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It started when two canine scientists decide to become pen pals in an era of digital media...


24 May 2013

What music do dogs prefer? Bach vs. Snoop Dogg

Hey Julie,

I hope you've had a fun week.

I saw a new in-press publication with your name on it - "Smelling more or less: Investigating the olfactory experience of the domestic dog" - looks like a really great study, and so timely after my last post about dogs and olfactory enrichment

Looking forward to reading it (and all those other cool Learning and Motivation articles) over the weekend.

So did you do your homework? Did you watch this clip from the Sydney Opera House's Ship Song Project

I wanted you to watch this clip, and more importantly, LISTEN to it, because it features lots of different musical styles. I don't know about you, but I certainly have a different reaction to the different styles. Some appeal to me more than others. Some I find relaxing, while others make me want to nod my head to keep the beat or even hum along.  I was talking about this clip recently with my friend Mark (from SARC, in my head that always runs together "Mark-from-SARC") and of course we shifted to talking about dogs and music. As you do. That's normal - right?!

What kind of music do dogs prefer?

As part of my PhD research into kennel enrichment, I looked into this very question. 
The research in this area has been conducted in two kennel environments.  

Headphones on dog = silly (they hear around x4 better than us!) source
In the first study, scientists played five different recordings to dogs housed in a shelter kennel: 

- a control (nothing) 
- human speech
- classical music
- pop music
- heavy metal music

to the dogs and recorded the behaviours of the dogs using an ethogram. Then they looked at the differences in the behaviour of the dogs during each condition.
The dogs were significantly more likely to run around barking when the heavy metal music was played; and lie down, apparently resting quietly, when the classical music was on. 

There was no difference to their behaviour when the control, human speech or pop music were played. The second study showed similar results, with classical music linked to more sleeping and heavy metal correlating with more body shaking.
It's probably worth noting that these changes in behaviour may not reflect dogs' actual PREFERENCE for music. To assess that, we'd need to set up a study design that offered dogs a choice of multiple sound environments. But it certainly suggests that if we want to encourage behaviours associated with relaxation, like lying down, not barking, and sleeping; we should be piping some gentle classical music to the environment our dogs are in. I reckon my dogs quite like Chopin's Nocturnes, but maybe that's just me.

The Australian ABC's fabulous science program, Catalyst, have a great (~6min) story about this research that you might enjoy watching here.

(can't embed their vid, but click this pic to go to video)
Have a great weekend, I look forward to hearing what else is going on with you now those students have been set free!


Further reading:

Hubrecht, R. C. (1995). The welfare of dogs in human care. Chapter in Serpell's book: The domestic dog, its evolution, behavior and interactions with people, 179-198.

Kogan L.R., Schoenfeld-Tacher R. & Simon A.A. (2012). Behavioral effects of auditory stimulation on kenneled dogs, Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 7 (5) 268-275. DOI:  

Wells D., Graham L. & Hepper P. (2002). The influence of auditory stimulation on the behaviour of dogs housed in a rescue shelter., Animal Welfare, 11 (4) 385-393. Other: Link

© 2013 Mia Cobb
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