Music is the language of the universe. It transcends human cultures and permeates different species of animals. Over the years, scientists and pet owners have documented the immense positive physiological and psychological effects of music on animals. If you have a dog, playing music is a proven technique to make him feel relaxed. It could help alleviate behaviour disorders such as separation anxiety.
Playing soothing music such as classical tunes slows down brain waves and calms your dog. On the other hand, loud sounds (that feel uncoordinated) may trigger anxiety and bad behaviour.
Here is an opportunity to understand more about this age-old technique. We will talk about the effect of different kinds of music and when to play. You will also learn how to use music to help your dog stay calm and boost happiness. Finally, we will share a few nuggets about awkward behaviours like howling and some favourite tunes for your dog.
Music Therapy and Puppies
The effect of music on dogs mimics the sounds of nature. Rhythmic and consistent sounds, like water flowing in a river or fountain, can distract and calm a hyperactive puppy. In the same way, slow tempo music can soothe an anxious or overactive dog.
The opposite happens when you play upbeat and loud tunes. The reaction will be similar to when the dog hears the sounds of chirping squirrels.
Soft sounds in your environment (like music on your headphones) or seemingly silent electronic devices could trigger behaviour reactions in your dog. This is because a dog’s hearing is more sensitive than a human’s. They can hear pitches that are well beyond the range of an average adult (about 20,000 Hertz) and softer sounds that you would not detect (between -5 dB and -15 dB). What we call the dog’s sixth sense is mainly due to its hearing.
Music therapy in dogs takes advantage of this acute hearing ability. However, it is wrong to assume that all dogs respond to music in the same way. Studies have shown that individual animals (even within the same species) have varying responses to certain types of music. The variations emerge due to differences in reception and perception as a result of:
- Differences in the anatomy and size of the head.
- The individual dog size.
- The shape and mobility of the pinnae.
- Learning history.
Nonetheless, music therapy generally has positive effects on individual animals and groups.
The Best Kind of Music to Calm Puppies
Is your puppy scared of thunderstorms and other loud noises? Or does he have abnormal behaviours when you are about to leave? The puppy could be suffering from separation anxiety.
Music can help you keep the pup calm as you look for a more permanent solution.
A study published in the Journal of Veterinary Behaviour in 2012 revealed that classical tunes make kenneled dogs more relaxed and spend more time sleeping. However, heavy metal tunes made the dogs agitated and nervous. According to the authors, loud heavy metal tunes (Motorhead, Slayer, and Judas Priest) resulted in less sleep time, increased body shaking and barking. But when they played classical music (Beethoven, Bach, and Strauss), the dogs were calmer, slept more, and had less stress.
But it is not only classical music that helps to calm anxious and stressed puppies. Other studies have revealed that reggae music and classic rock tunes also trigger relaxation. This might cause some confusion over which genre to play for your pup. If that is the case, consider mixing it up.
Mixing the genres could work to your advantage – it will avert boredom. Dogs can become accustomed to the background sounds when exposed to the same type of music for extended periods (often exceeding one week). If this happens, they could revert to previous behaviour issues despite the music. So, switch it up and break the monotony.
Using Music to Help Puppies
Without a doubt, music is a simple way to calm anxious dogs. You do not require much expertise or equipment. All you need to do is place the speakers in the right direction and adjust the volume. Then play some classical, soft rock, and reggae tunes.
This sounds simple and easy. But you can do more.
First, learn to enjoy the music. Owing to the connection you share, your dog will respond better to music that you love. If you have a favourite genre (that is not among the dog’s favourite), start listening to tunes in the genre that the dog would enjoy. Gradually, you will begin to learn to love the new genre. And in no time, you and your furry buddy will be singing along to the same tunes. The dog will also associate the music with your presence – an excellent strategy to help the dog cope with separation anxiety.
Second, give it time. It takes time for the dog to learn to enjoy music.Do not be in a rush. Music therapy is not just about pressing play and voila! It works. Also, do not wait until the last moment (when you are about to leave the house) for you to rush back and turn on the music. The dog will associate it with your departure. Start playing the tunes much earlier. You could play the songs before you hit the shower. It takes about 10 to 15 minutes for the music to take effect.
Third, choose the right kind of music. Classical tunes, soft jazz, reggae, and southwest tunes with flutes and nature sounds will soothe your pet into a relaxed state. You can pick from several dog playlists available online. But to calm the nerves and keep them quiet, ensure the music has a slow and even tempo and is melodic.
On the other hand, if you are about to hit the treadmill for your regular exercise sessions, crank it up. Play music that is moderately loud with a faster tempo. It energizes the pup and stirs it into action. Upbeat music can also be an effective way to motivate couch pooches into exercise and avert the downsides of sedentary lifestyles like depression and obesity.If you are worried about the activity levels of your pooch, try playing some high-energy rock tunes and rap. The rhythmic beats will help to keep the pup energised.
When to Play
If the dog has anxiety issues, play the music when the dog wants to relax and when he is prone to become anxious. These include:
• When the dog is in his calming bed or crate and wants to take a nap: play puppy-sleeping-to-calming-music.
• During the adjustment period – after you first bring the dog to its new home.
• When you are about to leave the dog at home alone.
• During thunderstorms or loud celebrations that may include fireworks.
• When the dog seems restless.
• While riding in a vehicle – to relieve travel anxiety.
Remember, if you are using music to relieve separation anxiety, take care not to allow the dog to associate the music with your departure. Play the music when you are at home and when you are hanging out.
Here are a few songs to try:
Songs for a Happy Puppy
• The Prodigy — Firestarter
• Timbaland, Keri Hilson, D.O.E. — The way I are
• Skepta — Shutdown
• Daya — Sit Still, Look pretty
• Major Lazer, Fuse ODG & Nyla — Light it up
• Salt-N-Pepa — Push It
• Underworld — Born Slippy (Nuxx)
• Avicii — Wake Me Up
• OutKast – Hey Ya!
• Bee Gees – Stayin’ alive.
• Bob Marley & The Wailers – Could you be loved?
• Justin Bieber – Love yourself.
• Adele – Someone Like you
• Baz Luhrmann – Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)
• The Stranglers – Golden brown
• Blur – Parklife
• Snoop Dogg, Charlie Wilson, Justin Timberlake – Signs
• Queen – Bohemian rhapsody
• Caribou – Can’t do without you
The Howling Effect
Sometimes the dog will start to howl when you play your favourite tunes. Music with wind instruments and sounds of nature is more likely to trigger howling. Do not worry. The sounds revive memories of ancient doggy communication. But it is not only wind instruments that could do that. A dog could be inspired to howl by other types of music like long violin notes or high-pitched notes in classical tunes.
If your dog starts howling when you play some music, do not worry. Think of it as the harmony part of the song.
But the yowling could be due to other reasons. If the dog continues wailing, even after switching off the music, investigate and learn what else could be causing trouble.
A Final Word on Your Puppy’s Best Tunes
Playing the right kind of music will help to relieve stress, keep the dog calm and happy. But do not turn a blind eye to the real issue causing the anxiety.
Animal behaviour experts suggest that counter conditioning or taking simple measures like neutering and spaying can save you from a great many behavioural issues. If your dog displays anxiety, schedule a visit to the vet. They may recommend natural remedies or medications such as antidepressants.
Also, if your dog is an outdoor breed, allow it to enjoy natural dog-like behaviours like running in the rain. It may seem uncomfortable to humans, but it is perfectly okay for dogs. Remember, dogs are happier when tired and when in the company of others.
Playing calming music complements other efforts to relieve anxiety. Even if your puppy has separation anxiety, these tunes will make him feel better and keep him happy.