Classical music calms canine companions


By Dave Roberts

When I return home after a long day, I love being greeted our rescued boxer, Cutie Patootie. When I pet that dog, I can feel the stress sheet right off of me.

Our dogs do so much for us. For all of the comfort they provide, what can we do for them when they face stressful situations? One simple answer is to play classical music.

Dawn Danielson, director of the county’s Department of Animal Services, says that her staff plays music at all three county shelters. Music is proven to calm a distressed dog’s nerves.

“We use CDs especially made for shelters and boarding kennels,” Dawn says. “When the research first came out, about 10 to 12 years ago, we jumped right on it and so did many other shelters.”

The county’s animal shelters – in Carlsbad, San Diego and Bonita – are clean and orderly, but even the nicest shelter is a very stressful place for a dog. There’s barking on all sides. Doors slam, steel bowls bang and their owners aren’t around.

As unfamiliar people walk among the kennels looking for their pets, you can almost see the look of disappointment when a dog sees, that’s not my “dad,” Dawn says.

Music really helps.

Animal shelters aren’t symphony halls, but the soundtracks can be a lot alike.

County shelters are equipped with CD players that shuffle the songs on six discs. Playing softly through the speakers are the soothing melodies of Bach, Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Vivaldi and Beethoven.

The music is published by a firm called BioAcoustic Research & Development. On its Web site,, the company presents research by animal behaviorists who study the effect of music on dogs.

The studies show that classical music has “a marked soothing effect on dogs in animal shelters when compared to the other types of auditory stimulation.”

Classical music resulted in dogs spending more time resting and less time barking. Not surprisingly, the researcher concluded that heavy metal agitated the dogs, as indicated by increased standing and barking.

Even with classical music, researchers found that complex, orchestral arrangements were not as soothing as solo instruments playing at slower tempos.

For many of us, the end of summer means our pets must stay home alone for long hours as we hustle back to school and work. That can be stressful for the dogs we love, like Cutie Patootie.

So here’s something to wag about: a soothing soundtrack of classical music.

Dave Roberts represents the Third District on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.