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Bach better than Black Sabbath for barking!

Cultured canines who listen to classical music in dog shelters stand more chance of being re-homed, according to a new study by researchers at Queen’s University, Belfast.

The study, funded by the National Canine Defence League (NCDL), was carried out by Dr Deborah Wells and her colleagues Lynne Graham and Professor Peter Hepper in the School of Psychology at Queen’s.

The researchers explored the effect of four types of auditory stimulation on the behaviour and welfare of dogs cared for at an NCDL rehoming shelter, and their findings have just been published in the leading journal, Animal Welfare.

Classical music was found to encourage behaviours more suggestive of relaxation in the dogs, including resting and lower frequencies of barking. Heavy metal music, by contrast, resulted in more agitated behaviours, including increased barking and longer periods of time standing. Neither pop music, nor human conversation, had any apparent effect on the dogs’ behaviour.


Dr Wells said: “It is well established that music can influence our moods Classical music, for example, can help to reduce levels of stress, whilst ‘grunge’ music can promote hostility, sadness, tension and fatigue. It is now believed that dogs may be as discerning as humans when it comes to musical preference.”

Clarissa Baldwin, NCDL Chief Executive, said: “It is very important to us that the dogs have as pleasant a time as possible while they are in our care. Some of our dogs have had a rough start in life and may be stressed out by being in kennels, so we need to ensure they are as calm as possible. We always have the radio on in our Rehoming Centres and now we will be tuning in to Classic FM.”

Earlier work by Wells and Hepper revealed that the behaviour a dog exhibits in a rescue shelter can determine whether or not that animal is re homed.

Visitors to rescue shelters have a much greater preference for quiet dogs over those that are seen barking, often erroneously assuming the latter to be ‘unfriendly’.” said Dr Wells.

“The introduction of classical music into rescue shelters may be a useful means of both promoting more positive canine welfare and facilitating the animals’ chances of subsequent adoption.”

Dr Wells and her team are now exploring the value of music in rescue shelters on the mood and perception of staff and visitors.