Dogs love Bach

Dogs love Bach
Dogs love Bach

HOW would you feel if, as a music composer and performing artist, your work was selected for use as part of the "enhanced interrogation techniques" used to "gain the cooperation" of Guantanomo Bay terrorist suspects?

According to a 2005 news report, Eminem's album Slim Shady was played at high volume to inmates and sources said that it made them frantic.

It is self evident that music affects us. After all, that is why we listen to it; and there are several formal studies showing that mood regulation and emotional management are among the most important reasons we consume music.

This has generated interest in investigating the effect of music on other species. A recent study, published in the Journal of Veterinary Behaviour, looked at the effect of different types of music on 117 dogs in a boarding kennel.

We know that being in a kennel can be stressful for some dogs. The surroundings are unfamiliar and they are socially and spatially restricted which can lead to considerable anxiety which may manifest as barking, increased activity, reduced sleeping and also shaking.

So, the researchers in this study played a selection of four different classical pieces by Beethoven, Strauss and Bach, as well as three heavy metal tracks by Motorhead, Slayer and Judas Priest, plus specially "psychoacoustically designed" music from an album called Music to Calm your Canine Companion! Periods of silence or no music were given for 15 minutes per hour.

All dogs showed more agitation and body shaking behaviour during all heavy metal selections when compared with any other auditory stimulus. The special "dog relaxation music" was found to have minimal effect on stressful behaviours.

The good news is classical music promoted more restful behaviours indicative of a reduced stress level. Hopefully future studies might determine what aspects of classical are most helpful.

Meanwhile, we'll be playing Sibelius rather than Status Quo or Slayer in our vet hospital.

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