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The Effect of Music On Dogs: An Examination

By Paulo Camacho

This viral video, featuring man’s best friend and a professional orchestra, has been making the rounds on social media in recent days — more recently on Picardy’s Facebook page:

If, for whatever reason, you cannot watch the above video, it features the Vienna Chamber Orchestra, in the midst of playing a rendition of Mendelssohn’s ‘Italian’ Symphony No. 4. Out of nowhere, a sand-colored labrador wanders onto the stage, and pauses in front of the violin section. After a few seconds, the blonde lab turns around before sitting at the feet of a violin player to boisterous cheers from the crowd. The entire time, the unidentified canine seemed to look entranced by the music, finding the upbeat melody strangely soothing enough to fall asleep to it.

The question of dogs and cognitive skills have been the subject of academic study for decades. From their mental intelligence to their emotional awareness to their relationships with humans, dogs have shown to be one of the more intelligent animals interacting with modern civilization. But, in light of the video above, it begs the question: what is the relationship between music and dogs?

One finding refers to a dog’s mere act of making sound. For example, a dog’s howl is considered, for all intents and purposes, a musical form of social communication. In certain situations, it can indicate loneliness in an isolated dog, while it can also establish social bonds within a pack. Scientific studies have even found that, in the act of howling, dogs have a defined sense of pitch — dogs will change their howling tone as more dogs join the chorus of howls.

One of the more prominent findings regarding music’s effect on dogs is that certain types of music are regarded as calming, in nature. This 2012 study by researchers at Colorado State University, published in The Journal of Veterinary Behavior, monitored 117 kenneled dogs in an effort to see the effects of certain types of music. The study seems to back up this theory — subjects were observed to sleep the most when played different types of classical music. This was in stark comparison to metal music, where subjects were shown to have increases in body shaking — a physical sign of nervousness.

This major finding — in that classical music is most likely to promote calmness in dogs — is seen in many different studies. Psychologist Deborah Wells of Queens University in Belfast reported similar findings to Psychology Today that, while pop music had little to no visible emotional effect on dogs, classical music helped in reducing levels of stress. Composer Joshua Leeds and Chief Scientific Officer at the Center for Canine Behavior Studies Nicholas Dodman have also found that classical music have similar effects with children and dogs, based on the general sound frequency that such music shares.

Interestingly enough, other genres of music have popped up as possibly having even greater calming effects in dogs than classical — and if you’ve ever heard songs like “All Out of Love” and “Jammin’”, this fact might make a level of sense to you. According to a study conducted in conjunction with the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals and the University of Glasgow, six-hour Spotify playlists of particular genres of music were played to shelter dogs over five days. While the responses did not follow a uniform pattern, the most calming genres happened to be Reggae and Soft Rock.

Furthermore, The Dogington Post has offered its own examples of songs that can either energize your dogs, or calm them down, in the form of two different playlists. Check them out for yourself, but their eclectic choices offer a varied perspective on the types of music that can affect dogs in different ways:

Music to Make Your Dog Happy:

Music to Chill Your Dog:

Whatever the case, music has a profound effect on dogs — ones that you probably never expected. So, the next time you see an overexcited dog, or a dog in need of some exercise, play them some music. Chances are, they’ll listen.