Listening to music, research has shown, is one of the quickest and easiest ways to make yourself more relaxed: The right background tunes can help ease your muscles, brighten a bad mood, even quiet your mind by altering the speed of your brain waves. In a study published last year — a survey of 18,000 people nicknamed the “Rest Test” — more than 40 percent said they used music to unwind.
We’re not the only ones, either: As the Washington Post recently reported, dogs are also calmer and happier after they’ve heard a few songs. In a study recently published in the journal Physiology and Behavior, a team of researchers from the University of Glasgow in Scotland created five different playlists for the dogs — classical, pop, Motown, reggae, and soft rock — and measured their stress during each one, looking at both physical factors (heart rate, levels of the stress hormone cortisol) and behavioral ones (like barking).
Throughout the study, the reaction varied from dog to dog: “What we tended to see was that different dogs responded differently,” study co-author Neil Evans, an animal-health researcher, told the Post. “There’s possibly a personal preference from some dogs for different types of music, just like in humans.” But there were some consistent patterns: Music overall tended to have a calming effect, and of the five genres, soft rock and reggae were the most effective overall.
As Evans explained to the Post, the study results also have broader implications beyond soothing a dog in the moment — they may also help shelters to increase the number of dogs that get taken home to new families:
That’s important because animal shelters, with all their noise and unfamiliarity, can be scary for dogs. And stress can cause dogs to cower, bark loudly, shake or otherwise behave in ways that make them less likely to be adopted.
“We want the dogs to have as good an experience as they can in a shelter,” said Evans, who added that people looking at dogs might also like hearing music. And those people “want a dog who is looking very relaxed and interacts with them.”
The Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which helped to run the study, has already started putting the findings to use: Two shelters currently play music, according to the organization’s website, and plans are in place to “offer our four-footed friends a canine approved playlist” at every shelter in the future. Something to think about next time you want to give your dog a hug: They might be a little more receptive if you crank up the speakers first.