If you stream music, play an instrument, or just sing in the shower, your dog undoubtedly has heard music.
But do dogs like music, hate music, have discerning tastes—just what is the canine take on music?
Certainly dogs hear the sound of music.
With the except of some very low frequency sounds that humans hear that dogs can't, dogs can hear much better than people. There may be all kinds of things dogs hear over the radio, from streaming music, or off a CD that people can't hear.
Do dogs recognize a tune?
Both research and anecdotal evidence indicates they can, at least to some extent. Working sheepdogs are sometimes trained to respond to different whistles to turn the herd to the right or to the left, for example.
Some sounds, especially high pitched sounds from flutes, pianos, or even human voices, will cause some dogs to howl. Howling is a left-over instinct from dogs' wolf ancestors. One reason wolves howl is to get the pack back together. So when your dog hears a sound from the radio that he perceives as a howl, he joins in to let others know he's there. And if your dog howls off-key it doesn't necessarily mean he has a tin ear. Dogs want to sound different from other dogs so the pack knows an additional dog has joined in.
Do dogs react to different genres of music differently?
Studies have been done to see if dogs react differently to different kinds of music. There is evidence that classical music, like that by Beethoven, Bach, Vivaldi, and Mozart, has a calming effect on most dogs. Heavy metal music is more likely to agitate dogs and make them more restless or aggressive.
One thing studies have shown is that all animals (including the human animal) best respond to music that has pitches similar to the voice and a tempo that is similar to the heart rate. There are some dog breeds, like Mastiffs and Labrador Retrievers, that have voices in similar ranges to that of an adult male. Those breeds also have similar heart rates to those of humans. As a breed, they are more likely to respond to music than, say, Chihuahuas that have higher voices and faster heart rates.
Do dogs really care about music?
Probably the best measure of whether or not your specific dog likes music and if so, what kind of music he likes, is whether or not you like music. Dogs are extraordinarily tuned into their humans. They watch your face and take note of how relaxed or tense you are. There's nothing that makes your dog happier than having a happy human.
There are some signs that your dog definitely is not enjoying the music. If he paws at or tries to cover his ears, whimpers or whines, or leaves the room, something is bothering him. It may be the volume: cranking Metallica as loud as you can is a great idea for humans, but it might hurt your dog's ears.
More than likely, if you like music, your dog will like the same music just because you do. Whether your prefer Brad Paisley, Frank Sinatra, Sting, Iron Maiden, or Beethoven, go ahead and listen to it with your pup. Just keep the volume down to a mild roar.
Pam Hair is a pet industry copywriter with Fuzzy Friends Writer, where she combines her three passions: a love of animals, a strong desire to help other people, and the joy of writing. She has been a pet parent over the years to dogs, cats, and a variety of rodents. Currently she and her husband share their home with two guinea pigs.