The Oakland Tribune had a intriguing story this week about how classical music can soothe stressed dogs. Seriously. I remember an album about classical music for plants so why not?
Staff writer Christine Morente reports that an animal behaviorist named Maria Skorobogatov is experimenting with piping classical music into kennels in San Mateo: "We use sounds and visual aids to keep them mentally and physically stimulated. It also helps them relax and that gets them adopted," Skorobogatov said. It appears that, when played in shelters, "classical music -- not rock or jazz -- had a calming effect on dogs."
She is using a CD of slower music by Bach, Chopin, Rachmaninoff and others produced by a research team who wrote, "Through a Dog's Ear: Using Sound to Improve the Health & Behavior of your Canine Companion." Written by Joshua Leeds, a sound researcher and Susan Wagner, a veterinary neurologist, it and CDs are available at Through A Dog's Ear. The full story can be found here.
While perhaps not enough research has been done, I don't think this is so far fetched, but it is not because classical music is quiet! That is the biggest misconception about classical music -- the dynamic shifts in your average symphony far outpace pop music. It might be that classical music was more effective because it doesn't have the emphasis on the beat that much pop/rock has (because much pop/rock is either dance music or stems from dance music). A solid beat is something that the brain can fixate on, whereas classical music has extremely flexible tempos that allow for the mind to wander. Then again, what do I know about how a dog thinks...
Nonetheless, it would make sense that some sounds, like some sights and smells would have a beneficial effect on a dog, and it would be great if animal shelters would extend their consideration of the welfare of their animals to include what they hear, too. I am sure some already do. And if Fido starts growling the "Ode to Joy," we may have found the answer to the shrinking audience problem.