Can Music Soothe Dogs?

by Deborah Lundin
    "Hand over the headphones. That's my favorite song!"

    "Hand over the headphones. That's my favorite song!"

    Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

    Music has long been a relaxation method for humans and many have wondered if it can be just as beneficial for man’s best friend. If your dog suffers from separation anxiety when you leave for the day, could a little Mozart really make a difference? While it may depend on your dog, studies show that it just might. However, like you, your dog may have specific musical tastes that differ from yours.

    Music Behavior Study

    For years, many dog owners have left the radio playing or the television on for their pooch when they leave for the day, not really knowing if it made a difference. Lori Kogan of Colorado State University wondered the same thing and looked at what influence music really has on dogs in a 2012 study. With 117 dogs boarded in a kennel, researchers played three different musical genres for 45 minutes each while recording the dogs’ behavior every five minutes. The music included classical, heavy metal and psychoacoustically designed music specific for dogs.

    Heavy Metal or Classical

    In the study, classical music selections included Beethoven and Bach, while heavy metal selections included Motorhead and Slayer. While the various musical selections played, researchers recorded the time the dogs spent sleeping or in a relaxed state. While Bach and Beethoven played, the dogs slept as much as 6 percent. As you might expect, not many dogs slept -- 0.8 to 1.2 percent -- when heavy metal selections played. When it came to a reduction in barking, classical tipped the scale a little higher than heavy metal but any music was better than the silent control times.

    Dog-Specific Music

    Psychoacoustics is the study of the perception of sound. It looks at how the ear hears and focuses on specific notes, tones, rhythms and tempos. For dogs, psychoacoustically designed music caters to a dog’s hearing and the way their nervous system responds to music. In the 2012 study, however, the psychoacoustic music did not come anywhere close to classical music in terms of sleep time -- 1.4 percent -- and showed no statistical difference in the reduction of barking.

    Considerations and Dog Radio

    Not all dogs are the same and you may find your dog likes a good rap. Determining what musical selections may calm your dog will take time and patience. Play different music genres and monitor how each one may alter your dog’s behavior. Based on the study, classical music, however, may be the genre to start with. If you have a dog that just can’t seem to decide which music he enjoys most to kick back and relax with, you can tune in online to a radio station -- DogCat Radio -- designed specifically for dogs and cats. With radio personalities, guest speakers and even request lines, you may find you and your pooch fighting over which music to turn on.

    Photo Credits

    • Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Deborah Lundin is a professional writer with more than 20 years of experience in the medical field and as a small business owner. She studied medical science and sociology at Northern Illinois University. Her passions and interests include fitness, health, healthy eating, children and pets.

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