For a lot of people – dog owners and otherwise – the idea of using music to calm your pet feels plain silly. For most of them, the idea that it can be used to calm even a baby is nonsense. The truth is, calming music for dogs can be very effective, especially for dogs with big anxiety problems.
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Just as we can often use certain genres and types of music to calm our nerves, to shed off some of our stress and to get a break, so can our dogs. Yes, band or orchestral music isn’t something that’s common in the wild, but cars aren’t either, and that doesn’t make them any less interesting to dogs, does it?
Besides, while composed music isn’t something found in nature, various sounds and even bird songs are. And, just like some of those sounds can be surprising and scary to an animal, a lot of them can bring them peace and serenity. A gentle bird’s song, the sound of a light breeze through the trees, the slow murmur of the river and other similar sounds can be very soothing.
Sounds like these can be exceptionally comforting, which is why even a lot of people play 10-hour recordings of nature sounds while they work instead of actual human music. Calming music for dogs can have similar effects when played for your pet during the day, and studies have shown that music is an effective way to calm down a stressed dog..
Calming Music for Dogs
what is it and how to use it to help your dog
Why Use Calming Music for Dogs?
Isn’t your dog perfectly satisfied with the standard, everyday noises around him or her? Why would a dog need calming music? It is not like dogs have to work 8-12 hours a day.
But did you know that music has scientifically proven to calm down dogs and relieve stress, anxiety, depression and many other mental health problems in canines?
There are a few other possible reasons why a dog would need help to calm down. Some dog owners are fortunate never to be faced with them, but others aren’t as lucky. Here are some of the most common reasons that pet parents use calming music for dogs:
1. Separation anxiety
Separation anxiety is one of the most common reasons why a dog would need to listen to calming music. A lot of dogs have to spend multiple hours per day alone at home, five days a week, every week. This is something quite unusual for a dog, since by nature, they are very social animals.
- PODCAST INTERVIEW: How To Deal with Separation Anxiety In Dogs
For a wild dog to spend 10 hours alone each day, it would be a disastrous and possibly life-threatening situation. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if your dog happens to have separation anxiety. The centuries of domestication have reduced such cases quite a bit, but separation anxiety is still a fairly frequent condition.
Not only is it frequent and damaging for your dog’s physical and mental health, however, but quite often it is very damaging for your home’s furniture. Dogs can become destructive when left home alone.
You could hire a dog sitter to visit your pet during the day or send him to doggy daycare. Unfortunately, these options aren't in every dog owners' budget. You could try getting a second dog or other pet to keep Fido company during the day, but what if that doesn't work? Then you'll have two dogs ruining your belongings while you're away from home!
Anxiety-related dog raining methods, and dog anxiety medication can also be used to help pets suffering with separation anxiety. Another option is using a variety of dog supplies to calm down your pet, like a dog anxiety vest. But, these treatments will cost money, may or may not work, and take time before they become effective. Wouldn't calming music for dogs be an easier option? Not to mention, it won't cost you anything and it's actually scientifically proven to work on canines to relax and calm them down.
2. Health issues
Health problems are another probable cause of stress and anxiety in your dog, particularly when you are not around to calm your pet yourself.
Some of the solutions to separation anxiety simply don’t apply in this case, and while medications are usually necessary with health problems, in these cases the addition of calming music for dogs can also help relieve a lot of your pet’s stress.
Stress over recent life changes, maybe a favorite family member just left the household recently, whether due to death or simply moving out? Maybe a new member just joined, whether we are talking about a new adult or a birth, dogs usually handle the birth of babies quite well, but not always.
Or, maybe the whole family just moved to a new house and the whole process just stress your furry friend way too much. When your dog is stressed, soothing music can be of great help, especially if the dog’s listened to it before.
Even if the entire surroundings of your dog have changed in recent months, the presence of familiar sounds and music can give him the much needed anchor to keep calm and adapt to his new home.
Due to lack of training and good upbringing, a lot of dog owners have a problem with hyperactive dogs that bark too much, especially when they are home alone. Hyperactivity in the car is also a common problem for a lot of dog owners. In situations such as these, having a selection of nice, calming music for dogs is always nice.
If you work in a dog shelter, then you can understand that the dogs are often quite stressed. This is quite common, and what’s worse is that even just one overly anxious dog in a shelter can drive half the other dogs in there to have severe anxiety as well.
This is why a lot of modern and ahead-of-the-curve dog shelters use calming music (among other techniques) to make sure that the dogs are in the best possible mood and state of mind. I mean, who's going to want to adopt a dog that is stressed out and anxious?
What Exactly Is Calming Music for Dogs?
