By now you’ve probably seen the research showing dogs in shelters are quieter when they’re listening to soft rock, reggae, and (at least for short periods) classical music. You may have seen programs where children come in and read to shelter dogs. So here’s the question: Do dogs like listening to audiobooks?
The answer is yes, reports a recent study published in the peer-reviewed journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science. Researchers worked with 31 shelter dogs, exposing them to five different soundtracks: The audiobook of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe performed by Michael York; classical music; pop music; and music psychoacoustically designed for dogs. They also had a control group who didn’t listen to anything.
They recorded the dogs’ behaviour every five minutes over a two-hour period, and they learned that listening to the audiobook led to a greater increase in resting behavior than any of the other sounds. At the same time, they reported:
- The audiobook had the greatest impact on reducing walking behaviors of kenneled dogs (tied with classical music)
- The audiobook had the greatest impact on reducing sitting/standing behavior
- The audiobook had the greatest impact on reducing barking (tied with the control group — apparently dogs like to sing along!)
The authors wrote (paragraph breaks added for ease of reading):
Activity is often used as an indicator of canine stress, with enhanced resting behaviour being viewed as indicative of relaxation and improved welfare in kenneled dogs. Excessive barking is another indicator of canine stress.
Whilst lower levels of barking were also displayed under the control condition, the audiobook treatment was the most effective of the auditory stimulation conditions in reducing barking. This study therefore suggests that audiobooks may be a more beneficial form of auditory enrichment for kenneled dogs than classical music.
Dogs are highly social animals whose welfare is enhanced by human interactions. Audiobooks may approximate this human interaction for dogs and thus provide the illusion of company and comfort in a kennel environment.
The use of audiobooks is a simple form of stress-control and enrichment that is accessible to most shelters. It’s likely that calmer, less-anxious dogs are more likely to make a good impression on adopters, reducing overall length of stay in the shelter for each dog and increasing the number of adoptions. Playing audiobooks is an affordable, easy-to-implement strategy for reducing anxiety in dogs in their foster and adoptive homes, as well.
And that’s definitely worth reading out loud!
Brayley, C., & Montrose, V. (2016). The effects of audiobooks on the behaviour of dogs at a rehoming kennels Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 174, 111-115 DOI: 10.1016/j.applanim.2015.11.008