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Music and Sounds to Calm an Anxious Dog

5 min read

Good music can improve anyone’s mood, our canine friends included! Some tunes might encourage us to put on our dancing shoes, while others have the calming abilities to put us to sleep - that’s just the magic of it. But there can be more to music than this — if your pup often experiences anxiety and shows signs of stress, playing certain types of music might be a good option to consider when trying to help them relax and settle down.

While the idea of using soothing music for dogs to combat stress and anxiety might  seem unconventional, studies have shown that music can  in many cases have a positive impact on a dog’s behaviour. Read on to learn more about what types of sounds and music are best for calming them and how you may be able to use them as part of a strategy to help them navigate potentially stressful experiences.

Do dogs enjoy soothing music? 

Absolutely! Dogs, like humans, are drawn to different patterns of sounds, tempos, and rhythms. Although they can’t perceive certain pitches because of a different hearing range to us, they can still enjoy the noises and respond to them, regardless of whether they’re pups or adult dogs. In fact, some music has been created specifically for dogs which is meant to provide them comfort in anxious situations. 

What’s the best music to calm dogs? 

This often depends on the dog’s preferences, but the most important things to consider when choosing music for dogs are tempo, simplicity of the tones, use of regular rhythms, and the length of the musical notes.

During studies, there were very definite indications that dogs found gentle classical music soothing and calming. This canine love of classical music might not be unexpected, but it might surprise you to know that reggae and soft rock were also shown to be favourites among our furry friends, as improbable as this might sound! In fact, they seem to like these two genres more than classical music. So next time your dog needs a bit of unwinding, search your 70s and 80s music collection, and crank up some Bob Marley, Phil Collins, or Fleetwood Mac and enjoy the chill out session!

On top of a dose of Mozart or Bob Marley, relaxing music for dogs can also include background noises like the sounds of nature. The calmer the noise, the more soothing the effect is.

While music can have a calming effect on our dogs, there is also a strong possibility that dogs reflect our emotional states, and if the music we are playing relaxes us and puts us into a positive mood state where we feel safe and calm, this can be passed onto our dogs.

There are other dogs who love whatever music their human loves – however unlikely!

When should we play relaxing music for dogs? 

Music can help our dogs in a variety of situations. It can be calming and relaxing on its own, or it can help mask the intensity of other noises that could produce fears or phobias. And it can relax us in these situations too – which helps our dogs feel safer that that things are fine.

There are lots of scenarios in which your furry friend might benefit from soothing music – but as always, the secret is to spend time with your dog and see how they react to different types of music so you know what is going to help them the best. And don’t just keep music for times of stress and anxiety.  Music is something that can be enjoyed anytime and anyplace.
When it comes to using music to help with stress and anxiety, it should be part of a wider strategy, but it can certainly help your dog feel calmer and more relaxed.

Here are a few situations where it can be helpful.

  • Bringing them into a new home — either as a new pet or when changing homes. An unknown environment is something that takes time to get used to and so for most pets (and for owners) it can be anxiety-inducing.
  • While travelling. Travelling is something that some dogs are not very comfortable with and so some music can help as it is both relaxing and it helps mask engine noise or the noise of passing traffic.
  • During social anxiety episodes. Not all dogs are social, and some can become very anxious when meeting new pets or people. Introducing them to new people and animals with some nice reggae tunes in the background can help lift their spirits and provide a relaxing environment for everyone involved. Often socialisation classes or even dog training classes can make use of background music – and it is another area where the music seems to calm the owners as much as the dogs!
  • When visiting the vet. Most pets hate going to the vet, but some more progressive practices use music to help make the environment a little calmer.
  • Most of the research that has been done with regard to music calming dogs has been done in a rescue centre environment. Many centres now play music and can report that the levels of dogs barking has decreases and anxiety levels seem to be reduced.
  • Music can help with behaviour issues that arise from fears and phobias and can be used as part of a behaviour modification programmes for noise phobias and separation related behaviour problems.

How should I introduce my pet to music? 

Getting your dog acquainted to music should be done gradually.  Follow these steps to successfully turn your pet into a musical connoisseur that knows how to unwind:

  1. Start by playing some relaxing tunes at home, where they feel comfortable. It could be at any time of day and no matter what you are doing. Make sure it’s music you like too though!
  2. Watch their reaction while playing different music genres to see which ones seem most appealing to them. Watch their body language. You’re looking for signs of relaxation and calmness. Before long you will be able to see what types of music your dog finds more soothing.
  3. Always remember that our dogs have far more sensitive hearing than we do – so you don’t need to blast out the music – in fact if you do, your dog could find it uncomfortable so the volume should be kept low or moderate, at most – especially when they are new to listening to music.
  4. Listen to music when you’re at home together and when you are both relaxing and content. If you only play it when your pet is looking stressed or worried, they may come to associate music with feeling anxious.

Music can be a powerful tool in helping to overcome stress and can also be a wonderful way to bond with your four-legged friend.

If you want to know about more ways to help your dog when they are feeling a bit down or stressed, take a look at our article on how to help a scared dog next.