by Steve Rees, Ret. RN, Harpist
Music has had many beneficial effects on humans. Each day, I receive comments on my YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/peregrinnatti) about how people have been helped by the calming effects of the harp music videos that I offer. I was a bit surprised one day when I received a comment from one of my listeners that their dog had been calmed by my harp music. They told me that the dog had been very hyperactive, and they didn’t know what to do. One of them had the idea of putting some of my music on the stereo to see what happened. They told me that their dog immediately went over to one of the speakers, laid down, and went to sleep. Awesome!
Another amazing report came sometime later from a friend that raised goats. She milked them to sell the milk and make various goat milk products. She told me that the goats were quite skittish and would often kick a half-filled bucket over wasting the milk that had already been collected. One day, she decided to play one of my CDs during the milking process. She reported that she hasn’t lost a bucket of milk since. She said that the goats just settled down and ate calmly during the milking process – Total transformation.
I have received several other testimonies along the way. So, I decided to do a little research to see if this phenomenon had been noticed or documented by anyone else or another source. That lead me to an online site, Animal Wellness Magazine. One article I will be quoting from was written by Susan Wagner, DVM on January 5, 2016, https://animalwellnessmagazine.com/musics-healing-effects
One of the first things to remember about animals, especially dogs, is that their hearing range is quite different than a human range. Humans range from 20 Hertz to about 20,000 Hertz. A dog’s range is 40 to 65,000 Hertz. That means that a dog can hear high sounds that humans cannot hear. The sound is there but we cannot discern it because our ears cannot translate that fast of a vibration into a meaningful auditory signal to our brain, so it doesn’t register as sound to us.
But a dog’s ear can translate that high pitch of a sound into a usable auditory signal, therefore, identifying the sound. We can demonstrate that with the use of a dog whistle. When we blow on it, we don’t hear anything, but a dog does hear and comes running, or maybe begins to howl.
We also notice that animals are more sensitive to sound than humans. For instance, a dog starts to bark when a car enters the property well ahead of when the human hears the car coming. Also, we note that a dog may run for hiding when thunder is sounding off, or howl when an instrument is being played such as a trumpet. They hear differently.
But there are similarities with the effects of music on animals. Dr. Wagner went on to make these observations in her article. “The effects of music have been well documented in humans, and studies with domestic and other animals have revealed that music also has a powerful effect on them. For example, studies showed that country music can calm ponies while classical music helped cows produce more milk and improved the growth rate of chickens. A recent study on cats demonstrated that calming music increased the depth of anesthesia during surgery. Dolphins, meanwhile, have been known to swim in synchrony to Bach.”
She went on to note, “A study done in Ireland found that classical music is the preferred calming sound source in dog shelters. Research done by Through a Dog’s Ear took this a step further and applied the principles of resonance, entrainment, and the orienting response to classical music selections. It discovered that slow, psychoacoustically arranged single-instrument (piano) music had the most calming effects. Upwards of 70% of dogs in shelters and veterinary offices, and 85% of dogs in home environments, became noticeably calmer with this music. It was also found to reduce twice as many anxiety behaviors in fearful dogs as standard classical selections did. Many animal shelters are now benefiting from programs that provide calming music for their residents.”
As we understand the benefits of calming music for our animals and pets, it is important to also consider their level of sensitivity to sound. Since their hearing is more acute than our own, Dr. Wagner recommends that we take special care to analyze the sound sources in our home environment. Are there sound sources that might be acceptable for us but are upsetting for our pets? Have we gotten used to some sound sources that can be harmful to our animals?
With the knowledge of these studies, we can control the sound environment of our homes by reducing some of the more harmful sound sources and introducing some of the calming sources such as the music suggested above. I could put in a recommendation for the music of my calming harp too.
One more story comes from a friend of mine in Ohio that operates a pet spa. Owners drop off their pets to receive grooming and cleaning, then come by a few hours later to pick up their pets. She told me that she plays my harp music every day, softly in the background. One day an owner picked up their pet, and they asked her, “What are you doing to my pet? Every time I pick them up, they are so calm!”. She told them about the music, and they were amazed.
In the final analysis, if music has been demonstrated through multiple studies to benefit humans, it is reasonable to expect it to be beneficial for our family pets and animals as well? I could show you YouTube video after video of animals responding to music. It is natural, and it’s a part of life. Music benefits Life for animals too!