Do Dogs Like Music, And Which Is Most Calming?

Written by Sharon Parry
Updated: May 23, 2022
© ESB Professional/Shutterstock.com
Share this post on:

This depends on what we mean by “understand.” Dogs can certainly hear music and seem to be able to tell the difference between music and other common household sounds. Our canine companions certainly react to music. Many dogs start howling when they hear reed instrument solos, such as the clarinet and saxophone. They also seem to be very sensitive to long single notes produced by the violin or human voice.

Dogs can detect changes in pitch. Researchers have found that wolves change their pitch when others join in with the howling. Unlike human choirs, who try to stay in the same pitch so that they sound the same, dogs and wolves do their best to be out of tune with companions. They love the discordant sounds!

Do Dogs Like Music?

Music can have a beneficial effect on dogs so, in that sense, they do like music.

17,728 People Couldn't Ace This Quiz

Think You Can?

Dogs have more sensitive hearing than humans. We’ve all seen our dogs react before someone knocks on the door or rings our doorbell. Our dog heard the visitor approaching a long time before we did! They hear at higher frequencies than we can, so their listening experience may be very different from ours. Dogs can detect sounds with a frequency between 47 and 44,000 Hz but humans hear frequencies between 20 and 20,000 Hz.

This may explain why dogs appear to prefer some genres of music to others. For example, when grunge and heavy metal were played to dogs in dog shelters they became agitated. They seem to prefer classical and look at this in more detail later.

Golden retriever enjoying music on headphones
Many dogs prefer classical music, probably because their ears are so sensitive to different frequencies.

©Chendongshan/Shutterstock.com

The Science of Dogs and Music

Scientists have examined the effect that different genres of music have on dogs. One study measured the stress levels of 38 kenneled dogs over five days as they listened to soft rock, Motown, pop, reggae, and classical. Stress levels were assessed by recording the time interval between their heartbeats (heart rate variability). A longer interval means that the dog is less stressed. Their visible behavior was also observed.

The study found that all types of music made the dogs lie down more which indicates that music relaxes them. They also started barking when the music ended. Perhaps this was a protest? The researchers also found that some dogs took a dislike to some types of music. However, if you mixed that track in with other types of music they soon became desensitized to it. This is termed habituation.

Another study by Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine looked at the effect of music on 117 kenneled dogs over four months. The dogs relaxed and were more likely to sleep when classical music was played. In contrast, heavy metal made their stress levels rise and several dogs began to tremble.

These studies, and a lot of personal experiences reported by dog owners, indicate that music can change your dog’s mood. Volume is also important because dogs have more sensitive hearing than humans. They can get upset by very loud volumes.

Choosing Music for Your Dog

The best person to choose the most appropriate music for your dog…is your dog! A good plan is to try playing several different types of music and watch their reaction. They may howl along to the song if they like it! Or, it may make them relaxed. If they become stressed and anxious, however, change the music or at least turn down the volume. Here are some suggestions for calming your dog down and drowning out loud noise such as fireworks.

Best Music to Help Dogs Calm Down

Many dogs suffer from anxiety. Separation anxiety is very common and some dogs can get stressed if you simply leave the room without them. There are some things that you could try which may help. Interactive toys can be a great distraction or you could try some calming CBD treats.

Calming classical music could be a natural alternative to medication or hiring a dog sitter. Spotify has an excellent calming dog playlist. It features Air on G String, Preludes, and Waltzes. It may also help with sleep problems and will help your pooch settle in with their pet sitter.

A woman with headphones singing with her dog
Music is a great way for you and your pup to bond.

©Lucia Romero/Shutterstock.com

Best Music to Drown Out Loud Noise

Fireworks and thunderstorms can make dogs very afraid. You may even see your dog visibly shaking as the ‘fight or flight’ reflex kicks in. You can mask out the noise by playing soft rock or reggae. Our own dog is a huge fan of the Reggae for Dogs playlist on Spotify. We have been playing it to him since he was a pup and it helped him to adapt to all the new household noises. The volume needs to be slighter louder than the noise you are trying to drown out.

Taking Dogs to Music Festivals

Some music festivals are now allowing dogs to attend. You should think very carefully before taking a dog to a music festival because most dogs will not enjoy it at all. The crowds, lights, loud music, and vibrations can be very alarming to many dogs.

Having said that, if you have a super-chilled dog that you know will have a good time at the festival – go for it! Don’t forget that you will need a lot of supplies to keep your pooch happy and healthy. These include water and a water bowl, a strong leash, portable shade, and plenty of food and poop bags. Be prepared to stay in the quieter areas of the festival where it is cooler and less stressful for your dog.

Ready to discover the top 10 cutest dog breeds in the entire world?

How about the fastest dogs, the largest dogs and those that are -- quite frankly -- just the kindest dogs on the planet? Each day, AZ Animals sends out lists just like this to our thousands of email subscribers. And the best part? It's FREE. Join today by entering your email below.

What's the right dog for you?

Dogs are our best friends but which breed is your perfect match?

X-Small
Small
Medium
Large
Xtra-Large

If you have kids or existing dogs select:

Kids
Other Dogs

Should they be Hypoallergenic?

Yes
No
How important is health?
Which dog groups do you like?
How much exercise should your dog require?
What climate?
How much seperation anxiety?
How much yappiness/barking?

How much energy should they have?

The lower energy the better.
I want a cuddle buddy!
About average energy.
I want a dog that I have to chase after constantly!
All energy levels are great -- I just love dogs!
How much should they shed?
How trainable/obedient does the dog need to be?
How intelligent does the dog need to be?
How much chewing will allow?

The Featured Image

Golden retriever listening to headphones
Dogs can tell the difference between music and other sounds.
© ESB Professional/Shutterstock.com

Share this post on:
About the Author

Sharon has a Ph.D. in Public Health but has spent the last decade researching and writing about all things connected with animal health and well being. As a life-long animal lover, she now shares her family home with three rabbits, a Syrian hamster, and a very energetic Cocker Spaniel but in the past she has also been a Mom to Guinea Pigs and several cats!She has a passion for researching accurate and credible information about pets and reviewing products that make pet owners' lives a bit easier. When she isn't checking out new pet products she's trekking around the Welsh mountains and beaches with her dog - although she lets her husband and her three grown up daughters tag along sometimes if they are lucky!

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Why do dogs howl to music?

When dogs hear a certain type of music, they recognize elements in it that sound like howling. Wolves howl to communicate and joint howling is a way of assembling the pack. As far as your pooch is concerned, they are simply joining in with a pack of howling dogs!

Should I take my dog to a music concert?

Most music concerts do not admit dogs and this is for very valid reasons. The loud noises and vibrations can be very alarming for dogs and could even damage their sensitive hearing. They can also get distressed by the lights and the sheer number of people.

Are there music concerts for dogs?

Believe it or not, there has been a special music concert for dogs. It was held in 2010 in Sydney, Australia. The artist was Laurie Anderson and she held a similar concert in New York that could only be easily heard by dogs. Apparently, it was well-received by her canine fans.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.