Animal expert reveals music calming playlist for dogs

The personalised playlist for pooches, compiled by Anna Webb, who partnered with Škoda, is being released today

Doug Shields
Wednesday 08 March 2023 15:47 GMT
<p>Dog behaviourist Anna Webb with happy Labrador Boris who is relaxed after enjoying the playlist</p>

Dog behaviourist Anna Webb with happy Labrador Boris who is relaxed after enjoying the playlist

Animal expert reveals music playlist for dogs – with Adele, Harry Styles and Bob Marley making the list.

An animal behaviour expert has revealed that dogs not only like music created by humans, but it can calm them down during car rides – and has also shared their favourite tunes.

The personalised playlist for pooches, compiled by Anna Webb, who partnered with Škoda, is being released today (8 March).

All tracks on the ‘Happy Hounds’ musical montage were specifically selected because they help ease stress for dogs, due to their rhythm, beats per minute or the singer’s soft vocals.

The playlist, which is available now on Spotify, comes following a survey conducted by the car-manufacturer, which is the official sponsor of Crufts this year, which revealed six in 10 dogs become anxious when in a car.

It’s a safety issue as well, with 75% of drivers saying their pet’s behaviour has distracted them while on the move.

And six out of 10 owners said they don’t know how to help their nervous hound.

Dogs can become anxious in cars for many reasons including the space being unfamiliar, hearing unusual sounds from the road and weather, the temperature being too warm in the car, previous bad experiences, and motion sickness.

The study of 1,000 dog owners also revealed 60 per cent are forced to limit where they go on days out due to their dog becoming so distressed in the car.

So, what do dogs actually like listening to?

Among the top 20 is Bob Marley and The Wailers with ‘No Woman, No Cry’, Adele (‘Oh My God’) and other artists such as Rihanna and Taylor Swift.

The soothing tones of Frank Ocean and David Bowie also work wonders for the animals.

Dog owner Aaron Green with Labrador Boris enjoying the Spotify playlist.

Pop heartthrob Harry Styles’s smash hit Watermelon Sugar also made it onto the specially curated list due to his velvety vocals.

Before the launch of the playlist Happy Hounds, Škoda asked a few pet owners to try the tunes out with their pooches – and the tracks were a rip-roaring success.

“All in all, I was really surprised at how effective it was,” said Carina, 38, a researcher from Staffordshire, owner of Monty the Cavachon.

“If I’m honest, I was a little sceptical at first as to how much effect it could have, as the songs seemed so random! But I was happily proved wrong.”

“I would do anything to make journeys easier and more comfortable for Monty.

”This was a simple change to make, and it made Monty’s experience in the car much more enjoyable, I’m sure.”

Dog owner, school administrator Thelma, 52, from Barnet, London said: “When we got to Cayendo by Frank Ocean, Theo, a German Splitz Klein, was really relaxed, sitting down and even closed his eyes.

“By the time we got to Starman at the end of playlist he was curled up in his chair.

“I really enjoyed the playlist myself and will be listening again in the future.”

The music selection is not just about the artist’s voice, as Anna reveals that the beats per minute is key to keeping your dog comfortable on long journeys.

She said: “Emulating the heartbeat is thought by science to offer a calming effect. Small dogs and puppies normally have heart rates of 120 to 160 beats per minute.

“These songs work as they are not heavy metal or similar genres which is known to disturb sleep patterns in dogs.

“I included some reggae songs on the upper end of the BPM as it’s proven dogs like reggae, so these will work well for smaller dogs as their heartbeat is faster than bigger dogs.”

Anna added “We also based the playlist on a deep understanding of the relationship between beats per minute and high and low frequencies.

“The larger the dog, the slower the normal heart rate. This means it is a slow tempo, which science has proven is calming to dogs. So slower tempo songs work for bigger dogs.

“This is important for dogs as their hearing is more attuned to hearing the vibrations in high and low frequencies than us.

“Their responses to music genres will be different to how humans respond to music, as they have increased sensitivity to the high and low frequencies we cannot hear.

“It’s worth acclimatising your dog to the playlist before you get into the car, so the dog makes positive associations with these songs before moving them into the car.

“These songs therefore will offer a ‘memory’ that all is okay in situations like weather conditions making the car suddenly a bit scarier, or suddenly sensing the movement of a huge vehicle overtaking you.”

