Calming Frequencies. The Sound That Soothes Your Stressed Pup

Introduction

Using sound is a common and effective way to help calm anxious or stressed dogs. Exposure to certain frequencies, rhythms, and tones can have a soothing effect by lowering a dog’s heart rate and promoting relaxation. Playing calming music or soundscapes for dogs is often recommended in situations that tend to produce anxiety, such as during fireworks, thunderstorms, separation from owners, vet visits, boarding, or car rides. The optimal audio frequency range to calm dogs is believed to be between 50-60 hertz. Replicating these low, rhythmic frequencies with specialized audio products or music playlists can provide dogs with much-needed tranquility during stressful events.

How Dogs Hear

Dogs have a wider range of hearing compared to humans. The human hearing range is typically 20Hz to 20,000Hz, while the dog hearing range is approximately 40Hz to 60,000Hz (though it depends on the breed) (LSU). This means dogs can hear much higher frequency sounds that are inaudible to humans. For example, dogs can hear high-pitched whistles, dog whistles and other high frequency sounds that humans can’t detect.

diagram of a dog's ear anatomy

A key part of a dog’s ear that allows them to hear such high frequencies is their large movable outer ears. Dogs have 18 muscles in each ear which allow them to finely tune in on sounds by rotating their ears like satellite dishes. Their large ear flaps help collect sound waves. Dogs also have an eardrum that is larger compared to the size of their head, allowing them to better detect faint sounds. Within the inner ear, dogs have more winding cochlea than humans, which contain more sensory hair cells attuned to high frequency sounds (AKC).

Sounds Dogs Dislike

Dogs have very sensitive hearing and can detect sounds at higher frequencies than humans. As a result, certain sounds that may seem harmless or even inaudible to us can be quite irritating and aversive for dogs. Two types of sounds that commonly bother dogs are high-pitched sounds and abrupt, loud noises.

High frequency sounds like ultrasonic dog whistles, beeping alarms, or even the high-pitched voices of children can annoy dogs. These types of sounds are not only loud to a dog, but tend to have a sharp, piercing quality. Studies show that sounds above 25,000 Hz are uncomfortable for canines. This helps explain why dogs dislike squeaky toys, which emit frequencies in the ultrasonic range when squeezed.

Sudden loud sounds like thunder, fireworks, or gunshots can also upset dogs. These jarring noises are linked to stressful or frightening events for dogs. Even household sounds like vacuum cleaners or blenders can be upsetting if a dog associates the noise with a past negative experience. Dogs may also dislike shouts or angry voices, as those may signal impending punishment.

By understanding which sounds are aversive to canine ears, owners can work to minimize exposure to annoying noises. Providing calmer environments helps dogs feel more relaxed and secure.

Soothing Dog Noises

Certain sounds can have a calming effect on dogs. Nature sounds like ocean waves or rainfall can relax dogs and reduce stress or anxiety. There are even specialized products designed to play soothing music for dogs.

a dog relaxing while listening to calming music

The sound of ocean waves is a common noise used to relax dogs. The gentle, constant sound of lapping waves provides a soothing ambience that many dogs find calming. Some studies have suggested ocean sounds can reduce barking and restlessness in kenneled dogs (Source).

Like ocean noises, the soft patter of rainfall can also have a lulling, soothing effect on dogs. Products like the Pet Tunes Bluetooth speaker (Source) offer customizable rain sounds to help calm anxious or stressed dogs. The gentle white noise masks other sounds that might agitate dogs.

In addition to nature sounds, there is relaxing music specifically composed to calm dogs. Through A Dog’s Ear produces albums of psychoacoustically designed music clinically tested to ease anxiety in dogs. The music uses specific tones and rhythms to help dogs relax (Source).

Optimal Frequency for Calming

a person playing soothing ocean sounds for their anxious dog

Research has shown that certain sound frequencies are particularly effective at calming dogs. The exact frequency that works best depends on a few factors:

Range of Effective Frequencies
Studies have found that frequencies from 180-250 Hz tend to have a calming effect on canines. Within this range, lower frequencies around 180 Hz are especially soothing. Other effective frequencies include:

  • 396 Hz
  • 417 Hz
  • 432 Hz
  • 528 Hz

According to one study, music around 172 Hz reduced stress behaviors in kenneled dogs (Calming Frequency for Dog 432 Hz). 440 Hz also had a calming effect in rescue dogs (Bunny’s Buddies Keep Calm with 432HZ On).

Breed and Age Differences

The optimal frequency range may vary slightly based on the breed and age of the dog. For example, larger breeds may respond better to lower frequency tones closer to 180 Hz, while smaller dogs may prefer frequencies toward the higher end of the effective range. Puppies also seem to benefit from slightly higher frequencies like 250 Hz.

