4 Mental Health Benefits Of Music For Humans & Dogs

A puppy dog wearing earbuds and shaking its head with its eyes closed against a blank white background. (Caption: Mental Health Benefits Of Music For Humans & Dogs)Music has been known to reduce stress and promote healthy immune system functionality, helping to foster the well-being of the listener. In professional healthcare settings, music is often used as a form of therapy to help lower patients’ blood pressure and improve their coping skills.

Humans aren’t the only species that can benefit from music. Dogs may also benefit from exposure to music in similar ways. In addition to acquiring an appropriate pet insurance plan, knowing easy at-home ways to support your dog’s health and wellness can help you build a better relationship and understand their behavior. For instance, though music isn’t the only reason why dogs might howl, sound affects our canine companions in a variety of different ways.

1. Reduces Anxiety

Anxiety — a sustained feeling of worry or unease — can compromise your self-confidence and productivity. Among other coping mechanisms, music has been shown to decrease anxiety. Under the right circumstances, music can reduce your anxiety by over 60%, provided that you’re listening to a calming track.

The same music you use to combat anxiety might have a similar effect on dogs. Dogs often will react positively to favorable sounds, like the squeaking of their favorite toy or the rattle of a full food bowl. On the flip side, calming your dog during a thunderstorm can be a tall order if they react negatively to loud, sudden noises. Many dogs are scared of fireworks for the same reason: loud, startling sounds can trigger a dog’s nervous system and easily elicit fear.

Ongoing studies draw strong ties between calming music and a calm dog. Though results are inconclusive, dogs appear less anxious when exposed to some forms of classical music. Exposing your dog to soothing music, or simply calming sounds, can sometimes help replace their anxiety with peace of mind.

2. Decreases Aggression

Music can also help both dogs and humans curb aggression. Some research indicates a correlation between metal music and your ability to process anger in nonviolent ways.

Many pet parents will seek training to help address aggression in their dogs. If your dog is territorial or protective, you might notice this type of behavior in situations they feel are dangerous or new. It can manifest in signs like growling, shaking, barking, snapping, erect ears, and stiff tails.

This behavior can subside with age or education, but it can be dangerous if not treated effectively. In addition to dog aggression training, pet parents may turn to music to ease their dogs’ aggressive habits. Research has found that calming music can ease a dog’s stressful shaking.

3. Increases Focus

You likely prefer different types of music in different situations. For example, you might listen to different music during a workout than you would at an outdoor barbecue. In some circumstances, music can greatly help you — and your dog — improve mental focus.

Sometimes, music can help focus your attention on a specific subject. It can help you block out distracting noises, allowing you to concentrate on whatever you’re doing. One study conducted by the Stanford University School of Medicine found that music can help your brain absorb and understand information at an improved rate.

Dogs can enjoy similar benefits from music. There’s a simple reason why dogs respond well to targeted sounds: They draw parallels between what they hear and what’s expected of them. Dog trainers will often use whistles, vocal commands, clickers, and beepers to successfully teach dogs different commands.

Music and other auditory stimuli can be powerful tools during the dog training process, allowing trainers to teach your pet how to respect your requests.

4. Improves Sleep

Sleep can greatly affect mental health in a variety of different ways. To maximize sleep quality and improve overall mental health, many people use music as a sleep aid. Provided that it has the right rhythmic characteristics, music can help you improve the quality of your sleep on a nightly basis.

The same study found that music before bed can ease the effects of sleep apnea, nighttime anxiety, and other factors that might compromise your sleep quality.

Noise can have similar calming effects on your dog, especially in the hours before bed. Particularly after a long day of play and excitement, some dogs need a little help winding down. Whether your dog sleeps in a crate, another room, or in bed with you, you can use calming audio to put your pup in the right frame of mind.

Differences In Music Effects On Humans Vs. Dogs

Though music can affect humans and dogs in many of the same ways, there remain some key differences. Dogs can hear higher-pitched noises than humans can, which affects the way that they process sound.

Depending on your setting, mood, company, and time of day, you may prefer a rich diversity of music. Dogs haven’t shown major preferences for one type of music over another. While research has found several positive effects of music on dogs, it has yet to definitively identify their musical preferences.

Humans may find they prefer music to silence, especially in isolation. Whether you’re driving, eating, or sleeping alone, music can provide welcome input when no one else is around. However, dogs don’t display the same preference for music over a lack of sound. Even when they spend time alone, dogs are often content with the surrounding silence.

Music can release dopamine in your brain, particularly when you’re listening to a song you enjoy. While dogs do experience hormone releases at different times, results have yet to tie music to any sort of dopamine increase.