Can Man’s Best Friend Benefit From Music Therapy?
We know that music therapy can work wonders for humans. Besides evoking emotion, it can help us overcome anxiety, depression, neurological concerns, etc. But what about our furry friends? One of the reasons we love them so much is their ability to mirror our emotions. If they display similar feelings to us, maybe they can benefit from our treatment methods! Here’s a rundown of how music alone can help dogs.
We want the best for our fur babies! The first step in caring for them is understanding them. Doggos have feelings just like us, but sometimes, they show up a bit differently.
We typically understand when our dog is excited. When dogs hear the phrases “Walk,” “Car,” or “Treat,” they often can’t contain themselves--it’s like joy is oozing out of their ears.
So what does that look like?
Ears perk up, mouths open in, jumping ensues. Your pup may even feel the need to start running laps (regardless of how small the space is). We know these behaviors well. They bring us an immeasurable amount of joy and make our hearts swell with dog-parent pride.
How about when they’re not feeling their best?
Dogs can experience a palate of emotions--fear, jealousy, anxiety, grief, aggression, and guilt.
It’s even possible for dogs to develop mental illness.
Some of these feelings, like guilt, are easier to catch than others. For one thing, there’s a bit of a language barrier. Since dogs can’t tell us what’s going on, learning about their behavior might give some helpful insight into how our pups are really doing.
Here are a couple of examples:
Everyday behaviors might be masking anxiety. A dog who has that quirky habit of endlessly licking their paws might actually be a sign that your furry friend isn’t feeling their best. Excessive grooming, yawning, and tail-chasing are also signs of anxiety.
Constant barking and growling are both expressions of aggression. While it’s easy to get caught up in mitigating the behavior, it could be a symptom of an underlying stress response. One instance where this might come up is with a doggo who had been rescued from a shelter. Still, in the case of aggression, it’s best to consult with an animal behaviorist.
While dogs can’t learn to play instruments (usually) or process how a particular song makes them feel, they react when music is played for them. Although this is not exactly music therapy, it can still help your dog to feel better!
In a study done by animal behavioral scientists at Glasgow University, researchers found that dogs have general tastes and music preferences.
During their observations, the behaviorists noticed that their canine subjects did not fare well when listening to hard rock and heavy metal. Listening to louder, chaotic music upset them. They did, however, respond well to other genres. The dogs were soothed quite a bit by classical music, but the effects were temporary. Soft rock and reggae both had a significant calming effect on the pups.
At the end of the study, researchers found that most music (aside from the hard stuff) put the dogs at ease. After a week of listening, the behaviorists noted a marked, consistent decrease in the dogs’ stress hormones.
It was exciting for researchers to learn that dogs, like humans, can enjoy a plethora of genres. But still, the more impactful takeaway was discovering a new way of soothing stressed pups.
So now that you have an understanding of doggo-specific behaviors and their sophisticated taste in music, how can you tell when to turn to music therapy?
Here are a few cases where music therapy has benefited dogs outside of the lab.
Dogs who have been rescued from puppy mills, abusive homes, and shelters often come with a tendency toward stress. They may even exhibit signs that are consistent with what we know to be Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. If you know your dog’s triggers, it might be a good idea to keep a pup-friendly playlist on deck.
Dogs who live in shelters can also benefit from music therapy. Since they meet so many new people and pups every day, they can quickly become overwhelmed. For shelter workers or owners trying to find a way to make daily living more comfortable, consider playing some music throughout the day.
Some dogs may have anxiety, which requires medical assistance, but routine music therapy can be a great addition.
Still not sure what to play? We’ve got you covered.
A producer who goes by the name of Gnash rescued an adorable little one named Daisy. He soon began noticing continuous aggression after leaving a stressful environment. With the help of the behaviorists at Glasgow University, he composed a song for his new fur baby. It was a resounding success--not only for Daisy but for shelter dogs alike. Take a listen!
Note: turning on music and listening to it is NOT considered music therapy. However, music can be soothing by itself, outside of a therapeutic setting.
Edited by Cara Jernigan on January 19, 2021