Dogs have a strange attraction to sound. Be it the cars coming down the block, the neighbors riding a bicycle down the street, or even a small animal exploring the back yard, your dog can hear just about everything. But music can often illicit a truly unique response from your canine pal. In fact, the internet is littered with videos of dogs reacting to all sorts of musical genres and sounds. So what's behind this curious attraction that your dog has to music and sound? Is it a sign of anything more deeply rooted than just quirky dog behavior? A lot of individuals have wondered just that.
The Root of the Behavior
To understand a dog's love of sound, one must first understand the sound that dogs make. A lot of individuals think of a dogs bark or bay as a legitimate attempt to create a tune. This idea comes from how dogs can articulate themselves when music is played in their vicinity. Wolves in the wild don't vocalize nearly as often as our domesticated mutts do, which has only stood to confuse things further in the scientific realm. Some researchers have claimed that this could be a learned behavior, and not one inherited from birth. Something to remember is that a howl or bay can be indicative of your animal experiencing a feeling of being isolated from his "pack".
This same behavior can often times also be a positive thing, as it can be an indicator of your dog feeling inclusive. The pack mentality is still present today, and a lot of canines can produce a howl. This can be showing you that your dog sees you as a distinct member of the social hierarchy. An important thing to watch out for here is to make sure and discern what your dog's howl may mean. This can be done by its pitch. Does it start high, and then fade into a low bellow? Good news! This is a sign that your dog feels content with your presence and his role within your "pack." Another reason your dog may like listening to music is because of how sensitive he is to pitch. A dog's ear is up to 75 times more sensitive than yours, so it's entirely possible that what he hears in the music is completely different from what you hear. This has been backed up by a lot of evidence suggesting that dogs can understand pitch. When canines howl in unison, with either other dogs or external sounds, they never want to occupy the same range of tone that the noise occupies. This is something that used to serve ancient dog species well, as it helped make their howl discernable from the pack's howl.
Encouraging the Behavior
If you dog enjoys music and his howl doesn't bother you, there's really no harm in letting them listen. There have even been studies done in which dogs reacted both positively and negatively to different types of music! It showed that dogs could have specific preferences for music, even. Music does however provoke howling. Howling is only a real issue if it bothers you, the owner. Excessive noise in areas with neighbors can also be an issue, so keep that in mind whenever you're dealing with a so-called "singing dog". This behavior is true to a dog's nature so letting him do it when he wants is probably for the best. Something important to consider as well is your dog's hearing. As stated above, your dog's ears are incredibly sensitive and pick up a very wide frequency of sounds. If you are going to expose your dog to music, make sure that it's presented to him at the proper volume levels. Try to let them listen in spaces that aren't confined, in case they want to remove themselves from the sound altogether. Try not to expose your dog to extreme volumes in places like your car. They have no way to cover their ears.
Other Solutions and Considerations
In recent years, music therapy has been used successfully on dogs with anxiety disorders. This treatment can also help with issues like separation anxiety or hyperactivity. It's important that if and when you attempt to start using music therapy on your dog, you do it in a safe environment during a happy moment like feeding time. It is absolutely crucial that you establish positive mental connections to the entire experience. After this positive link to music has been established, you can gradually begin to introduce the object or situation that creates the anxiety. These techniques have also been used successfully in helping to soothe dogs during intensive training sessions.
So what’s your next move, now that you’ve learned that your dog might actually enjoy listening to music? It almost goes without saying that you should introduce music into your dog's life, albeit in a safe and comfortable way. Maybe you can even learn how to sing (or howl) a song together!
By a Shiba Inu lover Patty Oelze
Published: 02/07/2018, edited: 01/30/2020