Music for Kenneled Dogs

By Zazie Todd, PhD

There are many studies on the effects of music, from what kind of music will make us spend more time and money in shops to the effects that learning to play an instrument has on our brains. Now, scientists at Colorado State University have turned their attention to what kind of music dogs might prefer to listen to in kennels.

A siberian husky puppy is chewing on some headphones
Photo: Nata Sdobnikova / Shutterstock

The study, by Lori Kogan and colleagues, took place at a kennel that housed rescue dachshunds (generally long-term) and also boarded dogs while their owners were away. Being in kennels can be a stressful experience for dogs as they are kept in a small space with limited access to outdoors, and limited human and canine company. Kogan et al wanted to know if music would help to make the kennel environment less stressful.

They compared three different kinds of music: classical music (4 tracks), heavy metal (3 tracks), and some music that was specially designed to be relaxing for dogs (1 track). A period with no music was used as a control. The music was chosen as the most popular in those genres (e.g. Beethoven’s Für Elise, Motorhead’s Ace of Spades). In general, the heavy metal had the highest beats per minute and the psycho-acoustically designed music had the lowest bpm.

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In total, 117 dogs took part, of which 34 were rescue dachshunds/dachshund crosses, and the remainder were a range of breeds that were at the kennel for short-term boarding. Although many dogs took part in all conditions, some did not, depending on the length of their stay.

The kennels were set up with speakers so that all of the dogs would be able to hear. The music was played in the mornings on days when the kennel was relatively quiet. Each time, the auditory stimulus (music track or silence) lasted for 45 minutes, followed by a 15 minute period of silence. 

The dogs’ behaviour was rated every five minutes during auditory presentations. The researchers assessed whether or not the dogs were sleeping, if they were shaking or not, and if they were making a noise. Initially they had intended to measure barking vs other vocalizations, but in practice it was sometimes difficult to tell e.g. a bark from a yip, and so they just recorded whether or not they were vocalizing.

There were no differences between the rescue dachshunds and the dogs there for short-term boarding in terms of their responses to the music, so the results were combined for analysis. Dogs spent significantly more time sleeping during the classical music than during the other types of music or no music. There was no difference in sleep time between heavy metal, psycho-acoustic music, or no music. In terms of shaking, the dogs shook significantly more during the heavy metal than the other types of music. The results for vocalization were more complex, and showed less vocalization during some of the classical music, and more vocalization when there was no music at all.

The researchers suggest that dogs might be less stressed in a kennel environment if they were played classical music. They were surprised that the psycho-acoustic music did not seem to affect behaviour, but we cannot draw a general conclusion since they only used one track; it could be that other tracks would have an effect. Similarly, since only a few tracks were used of classical and heavy metal, it’s too early to draw conclusions about the genres as a whole. However, this study does suggest that future research, using a wider range of music, could be very interesting. 

Future studies could also play different tracks in succession, since the mode of presentation used here (one track repeated for 45 minutes) might not be appreciated by shelter staff. Whether or not dogs prefer repetition is another empirical question. But this study certainly suggests that kennels could consider the use of music to help dogs relax. Some boarding kennels and cat hotels already use music and TV to keep their clients happy.

How does your dog respond to music?

Zazie Todd, PhD, is the author of Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy. She is the founder of the popular blog Companion Animal Psychology, where she writes about everything from training methods to the human-canine relationship. She also writes a column for Psychology Today and has received the prestigious Captain Haggerty Award for Best Training Article in 2017. Todd lives in Maple Ridge, BC, with her husband and two cats.

Useful links:
Kogan, L., Schoenfeld-Tacher, R., & Simon, A. (2012). Behavioral effects of auditory stimulation on kenneled dogs Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 7 (5), 268-275 DOI: 10.1016/j.jveb.2011.11.002

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  1. Having studied psychology for several years and being an animal lover, I find your blog very interesting! I'll definitely be back to visit again. Please keep up the wonderful work. I look forward to reading about more interesting studies.

    I wonder if they've done anything similar with cats and music? I always wonder if I should leave music on for my kitties even if I leave the apartment for a few hours. I always wonder if it might ease them into a nap while I'm away :)

  2. Thank you for your lovely comment. It made my day!

    I will keep my eye out for any work on cats and music. I certainly think cats respond to music. You can watch them next time you have music playing and see what they do :) Maybe they would like it if you left some music on when you go out.

  3. I recall reading that the SPCA transfer vehicles here in BC are now using specially-developed music to help keep animals calm during transport.
    I know that on the occasions I've had to confine my indoor-only cat to one room (during house renovations) she was MUCH calmer with a CD of 'Music for Cats' than without it.

  4. This is the first time I heard about this. So funny!

  5. The descriptive ideas presented in your post are shown with such enthusiasm that your passion has taken me over. I’ll be forced to research more and try to learn more.


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