New research from the wellness brand for dogs, Pooch & Mutt, has discovered the perfect formula for curating a calming data-driven playlist for your dog.
Any dog owner knows that soothing your pooch can be difficult, especially with over-active and energetic puppies. Numerous scientific studies and research have shown that music is a great way to help reduce stress and separation anxiety in our furry friends. However, with endless playlists to choose from, it’s hard to know which one is best placed to relax your dog.
With over 4,000 combined likes, we gathered data from 13 official Spotify playlists, analysing over 500 songs and 24 hours of music to determine the most popular songs to help settle your dog. Listen to our data-driven playlist on Spotify here.
The top tracks to calm your pooch
After looking at over 500 different songs, we’ve narrowed down the list to the top 10 most soothing tracks for your pup.
We explored the Bpm (tempo/song speed), energy (how intense/active the track is), happiness (how cheerful the track is), instrumentals (how likely to feature no vocals), acoustics, speechiness (words spoken on the track), and decibels (how loud) to determine why these songs are so relaxing. According to our research, here are the top tracks you should play to relax your dog.
Each of these top 10 songs appeared several times across the different playlists, with the top three tracks featuring 5x more than the 500 songs analysed across the 13 Spotify playlists we studied. The remaining tracks appeared at least twice more.
Creating the ultimate song for relaxed dogs
Based on our findings, we calculated the averages of each track to discover the perfect song composition for a song for calming dogs. As it turns out, slow, quiet, acoustic songs with minimal vocals are the best ones to play for calm pups and chilled-out doggos.
The ultimate calming songs comprise:
An adante (or walking speed) Bpm of 95
A low dB of 24
A low energy level of 22
A melancholic melody (20/100 happiness)
A gentle acoustic rating of 87
Minimal spoken vocals (82 in instrumentals and 6 in speechiness)
By playing songs that have these levels, you can help your pooch to stay calm and collected if they’re feeling boisterous or anxious.
If you’re looking for something to sing along to as you chill at home, do housework, or even taking your pup on an adventure, our ideal song parameter findings also show that these popular tracks could help to settle your pup:
My Heart Will Go On – Céline Dion
Sail – AWOLNATION
I Will Always Love You – Whitney Houston
Hey There Delilah – Plain White T’s
More Than Words – Extreme
Imagine – Jack Johnson
Work Out – J. Cole
Dancing On My Own – Calum Scott
So why are these parameters important, and how do they affect how your pup feels? Let’s look a little further into the meanings of the different aspects of what makes relaxing music for dogs.
Scientists and researchers have delved into the effect of music on dogs to determine the perfect canine-friendly frequencies to reduce stress. Studies found that classical music with a low Bpm of 50-60 is proven to reduce stress, but after time, dogs become bored.
Instead, reggae and soft rock are better genres for reducing heart rate, barking and stress. Researchers speculate this is due to the similarities in Bpm (beats per minute) of these genres to dogs’ heart rates, beating around 120 to 160 Bpm depending on the breed. This mimics the feeling of relaxation puppies seek from their mothers’ heartbeat when snuggling into them.
Our research matches this theory, with the average Bpm of 95 matching more closely with that of a dog’s heart rate.
Dogs have extremely sensitive hearing. Your dog’s top-end of hearing is between 47,000 and 65,000 Hz (depending on the breed), a range that’s far too high-pitched for us mere mortals to register. And, according to Stanley Coren in his book, How Dogs Think, dogs can hear sounds at volumes as low as 5 to 15dB. In comparison, we humans can only hear in a range of 20 to 20,000Hz.
Decibels (dB) are used to measure the intensity of sound. To put into perspective just how sensitive your dog’s hearing is, the CDC rates normal breathing at 10dB and a ticking watch at 20dB.
All the tracks in our research are below 40dB, which is the average for home noise and are not likely to startle or disturb your dog from sounds they’re used to hearing on an everyday basis.
Melancholic Melodies and Gentle Acoustic Songs
It’s no surprise that dogs need entertainment just like humans. When we listen to music, we experience entrainment – a process where rhythms can cause major systems in the body like heart rate, brain waves, and breathing to speed up or slow down.
Researchers have noted that dogs can also be entrained when experiencing external rhythms. As with humans, the more complex the music, the more energy is required to decipher it, which is why simple, gentle acoustic songs with more sombre melodies lead to a greater relaxation response.
The majority of the tracks we looked at had simple arrangements and minimal electric instrumentation, thus meaning that the brain doesn’t have to work as hard to process the song, particularly in cases where dogs are already feeling stressed or anxious.
Top Tips from a Vet
If you’re new to playing music for your pups, you probably have some questions. We spoke to Veterinary Surgeon, Dr Linda Simon to answer any queries and concerns you may have about playing soothing music for dogs.
Any tips for getting puppies used to background noise?
Puppyhood is the absolute best time to get your dog used to everyday noises. This includes things like sirens, fireworks, traffic, and thunderstorms. The best way to do this is to naturally introduce them to the noises in real-time to help desensitise them to each sound.
Ensure you are calm and that the experience is positive. Reward their calm behaviour with lots of treats and praise. If they seem unsettled, remove them from the situation.
When is the best time to play calming music for your dog?
Calming music is a hugely useful tool that can be used for any dog, whether anxious or not. Some of the most common situations in which I’ll advise its use are:
When an owner leaves their dog home alone. This is especially important if they suffer from separation anxiety.
When there is external noise that could be stressful (such as a party next door or a firework session). Giving your dog another noise to focus on can help minimise stress levels.
When crate training and/or sleep training your puppy. You may find the sessions go better when calming music is being played in the background.
When travelling in your car, particularly if your dog gets a little nervous.
Any body language to look out for that might indicate your dog isn’t responding well to music?
A dog’s body language can be subtle, and it is important you watch them closely when introducing a new type of music. If your dog freezes or tenses, if they are howling or restless, if they are drooling or trembling, they may dislike the music. The wrong music or music that is being played too loud has the potential to upset your dog.
Why do some dogs experience noise aversion? Do you have any tips other than music and audiobooks that could help with the fear of noise?
Most of the time, dogs develop noise aversion or phobia because they were not positively exposed to the noise when younger. Thus, when they hear it as adults, they do not know what it is, and it can be scary to them.
Dogs can also have noise aversion if they associate negative feelings with certain noises. For example, perhaps they were overwhelmed and scared while out walking in a busy environment, and the noise of traffic reminds them of that bad feeling.
Desensitisation to ‘scary’ noises is a powerful tool. Expose your dog to a taped version of the noise they fear. Start small on a very low volume and ensure your dog is comfortable and calm. Reward this behaviour. Over time (this can be a few weeks or months), gradually build the volume until your dog is no longer fearful of the noise.