We know that people enjoy listening to music, but could it be that our furry friends love it too?
As it turns out, music for dogs is a real thing– and it could help our four-legged companions chill out just like their owners. A study by the Scottish SPCA and University of Glasgow researchers set out to discover whether dogs actually react to hearing the music.
The researchers played a variety of six-hour playlists on Spotify to shelter dogs in five different genres of music. The dogs would hear classical one day, and soft rock, pop, reggae, or Motown the next. Their heart rate variability was recorded, as were cortisol (stress) levels and other behaviors like lying down and barking as they listened to the tunes. The dogs were also recorded on days where no music was played.
So, what was the result? Co-author Neil Evans concluded that the dogs were less stressed in general when they were able to listen to music. Although all music provided a response, most of them showed a slight preference for soft rock and reggae. Motown got the best response, although only slightly above the rest.
However, the range of responses to genres ended up being mixed as the dogs responded differently to music depending on the dog. That indicates that just like humans, dogs might have a personal preference for music. Who would’ve thought?
Evans said that the results make ‘ a strong case’ for using music as a calming factor in shelters because with all their noise and their unfamiliar nature, it can be scary to dogs. Stress can even cause them to act in ways like barking or shaking and cause them to be less likely to be adopted because the potential guardians may think that they behave like that.
Evans said that dogs can be helped by the relaxing factor of music and that they want dogs to have a shelter experience that is as good as it can be. The more relaxed the pooch is, the more likely they will be able to interact calmly with prospective forever families.
The dog physiology and behavior study was built on prior research done by the same team. This research discovered that dogs in shelters that listen to classical music not only bark less but lie down more– all signs of relaxation. But after seven days of classical, the benefits appeared to wane. This indicated they might have been acclimated or adjusted to the music; possibly even bored. So they tried playing different genres.
They’re not alone. Other studies have found that animals like elephants and dairy cows may benefit from listening to music. Other research found that shelter dogs find audiobooks soothing and kenneled dogs do not like heavy metal.
Evans says the next goal for his team is to discover what things dog like or dislike about music, such as tempos, instruments, repeating motifs, and so on. But for now, the SPCA has seen what music can do. It’s now playing music in its Edinburgh and Glasgow dog shelters.
The Scottish SPCA wrote on its website that they will be investing in “sound systems for all” of their kennels. They say that having found variety is relevant to avoiding habitation, every center in the future will offer its four-pawed residents a canine-approved playlist and will be open to extending the research to other species it cares for. Sounds good to us– and probably the dogs too!