A stressed-out dog can lead to a stressed-out you! Calming music for dogs may be unconventional, but might be just the thing to help your dog relax.
You may already use music as a tool to calm your anxiety, but can music be calming for your dog too? Calming music for dogs may not be the most conventional anxiety treatment, but it could be just the natural method you need to calm your pooch.
Music for dogs? It may sound silly, but just like aromatherapy, massage, and pressure vests, unconventional methods can be effective too. Sure music is more of a human construct, but soothing sounds can help your dog relax just like it does for you.
Do Dogs Like Music?
Dog do like music. Just like for us, on a fundamental level, each of us has an instinctual response to music of varying genres. Of course, we may like the lyrics or the piece as a whole, but the beat or rhythm is what will catch your dog’s attention.
The tempo and tone of the music are what your dog recognizes and responds to. It’s thought that the rhythm of the beat in some types of music is similar to the rhythm of a dog’s heartbeat which has a natural calming effect on the animal.
Music can evoke a powerful response in people, so it's not surprising that it can have an effect on dogs too. The trick is knowing how different types of music have different effects.
The Science Behind Dog Music
Using music to calm your dog isn’t exactly a science, but there are some studies behind the effectiveness of dog music that highlight the best kinds of music to help relax a stressed-out pooch. A study done in 2002 looked at the effects of rescue dogs listening to a variety of auditory stimulants including classical music, pop music, metal music, and human conversation.
Among the four auditory stimulants, classical music was shown to result in the test dogs resting more, barking less, and in general, showing fewer signs of stress or anxiety. The tempo and soothing tones had a notable calming effect.
Also in the study, they found that harsher, higher frequency and more chaotic sounds, like heavy rock and metal tended to stimulate the dogs and resulted in an increase in activity and barking.
Though the effects of music on the brain aren’t fully understood yet, this study provides some encouraging insight into some alternative ways to support your dog’s anxiety issues.
When used in combination with other anxiety solutions, music might be just what your dog needs to relax and de-stress.
Do Dogs Like Piano Music?
Considering dogs reacted most favourably to the classical music in the study mentioned above, you may be wondering if the different components of classical music would be just as relaxing on their own.
Piano is considered to be one of the most soothing musical instruments, so you can simplify your dog’s music taste even further from the classical genre so slow piano ballads, like in some classic jazz and blues piano compositions.
Sticking with a single instrument could be more likely to catch your dog’s attention because it has simpler and easier to recognize rhythms and patterns.
Reggae Music For Dogs
Though classical and piano music has long been thought to be the most soothing music styles for dogs, a more recent study started testing out reggae with dogs. Reggae can be a little more upbeat than some classical pianists, but the beat was shown to have a very soothing effect on dogs in this study, even more so than with classical music.
“Heart Rate Variability (HRV) was significantly higher, indicative of decreased stress, when dogs were played Soft Rock and Reggae, with a lesser effect observed when Motown, Pop and Classical genres were played. “
Another note from this study is that repetition resulted in slight decreases in the effectiveness of each music format, showing that a variety of calming musical compositions would have the most long-term effect of calming your dog.
Other music styles in the study include soft rock, Motown, and pop. This means more options for your dog’s new Spotify playlist!
Why do dogs howl to music?
Dogs often how to music out of instinct. Their wolf ancestors howl to communicate with each other. Now, of course, we are speaking different languages than our furry friends, but this howling instinct is most likely part of your dog's natural pack mentality.
Wondering why your dog is so off-key? He's not tone-deaf. In fact, his odd pitch is on purpose. Wolves in a pack howl together, but they don’t try to harmonize. In fact, wolves try their best to sound distinct from their surrounding pack. This is why you will probably find your dog a little off-pitch during his sing-along.
Sounds Dogs Hate
When it comes to sounds that might irritate your dog, you can probably name a few that drive your dog bonkers. Sounds like phones ringing, the doorbell, thunder, people yelling or arguing, and other loud or sharp noises can actually raise your dog’s anxiety.
Unfortunately, a lot of these noises are part of everyday life. You can minimize these noises as best you can, but to some extent, your dog just has to learn to live with them.
For most dogs, those irritating sounds send them into a barking frenzy, while others may look for reassurance from their favourite human. You can't protect your dog from every noise in their environment, but if you know their triggers, then you may be able to use music or other calming solutions to help them settle down.
Not all noises cause stress or anxiety either. Some just simply stimulate your dog. This could be because they associate the noise with something fun or exciting. A car door closing could signal to them that someone is home, causing a serious case of the zoomies. Or maybe the jingle of your keys tells your dog it’s time for a car ride.
Just because a noise causes a reaction in your dog, doesn’t necessarily mean that he hates it, but it also doesn’t mean they’ll stay calm. If your goal is to calm your dog, reduce anxiety, or even just curb some excessive excitement, then calming music might be the perfect counterbalance for all of those overstimulating noises in your dog’s environment.
