If you are dreading your dog’s reaction to the repeated door bell ringing tonight, you might want to rush home and download some relaxing music for your dog. We have all heard that “music soothes the savage beast” so this idea is not a surprise. An internet search, such as “relaxing music for dogs” or “music to calm dogs” will pull up choices at Amazon and iTunes and lots of videos on You Tube.
Music therapists have studied the effects of music on people for quite awhile and researchers have established that music affects our nervous and cardiovascular systems.
Two university-based studies found that shelter dogs exposed to classical music visibly relaxed but heavy metal music agitated them. Pop music showed no effect, possibly because dogs are used to hearing it regularly. (For that same reason we tell our students to be careful with the word they use to train their dogs to come when called – to not over use it in daily home life so that it doesn’t become “white noise” to their dogs.)
One popular series of CD’s created for dogs, “Through a Dog’s Ear,” was inspired after concert pianist Lisa Spector attended a seminar on how music effects the human nervous system. She applied the principles to her music students and found it to be very effective in helping them become calm and focused. As a bonus, she soon saw that when she played the slowed-down, simplified, classical music that she used to relax her students, her puppy (that she described as “rambunctious” and “very high-energy”) very quickly went to sleep. She then approached the seminar presenter, sound researcher Joshua Leeds, and they collaborated on two years of clinical testing to calm dogs. In an interview earlier this year, Ms. Spector explained that individual music pieces have been selected and/or rearranged to gradually reduce the dog’s heart rate by progressively slowing rhythms and simplifying notes and applying principle of tone. This music series has been used to help relieve separation anxiety, excessive barking, excitement with visitors, obsessive compulsive disorder, fearful and reactive issues and to help dogs relax both pre- and post-surgery.
To end on a successful note, two generous residents of Scottsdale, Arizona paid to have a Muzak system installed in a shelter in Arizona. One of the benefactors said that he noticed the calming effect of music on his two cats and two dogs and wanted to extend the benefit to shelter animals. The shelter’s administration says that since the dogs bark less and are more relaxed now when people visit the shelter, the visitors spend more time with the dogs and it is expected to lead to more adoptions.