Q&A with Pet Music Expert Janet Marlow

We can all appreciate the benefits of listening to some good tunes.

And apparently, so can our pets. Some researchers have found that music has relaxation-inducing benefits. And others, like musician, researcher, author, behaviorist, and Founder of Pet Acoustics Inc., Janet Marlow, say the effects can extend beyond humans.

Marlow shares how she got into making music for pets, as well as music’s benefit to animals.

The Honest Kitchen: What is your music background?

Janet Marlow: I am a fifth-generation musician and composer in my family. I developed my passion for music and sound through a concert and recording career in classical and jazz that took me around the world. I’ve composed music for television documentaries and sang in Woody Allen’s Celebrity (1998) and my guitar playing was featured in the award-winning Sundance film, Swimmers, starring Cherry Jones (2005).

THK: How did you discover the effects music can have on pets?

JM: My insight into the profound effects music has on animals became apparent when my own dogs and cats would consistently gravitate to my side while I practiced music. It was one particular cat, Osborn, who changed the direction of my life. One day, Osborn was badly injured in our woods and needed emergency care at our local animal hospital. I visited him daily in the ICU to sing to him, which soothed him, though I was crying. When he passed five days later, I decided to completely dedicate myself to the understanding of why animals are deeply affected by music and why sound triggers anxious behaviors. That was 20 years ago. During that year, I invented the concept design of species-specific music. In my recording studio, I digitally modified original music according to the comfort hearing zone of dogs and cats. I tested the effects of this designed music at veterinarian hospitals, barns, kennels, and homes, and the results were repeatable and measurable, calming animals within a few minutes. Twenty years later, this life purpose has become deeply satisfying knowing that I can provide this effective and easy tool to help pets feel less stress and have a healthier life.

THK: What are the effects music has on pets?

JM: Music is a language that animals understand because it is made of frequencies, volume and tones. These sounds are what animals listen for as triggers for survival in the wild. They continue this alert behavior in our homes. Not all music has a positive effect though. If there are high frequencies, loud spikes of volume, and low vibrations in music, it is felt as pressure in their ears, which can cause anxiety and stress. We see these stressors during thunderstorms and fireworks. However, when the environment is permeated with music that is within their hearing comfort zone, they immediately release stress and feel safe. Since animals rest 10 to 12 hours a day, providing a sonic environment that elicits a sense of balance is an important part of their daily care for health.

THK: What does the research say?

JM: The effects of music has been tested in 2010 Pet Acoustics in collaboration with The Good Dog Foundation entitled, “Canine Companions and Music: A Study on the Impact of Music and Speaker Design on Dogs and Their Owners.” The study concluded that the music helped 94 percent of the tested dogs to be more receptive in the training.

Our collaboration with the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation results were tested over a period of nine months. We tested the Pet Tunes Canine music and the Ultra Calmer Canine Collar with 12 German shepherds in training. We specifically monitored the blood pressure, sitting position, and pulse rate. Eleven out of 12 dogs responded within 5 minutes of listening to the special frequency-modified music by laying or sitting down from a highly active state to a calm state. We’ve outfitted the entire Fidelco Campus with our speakers and calming canine music.

A Study by Stachurska, A., Janczarek, I., Wilk, I., and Kedzierski, W., 2015, “Does music influence emotional state in race horses?” was published in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, 35(5), 650-656. The research using my music designed for equine hearing was used to determine the effect of music played in the barn, on the emotional state of racehorses. Many horse owners have found that music has an apparent calming effect on fear, aggression, and overall stress. Racehorses, in particular, have demands of increased cardiac activity and speed that may be improved through music exposure. Results: The music positively impacted the emotional state and performance of treated horses, compared to the control group. What was so remarkable was that the effect was noticeable throughout every activity, even during the heightened excitement of being ridden at a gallop. Even more noteworthy was the positive influence the music had after the second and third months, improving with each subsequent month, exhibited by the number of races won.

THK: Can music help all pets?

JM: I’ve focused Pet Acoustics music on helping dogs, cats, horses, and birds. Because we are working with biology, there are always degrees of responses, but in general animals love to be soothed and calmed by music. You can hear samples of my music for each pet on our website PetAcoustics.com and hear how each is crafted differently as species-specific.

THK: In what ways can people use music to benefit their pets?

JM: Our Pet Tunes music is pre-loaded with frequency-modified music into a small Bluetooth speaker, which is portable to go from the home to the car to the vet or groomer. Playing calming music can benefit pets for separation anxiety, during thunderstorms, for puppy training and for travel. It is a tool for pet owners.

Meet the Author: Jessica Peralta

Jessica Peralta has been a journalist for more than 15 years and an animal lover all her life. She has had dogs, cats, birds, turtles, fish, frogs, and rabbits. Her current children are a German shepherd named Guinness and a black kitten named Riot (and he lives up to that name). It’s because of her love for animals that she focused her journalistic career to the world of holistic animal care and pet nutrition. In between keeping Riot and Guinness out of mischief, she’s constantly learning about all the ways she can make them healthier and happier.

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