By Dr. Becker
Over a period of four months, Lori Kogan, a psychologist and associate professor at Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, led a study1 on the effects of music on the behavior and stress levels of shelter dogs.
Dr. Kogan was looking for inexpensive, easy-to-implement ways to improve the quality of life for animals living in stressful situations. She knew instinctively that music makes an impression on dogs, so she decided to take a closer look at what types of music are most beneficial for dogs in shelters.
Simple Experiment Speaks Volumes
Kogan and her team observed 117 dogs -- 34 rescue dogs and 83 boarding dogs -- over the four-month period. The animals were exposed to three types of music: classical, heavy metal, and classical music designed specifically for its soothing effect on dogs.
First there was a control period during which no music was played. Then each type of music was played for 45 minutes, followed by 15 minutes of silence, during which the activity level, vocalization and body shaking of the dogs was recorded every five minutes.
Study Results: Shelter Dogs Appreciate Soothing Tunes
The dogs’ response to the classical music was to sleep more, indicating this type of music relaxed the dogs and helped them rest.
Given that the dogs were calmed by classical music, as you might suspect, the heavy metal tunes caused the dogs to shake (tremble), indicating this type of music increases agitation and stress levels in kenneled dogs.
Interestingly, the specially designed classical music had no measurable effect on the dogs’ behavior.
Dr. Kogan’s study shows that even though shelters are fundamentally stressful for most dogs, a few simple modifications in the environment – like replacing the music many shelter employees and volunteers might prefer with music that has a calming effect on dogs – can reduce stress levels and stress-related behaviors in shelter residents.