We all know how dogs react to unfamiliar noise – thunder causes a fearful response, where the sound of a siren brings out a howl. When owners are shopping around for calming music that pleases their canine companion, it’s usually because they’re trying to solve a problem. The question is, do dogs like music?
If our pets do indeed enjoy music, then what do they prefer to listen to? Current pop songs or the old classics? Or maybe its sounds of the ocean? Surprisingly, scientists have looked into this and the answer is yes, our canine counterparts do enjoy music but only a very specific kind. They don’t love every genre out there or even the kind of sounds that we humans consider music.
For anyone out there thinking do dogs like music, and looking to test out certain songs and artists with their pets, there are a few guidelines to follow.
Dogs Don’t Enjoy High Pitches
Canines have much 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, humans can hear frequencies as low as 20 to 70 Hz and only as high as 20,000 Hz. This 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 serious 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 the majority of high frequency noises sound like to dogs, so you’ll probably want to avoid trying to set the mood with some Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston. Techno-style music, on the other hand, is broken down into sub genres. House and heavy bass-lines are something to avoid, but your dog just might enjoy trance, or slower versions of the genre. As long as there isn’t any high-pitched, repetitive beeping, it should be just fine.
They Like Soft, Soothing or Classical Music
The difficulties that bring about a need for music are usually things like separation anxiety, fear of thunderstorms, or dogs with dementia who need some extra help falling asleep at night. In fact, this is the reason scientists studied the question do dogs like music and how auditory stimulation can affect stressed canines. In a 2002 study they found that classical music is most soothing for the dog, and that's what they enjoy the most, particularly when experiencing stress and anxiety.
So you’ll want to leave out that Metallica CD from the playlist in your car. Actually, louder music like metal, rap, or other high energy forms of music are more likely to agitate your dog than help them. Instead, choose something like Beethoven's Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor, or even Mozart's Sonata No. 16 in C major and your pup is much more likely to react positively to this kind of music.
The slow, peaceful melody of the piano in songs like Moonlight Sonata is sure to help the dog get through a restless evening and calm him down. As a matter of fact, studies have shown (PDF) how many shelters, rescues and veterinary clinics use soft, classical music or harp sounds to help comfort their scared and sick residents who have either been abandoned or found running around in the street. A most recent 2015 study also tested specific types of songs and found that Four Seasons by Vivaldi produced the most positive response in dogs.
Animal shelters are almost always full, and when you’ve got hundreds of dogs packed into one building, it gets pretty loud with all the crying and barking. Having something else to focus on is beneficial to dogs' physical and mental well-being. Shelters were actually one of the 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 very soothing and pleasant for dogs to listen to.
Why do dogs like music only of specific 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 overly anxious dogs, it still might be too much stimulation for them. So if you find that your pooch does not like music, even if it's classical tunes, look into purchasing a white noise machine for a simpler, quieter way to calm the dog down and let him enjoy some pleasant sounds.
These devices have built-in sounds that can be adjusted to your dog’s liking. You can think about it like an iPod for the dog that comes with its own playlist. They contain options such as waterfall, soft rain, wind, ocean, nature, and an array of other unique noises that are more calming for dogs. More often than not, owners prefer these 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 canine may not work for the next, so don’t give up if something doesn’t end up working out.