Dogs react to unfamiliar noise: thunder causes a fearful response, where the sound of a siren brings out a howl. One recommended way to help anxious dogs is calming music. But do dogs like music and how do they perceive it?
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The short answer is YES – dogs like music, but there's more to this. Scientists found out that dogs prefer a very specific kind of tunes. They don’t love every genre or every kind of sounds that we humans consider music.
Dogs Don’t Enjoy High Pitches
Canines have sharper ears than we do and they can hear frequencies as low as 16-20 Hz and as high as 70,000 to 100,000 Hz. For comparison, a human ear can hear frequencies as low as 20 to 70 Hz and only as high as 20,000 Hz.
The reason is because dogs have smaller heads than we do, and the larger the head, the lower frequencies a mammal can hear. Therefore, certain kinds of sounds that we are accustomed to are magnified to an extent and they can create discomfort for the dog.
If you’ve ever heard a smoke detector go off in your house, you can understand how unpleasant it feels to have that constant screech in your ears. This is what high frequency noises sound like to dogs, so you should avoid Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston.
Some techno-style music, on the other hand, can work. House and heavy bass-lines are something to avoid, but your dog might enjoy trance, or slower versions of this genre. As long as there isn’t any high-pitched, repetitive beeping, it should be just fine. But above all, studies show that dogs mostly like soothing classical music.
Soothing or Classical Music is a Favorite Among Dogs
Separation anxiety, fear of thunderstorms, or dogs with dementia are the ones who need some help falling asleep or dealing with stress. In a 2002 study scientists found that classical music is most soothing for the dog, and that's what works as anti-stress and anxiety reliever.
Leave out Metallica from the playlist because loud music like metal, rap, or other high energy forms of music are more likely to agitate a dog. Instead, choose Beethoven's Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor, or Mozart's Sonata No. 16 in C major and your pet is more likely to react positively to this kind of music. A 2015 study that tested different songs found that Four Seasons by Vivaldi produced the most positive response in dogs.
The slow, peaceful melody of the piano in songs like Moonlight Sonata helps dogs get through a restless evening and calm down. Studies show how shelters and vet clinics use soft, classical music or harp sounds to comfort scared and sick dogs. Having something else for dogs to focus on helps their physical and mental well-being.
Animal shelters were first to seriously ask, do dogs like music and is there a way we can use it to help them, which sparked a number of studies in the area. They also found that aside from classical music, reggae may be soothing and pleasant for dogs to listen to.
Why do dogs like music only of this kind? Researchers cannot yet answer that question with confidence, but they speculate that the reason humans enjoy a large number of music genres while dogs can appreciate only the classics is because neurons in a human brain are more sensitive to changes in pitches. This was found in a 2008 study.
Noise Machines Can Work Too
While music is a wonderful tool for anxious dogs, it still might be too much stimulation for some of them. If you find that your dog does not like music, even classical tunes, look into a white noise machine for a simpler, quieter way to calm down a dog and let them enjoy some pleasant sounds.
White noise machines for dogs have built-in sounds that can be adjusted to your dog’s liking. Think about it like an iPod for the dog that comes with its own playlist. One of the best dog white noise machines commonly used by pet owners are these three brands:
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They contain options such as waterfall, soft rain, wind, ocean, nature, and an array of other unique noises that are more calming for dogs with anxiety. More often than not, owners prefer white noise machine over regular music because it helps both them and their dogs relax when it’s time for bed.
You’ve probably never heard of it because it isn’t all that common, but dog laughter is another way to help your pet relax and feel comforted. Essentially, it’s a loop that contains the sound of dogs panting in a relaxed state. Try this track, for example.
To us, it just sounds like a lot of exhausted canines repetitively playing on a track. However, your dog likes the familiar sound of other dogs “laughing;” it makes them feel safer and helps them redirect their focus. Instead of responding fearfully to thunder and lawn mowers, the sound of other dogs panting will pique their curiosity and help them to remain calm.
Some Dogs Enjoy the Sound of People Talking
Music is a man-made invention, so it’s understandable that some animals won’t enjoy it no matter what you decide to play. However, domesticated dogs love interacting with their humans more than anything else.
When we’re away from home, they wait patiently, wondering when we’ll back to tell them what a good dog they are. If your pet doesn’t seem to be responding happily to the sound of music or white noise machines, try playing the television at a low volume where people will be talking a lot.
In particular, studies found that dogs enjoy what we call “dog-speak” – people talking in a certain pitch that sounds closer to “baby talk.” Researchers discovered that canines are more likely to respond to this type of speech and it even helps owners to bond with them.
What TV shows would work?
It'll take some trial and error, but start with a cooking show or regular talk shows that cover topics that aren’t all that exciting and play in monotone. Shows that cover political discussions, cooking segments, or are mostly comprised of human conversation are likely to affect your dog positively the most.
If your pet has fear or separation anxiety when you’re out and about, they may just need to feel like someone is still there with them. Dogs are pack animals, and all they want is a little company, and the sound of people talking is likely to fill that void.
Go to YouTube.
As an alternative to television, you can explore a round of calming music for dogs that has been specifically designed for canines. This YouTube channel has a ton of relaxing tracks to try – see which ones encourage your dog to be most relaxed when listening. They shouldn’t appear to be stressed or agitated as the songs play; if anything, you want them to lie down and drift off to sleep as the playlist goes on.
Each Dog is Different
In conclusion, do dogs like music? Yes, dogs do enjoy music, but they don't perceive it the same way we humans do. If you want your pup to relax with a tune, pick something soothing and take the time to observe your dog, what does their body language look like when you play certain songs.
Your dog's ears and face shouldn’t be tense, and obviously you don’t want them to be pacing or exhibiting the same behaviors they would if they were afraid. If the music causes your dog to pace around, whine, or attempt to hide away in another room, you’ll definitely want to try something else. What works for one pet may not work for the next, so don’t give up if something doesn’t end up working out.