A new relationship with animals, nature and each other.

Bach v. Bark

(Photo from the Center for Shelter Dogs)

A new study shows that dogs at a shelter who heard classical music tend to bark less and sleep more than when other kinds of music are playing.

Psychologist Lori Kogan, who led the study, said that classical music appeared to calm the dogs more than other music (and more than no music at all), and that when heavy metal tended to leave the dogs in a state of nervous shaking.

Dr. Kogan’s conclusion is that heavy metal may have an actively detrimental impact on dogs’ stress and anxiety levels, and that classical music is a simple, practical and inexpensive way to provide a better environment for shelter dogs. That would obviously give them a better chance at being adopted, too.

Dr. Kogan says she plans to do follow-up studies to see how music could be a way to soothe animals at animal hospitals.

The new study confirms the work of psychologist and animal behaviorist Deborah Wells, four years ago. According to a post in Psychology Today by Cathy Malchiodi:

Dogs in shelters exposed to classical music spent more time in a resting state, barking a lot less than other dogs. In contrast, heavy metal music agitated the dogs. Classical music, and Bach in particular, reduces separation anxiety and stress behavior, including reactions to loud noises such as thunderstorms.

And pop music had no effect at all, possibly because dogs, like humans, are used to hearing it regularly. So apparently, Paul McCartney and Barry Manilow pose no known harm to canine mental health.

Dogs are known also to take comfort in music with slower rhythms, fewer instruments, and simpler melodies. Because dogs hear at much higher frequencies than people do, music to calm the particularly panicked pooch should be played a low volume. But is all classical music Fido-friendly? The answer isn’t in yet and dogs, like humans, seem to prefer a little variety. So, roll over Beethoven, your dog may also dig a little rhythm and blues.

Incidentally, Dr. Wells has a new study this month, in which she finds that people with German shepherds, Rottweilers, and other dogs who are popularly considered to be more aggressive, are more likely to be hostile and aggressive themselves compared with owners of typically laid-back pooches such as Labrador retrievers. In the abstract of the study, she writes:

The relationship between pet-keeping and owner personality has attracted considerable attention. Little focus, however, has been directed towards the personality of pet owners in relation to the type of pet owned. This study therefore explored the personality of pet owners in relation to the type of dog breed owned, focusing specifically on owners of breeds widely considered to be “aggressive” versus those more generally perceived as “non-aggressive”.

One hundred and forty seven owners of “aggressive” (German shepherd dogs, Rottweilers) or “non-aggressive” (Labrador retrievers, Golden retrievers) dog breeds completed the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire short scale. Breed of dog owned was significantly related to owners’ psychoticism scores, with people who kept “aggressive” dogs having significantly higher scores on this trait than owners of “non-aggressive” dogs.

Dog breed ownership was not significantly related to neuroticism, extraversion or lie scale scores, although male owners of “aggressive” dogs were found to be significantly less neurotic than women who kept “aggressive” or “non-aggressive” dogs.

Overall, findings suggest that there is a significant relationship between dog breed ownership and specific personality traits, with owners of breeds widely considered to be “aggressive” harboring more psychotic tendencies than people who choose to keep dogs with a reputedly less aggressive temperament.

Seems like dogs and their people, whether at home or at the shelter, should all stock up on Bach and Mozart!