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Music Therapy for Dogs

Just like us, dogs can feel anxious, sad, and hyperactive. There is nothing worse than hearing your dog whimper when you leave the house or noticing how nervous they get from fireworks on the Fourth of July.

Though it can be disheartening to not be able to calm your dog down through conversation, we can be hopeful because there are a lot of science-based resources to help with this. Music therapy, in particular, has been a promising area of research and is easily accessible to you and your dog.

How it Works

Dogs hear at a more acute level than humans do. Therefore, even low-level background music can make a difference in their mood. It is a known fact that sound changes internal bodily rhythms like breathing and the heart beat. Therefore, music with a slower beat will induce calming sensations like a slower breathing and heart rate. When functions like this occur, the mind-body connection calibrates with one another and an active mind begins to slow and calm down as well.

Everyone likes an upbeat song once and a while, which has the opposite effect on the body relative to slower music and its rhythms become more active. Some dogs could use external motivation to be active, so dog owners should take advantage of this and play music that helps their dog become more physically and mentally active.

The study of how music affects the body is known as psychoacoustics. Though there has been decades of research dedicated to how music impacts the human body, a sound researcher, Joshua Leeds, was approached by classical piano player, Lisa Spector, to study and create music that is calming for dogs. They modified and rearranged traditional classical music to meet the known psychoacoustic features of dogs, and their results were profound. Presentation of their music reduced stress-related behavior in 70% of dogs in kennels and 85% of dogs in households.

Music Dogs Like

Some of the most popular sources in music therapy for dogs rely on high pitches that ebb and flow throughout the melodies of each song. These are thought to mimic the pitch of a dog whistle and help to keep the dog’s attention. This, with a combination of slowly paced sound effects, various instruments, and soundscapes has been shown to keep the dog’s attention while also reducing their blood pressure.

Although it is known that dogs enjoy melodic tunes from composers such as Mozart or smooth jazz, dogs will pick up on the type of music their owners listen to and create positive associations with this. You can take advantage of this by choosing music that is scientifically known to calm your dog down but also reflects your musical taste to remind your dog of your presence.

Though we might think of calming music as a way to slow anxious and hyperactive dogs down, music with upbeat tempos has also been shown to be helpful for dogs with depression or dogs on the lethargic side. Similar to music that is calming to dogs, consider playing upbeat music that reminds your dog of your musical style to help energize and improve their mood.

How to Provide Music Therapy for Your Dog

You do not have to hire a pet psychologist to provide music therapy for your dog. In fact, playing music in the comfort of your own home might be more effective since it is where your dog is most likely to be comfortable.

Relax My Dog (at www.relaxmydog.com) sells four albums of music therapy for $19.99 on iTunes. This website also features a blog and community forum where dog owners can ask each other questions and get support and ideas on how to best provide this service for their dog. Video blogs and music are also available on Relax My Dog’s YouTube channel.

The psychoacoustic researchers, Leeds and Spector, also have several resources for music therapy for dogs. In their book and CD set, Through a Dog’s Ear: Using Sound to Improve the Health and Behavior of Your Dog, dog owners can play the music these researchers composed that had such profound effects in reducing stress-related behaviors in dogs. The book is also co-authored by a veterinary neurologist, Susan Wagner.

If you have Spotify, a great resource is Pet Care Music Therapy. These artists have over 10 albums dedicated to music therapy for dogs and cats and are included with your Spotify account.

YouTube is also an excellent resource, and there are particular channels dedicated to dog music therapy that can play on your device while you are home or away.

Jessica Kane is a writer for Handicapped Pets, your most trusted source for dog wheelchairs and harnesses.