What Kind of Music Do Dogs Like?
Have you ever noticed your dog behaving differently when music is played? Maybe they start howling to the music, or maybe they bark, move around, or calm down.
You probably haven’t thought about this, but research has shown that dogs can be very sensitive to music. This is why they actively react to the sound they hear, often assuming or changing specific behaviors we might just categorize as funny or irrelevant.
However, it is quite important to understand how your dog reacts to music and how certain songs, genres, and styles can influence their well-being and behavior. This way, you will not only avoid putting unnecessary stress on your dog, but you could even make them happier.
In this article, we will have a look at some research-based discoveries about the relationship between dogs and music. How do dogs respond to different music genres and songs? How does music influence their behavior? And (here’s the odd one) are they able to make music? Let’s find out!
A dog’s perception of sound
A puppy starts hearing at two weeks of age, but their ear fully develop about four weeks after. At this point in their life, a dog can hear twice the frequencies heard by human beings. As we will shortly see, dogs have a great sense of pitch, a condition even Richard Wagner had recognized in his Cavalier King Charles Spaniel called Peps, a habitual presence in his studio.
Peps had such a fine ear that his owner Wagner would keep a look at his reactions to adjust certain passages in his compositions. The German composer noticed the dog would react differently according to the musical key a piece was in, an occurrence that stimulated the idea of assigning different keys to different concepts and emotions within an opera.
As Wagner had already realized, dogs have a strong bond with music and sounds. Moreover, they are not just passive listeners, but can even become active performers.
Popular Music to help calm and relax dogs
This is a very popular 15 HOURs of music on Youtube which has been used to relax dogs to great effect!
Spotify Pets Playlists
Spotify found that “71% of pet owners surveyed play music for their pets”. They have released customized playlists for your pets. If you want to check it out, head over to pets.byspotify.com to try it out. You select what type of pet you have, followed by some personality traits, and away you go!
The howling effect
In 1980, Kirk Nurock, a composer, as well as a prominent pianist and arranger who has worked with incredible artists, such as Judy Collins, Dizzy Gillespie, Leonard Bernstein, and Bette Midler, performed a composition named Howl, a choral piece for twenty human voices and three dogs. For the first time in the history of music, our beloved pets were officially included in the score of a musical work.
The composer kept having a great interest in the relationship between animals and music, working at several other compositions of that kind. In 1983, he composed the Sonata for Piano and Dog, while a year later he performed Expedition, for a jazz trio and a Siberian Husky.
While these attempts may sound odd, research has shown that dogs have a very good ear for music and that howling is a complex communication tool based on the emission and recognition of tones and pitches. A certain musical quality in the howling may indicate the presence of specific emotions within the dog or constitute a given social function in groups.
For example, wolves howl to gather in a pack and to strengthen the identity of the group. It is demonstrated that individual animals can adjust pitches to “harmonize” with their companions. This proves that canines have an acute sense of pitch.
The emission of what humans often merely identify as a different kind of barking responds to precise and predictable rules and patterns. A typical howling, for example, usually begins with a high pitch that progressively descends down to the main tone, to end with even a lower note.
Humans perceive this form of musical communication as sad, mournful, but it is not always the case, although it is true that howling, especially in a domestic dog, can indicate a state of loneliness and isolation.
So, if howling is a means of communication for dogs, why does our puppy “sing” along to our Spotify playlist?
On the one hand, music might remind him or her of this form of canine communication. On the other hand, it may simply entice or disturb him or her.
Sounds that stimulate the howling effect
Specific sounds, such as the one emitted by reed instruments, and generally medium to high-pitched frequencies, are more likely to stimulate the howling effect because they are able to remind your dog of that innate form of musical communication he or she shares with other members of the species. Long notes emitted by violins or human voices, but also other high-pitched non-musical sounds, like sirens, can have the same effect.
A study published in the Harp Therapy Journal highlighted how the sound of harps is particularly soothing on dogs, being able to ease their anxiety and stress levels.
Now that we have covered how dogs can emit sounds and even make music, in their way, let’s find out how the music we usually play on our speakers affect their behaviors and well-being.
Dogs musical tastes – classical music vs. metal
One of the most quoted researches about the relationship between dogs and music is the one conducted by Deborah Wells at Queens University in Belfast. The psychologist simply played different kinds of music to a number of dogs in a shelter and took note of the results in their behaviors.
Genres at the opposite end of the spectrum, classical and metal music, seemed to have the biggest impact on dogs, while regular pop songs, not too calming and not too aggressive, didn’t seem to change their mood or behavior significantly.
With classical music, dogs would bark less. They would even calm down and nap to the music. With metal songs, however, they became agitated and quite aggressive, often showing an increase in body shaking, a sign of stress.
Another research conducted in Scotland, by the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals and the University of Glasgow, widened the range of genres dogs seemed to enjoy, as researchers observed that soft rock and reggae had a calming effect on the animals as well.
These results shouldn’t really surprise us, as human beings often have the same psychological reactions to these different styles of music. Of course, it is still quite astonishing to see how sensitive and how close to us our pets can be.
How music can help dogs
Since vets and psychologists discovered how soothing music can have a calming effect on dogs, they have encouraged owners to use it whenever stressful situations occur.
For example, during violent thunderstorms, firecrackers, or vet visits, when our puppies can be really stressed and shaken, playing a classical music playlist can be an excellent way to calm them down and help them through the situation.
Music can even help whenever you need to leave your dog alone for some time, as it is a valid solution to tame his or her separation anxiety.
How loud should the music be?
Dogs have more sensitive ears. What we perceive as a medium level of loudness might be worse for them. This is why dog owners should pay attention and play music at a low-mid level whenever their pooch is around.
To find the right level of sound, just have a look at your dog and notice any sign of stress, like shaking movements or excessive barking. If you notice these, turn the volume down a bit and see if there’s any different reaction.
In conclusion, remember that dogs, like humans, have individual tastes and personalities. The study results might not necessarily agree with your dog’s individual preferences. Just test different songs, genres of music, and volume levels to see what benefits your puppy the most.