Do dogs like music? How to tell what music dogs like

While dogs might not quite have the same brain capacity as we do, they're not as unintelligent as you may have thought. Dogs do respond to music, but do they actually like it? And what's their favorite?

Do dogs enjoy it when you play music, or are they just sticking around for the company?
Do dogs enjoy it when you play music, or are they just sticking around for the company?  © Avi Naim / Unsplash

From classical to rock 'n roll, from R&B to pop, there are many different kinds of music suitable for a variety of different ears. What about the floppy ears of man's best friend, though? Do they enjoy it when you throw on a vinyl record, or does it drive them slightly mad?

If you have ever wondered whether dogs enjoy your favorite tracks, this dog guide is just for you! TAG24 takes a look at whether dogs like music, and if so, what music dogs like.

Do dogs enjoy music?

The effect of music on dogs is of great interest to many dog owners and, indeed, the subject of numerous scientific studies. In a 2017 study published in the scientific journal Physiology and Behavior, scientists from the University of Glasgow researched the effect of music on 38 playful pooches.

Due to being kept in a kennel, the dogs were rather stressed out and uncomfortable when the tunes came flying through the room. It was discovered that different artists and genres calmed the dogs down, while others had different effects.

This was not a finding that could be considered an outlier, either, with a 2020 literature review confirming that dogs like music and experience calming effects in certain circumstances. Indeed, it is now widely accepted that music therapy has a lot of potential for helping stressed out doggos, or those that suffer from separation anxiety.

What do dogs think of music?

It's not quite clear at this stage what aspect of music is pleasurable to dogs. Some theorize that they react to the beat, and find it calming if it is similar to their own heartbeat. Others believe that it has something to do with particular pitch frequencies, but there's no definitive 'why' as yet.

To summarize, while research has established that dogs are calmed by certain kinds of music, Leeds, Spector and Wagner put it nicely when they say that it is unknown "whether the same human-oriented psychoacoustic principles of resonance, entrainment, and pattern identification apply to domesticated animals".

Do dogs actively listen to music when you play it?

In much the same way, it's hard to say whether dogs are actively listening to the music itself or just simply responding to some chemical or cognitive effect that has been triggered by the sound. Is it the vibe, perhaps? Or maybe the instruments themselves are creating a response?

It seems unlikely that a dog would sit down and truly absorb a song, so it seems that the latter option is more probable. After all, dogs don't speak a specific language as we humans do, so they will be unable to discern any meaning from music apart from on a holistic level.

Look at the music-loving doggo! It must be listening to Bob Marley...
Look at the music-loving doggo! It must be listening to Bob Marley...  © 123rf / Medvedevsergey

What kind of music do dogs like?

Soft rock and reggae have been found to have a particularly positive effect on dogs, relaxing them and reducing their heartbeats. In the aforementioned study from Scotland, it was discovered that the animal shelter's residents were calmed when played the likes of Bob Marley and Bryan Adams.

The same was not observed when staff played R&B, soul, heavy metal, punk, or pop. On top of that, they also found that once the same type of music had continued to play for a while, its effects seemed to diminish. As a result, it's quite likely that doggos shouldn't be continuously exposed to music, lest its effects wear off.

It's an evolving field, though, with certain artist composing specific music for animals like dogs. In an interview with TED, Cellist David Teie spoke about how writing music for different animals requires different styles and instrumentation when compared to human-directed compositions.

“I could take this recipe for music, as it were, and take out the ingredients for humans and replace them with the ingredients for whatever species I was writing for.”

It comes as no surprise that dogs like different things in their music to humans, but the science is not strong enough yet to say that this is definitely true. What we can say, though, is that dogs have some killer taste - Bob Marley? Hell yes!

Do dogs like classical music?

If loud and agitated music makes a dog loud and agitated, does that mean that calming music makes a dog, well, calmer? A 2002 study by Deborah Wells of Queen's University in Belfast suggested exactly this. While dogs became increasingly unhappy when listening to heavy metal or grunge, classical music had the opposite effect.

Other research has doubled down on this point, making it pretty clear that dogs like classical music and enjoy a calming influence when listening to it. In 2015, though, another study showed that while classical music does calm dogs down, reggae is still your better bet.

Do dogs like piano music?

Do you remember that 2015 study we mentioned? Well, not only did it reveal that dogs like orchestral pieces like the Four Seasons by Vivaldi and good ol' Bob Marley, but also melodic piano music. When dogs hear calming piano music, they often get calmer, with a lower heart rate and increased happiness.

Dogs enjoy certain types of music, and not others

Considering that there are composers out there that specialize specifically in music for cats and dogs, it would be foolish to deny that they notice and react to the tunes you play. That doesn't mean that they'll like everything, though. If you play something particularly loud or fast, they could get a tad scared!

It's probably best to stick with some classical music, or reggae, rather than the latest Green Day album, or some Nirvana, when your dog is around. Indeed, dogs like music, but pay mind to their taste!

Cover photo: Avi Naim / Unsplash

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