Music can have a profound effect on our lives. It can make us feel happy, sad, agitated, calm or relaxed. But humans are not the only ones affected by music. As the old adage “music calms the savage beast” suggests, animals too can come under its spell.
The work of researchers Dr. Royal Rife in the 1920s and later, Dr. Patricia Kerr, ascertains that certain musical notes can activate different parts of the body and mind and that our bodies entrain to rhythmic patterns. In other words, tempos can speed up or slow down our heart rate. Such an effect can have a noticeable influence on behavior.
Holistic veterinarian Dr. Sharon Kopinak agrees. When she played specially created compositions for her animal clients, they became less nervous during thunderstorms and settled down in the kennels. A flowing rhythm written in the key of Bb (a key that integrates the left and right brain and balances the entire body) resonated with animals who were initially aggressive and uncooperative, and their anxiety and fear transformed into gentleness.
Reports from around the world have related the reactions of animals to the musical compositions. An Australian woman’s Dalmatian always got carsick, but within minutes of listening to a free-flowing tempo written in the key of F, the dog settled down and slept for the six-hour trip. Luann Gallagher from London, Ontario, had a similar experience with her 12-year-old cat Buddy who usually vomited when she was given heart medication. A calming melody relaxed Buddy enough that she no longer experienced that side effect.
Liz Evans’ dog Rusty was given 48 hours to live following a seizure and a slipped disc on his hind quadrant. Within 20 minutes of listening to rhythms and harmonies in the keys of F (for healing, love and balance) and G (for pain relief), Rusty attempted to walk and he began eating. He was on the road to recovery.
A methodical, mechanical and balancing composition in the key of F works wonders in dog trainer Sondra Holgate’s classes, especially on those first nights with puppies and on those other nights when there is a full moon. She begins playing the music softly even before the dogs arrive. An air of calm and peacefulness replaces the usual tension, noise and playfulness.
Aladdin, a three-year-old, pure Egyptian Arabian, was considered untrainable. When his
human companion Heather Howarth introduced the horse to soothing melodies, she observed a radical change in his behavior. He became easier to handle and more affectionate; even his physical appearance softened. Nowadays Aladdin is eager to learn.
The evidence of the beneficial effects of music continues to grow. Cats and dogs recuperate quickly after surgery, puppies settle easily into new homes, sleep disorders vanish, and animals from abusive homes recover more readily. For other animals, music eases their passing.
So what’s the explanation for the power of music? In a six-month study carried out in the cognitive department at Brock University (St. Catharines, Ontario), the neurologists discovered that two brainwave patterns – beta (conscious mind) and fourth stage delta (deepest sleep) – were being equally activated in their subjects during both the waking and sleeping states. This activity allows protein to be continually assimilated in the brain which in turn promotes both healing and learning. It also helps with focusing and concentration, and eases sleep deprivation, anxiety and the feeling of being overwhelmed.
While our music can nurture, soothe and heal animals, the animals themselves share their own gift of music with us. The birds, cats, dogs, horses, whales, crickets and frogs all sing to us as they walk in the flow and rhythm of Mother Earth. All we need do is stop and listen.