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Good News: music to calm dogs in cars

Don and Karen Thayer of Columbus, Minn., brought their dog, Dirty Harry, on a car trip with them in 2020.
Don and Karen Thayer of Columbus, Minn., brought their dog, Dirty Harry, on a car trip with them in 2020.Tom Baker for MPR News
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by Ayisha Jaffer

June 11, 2024

Good News is a series on The Current hosted by Ayisha Jaffer that features stories about music having a positive impact on the world. Do you have a story about a song that influenced you for the better? Feel free to share your Good News story with Ayisha by emailing:

Have you ever left some music on for your pet as a means of keeping them company, maybe reducing their anxiety as you leave home? Maybe it’s The Current you play for them? I have even left on a playlist called “jazz for pets” for my faithful companion.

How about taking a drive? Do you put on the dial?  Well apparently, for dogs a drive can be pretty distressing. Anxiety can come up in about 6 in 10 dogs on a drive which can be distracting and unsafe for drivers, but also you want your pal to feel comfortable.

Well, animal expert and dog behaviorist Anna Webb did some research specifically with dogs in mind on how to reduce their anxiety as they hit the road using music. She considered a myriad of factors that can reduce a pup’s stress including rhythm, beats per minute, what frequencies dogs can hear, and some of those softer vocals. This led to the creation of the Happy Hounds playlist. And when we zero in on some of the reasons for the song choices, what I found most fascinating was considering a dog’s heartbeat and trying match that with the beats per minute of a song calms your doggo down. Slower tempo for bigger dogs is calming and just a little bit faster tempo for smaller dogs works well. Reggae is apparently popular with the small ones.

Some of the artists on the playlist include Harry Styles, Bob Marley, The Bee Gees, Taylor Swift, Frank Sinatra, Rihanna, and Adele to name a few. I’ll play one of these soothing pet approved tracks that might be worth a try and from the expert, Webb says this track has a classic 4x4 reggae style rhythm, a BPM of 121 which is on the upper end for dogs, helping them remain calm, it’s SZA for Good News with “Good Days” on The Current.