Fact checked by Dr. Antoinette Martin, DVM
Unfortunately, anxiety is more common in dogs than you might suspect. Everything from loud noises to being separated from their owners during the workweek can make a dog feel nervous and anxious.
While there are training techniques and medications that can be used to help dogs that are suffering from anxiety, recent studies have shown compelling evidence that playing certain types of music can help lower a dog’s stress levels.
We know that music therapy works incredibly well at reducing stress and anxiety levels in humans, but it turns out that playing music the correct way can even be a low-cost and natural anti-anxiety remedy for anxious and lonely dogs.
To help you keep your furry friend calm during stressful situations, we are going to explain how playing soothing music can help!
The Science Behind Playing Music for Anxious Dogs
While the exact impact soothing music has on a dog’s brain is a bit of a mystery, what is known is there is a link between areas of the brain that regulate emotion and areas of the brain that process sound.
Soothing and relaxing music seems to affect the autonomic system, which is what controls a dog’s fight-or-flight response. Studies have found that certain dogs relax when they are exposed to low-volume, soothing music, especially after they begin to associate that type of music with being safe and at home.
As you would expect, relaxed dogs have slower heart rates, fall asleep faster, are far less vocal, and behave in a significantly less anxious manner.
What Type of Music Was Used in the Studies?
Most of the experiments that studied how soothing music affected dogs used classical music. The studies typically involved playing classical music and measuring how the dogs reacted to it. As controls, they exposed the same dogs to heavy metal music, as well as complete silence, which allowed them to study the different responses.
These studies found that most dogs displayed calm behavior when they were exposed to classical music, while heavy metal music had more of an agitating impact. Some studies replaced classical music with other relaxing genres of music, such as easy rock and smooth jazz. These studies found that these relaxing types of music produced the same calming effects on the dogs as the classical genre.
What Kind of Music Should You Use to Calm Your Dog?
There are actually quite a few types of music that can be used to help your own dog feel calmer and more relaxed. As the scientific studies on the matter demonstrated, classical music works really well, especially when it is played at a low volume.
Other genres that stick to smoother rhythms and slower lyrics also work quite well. Soft and easy rock work really well, as do smoother varieties of jazz. Even certain types of reggae music have smooth rhythms and slow, easygoing melodies.
Basically, as long as the music has relaxing tones, it should help your dog feel less anxious.
If you use streaming apps, like Spotify, you can even find dog-specific playlists that have been intentionally curated to de-stress dogs while their owners are away.
How to Introduce Your Dog to Soothing Music
While choosing a dog-friendly playlist or radio station is fairly straightforward, it is important to remember that you need to properly introduce your furry friend to this music. Simply turning on a radio station and walking out the door is unlikely to help your dog calm down.
Instead, you should wait until your dog is in a calm and relaxed mood. Play the music and pet your dog as you listen. This will help condition your dog in a way that it will associate the music with being in a calm and relaxed state.
You can even begin softly playing this type of music while your dog is napping. The more you play this music while your dog is feeling relaxed and happy, the more the dog will start to perceive that music as a comfort blanket.
When Should You Play Soothing Music for Your Anxious Dog?
After you have conditioned your dog to feel calm when it hears certain types of music, you can start using this technique to help your dog feel less anxious in otherwise stressful situations. The following are just some of the times when you can use soothing music to calm your stressed pup:
- Whenever You Leave the Dog Alone – Whether you are heading to work for the day, or you just need to head out for some groceries, soothing music can help your dog. Separation anxiety is a common issue that affects many dogs, and in the right circumstances, music can help. Not only will the soothing music help your dog feel calm, but the ambient noise can also even make them feel less lonely. Sitting at home all day in total silence is just as uncomfortable for your dog as it would be for you.
- Helping Your Restless and Anxious Dog Fall Asleep – If your dog struggles to fall asleep at night, it is possible that it is just suffering from stress and anxiety. Sometimes calming music played at a low volume can help.
- While Driving – Many dogs become anxious when they are brought along in a vehicle. Whether it is simple motion sickness, fear of going to a vet clinic or groomer, or just straightforward travel anxiety, when used properly, music can be used to ease all forms of travel-related stress.
- During Scary Situations – Many dogs fear loud noises. Replacing the sound of thunder and fireworks with the familiar sounds of soothing music can be one way to help your dog deal with fear-induced anxiety.
Just like humans, dogs experience stress and anxiety. While it is not guaranteed to work, soothing music can be a useful tool you can use to help your dog feel calm and relaxed.
For more information about dog anxiety, read our comprehensive Understanding Dog Anxiety Guide, as well as our Preventing Dog Separation Anxiety Guideline. As always, you can also book a virtual vet appointment with one of our qualified Hello Ralphie online vets. Our online veterinarians would be happy to answer any questions you have about playing music for dog anxiety, or any other questions you may have about dog anxiety.