By Sarah Guy, medwireNews Reporter
Playing classical music to dogs housed in kennels on either a temporary or permanent basis results in them spending more time sleeping, and less time vocalizing, report researchers.
However, not all music had this effect - heavy metal music appeared to increase behaviors associated with nervousness, such as body shaking, the team found.
Shelters are inherently stressful environments for most dogs since they induce social isolation or restriction, which is known to lead to development of physiologic and behavior problems. The results of this study suggest that "playing classical music might help ameliorate some of these negative aspects."
Lori Kogan (Colorado State University, Fort Collins, USA) and co-investigators exposed 117 dogs, of which 34 were rescue dogs and 83 were boarding dogs, to three types of music over the course of 4 months.
During 45-minute periods, the dogs were exposed to classical music, heavy metal music, or a modification of classical music especially designed for dogs, as well as being exposed to silence, which acted as a control condition.
The researchers observed the dogs during the music and control exposures, and found a significant difference in the number of sleeping behaviors, based on auditory stimulus. Both boarding and rescue dogs slept more during classical music than during the other two music types, or control.
The team also reports a significant difference in the dogs' vocalization (ie, barking or silent) according to auditory stimulus; while rescue dogs spent more time silent than boarding dogs. Overall, dogs spent the longest amount of time silent during classical music (in particular, Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata), and the least amount of time silent during control periods.
These findings suggest that "classical music promot[es] more restful behaviors that might be associated with a reduced stress level," write Kogan and colleagues in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior.
Furthermore, they observed significantly more body shaking - a behavior suggestive of anxiety or nervousness - among the dogs when heavy metal music was played, specifically the song 'Angel of Death' by Judas Priest, which induced significantly more shaking than did any of the other auditory exposures.
"The findings from this study have potential welfare implications for shelter dogs," suggest Kogan et al, and classical music could be a "cost-efficient, practical way to enhance the environment and, therefore, the welfare of shelter dogs," they conclude.
The results are also consistent with human studies, which suggest that music can reduce agitation.
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