Some pet owners might insist their animals like exactly the same music they do, but this might not be true. Research has indicated animals typically don’t have much response to human music, but music that has been composed with their acoustic and vocal range in mind does create a more observable responsiveness, according to Charles Snowdon, an animal psychologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Dogs might be the exception to this general observation, as they seem to become more relaxed with classical music and agitated when heavy metal is played. Snowdon said, “So, it is possible that they might be responsive to music in our frequency range. My prediction is that a big dog might be more responsive to human music than a smaller dog such as a Chihuahua.” (Source: MSNBC)
It is hard to tell how much the two large dogs in this video are enjoying playing a piano. They might be participating because they are following the lead of a human, had extensive training, wanting food reward or all of the above. Some might interpret such a scene as confirming that dogs like the same music and have the same emotional responses to human music, but what scientific research has confirmed such a view?
Some pet owners might vehemently assert that they have seen responses in their pets when they play certain pieces of music, and they could be right, but it’s hard to make conclusions based on personal anecdotes. Some pets might be responding to the change in mood for their owners and not to the music the owners play, for example.
Also, it seems fairly common for humans to project their own emotions on animals, which denies the perspective of animals, and the fact that, though there could be some overlap, there are also differences. These differences are something to keep in mind when playing music for or around animals. Other factors, like volume, should also be considered, as high volume can be stressful or damaging to pets’ ears.
If you are interested in the growing field of species-specific music, cellist and composer David Teie has created music specifically for cats and it is available online. There are several samples you can listen to on the bottom of this page. This music doesn’t sound quite right to human ears, but the point of the research really is that animals have different responsiveness. A Care2 writer, Lisa Spector, who is also a concert pianist has created soothing music just for dogs.
Image Credit: Ohnoitsjamie / Creative Commons