A lot of dog owners make the mistake of just playing their own radio or favorite iTunes stream for their dogs while they are out of home. While this may sometimes work if the dog owner’s preferred genre and style of music is calming for the dog as well, but you can’t expect that to happen often, even if it seems intuitive for you.
- PODCAST INTERVIEW: How To Soothe Dog's Anxiety with Music
Dogs and people process and understand music and sound differently. There are multiple things that play a part in this:
1. Dogs hear things that we cannot
Dogs hear a lot of things that our human hearing simply can’t detect. In the 60's and the 70's, a lot of people claimed that rock ‘n’ roll contained hidden satanic messages. Today we can all agree that this is nonsense, but you know what a lot of random songs and music tracks do contain?…a ton of high pitches and sounds that don’t bother us because we can’t hear them.
Unfortunately, these sounds can really irritate a dog, according to research. And, while this isn’t enough of a reason for you to stop listening to your favorite music every once in a while, it certainly means that you should be careful what you play for your dog while you are out of the house. This is especially true if your intention is to calm your pet.
2. Dogs don't understand lyrics
For us, music is much more than just sounds. Being capable of abstract thoughts, for us a lot of songs and music have additional meaning that’s outside of the simple nature of the sound – we detect meaning in the melody as well as in the text. A person can listen to some heavy, brutal metal song with very strong riffs and an awfully aggressive lyrics and feel to it, and this can actually be calming for the listener.
It’s all a matter of what the song means to the person listening to it on an abstract and personal level. This won’t matter for a dog, however. Play heavy metal for Fido everyday and the result will be anything but a calm and relaxed canine.
As a side point, if you have an overly stressed dog at home, but you love more “stressful-sounding” genres like metal, it’s a good idea to use ear plugs when you want to listen at home. Yes, your dog will still hear the music with his great hearing, but the fact that it is not booming all over the apartment will make a huge difference.
3. Not all ‘calming' music is the same
The above point doesn’t mean that anything that sounds “soft” will be calming to a dog. A ballad can have a lot of dramatic feel attached to it, it can also have several twists and turns in the melody. All of this can be stressful for a dog, or at the very least, not have the calming effect you are looking for.
Simply put, when looking for calming music for dogs, make sure that it has a tranquil, pleasant feel to it. You don't want anything too abrupt or unexpected and nothing that would lift an ear.
What Does the Research Say?
Yes, there have been multiple studies on the matter of calming music for dogs, and we've looked at many of them before. Most of their findings happen to coincide.
For example, a new study published in the journal of Physiology and Behavior concluded that the two genres that calm canines the most are reggae and soft rock.
Yes, most canines love chilling out with the cool voice of Bob Marley, and who can blame them? It may not be our first pick for the most calming genre, but we can certainly understand it.
Soft rock is probably an even more surprising pick for most people. After all, rock is rock, even when it’s soft, right? Turns out, that’s wrong. And there is logic to it as well.
After all, the sub genres of rock and metal are often as different from one another as any of the other genres. So, as it turns out, the slow to mid tempo of soft rock (specifically acoustic soft rock) has a very calming influence over most dogs. Think of bands and performers such as Anne Murray, the Carpenters, Barry Manilow, and Elton John.
And, if none of these picks is to your liking, remember that you don’t have to listen to them. The calming music for dogs we are talking about is something you’d usually play while you are out. When you are at home, your furry friend will have you to calm him.
When asked about the most calming music available, most people would say classical. But, is it as calming for our canine companions as it is for us?
Classical music is up there as well, there’s no doubt about it. Almost every study conducted on the matter, like this one from the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, for example, agree that just as with humans and babies, classical music generally has a very soothing and calming effect on canines as well. Just not as calming as Reggae and Soft rock, apparently.
Let’s not forget that, just like us, our dogs have their own individuality. So try multiple songs and performers from each genre and see which works best for your pet.
Lastly, it is definitely worth mentioning that in the last decade or so a lot of artists took it upon themselves to compose music that is aimed specifically at dogs and cats. This is certainly a point that’s worth acknowledging. As I said in the beginning, animals and people hear and view music very differently, and they also “use” it for different purposes.
So, there is a lot of music that’s composed specifically for dogs that may be worth giving a try. Since most of it is new, however, there aren’t that many tests and studies that have compared made-for-dogs music with human genres like reggae and soft rock.
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It’s always a good idea to make sure that the speakers and the overall sound system you’re using is of good quality. If the speakers pop or have static, your dog will experience that as part of the music itself and can get surprised by the sounds.
Also, make sure that the sound isn’t too loud. If you are going to leave your dog listening to music alone for 6-10 hours, you need to be certain that everything is just right.
And, as for the health of the sound system itself and its cables, it’s always best for all of them to be as high and as hidden as possible. If not, your dog’s anxiety may get to him before you manage to fully treat it. Chewing on electrical wires could result in serious injury.