Mozart for puppies? Calming dogs with classical music

(Photo: iStockphoto)
Photo: Dog at Piano

BioAcoustic Research Inc. sold more than 250,000 CDs and downloads of its “Through a Dog’s Ear” albums. The collections offer selections designed to soothe dogs, with music sorted by age -- Mendelssohn and Brahms for puppies, Debussy and Massenet for older dogs.

The company’s newest offering, the iCalmDog, is a portable music device designed to ease your dog’s nerves during thunderstorms, fireworks displays or trips to the vet.

Business partners Lisa Spector and Joshua Leeds also customize the sounds of the recordings for the canine ear, the San-Jose Mercury News recently explained:

"Through a Dog's Ear" consists of simplified arrangements of themes by such classical composers as Bach, Beethoven and Schubert. Spector typically plays the music at a slower than normal tempo, while Leeds removes the higher frequencies from the notes during postproduction.

The music is particularly well-suited, Spector says, for dogs that are sensitive to living in a human environment, with its cacophonic array of noises, from car horns and police sirens to jackhammers. Spector and Leeds have produced three CDs specifically designed to acclimate dogs to these urban sounds, as well as thunder and fireworks, in collaboration with Victoria Stillwell, star of the TV show "It's Me or the Dog" on Animal Planet.

But is there evidence to back up the idea of treating Spot to some calming classics?

Some studies suggest there is. Scientists and veterinarians are already studying the calming effect of classical music on pooches in stressful situations.

A 2012 Colorado State University study published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior found dogs in animal shelters slept better after exposure to classical music but shook more -- a sign of agitation -- when heavy metal blasted from nearby speakers.

Researchers’ interest in the calming effects of classical music on animal extends beyond domestic pets.

Scientists working at a zoo in Belfast in reported elephants engaged in less pacing and other abnormal behavior after exposure to classical music, the Guardian wrote in 2008. But researchers stressed it’s unclear how the elephants process the music -- whether they enjoy the melodies and harmonies or it simply masks upsetting background noise.