How Dogs Hear Music And Favorite Music Types

If I were a dog, I think dubstep would be my jam. But then again, maybe not. What do dogs like to listen to when dogs hear music? Do dogs even like to listen to music at all? Well, I’ve dug as deep as you can to bring you the answers, and a few more questions that I bet are going to come to mind. Check out what I found out.

If I were a dog, I think dubstep would be my preferred music.  But then again, maybe not. What do dogs like to listen to?  Do dogs even like to listen to music at all? Well, I’ve dug as deep as you can to bring you the answers, and a few more questions that I bet are going to come to mind.  Check out what I found out about dog hearing and music dogs enjoy.

Differences Between Human And Dog Hearing

Before we dive into the exquisite world of music, I’d like to talk for a minute about the differences in how humans and dogs can hear.  I wrote an article after doing extensive research on Dog Communication, where I outlined the differences in the wavelengths with which dogs hear.  But seeing as how I am about to dive into my favorite subject of all time (music), I think a bit deeper dive is in order.

Dogs Hear Music? What is Music?

A saxophone sits on written music sheets.
Dogs might like the saxophone if its a part of soft rock or reggae.

Music is a form of sound.  Created by life forms to express a feeling.  Many species create music in one form or another, some being much more complex than others.  And no other creature on Earth creates music quite like the Human Being. But knowing what music is will help us understand what it is about it that Dogs like or dislike.

Sound, in a nutshell, are vibrations of the air, or another medium such as water.  These vibrations travel at a certain speed or near that speed depending on the conditions of the medium.  For example, according to Wikipedia, in dry air at 20 degrees Celcius, the speed of a soundwave is approximately 343 meters per second.  This is equivalent to about 1241 km/h or 771 mph if my math is correct.

How Sound Is Measured

Sound waves are measured in Hz or Hertz.  This is a unit of frequency. A hertz is defined by one unit per second.  So when we talk about sound waves, we are saying that a specific frequency of sound wave travels at a frequency of X sound waves per second.  Follow me so far? Of course, you do, we’re almost at the good stuff, just a wee bit more science then we ‘drop the needle’…

Animal Hearing Ranges

Dogs, like many other species, have a range of hearing which is distinct and different from humans.  Although dogs can hear some of the same frequencies as humans, there are some pretty distinct differences.  Ever hear a dog whistle? Not likely if you’re a human. Here’s a chart I found on Wikipedia about the range of sound we can hear:

Animal Hearing Frequency Range Chart
Animal Hearing Frequency Range Chart

As you can see from the chart, many animals have a very different hearing than humans.  So how does this relate to music? Well, consider the frequencies for a moment. For example, according to Wikipedia, the average male humans’ voice is typically between 85 Hz and 180 Hz. 

The average human female voice is typical between 165 Hz and 255 Hz. So that being said, when a dog listens to music, they may not necessarily hear any bass. Moulton Laboratories states in their article Principles of Multitrack Mixing: The Kick Drum/Bass Relationship that bass drums residual noise can be between 20 and 100 Hz. 

So if a dog can hear starting at 64 Hz, then it is reasonable to assume that low bass frequencies are just not heard by dogs.  They may be able to feel the bass, of course, depending on the volume and so on.

Similarly and conversely, this difference in hearing frequency range is exactly why dogs can hear dog whistles and the majority of humans cannot.  A dog whistle is 23 to 54 kHz so it is above the human range of 19 kHz and thus cannot be heard by humans.

Perception and Range

Dogs would, therefore, perceive the sounds which you and I think of as ‘high pitch’ as being more of a ‘mid-range’ sound, or even lower pitch sound.  This is because the dog’s perception of high pitched sounds would be well beyond anything even audible to a human. I believe this is a reasonable assumption.  If the dogs’ hearing range is higher than humans, then it is reasonable to assume their perception of sound shifts along with the range to higher frequencies. Perhaps there is an entire symphony of sound that life creates that is out of our hearing range.

