While Bruce Springsteen croons, "57 channels and there's nothing on," a dog listening to the radio or the television might disagree. Your dog can hear far better than you can. But the question is, does he like what he hears? A canine doesn't have an aesthetic sense -- he can't tell music from noise -- but at least two experts believe what dogs listen to is important.
Dogs, like humans, depend on hearing to navigate their world. But for canines, that sense needed to be more developed for survival in the wild. Before being domesticated, dogs relied on sound to warn them of predators. Even their anatomy -- including longer ear canals to funnel sound into the hearing apparatus -- makes their hearing much keener than humans'. Dogs hear at higher frequencies: 67 hertz to 45 kilohertz, whereas humans hear only sounds between 20 hertz and 20 kilohertz.
Sound as Company
Many dog owners leave a radio playing while they're away from home for the dog's sake: to make the dogs feel less lonely, to provide stimulation so he won't get bored or to prevent him from barking excessively. Background noise, like radio or TV, can filter out other sounds that might distract a dog. But even though sound used in this manner may be beneficial, exactly what you play for your pup may be more important.
Sound & Behavior
Two experts believe that sounds can serve to create an environment to improve your pup's health and well-being. Joshua Leeds, a psychoacoustic expert and music producer, and Susan Wagner, a veterinary neurologist, have written a book, ">Through a Dog's Ear: Using Sound to Improve the Health & Behavior of Your Canine Companion, that uses the latest science on how dogs hear and react to sound to help canine owners help their dogs.
Radio for Relaxation
According to Leeds and Wagner, sound (particularly soothing music) can help dogs with separation anxiety, overexcitement, fear of thunderstorms and other behavior issues. The authors suggest owners select a classical radio station that plays slow, easygoing music rather than frenetic, loud music. They also say that playing more than one sound source at a time can make your dog nervous. They suggest setting a timer to prevent dogs from becoming overexposed to sound.
Caution: Before tuning the radio to a classical radio station, try to determine whether your dog really likes the sound of the radio. If he places himself close to the source -- the radio -- you can assume the sound doesn't bother him. However, if he shies away from the radio, or blatantly avoids it, perhaps running into another room, then avoid using radio music as a soothing agent. The sound of the radio may agitate your pup more than it relaxes him.
By Debra Levy
About the Author
Debra Levy has been writing for more than 30 years. She has had fiction and nonfiction published in various literary journals. Levy holds an M.A. in English from Indiana University and an M.F.A. in creative writing/fiction from the Bennington Writing Seminars.