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  • Dogs and music

    dog Picture1

    I’ve noticed over the years, being the intelligent creatures that they are, how dogs react to different sounds and the pitch of those sounds. The psychology behind training dogs is an interesting one in as much as it’s generally recognized that a deeper voice can command more attention from a dog and a higher pitched voice has the edge when praising a dog for a particular activity. So what about the effect of music on dogs? By this I’m not meaning whether dogs like the sound of “How much is that doggie in the window?” or, heaven forbid, “Who let the dogs out?” but more the composition of music.

    As Adrienne Farricelli writes in “Daily Puppy”, “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. Natalie Wolchover writes in the March 19 2012 copy of “Live Science” that some dogs do appear to respond emotionally to human music. Research led by Dr. Deborah Wells, a psychologist at Queen’s University Belfast, shows that dogs can discern between human music from different genres. “Our own research has shown that dogs certainly behave differently in response to different types of music, e.g., showing behaviors more suggestive of relaxation in response to classical music and behaviors more suggestive of agitation in response to heavy metal music.” In 2002, Wells conducted a study entitled “The Influence of Auditory Stimulation on the Behaviour of Dogs Housed in a Rescue Shelter.” The study found that classical music had a soothing effect on shelter dogs whereas 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. Also, 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 Harp Therapy Journal.

    It seems to me that the conclusions drawn from canine studies on the effect of music on dogs’ behaviour are not dissimilar to what you’d expect from studies on the effect of music on humans. Genres such as soft rock and reggae, with their slower tempo, tend to create a relaxed state of mind whereas heavy metal is designed to get the adrenaline pumping. 

    So, if you have a dog that suffers from say, separation anxiety, music may be one area to explore. You may never find out exactly which song(s) your dog prefers but knowing which genre to choose is a step in the right direction.

    So, if you’re looking to relax your dog, maybe reach for a Bob Marley classic.