Like humans, dogs can suffer from stress and anxiety in their day to day lives. Anything can trigger anxiety in your dog, from the front bell ringing to the sound of your neighbor’s dog barking next door.
My own dog, Axelle, has a very real fear of the sound of running water, and she runs for cover whenever she hears the shower turn on. She also has some pretty serious separation anxiety.
No one wants their dog to be anxious. Most of us know from experience that anxiety is no fun, but anxious dogs can be especially problematic when their anxieties turn to destructive behaviors like chewing, incessant barking, potty accidents, and fear-aggression.
That’s why, as a musician, pet care specialist and all around dog enthusiast, I love the idea of music therapy for dogs.
But is there any science behind music therapy, or is this just some hokey idea with no real backing?
My personal experience with my dog has allowed me to believe that music therapy for anxious dogs is effective, and I know the method has worked wonders for many of my clients’ dogs as well.
Still, I was curious about what science had to say. So, I did some digging and here is what I discovered about music therapy for dogs.
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Music Therapy For Dogs is Proven to Work and It Works Well!
The verdict is out! Research shows that different types of music can have different effects on not only our moods but our dogs’ moods as well.
In fact, one study published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior described the behavioral effects several different genres of music had on a number of dogs housed in kennels.
Shelter dogs reacted most positively to classical music that was slow, calm and soothing.
One of the reasons this study was so striking to me is because shelter dogs have been found to suffer more commonly from stress and anxiety due to the stresses of living in such a stimulating and overwhelming environment.
In an effort to make shelter life easier on dogs, researchers played several different styles of music and studied the dogs’ reactions.
Of several types of music played, the study discovered that two genres, in particular, garnered the most compelling responses from the shelter dogs.
Perhaps most unsurprising is that heavy metal was the dogs’ least favorite music genre as it actually seemed to increase the level of the dogs’ anxiety.
Classical music, on the other hand, resulted in longer periods of sleep, more relaxed behavior, and much less barking in the shelter dogs.
The incredible video below was taken at an unspecified shelter and shows the amazing effects classical music has on anxious shelter dogs.
Do You Know Your Dog’s Taste in Music?
Perhaps one of the most fascinating things about music, as it relates to our dogs, is that dogs tend to prefer music that is slower, calmer, and that includes wind instruments like flutes or string instruments like violins.
One theory suggests that dogs prefer music that sounds most similar to the way they naturally communicate with one another.
It makes sense then why dogs would enjoy music with higher frequency sounds and therefore why classical music would be their music of choice.
Your dog’s taste in music may be a bit more sophisticated than you think.
If Your Dog Howls at His Soothing Music, Does That Mean He is In Distress and It’s Not Working?
It is not uncommon for some dogs to suffer from noise phobia. After all, our canine counterparts do hear at a much higher frequency than us.
And while sometimes howling in your dog can mean he is in pain or under stress, howling can also be a sign that he is simply following his natural instincts to communicate.
Like wolves, dogs can be triggered to howl when they hear certain frequencies. Despite a common misconception, if your dog is howling at his squeaky toy or at that fire truck speeding by, don’t worry. The sound most likely isn’t hurting his ears.
Does your dog “sing along” to music by howling?
On the contrary, dogs can enjoy howling and some experts believe that howling may be your dog’s instinctive way of “singing along” with you, the music, or even the siren he hears off in the distance.
In fact, according to the American Kennel Club, wolves understand pitch. Often times when wolves howl in response to other wolves, they will purposefully change the pitch of their own howl so as to not match the pitch of their other howling counterparts, ensuring that each wolfs’ voice is heard.
Studies also found that dogs and wolves seem happier and more lively after a pack howling session.
So with that in mind, don’t be afraid to play some higher frequency tunes for your pup and let him serenade you.
Picking A Playlist for Your Anxious Dog
Lily Reiche, an accredited dog trainer and canine communications specialist in Pasadena, California, is a firm believer in music therapy for dogs, but she also warns us of the importance of picking the right playlist.
This is because while classical music can be an excellent tool for helping relax anxious dogs, classical music can sometimes be chaotic sounding. If the music sounds fast, chaotic, loud, or frazzled, then it could actually have adverse effects on your anxious dog.
Trainer and dog communications specialist Lily Reiche has seen music therapy work with her own dogs.
If you have an anxious dog and are planning on using music in the hopes of calming him down, then you should look for a playlist that plays consistent, calm, soothing music.
Look for calming classical music and music that includes lots of wind instruments and string instruments.
Some of my favorite playlists of soothing music for dogs are on Youtube. The video below is one that I often play for my own dog when I am forced to leave her home alone for more than a few hours at a time.
Along with Music Therapy for Dogs, Here Are Some Other Tips on Soothing Your Anxious Dog
While soothing music for dogs is great, we understand you may still be a bit leery as to its effectiveness. Do you need more advice on other ways to help keep your anxious dog happy and calm?
If so, then you may find this article particularly helpful.
Along with calming music therapy, thunder vests, and calming supplements, I also know of several dog parents who swear by CBD oil. In fact, many of my clients insist that CBD oil has helped their anxious dogs to live happier and healthier lives by reducing anxiety and stress.
Along with music therapy for dogs, some owners are also using CBD oil.
Are you wondering if CBD oil is right for your anxious dog? Before you decide, I would recommend speaking with your dog’s veterinarian to see if he makes a good candidate.
Of course, it never hurts to do your own research as well. Here is an honest and informative article on CBD oil and the effects it has on dogs.
Do You Think Music Therapy for Dogs is A Good Idea?
I am curious about what you think. Have you tried using music to calm your dog, and if so, what was your experience with it?
Please drop a comment below and let me know your thoughts on music therapy for dogs!