I’ve often noticed that my dogs are more relaxed when there’s background noise, such as, a fan, the television on low volume, or whatever good music I’m streaming at the time. However, do dogs like these kinds of sounds? Is it calming? Or are there other sounds that dogs would prefer?
Studies have shown that dogs prefer sounds that are calming or sounds that are associated with positive actions. For example, soothing music, the opening of a treat bag, or a squeaking toy are examples of sounds that dog’s find appealing.
As it turns out there are sounds that definitely calm a dog and sounds that can add to their stress. If you are reading this article you may be trying to find a solution to comfort your dog, or maybe you are just wanting to know more. Either way, the types of sounds, and especially the genre of music that dogs like, might just surprise you!
What sounds do dogs like?
When looking into what sounds dogs like, it is important to look at two separate groups of sounds. Let’s call the first group natural sounds and the second group will be musical sounds.
In my opinion, it is important to look at these two types of sounds differently. Natural sounds are either sounds of nature that intrigue your dog or are ambient sounds of life going on around your pooch. Musical sounds are human arraigned melodies designed for our ingestion and our furry friends may just have different tastes than we suspect.
As it turns out there are many sounds in nature or sounds of a dog’s everyday life that are comforting and soothing. Some may be obvious and others may seem strange to us as humans.
Let’s take a look at some of those natural sounds.
Yes, this is one of the obvious ones. If you’ve ever accidentally stepped on a squeaky toy, you know what reaction occurs. You just sounded the “game on” trumpet. Now your relaxed dog has jumped up, pupils dilated, and has that crazed stare- ready to play. Why does that squeak get dogs so excited?
The most popular belief is that the squeak of the toy taps into dog’s predatory instinct. If you’ve never witnessed this, small prey animals, squeal or squeak when they are caught or are being killed by a predator.
This is exciting to dogs. They are on a wild instinct mission to “kill” that toy. This is why you see them squeak the toy and do that fast head shake move. They are following their instinct to catch and kill. Eventually, the squeaker will stop working, which is why a dog may lose interest – the toy is “dead”.
Plastic bags or treat containers
This is my personal favorite. Our dogs are smart and know when something good is happening. A plastic bag opening sounds the treat alarm. Your dog can be fast asleep dreaming of chasing rabbits through the forest, but as soon as you crack that bag open, they start flailing around to get up as fast as they can. This is the reason my aunt refers to the opening of a bag as the “doggie national anthem” – all rise!
This may seem like cheating to summarize all of nature sounds into one point, but I could probably list hundreds of sounds individually. Whether it’s birds singing, a bubbling stream, or woodpeckers concussing themselves on an old maple tree, dogs love all of these sounds around them. The sounds of the wild comfort and stimulate a dogs mind. This is another benefit of going on a daily walk with your pup.
As it turns out, there are also man made sounds that dogs find appealing or relaxing. Several studies have been able to link certain genres of music to having a calming reaction in dogs.
According to a study by Queens College of Belfast, Dr. Deborah Wells found that dogs may have a particular genre of music they prefer. In her study, Wells exposed 50 shelter dogs to five different types of sounds:
- Human conversation
- Classical music
- Heavy metal
- Pop music
- A control sound
Dr. Wells found that dogs, spent more time resting with classical music and barked more during heavy metal music. So, while you may like Slayer, your pooch may not be a fan.
However, classical music may not actually be a dog’s favorite genre. There is some evidence that after seven days or so, dogs seem to become accustomed to the classical music and have less of a relaxing reaction after that.
According to a newer study, from the University of Glasgow, published in the journal of Physiology and Behavior, dogs showed a preference for reggae and soft rock.
For this, researchers took a group of shelter dogs and ran playlists of five different types of music for six hours:
- Classical music
- Soft Rock
While the dogs were listening to the playlists, the researchers recorded the dog’s heart rate, cortisol levels (the hormone released when stressed), and other behaviors that indicate different levels of relaxation or stress, like laying down or barking.
“Overall, the response to different genres was mixed highlighting the possibility that like humans, our canine friends have their own individual music preferences…That being said, reggae music and soft rock showed the highest positive changes in behavior.”Neil Evans (co-author of “the effect of different genres of music on the stress levels of kenneled dogs” – Journal of Physiology & Behavior) in the Washington Post
So, it turns out that our dogs may actually like reggae and soft rock, but not so much Motown. That’s a shame since “A’int too Proud to Beg”, by the Temptations seems to be a fitting dog anthem.
What volume of sound do dogs like?
Dogs have very sensitive hearing (I cover this in more detail in my article What is a Dog’s Strongest Sense?). In fact, dogs can hear sounds four times farther away than humans. This is definitely something to remember when turning up the volume of your favorite song or show.
It’s important to know that what is comfortable or safe, is more about decibels (the loudness of sound) than it is about the frequency. As it turns out, the same decibel levels can be damaging to you and your pup.
For humans, prolonged exposure to any sound over 85 decibels is considered to have the potential to cause permanent hearing loss. Below is a table with common sounds and their decibel levels to help you gauge what you should limit your dog’s exposure to:
|Sound||Decibel Level (dB)|
|Normal human conversation||60 dB|
|Hair dryer||80 dB|
|Ambulance Siren||112 dB|
|Rock concert||120 dB|
|Balloon pop||157 dB|
Dogs do prefer lower volume music. Additionally, lower, calmer music will relax us as humans. Since dogs read our body language and take cues from us – calm people equal calm dog. Additionally, most music designed to calm dogs is slowed to 40-60 beats, which has been shown to slow down their heart rate.
Are there sounds that dogs don’t like?
As mentioned in the table above, there are sounds that can cause dogs to be stressed out. It’s not so much that dogs dislike certain sounds or music because it is too “low brow”, but rather how loud a sound is.
Loud noises tend to be unappealing to dogs. Think of a fireworks display, a loud thunder storm, or even the whirling of the vacuum cleaner. These are all sounds that can stress a dog out.
Let’s look at how you can tell if your dog is digging a particular sound or not.
Signs that your dog doesn’t like a sound
If your dog is displaying the following signs of stress when exposed to a sound, chances are they are not a fan:
- Pacing or shaking
- Whining or barking
- Yawning, drooling, and licking
- Ears pinned back
Now we know what sounds our dog’s may like and what to avoid. It turns out that our dogs like most sounds in their everyday life that are natural or tied to positive things, like their squeaky toy or the treat bag. Also, now you know what music to put on if you want to calm your dog.
So if you want to do something special for your furry friend, put on that Bob Marley, and let your dog explore their “ruff-stafarian” side.