Music and Dogs- Help Release some of that Anxiety
What's worse than your dog knowing they are going to the Vet's Office? It is a very stressful situation. But, if you could relieve even just a little of the stress for them, wouldn't you?
Fun Fact: Dogs & The Beatles
Want to impress your friends with a little trivia? Paul McCartney added the sound of a high frequency dog whistle to the end of “A Day in the Life” on the original vinyl release of the Sgt. Pepper album.
The sound was never copied accurately onto CD’s because they didn't have the necessary frequencies. So if you want to have some fun, play the song and watch your dog’s reaction. They will be listening to the 15 KHz sound only they can hear.
Sometimes the only thing that calms me is music, so what about your pet? And why did our dog Maru, fall asleep to heavy bass like a baby.
I would stream jazz on my phone for her at the vet's office while I wondered why they didn't stream it themselves. I asked our vet one day and he said that there was a company trying to sell a system to offices with a certain pet friendly playlist. So if it is really a thing, why don't offices play their own music to help relax the pets? We ALL can relate to our pets getting anxious in the car probably thinking they might be going to the vet.
Here’s the million dollar question. What is Music to a Dog’s Ear?
It’s not the lyrics or the melody. It’s all about familiar and unfamiliar sounds. Charles Snowdon, renowned primatologist and expert on animal sounds, believes that they enjoy “species-specific music.” That is they respond to tunes that have pitches, tones, and tempos unique and familiar to their own species.
This theory results from his groundbreaking research on Tamarin monkeys with musician David Teie. While immune to human music these primates respond to “monkey music” based on their vocal repertoire (ie monkey calls) which consists of two emotions:
1) Threats and Fear
2) Safe and Happy.
Their research showed that an upset monkey spoke in quick beats and ascending pitch while a calm monkey spoke in long notes and a descending pitch.
It’s the same for humans. We enjoy music that falls within our acoustic & vocal ranges, use tones we understand and tempos that match our heart rates. A tune pitched too high or low sounds grating and music too fast or slow is unrecognizable.
So as much as we want to think our best friends share our taste in music, the bottom line is that dogs are simply not wired to enjoy the same songs we do.
Numerous research studies corroborate that dogs do, however, exhibit a common behavioral response to certain genres of music. One such study by Deborah Wells, an animal behaviorist at Queens University in Belfast, summed up universal findings:
- Classical music has a soothing effect on dogs
- Heavy metal makes them very anxious
- Pop and psycho-acoustic music specifically designed for them results in no significant change in behavior from silence.
Snowdon argues that classical must be defined though because its range includes everything from the soothing “Moonlight Sonata” to the explosive “1812 Overture” with live shooting cannons. “It’s about the features of the music, not the classification,” he says.
Further studies show:
- Longer notes tend to be calming and staccato or short, repeated notes stimulating (think saying “sta-a-a-a-y” versus “Pup-pup-pup” when calling your dog to come)
- A tempo matching an animal’s resting heart rate tends to be calming
- Dogs are not very keen on certain percussion and wind instruments (like saxophones & clarinets) which remind them of gunshot sounds
- They dislike the word “no” added into songs
- Large dogs such as Labradors have vocal ranges similar to adult males. So, it's possible they might be responsive to music in our frequency range unlike a Chihuahua.
In 2012, psychologist Lori Kogan at Colorado State University not only replicated Wells findings in her study of kenneled dogs but discovered that adoptions increased in shelters that played classical music. Quiet dogs made for a more relaxing environment so people stayed longer.
- Hospitals & Veterinarians
In another breakthrough discovery musician Alianna Boone found that hospitalized pups tend to have lower heart rates when harp music is played which makes them more relaxed and speeds up their recovery. And, classical music is being used by some Vets to keep dogs from being anxious during their office visits.
WHO HAS THE BETTER EAR?
Humans hear up to 20,000 Hz while dogs hear up to 45,000 Hz. This doesn’t mean they hear twice as good but they can distinguish sounds at four times the range and hear frequencies twice that of humans.
Louisiana State University Professor George Strain charted hearing ranges for animals based on his own experimental studies.
Turn Down the Volume
Did you know that dogs hear sounds of music much louder than humans? The pain threshold of noise is 125dB and the loudest rock concert is 130db – the same sound level as a jet engine. The fact that there are speakers now that can literally melt the wax in a human ear should make you think twice before cranking up the volume on a Saturday night. You could seriously damage your dog’s hearing.
Are you a pet parent who feels guilty leaving your pup home alone? Do you keep your radio or iTunes streaming all day hoping he will be entertained and not so lonely? It’s all good.
Understanding what your dog needs is important. Knowing that he would rather listen to silence than Metallica or Brittney is a good first step. Now, what about those Mp3 players?
What does your dog hear when listening to digitally compressed music files? Unlike humans who can’t hear the broken sounds, they may process the so-called music as high frequency squeaks or loud mechanical noises from a car or train - both of which could frighten or at the very least irritate them. Knowing your audience is the key to providing good care.
Can Dogs Really Sing?
Howling has a high-pitched piercing quality that can be found in lots of music. So while you think your dog is singing to a song he might be hearing what he thinks is another dog in the distance calling out to him and he’s just trying to answer back.
Howling is how dogs talk to each other which traces back to their wolf ancestry. Recordings of wolves have shown that each will change its tone when others join their group so they won’t sound alike.
That goes the same for dogs howling along with a group of singing humans. They purposely “sing” off key so they stand out. In fact, you can tell one dog from another by the tone of their howl. And, it’s not just high pitched music that can get a dog howling but high pitched sopranos, sirens and ringtones.
So, as much as we want to believe dogs can sing, they are really just howling in reaction to high pitched noises. Sorry Pet Parents! You may want to hold off booking that Hollywood agent.
Dogs on Broadway
A singing dog on the internet is one thing but entire musical scores written for dogs are over the top. Two well- known arrangements are: EXPEDITION, written by a Julliard composer and performed by a jazz trio and Siberian Husky & HOWL, a Carnegie Hall musical work performed by twenty voices and three dogs - written by Bette Midler’s arranger.
How Many CD’s Does Your Dog Own?
If you think that's wild then think about an entire music industry catering to just canines. "Through a Dog's Ear" by Lisa Spector is one of the most popular CD's composed for dogs. These streamlined versions of classical pieces by the likes of Bach and Beethoven have minimal instrumentation and are recorded at a slower tempo with the higher frequency notes removed.
Bioacoustic Research Inc. has sold more than 250,000 CD downloads of the album. But as mentioned earlier again there’s no evidence this so-called genetically modified music has any effect on a dog's behavior. In fact, in most cases they ignore it. Dogs seem to respond better to live music with pure tones.
And remember, your music will always do, just find something that they seem to enjoy. Isn't the only goal to relax your dog and make them more comfortable?