Music Therapy for Dogs

September 19, 2011

My grandparents were awakened one night to the sound of their piano.  Someone was playing their piano downstairs!  And Schnapps, their dachshund, was howling away like he always did when Grandaddy played.  Grandad grabbed a baseball bat and crept downstairs while Grandma called 911.  But, what Grandad found when he entered the music room was quite a surprise.  Schnapps was standing on the bench, playing the keys with his front paws and howling away quite happily.  My grandparents encouraged the activity, and Schnapps became something of a star in their hometown.

With the invention of You-Tube, one can observe many animals playing the piano voluntarily.  Animals seem to enjoy music much as we do.  But, it turns out that they don’t only enjoy it; music can also be therapeutic and calming to animals.

Recent studies show that music can profoundly influence animal behavior. Music therapy for pets is one way to help a dog with behavioral or anxiety problems.  “Music is one way to control and mediate the sound environment,” said sound researcher Joshua Leeds, who co-authored a new book and CD set called Through A Dog’s Ear: Using Sound to Improve the Health & Behavior of Your Dog with veterinary neurologist Susan Wagner.

And, get this, dogs prefer classical music to any other genre.  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. The results were dramatic. Researchers found that 70 percent of dogs in kennels and 85 percent of dogs in households showed a reduction in stressed-out behavior when listening to Leed’s CD, including thunderstorm trembling, excitement with visitors and separation anxiety.

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 pets. She has also produced a CD called Harp Music to Soothe the Savage Beast.

You also may have heard of the music therapy CDs for babies that feature classic lullabies recorded to the beat of the human heart.  Many a parent has used these to help their babies sleep through the night.  Some of these parents began to report that their pets were also showing less anxiety while these CDs were played.  When the CDs were put to the test in a noisy kennel, the dogs settled down and went to sleep in 15 seconds!

If your dog has thunderstorm or separation anxiety, be sure to pick up a Lullaby Heartbeat CD today.  The next time you and your pets are stressed out by all of the sounds around us.  Put on a classical CD and chill out.

 

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