Relaxing Music for Dogs
Your dog’s stress could be caused by any number of things in his environment or could be general anxiety. While there are many ways to help calm down your pooch, no one method is a perfect fix, so exploring alternative options for calming a dog may help to further relieve stress and anxiety and the destructive behaviours that go with it.
Softer, dulcet tones can be effective puppy music to help your pooch take a chill pill, but as discussed in the section above, the beat may be more important than tone, so don’t shy away from some classic Marley.
You might be surprised by how good your dog's taste in music is. To help you test our theory, check out our playlist of relaxing music for dogs:
How to Tell If Your Dog Likes Music
Lots of the songs and genres recommended above are the ones that have been tested and have had relative and anecdotal success, but that doesn’t guarantee that your dog will feel like jamming out to reggae or fall asleep to Mozart every night.
While the rhythm and the tone are important, dogs may have unique music tastes just like you and me. The harsher tones of heavy rock and metal may be too stimulating for most dogs, your dog may be drawn to Iron Maiden, and that’s ok! (and totally rad!)
So how do you know if your dog likes music? You won’t know until you try. If your goal is specifically to calm an anxious pup or help them sleep through a thunderstorm, then you may want to start with classical or soft jazz, but if that doesn’t work, the fun bop of The Wailers or the sultry tones of Nina Simone might do the trick.
When you are testing your dog’s music taste for different responses, you may notice your dog either moving closer or further from the music. This is a good indicator of whether or not he likes the music, but some dogs are just so used to background noises in your home that they may not respond at all.
Instead of trying it out when he’s already calm and napping on the couch, try playing the music when he’s already a little stimulated. He might hear a lawnmower outside, or maybe he can sense a thunderstorm coming on. Testing this music theory in times of mild stress will give you more accurate results.
Leaving the Radio on for Dog
A common method for helping curb separation anxiety in dogs is to leave the radio on for them when you leave the house. While the idea behind this tactic is sound, it’s not always as effective as you may think.
The reason is that the reason most people leave the radio is wrong. It’s common to think that leaving on the radio will give your dog the impression that someone is home with them, thereby quelling the anxiety of being home alone.
Sounds good on paper, but can often create a whole new kind of anxiety. Your dog doesn’t know what a radio is, and some dogs will actually stress about where the sound is coming from. Especially if you use local radio that includes the hosts talking and commercials.
Instead of leaving on the radio for your dog so he doesn’t feel lonely, you should put on a playlist of relaxing music for dogs at a low volume. No commercials, no talking, just soothing beats that will help your dog self-soothe.
White Noise for Dogs
Along the same lines as background music for dogs is white noise for dogs. Much like how we use white noise machines to help us sleep, white noise for dogs can have a soothing effect for dogs as well and could be helpful for dogs with separation anxiety or who are sensitive to certain noises.
White noise is not the most accurate description though, because we tend to use the term white noise to talk about general ambient background noise, but that’s not exactly what white noise is. There are actually several different types of background noise that can have calming effects.
When you think of a white noise machine that produces sounds of gentle waves, light rain, or a soft breeze rustling through the trees, you are actually listening to pink noise. Pink noise is a pattern of melodic, low-frequency tones that help to mask other background noises.
The consistency and softness of the tones have been shown to reduce cortisol levels in a test on rabbits. Cortisol is the hormone that can produce that fight or flight response, so reducing cortisol levels leads to a more relaxed and calm feeling.
Unlike pink noise that focuses on low-frequency tones, white noise is all frequency tones played at once. We hear that as the sound of radio static. At a low volume, white noise can block out other ambient noises that might be stressing your pooch.
White noise may not be as effective as the soothing patterns of pink noise for dogs but may be effective in situations where you need to block out other sounds, such as rolling thunder or fireworks.
Closer to pink noise, brown noise decreases the energy for higher frequencies, but it also increases energy for low frequencies giving it a more bassy sound, like rolling thunder. It can sound a little more abrasive at first, but at a low volume, it can still be an effective puppy sleep aid.
All three types of background noises, called coloured noise, can be a useful soothing tool for your dog, but pink noise has the least chaotic patterns and tends to be the most effective for dogs that are anxious.
It’s Just a Theory, But It Won't Hurt to Try
We love to be idealistic when it comes to natural remedies for pets, but we need to live in reality. When it comes to stress and anxiety, music is unlikely to be a one-and-done solution, and for some, it may be completely ineffective.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket with this one. Instead, try using this natural calming method in combination with other natural treatments. Thundershirts, aromatherapy, massage, and pheromone diffusers, like Adaptil, can all be an excellent way to help your pooch feel relaxed and safe in times of stress.
The best part about natural remedies is that they are easy to try, and if they don’t work, you are no better or worse off than where you started.
Most importantly, all of these natural techniques are useless unless you have a strong and consistent routine for your dog. Your furball needs daily exercise, like walking or fetch with a ChuckIt! for more active dogs.
Just as important as physical exercise, your dog needs to be mentally stimulated with puzzles, games, and one-on-one attention from you, too. This, especially, can help reduce anxiety and destructive behaviours.
Does your dog like music? Let us know if you use music to help your dog destress and relax in the comments below!