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It’s no surprise that music can be used as a therapeutic tool for humans. Throughout history, music has been used to energize us when we’re feeling unmotivated, and to calm us down when we’re feeling anxious. The power of music to affect our mood has led to the development of music therapy, a branch of alternative medicine that can be used to improve the lives of people everywhere.
by Natalie Wilson
Since music is so effective on the moods of humans, you might be wondering if you can induce similar changes in the mood of your dog. Bringing your dog to the vet or a kennel can induce feelings of anxiety in your pet. We’ve all seen dogs shaking uncontrollably with their tails between their legs in the waiting room at the vet, and it’s no happy sight.
As a dog parent, you’re probably looking for ways to calm your dog down in these high-stress situations. Just as music is able to change the moods of humans, music can be used as a therapeutic tool for dogs as well; you just need to choose the right music.
Here are some ways to calm down your dog with music:
1. Play Classical Music
In 2002, research from Queen’s University investigated the effect of different kinds of music on canines. The experiment completed at the University’s Canine Behavior Centre found a similar reaction to music in dogs that is seen in humans. Music is integral to the human experience because it has accompanied us throughout our evolutionary process. It’s, therefore, no surprise that dogs would be receptive to music, since due to domestication, the canine experience over the last 15,000 years has been closely intertwined with our own experience.
The study found listening to heavy metal music, such as music by Metallica, induced feelings of anxiety in the dogs. The dogs barked and stood up much more listening to heavy metal music than they did when they heard music by Beethoven and Vivaldi. These classical pieces appeared to calm the dogs down significantly and suggest dogs are receptive to classical music. This is why classical guitar may be such a great choice for pet parents.
Other research completed by Joshua Leeds in 2004 and 2005 took these findings further and investigated the idea of dog-specific classical music. This classical music incorporated musical elements that dogs were shown to enjoy, rather than simply choosing any piece from the classical genre. 70% of dogs in kennels and 85% of dogs at home were found to calm down significantly after listening to the dog-specific classical music. For more information on the types of musical elements, dogs enjoy, continue reading!
2. Play Reggae or Soft Rock Music
Other studies have found that reggae or soft rock music may actually be the most beneficial music for dogs. Since classical music is so often associated with relaxation, it seems surprising that dogs would be more receptive to the uptempo elements of reggae music. However, a study conducted by the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) published in the journal of Physiology and Behavior found that dogs enjoy soft rock and reggae not only more than classical pieces but more than any other genre of music.
In the study, six-hour playlists of different genres of music, including classical, soft rock, reggae, Motown, and pop, were played to shelter dogs. After measuring the dogs’ heart rates, cortisol levels, and other behaviors that indicate stress, the researchers found reggae and soft rock to be the most calm-inducing styles of music.
Remember that, just like humans, your dog will have unique music preferences. Just because a majority of dogs enjoyed reggae and soft rock music doesn’t mean other dogs won’t react most positively to classical music. Try playing different music to your dog and observe their behavior. You’ll provide your pet with the optimal listening experience, and you’ll also get to know parts of their personalities you weren’t previously aware of.
3. Find the Right Musical Elements
Other researchers suggest that it’s not necessarily the genre of music that’s important for inducing a calming effect in dogs, but the musical elements. Work by Snowdon and Teie has shown that canines enjoy long tones as opposed to short, choppy tones. This is likely why heavy metal music induced anxiety in the dogs. If you’re looking for classical pieces that your dog might enjoy, try sticking to “legato,” or smooth music, rather than “staccato,” or detached and choppy music.
Dogs also enjoy pure tones and regular rhythms rather than obscure electronic tones and abstract rhythms. This may be one reason dogs enjoy reggae so much. Although reggae rhythms accent the second and fourth beats of a bar, as opposed to our usual first and third beat, the consistency of the beat may appeal to dogs. Dogs also enjoy tempos that are similar to their heart rate when they’re in a relaxed state. These preferences are similar to human tempo preferences when it comes to relaxing music. We often listen to upbeat music to increase our energy levels, and slow music to calm ourselves down.
Enjoy introducing these tips to your canine! Remember to take note of your dog’s unique musical tastes, and you’ll soon have them more relaxed than ever before.
About the author:
I work as a session guitarist, and guitar teacher, and I would like to use my music blog as a personal outlet to share my six-string knowledge with the world.