If you are a music lover, you probably have music playing in your house throughout the day. It can be easy to assume that since your pet is always exposed to your music they share the same taste, but this might not be the case. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have been doing extensive research on pet’s music taste and have come to some interesting conclusions.
As humans, we prefer music that matches our vocal range, uses familiar tones, and has a tempo similar to our heartbeat. What we don’t enjoy is music that's off-pitch, too fast, or too slow. What these studies have found is that the same preferences and distastes were present in the musical taste of animals. Animals prefer the music tailored to their species, which was designed to match the pitches, tones, and tempos that are familiar to them.
While we can generally say that our pets would choose species-specific music over human music, there are exceptions. In the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s study, all of their participants were cats because there isn’t much variation in the size across breeds. This means that the preferred tone, pitch, and tempo would be consistent across all participants.
Dogs, on the other hand, have much more variation in size between breeds – this makes it more difficult to create music that will appear to all dogs. What’s interesting is that large dogs, such as a Labrador or Mastiff, have a vocal range that is quite similar to humans so they may enjoy the same music as us. Knowing this, researchers hypothesize that larger breeds are more likely to enjoy human music than smaller breeds.
In a similar study conducted at Queen’s University Belfast, researchers have found that dogs are actually able to discern between genres and display different body language when listening to them. For example, dogs who listened to classical music showed more relaxed behaviors than dogs who listened to metal music, who showed more agitated behaviors.
If you have a larger dog or know that your pet really does enjoy music, it can be fun to try and figure out what genre they like best. Try playing a selection of different songs and monitor their body language to see how they respond. If you notice them respond to a specific song, you can try other songs in that category and make a custom playlist. This could be a great enrichment tool for when they spend time home alone! For small dogs, there are countless playlists available online with tracks designed for the ears of small breeds.
If you have a cat, the results of these studies suggest that you should stick with species-specific music. Musician David Teie composed a series of songs for cats that were used as part of the Wisconsin-Madison study, which are now available on his site.