Researchers at the University of Glasgow explored how different music genres affected the behaviour of kennelled dogs. In the study ‘The effect of different genres of music on the stress levels of kennelled dogs’ soft rock and reggae had the most beneficial effect on behaviour.
The study follows on from previous research that investigated the impact of classical music on canine behaviour, which has been shown to help dogs relax.
Each day, the dogs enjoyed a 6 hour Spotify playlist of different music genres including; soft rock, motown, pop, reggae and classical. Behavioural data and urine samples were taken throughout the study.
“Overall, the response to different genres was mixed highlighting the possibility that like humans, our canine friends have their own individual music preferences. That being said, reggae music and soft rock showed the highest positive changes in behavior.”
Professor Neil Evans, University of Glasgow
How Music Affects a Dog’s Mood
Regardless of genre, dogs listening to music spent more time sitting or lying than standing. The music also had a positive effect on heart rate variability (HRV) and behaviour. Cortisol levels were also used as an indicator of stress and found to be lower in some dogs.
In previous studies, dogs became habituated to the music they were played and the positive effects from the music were no longer seen. This could be due to the dogs getting bored with one style of music. The benefit of this study was the variety of the genres, suggesting dogs enjoy variety more than anything.
Other methods of auditory stimulation such as audiobooks or white noise have also been found to be effective at reducing stress.
Not all music is created equal however. Another study found heavy metal to increase body shaking in dogs, a fear-related behaviour 1.
Better Welfare for Kennel Dogs
But the results make a strong case for the use of music as a calming technique in shelter settings, he said. That’s important because animal shelters, with all their noise and unfamiliarity, can be scary for dogs. And stress can cause dogs to cower, bark loudly, shake or otherwise behave in ways that make them less likely to be adopted.
Founded in 1839, the Scottish SPCA has been helping animals in Scotland for over 175 years. Given the positive outcome of the study The SPCA said it would be investing in sound systems for all its kennels.
Tips for Soothing Dogs with Sound
If you’re planning on using music to help calm your dog, remember that they are much more sensitive to sound than humans. Not only are their ears more sensitive, they are able to detect a larger range of tones than we are. If leaving music on for your dog, make sure it isn’t too loud!
Music could be used to help calm an anxious dog, provide comfort, soothe separation anxiety and even help with noise phobias. If you’re unsure where to get started, there are plenty of dog radio stations, Spotify playlists and YouTube videos available on the internet.
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- Graham, L., Wells, D. and Hepper, P. (2005). The influence of olfactory stimulation on the behaviour of dogs housed in a rescue shelter. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 91(1-2), pp.143-153. ↩