Have you ever wondered why your Spot’s ears perk up when it’s perfectly silent? Or why Fido barks a minute before the delivery guy shows up with a package outside your door? Well, it’s quite simple. In addition to the fact that some dogs can smell people or objects up to 12 miles away, dogs have much more sensitive hearing than humans.
Although my dog Sueshi sometimes acts like he can’t hear me at all when I give him a command, in fact dogs can hear sounds four times farther than us. Dogs can hear higher frequencies, can differentiate between sounds (like the sound of your car versus other cars), and are good at pinpointing the exact location of sounds.
With such superior hearing, you can imagine it might be difficult for dogs to eliminate distracting noises.
This may be why studies show that music, especially classical music, helps reduce stress levels in shelter dogs, as measured by their heart rate and observable behaviors. Dogs that listened to classical music were more likely to lie with their heads down in their kennels than other dogs that were more likely to vocalize, pant, and lift their legs against the kennel door.
Although at first glance it may seem like an interesting discovery, I assure you that it has more important implications. Not only does reduced stress benefit the mental and physical well-being of shelter dogs, but it also translates directly to how quickly pets are adopted into a shelter. Dogs that seem calm and quiet find homes faster. Additionally, a calm kennel environment is less stressful for all animals and more welcoming to future adopters.
At Pasadena Humane, we take these discoveries seriously. To help reduce stress and anxiety, the dogs at the shelter receive music therapy twice a day: “Symphony Hour” in the morning and “Lullaby Musical Hour” in the evening. During this time, classical music plays through loudspeakers in the kennels, helping the dogs to relax.
And while many dogs prefer classical music, that’s not always the case, as our friends at the Scottish SPCA have discovered. The dogs they cared for showed a lower stress response to soft rock and reggae than to pop, classical and Motown.
Although there has been less research on the effects of music outside of a shelter environment, I know that many dog owners leave the music or radio on when they go outside. If you want to try playing music for your pooch, it’s now easier than ever. Major streaming services like Spotify and Amazon Music offer personalized dog playlists, plus access to old favorites “Through a Dog’s Ear,” “Canine Lullabies,” and more.
It’s okay to experiment if you’re not sure what kind of music your dog likes the most! Keep an eye on their body language and go with what seems to bring them the most zen.
Good listening !
Dia DuVernet is President and CEO of Pasadena Humane. pasadenahumane.org