Exploring Music's Complexities

Music Therapy is for the….Dogs???

Dogs Can Use Music Therapy

Kristin S. Padilla, RN, BSN, RNC



More and more experts including music therapists, veterinarians and animal behaviorists, say “yes,” music therapy is beneficial to animals

Several studies over the years demonstrate that animals of varying species most definitely can and do experience stress and agitation.  This comes as no surprise to a pet owner with a dog that exhibits signs of separation anxiety while their owner is away, especially when the owner comes home to find their furniture torn up or neighbors complaining that the dog barked all day long!

“If you notice your dog tending his ear and relaxing to the notes of your favorite classical CD, it is not just the fruit of your imagination.”  While the healing power of music has long been established in humans, studies have been conducted more recently with animals and more focus has been placed on the use of music as therapy in the animal population.

In 2002, animal behaviorist and psychologist Dr. Deborah Wells conducted research with the goal to evaluate the effect of five different types of auditory stimulation on shelter dogs.   These were: “human conversation, classical music, heavy metal music, pop music and absence of music.”  When Dr. Wells played classical music for the dogs, they spent a majority of their time resting and the level of barking was significantly reduced (a welcome relief to anyone within earshot of the dogs I’m sure).  On the contrary, when she played heavy metal, the opposite was seen: the dogs became very agitated and tended to stand up and bark.  No obvious effect was seen with pop music or human conversation. 

Sound researcher, Joshua Leeds, and veterinary neurologist, Susan Wagner, co-authored the book and CD set called Through a Dog’s Ear:  Using Sound to Improve the Health & Behavior of Your Dog (2008) after being approached by pianist and dog lover, Lisa Specter with the goal of creating music geared towards canines that could “calm and modify dog behavior.”  They conducted research drawing from previous studies showing canine preference for classical music.  Leeds “applied psychoacoustic principles of tone, rhythm, and pattern identification to handpicked, modified, and rearranged traditional classical pieces to create canine music of simplified sound.”  They found that a large majority of dogs (70 percent of kenneled dogs and 85 percent of dogs in households) showed a reduction in stressed-out behaviors while listening to the CD.  Leeds simplified the recordings to encourage passive listening and found that solo piano music appeared to have the most relaxing effect on dogs.  

Harpist, Alianna Boone, conducted her own study in 2000 to gage the effect of harp music’s effect on animals.  She played for hospitalized canines at a Florida veterinary clinic and found that during her hour-long sessions, the heart rate, anxiety levels, and respiratory rates of the dogs decreased.  Just as in humans, this is beneficial to the health and well being of dogs (and other animals).  She now lives in Oregon and continues to play for ill family pets.  She has also produced a CD called Harp Music to Soothe the Savage Beast.

 Lori Kogan of Colorado State University found that Mozart, Beethoven and the like may reduce stress in dogs, according to a study in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior. The study found that classical music was more soothing than “psychoacoustic” music or specially-made Pet CDs that were designed to calm animals.  Here is some Beethoven and Mozart to try it out.

In Heavenly Peace

Most dog owners view their dogs as part of the family and share many experiences with them.  Why not include the fantastic healing power of music–it is most certainly a win-win situation.


Mott, Maryann.  “Pets Enjoy Healing Power of Music.”  Article online.  http://www.livescience.com/animals/080103-harp-therapy.html (Accessed 12/28/10).

Nagy, Kim.  “Music Therapy for Dogs.”  Article online.  http://www.webvet.com/main/2008/05/06/music-therapy-dogs (Accessed 12/28/10).

Wells, D.L., et al.  “The Influence of Auditory Stimulation on the Behavior of Dogs Housed in a Rescue Shelter.”  Animal Welfare 11 (2002):  385-393

CBS News.  http://www.cbsnews.com/news/study-classical-music-de-stresses-dogs/

Don’t forget to check out our website www.wonderofsound.com!

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1 Response

  1. Touche. Outstanding arguments. Keep up the great work.

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