The Skoda Happy Hounds playlist and scientific rationale:

  • No Woman No Cry – Bob Marley and the WailersReggae goes down superbly with anxious dogs as they find it calming because of its unique rhythm - 4x4 time signature with heavy accent placed on the 2nd and 4th beats of the bar – so it’s perfect for chillaxin’ to on a long drive.
  • Oh my God – AdeleRumour has it Adele’s voice is of a lower frequency and in turn it keeps a melody without sharp contrasts, a consistency which is incredibly important for dogs.
  • Good Days – SZASZA’s track has a reggae style with its classic 4x4 rhythm. Additionally, the BPM or tempo is 121 BPM, so the upper end for dogs helping them to remain calm.
  • More Than a Woman – Bee GeesWith this bone-afide classic, the dance beat is melodic and not fast paced, making it a perfect drive time tune for dogs. It also has a good BPM for dogs at a steady 106 BPM, falling into the range of lower frequency, or vibrations.
  • Anti-Hero – Taylor SwiftTaylor’s a hero with this new tune, as it comes in at 106 bpm making for a perfect tempo for our furry friends. Taylor also sings at a low frequency and speed, at a steady rhythm of 4x4 so its best suited for aiding dogs’ anxiety.
  • Orphans – ColdplayThis is ‘soft rock’ in style, so a perfect music track for dogs. It is also 106 beats per minute so in range as low frequency.
  • Coming Back – James Blake ft. SZAThis has an 86-bpm tempo, so low frequency and in range for dogs’ heartbeats. Overall, it fits perfectly in terms of dog’s regular heartbeat.
  • Candy – Paulo NutiniThis sweet tune has a 123 bpm, so Paulo’s smooth vocals sit comfortably at the upper frequency range for dogs.
  • Dreams – Fleetwood MacA classic ‘Easy Listening’ soft rock and therefore ideal for anxious dogs to help them dream in the car – it has a 61 bpm so a low frequency and tempo, along with a steady 4x4 beat.
  • Fly Me to The Moon – Frank SinatraThis has a 119 BPM so low frequency, warm vocal. Pawfect!
  • Flowers – Miley CyrusA 118 BPM rhythm, so a low frequency and easy melody for dogs to listen to. Regular 4x4 beat meaning no major riff gear changes and a pawsome choice to play.
  • Cayendo (Side A – acoustic) – Frank OceanRide that ocean wave…this is 49 beats per minute so on the low vibrations and frequency scale, resulting in a very calming tune.
  • Hound Dog – Elvis PresleyScience suggests Rock n Roll is agitating for dogs; however, at 87 beats per minute the tune actually comes in at a low frequency, and therefore absolutely ideal for dogs in the car. Rock ‘n’ Roll over, doggos.
  • The Dogs of War – Pink FloydPink Floyd has a su-paw song with the tempo and BPM at 88 – it can’t get better than this!
  • Starman – David BowieBowie will be the star of the show with this choice as the tempo is 100, so in range for dogs to stay calm as a lower frequency vibration – it’s exactly what an anxious dog needs.
  • Watermelon Sugar – Harry StylesThis pup-ular artist will also raise the woof for dogs, as his award-winning song sits in the 85 BPM, so in line with the ‘reggae’ ideal.
  • Stay – RihannaThis throwback song is a relaxing 112 bpm, so some might say it’s the ultimutt furrapy, with low frequency vibrations and a 4 x4 rhythm.
  • Careless Whisper – George MichaelAnother 4x4 beat and is 76 BPM - so a little slow, but George’s husky tones are great for bigger dogs with a lower heartbeat and will get tails wagging.
  • Like a Prayer – MadonnaMadonna gets it right – as always - with her classic anthem, as it hits perfectly with the 111 beats per minute and an even, 4 x 4 beat.
  • Knowing Me, Knowing You – ABBA Finally, at 107 beats per minute, so within the gold standard reggae and soft rock model, and low frequency vibration are Swedish songbirds ABBA.

Anna Webb’s top tips for driving with dogs

1. Acclimatise your dog to its harness indoors using treats and chews as rewards.

2. Build on the length of time they spend in the carrier each day, ensuring they are totally comfortable.

3. Once happy, you’re ready to enter the car. Ensure their experience getting into the car is comfortable, so you may need to use a ramp or gently lift them into the car.

4. When in the car, let your pet settle before turning the engine on. This may take a few days.

5. Bring the playlist into the mix at a low volume and keep the engine off. Don’t reward anxious behaviours with eye contact or speech. Keep sessions short, around 10-15 minutes.

6. Now combine the above, turn the engine on, but remain stationary. Gradually built the time you spend in the car with the engine on.

7. Once content, you’re ready to get moving. Begin with short journeys and lengthen gradually.

8. When getting to longer journeys, plan with your dog in mind. Factor in comfort breaks every two hours and plan a route with dog friendly services or walks.

9. Remember to keep the car at a cool temperature, under 20 degrees, as a dog’s body temperatures are two degrees higher than a human.

10. Finally, dogs can smell stress in our sweat and breathe, so make sure to use the playlist to keep up positive vibes.

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