For as long as humans have existed, music has existed. Countless cultures have created their own versions of a stringed instrument independently of each other, proving that music-making is an integral part of simply existing. From medieval melodies to today’s jazz, country, K-pop, and rap, music gives us joy and brings us together.
It’s no surprise, then, to learn that dogs also love a good beat and beautiful harmonies. Like humans, they even have preferences when it comes to the type of music they like best. This isn’t just based on personal anecdotes of watching a doggo rock out to Bob Marley or getting lulled to sleep by some Chopin, either; science has weighed in.
“Research confirms that dogs have musical preferences and react differently to particular types of music,” said Dr. Stanley Coren for Pyschology Today. “Psychologist Deborah Wells at Queens University in Belfast exposed dogs in an animal shelter to different types of music. The dogs’ behaviors were observed when they listened to either a compilation of popular music, (including Britney Spears, Robbie Williams, and Bob Marley), classical music (including Grieg’s Morning, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, and Beethoven’s Ode to Joy), or recordings by heavy metal rock bands such as Metallica.”
In addition to playing music, the researchers also had the dogs listen to recordings of humans talking, which was interspersed with moments of silence. What they discovered was that different types of music affected the dogs in unique ways.
“When the researchers played heavy metal music, the dogs became quite agitated and began barking. Listening to popular music or human conversation did not produce behaviors that were noticeably different from having no sound at all,” noted Dr. Coren. “Classical music, on the other hand, seemed to have a calming effect on the dogs. While listening to it, their level of barking was significantly reduced, and the dogs often lay down and settled in place.”
A similar study was conducted jointly by the Scottish SPCA and University of Glasgow, the BBC reported, and results were similar. Researchers played five types of music to dogs in a rehoming center— soft rock, Motown, pop, reggae and classical—to assess how it affected them physiologically and behaviorally. They discovered that each dog had its own musical preferences, but as a group the canines generally preferred reggae and soft rock.
Professor Neil Evans, who helped conduct the research, stated, “Overall, the response to different genres was mixed, highlighting the possibility that like humans, our canine friends have their own individual music preferences.”
Regardless of the type of music played, though, the dogs spent more time laying down versus standing or moving around when any type of music was played. They also found that their heart rates dropped, indicating that their general stress levels went down (which was especially true during the reggae and soft rock).
Ultimately, the research points to something most of us know very well: different types of music dramatically affects mood in specific ways. Harmonious and gentle classical music can help us focus and alleviates stress; intense rock or disharmonious, agitated melodies can make us feel on edge, hostile, or even fatigued; upbeat pop with an easy-to-sway-to beat can make us feel happy and positive.
Now, we know this is also true for dogs! Consider this a newfound superpower in your arsenal. Maybe this means you play some Bob Marley or Mozart when you leave for work, on road trips, or at the end of the night when you’re trying to get everyone to “wind down.” Whatever your situation, we urge you to use music to you and your pet’s advantage!
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