A quick search on YouTube reveals many videos of blissed-out dogs listening to their owner’s tunes. But do dogs like music – or at least the same music as humans? Danielle Chenery investigates
You only need to be home with your dog on New Year’s Eve to know just how sensitive canine hearing is. Indeed any loud noises — from sirens blaring to thunderstorms — can be quite traumatic for dogs, so how does this translate to some dog’s apparent appreciation of music?
Dr Eloise Bright, veterinarian at Love That Pet, says, “Generally dogs have very sensitive hearing, they can hear higher frequencies of up to 45kHz, whereas humans can only hear up to 20kHz. So sometimes dogs hear noises we can’t; which means the lovely symphonies we hear could be quite painful to their ears if there are some high-pitched squeaks we can’t hear. They are also more sensitive to volume,” she adds.
Keep it down
A great rule of thumb before subjecting your dog to your music is simply — keep it down. “Make sure it’s not too loud, and if the dog is showing discomfort, perhaps they are hearing things we can’t, so switch songs,” advises Eloise.
“Their hearing is also more sensitive than ours, particularly dogs with upright ears to channel the sound,” she adds. “Dogs can hear things that are four times further away, compared to humans. They also have 18 muscles that control their ears, so they can really locate sounds very well.”
She adds that if you are using music to distract or drown out loud noises like fireworks, such as with a noise-phobic dog, you want to use music with just single instruments, not really “busy” music and definitely not heavy metal.
David Drasnin, dog owner and blogger at US-based www.sanantoniodoglife.com, says “as a happy Shih Tzu owner and a sworn dog lover” he thinks dogs do respond to music, but preferences vary as it comes to different tunes, singer’s vocal range (upper or lower voice registers), volume, repetition of certain words, occurrences of familiar commands or sounds etc.
“For instance, I have this wireless melody doorbell at home that my dog Roxane simply adores. When someone is at the door and presses the doorbell, the portable in-home receiver I keep in the living-room starts playing a really loud and cheerful simplistic song you have probably heard of when skimming through various musical greeting cards.
“When Roxi hears it she starts barking at first, because she is too agitated from the sound and because, naturally, she is way too happy that someone is coming for a visit … however at the second ring she is more relaxed and sits next to the receiver, howling along the long high notes. She looks just like a wolf at full moon, very inspiring and endearing,” he says.
“All those musical toys have the same effect on her. And even if the majority of you might not agree that the beeping or honking rubber toys emit real tunes, you cannot ignore the fact that those are only preferred by our pets simply because of their musical upgrade and this is as close to playing music as our dogs are often allowed to get.
“The desire to create as well as to listen to music is a fascination that is not known to us humans only, and it would be a shame to deny our pets such a distinct pleasure,” he adds.
Music for relaxation
Indeed, there is research to back this up. Drasnin explains: “Interesting research in this regard has been compiled by Lori R. Kogan in her work Behavioral Effect of Auditory Stimulation on Kenneled Dogs.
“According to her findings, dogs tend to sleep more when listening to classical music, which leads us to think this music style relaxes them and they enjoy the soothing well-balanced notes of those harmonious compositions.
“On the other hand, Kogan concludes ‘heavy metal’ music increases body shaking (or trembling) in dogs, which is an interesting thing to keep in mind if you wish to keep your dog away from any stressful encounters,” Drasnin says.
“Another researcher obsessed with the behavior traits of dogs, Patricia MacConnell, concludes ‘short, rapidly repeated notes increased motor activity in dogs’, that is to say dogs react to the rhythm of the music and they become more playful and excited.
“In addition she also found that ‘long, continuous notes were universally used to soothe or calm dogs’,” Drasnin adds.
But perhaps the final word belongs to Wagner. Drasnin says: “It was said that even as a great composer as Wagner considered his dog Pep’s opinion when writing his works. Depending on how the puppy got over-excited or the way it relaxed its tail, the German composer carefully refined the notes of his works.”Here are just a few things that can make life with your dog a bit easier - see them now on our DOGSLife Directory