Classical music has a scientifically proven effect on calming dogs. We guide you to navigate this beautiful enrichment idea and to choose the perfect playlist to get your pup to mellow down at bedtime… or any other time.
This article is brought to you by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Johann Sebastian Bach and Frédéric Chopin. In a study conducted in 2002 in England, animal behaviorist Dr. Deborah Wells looked at the influence of auditory stimulation in dogs housed in rescue shelters. She tested them with four types of sounds – human conversation, classical music, heavy metal music, pop music – and found out that classical music had a significant impact on their behavior.
“Dogs spent more time resting, being quiet and less time standing when classical music was played than when any of the other stimuli were played” explains the study. Heavy metal was making them bark more and their bodies were more shaky, while pop music and human conversation had no effect.
A groundbreaking finding that gave Lisa Spector the idea to create music specially made for dogs while she was volunteering at a shelter in 2003. This pianist trained at The Juilliard School had no idea she would make a career of performing for dogs and cats. “It warms my heart and feeds my soul to use my music talents to help improve the lives of our beloved pets”. She co-founded Through a Dog’s Ear in 2008 and was called The Pet Calming Maestro by NPR during her time with the company. She is now launching a new dog music project, My Zen Pet. She gave WisePawz her tips to get the best classical music experience for your companion.
Not all classical music is created equal
Frequencies are important, and the lower frequencies work better at calming a dog’s nervous system. Associated with a slower tempo, they will relieve canine anxiety associated with sound phobias, excessive barking, separation anxiety or hyperactivity. Spector curates music to make playlists that fit those criteria, focusing on lower frequencies, sometimes played with her left hand only.
Start practicing when dogs are quiet
To set them up for success you want your dog to associate classical music with quiet time, so it is better to start this exercise when your dog is already calm. “You don’t want to start playing classical music for the first time when there is a thunderstorm, because the next time you play it, they will wonder if a thunderstorm is coming”, explains Spector.
Be aware of the surrounding sounds
The ear canal of the dog is much deeper than the ear canal of humans, so it carries the sound to the eardrum a lot more, like a funnel. The average dog can hear about 4 times better than the average person. This includes sounds at higher frequencies that we can’t even detect. For this reason, environmental sounds that are no big deal for us are very distracting and possibly stressful to them. This can include the beep of your Bluetooth speaker, your fridge vibrating, your door bell buzzing. “I recommend to sit back and try to acknowledge every sound in the room when you consider it quiet. You will realize there is still a lot going on, and you want to try to lower that constant noise for your dog to better relax”, advises Spector.
Find the right playlist
You can Google it: playlists labeled “for dogs” are everywhere on the internet. But this does not mean that they have been curated the right way to provide your dog with peace. A tempo that is too fast or frequencies that are too high can be very counterproductive to calm our dog. Some playlists even include “nature sounds” on top of the music, which can be very confusing for a dog, because they can’t see or smell that bird, for example.
For this reason we recommend playlists that have been created with your dog in mind, and sometimes even rearranged to fit their needs.
- “Through A Dog’s Ears” playlist can be found on Spotify, and the classical pieces are played by co-founder Spector, even though she is no longer with the company.
- We also recommend My Zen Pet, Spector’s new venture with an upcoming three-hour album soon available on streaming services. In the meantime, she offers a free 19 minute dog playlists on her website, www.myzenpet.com. Merlot, our Head of PupLick Relations, personally tried it and fell asleep in 3 seconds flat – see for yourself below – so we strongly advocate for it. You can also find her on Instragram.
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