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The Power of Music for Your Dog

23rd February
Music can soothe your dog's stress and anxiety by providing auditory stimulation tailored to their sensitive hearing. With carefully curated playlists matching their heartbeat, music can create a calming environment for your furry friend.

Have you ever wondered about the effects that music can have on your dog? Just as for us, science concurs that certain tunes potentially are therapeutic to our pooches. Research proves that dogs that are given a varied playlist, emulating their heartbeat in tempo with higher frequencies is best. Dogs hearing is four times more acute than ours and they hear high and low frequencies that we can’t. Hence dogs’ noise sensitivity to triggers like smoke alarms and fireworks.

What Type of Music is Best for Your Dog?

Interestingly Reggae scored highly in a study by Glasgow University in 2017. The aim is to study the effect of genres of music on the stress levels of kennelled dogs. It revealed that dogs’ Heart Rate Variability (HRV) was significantly decreased, indicative of reduced stress, when dogs were played Reggae. The study also showed that dogs spent significantly more time lying down and much less time standing up when Reggae was played. As soft rock was also popular, the study showed that a variety of tracks and artists promoted auditory stimulation and reduced habituation. All the dogs appeared more relaxed with musical auditory enrichment.  Reggae also offers the reassuring frequency of a heartbeat. 

Adapting Music to Your Dog

Small dogs and puppies normally have heart rates of 120 to 160 BPM. Dogs over 15 kg have heart rates between 60 to 120 BPM. So, the larger your dog, the slower the normal heart rate, and vice versa for small dogs. Bearing this in mind, certain tracks might be more appropriate for your dog depending on the BPM’s of a particular song in its ability to offer the most calming ‘heartbeat’ effect. Various studies including a study from Switzerland in 2021 investigated the effect that the tempo or BPM had on dogs in kennels.

Interestingly playing low frequencies with harsh deep vocalisations like Heavy Metal increased the dogs’ arousal compared to high-pitched music.  Possibly an understandable reaction considering that dogs generally communicate fear of a threat through low-pitched vocals like growling. Heavy metal tracks also reduce the dogs’ sleep quality according to the study, so perhaps it’s best to avoid playing your dog AC/DC!

Enriching Your Dog Through Music

Traditionally studies suggested that classical music with a low Bpm of 50-60 is proven to reduce stress, but after time, dogs become bored! Adding aural enrichment for dogs is easy and can help deflect from noise triggers outside, and help counter anxiety when home alone. Create a playlist that matches your dog’s heartbeat and BPM range, understanding that all dogs are individuals with a higher or lower sensitivity to sound. As stress is contagious from humans to dogs, any playlist must be as much of a personal experience for you, not only for your dog. 

How Music Can Help with Nerves

Some dogs can suffer from nerves when travelling in the car. A playlist, that your dog has been carefully de-sensitised to, can provide comfort and reassurance in the car. By acclimatising your do to this compilation well in advance of travel, ideally in a pet carrier that will be in the car, you can help reduce the stress caused by travel. Don’t forget, it’s illegal to have your dog unrestrained in the car!!!

Start with the audio on low and build the volume gradually. Once this step is complete, transfer the dog, the pet carrier and the sounds to the car. Remain stationary, and at any point, your dog becomes stressed, (panting, lip-licking, barking), then stop! Repeat the next day, and keep training sessions short and positive. When your dog is happy in a stationary vehicle turn on the engine, and repeat. The final stage is to go for short varied drives and build gradually. Always have fresh air ventilation and plenty of water in your car – a calm dog makes for a calm human and vice versa!

Remember! Never leave your dog in a stationary vehicle for fear of dog theft, and in summer months overheating and death. 

About the Author – Anna Webb

As a Canine Nutrition and Behaviour expert, Anna combines her psychology degree, with study at the College of Integrated Veterinary Therapies (CIVT) and over 20 years of experience. Host of the award-nominated A DOG’S LIFE podcast, she lives in London and is owned by Prudence, a Miniature Bull Terrier and Mr. Binks, a re-homed English Toy Terrier. www.annawebb.co.uk 

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