Your Dog Might Be a Secret Reggae Fan, According to Science

When you live with a dog, your activities become their activities. A casual dinner may mean a little feast for someone under the table, and even something as simple as watching television can trigger some excitable behavior in our animal friends. And, as many a dog-owning music lover or smart speaker user has observed, sometimes a dog's mood seems to change when they hear the sound of music. Like your pet's potential penchant for peanut butter, might your dog be enjoying the songs you play around the house?

"Circumstantial evidence says [music] would have a good effect," Neil Evans told POPSUGAR. Evans, a professor of integrative physiology at the University of Glasgow's Institute of Biodiversity, has studied how dogs relate to music for years. Experiments he's conducted with PhD student Amy Bowman and the Scottish Society For the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) monitored kennel dogs to see if music changed their behavior. Researchers played music for the dogs for prolonged periods of time, then measured their heart rates and cortisol levels while observing behaviors like sleeping, barking, head shaking, and the like. They found the dogs being studied reacted favorably to music — with particular preference toward reggae and soft rock. Who knew Bob Marley was such a hit among the canine set?

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Further research around classical music found that songs heavily featuring violin aren't ideal, likely due to the instrument's high frequency, which dogs' "auditory profile" is more sensitive to. Evans pointed out that music ranging from 80 to 100 beats per minute seems to be a hit with pooches, including songs like Justin Bieber's "Sorry" and Shakira's "Hips Don't Lie." Evans has a theory as to why this is the case. "There's data from humans, particularly babies: if you play them repetitive sounds that match the frequency of the human heart beat, [the sound] relaxes them," Evans said. "It could be the same thing for dogs."

A question for music-loving dog owners is if it's possible to pinpoint their companion's favorite type of music. Evans has a few tips for figuring this out, with an eye toward what musical features dogs prefer. "If music has a ten-second repeat in it, it can have a very calming effect," Evans said. "Think about things like yoga chants where there is a repeating pattern to it: that's what we mean." Since your dog can't tell you in so many words, look for subtle signs they seem relaxed to clue you into whether they're digging your selection. Evans said there's less barking and a lot less movement in dogs who are enjoying music. Look for them to spend "more time lying in their bed," he said. "They're more chill."

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One thing to keep in mind is variation in any form. Dogs — like humans — prefer it if you mix up the playlist, something Evans said was exhibited by the dogs in his study, who eventually got bored of hearing the same tunes repeatedly for a week.

However, not much has been studied regarding music that incorporates singing or speaking. Evans is curious to study how dogs react to music and voice together, a thought that runs parallel to anyone who has left the television on for a dog. "Music and speaking are difficult," Evans said. However, if the television's on, "it gives them the same kind of [feeling] of people doing stuff and normal household noises . . . It's a sort of substitute."

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A sound to potentially steer clear of for rescue dogs — particularly rescue dogs from poor home environments — are voice recordings like audiobooks performed by men. "They did not like male audiobooks," Evans said, "which would suggest they potentially had more abuse from a male before they were rescued. We can't prove that, but that's the implication."

So, next time you make a playlist or put on your favorite style of music, keep in mind that your dog is definitely listening — and might have some opinions of her own. "See what they respond to best," Evans said. "It's what they calm down to. When you put something on and your dog starts pacing around, trying to get away, making noises, they're not happy. They don't like that type of music." Next time you play music with your dog around, definitely keep them in mind — and know that you might have a little music snob at your feet.