Bach is better than Judas Priest, Strauss is preferable to Slayer, and Mozart is a wiser choice than Motörhead – at least when it comes to keeping dogs calm in kennels and shelters. A Colorado State University study suggests classical music might be the best way to calm an anxious dog, and that heavy metal – no big surprise – seems to do the opposite.
The study, reported in the latest Journal of Veterinary Behavior, found that classical music was more soothing than any other music, even “psychoacoustic” music and pet CDs designed to calm animals. Dogs listening to classical music – whether they were rescued dogs being sheltered, or pets being kenneled – barked and shook less often, slept more and had slower heartbeats. The authors of the study say playing classical music may help mitigate some of the stress inherent for dogs being kenneled as well as those awaiting adoption in stressful shelter environments.
Their research analyzed the behavior of one hundred seventeen dogs of various breeds, all at one kennel in northern Colorado. Of the group, eighty-three were boarders of different breeds and thirty-four were rescued dachshunds. Lead author Lori Kogan and her researchers did thousands of behavioral assessments over a period of four months. The dogs were exposed to forty-five minutes of three different genres of music while their behavior was recorded every five minutes.
Classical music was linked to more relaxed and restful behavior, while heavy metal was linked to greater anxiety and unrest. Dogs listening to heavy metal had speeded up heartbeats: Motörhead’s Ace of Spades led to 140 beats a minute, while Turbo Lover, by Judas Priest, resulted in 151. In contrast to that, Beethoven’s Für Elise produced average heart rates of 111 and Bach’s Air on a G String (BWV 1068) a relatively mellowed-out 100.
In addition to heartbeats, researchers recorded the amount of time the canine listeners spent sleeping, barking, shaking, and whining. Both boarded and rescue dogs responded to all the classical music selections by sleeping more. The dogs were most silent while listening to classical music and noisiest when no music was playing at all. Researchers said the results are consistent with human studies showing music can reduce agitation, promote sleep, improve mood and lower stress and anxiety. “It is suggested that shelters play classical music as a cost-efficient, practical way to enhance the environment and, therefore, the welfare of shelter dogs. Classical music can reduce dogs’ stress levels and potentially increase the likelihood of adoption.”