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What Do You Need to Know About Music Therapy for Pets?


Let’s talk about music! It is an arrangement of sound elements that can create melody, rhythm, and harmony while providing a unique experience for every person who is listening to it. It can be created with the help of different tools, including instruments, sounds in nature, and human voice.

However, it is not only the experience music provides to the listeners! It is also the therapeutic effect that sounds have on us and the calmness they help us achieve. Is this valid for humans only or can music also be used as a therapy tool for our beloved pets?

Today we will explore “music” in terms of its therapeutic effect on dogs and will also give you information on how dogs perceive sounds.


Dog Hearing Compared to Human Hearing

Dogs are known for having much better hearing ability compared to humans, which has its evolutionary background. This was needed, so that they could indicate the presence of predators and protect themselves.

If we have to talk in numbers to give you a better idea of the great difference between hearing in dogs and humans, then they are as follows:

-Humans can hear sounds on the spectrum between 20 and 20,000 Hz / 20 kHz;-

-Dogs can hear frequencies within the range of 40 to 65,000 Hz / 65 kHz.

Having said that, even nowadays dogs remain much more sensitive to sounds in their environment than humans, which explains why they often feel stressed and anxious from louder sounds, e.g. fireworks.

Often our paw friends show signs of distress caused even by common sounds in our daily lives such as the sound of a vacuum cleaner, different types of alarms, sirens, detectors, work trucks, etc.


How to Help Our Dog Cope with Sound-Related Stress?

The easiest way to help your dog deal with sound-related stress is by simply removing the sound triggers from their surroundings.

This could mean adapting the volume and the specific sounds produced by any alarms in the household; reducing the intensity of the sounds through blankets, soundproofing materials on the walls, or any type of wall insulation; putting blinds or bookcases on the walls, etc.

It would be helpful to create a separate “safe zone” for your pet, which is at a distance from any triggering sounds. You might want to arrange this area in a cozy and comfortable way so that your beloved paw friend feels safe and happy. Adding warm plush items like toys and blankets can help achieve a cozy result.

However, if your dog or cat is experiencing severe distress, and simply removing the triggers is not possible, then you should work on desensitizing the effect of the stimuli. If you regularly read our articles or already have training experience, you might be familiar with the terms “desensitization” and “counter-conditioning”. If not, let’s explain them again! 

Desensitization means gradually exposing the animal to the triggers in their environment. You should start at a very low level, ensuring there is no reaction on their end. Increasing the intensity of the stimuli should happen step by step.

Counter-conditioning is a term that describes the process of changing the pet’s attitude toward the stimuli. This can be achieved through creating a positive experience for your dog or cat when the stimuli are present. Rewarding them with their favorite treats is the best way to achieve this.

Here, we need to make a quick note, though- if a certain sound or another stimulus has a severely negative effect on your paw friend, and frightens them, you should work on desensitization first, without pairing the trigger with food. Otherwise, there is a likelihood for the pet to start associating food with something negative, instead of the opposite. Make sure the intensity of the stimuli in the beginning (e.g. the volume.) is significantly low. 

Can Music Be Used as a Therapy Tool for Pets (What Studies Have Shown)?

Yes, it definitely can! Studies have been conducted not only on the effects of music on humans but also on its impact on dogs. Most of the research has been done in shelters, where rescue dogs encompassed the target group.

After playing music of different genres, researchers concluded that dogs react to all types of music based on the frequency and length of the notes.

Classical music appeared to be the ‘winner’ for having the most calming effect on dogs, who became sleepier and calmer while listening to it.

Other genres that promoted a great sense of calmness and relaxation were soft rock and reggae.

While listening to these genres, the breathing of the studied group of dogs slowed down, and they were more likely to lay down instead of being in a standing position. It was the simple rhythms and prolonged notes that made dogs relaxed.

If you are looking for a specific instrument that best promotes calmness, then you should consider the harp. Harp music has already proven its great benefits for humans, especially if they are undergoing treatment or are in the process of recovery. According to some experts, harp music has a calming effect on dogs too.

For all the fans of heavy metals out there- please keep in mind, that Metallica might not be the best choice for your dog if you want to keep them calm and relaxed. Some degree of barking and even shaking appeared in the studied group of dogs. Having said that, exposing dogs to brief notes rapidly resulted in swift motor responses. 

However, if your paw friend seems to be a bit lethargic, you might try energizing them by playing some faster music. Make sure to monitor how they respond and adjust the volume and genre accordingly.

Music and Its Therapeutic Benefits for Pets

The calming effect of certain types/genres of music on pets finds wide use.

Sounds lead to physical changes in the body and cause brain waves to change depending on the specific type of sound, i.e. music with a slow tempo also slows breathing. This, in turn, has a calming effect on the mind and helps enhance metabolism.

You might want to play soothing music when your dog is stressed, e.g. due to environmental changes such as the loss of a family member or pet, separation anxiety, relocating, rearranging furniture, or other stress-causing stimuli.

Music therapy is also used as a tool to help alleviate pain, i.e. if your dog is undergoing treatment and taking medication. Proper music/sounds along with the prescribed medication have a great calming effect.

Furthermore, certain sound frequencies are used as a method to create pictures of the inside of the body. This is especially helpful for making accurate diagnoses.

Talking about the benefits of ultrasound, we should mention its use to locate kidney stones, which, in turn, aids the process “lithotripsy”. The term is used to describe a type of treatment of kidney stones through sending focused ultrasonic energy or shock waves to the stone.

Let’s talk a bit about music with faster rhythms, too. It has also proved beneficial for humans and pets, as it helps increase activity and energy and promote exercise.

If your paw friend seems to be feeling lethargic lately, playing some faster music could make them more excited and bring them out of boredom.

Are you encountering difficulty getting your dog’s attention during a training session? Fast-paced music may capture their attention.

Last but not least, we need to mention the great bonding effect that playing music has while engaging in activities with your dog. It can help you strengthen the bond with your paw partner, and also make the process of socialization more pleasant and positive.