Limited study suggests dogs are affected by music and respond in different ways to different types of music, but don't expect Scruffy to sneak off with your MP3 player. Conclusive evidence lacking, finding out whether certain kinds of music will lift your dogs spirits or affect his behavior otherwise may come down to investing in a few CDs. Hopefully you'll find a genre that works for both of you.
The Sound of Music
With sensitive ears capable of detecting vibration in the 16 to 20 hertz frequency range and in the 70,000 to 100,000 hertz range, dogs hear much better than humans do; add to that the fact that Scruffy is equipped with highly mobile ears able to focus on slight sounds all around him. Call him a good listener. Dogs have shown the capability for listening to music, and at least one study reveals they respond more favorably to certain types of music than others.
You may expect to find Scruffy dancing to the catchy tune of "Who Let the Dogs Out?" but apparently dogs seem to prefer softer tunes. Expect instead to find Mozart or Beethoven CDs among your dog's favorite compilations. Classical music was found to have a soothing effect on shelter dogs according to a 2002 study conducted by Dr. Deborah Wells and peers, "The Influence of Auditory Stimulation on the Behaviour of Dogs Housed in a Rescue Shelter." Perhaps the effect was way too soothing, since many of the shelter dogs in the study were found to be barking less and resting more.
Just because you have seen that English bulldog across the road wearing a leather collar with spikes doesn't mean he'd enjoy heavy metal or death metal music. Back to Wells' shelter dog study, heavy metal music seemed to wreak a bit of havoc. The shelter dogs appeared to be agitated, they stood up more, slept less and barked more. Interestingly, this effect was not observed when the dogs were earlier exposed to pop music or other forms of auditory stimulation.
If you think harp music reaches deep down into your soul and tingles your heart, you are not alone. The harp effect seems to affect the body and soul of many canines. Several dogs hospitalized at a veterinary hospital and suffering from restlessness, anxiety and high respiration rates all seemed to respond positively to a harp therapy session. Respiratory rates, heart rates and overall levels of anxiety significantly fell, according to a study published in the the Harp Therapy Journal.
Music Just for Dogs
If you are considering purchasing your dog a Mozart or Beethoven CD, hold your horses. When it comes to appreciating music, dogs prefer "species-specific music." In other words, they seem to enjoy special tunes using particular pitches, tones and tempos. Composed by psychoacoustic expert Joshua Leeds and pianist Lisa Spector in collaboration with veterinary neurologist Susan Wagner, the CD "Through a Dog’s Ear" contains intentionally selected, arranged and recorded tunes meant to stimulate or sooth your pampered pooch. This compilation may ultimately be the right music for your dog's ears.
Adrienne Farricelli has been writing for magazines, books and online publications since 2005. She specializes in canine topics, previously working for the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Her articles have appeared in "USA Today," "The APDT Chronicle of the Dog" and "Every Dog Magazine." She also contributed a chapter in the book " Puppy Socialization - An Insider's Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness" by Caryl Wolff.