Music has been an integral part of human culture for centuries. It has the power to evoke emotions, making us feel happy, and energized, calm and relaxed, or erratic and sad. It helps us delve into imaginary worlds where everything is possible…
Given the immense power of music, some of you may have wondered whether it has the same effect on our furry friends too! This intriguing question has awoken the interest and curiosity of researchers, pet owners, and maybe some music enthusiasts.
Do dogs have a preference for certain genres? Can music impact their behavior and well-being?
Answering these questions requires studying the auditory capabilities of dogs, understanding their emotional responses, and exploring studies that shed light on the subject.
Before we delve into the music tastes of our paw friends, we should understand first how they perceive sound.
Dogs have a great sense of hearing, exceeding that of humans in range and sensitivity. While we typically can hear sounds that range from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz, dogs can hear frequencies from 40 Hz to 60,000 Hz. This expanded range allows them to pick up on high-pitched sounds that are beyond the auditory capacity of humans.
Moreover, their acute ability to detect subtle changes in pitch and rhythm contributes to their exceptional capacity to interpret auditory information.
Whether dogs have a specific preference for certain types of music has intrigued researchers for years. While dogs are not likely to express musical preferences the same way humans do, it has been proved that their reactions vary based on the music genre.
During a study conducted at Belfast University, dogs residing in an animal shelter were exposed to various music genres, including pop, heavy metal, classical, and reggae. Their responses to the played songs were precisely recorded. In order to ensure that the dogs responded to music in particular, recordings of human conversations were also included in the research, as well as silent time frames.
The results showed that the dogs who participated in the study responded to the played music differently.
Unfortunately for heavy metal fans, this was the genre that caused the dogs to be restless and to bark excessively. Pop music and human conversation recordings did not have any visible effect on dogs, while the effect of classical music proved to be the most calming. While classical music was played, the dogs spent most time calmly lying down.
Additionally, the intensity of barking decreased. However, the effect of classical music proved short-term. After several days the dogs who participated in the study did not respond to it.
In order to extend this study and clear any questions that could not be answered, another research was later conducted in Glasgow. Dogs from shelters were also tested the second time. They played different music genres, such as pop, reggae, soft rock, classical music, and Motown. For those of you, who are not familiar with Motown as a music genre, it combines elements from rhythm and blues (R&B) and pop music, blending their distinctive sounds. Vital signs like heart rate and cortisol (hormone of stress) were examined.
The results showed that music in general has a calming effect on dogs (metal not so much). While music was played, the tested dogs used to remain standing or lying down, but were always calm. An interesting discovery was made, namely that the intensity of barking increased after the music had stopped playing. In other words, the dogs were not pleased with the music coming to an end and expressed their disappointment.
Do you have any idea of what genres proved most calming for dogs, based on their heart rate levels? It was reggae and soft rock that helped the canines remain most relaxed.
If you are into any of those genres, your paw friend at home is very likely to enjoy them too!
Genres that are livelier and more energetic, like pop music, did not manage to produce such a calming effect on our paw friends. Having said that, the study proved that characteristics of music such as rhythm, tempo, and frequencies play an important role as factors evoking reactions in dogs.
The experiences of dog owners who have played soothing music to their paw friends proved that the results are consistent.
Programs aimed at reducing stress in dogs through the use of music have gained popularity in various animal shelters and rescue organizations worldwide. These programs are often part of wider initiatives to improve the overall well-being of animals in shelters.
Many shelters and rescue organizations have started using playlists featuring calming and soothing music specifically set up for dogs. These playlists often include classical music, soft instrumental tracks, and nature sounds.
Some shelters and organizations have even worked with composers or sound experts to create custom music designed to reduce stress in animals who reside in shelters. This music is customized to suit the needs of more sensitive dogs.
Music may also be played in shelters where dogs experience higher stress levels, i.e. if they are put in noisy kennels or during veterinary checkups.
Some shelters even provide portable music devices or speakers that can be placed near dog kennels to play calming music continuously.
The staff in some shelters including volunteers may also receive training on how to use music effectively to reduce stress in dogs and other animals.
The connection between music and dogs goes beyond auditory stimulation. As you may know, dogs tend to build strong relationships with their beloved humans and get very attuned to them. Some canines even have the innate ability to recognize deviations from the standard behavior and emotions of their owners. But how is music related to all this?
While listening to music with their owners, dogs improve their emotional bond with them, as they share the same experience. Moreover, dogs often associate their owners' emotions with the sounds they hear, making the music some kind of extension of their bond.
While dogs may not be able to express their preferences for different music genres the same way humans do, their reactions prove that various genres have different effects on them. More calming music genres, such as soft rock, reggae, and classical music have the most soothing effect on them.
The language of music is universal, helping connect us with our paw friends on a deeper level, which contributes to developing an even stronger bond between us.