How Music can Impact Your Shelter

Over the past couple of decades, researchers have begun to impact the impact of music on nonhuman animals. It is now known that different types of music can increase a wide variety of behaviors—from copulatory behavior to aggressive posturing. Recently, scientists have identified classical music to be beneficial for a wide range of animals—from elephants and gorillas to mice and dogs. Sheltering organizations around the country have embraced the concept by implementing music into enrichment programs. Levels of success have been varied, but it’s worth a shot if you haven’t tried it.

Of course, not all classical music is the same, and some of the variance in behavior is due to the difference in cadence, beat, and tempo. The impact of 24/7 sound versus a few hours of silence can also be powerful; shelters implementing music into their programs should always turn off music during the overnight. To that end, recent research has uncovered some potential impact of species-specific music. Known as psycho-acoustically designed dog music, the surface of this concept has just begun to crack.

If you’re thinking about introducing music to your shelter, opt for slower, calmer sonatas and concertos rather than full symphony recordings. Play music at strategic times of day, such as when browsing is low and when the animals are beginning to wake up. Keep the volume low and track behavior progress over the course of several weeks.

Interestingly, researchers have begun to unpack the differences between different ambient sounds. A recent study examined dog behavior with regular kennel sounds, classical music, pop music, the psychoacoustically designed dog music, and audiobooks. Surprisingly, dogs spent more time resting and less time in vigilant behaviors when listening to audiobooks. This may be another strategy for you to implement.


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