So I have discussed what sound is, how dogs’ hearing range is different than ours.  I’ve touched on my theory that dogs’ perception of sound shifts to higher frequencies parallel to the hearing range of the dog.

Music and Sound Waves

An orchestra readies for their performance.  Classical is one of the types of music dogs like.
An orchestra readies for their performance.

Music is a collective of sound waves that are, oftentimes, eloquently organized.  And there are many different types of music, as you know. And these varieties of music also can be played at different speeds.  There are also, in my opinion, combinations of sounds and combinations of notes that inspire specific emotions.

Study On Music Genres

I really respect the Scottish SPCA.  They have been collaborating with the University of Glasgow on a study to help give dogs the best conditions while they stay with the SPCA.  They found that dogs seem to like reggae and soft rock the best. The study was conducted using classical, Motown, pop, reggae, and soft rock.  The study found that classical music calms dogs’ stress levels as well.

What is it about Soft Rock, Reggae and Classical that has a positive effect on our pooches?  Let’s take a look at each genre on its own.

Dogs Three Favorite Genres

Soft Rock

  • 60 – 110 bpm (beats per minute) on average
  • Drum, Bass, Guitar, Electric Guitar, and Piano dominate this genre
  • According to Wikipedia, “The style smoothed over the edges of singer-songwriter and pop-rock, relying on simple, melodic songs with big, lush productions.”
  • Similar to classical, Soft Rock has a calming effect on dogs.

Reggae

  • 80-110 bpm (beats per minute) on average
  • 4 beat rhythm-based
  • Drum, Bass, Guitar, Electric Guitar, and Shaker Sticks all common instruments
  • Dogs seem to be calm and happy when listening to reggae. It can inspire playfulness and a positive nature.

Classical

  • 50-100 bpm (beats per minute) on average
  • Multiple instruments, symphonies
  • Long, ballad-like songs that ‘tell a tale’
  • Good for a calming effect on dogs, reduces stress, barking, and body shaking due to stress
Graphic Equalizer Showing Music
Graphic Equalizer Showing Music

BPM and Tempo

Why did I mention bpm or beats per minute? Well, if you think about human rhythm, according to Mayo Clinic, our hearts beat at a pace of 60-100 bpm, when resting (for an average adult). So if you think about it, a bpm of 120-130 makes sense for dance because it corresponds to a faster average heart rate which is what would be going on when we are happy and dancing around. So bpm may very well have a lot to do with what kind of music we like and/or how music affects us. And when dogs hear music, the bpm affects them as it affects us.

Dogs’ average heart rate is 60-100 for big dogs and 100-140 for small dogs according to vetstreet.com. So again, if we look at bpm versus musical preference, it may have a correlation. In a study done at the University of Wisconsin, it was shown that the tempo of the music has a definite effect on the body. Slower tempo decreases stress and anxiety.

Keeping the music on the lower end in relation to bpm/tempo will help increase a dog’s health due to lowering stress and anxiety.

Mixing Music With A Turntable and Laptop
Go Ahead And Mix It Up

Making Your Dog A Mix

I almost made a mix-tape. I used to make mix-tapes for myself and friends when I was a kid. Recording from record to tape or radio to tape, I would create playlists that inspired different moods. I remember making a rock mix for upbeat, happy and energetic times. When I was in the mood for a bike ride, this was my preferred choice. I also made mixes for those candles lit dinner times with my girlfriend. That music was quite different from the mix I made to go on a mountain biking excursion, I can assure you of that.

Dogs are highly intelligent animals. As such, they get bored, just like humans do. If you leave your dog alone all day while you go to work, it’s a great idea to leave some tunes playing for your pooch. Just remember to leave a nice mix. Don’t force them to endure the torture of a song on repeat. If you consider what you would want, it’s likely your dog responds similarly. In fact, some of the studies on the effects of classical music have proven that humans are also affected by classical music in a similar way to dogs. It has been shown to have a calming effect on humans as well.

Bibliography

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