3 min read

Providing an Enriching “Couchella” Experience for your Pooch

Humans love music, and possess an innate musicality. Think of all the events and best memories of your life: most, if not all, have had a soundtrack to it. From weddings to girls’ nights out, or hosting either intimate gatherings or large parties, music adds another dimension to our everyday enjoyment as well as in the sharing of emotional experiences.

Have you ever thought of how dogs perceive music?

All of my dogs have a “theme song.” Please tell me I’m not the only dog mom whose dogs each have a personal soundtrack! Delilah Jane was named after two songs: “Hey There, Delilah” was trending in 2013 when I adopted her, and I would sing it to her when she was sleeping. But the other Delilah song, “Why, Why, Why Delilah?” would make me laugh, because she was every dog trainer’s nightmare with dream come true potential. She was a challenge, but a worthy one. Today she brings me so much joy, and it’s great to sit back and realize how far she—and we—have come along our journey

“Perfect Little Penny” is the perfect song to sing to my Penelope Supafly. The lyrics of the song sound like he’s singing about a street dog rescue:

I found you
By the heel of my shoe
You were hiding
Underneath my sole
You’re my perfect, my perfect little penny
And I will keep you
Till I get old

While Preston Casanova didn’t have a namesake song, I have an entire playlist dedicated to him on my Spotify that makes me smile and sob every time I listen in his memory: “The Circle of Life” because he was my Lion King; “I’m Still Standing” because no matter what battles he faced, he always came back; “Time of My Life” from “Dirty Dancing” because to me that was my childhood favorite love song, about that one love of a lifetime (and for me, that was a Pomeranian!); “Sunshine of My Life” because his nickname was “son-shine;” and “Be My Baby” by the Ronettes, as it was the song I sang to him as a puppy.

Regardless of whether or not you and your dogs have songs to share together, there have been some exciting research studies about dogs and music that I think can help all of us better understand how to enrich and improve the lives of our canine companions.

In the study, “Behavioral effects of auditory stimulation on kenneled dogs,” scientists evaluated the behavior of 117 shelter dogs who were exposed to both classical and heavy metal music and found that those who were exposed to the classical music became calmer, while those exposed to heavy metal became agitated.

Although they could see these results, the why is not exactly fully known just yet. Personally, I don’t blame the dogs because, sorry, not sorry… I think heavy metal is the worst!

Of course, humans might be able to relate to this—we might opt for something closer to the classical genre to unwind while something heavier may be needed if we want to work out and feel the burn! After all, there has been enough research in the field with humans especially, that shows that relaxing sounds and music affect the physiological processes of the autonomic system.

The autonomic system controls both our fight vs. flight and rest-and-digest responses. With calming vibrations in the air, you are more likely to want to rest and digest!

Besides the style of music, the tempo is also important. Another study, “ The Influence of auditory stimulation on the behaviour of dogs housed in a rescue shelter,” found that dogs seem to relax more when they are exposed to music that has a tempo of 50 to 60 beats per minute.

This means that other genres like soft rock and reggae can also have a calming effect on dogs. They also found that dogs exposed to any kind of music or conversation of any kind spent less time standing and pacing, and were more quiet overall.

While these two studies were conducted on shelter dogs, there is no doubt what was found can be applied to our pet dogs.

f your dog has a challenge relaxing, you might want to tune your dial for some good ol’ Bob Marley or some yacht rock radio. Whether you work from home or outside of the home, doing some light training, then quality playful exercise, followed by some musical concert for a “couchella” experience, can really make an impact on the quality of life your dog has.

Besides the style and tempo of music, another study, “ The effect of different genres of music on the stress levels of kenneled dogs ,” also showed that, much like humans, dogs appear to have their own individual music preferences. So while you may think Bob Marley is your dog’s favorite, maybe they prefer some Michael Franti.

Personally, I like to play a variety of mellow jams for my dogs and I—everything from Taylor Swift to Jefferson Starship, from Ray Charles to Jack Johnson.

I think whatever your dog hears on a regular basis eventually sounds familiar, so if it makes you happy, it has the potential to comfort your dog as well—especially if you and your dog are enjoying some fun time or cuddles together as you enjoy listening to the music. That will make it a positive memory for them, as they hear the music even without you. Do you have a playlist that reminds you of your dog? Or do you have a playlist that both you and your dog enjoy?

Love & Licks,
Laura Nativo, CPDT-KA KPA CTP