Impact of Environment
The dog’s environment can influence what frequencies work best. In a stimulating setting like a shelter, lower tones around 180 Hz tend to be most effective. But in a home environment, the dog may respond better to a higher frequency like 250 Hz.

White noise and pink noise are sounds that contain many frequencies played together. They are continuous, consistent sounds like:

  • Radio static
  • Waterfalls
  • Rain
  • Fans
  • Air conditioners

These types of background noises can have a calming effect on dogs. The sounds mask more abrupt noises that may startle or upset dogs. They provide a soothing blanket of audio stimulation without any sudden changes. Some white noise machines are even designed specifically for dogs.

The continuous, unchanging nature of white and pink noise creates a predictable environment for dogs. This can help minimize anxiety and allow dogs to relax. The sounds are not intrusive so they won’t contribute to sensory overload in dogs.

Specialized Products

There are several specialized products that can help calm anxious or stressed dogs, including:

Dog appeasing pheromones

Some products contain synthetic dog appeasing pheromones, which mimic the pheromones mother dogs produce to comfort their pups. Studies show these pheromones can help relieve anxiety in dogs. Products include diffusers, sprays, and collars. Examples include Adaptil and Comfort Zone.

One study found dog appeasing pheromones reduced signs of anxiety in shelter dogs during the first few days after adoption: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4497261/

Prescription dog calming medications

For severe anxiety, vets may prescribe medications like fluoxetine and clomipramine. These drugs influence serotonin, which regulates mood. They can help dogs fearful of noises, separation, and more.

One study on clomipramine showed it reduced separation-related problems in dogs by up to 95%: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4656593/

However, medications can have side effects, so vets usually recommend behavior training first or alongside medication.

When to Consult a Vet

If your dog is exhibiting severe anxiety or aggression issues, it’s important to consult a veterinarian. Dogs that are excessively fearful, destructive when left alone, or aggressive toward people or other animals require professional help.

You should also consult a vet if you notice concerning behavioral changes in your dog. For example, if your normally social dog becomes fearful or withdraws from things they previously enjoyed, that’s a red flag for anxiety. Other behaviors like constant pacing, whining, tail chasing, or excessive panting or drooling can also signal an anxiety disorder.

Veterinarians can diagnose anxiety in dogs through exams, lab tests, and behavioral assessments. They may prescribe anti-anxiety medications or recommend behavioral therapy or environmental changes to help alleviate your dog’s stress. Getting help right away is essential, as prolonged anxiety takes a major toll on a dog’s mental and physical health.

For severe cases, your vet may refer you to a board-certified veterinary behaviorist. These specialized experts can design an in-depth behavior modification plan tailored to your dog’s unique needs. With compassionate care from vets and trainers, most dogs with anxiety can go on to lead happy, relaxed lives.

Training Considerations

To teach dogs to remain calm in situations that are normally stressful or overstimulating for them, gradual desensitization training can be very helpful. This involves slowly and positively exposing the dog to the trigger in a controlled manner, starting at very low intensities, so the dog can learn to stay relaxed and compose. For example, a dog that gets excited around strangers can start training from a distance where the stranger is barely noticeable, and over many short sessions move closer as the dog succeeds at staying calm for treats, praise or toys. Rushing this process generally does not work.

Providing a calm home environment can also promote a more relaxed temperament when out in public. Having a comfortable crate or place to retreat, avoiding excessive punishment or scolding, and using soothing tools like calming music or pheromones can give the dog a baseline sense of security. Owners should project calm, assertive energy as well. However, genetic traits and past experiences also play a role, so professional training guidance may be needed for anxious or reactive dogs.

Here is a helpful resource on systematic desensitization for dogs: 7 Steps on How to Train Dogs to Be Calm Around Strangers

Conclusion

a dog remaining calm during desensitization training

Sounds can have a profound effect on calming anxious or stressed dogs. The optimal sound frequency for calming dogs tends to be around 50-60 Hz. This low, rhythmic frequency can help relax dogs by tapping into their instinctual calming response. Playing specific music, white noise, or pink noise in this optimal frequency range provides an effective way to ease anxiety, curb undesirable behavior, and promote a calm environment.

Regular use of calming sounds can benefit dogs struggling with separation anxiety, fear of thunderstorms and fireworks, and other stress triggers. While not a cure-all, incorporating calming sounds as part of a broader training or treatment plan provides an accessible, drug-free way to help dogs feel more peaceful. With some experimentation to find your dog’s preferred sounds, you can create an environment that feels soothing. By understanding the science behind dogs’ hearing, you can truly make your home a haven for your canine companion.

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