Sound phobia? Try Music Therapy For Pets Photo by Dreamstime © Barbara Helgason

 Music Therapy For Pets That Have Sound Phobia

By Dr. Jeannie Thomason


Does your dog have “Sound Phobia”?  Does he/she become anxious and stressed out when there are loud or unusual noises?

There are several gentle, natural methods and remedies to aid in desentizing your pets and keeping them calm during times of loud noises.  One method is music therapy.

Music has a powerful effect on our pet’s health, physically, emotionally and mentally. Research in music therapy supports its effectiveness in a wide variety of healthcare, educational and everyday settings. The frequency of the right sounds lower heart rate, stabilize emotions and elevate mood in animals and humans alike.

“Since ancient times, music has been recognized for its therapeutic value. Greek physicians used flutes, lyres, and zithers to heal their patients. They used musical “vibrations” to aid in digestion, treat mental disturbance, and induce sleep. Aristotle (373-323 BCE), in his famous book De Anima, wrote that flute music could arouse strong emotions and purify the soul. Ancient Egyptians describe musical incantations for healing the sick.” ~Dr. Assad Meymandi,The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) in 2009.

And of course in Biblical times we read of  Zephaniah 3:17  “He will rejoice over you with joyful songs!” and 1 Samuel 16:23 “And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.” II Kings 3:15 “But now bring me a minstrel. And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the LORD came upon him.”

DVDs & Audios -Dog Enrichment, Socialization & Special Training

Music therapy has been found to be helpful to:

Promote Wellness
Manage Stress
Lowers Blood Pressure and Heart Rate
Elevate Mood
Stabilizes Emotions
Alleviate Pain
Enhance Memory
Promote Physical Rehabilitation

Harmonic music with pleasant sounding chords of piano, stringed instruments, and cellos whose size and reverberating chamber produce tones that resonate within the body to provide overtones and undertones that resonate sympathetically. The higher purer tones of the flute create a sympathetic resonance which reverberates into deeper levels and the responses can be in the range of pure joy and happiness. These vibrational reactions in the body release hormones that rid the animal or person of stress, elevate their mood and provide a sense of well-being.

Music therapy is one way to help your dog or cat if they have behavioral or anxiety problems, triggered by sounds – thunder, fireworks, sirens, motorcycles driving by, etc.  Just like humans, our companion animal’s  internal organs vibrate constantly and those vibrations will speed up or slow down in accordance with external rhythms (a process called entrainment) and respond to the vibrations around them.

“Music is one way to control or mediate the sound environment,” according to sound researcher Joshua Leeds, who  co-authored the book and CD set called Through A Dog’s Ear: Using Sound to Improve the Health & Behavior of Your Dog with veterinary neurologist Susan Wagner.

Researchers found that 70 percent of dogs in kennels and 85 percent of dogs in households showed a reduction in stressed-out behavior when listening to the Through A Dog’s Ear – CD, including thunderstorm trembling, excitement with visitors and separation anxiety.

Watch the video below to see how well music therapy works in usually noisy shelter:

Classical music definitely has a calming effect on animals, it is known to be effective to:

calm and soothe
calm during thunderstorms
calm during and after surgery or sickness
aid in healing
aid sleeping disorders
aid in emotional stress when settling into a new home
soothe when being left alone (separation anxiety)

Composer, Robert Boyd states: “that all too often an animal’s ability to appreciate music is underestimated. Animals are very responsive to sound. Dogs are walking ears and noses and it is well known that they hear higher frequencies than humans. They have a better range of hearing not so much in the low frequencies, but in the high. You can drop a pin close enough to a cat and its ear will twitch towards that noise which you wouldn’t have heard at all.” Robert Boyd Music

Psychologist and animal behaviorist Deborah Wells undertook a research program in 2002 to determine the influence of five types of auditory stimulation on dogs: human conversation, classical music, heavy metal music, pop music, and a silent control (no music at all).

From Dr. Wells’s study, it was discovered that classical music had a marked soothing effect on dogs in animal shelters when compared to the other types of auditory stimulation. In the discussion section of her published research, Dr. Wells stated, Classical music resulted in dogs spending more of their time resting than any of the other experimental conditions of auditory stimulation. This type of music also resulted in a significantly lower level of barking.

Alianna Boone, a harpist who plays for ill family pets and produced a CD “Harp Music to Soothe the Savage Beast” – conducted one of the few studies on harp music’s effect on animals. In 2000, she performed for recently hospitalized canines at a Florida veterinary clinic. The hour-long sessions immediately began to lower heart rates, ease anxiety, and respiration in most cases.

It is believed that the harmonic overtones in classical music work at a cellular level much like therapeutic grade essential oils do with their high vibrational frequencies and reduce stress levels. It appears that dogs must hear at least three minutes of music for it to take effect. Generally, at this point, most dogs will start to sit down. Within 10 to 20 minutes, most lie in a resting state with some sleeping soundly.

There are numerous CD’s and downloads of calming music available designed especially for calming and desentizing anxious dogs.  There are also some great CDs with sounds that when played with the volume down and the dog supported and distracted with treats and/or toys work great to aid in desentizing them to the loud noises.  Why not give a couple a try?


Wagner, S., et al. BioAcoustic Research & Development Canine Research Summary (2004).
Notes on the inter-relationship of the two research studies

Wells, D. L., et al. “The Influence of Auditory Stimulation on the Behaviour of Dogs Housed in a Rescue Shelter.” Animal Welfare 11 (2002): 385-393

Wagner, S., et al. BioAcoustic Research & Development Canine Research Summary (2004).


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