, canines have—both positive and negative—varying responses to different music.
Now, rather than asking what music they enjoy. The question that should be asked is: “which genre does dogs like most?”
- Reggae and soft rock. Surprisingly, dogs tend to enjoy reggae and soft rock music the most. Based on a study conducted by the University of Glasgow and the Scottish SPCA playing reggae and soft rock induce the most positive behavior changed in dogs. The researchers held an experiment at a rehoming and animal shelter in Dumbarton by playing a variety of songs of different genres to dogs. And, as said, reggae and soft rock music cause significant behavioral and physiological changes. They evaluated the animals’ heart rate as well. And found that there is a decrease in stress levels when music is being played, specifically when it is soft rock and reggae.
- Classical music. Another approved genre of music for dogs is classical music. Based on the same study mentioned above, classical music was also played along with Motown and pop music. And it was revealed that the said type of music is also enjoyable for canines. Dogs tend to be calmer and relaxed when classical music is being played. As such playing music pieces in crowded—and those that are considered stressful for dogs—such as animal shelters would be helpful to make dogs feel at ease.
- Heavy metal music. While all sort of music tends to induce a response to dogs, their least favorite one is loud and heavy metal music. A study conducted led by Deborah Wells shows that when canines listen to heavy metal and loud music exhibit anxiety, stress, agitation, and even exhaustion. As Professor Neil Evans of the University of Glasgow said, “Overall, the response to different genres was mixed highlighting the possibility that like humans, our canine friends have their own individual music preferences.”
Music indeed is beneficial to dogs, particularly those who exhibit high levels of stress and anxiety. However, the same study suggests that listening to the same kind of music—for a minimum of seven days—eventually make the dogs feel sick and start to show an increase in stress levels.
As such, it is best to mix up the different genres of music on your dog’s playlist.
The Benefits of Music to Dogs
Now that it is clear that dogs enjoy a number of genres of music, let’s talk about a few good things that music can do to dogs.
- Prevent barking. Its innate for dogs to bark at any sound they deem a threat—even though it is not. It is particularly true if your pet is not used to noisy environment or has developed a fear of loud and scary sounds. But playing music can help prevent it as it helps mask any sound or noise they hear outside. White noise could help too. You can either use a fan or a device specifically for the said purpose. It is a nice hack especially when you leave your dog alone and on nighttime.
- Get them familiarize to scary and loud sounds. Canines, particularly those that grew up indoor and less noise, typically develops fear of loud and scary sounds like fireworks, thunder, and even the sound of motor and car engine. And such an issue could be bothersome if you, say, need to take it out for a walk or a vet visit. Playing music in situations such as that can be helpful then. You can do it on your own or you hire a professional trainer instead to begin the counterconditioning and desensitization plan. For dogs who haven’t developed a fear of loud and scary sounds yet, on the other hand, it is best to introduce them to it in a positive way using music.
When to Play Music?
Music is beneficial to dogs in almost all kind of stressful situations. You can, for example, play it in instances such as the following:
- During loud thunderstorms
- At the veterinary clinic during consultation
- The first few weeks after rehoming a dog
- When your pet dog is home alone
- When riding the car or when traveling
- When your dog is restless
Dogs—and even other house pets such as cats—are often feel stressed when they hear loud and scary noises. It is inevitable and often troublesome, not only to you but also to people around like your neighbors.
As such, it is indeed helpful to introduce music to your dogs as it provides not only short-term benefits, but also long-term.
Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.