Creating the Best Playlist for Reducing Stress and Anxiety in Dogs

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A senior lecturer of music from the University of West London created what he deems is the “optimal” playlist for reducing stress and anxiety in dogs.

Sam Sutton cites a 2017 study from the University of Glasgow, where researchers explored the effects of different musical styles on dogs. Not surprisingly, the effects of music on calming animals have been well-documented. Particularly, classical music has been shown to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in rats and other animals. But this comes with a caveat: over time, the soothing effects of symphonies and quartets begin to wane.


How to Measure Stress in Dogs

With this in mind, the research team at Glasgow set up a study wherein a group of dogs was exposed to various genres of music over five days. The selection of music included pop, reggae, Motown, soft rock, and classical. The goal was to see if variety in music could limit the diminishing effects. In order to measure the dog’s stress levels, researchers measured heart rate variability and cortisol levels. Adding to that, the team observed physical traits related to stress, such as barking and the amount of time spent lying versus standing.

At the end of the study, researchers found that music had a significant effect on dogs across the board. Firstly, all dogs spent more time lying down when music was being played, regardless of genre. Secondly, music was not found to have any effect on barking. However, the majority of the dogs were more likely to bark in response to music being stopped. 

There were some very interesting results, however. Heart rate variability was notably higher, signaling decreased stress, when the dogs listened to soft rock and reggae. Alongside that, cortisol levels in the pups were also higher after listening to soft rock and in the silent control period following. 

Curating a Dog-Friendly Playlist

Citing the results from the study, Sam Sutton sought to create a playlist that could mitigate stress and anxiety in dogs. Particularly, Sutton hoped to create a tool for dog parents on road trips with their furry friends. Regarding the study, he suggests that the positive traits of certain genres of music can have similar effects on both humans and dogs. “Reggae is often associated with sunshine and chilling out, so perhaps this type of soothing emotional response is shared with our canine companions,” he says.

Sutton also noted that a dog’s increased range of hearing may make certain types of music especially grating. Alongside his ‘best of’ playlist, he compiled a list of songs to avoid when traveling with dogs. “Since a dog’s hearing range is wider than the human’s, you may want to avoid any music with whistling as this could trigger their natural sense of response and curiosity,” Sutton says. Unfortunately, the list contains mostly songs that fall into hard rock and metal, from bands such as System of a Down, Metallica, and AC/DC making the list.

So, What’s On the Playlist?

For the best songs to help anxious dogs, the playlist includes:

  1. “How Deep Is Your Love” – Bee Gees
  2. “No Woman No Cry” – Bob Marley
  3. “(Everything I Do) I’ll Do It for You” – Bryan Adams
  4. “I Want to Know What Love Is” – Foreigner
  5. “Dark Side of The Moon” – Pink Floyd
  6. “One In 10” – UB40
  7. “Hounds of Love” – Kate Bush
  8. “Desperado” – The Eagles
  9. “Many Rivers to Cross” – Jimmy Cliff
  10. “Love is King” – Sade

As for the worst songs to help your dog stay calm while traveling, the list is:

  1. “Black Dog” – Led Zeppelin
  2. “Back In Black” – ACDC
  3. “Paranoid” – Black Sabbath
  4. “Chop Suey!” – System Of A Down
  5. “Duality” – Slipknot
  6. “Enter Sandman” – Metallica
  7. “Smoke on the Water” – Deep Purple
  8. “Runnin’ with the Devil” – Van Halen
  9. “Ace of Spades” – Motörhead
  10. “Master of Puppets” – Metallica

Regardless of your particular taste in music, it’s great to know how we calm our dogs on the road. We’re thankful for Mr. Sutton and the team in Scotland for their research and hope that more dog parents are aware of how music can alter their dog’s mood. Beyond curating our music choices, there are a variety of ways we can make travel more enjoyable for our canine companions. Maybe just lay off the heavy metal for a while.

This story originally appeared on Study Finds.