Think your yapping terrier or feisty corgi has no chill? Give it a pair of doggie headphones and put on some Bob Marley or classic Eric Clapton. According to a new study on stressed-out canines, dogs, just like us, become more relaxed when they listen to music — and they’ve got a particular fondness for reggae and classic rock.
In a new study, scientists from the University of Glasgow investigated dogs’ response to different genres of music — soft rock, Motown, pop, reggae, and classical — in a kennel environment to determine which helped them relax the most. Overall, the kenneled dogs each seemed to respond differently to individual genres of music, but “reggae music and soft rock showed the highest positive changes in behavior,” said University of Glasgow physiologist and lead author Neil Evans, Ph.D., in a statement.
His current work is a follow-up to a study he published in the journal Physiology and Behavior in 2015, in which he showed that music was generally good for reducing the stress levels of kenneled animals. Working together with the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, his team compared two groups of kennel dogs: one that received a daily dose of classical music for a week and another that lived out their days in silence. Then, the groups were switched during the second week.
The researchers measured the variability of heart rate, saliva, and behavior in both groups. What they found was that after seven days of jams, the kennel pups had a lower overall heart rate and were found to be lying down, sitting, and remaining quiet more often throughout the study — all signs of reduced stress. But after they spent the following week in silence, they were back to their usual aggressive selves, barking and jumping constantly.
But it would have been hasty to conclude that dogs are calmer when music is playing. As they continued their study for longer periods of time, the scientists found that exposing dogs to music for any longer than a week causes tolerance to develop: In other words, the dogs just got used to it. And unfortunately, the data showed that after just two days of music, the calming effects wore off. Based on these results, scientists can’t definitively say that music will always keep your furry friend happy and calm. But, for a few days at a time, it seems to be effective in reducing stress.
Another group of researchers did a similar study in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research in 2012, investigating the effects of different music genres on a dog’s body language and barking habits when in a kennel. In this study, the researchers exposed their dogs to heavy metal, classical, and alternative rock. Dogs tended to calm down and even sleep when listening to soft, classical music, but when listening to heavy metal, their body shaking and volume of barking increased — both signs that a dog is anxious. The style of music you play for your dog, it seems, does make a difference — though it shouldn’t be too hard to guess what might come across as stressful.
It’s difficult to say specifically what about a kennel environment makes a dog anxious: it could be the unfamiliar noises, the lack of human interaction, the enclosed spaces, or even the presence of other dogs. But, one thing is for sure: If you want your pup to feel calmer while it’s pinned up, play it some music — but make sure it’s chill.